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Title: The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome, Volume 3
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 3" ***

                          THE THREE CITIES



                            EMILE ZOLA


                              PART III


On the following day as Pierre, after a long ramble, once more found
himself in front of the Vatican, whither a harassing attraction ever led
him, he again encountered Monsignor Nani. It was a Wednesday evening, and
the Assessor of the Holy Office had just come from his weekly audience
with the Pope, whom he had acquainted with the proceedings of the
Congregation at its meeting that morning. "What a fortunate chance, my
dear sir," said he; "I was thinking of you. Would you like to see his
Holiness in public while you are waiting for a private audience?"

Nani had put on his pleasant expression of smiling civility, beneath
which one would barely detect the faint irony of a superior man who knew
everything, prepared everything, and could do everything.

"Why, yes, Monsignor," Pierre replied, somewhat astonished by the
abruptness of the offer. "Anything of a nature to divert one's mind is
welcome when one loses one's time in waiting."

"No, no, you are not losing your time," replied the prelate. "You are
looking round you, reflecting, and enlightening yourself. Well, this is
the point. You are doubtless aware that the great international
pilgrimage of the Peter's Pence Fund will arrive in Rome on Friday, and
be received on Saturday by his Holiness. On Sunday, moreover, the Holy
Father will celebrate mass at the Basilica. Well, I have a few cards
left, and here are some very good places for both ceremonies." So saying
he produced an elegant little pocketbook bearing a gilt monogram and
handed Pierre two cards, one green and the other pink. "If you only knew
how people fight for them," he resumed. "You remember that I told you of
two French ladies who are consumed by a desire to see his Holiness. Well,
I did not like to support their request for an audience in too pressing a
way, and they have had to content themselves with cards like these. The
fact is, the Holy Father is somewhat fatigued at the present time. I
found him looking yellow and feverish just now. But he has so much
courage; he nowadays only lives by force of soul." Then Nani's smile came
back with its almost imperceptible touch of derision as he resumed:
"Impatient ones ought to find a great example in him, my dear son. I
heard that Monsignor Gamba del Zoppo had been unable to help you. But you
must not be too much distressed on that account. This long delay is
assuredly a grace of Providence in order that you may instruct yourself
and come to understand certain things which you French priests do not,
unfortunately, realise when you arrive in Rome. And perhaps it will
prevent you from making certain mistakes. Come, calm yourself, and
remember that the course of events is in the hands of God, who, in His
sovereign wisdom, fixes the hour for all things."

Thereupon Nani offered Pierre his plump, supple, shapely hand, a hand
soft like a woman's but with the grasp of a vice. And afterwards he
climbed into his carriage, which was waiting for him.

It so happened that the letter which Pierre had received from Viscount
Philibert de la Choue was a long cry of spite and despair in connection
with the great international pilgrimage of the Peter's Pence Fund. The
Viscount wrote from his bed, to which he was confined by a very severe
attack of gout, and his grief at being unable to come to Rome was the
greater as the President of the Committee, who would naturally present
the pilgrims to the Pope, happened to be Baron de Fouras, one of his most
bitter adversaries of the old conservative, Catholic party. M. de la
Choue felt certain that the Baron would profit by his opportunity to win
the Pope over to the theory of free corporations; whereas he, the
Viscount, believed that the salvation of Catholicism and the world could
only be worked by a system in which the corporations should be closed and
obligatory. And so he urged Pierre to exert himself with such cardinals
as were favourable, to secure an audience with the Holy Father whatever
the obstacles, and to remain in Rome until he should have secured the
Pontiff's approbation, which alone could decide the victory. The letter
further mentioned that the pilgrimage would be made up of a number of
groups headed by bishops and other ecclesiastical dignitaries, and would
comprise three thousand people from France, Belgium, Spain, Austria, and
even Germany. Two thousand of these would come from France alone. An
international committee had assembled in Paris to organise everything and
select the pilgrims, which last had proved a delicate task, as a
representative gathering had been desired, a commingling of members of
the aristocracy, sisterhood of middle-class ladies, and associations of
the working classes, among whom all social differences would be forgotten
in the union of a common faith. And the Viscount added that the
pilgrimage would bring the Pope a large sum of money, and had settled the
date of its arrival in the Eternal City in such wise that it would figure
as a solemn protest of the Catholic world against the festivities of
September 20, by which the Quirinal had just celebrated the anniversary
of the occupation of Rome.

The reception of the pilgrimage being fixed for noon, Pierre in all
simplicity thought that he would be sufficiently early if he reached St.
Peter's at eleven. The function was to take place in the Hall of
Beatifications, which is a large and handsome apartment over the portico,
and has been arranged as a chapel since 1890. One of its windows opens on
to the central balcony, whence the popes formerly blessed the people, the
city, and the world. To reach the apartment you pass through two other
halls of audience, the Sala Regia and Sala Ducale, and when Pierre wished
to gain the place to which his green card entitled him he found both
those rooms so extremely crowded that he could only elbow his way forward
with the greatest difficulty. For an hour already the three or four
thousand people assembled there had been stifling, full of growing
emotion and feverishness. At last the young priest managed to reach the
threshold of the third hall, but was so discouraged at sight of the
extraordinary multitude of heads before him that he did not attempt to go
any further.

The apartment, which he could survey at a glance by rising on tip-toe,
appeared to him to be very rich of aspect, with walls gilded and painted
under a severe and lofty ceiling. On a low platform, where the altar
usually stood, facing the entry, the pontifical throne had now been set:
a large arm-chair upholstered in red velvet with glittering golden back
and arms; whilst the hangings of the /baldacchino/, also of red velvet,
fell behind and spread out on either side like a pair of huge purple
wings. However, what more particularly interested Pierre was the wildly
passionate concourse of people whose hearts he could almost hear beating
and whose eyes sought to beguile their feverish impatience by
contemplating and adoring the empty throne. As if it had been some golden
monstrance which the Divinity in person would soon deign to occupy, that
throne dazzled them, disturbed them, filled them all with devout rapture.
Among the throng were workmen rigged out in their Sunday best, with clear
childish eyes and rough ecstatic faces; ladies of the upper classes
wearing black, as the regulations required, and looking intensely pale
from the sacred awe which mingled with their excessive desire; and
gentlemen in evening dress, who appeared quite glorious, inflated with
the conviction that they were saving both the Church and the nations. One
cluster of dress-coats assembled near the throne, was particularly
noticeable; it comprised the members of the International Committee,
headed by Baron de Fouras, a very tall, stout, fair man of fifty, who
bestirred and exerted himself and issued orders like some commander on
the morning of a decisive victory. Then, amidst the general mass of grey,
neutral hue, there gleamed the violet silk of some bishop's cassock, for
each pastor had desired to remain with his flock; whilst members of
various religious orders, superiors in brown, black, and white habits,
rose up above all others with lofty bearded or shaven heads. Right and
left drooped banners which associations and congregations had brought to
present to the Pope. And the sea of pilgrims ever waved and surged with a
growing clamour: so much impatient love being exhaled by those perspiring
faces, burning eyes, and hungry mouths that the atmosphere, reeking with
the odour of the throng, seemed thickened and darkened.

All at once, however, Pierre perceived Monsignor Nani standing near the
throne and beckoning him to approach; and although the young priest
replied by a modest gesture, implying that he preferred to remain where
he was, the prelate insisted and even sent an usher to make way for him.
Directly the usher had led him forward, Nani inquired: "Why did you not
come to take your place? Your card entitled you to be here, on the left
of the throne."

"The truth is," answered the priest, "I did not like to disturb so many
people. Besides, this is an undue honour for me."

"No, no; I gave you that place in order that you should occupy it. I want
you to be in the first rank, so that you may see everything of the

Pierre could not do otherwise than thank him. Then, on looking round, he
saw that several cardinals and many other prelates were likewise waiting
on either side of the throne. But it was in vain that he sought Cardinal
Boccanera, who only came to St. Peter's and the Vatican on the days when
his functions required his presence there. However, he recognised
Cardinal Sanguinetti, who, broad and sturdy and red of face, was talking
in a loud voice to Baron de Fouras. And Nani, with his obliging air,
stepped up again to point out two other Eminences who were high and
mighty personages--the Cardinal Vicar, a short, fat man, with a feverish
countenance scorched by ambition, and the Cardinal Secretary, who was
robust and bony, fashioned as with a hatchet, suggesting a romantic type
of Sicilian bandit, who, to other courses, had preferred the discreet,
smiling diplomacy of the Church. A few steps further on, and quite alone,
the Grand Penitentiary, silent and seemingly suffering, showed his grey,
lean, ascetic profile.

Noon had struck. There was a false alert, a burst of emotion, which swept
in like a wave from the other halls. But it was merely the ushers opening
a passage for the /cortege/. Then, all at once, acclamations arose in the
first hall, gathered volume, and drew nearer. This time it was the
/cortege/ itself. First came a detachment of the Swiss Guard in undress,
headed by a sergeant; then a party of chair-bearers in red; and next the
domestic prelates, including the four /Camerieri segreti partecipanti/.
And finally, between two rows of Noble Guards, in semi-gala uniforms,
walked the Holy Father, alone, smiling a pale smile, and slowly blessing
the pilgrims on either hand. In his wake the clamour which had risen in
the other apartments swept into the Hall of Beatifications with the
violence of delirious love; and, under his slender, white, benedictive
hand, all those distracted creatures fell upon both knees, nought
remaining but the prostration of a devout multitude, overwhelmed, as it
were, by the apparition of its god.

Quivering, carried away, Pierre had knelt like the others. Ah! that
omnipotence, that irresistible contagion of faith, of the redoubtable
current from the spheres beyond, increased tenfold by a /scenario/ and a
pomp of sovereign grandeur! Profound silence fell when Leo XIII was
seated on the throne surrounded by the cardinals and his court; and then
the ceremony proceeded according to rite and usage. First a bishop spoke,
kneeling and laying the homage of the faithful of all Christendom at his
Holiness's feet. The President of the Committee, Baron de Fouras,
followed, remaining erect whilst he read a long address in which he
introduced the pilgrimage and explained its motive, investing it with all
the gravity of a political and religious protest. This stout man had a
shrill and piercing voice, and his words jarred like the grating of a
gimlet as he proclaimed the grief of the Catholic world at the spoliation
which the Holy See had endured for a quarter of a century, and the desire
of all the nations there represented by the pilgrims to console the
supreme and venerated Head of the Church by bringing him the offerings of
rich and poor, even to the mites of the humblest, in order that the
Papacy might retain the pride of independence and be able to treat its
enemies with contempt. And he also spoke of France, deplored her errors,
predicted her return to healthy traditions, and gave it to be understood
that she remained in spite of everything the most opulent and generous of
the Christian nations, the donor whose gold and presents flowed into Rome
in a never ending stream. At last Leo XIII arose to reply to the bishop
and the baron. His voice was full, with a strong nasal twang, and
surprised one coming from a man so slight of build. In a few sentences he
expressed his gratitude, saying how touched he was by the devotion of the
nations to the Holy See. Although the times might be bad, the final
triumph could not be delayed much longer. There were evident signs that
mankind was returning to faith, and that iniquity would soon cease under
the universal dominion of the Christ. As for France, was she not the
eldest daughter of the Church, and had she not given too many proofs of
her affection for the Holy See for the latter ever to cease loving her?
Then, raising his arm, he bestowed on all the pilgrims present, on the
societies and enterprises they represented, on their families and
friends, on France, on all the nations of the Catholic world, his
apostolic benediction, in gratitude for the precious help which they sent
him. And whilst he was again seating himself applause burst forth,
frantic salvoes of applause lasting for ten minutes and mingling with
vivats and inarticulate cries--a passionate, tempestuous outburst, which
made the very building shake.

Amidst this blast of frantic adoration Pierre gazed at Leo XIII, now
again motionless on his throne. With the papal cap on his head and the
red cape edged with ermine about his shoulders, he retained in his long
white cassock the rigid, sacerdotal attitude of an idol venerated by two
hundred and fifty millions of Christians. Against the purple background
of the hangings of the /baldacchino/, between the wing-like drapery on
either side, enclosing, as it were, a brasier of glory, he assumed real
majesty of aspect. He was no longer the feeble old man with the slow,
jerky walk and the slender, scraggy neck of a poor ailing bird. The
simious ugliness of his face, the largeness of his nose, the long slit of
his mouth, the hugeness of his ears, the conflicting jumble of his
withered features disappeared. In that waxen countenance you only
distinguished the admirable, dark, deep eyes, beaming with eternal youth,
with extraordinary intelligence and penetration. And then there was a
resolute bracing of his entire person, a consciousness of the eternity
which he represented, a regal nobility, born of the very circumstance
that he was now but a mere breath, a soul set in so pellucid a body of
ivory that it became visible as though it were already freed from the
bonds of earth. And Pierre realised what such a man--the Sovereign
Pontiff, the king obeyed by two hundred and fifty millions of
subjects--must be for the devout and dolent creatures who came to adore
him from so far, and who fell at his feet awestruck by the splendour of
the powers incarnate in him. Behind him, amidst the purple of the
hangings, what a gleam was suddenly afforded of the spheres beyond, what
an Infinite of ideality and blinding glory! So many centuries of history
from the Apostle Peter downward, so much strength and genius, so many
struggles and triumphs to be summed up in one being, the Elect, the
Unique, the Superhuman! And what a miracle, incessantly renewed, was that
of Heaven deigning to descend into human flesh, of the Deity fixing His
abode in His chosen servant, whom He consecrated above and beyond all
others, endowing him with all power and all science! What sacred
perturbation, what emotion fraught with distracted love might one not
feel at the thought of the Deity being ever there in the depths of that
man's eyes, speaking with his voice and emanating from his hand each time
that he raised it to bless! Could one imagine the exorbitant absoluteness
of that sovereign who was infallible, who disposed of the totality of
authority in this world and of salvation in the next! At all events, how
well one understood that souls consumed by a craving for faith should fly
towards him, that those who at last found the certainty they had so
ardently sought should seek annihilation in him, the consolation of
self-bestowal and disappearance within the Deity Himself.

Meantime, the ceremony was drawing to an end; Baron de Fouras was now
presenting the members of the committee and a few other persons of
importance. There was a slow procession with trembling genuflections and
much greedy kissing of the papal ring and slipper. Then the banners were
offered, and Pierre felt a pang on seeing that the finest and richest of
them was one of Lourdes, an offering no doubt from the Fathers of the
Immaculate Conception. On one side of the white, gold-bordered silk Our
Lady of Lourdes was painted, while on the other appeared a portrait of
Leo XIII. Pierre saw the Pope smile at the presentment of himself, and
was greatly grieved thereat, as though, indeed, his whole dream of an
intellectual, evangelical Pope, disentangled from all low superstition,
were crumbling away. And just then his eyes met those of Nani, who from
the outset had been watching him with the inquisitive air of a man who is
making an experiment.

"That banner is superb, isn't it?" said Nani, drawing near. "How it must
please his Holiness to be so nicely painted in company with so pretty a
virgin." And as the young priest, turning pale, did not reply, the
prelate added, with an air of devout enjoyment: "We are very fond of
Lourdes in Rome; that story of Bernadette is so delightful."

However, the scene which followed was so extraordinary that for a long
time Pierre remained overcome by it. He had beheld never-to-be-forgotten
idolatry at Lourdes, incidents of naive faith and frantic religious
passion which yet made him quiver with alarm and grief. But the crowds
rushing on the grotto, the sick dying of divine love before the Virgin's
statue, the multitudes delirious with the contagion of the
miraculous--nothing of all that gave an idea of the blast of madness
which suddenly inflamed the pilgrims at the feet of the Pope. Some
bishops, superiors of religious orders, and other delegates of various
kinds had stepped forward to deposit near the throne the offerings which
they brought from the whole Catholic world, the universal "collection" of
St. Peter's Pence. It was the voluntary tribute of the nations to their
sovereign: silver, gold, and bank notes in purses, bags, and cases.
Ladies came and fell on their knees to offer silk and velvet alms-bags
which they themselves had embroidered. Others had caused the note cases
which they tendered to be adorned with the monogram of Leo XIII in
diamonds. And at one moment the enthusiasm became so intense that several
women stripped themselves of their adornments, flung their own purses on
to the platform, and emptied their pockets even to the very coppers they
had about them. One lady, tall and slender, very beautiful and very dark,
wrenched her watch from about her neck, pulled off her rings, and threw
everything upon the carpet. Had it been possible, they would have torn
away their flesh to pluck out their love-burnt hearts and fling them
likewise to the demi-god. They would even have flung themselves, have
given themselves without reserve. It was a rain of presents, an explosion
of the passion which impels one to strip oneself for the object of one's
cult, happy at having nothing of one's own that shall not belong to him.
And meantime the clamour grew, vivats and shrill cries of adoration arose
amidst pushing and jostling of increased violence, one and all yielding
to the irresistible desire to kiss the idol!

But a signal was given, and Leo XIII made haste to quit the throne and
take his place in the /cortege/ in order to return to his apartments. The
Swiss Guards energetically thrust back the throng, seeking to open a way
through the three halls. But at sight of his Holiness's departure a
lamentation of despair arose and spread, as if heaven had suddenly closed
again and shut out those who had not yet been able to approach. What a
frightful disappointment--to have beheld the living manifestation of the
Deity and to see it disappear before gaining salvation by just touching
it! So terrible became the scramble, so extraordinary the confusion, that
the Swiss Guards were swept away. And ladies were seen to dart after the
Pope, to drag themselves on all fours over the marble slabs and kiss his
footprints and lap up the dust of his steps! The tall dark lady suddenly
fell at the edge of the platform, raised a loud shriek, and fainted; and
two gentlemen of the committee had to hold her so that she might not do
herself an injury in the convulsions of the hysterical fit which had come
upon her. Another, a plump blonde, was wildly, desperately kissing one of
the golden arms of the throne-chair, on which the old man's poor, bony
elbow had just rested. And others, on seeing her, came to dispute
possession, seized both arms, gilding and velvet, and pressed their
mouths to wood-work or upholstery, their bodies meanwhile shaking with
their sobs. Force had to be employed in order to drag them away.

When it was all over Pierre went off, emerging as it were from a painful
dream, sick at heart, and with his mind revolting. And again he
encountered Nani's glance, which never left him. "It was a superb
ceremony, was it not?" said the prelate. "It consoles one for many

"Yes, no doubt; but what idolatry!" the young priest murmured despite

Nani, however, merely smiled, as if he had not heard the last word. At
that same moment the two French ladies whom he had provided with tickets
came up to thank him, and. Pierre was surprised to recognise the mother
and daughter whom he had met at the Catacombs. Charming, bright, and
healthy as they were, their enthusiasm was only for the spectacle: they
declared that they were well pleased at having seen it--that it was
really astonishing, unique.

As the crowd slowly withdrew Pierre all at once felt a tap on his
shoulder, and, on turning his head, perceived Narcisse Habert, who also
was very enthusiastic. "I made signs to you, my dear Abbe," said he, "but
you didn't see me. Ah! how superb was the expression of that dark woman
who fell rigid beside the platform with her arms outstretched. She
reminded me of a masterpiece of one of the primitives, Cimabue, Giotto,
or Fra Angelico. And the others, those who devoured the chair arms with
their kisses, what suavity, beauty, and love! I never miss these
ceremonies: there are always some fine scenes, perfect pictures, in which
souls reveal themselves."

The long stream of pilgrims slowly descended the stairs, and Pierre,
followed by Nani and Narcisse, who had begun to chat, tried to bring the
ideas which were tumultuously throbbing in his brain into something like
order. There was certainly grandeur and beauty in that Pope who had shut
himself up in his Vatican, and who, the more he became a purely moral,
spiritual authority, freed from all terrestrial cares, had grown in the
adoration and awe of mankind. Such a flight into the ideal deeply stirred
Pierre, whose dream of rejuvenated Christianity rested on the idea of the
supreme Head of the Church exercising only a purified, spiritual
authority. He had just seen what an increase of majesty and power was in
that way gained by the Supreme Pontiff of the spheres beyond, at whose
feet the women fainted, and behind whom they beheld a vision of the
Deity. But at the same moment the pecuniary side of the question had
risen before him and spoilt his joy. If the enforced relinquishment of
the temporal power had exalted the Pope by freeing him from the worries
of a petty sovereignty which was ever threatened, the need of money still
remained like a chain about his feet tying him to earth. As he could not
accept the proffered subvention of the Italian Government,* there was
certainly in the Peter's Pence a means of placing the Holy See above all
material cares, provided, however, that this Peter's Pence were really
the Catholic /sou/, the mite of each believer, levied on his daily income
and sent direct to Rome. Such a voluntary tribute paid by the flock to
its pastor would, moreover, suffice for the wants of the Church if each
of the 250,000,000 of Catholics gave his or her /sou/ every week. In this
wise the Pope, indebted to each and all of his children, would be
indebted to none in particular. A /sou/ was so little and so easy to
give, and there was also something so touching about the idea. But,
unhappily, things were not worked in that way; the great majority of
Catholics gave nothing whatever, while the rich ones sent large sums from
motives of political passion; and a particular objection was that the
gifts were centralised in the hands of certain bishops and religious
orders, so that these became ostensibly the benefactors of the papacy,
the indispensable cashiers from whom it drew the sinews of life. The
lowly and humble whose mites filled the collection boxes were, so to say,
suppressed, and the Pope became dependent on the intermediaries, and was
compelled to act cautiously with them, listen to their remonstrances, and
even at times obey their passions, lest the stream of gifts should
suddenly dry up. And so, although he was disburdened of the dead weight
of the temporal power, he was not free; but remained the tributary of his
clergy, with interests and appetites around him which he must needs
satisfy. And Pierre remembered the "Grotto of Lourdes" in the Vatican
gardens, and the banner which he had just seen, and he knew that the
Lourdes fathers levied 200,000 francs a year on their receipts to send
them as a present to the Holy Father. Was not that the chief reason of
their great power? He quivered, and suddenly became conscious that, do
what he might, he would be defeated, and his book would be condemned.

  * 110,000 pounds per annum. It has never been accepted, and the
    accumulations lapse to the Government every five years, and
    cannot afterwards be recovered.--Trans.

At last, as he was coming out on to the Piazza of St. Peter's, he heard
Narcisse asking Monsignor Nani: "Indeed! Do you really think that
to-day's gifts exceeded that figure?"

"Yes, more than three millions,* I'm convinced of it," the prelate

  * All the amounts given on this and the following pages are
    calculated in francs. The reader will bear in mind that a
    million francs is equivalent to 40,000 pounds.--Trans.

For a moment the three men halted under the right-hand colonnade and
gazed at the vast, sunlit piazza where the pilgrims were spreading out
like little black specks hurrying hither and thither--an ant-hill, as it
were, in revolution.

Three millions! The words had rung in Pierre's ears. And, raising his
head, he gazed at the Vatican, all golden in the sunlight against the
expanse of blue sky, as if he wished to penetrate its walls and follow
the steps of Leo XIII returning to his apartments. He pictured him laden
with those millions, with his weak, slender arms pressed to his breast,
carrying the silver, the gold, the bank notes, and even the jewels which
the women had flung him. And almost unconsciously the young priest spoke
aloud: "What will he do with those millions? Where is he taking them?"

Narcisse and even Nani could not help being amused by this strangely
expressed curiosity. It was the young /attache/ who replied. "Why, his
Holiness is taking them to his room; or, at least, is having them carried
there before him. Didn't you see two persons of his suite picking up
everything and filling their pockets? And now his Holiness has shut
himself up quite alone; and if you could see him you would find him
counting and recounting his treasure with cheerful care, ranging the
rolls of gold in good order, slipping the bank notes into envelopes in
equal quantities, and then putting everything away in hiding-places which
are only known to himself."

While his companion was speaking Pierre again raised his eyes to the
windows of the Pope's apartments, as if to follow the scene. Moreover,
Narcisse gave further explanations, asserting that the money was put away
in a certain article of furniture, standing against the right-hand wall
in the Holy Father's bedroom. Some people, he added, also spoke of a
writing table or secretaire with deep drawers; and others declared that
the money slumbered in some big padlocked trunks stored away in the
depths of the alcove, which was very roomy. Of course, on the left side
of the passage leading to the Archives there was a large room occupied by
a general cashier and a monumental safe; but the funds kept there were
simply those of the Patrimony of St. Peter, the administrative receipts
of Rome; whereas the Peter's Pence money, the voluntary donations of
Christendom, remained in the hands of Leo XIII: he alone knew the exact
amount of that fund, and lived alone with its millions, which he disposed
of like an absolute master, rendering account to none. And such was his
prudence that he never left his room when the servants cleaned and set it
in order. At the utmost he would consent to remain on the threshold of
the adjoining apartment in order to escape the dust. And whenever he
meant to absent himself for a few hours, to go down into the gardens, for
instance, he double-locked the doors and carried the keys away with him,
never confiding them to another.

At this point Narcisse paused and, turning to Nani, inquired: "Is not
that so, Monsignor? These are things known to all Rome."

The prelate, ever smiling and wagging his head without expressing either
approval or disapproval, had begun to study on Pierre's face the effect
of these curious stories. "No doubt, no doubt," he responded; "so many
things are said! I know nothing myself, but you seem to be certain of it
all, Monsieur Habert."

"Oh!" resumed the other, "I don't accuse his Holiness of sordid avarice,
such as is rumoured. Some fabulous stories are current, stories of
coffers full of gold in which the Holy Father is said to plunge his hands
for hours at a time; treasures which he has heaped up in corners for the
sole pleasure of counting them over and over again. Nevertheless, one may
well admit that his Holiness is somewhat fond of money for its own sake,
for the pleasure of handling it and setting it in order when he happens
to be alone--and after all that is a very excusable mania in an old man
who has no other pastime. But I must add that he is yet fonder of money
for the social power which it brings, the decisive help which it will
give to the Holy See in the future, if the latter desires to triumph."

These words evoked the lofty figure of a wise and prudent Pope, conscious
of modern requirements, inclined to utilise the powers of the century in
order to conquer it, and for this reason venturing on business and
speculation. As it happened, the treasure bequeathed by Pius IX had
nearly been lost in a financial disaster, but ever since that time Leo
XIII had sought to repair the breach and make the treasure whole again,
in order that he might leave it to his successor intact and even
enlarged. Economical he certainly was, but he saved for the needs of the
Church, which, as he knew, increased day by day; and money was absolutely
necessary if Atheism was to be met and fought in the sphere of the
schools, institutions, and associations of all sorts. Without money,
indeed, the Church would become a vassal at the mercy of the civil
powers, the Kingdom of Italy and other Catholic states; and so, although
he liberally helped every enterprise which might contribute to the
triumph of the Faith, Leo XIII had a contempt for all expenditure without
an object, and treated himself and others with stern closeness.
Personally, he had no needs. At the outset of his pontificate he had set
his small private patrimony apart from the rich patrimony of St. Peter,
refusing to take aught from the latter for the purpose of assisting his
relatives. Never had pontiff displayed less nepotism: his three nephews
and his two nieces had remained poor--in fact, in great pecuniary
embarrassment. Still he listened neither to complaints nor accusations,
but remained inflexible, proudly resolved to bequeath the sinews of life,
the invincible weapon money, to the popes of future times, and therefore
vigorously defending the millions of the Holy See against the desperate
covetousness of one and all.

"But, after all, what are the receipts and expenses of the Holy See?"
inquired Pierre.

In all haste Nani again made his amiable, evasive gesture. "Oh! I am
altogether ignorant in such matters," he replied. "Ask Monsieur Habert,
who is so well informed."

"For my part," responded the /attache/, "I simply know what is known to
all the embassies here, the matters which are the subject of common
report. With respect to the receipts there is, first of all, the treasure
left by Pius IX, some twenty millions, invested in various ways and
formerly yielding about a million a year in interest. But, as I said
before, a disaster happened, and there must then have been a falling off
in the income. Still, nowadays it is reported that nearly all
deficiencies have been made good. Well, besides the regular income from
the invested money, a few hundred thousand francs are derived every year
from chancellery dues, patents of nobility, and all sorts of little fees
paid to the Congregations. However, as the annual expenses exceed seven
millions, it has been necessary to find quite six millions every year;
and certainly it is the Peter's Pence Fund that has supplied, not the six
millions, perhaps, but three or four of them, and with these the Holy See
has speculated in the hope of doubling them and making both ends meet. It
would take me too long just now to relate the whole story of these
speculations, the first huge gains, then the catastrophe which almost
swept everything away, and finally the stubborn perseverance which is
gradually supplying all deficiencies. However, if you are anxious on the
subject, I will one day tell you all about it."

Pierre had listened with deep interest. "Six millions--even four!" he
exclaimed, "what does the Peter's Pence Fund bring in, then?"

"Oh! I can only repeat that nobody has ever known the exact figures. In
former times the Catholic Press published lists giving the amounts of
different offerings, and in this way one could frame an approximate
estimate. But the practice must have been considered unadvisable, for no
documents nowadays appear, and it is absolutely impossible for people to
form any real idea of what the Pope receives. He alone knows the correct
amount, keeps the money, and disposes of it with absolute authority.
Still I believe that in good years the offerings have amounted to between
four and five millions. Originally France contributed one-half of the
sum; but nowadays it certainly gives much less. Then come Belgium and
Austria, England and Germany. As for Spain and Italy--oh! Italy--"

Narcisse paused and smiled at Monsignor Nani, who was wagging his head
with the air of a man delighted at learning some extremely curious things
of which he had previously had no idea.

"Oh, you may proceed, you may proceed, my dear son," said he.

"Well, then, Italy scarcely distinguishes itself. If the Pope had to
provide for his living out of the gifts of the Italian Catholics there
would soon be a famine at the Vatican. Far from helping him, indeed, the
Roman nobility has cost him dear; for one of the chief causes of his
pecuniary losses was his folly in lending money to the princes who
speculated. It is really only from France and England that rich people,
noblemen and so forth, have sent royal gifts to the imprisoned and
martyred Pontiff. Among others there was an English nobleman who came to
Rome every year with a large offering, the outcome of a vow which he had
made in the hope that Heaven would cure his unhappy idiot son. And, of
course, I don't refer to the extraordinary harvest garnered during the
sacerdotal and the episcopal jubilees--the forty millions which then fell
at his Holiness's feet."

"And the expenses?" asked Pierre.

"Well, as I told you, they amount to about seven millions. We may reckon
two of them for the pensions paid to former officials of the pontifical
government who were unwilling to take service under Italy; but I must add
that this source of expense is diminishing every year as people die off
and their pensions become extinguished. Then, broadly speaking, we may
put down one million for the Italian sees, another for the Secretariate
and the Nunciatures, and another for the Vatican. In this last sum I
include the expenses of the pontifical Court, the military establishment,
the museums, and the repair of the palace and the Basilica. Well, we have
reached five millions, and the two others may be set down for the various
subsidised enterprises, the Propaganda, and particularly the schools,
which Leo XIII, with great practical good sense, subsidises very
handsomely, for he is well aware that the battle and the triumph be in
that direction--among the children who will be men to-morrow, and who
will then defend their mother the Church, provided that they have been
inspired with horror for the abominable doctrines of the age."

A spell of silence ensued, and the three men slowly paced the majestic
colonnade. The swarming crowd had gradually disappeared, leaving the
piazza empty, so that only the obelisk and the twin fountains now arose
from the burning desert of symmetrical paving; whilst on the entablature
of the porticus across the square a noble line of motionless statues
stood out in the bright sunlight. And Pierre, with his eyes still raised
to the Pope's windows, again fancied that he could see Leo XIII amidst
all the streaming gold that had been spoken of, his whole, white, pure
figure, his poor, waxen, transparent form steeped amidst those millions
which he hid and counted and expended for the glory of God alone. "And
so," murmured the young priest, "he has no anxiety, he is not in any
pecuniary embarrassment."

"Pecuniary embarrassment!" exclaimed Monsignor Nani, his patience so
sorely tried by the remark that he could no longer retain his diplomatic
reserve. "Oh! my dear son! Why, when Cardinal Mocenni, the treasurer,
goes to his Holiness every month, his Holiness always gives him the sum
he asks for; he would give it, and be able to give it, however large it
might be! His Holiness has certainly had the wisdom to effect great
economies; the Treasure of St. Peter is larger than ever. Pecuniary
embarrassment, indeed! Why, if a misfortune should occur, and the
Sovereign Pontiff were to make a direct appeal to all his children, the
Catholics of the entire world, do you know that in that case a thousand
millions would fall at his feet just like the gold and the jewels which
you saw raining on the steps of his throne just now?" Then suddenly
calming himself and recovering his pleasant smile, Nani added: "At least,
that is what I sometimes hear said; for, personally, I know nothing,
absolutely nothing; and it is fortunate that Monsieur Habert should have
been here to give you information. Ah! Monsieur Habert, Monsieur Habert!
Why, I fancied that you were always in the skies absorbed in your passion
for art, and far removed from all base mundane interests! But you really
understand these things like a banker or a notary. Nothing escapes you,
nothing. It is wonderful."

Narcisse must have felt the sting of the prelate's delicate sarcasm. At
bottom, beneath this make-believe Florentine all-angelicalness, with long
curly hair and mauve eyes which grew dim with rapture at sight of a
Botticelli, there was a thoroughly practical, business-like young man,
who took admirable care of his fortune and was even somewhat miserly.
However, he contented himself with lowering his eyelids and assuming a
languorous air. "Oh!" said he, "I'm all reverie; my soul is elsewhere."

"At all events," resumed Nani, turning towards Pierre, "I am very glad
that you were able to see such a beautiful spectacle. A few more such
opportunities and you will understand things far better than you would
from all the explanations in the world. Don't miss the grand ceremony at
St. Peter's to-morrow. It will be magnificent, and will give you food for
useful reflection; I'm sure of it. And now allow me to leave you,
delighted at seeing you in such a fit frame of mind."

Darting a last glance at Pierre, Nani seemed to have observed with
pleasure the weariness and uncertainty which were paling his face. And
when the prelate had gone off, and Narcisse also had taken leave with a
gentle hand-shake, the young priest felt the ire of protest rising within
him. What fit frame of mind did Nani mean? Did that man hope to weary him
and drive him to despair by throwing him into collision with obstacles,
so that he might afterwards overcome him with perfect ease? For the
second time Pierre became suddenly and briefly conscious of the stealthy
efforts which were being made to invest and crush him. But, believing as
he did in his own strength of resistance, pride filled him with disdain.
Again he swore that he would never yield, never withdraw his book, no
matter what might happen. And then, before crossing the piazza, he once
more raised his eyes to the windows of the Vatican, all his impressions
crystallising in the thought of that much-needed money which like a last
bond still attached the Pope to earth. Its chief evil doubtless lay in
the manner in which it was provided; and if indeed the only question were
to devise an improved method of collection, his dream of a pope who
should be all soul, the bond of love, the spiritual leader of the world,
would not be seriously affected. At this thought, Pierre felt comforted
and was unwilling to look on things otherwise than hopefully, moved as he
was by the extraordinary scene which he had just beheld, that feeble old
man shining forth like the symbol of human deliverance, obeyed and
venerated by the multitudes, and alone among all men endowed with the
moral omnipotence that might at last set the reign of charity and peace
on earth.

For the ceremony on the following day, it was fortunate that Pierre held
a private ticket which admitted him to a reserved gallery, for the
scramble at the entrances to the Basilica proved terrible. The mass,
which the Pope was to celebrate in person, was fixed for ten o'clock, but
people began to pour into St. Peter's four hours earlier, as soon,
indeed, as the gates had been thrown open. The three thousand members of
the International Pilgrimage were increased tenfold by the arrival of all
the tourists in Italy, who had hastened to Rome eager to witness one of
those great pontifical functions which nowadays are so rare. Moreover,
the devotees and partisans whom the Holy See numbered in Rome itself and
in other great cities of the kingdom, helped to swell the throng, all
alacrity at the prospect of a demonstration. Judging by the tickets
distributed, there would be a concourse of 40,000 people. And, indeed, at
nine o'clock, when Pierre crossed the piazza on his way to the Canons'
Entrance in the Via Santa Marta, where the holders of pink tickets were
admitted, he saw the portico of the facade still thronged with people who
were but slowly gaining admittance, while several gentlemen in evening
dress, members of some Catholic association, bestirred themselves to
maintain order with the help of a detachment of Pontifical Guards.
Nevertheless, violent quarrels broke out in the crowd, and blows were
exchanged amidst the involuntary scramble. Some people were almost
stifled, and two women were carried off half crushed to death.

A disagreeable surprise met Pierre on his entry into the Basilica. The
huge edifice was draped; coverings of old red damask with bands of gold
swathed the columns and pilasters, seventy-five feet high; even the
aisles were hung with the same old and faded silk; and the shrouding of
those pompous marbles, of all the superb dazzling ornamentation of the
church bespoke a very singular taste, a tawdry affectation of pomposity,
extremely wretched in its effect. However, he was yet more amazed on
seeing that even the statue of St. Peter was clad, costumed like a living
pope in sumptuous pontifical vestments, with a tiara on its metal head.
He had never imagined that people could garment statues either for their
glory or for the pleasure of the eyes, and the result seemed to him

The Pope was to say mass at the papal altar of the Confession, the high
altar which stands under the dome. On a platform at the entrance of the
left-hand transept was the throne on which he would afterwards take his
place. Then, on either side of the nave, tribunes had been erected for
the choristers of the Sixtine Chapel, the Corps Diplomatique, the Knights
of Malta, the Roman nobility, and other guests of various kinds. And,
finally, in the centre, before the altar, there were three rows of
benches covered with red rugs, the first for the cardinals and the other
two for the bishops and the prelates of the pontifical court. All the
rest of the congregation was to remain standing.

Ah! that huge concert-audience, those thirty, forty thousand believers
from here, there, and everywhere, inflamed with curiosity, passion, or
faith, bestirring themselves, jostling one another, rising on tip-toe to
see the better! The clamour of a human sea arose, the crowd was as gay
and familiar as if it had found itself in some heavenly theatre where it
was allowable for one to chat aloud and recreate oneself with the
spectacle of religious pomp! At first Pierre was thunderstruck, he who
only knew of nervous, silent kneeling in the depths of dim cathedrals,
who was not accustomed to that religion of light, whose brilliancy
transformed a religious celebration into a morning festivity. Around him,
in the same tribune as himself, were gentlemen in dress-coats and ladies
gowned in black, carrying glasses as in an opera-house. There were German
and English women, and numerous Americans, all more or less charming,
displaying the grace of thoughtless, chirruping birds. In the tribune of
the Roman nobility on the left he recognised Benedetta and Donna
Serafina, and there the simplicity of the regulation attire for ladies
was relieved by large lace veils rivalling one another in richness and
elegance. Then on the right was the tribune of the Knights of Malta,
where the Grand Master stood amidst a group of commanders: while across
the nave rose the diplomatic tribune where Pierre perceived the
ambassadors of all the Catholic nations, resplendent in gala uniforms
covered with gold lace. However, the young priest's eyes were ever
returning to the crowd, the great surging throng in which the three
thousand pilgrims were lost amidst the multitude of other spectators. And
yet as the Basilica was so vast that it could easily contain eighty
thousand people, it did not seem to be more than half full. People came
and went along the aisles and took up favourable positions without
impediment. Some could be seen gesticulating, and calls rang out above
the ceaseless rumble of voices. From the lofty windows of plain white
glass fell broad sheets of sunlight, which set a gory glow upon the faded
damask hangings, and these cast a reflection as of fire upon all the
tumultuous, feverish, impatient faces. The multitude of candles, and the
seven-and-eighty lamps of the Confession paled to such a degree that they
seemed but glimmering night-lights in the blinding radiance; and
everything proclaimed the worldly gala of the imperial Deity of Roman

All at once there came a premature shock of delight, a false alert. Cries
burst forth and circulated through the crowd: "Eccolo! eccolo! Here he
comes!" And then there was pushing and jostling, eddying which made the
human sea whirl and surge, all craning their necks, raising themselves to
their full height, darting forward in a frenzied desire to see the Holy
Father and the /cortege/. But only a detachment of Noble Guards marched
by and took up position right and left of the altar. A flattering murmur
accompanied them, their fine impassive bearing with its exaggerated
military stiffness, provoking the admiration of the throng. An American
woman declared that they were superb-looking fellows; and a Roman lady
gave an English friend some particulars about the select corps to which
they belonged. Formerly, said she, young men of the aristocracy had
greatly sought the honour of forming part of it, for the sake of wearing
its rich uniform and caracoling in front of the ladies. But recruiting
was now such a difficult matter that one had to content oneself with
good-looking young men of doubtful or ruined nobility, whose only care
was for the meagre "pay" which just enabled them to live.

When another quarter of an hour of chatting and scrutinising had elapsed,
the papal /cortege/ at last made its appearance, and no sooner was it
seen than applause burst forth as in a theatre--furious applause it was
which rose and rolled along under the vaulted ceilings, suggesting the
acclamations which ring out when some popular, idolised actor makes his
entry on the stage. As in a theatre, too, everything had been very
skilfully contrived so as to produce all possible effect amidst the
magnificent scenery of the Basilica. The /cortege/ was formed in the
wings, that is in the Cappella della Pieta, the first chapel of the right
aisle, and in order to reach it, the Holy Father, coming from his
apartments by the way of the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, had been
stealthily carried behind the hangings of the aisle which served the
purpose of a drop-scene. Awaiting him in all readiness in the Cappella
della Pieta were the cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, the whole
pontifical prelacy, hierarchically classified and grouped. And then, as
at a signal from a ballet master, the /cortege/ made its entry, reaching
the nave and ascending it in triumph from the closed Porta Santa to the
altar of the Confession. On either hand were the rows of spectators whose
applause at the sight of so much magnificence grew louder and louder as
their delirious enthusiasm increased.

It was the /cortege/ of the olden solemnities, the cross and sword, the
Swiss Guard in full uniform, the valets in scarlet simars, the Knights of
the Cape and the Sword in Renascence costumes, the Canons in rochets of
lace, the superiors of the religious communities, the apostolic
prothonotaries, the archbishops, and bishops, all the pontifical prelates
in violet silk, the cardinals, each wearing the /cappa magna/ and draped
in purple, walking solemnly two by two with long intervals between each
pair. Finally, around his Holiness were grouped the officers of the
military household, the chamber prelates, Monsignor the Majordomo,
Monsignor the Grand Chamberlain, and all the other high dignitaries of
the Vatican, with the Roman prince assistant of the throne, the
traditional, symbolical defender of the Church. And on the /sedia
gestatoria/, screened by the /flabelli/ with their lofty triumphal fans
of feathers and carried on high by the bearers in red tunics broidered
with silk, sat the Pope, clad in the sacred vestments which he had
assumed in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, the amict, the alb, the
stole, and the white chasuble and white mitre enriched with gold, two
gifts of extraordinary sumptuousness that had come from France. And, as
his Holiness drew near, all hands were raised and clapped yet more loudly
amidst the waves of living sunlight which streamed from the lofty

Then a new and different impression of Leo XIII came to Pierre. The Pope,
as he now beheld him, was no longer the familiar, tired, inquisitive old
man, leaning on the arm of a talkative prelate as he strolled through the
loveliest gardens in the world. He no longer recalled the Holy Father, in
red cape and papal cap, giving a paternal welcome to a pilgrimage which
brought him a fortune. He was here the Sovereign Pontiff, the
all-powerful Master whom Christendom adored. His slim waxen form seemed
to have stiffened within his white vestments, heavy with golden broidery,
as in a reliquary of precious metal; and he retained a rigid, haughty,
hieratic attitude, like that of some idol, gilded, withered for centuries
past by the smoke of sacrifices. Amidst the mournful stiffness of his
face only his eyes lived--eyes like black sparkling diamonds gazing afar,
beyond earth, into the infinite. He gave not a glance to the crowd, he
lowered his eyes neither to right nor to left, but remained soaring in
the heavens, ignoring all that took place at his feet.

And as that seemingly embalmed idol, deaf and blind, in spite of the
brilliancy of his eyes, was carried through the frantic multitude which
it appeared neither to hear nor to see, it assumed fearsome majesty,
disquieting grandeur, all the rigidity of dogma, all the immobility of
tradition exhumed with its /fascioe/ which alone kept it erect. Still
Pierre fancied he could detect that the Pope was ill and weary, suffering
from the attack of fever which Nani had spoken of when glorifying the
courage of that old man of eighty-four, whom strength of soul alone now
kept alive.

The service began. Alighting from the /sedia gestatoria/ before the altar
of the Confession, his Holiness slowly celebrated a low mass, assisted by
four prelates and the pro-prefect of the ceremonies. When the time came
for washing his fingers, Monsignor the Majordomo and Monsignor the Grand
Chamberlain, accompanied by two cardinals, poured the water on his august
hands; and shortly before the elevation of the host all the prelates of
the pontifical court, each holding a lighted taper, came and knelt around
the altar. There was a solemn moment, the forty thousand believers there
assembled shuddered as if they could feel the terrible yet delicious
blast of the invisible sweeping over them when during the elevation the
silver clarions sounded the famous chorus of angels which invariably
makes some women swoon. Almost immediately an aerial chant descended from
the cupola, from a lofty gallery where one hundred and twenty choristers
were concealed, and the enraptured multitude marvelled as though the
angels had indeed responded to the clarion call. The voices descended,
taking their flight under the vaulted ceilings with the airy sweetness of
celestial harps; then in suave harmony they died away, reascended to the
heavens as with a faint flapping of wings. And, after the mass, his
Holiness, still standing at the altar, in person started the /Te Deum/,
which the singers of the Sixtine Chapel and the other choristers took up,
each party chanting a verse alternately. But soon the whole congregation
joined them, forty thousand voices were raised, and a hymn of joy and
glory spread through the vast nave with incomparable splendour of effect.
And then the scene became one of extraordinary magnificence: there was
Bernini's triumphal, flowery, gilded /baldacchino/, surrounded by the
whole pontifical court with the lighted tapers showing like starry
constellations, there was the Sovereign Pontiff in the centre, radiant
like a planet in his gold-broidered chasuble, there were the benches
crowded with cardinals in purple and archbishops and bishops in violet
silk, there were the tribunes glittering with official finery, the gold
lace of the diplomatists, the variegated uniforms of foreign officers,
and then there was the throng flowing and eddying on all sides, rolling
billows after billows of heads from the most distant depths of the
Basilica. And the hugeness of the temple increased one's amazement; and
even the glorious hymn which the multitude repeated became colossal,
ascended like a tempest blast amidst the great marble tombs, the
superhuman statues and gigantic pillars, till it reached the vast vaulted
heavens of stone, and penetrated into the firmament of the cupola where
the Infinite seemed to open resplendent with the gold-work of the

A long murmur of voices followed the /Te Deum/, whilst Leo XIII, after
donning the tiara in lieu of the mitre, and exchanging the chasuble for
the pontifical cope, went to occupy his throne on the platform at the
entry of the left transept. He thence dominated the whole assembly,
through which a quiver sped when after the prayers of the ritual, he once
more rose erect. Beneath the symbolic, triple crown, in the golden
sheathing of his cope, he seemed to have grown taller. Amidst sudden and
profound silence, which only feverish heart-beats interrupted, he raised
his arm with a very noble gesture and pronounced the papal benediction in
a slow, loud, full voice, which seemed, as it were, the very voice of the
Deity, so greatly did its power astonish one, coming from such waxen
lips, from such a bloodless, lifeless frame. And the effect was
prodigious: as soon as the /cortege/ reformed to return whence it had
come, applause again burst forth, a frenzy of enthusiasm which the
clapping of hands could no longer content. Acclamations resounded and
gradually gained upon the whole multitude. They began among a group of
ardent partisans stationed near the statue of St. Peter: /"Evviva il
Papa-Re! evviva il Papa-Re/! Long live the Pope-King!" as the /cortege/
went by the shout rushed along like leaping fire, inflaming heart after
heart, and at last springing from every mouth in a thunderous protest
against the theft of the states of the Church. All the faith, all the
love of those believers, overexcited by the regal spectacle they had just
beheld, returned once more to the dream, to the rageful desire that the
Pope should be both King and Pontiff, master of men's bodies as he was of
their souls--in one word, the absolute sovereign of the earth. Therein
lay the only truth, the only happiness, the only salvation! Let all be
given to him, both mankind and the world! "/Evviva il Papa-Re! evviva il
Papa-Re/! Long live the Pope-King!"

Ah! that cry, that cry of war which had caused so many errors and so much
bloodshed, that cry of self-abandonment and blindness which, realised,
would have brought back the old ages of suffering, it shocked Pierre, and
impelled him in all haste to quit the tribune where he was in order that
he might escape the contagion of idolatry. And while the /cortege/ still
went its way and the deafening clamour of the crowd continued, he for a
moment followed the left aisle amidst the general scramble. This,
however, made him despair of reaching the street, and anxious to escape
the crush of the general departure, it occurred to him to profit by a
door which he saw open and which led him into a vestibule, whence
ascended the steps conducting to the dome. A sacristan standing in the
doorway, both bewildered and delighted at the demonstration, looked at
him for a moment, hesitating whether he should stop him or not. However,
the sight of the young priest's cassock combined with his own emotion
rendered the man tolerant. Pierre was allowed to pass, and at once began
to climb the staircase as rapidly as he could, in order that he might
flee farther and farther away, ascend higher and yet higher into peace
and silence.

And the silence suddenly became profound, the walls stifled the cry of
the multitude. The staircase was easy and light, with broad paved steps
turning within a sort of tower. When Pierre came out upon the roofs of
nave and aisles, he was delighted to find himself in the bright sunlight
and the pure keen air which blew there as in the open country. And it was
with astonishment that he gazed upon the huge expanse of lead, zinc, and
stone-work, a perfect aerial city living a life of its own under the blue
sky. He saw cupolas, spires, terraces, even houses and gardens, houses
bright with flowers, the residences of the workmen who live atop of the
Basilica, which is ever and ever requiring repair. A little population
here bestirs itself, labours, loves, eats, and sleeps. However, Pierre
desired to approach the balustrade so as to get a near view of the
colossal statues of the Saviour and the Apostles which surmount the
facade on the side of the piazza. These giants, some nineteen feet in
height, are constantly being mended; their arms, legs, and heads, into
which the atmosphere is ever eating, nowadays only hold together by the
help of cement, bars, and hooks. And having examined them, Pierre was
leaning forward to glance at the Vatican's jumble of ruddy roofs, when it
seemed to him that the shout from which he had fled was rising from the
piazza, and thereupon, in all haste, he resumed his ascent within the
pillar conducting to the dome. There was first a staircase, and then came
some narrow, oblique passages, inclines intersected by a few steps,
between the inner and outer walls of the cupola. Yielding to curiosity,
Pierre pushed a door open, and suddenly found himself inside the Basilica
again, at nearly 200 feet from the ground. A narrow gallery there ran
round the dome just above the frieze, on which, in letters five feet
high, appeared the famous inscription: /Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram
oedificabo ecclesiam meam et tibi dabo claves regni coelorum.* And then,
as Pierre leant over to gaze into the fearful cavity beneath him and the
wide openings of nave, and aisles, and transepts, the cry, the delirious
cry of the multitude, yet clamorously swarming below, struck him full in
the face. He fled once more; but, higher up, yet a second time he pushed
another door open and found another gallery, one perched above the
windows, just where the splendid mosaics begin, and whence the crowd
seemed to him lost in the depths of a dizzy abyss, altar and
/baldacchino/ alike looking no larger than toys. And yet the cry of
idolatry and warfare arose again, and smote him like the buffet of a
tempest which gathers increase of strength the farther it rushes. So to
escape it he had to climb higher still, even to the outer gallery which
encircles the lantern, hovering in the very heavens.

  * Thou art Peter (Petrus) and on that rock (Petram) will I build
    my church, and to thee will I give the keys of the Kingdom of

How delightful was the relief which that bath of air and sunlight at
first brought him! Above him now there only remained the ball of gilt
copper into which emperors and queens have ascended, as is testified by
the pompous inscriptions in the passages; a hollow ball it is, where the
voice crashes like thunder, where all the sounds of space reverberate. As
he emerged on the side of the apse, his eyes at first plunged into the
papal gardens, whose clumps of trees seemed mere bushes almost level with
the soil; and he could retrace his recent stroll among them, the broad
/parterre/ looking like a faded Smyrna rug, the large wood showing the
deep glaucous greenery of a stagnant pool. Then there were the kitchen
garden and the vineyard easily identified and tended with care. The
fountains, the observatory, the casino, where the Pope spent the hot days
of summer, showed merely like little white spots in those undulating
grounds, walled in like any other estate, but with the fearsome rampart
of the fourth Leo, which yet retained its fortress-like aspect. However,
Pierre took his way round the narrow gallery and abruptly found himself
in front of Rome, a sudden and immense expanse, with the distant sea on
the west, the uninterrupted mountain chains on the east and the south,
the Roman Campagna stretching to the horizon like a bare and greenish
desert, while the city, the Eternal City, was spread out at his feet.
Never before had space impressed him so majestically. Rome was there, as
a bird might see it, within the glance, as distinct as some geographical
plan executed in relief. To think of it, such a past, such a history, so
much grandeur, and Rome so dwarfed and contracted by distance! Houses as
lilliputian and as pretty as toys; and the whole a mere mouldy speck upon
the earth's face! What impassioned Pierre was that he could at a glance
understand the divisions of Rome: the antique city yonder with the
Capitol, the Forum, and the Palatine; the papal city in that Borgo which
he overlooked, with St. Peter's and the Vatican gazing across the city of
the middle ages--which was huddled together in the right angle described
by the yellow Tiber--towards the modern city, the Quirinal of the Italian
monarchy. And particularly did he remark the chalky girdle with which the
new districts encompassed the ancient, central, sun-tanned quarters, thus
symbolising an effort at rejuvenescence, the old heart but slowly mended,
whereas the outlying limbs were renewed as if by miracle.

In that ardent noontide glow, however, Pierre no longer beheld the pure
ethereal Rome which had met his eyes on the morning of his arrival in the
delightfully soft radiance of the rising sun. That smiling, unobtrusive
city, half veiled by golden mist, immersed as it were in some dream of
childhood, now appeared to him flooded with a crude light, motionless,
hard of outline and silent like death. The distance was as if devoured by
too keen a flame, steeped in a luminous dust in which it crumbled. And
against that blurred background the whole city showed with violent
distinctness in great patches of light and shade, their tracery harshly
conspicuous. One might have fancied oneself above some very ancient,
abandoned stone quarry, which a few clumps of trees spotted with dark
green. Of the ancient city one could see the sunburnt tower of the
Capitol, the black cypresses of the Palatine, and the ruins of the palace
of Septimius Severus, suggesting the white osseous carcase of some fossil
monster, left there by a flood. In front, was enthroned the modern city
with the long, renovated buildings of the Quirinal, whose yellow walls
stood forth with wondrous crudity amidst the vigorous crests of the
garden trees. And to right and left on the Viminal, beyond the palace,
the new districts appeared like a city of chalk and plaster mottled by
innumerable windows as with a thousand touches of black ink. Then here
and there were the Pincio showing like a stagnant mere, the Villa Medici
uprearing its campanili, the castle of Sant' Angelo brown like rust, the
spire of Santa Maria Maggiore aglow like a burning taper, the three
churches of the Aventine drowsy amidst verdure, the Palazzo Farnese with
its summer-baked tiles showing like old gold, the domes of the Gesu, of
Sant' Andrea della Valle, of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, and yet other
domes and other domes, all in fusion, incandescent in the brazier of the
heavens. And Pierre again felt a heart-pang in presence of that harsh,
stern Rome, so different from the Rome of his dream, the Rome of
rejuvenescence and hope, which he had fancied he had found on his first
morning, but which had now faded away to give place to the immutable city
of pride and domination, stubborn under the sun even unto death.

And there on high, all alone with his thoughts, Pierre suddenly
understood. It was as if a dart of flaming light fell on him in that
free, unbounded expanse where he hovered. Had it come from the ceremony
which he had just beheld, from the frantic cry of servitude still ringing
in his ears? Had it come from the spectacle of that city beneath him,
that city which suggested an embalmed queen still reigning amidst the
dust of her tomb? He knew not; but doubtless both had acted as factors,
and at all events the light which fell upon his mind was complete: he
felt that Catholicism could not exist without the temporal power, that it
must fatally disappear whenever it should no longer be king over this
earth. A first reason of this lay in heredity, in the forces of history,
the long line of the heirs of the Caesars, the popes, the great pontiffs,
in whose veins the blood of Augustus, demanding the empire of the world,
had never ceased to flow. Though they might reside in the Vatican they
had come from the imperial abodes on the Palatine, from the palace of
Septimius Severus, and throughout the centuries their policy had ever
pursued the dream of Roman mastery, of all the nations vanquished,
submissive, and obedient to Rome. If its sovereignty were not universal,
extending alike over bodies and over souls, Catholicism would lose its
/raison d'etre/; for the Church cannot recognise any empire or kingdom
otherwise than politically--the emperors and the kings being purely and
simply so many temporary delegates placed in charge of the nations
pending the time when they shall be called upon to relinquish their
trust. All the nations, all humanity, and the whole world belong to the
Church to whom they have been given by God. And if real and effective
possession is not hers to-day, this is only because she yields to force,
compelled to face accomplished facts, but with the formal reserve that
she is in presence of guilty usurpation, that her possessions are
unjustly withheld from her, and that she awaits the realisation of the
promises of the Christ, who, when the time shall be accomplished, will
for ever restore to her both the earth and mankind. Such is the real
future city which time is to bring: Catholic Rome, sovereign of the world
once more. And Rome the city forms a substantial part of the dream, Rome
whose eternity has been predicted, Rome whose soil has imparted to
Catholicism the inextinguishable thirst of absolute power. And thus the
destiny of the papacy is linked to that of Rome, to such a point indeed
that a pope elsewhere than at Rome would no longer be a Catholic pope.
The thought of all this frightened Pierre; a great shudder passed through
him as he leant on the light iron balustrade, gazing down into the abyss
where the stern mournful city was even now crumbling away under the
fierce sun.

There was, however, evidence of the facts which had dawned on him. If
Pius IX and Leo XIII had resolved to imprison themselves in the Vatican,
it was because necessity bound them to Rome. A pope is not free to leave
the city, to be the head of the Church elsewhere; and in the same way a
pope, however well he may understand the modern world, has not the right
to relinquish the temporal power. This is an inalienable inheritance
which he must defend, and it is moreover a question of life, peremptory,
above discussion. And thus Leo XIII has retained the title of Master of
the temporal dominions of the Church, and this he has done the more
readily since as a cardinal--like all the members of the Sacred College
when elected--he swore that he would maintain those dominions intact.
Italy may hold Rome as her capital for another century or more, but the
coming popes will never cease to protest and claim their kingdom. If ever
an understanding should be arrived at, it must be based on the gift of a
strip of territory. Formerly, when rumours of reconciliation were
current, was it not said that the papacy exacted, as a formal condition,
the possession of at least the Leonine City with the neutralisation of a
road leading to the sea? Nothing is not enough, one cannot start from
nothing to attain to everything, whereas that Civitas Leonina, that bit
of a city, would already be a little royal ground, and it would then only
be necessary to conquer the rest, first Rome, next Italy, then the
neighbouring states, and at last the whole world. Never has the Church
despaired, even when, beaten and despoiled, she seemed to be at the last
gasp. Never will she abdicate, never will she renounce the promises of
the Christ, for she believes in a boundless future and declares herself
to be both indestructible and eternal. Grant her but a pebble on which to
rest her head, and she will hope to possess, first the field in which
that pebble lies, and then the empire in which the field is situated. If
one pope cannot achieve the recovery of the inheritance, another pope,
ten, twenty other popes will continue the work. The centuries do not
count. And this explains why an old man of eighty-four has undertaken
colossal enterprises whose achievement requires several lives, certain as
he is that his successors will take his place, and that the work will
ever and ever be carried forward and completed.

As these thoughts coursed through his mind, Pierre, overlooking that
ancient city of glory and domination, so stubbornly clinging to its
purple, realised that he was an imbecile with his dream of a purely
spiritual pope. The notion seemed to him so different from the reality,
so out of place, that he experienced a sort of shame-fraught despair. The
new pope, consonant to the teachings of the Gospel, such as a purely
spiritual pope reigning over souls alone, would be, was virtually beyond
the ken of a Roman prelate. At thought of that papal court congealed in
ritual, pride, and authority, Pierre suddenly understood what horror and
repugnance such a pastor would inspire. How great must be the
astonishment and contempt of the papal prelates for that singular notion
of the northern mind, a pope without dominions or subjects, military
household or royal honours, a pope who would be, as it were, a spirit,
exercising purely moral authority, dwelling in the depths of God's
temple, and governing the world solely with gestures of benediction and
deeds of kindliness and love! All that was but a misty Gothic invention
for this Latin clergy, these priests of light and magnificence, who were
certainly pious and even superstitious, but who left the Deity well
sheltered within the tabernacle in order to govern in His name, according
to what they considered the interests of Heaven. Thence it arose that
they employed craft and artifice like mere politicians, and lived by dint
of expedients amidst the great battle of human appetites, marching with
the prudent, stealthy steps of diplomatists towards the final terrestrial
victory of the Christ, who, in the person of the Pope, was one day to
reign over all the nations. And how stupefied must a French prelate have
been--a prelate like Monseigneur Bergerot, that apostle of renunciation
and charity--when he lighted amidst that world of the Vatican! How
difficult must it have been for him to understand and focus things, and
afterwards how great his grief at finding himself unable to come to any
agreement with those men without country, without fatherland, those
"internationals," who were ever poring over the maps of both hemispheres,
ever absorbed in schemes which were to bring them empire. Days and days
were necessary, one needed to live in Rome, and he, Pierre himself, had
only seen things clearly after a month's sojourn, whilst labouring under
the violent shock of the royal pomp of St. Peter's, and standing face to
face with the ancient city as it slumbered heavily in the sunlight and
dreamt its dream of eternity.

But on lowering his eyes to the piazza in front of the Basilica he
perceived the multitude, the 40,000 believers streaming over the pavement
like insects. And then he thought that he could hear the cry again
rising: "/Evviva il Papa-Re! evviva il Papa-Re/! Long live the
Pope-King!" Whilst ascending those endless staircases a moment previously
it had seemed to him as if the colossus of stone were quivering with the
frantic shout raised beneath its ceilings. And now that he had climbed
even into cloudland that shout apparently was traversing space. If the
colossal pile beneath him still vibrated with it, was it not as with a
last rise of sap within its ancient walls, a reinvigoration of that
Catholic blood which formerly had demanded that the pile should be a
stupendous one, the veritable king of temples, and which now was striving
to reanimate it with the powerful breath of life, and this at the very
hour when death was beginning to fall upon its over-vast, deserted nave
and aisles? The crowd was still streaming forth, filling the piazza, and
Pierre's heart was wrung by frightful anguish, for that throng with its
shout had just swept his last hope away. On the previous afternoon, after
the reception of the pilgrimage, he had yet been able to deceive himself
by overlooking the necessity for money which bound the Pope to earth in
order that he might see nought but the feeble old man, all spirituality,
resplendent like the symbol of moral authority. But his faith in such a
pastor of the Gospel, free from all considerations of earthly wealth, and
king of none other than a heavenly kingdom, had fled. Not only did the
Peter's Pence impose hard servitude upon Leo XIII but he was also the
prisoner of papal tradition--the eternal King of Rome, riveted to the
soil of Rome, unable either to quit the city or to renounce the temporal
power. The fatal end would be collapse on the spot, the dome of St.
Peter's falling even as the temple of Olympian Jupiter had fallen,
Catholicism strewing the grass with its ruins whilst elsewhere schism
burst forth: a new faith for the new nations. Of this Pierre had a
grandiose and tragical vision: he beheld his dream destroyed, his book
swept away amidst that cry which spread around him as if flying to the
four corners of the Catholic world "/Evviva il Papa-Re! evviva il
Papa-Re! Long live the Pope-King!" But even in that hour of the papacy's
passing triumph he already felt that the giant of gold and marble on
which he stood was oscillating, even as totter all old and rotten

At last he took his way down again, and a fresh shock of emotion came to
him as he reached the roofs, that sunlit expanse of lead and zinc, large
enough for the site of a town. Monsignor Nani was there, in company with
the two French ladies, the mother and the daughter, both looking very
happy and highly amused. No doubt the prelate had good-naturedly offered
to conduct them to the dome. However, as soon as he recognised the young
priest he went towards him: "Well, my dear son," he inquired, "are you
pleased? Have you been impressed, edified?" As he spoke, his searching
eyes dived into Pierre's soul, as if to ascertain the present result of
his experiments. Then, satisfied with what he detected, he began to laugh
softly: "Yes, yes, I see--come, you are a sensible fellow after all. I
begin to think that the unfortunate affair which brought you here will
have a happy ending."


WHEN Pierre remained in the morning at the Boccanera mansion he often
spent some hours in the little neglected garden which had formerly ended
with a sort of colonnaded /loggia/, whence two flights of steps descended
to the Tiber. This garden was a delightful, solitary nook, perfumed by
the ripe fruit of the centenarian orange-trees, whose symmetrical lines
were the only indication of the former pathways, now hidden beneath rank
weeds. And Pierre also found there the acrid scent of the large
box-shrubs growing in the old central fountain basin, which had been
filled up with loose earth and rubbish.

On those luminous October mornings, full of such tender and penetrating
charm, the spot was one where all the joy of living might well be
savoured, but Pierre brought thither his northern dreaminess, his concern
for suffering, his steadfast feeling of compassion, which rendered yet
sweeter the caress of the sunlight pervading that atmosphere of love. He
seated himself against the right-hand wall on a fragment of a fallen
column over which a huge laurel cast a deep-black shadow, fresh and
aromatic. In the antique greenish sarcophagus beside him, on which fauns
offered violence to nymphs, the streamlet of water trickling from the
mask incrusted in the wall, set the unchanging music of its crystal note,
whilst he read the newspapers and the letters which he received, all the
communications of good Abbe Rose, who kept him informed of his mission
among the wretched ones of gloomy Paris, now already steeped in fog and

One morning however, Pierre unexpectedly found Benedetta seated on the
fallen column which he usually made his chair. She raised a light cry of
surprise on seeing him, and for a moment remained embarrassed, for she
had with her his book "New Rome," which she had read once already, but
had then imperfectly understood. And overcoming her embarrassment she now
hastened to detain him, making him sit down beside her, and frankly
owning that she had come to the garden in order to be alone and apply
herself to an attentive study of the book, in the same way as some
ignorant school-girl. Then they began to chat like a pair of friends, and
the young priest spent a delightful hour. Although Benedetta did not
speak of herself, he realised that it was her grief alone which brought
her nearer to him, as if indeed her own sufferings enlarged her heart and
made her think of all who suffered in the world. Patrician as she was,
regarding social hierarchy as a divine law, she had never previously
thought of such things, and some pages of Pierre's book greatly
astonished her. What! one ought to take interest in the lowly, realise
that they had the same souls and the same griefs as oneself, and seek in
brotherly or sisterly fashion to make them happy? She certainly sought to
acquire such an interest, but with no great success, for she secretly
feared that it might lead her into sin, as it could not be right to alter
aught of the social system which had been established by God and
consecrated by the Church. Charitable she undoubtedly was, wont to bestow
small sums in alms, but she did not give her heart, she felt no true
sympathy for the humble, belonging as she did to such a different race,
which looked to a throne in heaven high above the seats of all the
plebeian elect.

She and Pierre, however, found themselves on other mornings side by side
in the shade of the laurels near the trickling, singing water; and he,
lacking occupation, weary of waiting for a solution which seemed to
recede day by day, fervently strove to animate this young and beautiful
woman with some of his own fraternal feelings. He was impassioned by the
idea that he was catechising Italy herself, the queen of beauty, who was
still slumbering in ignorance, but who would recover all her past glory
if she were to awake to the new times with soul enlarged, swelling with
pity for men and things. Reading good Abbe Rose's letters to Benedetta,
he made her shudder at the frightful wail of wretchedness which ascends
from all great cities. With such deep tenderness in her eyes, with the
happiness of love reciprocated emanating from her whole being, why should
she not recognise, even as he did, that the law of love was the sole
means of saving suffering humanity, which, through hatred, incurred the
danger of death? And to please him she did try to believe in democracy,
in the fraternal remodelling of society, but among other nations
only--not at Rome, for an involuntary, gentle laugh came to her lips
whenever his words evoked the idea of the poor still remaining in the
Trastevere district fraternising with those who yet dwelt in the old
princely palaces. No, no, things had been as they were so long; they
could not, must not, be altered! And so, after all, Pierre's pupil made
little progress: she was, in reality, simply touched by the wealth of
ardent love which the young priest had chastely transferred from one
alone to the whole of human kind. And between him and her, as those
sunlit October mornings went by, a tie of exquisite sweetness was formed;
they came to love one another with deep, pure, fraternal affection,
amidst the great glowing passion which consumed them both.

Then, one day, Benedetta, her elbow resting on the sarcophagus, spoke of
Dario, whose name she had hitherto refrained from mentioning. Ah! poor
/amico/, how circumspect and repentant he had shown himself since that
fit of brutal insanity! At first, to conceal his embarrassment, he had
gone to spend three days at Naples, and it was said that La Tonietta, the
sentimental /demi-mondaine/, had hastened to join him there, wildly in
love with him. Since his return to the mansion he had avoided all private
meetings with his cousin, and scarcely saw her except at the Monday
receptions, when he wore a submissive air, and with his eyes silently
entreated forgiveness.

"Yesterday, however," continued Benedetta, "I met him on the staircase
and gave him my hand. He understood that I was no longer angry with him
and was very happy. What else could I have done? One must not be severe
for ever. Besides, I do not want things to go too far between him and
that woman. I want him to remember that I still love him, and am still
waiting for him. Oh! he is mine, mine alone. But alas! I cannot say the
word: our affairs are in such sorry plight."

She paused, and two big tears welled into her eyes. The divorce
proceedings to which she alluded had now come to a standstill, fresh
obstacles ever arising to stay their course.

Pierre was much moved by her tears, for she seldom wept. She herself
sometimes confessed, with her calm smile, that she did not know how to
weep. But now her heart was melting, and for a moment she remained
overcome, leaning on the mossy, crumbling sarcophagus, whilst the clear
water falling from the gaping mouth of the tragic mask still sounded its
flutelike note. And a sudden thought of death came to the priest as he
saw her, so young and so radiant with beauty, half fainting beside that
marble resting-place where fauns were rushing upon nymphs in a frantic
bacchanal which proclaimed the omnipotence of love--that omnipotence
which the ancients were fond of symbolising on their tombs as a token of
life's eternity. And meantime a faint, warm breeze passed through the
sunlit, silent garden, wafting hither and thither the penetrating scent
of box and orange.

"One has so much strength when one loves," Pierre at last murmured.

"Yes, yes, you are right," she replied, already smiling again. "I am
childish. But it is the fault of your book. It is only when I suffer that
I properly understand it. But all the same I am making progress, am I
not? Since you desire it, let all the poor, all those who suffer, as I
do, be my brothers and sisters."

Then for a while they resumed their chat.

On these occasions Benedetta was usually the first to return to the
house, and Pierre would linger alone under the laurels, vaguely dreaming
of sweet, sad things. Often did he think how hard life proved for poor
creatures whose only thirst was for happiness!

One Monday evening, at a quarter-past ten, only the young folks remained
in Donna Serafina's reception-room. Monsignor Nani had merely put in an
appearance that night, and Cardinal Sarno had just gone off.

Even Donna Serafina, in her usual seat by the fireplace, seemed to have
withdrawn from the others, absorbed as she was in contemplation of the
chair which the absent Morano still stubbornly left unoccupied. Chatting
and laughing in front of the sofa on which sat Benedetta and Celia were
Dario, Pierre, and Narcisse Habert, the last of whom had begun to twit
the young Prince, having met him, so he asserted, a few days previously,
in the company of a very pretty girl.

"Oh! don't deny it, my dear fellow," continued Narcisse, "for she was
really superb. She was walking beside you, and you turned into a lane
together--the Borgo Angelico, I think."

Dario listened smiling, quite at his ease and incapable of denying his
passionate predilection for beauty. "No doubt, no doubt; it was I, I
don't deny it," he responded. "Only the inferences you draw are not
correct." And turning towards Benedetta, who, without a thought of
jealous anxiety, wore as gay a look as himself, as though delighted that
he should have enjoyed that passing pleasure of the eyes, he went on: "It
was the girl, you know, whom I found in tears six weeks ago. Yes, that
bead-worker who was sobbing because the workshop was shut up, and who
rushed along, all blushing, to conduct me to her parents when I offered
her a bit of silver. Pierina her name is, as you, perhaps, remember."

"Oh! yes, Pierina."

"Well, since then I've met her in the street on four or five occasions.
And, to tell the truth, she is so very beautiful that I've stopped and
spoken to her. The other day, for instance, I walked with her as far as a
manufacturer's. But she hasn't yet found any work, and she began to cry,
and so, to console her a little, I kissed her. She was quite taken aback
at it, but she seemed very well pleased."

At this all the others began to laugh. But suddenly Celia desisted and
said very gravely, "You know, Dario, she loves you; you must not be hard
on her."

Dario, no doubt, was of Celia's opinion, for he again looked at
Benedetta, but with a gay toss of the head, as if to say that, although
the girl might love him, he did not love her. A bead-worker indeed, a
girl of the lowest classes, pooh! She might be a Venus, but she could be
nothing to him. And he himself made merry over his romantic adventure,
which Narcisse sought to arrange in a kind of antique sonnet: A beautiful
bead-worker falling madly in love with a young prince, as fair as
sunlight, who, touched by her misfortune, hands her a silver crown; then
the beautiful bead-worker, quite overcome at finding him as charitable as
handsome, dreaming of him incessantly, and following him everywhere,
chained to his steps by a link of flame; and finally the beautiful
bead-worker, who has refused the silver crown, so entreating the handsome
prince with her soft, submissive eyes, that he at last deigns to grant
her the alms of his heart. This pastime greatly amused Benedetta; but
Celia, with her angelic face and the air of a little girl who ought to
have been ignorant of everything, remained very grave and repeated sadly,
"Dario, Dario, she loves you; you must not make her suffer."

Then the Contessina, in her turn, was moved to pity. "And those poor
folks are not happy!" said she.

"Oh!" exclaimed the Prince, "it's misery beyond belief. On the day she
took me to the Quartiere dei Prati* I was quite overcome; it was awful,
astonishingly awful!"

  * The district of the castle meadows--see /ante/ note.--Trans.

"But I remember that we promised to go to see the poor people," resumed
Benedetta, "and we have done wrong in delaying our visit so long. For
your studies, Monsieur l'Abbe Froment, you greatly desired to accompany
us and see the poor of Rome--was that not so?"

As she spoke she raised her eyes to Pierre, who for a moment had been
silent. He was much moved by her charitable thought, for he realised, by
the faint quiver of her voice, that she desired to appear a docile pupil,
progressing in affection for the lowly and the wretched. Moreover, his
passion for his apostolate had at once returned to him. "Oh!" said he, "I
shall not quit Rome without having seen those who suffer, those who lack
work and bread. Therein lies the malady which affects every nation;
salvation can only be attained by the healing of misery. When the roots
of the tree cannot find sustenance the tree dies."

"Well," resumed the Contessina, "we will fix an appointment at once; you
shall come with us to the Quartiere dei Prati--Dario will take us there."

At this the Prince, who had listened to the priest with an air of
stupefaction, unable to understand the simile of the tree and its roots,
began to protest distressfully, "No, no, cousin, take Monsieur l'Abbe for
a stroll there if it amuses you. But I've been, and don't want to go
back. Why, when I got home the last time I was so upset that I almost
took to my bed. No, no; such abominations are too awful--it isn't

At this moment a voice, bitter with displeasure, arose from the chimney
corner. Donna Serafina was emerging from her long silence. "Dario is
quite right! Send your alms, my dear, and I will gladly add mine. There
are other places where you might take Monsieur l'Abbe, and which it would
be far more useful for him to see. With that idea of yours you would send
him away with a nice recollection of our city."

Roman pride rang out amidst the old lady's bad temper. Why, indeed, show
one's sores to foreigners, whose visit is possibly prompted by hostile
curiosity? One always ought to look beautiful; Rome should not be shown
otherwise than in the garb of glory.

Narcisse, however, had taken possession of Pierre. "It's true, my dear
Abbe," said he; "I forgot to recommend that stroll to you. You really
must visit the new district built over the castle meadows. It's typical,
and sums up all the others. And you won't lose your time there, I'll
warrant you, for nowhere can you learn more about the Rome of the present
day. It's extraordinary, extraordinary!" Then, addressing Benedetta, he
added, "Is it decided? Shall we say to-morrow morning? You'll find the
Abbe and me over there, for I want to explain matters to him beforehand,
in order that he may understand them. What do you say to ten o'clock?"

Before answering him the Contessina turned towards her aunt and
respectfully opposed her views. "But Monsieur l'Abbe, aunt, has met
enough beggars in our streets already, so he may well see everything.
Besides, judging by his book, he won't see worse things than he has seen
in Paris. As he says in one passage, hunger is the same all the world
over." Then, with her sensible air, she gently laid siege to Dario. "You
know, Dario," said she, "you would please me very much by taking me
there. We can go in the carriage and join these gentlemen. It will be a
very pleasant outing for us. It is such a long time since we went out

It was certainly that idea of going out with Dario, of having a pretext
for a complete reconciliation with him, that enchanted her; he himself
realised it, and, unable to escape, he tried to treat the matter as a
joke. "Ah! cousin," he said, "it will be your fault; I shall have the
nightmare for a week. An excursion like that spoils all the enjoyment of
life for days and days."

The mere thought made him quiver with revolt. However, laughter again
rang out around him, and, in spite of Donna Serafina's mute disapproval,
the appointment was finally fixed for the following morning at ten
o'clock. Celia as she went off expressed deep regret that she could not
form one of the party; but, with the closed candour of a budding lily,
she really took interest in Pierina alone. As she reached the ante-room
she whispered in her friend's ear: "Take a good look at that beauty, my
dear, so as to tell me whether she is so very beautiful--beautiful beyond

When Pierre met Narcisse near the Castle of Sant' Angelo on the morrow,
at nine o'clock, he was surprised to find him again languid and
enraptured, plunged anew in artistic enthusiasm. At first not a word was
said of the excursion. Narcisse related that he had risen at sunrise in
order that he might spend an hour before Bernini's "Santa Teresa." It
seemed that when he did not see that statue for a week he suffered as
acutely as if he were parted from some cherished mistress. And his
adoration varied with the time of day, according to the light in which he
beheld the figure: in the morning, when the pale glow of dawn steeped it
in whiteness, he worshipped it with quite a mystical transport of the
soul, whilst in the afternoon, when the glow of the declining sun's
oblique rays seemed to permeate the marble, his passion became as fiery
red as the blood of martyrs. "Ah! my friend," said he with a weary air
whilst his dreamy eyes faded to mauve, "you have no idea how delightful
and perturbing her awakening was this morning--how languorously she
opened her eyes, like a pure, candid virgin, emerging from the embrace of
the Divinity. One could die of rapture at the sight!"

Then, growing calm again when he had taken a few steps, he resumed in the
voice of a practical man who does not lose his balance in the affairs of
life: "We'll walk slowly towards the castle-fields district--the
buildings yonder; and on our way I'll tell you what I know of the things
we shall see there. It was the maddest affair imaginable, one of those
delirious frenzies of speculation which have a splendour of their own,
just like the superb, monstrous masterpiece of a man of genius whose mind
is unhinged. I was told of it all by some relatives of mine, who took
part in the gambling, and, in point of fact, made a good deal of money by

Thereupon, with the clearness and precision of a financier, employing
technical terms with perfect ease, he recounted the extraordinary
adventure. That all Italy, on the morrow of the occupation of Rome,
should have been delirious with enthusiasm at the thought of at last
possessing the ancient and glorious city, the eternal capital to which
the empire of the world had been promised, was but natural. It was, so to
say, a legitimate explosion of the delight and the hopes of a young
nation anxious to show its power. The question was to make Rome a modern
capital worthy of a great kingdom, and before aught else there were
sanitary requirements to be dealt with: the city needed to be cleansed of
all the filth which disgraced it. One cannot nowadays imagine in what
abominable putrescence the city of the popes, the /Roma sporca/ which
artists regret, was then steeped: the vast majority of the houses lacked
even the most primitive arrangements, the public thoroughfares were used
for all purposes, noble ruins served as store-places for sewage, the
princely palaces were surrounded by filth, and the streets were perfect
manure beds which fostered frequent epidemics. Thus vast municipal works
were absolutely necessary, the question was one of health and life
itself. And in much the same way it was only right to think of building
houses for the newcomers, who would assuredly flock into the city. There
had been a precedent at Berlin, whose population, after the establishment
of the German empire, had suddenly increased by some hundreds of
thousands. In the same way the population of Rome would certainly be
doubled, tripled, quadrupled, for as the new centre of national life the
city would necessarily attract all the /vis viva/ of the provinces. And
at this thought pride stepped in: the fallen government of the Vatican
must be shown what Italy was capable of achieving, what splendour she
would bestow on the new and third Rome, which, by the magnificence of its
thoroughfares and the multitude of its people, would far excel either the
imperial or the papal city.

True, during the early years some prudence was observed; wisely enough,
houses were only built in proportion as they were required. The
population had doubled at one bound, rising from two to four hundred
thousand souls, thanks to the arrival of the little world of employees
and officials of the public services--all those who live on the State or
hope to live on it, without mentioning the idlers and enjoyers of life
whom a Court always carries in its train. However, this influx of
newcomers was a first cause of intoxication, for every one imagined that
the increase would continue, and, in fact, become more and more rapid.
And so the city of the day before no longer seemed large enough; it was
necessary to make immediate preparations for the morrow's need by
enlarging Rome on all sides. Folks talked, too, of the Paris of the
second empire, which had been so extended and transformed into a city of
light and health. But unfortunately on the banks of the Tiber there was
neither any preconcerted general plan nor any clear-seeing man, master of
the situation, supported by powerful financial organisations. And the
work, begun by pride, prompted by the ambition of surpassing the Rome of
the Caesars and the Popes, the determination to make the eternal,
predestined city the queen and centre of the world once more, was
completed by speculation, one of those extraordinary gambling frenzies,
those tempests which arise, rage, destroy, and carry everything away
without premonitory warning or possibility of arresting their course. All
at once it was rumoured that land bought at five francs the metre had
been sold again for a hundred francs the metre; and thereupon the fever
arose--the fever of a nation which is passionately fond of gambling. A
flight of speculators descending from North Italy swooped down upon Rome,
the noblest and easiest of preys. Those needy, famished mountaineers
found spoils for every appetite in that voluptuous South where life is so
benign, and the very delights of the climate helped to corrupt and hasten
moral gangrene. At first, too; it was merely necessary to stoop; money
was to be found by the shovelful among the rubbish of the first districts
which were opened up. People who were clever enough to scent the course
which the new thoroughfares would take and purchase buildings threatened
with demolition increased their capital tenfold in a couple of years. And
after that the contagion spread, infecting all classes--the princes,
burgesses, petty proprietors, even the shop-keepers, bakers, grocers, and
boot-makers; the delirium rising to such a pitch that a mere baker
subsequently failed for forty-five millions.* Nothing, indeed, was left
but rageful gambling, in which the stakes were millions, whilst the lands
and the houses became mere fictions, mere pretexts for stock-exchange
operations. And thus the old hereditary pride, which had dreamt of
transforming Rome into the capital of the world, was heated to madness by
the high fever of speculation--folks buying, and building, and selling
without limit, without a pause, even as one might throw shares upon the
market as fast and as long as presses can be found to print them.

  * 1,800,000 pounds. See /ante/ note.--Trans.

No other city in course of evolution has ever furnished such a spectacle.
Nowadays, when one strives to penetrate things one is confounded. The
population had increased to five hundred thousand, and then seemingly
remained stationary; nevertheless, new districts continued to sprout up
more thickly than ever. Yet what folly it was not to wait for a further
influx of inhabitants! Why continue piling up accommodation for thousands
of families whose advent was uncertain? The only excuse lay in having
beforehand propounded the proposition that the third Rome, the triumphant
capital of Italy, could not count less than a million souls, and in
regarding that proposition as indisputable fact. The people had not come,
but they surely would come: no patriot could doubt it without being
guilty of treason. And so houses were built and built without a pause,
for the half-million citizens who were coming. There was no anxiety as to
the date of their arrival; it was sufficient that they should be
expected. Inside Rome the companies which had been formed in connection
with the new thoroughfares passing through the old, demolished,
pestiferous districts, certainly sold or let their house property, and
thereby realised large profits. But, as the craze increased, other
companies were established for the purpose of erecting yet more and more
districts outside Rome--veritable little towns, of which there was no
need whatever. Beyond the Porta San Giovanni and the Porta San Lorenzo,
suburbs sprang up as by miracle. A town was sketched out over the vast
estate of the Villa Ludovisi, from the Porta Pia to the Porta Salaria and
even as far as Sant' Agnese. And then came an attempt to make quite a
little city, with church, school, and market, arise all at once on the
fields of the Castle of Sant' Angelo. And it was no question of small
dwellings for labourers, modest flats for employees, and others of
limited means; no, it was a question of colossal mansions three and four
storeys high, displaying uniform and endless facades which made these new
excentral quarters quite Babylonian, such districts, indeed, as only
capitals endowed with intense life, like Paris and London, could contrive
to populate. However, such were the monstrous products of pride and
gambling; and what a page of history, what a bitter lesson now that Rome,
financially ruined, is further disgraced by that hideous girdle of empty,
and, for the most part, uncompleted carcases, whose ruins already strew
the grassy streets!

The fatal collapse, the disaster proved a frightful one. Narcisse
explained its causes and recounted its phases so clearly that Pierre
fully understood. Naturally enough, numerous financial companies had
sprouted up: the Immobiliere, the Society d'Edilizia e Construzione, the
Fondaria, the Tiberiana, and the Esquilino. Nearly all of them built,
erected huge houses, entire streets of them, for purposes of sale; but
they also gambled in land, selling plots at large profit to petty
speculators, who also dreamt of making large profits amidst the
continuous, fictitious rise brought about by the growing fever of
agiotage. And the worst was that the petty speculators, the middle-class
people, the inexperienced shop-keepers without capital, were crazy enough
to build in their turn by borrowing of the banks or applying to the
companies which had sold them the land for sufficient cash to enable them
to complete their structures. As a general rule, to avoid the loss of
everything, the companies were one day compelled to take back both land
and buildings, incomplete though the latter might be, and from the
congestion which resulted they were bound to perish. If the expected
million of people had arrived to occupy the dwellings prepared for them
the gains would have been fabulous, and in ten years Rome might have
become one of the most flourishing capitals of the world. But the people
did not come, and the dwellings remained empty. Moreover, the buildings
erected by the companies were too large and costly for the average
investor inclined to put his money into house property. Heredity had
acted, the builders had planned things on too huge a scale, raising a
series of magnificent piles whose purpose was to dwarf those of all other
ages; but, as it happened, they were fated to remain lifeless and
deserted, testifying with wondrous eloquence to the impotence of pride.

So there was no private capital that dared or could take the place of
that of the companies. Elsewhere, in Paris for instance, new districts
have been erected and embellishments have been carried out with the
capital of the country--the money saved by dint of thrift. But in Rome
all was built on the credit system, either by means of bills of exchange
at ninety days, or--and this was chiefly the case--by borrowing money
abroad. The huge sum sunk in these enterprises is estimated at a
milliard, four-fifths of which was French money. The bankers did
everything; the French ones lent to the Italian bankers at 3 1/2 or 4 per
cent.; and the Italian bankers accommodated the speculators, the Roman
builders, at 6, 7, and even 8 per cent. And thus the disaster was great
indeed when France, learning of Italy's alliance with Germany, withdrew
her 800,000,000 francs in less than two years. The Italian banks were
drained of their specie, and the land and building companies, being
likewise compelled to reimburse their loans, were compelled to apply to
the banks of issue, those privileged to issue notes. At the same time
they intimidated the Government, threatening to stop all work and throw
40,000 artisans and labourers starving on the pavement of Rome if it did
not compel the banks of issue to lend them the five or six millions of
paper which they needed. And this the Government at last did, appalled by
the possibility of universal bankruptcy. Naturally, however, the five or
six millions could not be paid back at maturity, as the newly built
houses found neither purchasers nor tenants; and so the great fall began,
and continued with a rush, heaping ruin upon ruin. The petty speculators
fell on the builders, the builders on the land companies, the land
companies on the banks of issue, and the latter on the public credit,
ruining the nation. And that was how a mere municipal crisis became a
frightful disaster: a whole milliard sunk to no purpose, Rome disfigured,
littered with the ruins of the gaping and empty dwellings which had been
prepared for the five or six hundred thousand inhabitants for whom the
city yet waits in vain!

Moreover, in the breeze of glory which swept by, the state itself took a
colossal view of things. It was a question of at once making Italy
triumphant and perfect, of accomplishing in five and twenty years what
other nations have required centuries to effect. So there was feverish
activity and a prodigious outlay on canals, ports, roads, railway lines,
and improvements in all the great cities. Directly after the alliance
with Germany, moreover, the military and naval estimates began to devour
millions to no purpose. And the ever growing financial requirements were
simply met by the issue of paper, by a fresh loan each succeeding year.
In Rome alone, too, the building of the Ministry of War cost ten
millions, that of the Ministry of Finances fifteen, whilst a hundred was
spent on the yet unfinished quays, and two hundred and fifty were sunk on
works of defence around the city. And all this was a flare of the old
hereditary pride, springing from that soil whose sap can only blossom in
extravagant projects; the determination to dazzle and conquer the world
which comes as soon as one has climbed to the Capitol, even though one's
feet rest amidst the accumulated dust of all the forms of human power
which have there crumbled one above the other.

"And, my dear friend," continued Narcisse, "if I could go into all the
stories that are current, that are whispered here and there, you would be
stupefied at the insanity which overcame the whole city amidst the
terrible fever to which the gambling passion gave rise. Folks of small
account, and fools and ignorant people were not the only ones to be
ruined; nearly all the Roman nobles lost their ancient fortunes, their
gold and their palaces and their galleries of masterpieces, which they
owed to the munificence of the popes. The colossal wealth which it had
taken centuries of nepotism to pile up in the hands of a few melted away
like wax, in less than ten years, in the levelling fire of modern
speculation." Then, forgetting that he was speaking to a priest, he went
on to relate one of the whispered stories to which he had alluded:
"There's our good friend Dario, Prince Boccanera, the last of the name,
reduced to live on the crumbs which fall to him from his uncle the
Cardinal, who has little beyond his stipend left him. Well, Dario would
be a rich man had it not been for that extraordinary affair of the Villa
Montefiori. You have heard of it, no doubt; how Prince Onofrio, Dario's
father, speculated, sold the villa grounds for ten millions, then bought
them back and built on them, and how, at last, not only the ten millions
were lost, but also all that remained of the once colossal fortune of the
Boccaneras. What you haven't been told, however, is the secret part which
Count Prada--our Contessina's husband--played in the affair. He was the
lover of Princess Boccanera, the beautiful Flavia Montefiori, who had
brought the villa as dowry to the old Prince. She was a very fine woman,
much younger than her husband, and it is positively said that it was
through her that Prada mastered the Prince--for she held her old doting
husband at arm's length whenever he hesitated to give a signature or go
farther into the affair of which he scented the danger. And in all this
Prada gained the millions which he now spends, while as for the beautiful
Flavia, you are aware, no doubt, that she saved a little fortune from the
wreck and bought herself a second and much younger husband, whom she
turned into a Marquis Montefiori. In the whole affair the only victim is
our good friend Dario, who is absolutely ruined, and wishes to marry his
cousin, who is as poor as himself. It's true that she's determined to
have him, and that it's impossible for him not to reciprocate her love.
But for that he would have already married some American girl with a
dowry of millions, like so many of the ruined princes, on the verge of
starvation, have done; that is, unless the Cardinal and Donna Serafina
had opposed such a match, which would not have been surprising, proud and
stubborn as they are, anxious to preserve the purity of their old Roman
blood. However, let us hope that Dario and the exquisite Benedetta will
some day be happy together."

Narcisse paused; but, after taking a few steps in silence, he added in a
lower tone: "I've a relative who picked up nearly three millions in that
Villa Montefiori affair. Ah! I regret that I wasn't here in those heroic
days of speculation. It must have been very amusing; and what strokes
there were for a man of self-possession to make!"

However, all at once, as he raised his head, he saw before him the
Quartiere dei Prati--the new district of the castle fields; and his face
thereupon changed: he again became an artist, indignant with the modern
abominations with which old Rome had been disfigured. His eyes paled, and
a curl of his lips expressed the bitter disdain of a dreamer whose
passion for the vanished centuries was sorely hurt: "Look, look at it
all!" he exclaimed. "To think of it, in the city of Augustus, the city of
Leo X, the city of eternal power and eternal beauty!"

Pierre himself was thunderstruck. The meadows of the Castle of Sant'
Angelo, dotted with a few poplar trees, had here formerly stretched
alongside the Tiber as far as the first slopes of Monte Mario, thus
supplying, to the satisfaction of artists, a foreground or greenery to
the Borgo and the dome of St. Peter's. But now, amidst the white,
leprous, overturned plain, there stood a town of huge, massive houses,
cubes of stone-work, invariably the same, with broad streets intersecting
one another at right angles. From end to end similar facades appeared,
suggesting series of convents, barracks, or hospitals. Extraordinary and
painful was the impression produced by this town so suddenly immobilised
whilst in course of erection. It was as if on some accursed morning a
wicked magician had with one touch of his wand stopped the works and
emptied the noisy stone-yards, leaving the buildings in mournful
abandonment. Here on one side the soil had been banked up; there deep
pits dug for foundations had remained gaping, overrun with weeds. There
were houses whose halls scarcely rose above the level of the soil; others
which had been raised to a second or third floor; others, again, which
had been carried as high as was intended, and even roofed in, suggesting
skeletons or empty cages. Then there were houses finished excepting that
their walls had not been plastered, others which had been left without
window frames, shutters, or doors; others, again, which had their doors
and shutters, but were nailed up like coffins with not a soul inside
them; and yet others which were partly, and in a few cases fully,
inhabited--animated by the most unexpected of populations. And no words
could describe the fearful mournfulness of that City of the Sleeping
Beauty, hushed into mortal slumber before it had even lived, lying
annihilated beneath the heavy sun pending an awakening which, likely
enough, would never come.

Following his companion, Pierre walked along the broad, deserted streets,
where all was still as in a cemetery. Not a vehicle nor a pedestrian
passed by. Some streets had no foot ways; weeds were covering the unpaved
roads, turning them once more into fields; and yet there were temporary
gas lamps, mere leaden pipes bound to poles, which had been there for
years. To avoid payment of the door and window tax, the house owners had
generally closed all apertures with planks; while some houses, of which
little had been built, were surrounded by high palings for fear lest
their cellars should become the dens of all the bandits of the district.
But the most painful sight of all was that of the young ruins, the proud,
lofty structures, which, although unfinished, were already cracking on
all sides, and required the support of an intricate arrangement of
timbers to prevent them from falling in dust upon the ground. A pang came
to one's heart as though one was in a city which some scourge had
depopulated--pestilence, war, or bombardment, of which these gaping
carcases seem to retain the mark. Then at the thought that this was
abortment, not death--that destruction would complete its work before the
dreamt-of, vainly awaited denizens would bring life to the still-born
houses, one's melancholy deepened to hopeless discouragement. And at each
corner, moreover, there was the frightful irony of the magnificent marble
slabs which bore the names of the streets, illustrious historical names,
Gracchus, Scipio, Pliny, Pompey, Julius Caesar, blazing forth on those
unfinished, crumbling walls like a buffet dealt by the Past to modern

Then Pierre was once more struck by this truth--that whosoever possesses
Rome is consumed by the building frenzy, the passion for marble, the
boastful desire to build and leave his monument of glory to future
generations. After the Caesars and the Popes had come the Italian
Government, which was no sooner master of the city than it wished to
reconstruct it, make it more splendid, more huge than it had ever been
before. It was the fatal suggestion of the soil itself--the blood of
Augustus rushing to the brain of these last-comers and urging them to a
mad desire to make the third Rome the queen of the earth. Thence had come
all the vast schemes such as the cyclopean quays and the mere ministries
struggling to outvie the Colosseum; and thence had come all the new
districts of gigantic houses which had sprouted like towns around the
ancient city. It was not only on the castle fields, but at the Porta San
Giovanni, the Porta San Lorenzo, the Villa Ludovisi, and on the heights
of the Viminal and the Esquiline that unfinished, empty districts were
already crumbling amidst the weeds of their deserted streets. After two
thousand years of prodigious fertility the soil really seemed to be
exhausted. Even as in very old fruit gardens newly planted plum and
cherry trees wither and die, so the new walls, no doubt, found no life in
that old dust of Rome, impoverished by the immemorial growth of so many
temples, circuses, arches, basilicas, and churches. And thus the modern
houses, which men had sought to render fruitful, the useless, over-huge
houses, swollen with hereditary ambition, had been unable to attain
maturity, and remained there sterile like dry bushes on a plot of land
exhausted by over-cultivation. And the frightful sadness that one felt
arose from the fact that so creative and great a past had culminated in
such present-day impotency--Rome, who had covered the world with
indestructible monuments, now so reduced that she could only generate

"Oh, they'll be finished some day!" said Pierre.

Narcisse gazed at him in astonishment: "For whom?"

That was the cruel question! Only by dint of patriotic enthusiasm on the
morrow of the conquest had one been able to indulge in the hope of a
mighty influx of population, and now singular blindness was needed for
the belief that such an influx would ever take place. The past
experiments seemed decisive; moreover, there was no reason why the
population should double: Rome offered neither the attraction of pleasure
nor that of gain to be amassed in commerce and industry for those she had
not, nor of intensity of social and intellectual life, since of this she
seemed no longer capable. In any case, years and years would be
requisite. And, meantime, how could one people those houses which were
finished; and for whom was one to finish those which had remained mere
skeletons, falling to pieces under sun and rain? Must they all remain
there indefinitely, some gaunt and open to every blast and others closed
and silent like tombs, in the wretched hideousness of their inutility and
abandonment? What a terrible proof of error they offered under the
radiant sky! The new masters of Rome had made a bad start, and even if
they now knew what they ought to have done would they have the courage to
undo what they had done? Since the milliard sunk there seemed to be
definitely lost and wasted, one actually hoped for the advent of a Nero,
endowed with mighty, sovereign will, who would take torch and pick and
burn and raze everything in the avenging name of reason and beauty.

"Ah!" resumed Narcisse, "here are the Contessina and the Prince."

Benedetta had told the coachman to pull up in one of the open spaces
intersecting the deserted streets, and now along the broad, quiet, grassy
road--well fitted for a lovers' stroll--she was approaching on Dario's
arm, both of them delighted with their outing, and no longer thinking of
the sad things which they had come to see. "What a nice day it is!" the
Contessina gaily exclaimed as she reached Pierre and Narcisse. "How
pleasant the sunshine is! It's quite a treat to be able to walk about a
little as if one were in the country!"

Dario was the first to cease smiling at the blue sky, all the delight of
his stroll with his cousin on his arm suddenly departing. "My dear," said
he, "we must go to see those people, since you are bent on it, though it
will certainly spoil our day. But first I must take my bearings. I'm not
particularly clever, you know, in finding my way in places where I don't
care to go. Besides, this district is idiotic with all its dead streets
and dead houses, and never a face or a shop to serve as a reminder. Still
I think the place is over yonder. Follow me; at all events, we shall

The four friends then wended their way towards the central part of the
district, the part facing the Tiber, where a small nucleus of a
population had collected. The landlords turned the few completed houses
to the best advantage they could, letting the rooms at very low rentals,
and waiting patiently enough for payment. Some needy employees, some
poverty-stricken families--had thus installed themselves there, and in
the long run contrived to pay a trifle for their accommodation. In
consequence, however, of the demolition of the ancient Ghetto and the
opening of the new streets by which air had been let into the Trastevere
district, perfect hordes of tatterdemalions, famished and homeless, and
almost without garments, had swooped upon the unfinished houses, filling
them with wretchedness and vermin; and it had been necessary to tolerate
this lawless occupation lest all the frightful misery should remain
displayed in the public thoroughfares. And so it was to those frightful
tenants that had fallen the huge four and five storeyed palaces, entered
by monumental doorways flanked by lofty statues and having carved
balconies upheld by caryatides all along their fronts. Each family had
made its choice, often closing the frameless windows with boards and the
gaping doorways with rags, and occupying now an entire princely flat and
now a few small rooms, according to its taste. Horrid-looking linen hung
drying from the carved balconies, foul stains already degraded the white
walls, and from the magnificent porches, intended for sumptuous
equipages, there poured a stream of filth which rotted in stagnant pools
in the roads, where there was neither pavement nor footpath.

On two occasions already Dario had caused his companions to retrace their
steps. He was losing his way and becoming more and more gloomy. "I ought
to have taken to the left," said he, "but how is one to know amidst such
a set as that!"

Parties of verminous children were now to be seen rolling in the dust;
they were wondrously dirty, almost naked, with black skins and tangled
locks as coarse as horsehair. There were also women in sordid skirts and
with their loose jackets unhooked. Many stood talking together in yelping
voices, whilst others, seated on old chairs with their hands on their
knees, remained like that idle for hours. Not many men were met; but a
few lay on the scorched grass, sleeping heavily in the sunlight. However,
the stench was becoming unbearable--a stench of misery as when the human
animal eschews all cleanliness to wallow in filth. And matters were made
worse by the smell from a small, improvised market--the emanations of the
rotting fruit, cooked and sour vegetables, and stale fried fish which a
few poor women had set out on the ground amidst a throng of famished,
covetous children.

"Ah! well, my dear, I really don't know where it is," all at once
exclaimed the Prince, addressing his cousin. "Be reasonable; we've surely
seen enough; let's go back to the carriage."

He was really suffering, and, as Benedetta had said, he did not know how
to suffer. It seemed to him monstrous that one should sadden one's life
by such an excursion as this. Life ought to be buoyant and benign under
the clear sky, brightened by pleasant sights, by dance and song. And he,
with his naive egotism, had a positive horror of ugliness, poverty, and
suffering, the sight of which caused him both mental and physical pain.

Benedetta shuddered even as he did, but in presence of Pierre she desired
to be brave. Glancing at him, and seeing how deeply interested and
compassionate he looked, she desired to persevere in her effort to
sympathise with the humble and the wretched. "No, no, Dario, we must
stay. These gentlemen wish to see everything--is it not so?"

"Oh, the Rome of to-day is here," exclaimed Pierre; "this tells one more
about it than all the promenades among the ruins and the monuments."

"You exaggerate, my dear Abbe," declared Narcisse. "Still, I will admit
that it is very interesting. Some of the old women are particularly

At this moment Benedetta, seeing a superbly beautiful girl in front of
her, could not restrain a cry of enraptured admiration: "/O che

And then Dario, having recognised the girl, exclaimed with the same
delight: "Why, it's La Pierina; she'll show us the way."

The girl had been following the party for a moment already without daring
to approach. Her eyes, glittering with the joy of a loving slave, had at
first darted towards the Prince, and then had hastily scrutinised the
Contessina--not, however, with any show of jealous anger, but with an
expression of affectionate submission and resigned happiness at seeing
that she also was very beautiful. And the girl fully answered to the
Prince's description of her--tall, sturdy, with the bust of a goddess, a
real antique, a Juno of twenty, her chin somewhat prominent, her mouth
and nose perfect in contour, her eyes large and full like a heifer's, and
her whole face quite dazzling--gilded, so to say, by a sunflash--beneath
her casque of heavy jet-black hair.

"So you will show us the way?" said Benedetta, familiar and smiling,
already consoled for all the surrounding ugliness by the thought that
there should be such beautiful creatures in the world.

"Oh yes, signora, yes, at once!" And thereupon Pierina ran off before
them, her feet in shoes which at any rate had no holes, whilst the old
brown woollen dress which she wore appeared to have been recently washed
and mended. One seemed to divine in her a certain coquettish care, a
desire for cleanliness, which none of the others displayed; unless,
indeed, it were simply that her great beauty lent radiance to her humble
garments and made her appear a goddess.

"/Che bellezza! the bellezza!/" the Contessina repeated without wearying.
"That girl, Dario /mio/, is a real feast for the eyes!"

"I knew she would please you," he quietly replied, flattered at having
discovered such a beauty, and no longer talking of departure, since he
could at last rest his eyes on something pleasant.

Behind them came Pierre, likewise full of admiration, whilst Narcisse
spoke to him of the scrupulosity of his own tastes, which were for the
rare and the subtle. "She's beautiful, no doubt," said he; "but at bottom
nothing can be more gross than the Roman style of beauty; there's no
soul, none of the infinite in it. These girls simply have blood under
their skins without ever a glimpse of heaven."

Meantime Pierina had stopped, and with a wave of the hand directed
attention to her mother, who sat on a broken box beside the lofty doorway
of an unfinished mansion. She also must have once been very beautiful,
but at forty she was already a wreck, with dim eyes, drawn mouth, black
teeth, broadly wrinkled countenance, and huge fallen bosom. And she was
also fearfully dirty, her grey wavy hair dishevelled and her skirt and
jacket soiled and slit, revealing glimpses of grimy flesh. On her knees
she held a sleeping infant, her last-born, at whom she gazed like one
overwhelmed and courageless, like a beast of burden resigned to her fate.

"/Bene, bene,/" said she, raising her head, "it's the gentleman who came
to give me a crown because he saw you crying. And he's come back to see
us with some friends. Well, well, there are some good hearts in the world
after all."

Then she related their story, but in a spiritless way, without seeking to
move her visitors. She was called Giacinta, it appeared, and had married
a mason, one Tomaso Gozzo, by whom she had had seven children, Pierina,
then Tito, a big fellow of eighteen, then four more girls, each at an
interval of two years, and finally the infant, a boy, whom she now had on
her lap. They had long lived in the Trastevere district, in an old house
which had lately been pulled down; and their existence seemed to have
then been shattered, for since they had taken refuge in the Quartiere dei
Prati the crisis in the building trade had reduced Tomaso and Tito to
absolute idleness, and the bead factory where Pierina had earned as much
as tenpence a day--just enough to prevent them from dying of hunger--had
closed its doors. At present not one of them had any work; they lived
purely by chance.

"If you like to go up," the woman added, "you'll find Tomaso there with
his brother Ambrogio, whom we've taken to live with us. They'll know
better than I what to say to you. Tomaso is resting; but what else can he
do? It's like Tito--he's dozing over there."

So saying she pointed towards the dry grass amidst which lay a tall young
fellow with a pronounced nose, hard mouth, and eyes as admirable as
Pierina's. He had raised his head to glance suspiciously at the visitors,
a fierce frown gathering on his forehead when he remarked how rapturously
his sister contemplated the Prince. Then he let his head fall again, but
kept his eyes open, watching the pair stealthily.

"Take the lady and gentlemen upstairs, Pierina, since they would like to
see the place," said the mother.

Other women had now drawn near, shuffling along with bare feet in old
shoes; bands of children, too, were swarming around; little girls but
half clad, amongst whom, no doubt, were Giacinta's four. However, with
their black eyes under their tangled mops they were all so much alike
that only their mothers could identify them. And the whole resembled a
teeming camp of misery pitched on that spot of majestic disaster, that
street of palaces, unfinished yet already in ruins.

With a soft, loving smile, Benedetta turned to her cousin. "Don't you
come up," she gently said; "I don't desire your death, Dario /mio/. It
was very good of you to come so far. Wait for me here in the pleasant
sunshine: Monsieur l'Abbe and Monsieur Habert will go up with me."

Dario began to laugh, and willingly acquiesced. Then lighting a
cigarette, he walked slowly up and down, well pleased with the mildness
of the atmosphere.

La Pierina had already darted into the spacious porch whose lofty,
vaulted ceiling was adorned with coffers displaying a rosaceous pattern.
However, a veritable manure heap covered such marble slabs as had already
been laid in the vestibule, whilst the steps of the monumental stone
staircase with sculptured balustrade were already cracked and so grimy
that they seemed almost black. On all sides appeared the greasy stains of
hands; the walls, whilst awaiting the painter and gilder, had been
smeared with repulsive filth.

On reaching the spacious first-floor landing Pierina paused, and
contented herself with calling through a gaping portal which lacked both
door and framework: "Father, here's a lady and two gentlemen to see you."
Then to the Contessina she added: "It's the third room at the end." And
forthwith she herself rapidly descended the stairs, hastening back to her

Benedetta and her companions passed through two large rooms, bossy with
plaster under foot and having frameless windows wide open upon space; and
at last they reached a third room, where the whole Gozzo family had
installed itself with the remnants it used as furniture. On the floor,
where the bare iron girders showed, no boards having been laid down, were
five or six leprous-looking palliasses. A long table, which was still
strong, occupied the centre of the room, and here and there were a few
old, damaged, straw-seated chairs mended with bits of rope. The great
business had been to close two of the three windows with boards, whilst
the third one and the door were screened with some old mattress ticking
studded with stains and holes.

Tomaso's face expressed the surprise of a man who is unaccustomed to
visits of charity. Seated at the table, with his elbows resting on it and
his chin supported by his hands, he was taking repose, as his wife
Giacinta had said. He was a sturdy fellow of five and forty, bearded and
long-haired; and, in spite of all his misery and idleness, his large face
had remained as serene as that of a Roman senator. However, the sight of
the two foreigners--for such he at once judged Pierre and Narcisse to be,
made him rise to his feet with sudden distrust. But he smiled on
recognising Benedetta, and as she began to speak of Dario, and to explain
the charitable purpose of their visit, he interrupted her: "Yes, yes, I
know, Contessina. Oh! I well know who you are, for in my father's time I
once walled up a window at the Palazzo Boccanera."

Then he complaisantly allowed himself to be questioned, telling Pierre,
who was surprised, that although they were certainly not happy they would
have found life tolerable had they been able to work two days a week. And
one could divine that he was, at heart, fairly well content to go on
short commons, provided that he could live as he listed without fatigue.
His narrative and his manner suggested the familiar locksmith who, on
being summoned by a traveller to open his trunk, the key of which was
lost, sent word that he could not possibly disturb himself during the
hour of the siesta. In short, there was no rent to pay, as there were
plenty of empty mansions open to the poor, and a few coppers would have
sufficed for food, easily contented and sober as one was.

"But oh, sir," Tomaso continued, "things were ever so much better under
the Pope. My father, a mason like myself, worked at the Vatican all his
life, and even now, when I myself get a job or two, it's always there. We
were spoilt, you see, by those ten years of busy work, when we never left
our ladders and earned as much as we pleased. Of course, we fed ourselves
better, and bought ourselves clothes, and took such pleasure as we cared
for; so that it's all the harder nowadays to have to stint ourselves. But
if you'd only come to see us in the Pope's time! No taxes, everything to
be had for nothing, so to say--why, one merely had to let oneself live."

At this moment a growl arose from one of the palliasses lying in the
shade of the boarded windows, and the mason, in his slow, quiet way,
resumed: "It's my brother Ambrogio, who isn't of my opinion.

"He was with the Republicans in '49, when he was fourteen. But it doesn't
matter; we took him with us when we heard that he was dying of hunger and
sickness in a cellar."

The visitors could not help quivering with pity. Ambrogio was the elder
by some fifteen years; and now, though scarcely sixty, he was already a
ruin, consumed by fever, his legs so wasted that he spent his days on his
palliasse without ever going out. Shorter and slighter, but more
turbulent than his brother, he had been a carpenter by trade. And,
despite his physical decay, he retained an extraordinary head--the head
of an apostle and martyr, at once noble and tragic in its expression, and
encompassed by bristling snowy hair and beard.

"The Pope," he growled; "I've never spoken badly of the Pope. Yet it's
his fault if tyranny continues. He alone in '49 could have given us the
Republic, and then we shouldn't have been as we are now."

Ambrogio had known Mazzini, whose vague religiosity remained in him--the
dream of a Republican pope at last establishing the reign of liberty and
fraternity. But later on his passion for Garibaldi had disturbed these
views, and led him to regard the papacy as worthless, incapable of
achieving human freedom. And so, between the dream of his youth and the
stern experience of his life, he now hardly knew in which direction the
truth lay. Moreover, he had never acted save under the impulse of violent
emotion, but contented himself with fine words--vague, indeterminate

"Brother Ambrogio," replied Tomaso, all tranquillity, "the Pope is the
Pope, and wisdom lies in putting oneself on his side, because he will
always be the Pope--that is to say, the stronger. For my part, if we had
to vote to-morrow I'd vote for him."

Calmed by the shrewd prudence characteristic of his race, the old
carpenter made no haste to reply. At last he said, "Well, as for me,
brother Tomaso, I should vote against him--always against him. And you
know very well that we should have the majority. The Pope-king indeed!
That's all over. The very Borgo would revolt. Still, I won't say that we
oughtn't to come to an understanding with him, so that everybody's
religion may be respected."

Pierre listened, deeply interested, and at last ventured to ask: "Are
there many socialists among the Roman working classes?"

This time the answer came after a yet longer pause. "Socialists? Yes,
there are some, no doubt, but much fewer than in other places. All those
things are novelties which impatient fellows go in for without
understanding much about them. We old men, we were for liberty; we don't
believe in fire and massacre."

Then, fearing to say too much in presence of that lady and those
gentlemen, Ambrogio began to moan on his pallet, whilst the Contessina,
somewhat upset by the smell of the place, took her departure, after
telling the young priest that it would be best for them to leave their
alms with the wife downstairs. Meantime Tomaso resumed his seat at the
table, again letting his chin rest on his hands as he nodded to his
visitors, no more impressed by their departure than he had been by their
arrival: "To the pleasure of seeing you again, and am happy to have been
able to oblige you."

On the threshold, however, Narcisse's enthusiasm burst forth; he turned
to cast a final admiring glance at old Ambrogio's head, "a perfect
masterpiece," which he continued praising whilst he descended the stairs.

Down below Giacinta was still sitting on the broken box with her infant
across her lap, and a few steps away Pierina stood in front of Dario,
watching him with an enchanted air whilst he finished his cigarette.
Tito, lying low in the grass like an animal on the watch for prey, did
not for a moment cease to gaze at them.

"Ah, signora!" resumed the woman, in her resigned, doleful voice, "the
place is hardly inhabitable, as you must have seen. The only good thing
is that one gets plenty of room. But there are draughts enough to kill
me, and I'm always so afraid of the children falling down some of the

Thereupon she related a story of a woman who had lost her life through
mistaking a window for a door one evening and falling headlong into the
street. Then, too, a little girl had broken both arms by tumbling from a
staircase which had no banisters. And you could die there without anybody
knowing how bad you were and coming to help you. Only the previous day
the corpse of an old man had been found lying on the plaster in a lonely
room. Starvation must have killed him quite a week previously, yet he
would still have been stretched there if the odour of his remains had not
attracted the attention of neighbours.

"If one only had something to eat things wouldn't be so bad!" continued
Giacinta. "But it's dreadful when there's a baby to suckle and one gets
no food, for after a while one has no milk. This little fellow wants his
titty and gets angry with me because I can't give him any. But it isn't
my fault. He has sucked me till the blood came, and all I can do is to

As she spoke tears welled into her poor dim eyes. But all at once she
flew into a tantrum with Tito, who was still wallowing in the grass like
an animal instead of rising by way of civility towards those fine people,
who would surely leave her some alms. "Eh! Tito, you lazy fellow, can't
you get up when people come to see you?" she called.

After some pretence of not hearing, the young fellow at last rose with an
air of great ill-humour; and Pierre, feeling interested in him, tried to
draw him out as he had done with the father and uncle upstairs. But Tito
only returned curt answers, as if both bored and suspicious. Since there
was no work to be had, said he, the only thing was to sleep. It was of no
use to get angry; that wouldn't alter matters. So the best was to live as
one could without increasing one's worry. As for socialists--well, yes,
perhaps there were a few, but he didn't know any. And his weary,
indifferent manner made it quite clear that, if his father was for the
Pope and his uncle for the Republic, he himself was for nothing at all.
In this Pierre divined the end of a nation, or rather the slumber of a
nation in which democracy has not yet awakened. However, as the priest
continued, asking Tito his age, what school he had attended, and in what
district he had been born, the young man suddenly cut the questions short
by pointing with one finger to his breast and saying gravely, "/Io son'
Romano di Roma/."

And, indeed, did not that answer everything? "I am a Roman of Rome."
Pierre smiled sadly and spoke no further. Never had he more fully
realised the pride of that race, the long-descending inheritance of glory
which was so heavy to bear. The sovereign vanity of the Caesars lived
anew in that degenerate young fellow who was scarcely able to read and
write. Starveling though he was, he knew his city, and could
instinctively have recounted the grand pages of its history. The names of
the great emperors and great popes were familiar to him. And why should
men toil and moil when they had been the masters of the world? Why not
live nobly and idly in the most beautiful of cities, under the most
beautiful of skies? "/Io son' Romano di Roma/!"

Benedetta had slipped her alms into the mother's hand, and Pierre and
Narcisse were following her example when Dario, who had already done so,
thought of Pierina. He did not like to offer her money, but a pretty,
fanciful idea occurred to him. Lightly touching his lips with his
finger-tips, he said, with a faint laugh, "For beauty!"

There was something really pretty and pleasing in the kiss thus wafted
with a slightly mocking laugh by that familiar, good-natured young Prince
who, as in some love story of the olden time, was touched by the
beautiful bead-worker's mute adoration. Pierina flushed with pleasure,
and, losing her head, darted upon Dario's hand and pressed her warm lips
to it with unthinking impulsiveness, in which there was as much divine
gratitude as tender passion. But Tito's eyes flashed with anger at the
sight, and, brutally seizing his sister by the skirt, he threw her back,
growling between his teeth, "None of that, you know, or I'll kill you,
and him too!"

It was high time for the visitors to depart, for other women, scenting
the presence of money, were now coming forward with outstretched hands,
or despatching tearful children in their stead. The whole wretched,
abandoned district was in a flutter, a distressful wail ascended from
those lifeless streets with high resounding names. But what was to be
done? One could not give to all. So the only course lay in flight--amidst
deep sadness as one realised how powerless was charity in presence of
such appalling want.

When Benedetta and Dario had reached their carriage they hastened to take
their seats and nestle side by side, glad to escape from all such
horrors. Still the Contessina was well pleased with her bravery in the
presence of Pierre, whose hand she pressed with the emotion of a pupil
touched by the master's lesson, after Narcisse had told her that he meant
to take the young priest to lunch at the little restaurant on the Piazza
of St. Peter's whence one obtained such an interesting view of the

"Try some of the light white wine of Genzano," said Dario, who had become
quite gay again. "There's nothing better to drive away the blues."

However, Pierre's curiosity was insatiable, and on the way he again
questioned Narcisse about the people of modern Rome, their life, habits,
and manners. There was little or no education, he learnt; no large
manufactures and no export trade existed. The men carried on the few
trades that were current, all consumption being virtually limited to the
city itself. Among the women there were bead-workers and embroiderers;
and the manufacture of religious articles, such as medals and chaplets,
and of certain popular jewellery had always occupied a fair number of
hands. But after marriage the women, invariably burdened with numerous
offspring, attempted little beyond household work. Briefly, the
population took life as it came, working just sufficiently to secure
food, contenting itself with vegetables, pastes, and scraggy mutton,
without thought of rebellion or ambition. The only vices were gambling
and a partiality for the red and white wines of the Roman province--wines
which excited to quarrel and murder, and on the evenings of feast days,
when the taverns emptied, strewed the streets with groaning men, slashed
and stabbed with knives. The girls, however, but seldom went wrong; one
could count those who allowed themselves to be seduced; and this arose
from the great union prevailing in each family, every member of which
bowed submissively to the father's absolute authority. Moreover, the
brothers watched over their sisters even as Tito did over Pierina,
guarding them fiercely for the sake of the family honour. And amidst all
this there was no real religion, but simply a childish idolatry, all
hearts going forth to Madonna and the Saints, who alone were entreated
and regarded as having being: for it never occurred to anybody to think
of God.

Thus the stagnation of the lower orders could easily be understood.
Behind them were the many centuries during which idleness had been
encouraged, vanity flattered, and nerveless life willingly accepted. When
they were neither masons, nor carpenters, nor bakers, they were servants
serving the priests, and more or less directly in the pay of the Vatican.
Thence sprang the two antagonistic parties, on the one hand the more
numerous party composed of the old Carbonari, Mazzinians, and
Garibaldians, the /elite/ of the Trastevere; and on the other the
"clients" of the Vatican, all who lived on or by the Church and regretted
the Pope-King. But, after all, the antagonism was confined to opinions;
there was no thought of making an effort or incurring a risk. For that,
some sudden flare of passion, strong enough to overcome the sturdy
calmness of the race, would have been needed. But what would have been
the use of it? The wretchedness had lasted for so many centuries, the sky
was so blue, the siesta preferable to aught else during the hot hours!
And only one thing seemed positive--that the majority was certainly in
favour of Rome remaining the capital of Italy. Indeed, rebellion had
almost broken out in the Leonine City when the cession of the latter to
the Holy See was rumoured. As for the increase of want and poverty, this
was largely due to the circumstance that the Roman workman had really
gained nothing by the many works carried on in his city during fifteen
years. First of all, over 40,000 provincials, mostly from the North, more
spirited and resistant than himself, and working at cheaper rates, had
invaded Rome; and when he, the Roman, had secured his share of the
labour, he had lived in better style, without thought of economy; so that
after the crisis, when the 40,000 men from the provinces were sent home
again, he had found himself once more in a dead city where trade was
always slack. And thus he had relapsed into his antique indolence, at
heart well pleased at no longer being hustled by press of work, and again
accommodating himself as best he could to his old mistress, Want, empty
in pocket yet always a /grand seigneur/.

However, Pierre was struck by the great difference between the want and
wretchedness of Rome and Paris. In Rome the destitution was certainly
more complete, the food more loathsome, the dirt more repulsive. Yet at
the same time the Roman poor retained more ease of manner and more real
gaiety. The young priest thought of the fireless, breadless poor of
Paris, shivering in their hovels at winter time; and suddenly he
understood. The destitution of Rome did not know cold. What a sweet and
eternal consolation; a sun for ever bright, a sky for ever blue and
benign out of charity to the wretched! And what mattered the vileness of
the dwelling if one could sleep under the sky, fanned by the warm breeze!
What mattered even hunger if the family could await the windfall of
chance in sunlit streets or on the scorched grass! The climate induced
sobriety; there was no need of alcohol or red meat to enable one to face
treacherous fogs. Blissful idleness smiled on the golden evenings,
poverty became like the enjoyment of liberty in that delightful
atmosphere where the happiness of living seemed to be all sufficient.
Narcisse told Pierre that at Naples, in the narrow odoriferous streets of
the port and Santa Lucia districts, the people spent virtually their
whole lives out-of-doors, gay, childish, and ignorant, seeking nothing
beyond the few pence that were needed to buy food. And it was certainly
the climate which fostered the prolonged infancy of the nation, which
explained why such a democracy did not awaken to social ambition and
consciousness of itself. No doubt the poor of Naples and Rome suffered
from want; but they did not know the rancour which cruel winter implants
in men's hearts, the dark rancour which one feels on shivering with cold
while rich people are warming themselves before blazing fires. They did
not know the infuriated reveries in snow-swept hovels, when the guttering
dip burns low, the passionate need which then comes upon one to wreak
justice, to revolt, as from a sense of duty, in order that one may save
wife and children from consumption, in order that they also may have a
warm nest where life shall be a possibility! Ah! the want that shivers
with the bitter cold--therein lies the excess of social injustice, the
most terrible of schools, where the poor learn to realise their
sufferings, where they are roused to indignation, and swear to make those
sufferings cease, even if in doing so they annihilate all olden society!

And in that same clemency of the southern heavens Pierre also found an
explanation of the life of St. Francis,* that divine mendicant of love
who roamed the high roads extolling the charms of poverty. Doubtless he
was an unconscious revolutionary, protesting against the overflowing
luxury of the Roman court by his return to the love of the humble, the
simplicity of the primitive Church. But such a revival of innocence and
sobriety would never have been possible in a northern land. The
enchantment of Nature, the frugality of a people whom the sunlight
nourished, the benignity of mendicancy on roads for ever warm, were
needed to effect it. And yet how was it possible that a St. Francis,
glowing with brotherly love, could have appeared in a land which nowadays
so seldom practises charity, which treats the lowly so harshly and
contemptuously, and cannot even bestow alms on its own Pope? Is it
because ancient pride ends by hardening all hearts, or because the
experience of very old races leads finally to egotism, that one now
beholds Italy seemingly benumbed amidst dogmatic and pompous Catholicism,
whilst the return to the ideals of the Gospel, the passionate interest in
the poor and the suffering comes from the woeful plains of the North,
from the nations whose sunlight is so limited? Yes, doubtless all that
has much to do with the change, and the success of St. Francis was in
particular due to the circumstance that, after so gaily espousing his
lady, Poverty, he was able to lead her, bare-footed and scarcely clad,
during endless and delightful spring-tides, among communities whom an
ardent need of love and compassion then consumed.

  * St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the famous order of
    mendicant friars.--Trans.

While conversing, Pierre and Narcisse had reached the Piazza of St.
Peter's, and they sat down at one of the little tables skirting the
pavement outside the restaurant where they had lunched once before. The
linen was none too clean, but the view was splendid. The Basilica rose up
in front of them, and the Vatican on the right, above the majestic curve
of the colonnade. Just as the waiter was bringing the /hors-d'oeuvre/,
some /finocchio/* and anchovies, the young priest, who had fixed his eyes
on the Vatican, raised an exclamation to attract Narcisse's attention:
"Look, my friend, at that window, which I am told is the Holy Father's.
Can't you distinguish a pale figure standing there, quite motionless?"

  * Fennel-root, eaten raw, a favourite "appetiser" in Rome during
    the spring and autumn.--Trans.

The young man began to laugh. "Oh! well," said he, "it must be the Holy
Father in person. You are so anxious to see him that your very anxiety
conjures him into your presence."

"But I assure you," repeated Pierre, "that he is over there behind the
window-pane. There is a white figure looking this way."

Narcisse, who was very hungry, began to eat whilst still indulging in
banter. All at once, however, he exclaimed: "Well, my dear Abbe, as the
Pope is looking at us, this is the moment to speak of him. I promised to
tell you how he sunk several millions of St. Peter's Patrimony in the
frightful financial crisis of which you have just seen the ruins; and,
indeed, your visit to the new district of the castle fields would not be
complete without this story by way of appendix."

Thereupon, without losing a mouthful, Narcisse spoke at considerable
length. At the death of Pius IX the Patrimony of St. Peter, it seemed,
had exceeded twenty millions of francs. Cardinal Antonelli, who
speculated, and whose ventures were usually successful, had for a long
time left a part of this money with the Rothschilds and a part in the
hands of different nuncios, who turned it to profit abroad. After
Antonelli's death, however, his successor, Cardinal Simeoni, withdrew the
money from the nuncios to invest it at Rome; and Leo XIII on his
accession entrusted the administration of the Patrimony to a commission
of cardinals, of which Monsignor Folchi was appointed secretary. This
prelate, who for twelve years played such an important /role/, was the
son of an employee of the Dataria, who, thanks to skilful financial
operations, had left a fortune of a million francs. Monsignor Folchi
inherited his father's cleverness, and revealed himself to be a financier
of the first rank in such wise that the commission gradually relinquished
its powers to him, letting him act exactly as he pleased and contenting
itself with approving the reports which he laid before it at each
meeting. The Patrimony, however, yielded scarcely more than a million
francs per annum, and, as the expenditure amounted to seven millions, six
had to be found. Accordingly, from that other source of income, the
Peter's Pence, the Pope annually gave three million francs to Monsignor
Folchi, who, by skilful speculations and investments, was able to double
them every year, and thus provide for all disbursements without ever
breaking into the capital of the Patrimony. In the earlier times he
realised considerable profit by gambling in land in and about Rome. He
took shares also in many new enterprises, speculated in mills, omnibuses,
and water-services, without mentioning all the gambling in which he
participated with the Banca di Roma, a Catholic institution. Wonderstruck
by his skill, the Pope, who, on his own side, had hitherto speculated
through the medium of a confidential employee named Sterbini, dismissed
the latter, and entrusted Monsignor Folchi with the duty of turning his
money to profit in the same way as he turned that of the Holy See. This
was the climax of the prelate's favour, the apogee of his power. Bad days
were dawning, things were tottering already, and the great collapse was
soon to come, sudden and swift like lightning. One of Leo XIII's
practices was to lend large sums to the Roman princes who, seized with
the gambling frenzy, and mixed up in land and building speculations, were
at a loss for money. To guarantee the Pope's advances they deposited
shares with him, and thus, when the downfall came, he was left with heaps
of worthless paper on his hands. Then another disastrous affair was an
attempt to found a house of credit in Paris in view of working off the
shares which could not be disposed of in Italy among the French
aristocracy and religious people. To egg these on it was said that the
Pope was interested in the venture; and the worst was that he dropped
three millions of francs in it.* The situation then became the more
critical as he had gradually risked all the money he disposed of in the
terrible agiotage going on in Rome, tempted thereto by the prospect of
huge profits and perhaps indulging in the hope that he might win back by
money the city which had been torn from him by force. His own
responsibility remained complete, for Monsignor Folchi never made an
important venture without consulting him; and he must have been therefore
the real artisan of the disaster, mastered by his passion for gain, his
desire to endow the Church with a huge capital, that great source of
power in modern times. As always happens, however, the prelate was the
only victim. He had become imperious and difficult to deal with; and was
no longer liked by the cardinals of the commission, who were merely
called together to approve such transactions as he chose to entrust to
them. So, when the crisis came, a plot was laid; the cardinals terrified
the Pope by telling him of all the evil rumours which were current, and
then forced Monsignor Folchi to render a full account of his
speculations. The situation proved to be very bad; it was no longer
possible to avoid heavy losses. And so Monsignor Folchi was disgraced,
and since then has vainly solicited an audience of Leo XIII, who has
always refused to receive him, as if determined to punish him for their
common fault--that passion for lucre which blinded them both. Very pious
and submissive, however, Monsignor Folchi has never complained, but has
kept his secrets and bowed to fate. Nobody can say exactly how many
millions the Patrimony of St. Peter lost when Rome was changed into a
gambling-hell, but if some prelates only admit ten, others go as far as
thirty. The probability is that the loss was about fifteen millions.**

  * The allusion is evidently to the famous Union Generale, on
    which the Pope bestowed his apostolic benediction, and with
    which M. Zola deals at length in his novel /Money/. Certainly
    a very brilliant idea was embodied in the Union Generale, that
    of establishing a great international Catholic bank which
    would destroy the Jewish financial autocracy throughout Europe,
    and provide both the papacy and the Legitimist cause in several
    countries with the sinews of war. But in the battle which
    ensued the great Jew financial houses proved the stronger, and
    the disaster which overtook the Catholic speculators was a
    terrible one.--Trans.

  ** That is 600,000 pounds.

Whilst Narcisse was giving this account he and Pierre had despatched
their cutlets and tomatoes, and the waiter was now serving them some
fried chicken. "At the present time," said Narcisse by way of conclusion,
"the gap has been filled up; I told you of the large sums yielded by the
Peter's Pence Fund, the amount of which is only known by the Pope, who
alone fixes its employment. And, by the way, he isn't cured of
speculating: I know from a good source that he still gambles, though with
more prudence. Moreover, his confidential assistant is still a prelate.
And, when all is said, my dear Abbe, he's in the right: a man must belong
to his times--dash it all!"

Pierre had listened with growing surprise, in which terror and sadness
mingled. Doubtless such things were natural, even legitimate; yet he, in
his dream of a pastor of souls free from all terrestrial cares, had never
imagined that they existed. What! the Pope--the spiritual father of the
lowly and the suffering--had speculated in land and in stocks and shares!
He had gambled, placed funds in the hands of Jew bankers, practised
usury, extracted hard interest from money--he, the successor of the
Apostle, the Pontiff of Christ, the representative of Jesus, of the
Gospel, that divine friend of the poor! And, besides, what a painful
contrast: so many millions stored away in those rooms of the Vatican, and
so many millions working and fructifying, constantly being diverted from
one speculation to another in order that they might yield the more gain;
and then down below, near at hand, so much want and misery in those
abominable unfinished buildings of the new districts, so many poor folks
dying of hunger amidst filth, mothers without milk for their babes, men
reduced to idleness by lack of work, old ones at the last gasp like
beasts of burden who are pole-axed when they are of no more use! Ah! God
of Charity, God of Love, was it possible! The Church doubtless had
material wants; she could not live without money; prudence and policy had
dictated the thought of gaining for her such a treasure as would enable
her to fight her adversaries victoriously. But how grievously this
wounded one's feelings, how it soiled the Church, how she descended from
her divine throne to become nothing but a party, a vast international
association organised for the purpose of conquering and possessing the

And the more Pierre thought of the extraordinary adventure the greater
was his astonishment. Could a more unexpected, startling drama be
imagined? That Pope shutting himself up in his palace--a prison, no
doubt, but one whose hundred windows overlooked immensity; that Pope who,
at all hours of the day and night, in every season, could from his window
see his capital, the city which had been stolen from him, and the
restitution of which he never ceased to demand; that Pope who, day by
day, beheld the changes effected in the city--the opening of new streets,
the demolition of ancient districts, the sale of land, and the gradual
erection of new buildings which ended by forming a white girdle around
the old ruddy roofs; that Pope who, in presence of this daily spectacle,
this building frenzy, which he could follow from morn till eve, was
himself finally overcome by the gambling passion, and, secluded in his
closed chamber, began to speculate on the embellishments of his old
capital, seeking wealth in the spurt of work and trade brought about by
that very Italian Government which he reproached with spoliation; and
finally that Pope losing millions in a catastrophe which he ought to have
desired, but had been unable to foresee! No, never had dethroned monarch
yielded to a stranger idea, compromised himself in a more tragical
venture, the result of which fell upon him like divine punishment. And it
was no mere king who had done this, but the delegate of God, the man who,
in the eyes of idolatrous Christendom, was the living manifestation of
the Deity!

Dessert had now been served--a goat's cheese and some fruit--and Narcisse
was just finishing some grapes when, on raising his eyes, he in turn
exclaimed: "Well, you are quite right, my dear Abbe, I myself can see a
pale figure at the window of the Holy Father's room."

Pierre, who scarcely took his eyes from the window, answered slowly:
"Yes, yes, it went away, but has just come back, and stands there white
and motionless."

"Well, after all, what would you have the Pope do?" resumed Narcisse with
his languid air. "He's like everybody else; he looks out of the window
when he wants a little distraction, and certainly there's plenty for him
to look at."

The same idea had occurred to Pierre, and was filling him with emotion.
People talked of the Vatican being closed, and pictured a dark, gloomy
palace, encompassed by high walls, whereas this palace overlooked all
Rome, and the Pope from his window could see the world. Pierre himself
had viewed the panorama from the summit of the Janiculum, the /loggie/ of
Raffaelle, and the dome of St. Peter's, and so he well knew what it was
that Leo XIII was able to behold. In the centre of the vast desert of the
Campagna, bounded by the Sabine and Alban mountains, the seven
illustrious hills appeared to him with their trees and edifices. His eyes
ranged also over all the basilicas, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Giovanni in
Laterano, the cradle of the papacy, San Paolo-fuori-le-Mura, Santa Croce
in Gerusalemme, Sant' Agnese, and the others; they beheld, too, the domes
of the Gesu of Sant' Andrea della Valle, San Carlo and San Giovanni dei
Fiorentini, and indeed all those four hundred churches of Rome which make
the city like a /campo santo/ studded with crosses. And Leo XIII could
moreover see the famous monuments testifying to the pride of successive
centuries--the Castle of Sant' Angelo, that imperial mausoleum which was
transformed into a papal fortress, the distant white line of the tombs of
the Appian Way, the scattered ruins of the baths of Caracalla and the
abode of Septimius Severus; and then, after the innumerable columns,
porticoes, and triumphal arches, there were the palaces and villas of the
sumptuous cardinals of the Renascence, the Palazzo Farnese, the Palazzo
Borghese, the Villa Medici, and others, amidst a swarming of facades and
roofs. But, in particular, just under his window, on the left, the Pope
was able to see the abominations of the unfinished district of the castle
fields. In the afternoon, when he strolled through his gardens, bastioned
by the wall of the fourth Leo like the plateau of a citadel, his view
stretched over the ravaged valley at the foot of Monte Mario, where so
many brick-works were established during the building frenzy. The green
slopes are still ripped up, yellow trenches intersect them in all
directions, and the closed works and factories have become wretched ruins
with lofty, black, and smokeless chimneys. And at any other hour of the
day Leo XIII could not approach his window without beholding the
abandoned houses for which all those brick-fields had worked, those
houses which had died before they even lived, and where there was now
nought but the swarming misery of Rome, rotting there like some
decomposition of olden society.

However, Pierre more particularly thought of Leo XIII, forgetting the
rest of the city to let his thoughts dwell on the Palatine, now bereft of
its crown of palaces and rearing only its black cypresses towards the
blue heavens. Doubtless in his mind he rebuilt the palaces of the
Caesars, whilst before him rose great shadowy forms arrayed in purple,
visions of his real ancestors, those emperors and Supreme Pontiffs who
alone could tell him how one might reign over every nation and be the
absolute master of the world. Then, however, his glances strayed to the
Quirinal, and there he could contemplate the new and neighbouring
royalty. How strange the meeting of those two palaces, the Quirinal and
the Vatican, which rise up and gaze at one another across the Rome of the
middle ages and the Renascence, whose roofs, baked and gilded by the
burning sun, are jumbled in confusion alongside the Tiber. When the Pope
and the King go to their windows they can with a mere opera-glass see
each other quite distinctly. True, they are but specks in the boundless
immensity, and what a gulf there is between them--how many centuries of
history, how many generations that battled and suffered, how much
departed greatness, and how much new seed for the mysterious future!
Still, they can see one another, and they are yet waging the eternal
fight, the fight as to which of them--the pontiff and shepherd of the
soul or the monarch and master of the body--shall possess the people
whose stream rolls beneath them, and in the result remain the absolute
sovereign. And Pierre wondered also what might be the thoughts and dreams
of Leo XIII behind those window-panes where he still fancied he could
distinguish his pale, ghostly figure. On surveying new Rome, the ravaged
olden districts and the new ones laid waste by the blast of disaster, the
Pope must certainly rejoice at the colossal failure of the Italian
Government. His city had been stolen from him; the newcomers had
virtually declared that they would show him how a great capital was
created, and their boast had ended in that catastrophe--a multitude of
hideous and useless buildings which they did not even know how to finish!
He, the Pope, could moreover only be delighted with the terrible worries
into which the usurping /regime/ had fallen, the political crisis, and
the financial crisis, the whole growing national unrest amidst which that
/regime/ seemed likely to sink some day; and yet did not he himself
possess a patriotic soul? was he not a loving son of that Italy whose
genius and ancient ambition coursed in the blood of his veins? Ah! no,
nothing against Italy; rather everything that would enable her to become
once more the mistress of the world. And so, even amidst the joy of hope,
he must have been grieved to see her thus ruined, threatened with
bankruptcy, displaying like a sore that overturned, unfinished Rome which
was a confession of her impotency. But, on the other hand, if the House
of Savoy were to be swept away, would he not be there to take its place,
and at last resume possession of his capital, which, from his window, for
fifteen years past, he had beheld in the grip of masons and demolishers?
And then he would again be the master and reign over the world, enthroned
in the predestined city to which prophecy has ensured eternity and
universal dominion.

But the horizon spread out, and Pierre wondered what Leo XIII beheld
beyond Rome, beyond the Campagna and the Sabine and Alban mountains. What
had he seen for eighteen years past from that window whence he obtained
his only view of the world? What echoes of modern society, its truths and
certainties, had reached his ears? From the heights of the Viminal, where
the railway terminus stands, the prolonged whistling of engines must have
occasionally been carried towards him, suggesting our scientific
civilisation, the nations brought nearer together, free humanity marching
on towards the future. Did he himself ever dream of liberty when, on
turning to the right, he pictured the sea over yonder, past the tombs of
the Appian Way? Had he ever desired to go off, quit Rome and her
traditions, and found the Papacy of the new democracies elsewhere? As he
was said to possess so clear and penetrating a mind he ought to have
understood and trembled at the far-away stir and noise that came from
certain lands of battle, from those United States of America, for
instance, where revolutionary bishops were conquering, winning over the
people. Were they working for him or for themselves? If he could not
follow them, if he remained stubborn within his Vatican, bound on every
side by dogma and tradition, might not rupture some day become
unavoidable? And, indeed, the fear of a blast of schism, coming from
afar, must have filled him with growing anguish. It was assuredly on that
account that he had practised the diplomacy of conciliation, seeking to
unite in his hands all the scattered forces of the Church, overlooking
the audacious proceedings of certain bishops as far as possible, and
himself striving to gain the support of the people by putting himself on
its side against the fallen monarchies. But would he ever go any farther?
Shut up in that Vatican, behind that bronze portal, was he not bound to
the strict formulas of Catholicism, chained to them by the force of
centuries? There obstinacy was fated; it was impossible for him to resign
himself to that which was his real and surpassing power, the purely
spiritual power, the moral authority which brought mankind to his feet,
made thousands of pilgrims kneel and women swoon. Departure from Rome and
the renunciation of the temporal power would not displace the centre of
the Catholic world, but would transform him, the head of the Catholic
Church, into the head of something else. And how anxious must have been
his thoughts if the evening breeze ever brought him a vague presentiment
of that something else, a fear of the new religion which was yet dimly,
confusedly dawning amidst the tramp of the nations on the march, and the
sound of which must have reached him at one and the same time from every
point of the compass.

At this precise moment, however, Pierre felt that the white and
motionless shadow behind those windowpanes was held erect by pride, by
the ever present conviction of victory. If man could not achieve it, a
miracle would intervene. He, the Pope, was absolutely convinced that he
or some successor would recover possession of Rome. Had not the Church
all eternity before it? And, moreover, why should not the victor be
himself? Could not God accomplish the impossible? Why, if it so pleased
God, on the very morrow his city would be restored to him, in spite of
all the objections of human reason, all the apparent logic of facts. Ah!
how he would welcome the return of that prodigal daughter whose equivocal
adventures he had ever watched with tears bedewing his paternal eyes! He
would soon forget the excesses which he had beheld during eighteen years
at all hours and in all seasons. Perhaps he dreamt of what he would do
with those new districts with which the city had been soiled. Should they
be razed, or left as evidence of the insanity of the usurpers? At all
events, Rome would again become the august and lifeless city, disdainful
of such vain matters as material cleanliness and comfort, and shining
forth upon the world like a pure soul encompassed by the traditional
glory of the centuries. And his dream continued, picturing the course
which events would take on the very morrow, no doubt. Anything, even a
republic was preferable to that House of Savoy. Why not a federal
republic, reviving the old political divisions of Italy, restoring Rome
to the Church, and choosing him, the Pope, as the natural protector of
the country thus reorganised? But his eyes travelled beyond Rome and
Italy, and his dream expanded, embracing republican France, Spain which
might become republican again, Austria which would some day be won, and
indeed all the Catholic nations welded into the United States of Europe,
and fraternising in peace under his high presidency as Sovereign Pontiff.
And then would follow the supreme triumph, all the other churches at last
vanishing, and all the dissident communities coming to him as to the one
and only pastor, who would reign in the name of Jesus over the universal

However, whilst Pierre was immersed in this dream which he attributed to
Leo XIII, he was all at once interrupted by Narcisse, who exclaimed: "Oh!
my dear Abbe, just look at those statues on the colonnade." The young
fellow had ordered a cup of coffee and was languidly smoking a cigar,
deep once more in the subtle aesthetics which were his only
preoccupation. "They are rosy, are they not?" he continued; "rosy, with a
touch of mauve, as if the blue blood of angels circulated in their stone
veins. It is the sun of Rome which gives them that supra-terrestrial
life; for they live, my friend; I have seen them smile and hold out their
arms to me during certain fine sunsets. Ah! Rome, marvellous, delicious
Rome! One could live here as poor as Job, content with the very
atmosphere, and in everlasting delight at breathing it!"

This time Pierre could not help feeling surprised at Narcisse's language,
for he remembered his incisive voice and clear, precise, financial acumen
when speaking of money matters. And, at this recollection, the young
priest's mind reverted to the castle fields, and intense sadness filled
his heart as for the last time all the want and suffering rose before
him. Again he beheld the horrible filth which was tainting so many human
beings, that shocking proof of the abominable social injustice which
condemns the greater number to lead the joyless, breadless lives of
accursed beasts. And as his glance returned yet once more to the window
of the Vatican, and he fancied he could see a pale hand uplifted behind
the glass panes, he thought of that papal benediction which Leo XIII gave
from that height, over Rome, and over the plain and the hills, to the
faithful of all Christendom. And that papal benediction suddenly seemed
to him a mockery, destitute of all power, since throughout such a
multitude of centuries it had not once been able to stay a single one of
the sufferings of mankind, and could not even bring a little justice for
those poor wretches who were agonising yonder beneath the very window.


THAT evening at dusk, as Benedetta had sent Pierre word that she desired
to see him, he went down to her little /salon/, and there found her
chatting with Celia.

"I've seen your Pierina, you know," exclaimed the latter, just as the
young priest came in. "And with Dario, too. Or rather, she must have been
watching for him; he found her waiting in a path on the Pincio and smiled
at her. I understood at once. What a beauty she is!"

Benedetta smiled at her friend's enthusiasm; but her lips twitched
somewhat painfully, for, however sensible she might be, this passion,
which she realised to be so naive and so strong, was beginning to make
her suffer. She certainly made allowances for Dario, but the girl was too
much in love with him, and she feared the consequences. Even in turning
the conversation she allowed the secret of her heart to escape her. "Pray
sit down, Monsieur l'Abbe," she said, "we are talking scandal, you see.
My poor Dario is accused of making love to every pretty woman in Rome.
People say that it's he who gives La Tonietta those white roses which she
has been exhibiting at the Corso every afternoon for a fortnight past."

"That's certain, my dear," retorted Celia impetuously. "At first people
were in doubt, and talked of little Pontecorvo and Lieutenant Moretta.
But every one now knows that La Tonietta's caprice is Dario. Besides, he
joined her in her box at the Costanzi the other evening."

Pierre remembered that the young Prince had pointed out La Tonietta at
the Pincio one afternoon. She was one of the few /demi-mondaines/ that
the higher-class society of Rome took an interest in. For a month or so
the rich Englishman to whom she owed her means had been absent,

"Ah!" resumed Benedetta, whose budding jealousy was entirely confined to
La Pierina, "so my poor Dario is ruining himself in white roses! Well, I
shall have to twit him about it. But one or another of these beauties
will end by robbing me of him if our affairs are not soon settled.
Fortunately, I have had some better news. Yes, my suit is to be taken in
hand again, and my aunt has gone out to-day on that very account."

Then, as Victorine came in with a lamp, and Celia rose to depart,
Benedetta turned towards Pierre, who also was rising from his chair:
"Please stay," said she; "I wish to speak to you."

However, Celia still lingered, interested by the mention of the divorce
suit, and eager to know if the cousins would soon be able to marry. And
at last throwing her arms round Benedetta, she kissed her passionately.
"So you are hopeful, my dear," she exclaimed. "You think that the Holy
Father will give you back your liberty? Oh! I am so pleased; it will be
so nice for you to marry Dario! And I'm well pleased on my own account,
for my father and mother are beginning to yield. Only yesterday I said to
them with that quiet little air of mine, 'I want Attilio, and you must
give him me.' And then my father flew into a furious passion and
upbraided me, and shook his fist at me, saying that if he'd made my head
as hard as his own he would know how to break it. My mother was there
quite silent and vexed, and all at once he turned to her and said: 'Here,
give her that Attilio she wants, and then perhaps we shall have some
peace!' Oh yes! I'm well pleased, very well pleased indeed!"

As she spoke her pure virginal face beamed with so much innocent,
celestial joy that Pierre and Benedetta could not help laughing. And at
last she went off attended by a maid who had waited for her in the first

When they were alone Benedetta made the priest sit down again: "I have
been asked to give you some important advice, my friend," she said. "It
seems that the news of your presence in Rome is spreading, and that bad
reports of you are circulated. Your book is said to be a fierce appeal to
schism, and you are spoken of as a mere ambitious, turbulent schismatic.
After publishing your book in Paris you have come to Rome, it is said, to
raise a fearful scandal over it in order to make it sell. Now, if you
still desire to see his Holiness, so as to plead your cause before him,
you are advised to make people forget you, to disappear altogether for a
fortnight or three weeks."

Pierre was stupefied. Why, they would end by maddening him with all the
obstacles they raised to exhaust his patience; they would actually
implant in him an idea of schism, of an avenging, liberating scandal! He
wished to protest and refuse the advice, but all at once he made a
gesture of weariness. What would be the good of it, especially with that
young woman, who was certainly sincere and affectionate. "Who asked you
to give me this advice?" he inquired. She did not answer, but smiled, and
with sudden intuition he resumed: "It was Monsignor Nani, was it not?"

Thereupon, still unwilling to give a direct reply, she began to praise
the prelate. He had at last consented to guide her in her divorce affair;
and Donna Serafina had gone to the Palace of the Inquisition that very
afternoon in order to acquaint him with the result of certain steps she
had taken. Father Lorenza, the confessor of both the Boccanera ladies,
was to be present at the interview, for the idea of the divorce was in
reality his own. He had urged the two women to it in his eagerness to
sever the bond which the patriotic priest Pisoni had tied full of such
fine illusions. Benedetta became quite animated as she explained the
reasons of her hopefulness. "Monsignor Nani can do everything," she said,
"and I am very happy that my affair should be in his hands. You must be
reasonable also, my friend; do as you are requested. I'm sure you will
some day be well pleased at having taken this advice."

Pierre had bowed his head and remained thoughtful. There was nothing
unpleasant in the idea of remaining for a few more weeks in Rome, where
day by day his curiosity found so much fresh food. Of course, all these
delays were calculated to discourage him and bend his will. Yet what did
he fear, since he was still determined to relinquish nothing of his book,
and to see the Holy Father for the sole purpose of proclaiming his new
faith? Once more, in silence, he took that oath, then yielded to
Benedetta's entreaties. And as he apologised for being a source of
embarrassment in the house she exclaimed: "No, no, I am delighted to have
you here. I fancy that your presence will bring us good fortune now that
luck seems to be changing in our favour."

It was then agreed that he would no longer prowl around St. Peter's and
the Vatican, where his constant presence must have attracted attention.
He even promised that he would virtually spend a week indoors, desirous
as he was of reperusing certain books, certain pages of Rome's history.
Then he went on chatting for a moment, lulled by the peacefulness which
reigned around him, since the lamp had illumined the /salon/ with its
sleepy radiance. Six o'clock had just struck, and outside all was dark.

"Wasn't his Eminence indisposed to-day?" the young man asked.

"Yes," replied the Contessina. "But we are not anxious: it is only a
little fatigue. He sent Don Vigilio to tell me that he intended to shut
himself up in his room and dictate some letters. So there can be nothing
much the matter, you see."

Silence fell again. For a while not a sound came from the deserted street
or the old empty mansion, mute and dreamy like a tomb. But all at once
the soft somnolence, instinct with all the sweetness of a dream of hope,
was disturbed by a tempestuous entry, a whirl of skirts, a gasp of
terror. It was Victorine, who had gone off after bringing the lamp, but
now returned, scared and breathless: "Contessina! Contessina!"

Benedetta had risen, suddenly quite white and cold, as at the advent of a
blast of misfortune. "What, what is it? Why do you run and tremble?" she

"Dario, Monsieur Dario--down below. I went down to see if the lantern in
the porch were alight, as it is so often forgotten. And in the dark, in
the porch, I stumbled against Monsieur Dario. He is on the ground; he has
a knife-thrust somewhere."

A cry leapt from the /amorosa's/ heart: "Dead!"

"No, no, wounded."

But Benedetta did not hear; in a louder and louder voice she cried:
"Dead! dead!"

"No, no, I tell you, he spoke to me. And for Heaven's sake, be quiet. He
silenced me because he did not want any one to know; he told me to come
and fetch you--only you. However, as Monsieur l'Abbe is here, he had
better help us. We shall be none too many."

Pierre listened, also quite aghast. And when Victorine wished to take the
lamp her trembling hand, with which she had no doubt felt the prostrate
body, was seen to be quite bloody. The sight filled Benedetta with so
much horror that she again began to moan wildly.

"Be quiet, be quiet!" repeated Victorine. "We ought not to make any noise
in going down. I shall take the lamp, because we must at all events be
able to see. Now, quick, quick!"

Across the porch, just at the entrance of the vestibule, Dario lay prone
upon the slabs, as if, after being stabbed in the street, he had only had
sufficient strength to take a few steps before falling. And he had just
fainted, and lay there with his face very pale, his lips compressed, and
his eyes closed. Benedetta, recovering the energy of her race amidst her
excessive grief, no longer lamented or cried out, but gazed at him with
wild, tearless, dilated eyes, as though unable to understand. The horror
of it all was the suddenness and mysteriousness of the catastrophe, the
why and wherefore of this murderous attempt amidst the silence of the old
deserted palace, black with the shades of night. The wound had as yet
bled but little, for only the Prince's clothes were stained.

"Quick, quick!" repeated Victorine in an undertone after lowering the
lamp and moving it around. "The porter isn't there--he's always at the
carpenter's next door--and you see that he hasn't yet lighted the
lantern. Still he may come back at any moment. So the Abbe and I will
carry the Prince into his room at once." She alone retained her head,
like a woman of well-balanced mind and quiet activity. The two others,
whose stupor continued, listened to her and obeyed her with the docility
of children. "Contessina," she continued, "you must light us. Here, take
the lamp and lower it a little so that we may see the steps. You, Abbe,
take the feet; I'll take hold of him under the armpits. And don't be
alarmed, the poor dear fellow isn't heavy."

Ah! that ascent of the monumental staircase with its low steps and its
landings as spacious as guardrooms. They facilitated the cruel journey,
but how lugubrious looked the little /cortege/ under the flickering
glimmer of the lamp which Benedetta held with arm outstretched, stiffened
by determination! And still not a sound came from the old lifeless
dwelling, nothing but the silent crumbling of the walls, the slow decay
which was making the ceilings crack. Victorine continued to whisper words
of advice whilst Pierre, afraid of slipping on the shiny slabs, put forth
an excess of strength which made his breath come short. Huge, wild
shadows danced over the big expanse of bare wall up to the very vaults
decorated with sunken panels. So endless seemed the ascent that at last a
halt became necessary; but the slow march was soon resumed. Fortunately
Dario's apartments--bed-chamber, dressing-room, and sitting-room--were on
the first floor adjoining those of the Cardinal in the wing facing the
Tiber; so, on reaching the landing, they only had to walk softly along
the corridor, and at last, to their great relief, laid the wounded man
upon his bed.

Victorine vented her satisfaction in a light laugh. "That's done," said
she; "put the lamp on that table, Contessina. I'm sure nobody heard us.
It's lucky that Donna Serafina should have gone out, and that his
Eminence should have shut himself up with Don Vigilio. I wrapped my skirt
round Monsieur Dario's shoulders, you know, so I don't think any blood
fell on the stairs. By and by, too, I'll go down with a sponge and wipe
the slabs in the porch--" She stopped short, looked at Dario, and then
quickly added: "He's breathing--now I'll leave you both to watch over him
while I go for good Doctor Giordano, who saw you come into the world,
Contessina. He's a man to be trusted."

Alone with the unconscious sufferer in that dim chamber, which seemed to
quiver with the frightful horror that filled their hearts, Benedetta and
Pierre remained on either side of the bed, as yet unable to exchange a
word. The young woman first opened her arms and wrung her hands whilst
giving vent to a hollow moan, as if to relieve and exhale her grief; and
then, leaning forward, she watched for some sign of life on that pale
face whose eyes were closed. Dario was certainly breathing, but his
respiration was slow and very faint, and some time went by before a touch
of colour returned to his cheeks. At last, however, he opened his eyes,
and then she at once took hold of his hand and pressed it, instilling
into the pressure all the anguish of her heart. Great was her happiness
on feeling that he feebly returned the clasp.

"Tell me," she said, "you can see me and hear me, can't you? What has
happened, good God?"

He did not at first answer, being worried by the presence of Pierre. On
recognising the young priest, however, he seemed content that he should
be there, and then glanced apprehensively round the room to see if there
were anybody else. And at last he murmured: "No one saw me, no one

"No, no; be easy. We carried you up with Victorine without meeting a
soul. Aunt has just gone out, uncle is shut up in his rooms."

At this Dario seemed relieved, and he even smiled. "I don't want anybody
to know, it is so stupid," he murmured.

"But in God's name what has happened?" she again asked him.

"Ah! I don't know, I don't know," was his response, as he lowered his
eyelids with a weary air as if to escape the question. But he must have
realised that it was best for him to confess some portion of the truth at
once, for he resumed: "A man was hidden in the shadow of the porch--he
must have been waiting for me. And so, when I came in, he dug his knife
into my shoulder, there."

Forthwith she again leant over him, quivering, and gazing into the depths
of his eyes: "But who was the man, who was he?" she asked. Then, as he,
in a yet more weary way, began to stammer that he didn't know, that the
man had fled into the darkness before he could recognise him, she raised
a terrible cry: "It was Prada! it was Prada, confess it, I know it
already!" And, quite delirious, she went on: "I tell you that I know it!
Ah! I would not be his, and he is determined that we shall never belong
to one another. Rather than have that he will kill you on the day when I
am free to be your wife! Oh! I know him well; I shall never, never be
happy. Yes, I know it well, it was Prada, Prada!"

But sudden energy upbuoyed the wounded man, and he loyally protested:
"No, no, it was not Prada, nor was it any one working for him. That I
swear to you. I did not recognise the man, but it wasn't Prada--no, no!"

There was such a ring of truth in Dario's words that Benedetta must have
been convinced by them. But terror once more overpowered her, for the
hand she held was suddenly growing soft, moist, and powerless. Exhausted
by his effort, Dario had fallen back, again fainting, his face quite
white and his eyes closed. And it seemed to her that he was dying.
Distracted by her anguish, she felt him with trembling, groping hands:
"Look, look, Monsieur l'Abbe!" she exclaimed. "But he is dying, he is
dying; he is already quite cold. Ah! God of heaven, he is dying!"

Pierre, terribly upset by her cries, sought to reassure her, saying: "He
spoke too much; he has lost consciousness, as he did before. But I assure
you that I can feel his heart beating. Here, put your hand here,
Contessina. For mercy's sake don't distress yourself like that; the
doctor will soon be here, and everything will be all right."

But she did not listen to him, and all at once he was lost in amazement,
for she flung herself upon the body of the man she adored, caught it in a
frantic embrace, bathed it with tears and covered it with kisses whilst
stammering words of fire: "Ah! if I were to lose you, if I were to lose
you! And to think that I repulsed you, that I would not accept happiness
when it was yet possible! Yes, that idea of mine, that vow I made to the
Madonna! Yet how could she be offended by our happiness? And then, and
then, if she has deceived me, if she takes you from me, ah! then I can
have but one regret--that I did not damn myself with you--yes, yes,
damnation rather than that we should never, never be each other's!"

Was this the woman who had shown herself so calm, so sensible, so patient
the better to ensure her happiness? Pierre was terrified, and no longer
recognised her. He had hitherto seen her so reserved, so modest, with a
childish charm that seemed to come from her very nature! But under the
threatening blow she feared, the terrible blood of the Boccaneras had
awoke within her with a long heredity of violence, pride, frantic and
exasperated longings. She wished for her share of life, her share of
love! And she moaned and she clamoured, as if death, in taking her lover
from her, were tearing away some of her own flesh.

"Calm yourself, I entreat you, madame," repeated the priest. "He is
alive, his heart beats. You are doing yourself great harm."

But she wished to die with her lover: "O my darling! if you must go, take
me, take me with you. I will lay myself on your heart, I will clasp you
so tightly with my arms that they shall be joined to yours, and then we
must needs be buried together. Yes, yes, we shall be dead, and we shall
be wedded all the same--wedded in death! I promised that I would belong
to none but you, and I will be yours in spite of everything, even in the
grave. O my darling, open your eyes, open your mouth, kiss me if you
don't want me to die as soon as you are dead!"

A blaze of wild passion, full of blood and fire, had passed through that
mournful chamber with old, sleepy walls. But tears were now overcoming
Benedetta, and big gasping sobs at last threw her, blinded and
strengthless, on the edge of the bed. And fortunately an end was put to
the terrible scene by the arrival of the doctor whom Victorine had

Doctor Giordano was a little old man of over sixty, with white curly
hair, and fresh-looking, clean-shaven countenance. By long practice among
Churchmen he had acquired the paternal appearance and manner of an
amiable prelate. And he was said to be a very worthy man, tending the
poor for nothing, and displaying ecclesiastical reserve and discretion in
all delicate cases. For thirty years past the whole Boccanera family,
children, women, and even the most eminent Cardinal himself, had in all
cases of sickness been placed in the hands of this prudent practitioner.
Lighted by Victorine and helped by Pierre, he undressed Dario, who was
roused from his swoon by pain; and after examining the wound he declared
with a smile that it was not at all dangerous. The young Prince would at
the utmost have to spend three weeks in bed, and no complications were to
be feared. Then, like all the doctors of Rome, enamoured of the fine
thrusts and cuts which day by day they have to dress among chance
patients of the lower classes, he complacently lingered over the wound,
doubtless regarding it as a clever piece of work, for he ended by saying
to the Prince in an undertone: "That's what we call a warning. The man
didn't want to kill, the blow was dealt downwards so that the knife might
slip through the flesh without touching the bone. Ah! a man really needs
to be skilful to deal such a stab; it was very neatly done."

"Yes, yes," murmured Dario, "he spared me; had he chosen he could have
pierced me through."

Benedetta did not hear. Since the doctor had declared the case to be free
from danger, and had explained that the fainting fits were due to nervous
shock, she had fallen in a chair, quite prostrated. Gradually, however,
some gentle tears coursed from her eyes, bringing relief after her
frightful despair, and then, rising to her feet, she came and kissed
Dario with mute and passionate delight.

"I say, my dear doctor," resumed the Prince, "it's useless for people to
know of this. It's so ridiculous. Nobody has seen anything, it seems,
excepting Monsieur l'Abbe, whom I ask to keep the matter secret. And in
particular I don't want anybody to alarm the Cardinal or my aunt, or
indeed any of our friends."

Doctor Giordano indulged in one of his placid smiles. "/Bene, bene/,"
said he, "that's natural; don't worry yourself. We will say that you have
had a fall on the stairs and have dislocated your shoulder. And now that
the wound is dressed you must try to sleep, and don't get feverish. I
will come back to-morrow morning."

That evening of excitement was followed by some very tranquil days, and a
new life began for Pierre, who at first remained indoors, reading and
writing, with no other recreation than that of spending his afternoons in
Dario's room, where he was certain to find Benedetta. After a somewhat
intense fever lasting for eight and forty hours, cure took its usual
course, and the story of the dislocated shoulder was so generally
believed, that the Cardinal insisted on Donna Serafina departing from her
habits of strict economy, to have a second lantern lighted on the landing
in order that no such accident might occur again. And then the monotonous
peacefulness was only disturbed by a final incident, a threat of trouble,
as it were, with which Pierre found himself mixed up one evening when he
was lingering beside the convalescent patient.

Benedetta had absented herself for a few minutes, and as Victorine, who
had brought up some broth, was leaning towards the Prince to take the
empty cup from him, she said in a low voice: "There's a girl, Monsieur,
La Pierina, who comes here every day, crying and asking for news of you.
I can't get rid of her, she's always prowling about the place, so I
thought it best to tell you of it."

Unintentionally, Pierre heard her and understood everything. Dario, who
was looking at him, at once guessed his thoughts, and without answering
Victorine exclaimed: "Yes, Abbe, it was that brute Tito! How idiotic,
eh?" At the same time, although the young man protested that he had done
nothing whatever for the girl's brother to give him such a "warning," he
smiled in an embarrassed way, as if vexed and even somewhat ashamed of
being mixed up in an affair of the kind. And he was evidently relieved
when the priest promised that he would see the girl, should she come
back, and make her understand that she ought to remain at home.

"It was such a stupid affair!" the Prince repeated, with an exaggerated
show of anger. "Such things are not of our times."

But all at once he ceased speaking, for Benedetta entered the room. She
sat down again beside her dear patient, and the sweet, peaceful evening
then took its course in the old sleepy chamber, the old, lifeless palace,
whence never a sound arose.

When Pierre began to go out again he at first merely took a brief airing
in the district. The Via Giulia interested him, for he knew how splendid
it had been in the time of Julius II, who had dreamt of lining it with
sumptuous palaces. Horse and foot races then took place there during the
carnival, the Palazzo Farnese being the starting-point, and the Piazza of
St. Peter's the goal. Pierre had also lately read that a French
ambassador, D'Estree, Marquis de Coure, had resided at the Palazzo
Sacchetti, and in 1638 had given some magnificent entertainments in
honour of the birth of the Dauphin,* when on three successive days there
had been racing from the Ponte Sisto to San Giovanni dei Fiorentini
amidst an extraordinary display of sumptuosity: the street being strewn
with flowers, and rich hangings adorning every window. On the second
evening there had been fireworks on the Tiber, with a machine
representing the ship Argo carrying Jason and his companions to the
recovery of the Golden Fleece; and, on another occasion, the Farnese
fountain, the Mascherone, had flowed with wine. Nowadays, however, all
was changed. The street, bright with sunshine or steeped in shadow
according to the hour, was ever silent and deserted. The heavy, ancient
palatial houses, their old doors studded with plates and nails, their
windows barred with huge iron gratings, always seemed to be asleep, whole
storeys showing nothing but closed shutters as if to keep out the
daylight for evermore. Now and again, when a door was open, you espied
deep vaults, damp, cold courts, green with mildew, and encompassed by
colonnades like cloisters. Then, in the outbuildings of the mansions, the
low structures which had collected more particularly on the side of the
Tiber, various small silent shops had installed themselves. There was a
baker's, a tailor's, and a bookbinder's, some fruiterers' shops with a
few tomatoes and salad plants set out on boards, and some wine-shops
which claimed to sell the vintages of Frascati and Genzano, but whose
customers seemed to be dead. Midway along the street was a modern prison,
whose horrid yellow wall in no wise enlivened the scene, whilst,
overhead, a flight of telegraph wires stretched from the arcades of the
Farnese palace to the distant vista of trees beyond the river. With its
infrequent traffic the street, even in the daytime, was like some
sepulchral corridor where the past was crumbling into dust, and when
night fell its desolation quite appalled Pierre. You did not meet a soul,
you did not see a light in any window, and the glimmering gas lamps, few
and far between, seemed powerless to pierce the gloom. On either hand the
doors were barred and bolted, and not a sound, not a breath came from
within. Even when, after a long interval, you passed a lighted wine-shop,
behind whose panes of frosted glass a lamp gleamed dim and motionless,
not an exclamation, not a suspicion of a laugh ever reached your ear.
There was nothing alive save the two sentries placed outside the prison,
one before the entrance and the other at the corner of the right-hand
lane, and they remained erect and still, coagulated, as it were, in that
dead street.

  * Afterwards Louis XIV.--Trans.

Pierre's interest, however, was not merely confined to the Via Giulia; it
extended to the whole district, once so fine and fashionable, but now
fallen into sad decay, far removed from modern life, and exhaling a faint
musty odour of monasticism. Towards San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, where
the new Corso Vittorio Emanuele has ripped up every olden district, the
lofty five-storeyed houses with their dazzling sculptured fronts
contrasted violently with the black sunken dwellings of the neighbouring
lanes. In the evening the globes of the electric lamps on the Corso shone
out with such dazzling whiteness that the gas lamps of the Via Giulia and
other streets looked like smoky lanterns. There were several old and
famous thoroughfares, the Via Banchi Vecchi, the Via del Pellegrino, the
Via di Monserrato, and an infinity of cross-streets which intersected and
connected the others, all going towards the Tiber, and for the most part
so narrow that vehicles scarcely had room to pass. And each street had
its church, a multitude of churches all more or less alike, highly
decorated, gilded, and painted, and open only at service time when they
were full of sunlight and incense. In the Via Giulia, in addition to San
Giovanni dei Fiorentini, San Biagio della Pagnotta, San Eligio degli
Orefici, and three or four others, there was the so-called Church of the
Dead, Santa Maria dell' Orazione; and this church, which is at the lower
end behind the Farnese palace, was often visited by Pierre, who liked to
dream there of the wild life of Rome, and of the pious brothers of the
Confraternita della Morte, who officiate there, and whose mission is to
search for and bury such poor outcasts as die in the Campagna. One
evening he was present at the funeral of two unknown men, whose bodies,
after remaining unburied for quite a fortnight, had been discovered in a
field near the Appian Way.

However, Pierre's favourite promenade soon became the new quay of the
Tiber beyond the Palazzo Boccanera. He had merely to take the narrow lane
skirting the mansion to reach a spot where he found much food for
reflection. Although the quay was not yet finished, the work seemed to be
quite abandoned. There were heaps of rubbish, blocks of stone, broken
fences, and dilapidated tool-sheds all around. To such a height had it
been necessary to carry the quay walls--designed to protect the city from
floods, for the river bed has been rising for centuries past--that the
old terrace of the Boccanera gardens, with its double flight of steps to
which pleasure boats had once been moored, now lay in a hollow,
threatened with annihilation whenever the works should be finished. But
nothing had yet been levelled; the soil, brought thither for making up
the bank, lay as it had fallen from the carts, and on all sides were pits
and mounds interspersed with the abandoned building materials. Wretched
urchins came to play there, workmen without work slept in the sunshine,
and women after washing ragged linen spread it out to dry upon the
stones. Nevertheless the spot proved a happy, peaceful refuge for Pierre,
one fruitful in inexhaustible reveries when for hours at a time he
lingered gazing at the river, the quays, and the city, stretching in
front of him and on either hand.

At eight in the morning the sun already gilded the vast opening. On
turning to the left he perceived the roofs of the Trastevere, of a misty,
bluish grey against the dazzling sky. Then, just beyond the apse of San
Giovanni, on the right, the river curved, and on its other bank the
poplars of the Ospedale di Santo Spirito formed a green curtain, while
the castle of Sant' Angelo showed brightly in the distance. But Pierre's
eyes dwelt more particularly on the bank just in front of him, for there
he found some lingering vestiges of old Rome. On that side indeed between
the Ponte Sisto and the Ponte Sant' Angelo, the quays, which were to
imprison the river within high, white, fortress-like walls, had not yet
been raised, and the bank with its remnants of the old papal city
conjured up an extraordinary vision of the middle ages. The houses,
descending to the river brink, were cracked, scorched, rusted by
innumerable burning summers, like so many antique bronzes. Down below
there were black vaults into which the water flowed, piles upholding
walls, and fragments of Roman stone-work plunging into the river bed;
then, rising from the shore, came steep, broken stairways, green with
moisture, tiers of terraces, storeys with tiny windows pierced here and
their in hap-hazard fashion, houses perched atop of other houses, and the
whole jumbled together with a fantastic commingling of balconies and
wooden galleries, footbridges spanning courtyards, clumps of trees
growing apparently on the very roofs, and attics rising from amidst pinky
tiles. The contents of a drain fell noisily into the river from a worn
and soiled gorge of stone; and wherever the houses stood back and the
bank appeared, it was covered with wild vegetation, weeds, shrubs, and
mantling ivy, which trailed like a kingly robe of state. And in the glory
of the sun the wretchedness and dirt vanished, the crooked, jumbled
houses seemed to be of gold, draped with the purple of the red petticoats
and the dazzling white of the shifts which hung drying from their
windows; while higher still, above the district, the Janiculum rose into
all the luminary's dazzlement, uprearing the slender profile of Sant'
Onofrio amidst cypresses and pines.

Leaning on the parapet of the quay wall, Pierre sadly gazed at the Tiber
for hours at a time. Nothing could convey an idea of the weariness of
those old waters, the mournful slowness of their flow along that
Babylonian trench where they were confined within huge, bare, livid
prison-like walls. In the sunlight their yellowness was gilded, and the
faint quiver of the current brought ripples of green and blue; but as
soon as the shade spread over it the stream became opaque like mud, so
turbid in its venerable old age that it no longer even gave back a
reflection of the houses lining it. And how desolate was its abandonment,
what a stream of silence and solitude it was! After the winter rains it
might roll furiously and threateningly, but during the long months of
bright weather it traversed Rome without a sound, and Pierre could remain
there all day long without seeing either a skiff or a sail. The two or
three little steam-boats which arrived from the coast, the few tartanes
which brought wine from Sicily, never came higher than the Aventine,
beyond which there was only a watery desert in which here and there, at
long intervals, a motionless angler let his line dangle. All that Pierre
ever saw in the way of shipping was a sort of ancient, covered pinnace, a
rotting Noah's ark, moored on the right beside the old bank, and he
fancied that it might be used as a washhouse, though on no occasion did
he see any one in it. And on a neck of mud there also lay a stranded boat
with one side broken in, a lamentable symbol of the impossibility and the
relinquishment of navigation. Ah! that decay of the river, that decay of
father Tiber, as dead as the famous ruins whose dust he is weary of
laving! And what an evocation! all the centuries of history, so many
things, so many men, that those yellow waters have reflected till, full
of lassitude and disgust, they have grown heavy, silent and deserted,
longing only for annihilation.

One morning on the river bank Pierre found La Pierina standing behind an
abandoned tool-shed. With her neck extended, she was looking fixedly at
the window of Dario's room, at the corner of the quay and the lane.
Doubtless she had been frightened by Victorine's severe reception, and
had not dared to return to the mansion; but some servant, possibly, had
told her which was the young Prince's window, and so she now came to this
spot, where without wearying she waited for a glimpse of the man she
loved, for some sign of life and salvation, the mere hope of which made
her heart leap. Deeply touched by the way in which she hid herself, all
humility and quivering with adoration, the priest approached her, and
instead of scolding her and driving her away as he had been asked to do,
spoke to her in a gentle, cheerful manner, asking her for news of her
people as though nothing had happened, and at last contriving to mention
Dario's name in order that she might understand that he would be up and
about again within a fortnight. On perceiving Pierre, La Pierina had
started with timidity and distrust as if anxious to flee; but when she
understood him, tears of happiness gushed from her eyes, and with a
bright smile she kissed her hand to him, calling: "/Grazie, grazie/,
thanks, thanks!" And thereupon she darted away, and he never saw her

On another morning at an early hour, as Pierre was going to say mass at
Santa Brigida on the Piazza Farnese, he was surprised to meet Benedetta
coming out of the church and carrying a small phial of oil. She evinced
no embarrassment, but frankly told him that every two or three days she
went thither to obtain from the beadle a few drops of the oil used for
the lamp that burnt before an antique wooden statue of the Madonna, in
which she had perfect confidence. She even confessed that she had never
had confidence in any other Madonna, having never obtained anything from
any other, though she had prayed to several of high repute, Madonnas of
marble and even of silver. And so her heart was full of ardent devotion
for the holy image which refused her nothing. And she declared in all
simplicity, as though the matter were quite natural and above discussion,
that the few drops of oil which she applied, morning and evening, to
Dario's wound, were alone working his cure, so speedy a cure as to be
quite miraculous. Pierre, fairly aghast, distressed indeed to find such
childish, superstitious notions in one so full of sense and grace and
passion, did not even venture to smile.

In the evenings, when he came back from his strolls and spent an hour or
so in Dario's room, he would for a time divert the patient by relating
what he had done and seen and thought of during the day. And when he
again ventured to stray beyond the district, and became enamoured of the
lovely gardens of Rome, which he visited as soon as they opened in the
morning in order that he might be virtually alone, he delighted the young
prince and Benedetta with his enthusiasm, his rapturous passion for the
splendid trees, the plashing water, and the spreading terraces whence the
views were so sublime. It was not the most extensive of these gardens
which the more deeply impressed his heart. In the grounds of the Villa
Borghese, the little Roman Bois de Boulogne, there were certainly some
majestic clumps of greenery, some regal avenues where carriages took a
turn in the afternoon before the obligatory drive to the Pincio; but
Pierre was more touched by the reserved garden of the villa--that villa
dazzling with marble and now containing one of the finest museums in the
world. There was a simple lawn of fine grass with a vast central basin
surmounted by a figure of Venus, nude and white; and antique fragments,
vases, statues, columns, and /sarcophagi/ were ranged symmetrically all
around the deserted, sunlit yet melancholy, sward. On returning on one
occasion to the Pincio Pierre spent a delightful morning there,
penetrated by the charm of this little nook with its scanty evergreens,
and its admirable vista of all Rome and St. Peter's rising up afar off in
the soft limpid radiance. At the Villa Albani and the Villa Pamphili he
again came upon superb parasol pines, tall, stately, and graceful, and
powerful elm-trees with twisted limbs and dusky foliage. In the Pamphili
grounds, the elm-trees steeped the paths in a delicious half-light, the
lake with its weeping willows and tufts of reeds had a dreamy aspect,
while down below the /parterre/ displayed a fantastic floral mosaic
bright with the various hues of flowers and foliage. That which most
particularly struck Pierre, however, in this, the noblest, most spacious,
and most carefully tended garden of Rome, was the novel and unexpected
view that he suddenly obtained of St. Peter's, whilst skirting a low
wall: a view whose symbolism for ever clung to him. Rome had completely
vanished, and between the slopes of Monte Mario and another wooded height
which hid the city, there only appeared the colossal dome which seemed to
be poised on an infinity of scattered blocks, now white, now red. These
were the houses of the Borgo, the jumbled piles of the Vatican and the
Basilica which the huge dome surmounted and annihilated, showing greyly
blue in the light blue of the heavens, whilst far away stretched a
delicate, boundless vista of the Campagna, likewise of a bluish tint.

It was, however, more particularly in the less sumptuous gardens, those
of a more homely grace, that Pierre realised that even things have souls.
Ah! that Villa Mattei on one side of the Coelius with its terraced
grounds, its sloping alleys edged with laurel, aloe, and spindle tree,
its box-plants forming arbours, its oranges, its roses, and its
fountains! Pierre spent some delicious hours there, and only found a
similar charm on visiting the Aventine, where three churches are
embowered in verdure. The little garden of Santa Sabina, the birthplace
of the Dominican order, is closed on all sides and affords no view: it
slumbers in quiescence, warm and perfumed by its orange-trees, amongst
which that planted by St. Dominic stands huge and gnarled but still laden
with ripe fruit. At the adjoining Priorato, however, the garden, perched
high above the Tiber, overlooks a vast expanse, with the river and the
buildings on either bank as far as the summit of the Janiculum. And in
these gardens of Rome Pierre ever found the same clipped box-shrubs, the
same eucalypti with white trunks and pale leaves long like hair, the same
ilex-trees squat and dusky, the same giant pines, the same black
cypresses, the same marbles whitening amidst tufts of roses, and the same
fountains gurgling under mantling ivy. Never did he enjoy more gentle,
sorrow-tinged delight than at the Villa of Pope Julius, where all the
life of a gay and sensual period is suggested by the semi-circular
porticus opening on the gardens, a porticus decorated with paintings,
golden trellis-work laden with flowers, amidst which flutter flights of
smiling Cupids. Then, on the evening when he returned from the Farnesina,
he declared that he had brought all the dead soul of ancient Rome away
with him, and it was not the paintings executed after Raffaelle's designs
that had touched him, it was rather the pretty hall on the river side
decorated in soft blue and pink and lilac, with an art devoid of genius
yet so charming and so Roman; and in particular it was the abandoned
garden once stretching down to the Tiber, and now shut off from it by the
new quay, and presenting an aspect of woeful desolation, ravaged, bossy
and weedy like a cemetery, albeit the golden fruit of orange and citron
tree still ripened there.

And for the last time a shock came to Pierre's heart on the lovely
evening when he visited the Villa Medici. There he was on French soil.*
And again what a marvellous garden he found with box-plants, and pines,
and avenues full of magnificence and charm! What a refuge for antique
reverie was that wood of ilex-trees, so old and so sombre, where the sun
in declining cast fiery gleams of red gold amidst the sheeny bronze of
the foliage. You ascend by endless steps, and from the crowning belvedere
on high you embrace all Rome at a glance as though by opening your arms
you could seize it in its entirety. From the villa's dining-room,
decorated with portraits of all the artists who have successfully
sojourned there, and from the spacious peaceful library one beholds the
same splendid, broad, all-conquering panorama, a panorama of unlimited
ambition, whose infinite ought to set in the hearts of the young men
dwelling there a determination to subjugate the world. Pierre, who came
thither opposed to the principle of the "Prix de Rome," that traditional,
uniform education so dangerous for originality, was for a moment charmed
by the warm peacefulness, the limpid solitude of the garden, and the
sublime horizon where the wings of genius seemed to flutter. Ah! how
delightful, to be only twenty and to live for three years amidst such
infinite sweetness, encompassed by the finest works of man; to say to
oneself that one is as yet too young to produce, and to reflect, and
seek, and learn how to enjoy, suffer, and love! But Pierre afterwards
reflected that this was not a fit task for youth, and that to appreciate
the divine enjoyment of such a retreat, all art and blue sky, ripe age
was needed, age with victories already gained and weariness following
upon the accomplishment of work. He chatted with some of the young
pensioners, and remarked that if those who were inclined to dreaminess
and contemplation, like those who could merely claim mediocrity,
accommodated themselves to this life cloistered in the art of the past,
on the other hand artists of active bent and personal temperament pined
with impatience, their eyes ever turned towards Paris, their souls eager
to plunge into the furnace of battle and production.

  * Here is the French Academy, where winners of the "Prix de
    Rome" in painting, sculpture, architecture, engraving, and
    music are maintained by the French Government for three
    years. The creation dates from Louis XIV.--Trans.

All those gardens of which Pierre spoke to Dario and Benedetta with so
much rapture, awoke within them the memory of the garden of the Villa
Montefiori, now a waste, but once so green, planted with the finest
orange-trees of Rome, a grove of centenarian orange-trees where they had
learnt to love one another. And the memory of their early love brought
thoughts of their present situation and their future prospects. To these
the conversation always reverted, and evening after evening Pierre
witnessed their delight, and heard them talk of coming happiness like
lovers transported to the seventh heaven. The suit for the dissolution of
Benedetta's marriage was now assuming a more and more favourable aspect.
Guided by a powerful hand, Donna Serafina was apparently acting very
vigorously, for almost every day she had some further good news to
report. She was indeed anxious to finish the affair both for the
continuity and for the honour of the name, for on the one hand Dario
refused to marry any one but his cousin, and on the other this marriage
would explain everything and put an end to an intolerable situation. The
scandalous rumours which circulated both in the white and the black world
quite incensed her, and a victory was the more necessary as Leo XIII,
already so aged, might be snatched away at any moment, and in the
Conclave which would follow she desired that her brother's name should
shine forth with untarnished, sovereign radiance. Never had the secret
ambition of her life, the hope that her race might give a third pope to
the Church, filled her with so much passion. It was as if she therein
sought a consolation for the harsh abandonment of Advocate Morano.
Invariably clad in sombre garb, ever active and slim, so tightly laced
that from behind one might have taken her for a young girl, she was so to
say the black soul of that old palace; and Pierre, who met her
everywhere, prowling and inspecting like a careful house-keeper, and
jealously watching over her brother the Cardinal, bowed to her in
silence, chilled to the heart by the stern look of her withered wrinkled
face in which was set the large, opiniative nose of her family. However
she barely returned his bows, for she still disdained that paltry foreign
priest, and only tolerated him in order to please Monsignor Nani and
Viscount Philibert de la Choue.

A witness every evening of the anxious delight and impatience of
Benedetta and Dario, Pierre by degrees became almost as impassioned as
themselves, as desirous for an early solution. Benedetta's suit was about
to come before the Congregation of the Council once more. Monsignor
Palma, the defender of the marriage, had demanded a supplementary inquiry
after the favourable decision arrived at in the first instance by a bare
majority of one vote--a majority which the Pope would certainly not have
thought sufficient had he been asked for his ratification. So the
question now was to gain votes among the ten cardinals who formed the
Congregation, to persuade and convince them, and if possible ensure an
almost unanimous pronouncement. The task was arduous, for, instead of
facilitating matters, Benedetta's relationship to Cardinal Boccanera
raised many difficulties, owing to the intriguing spirit rife at the
Vatican, the spite of rivals who, by perpetuating the scandal, hoped to
destroy Boccanera's chance of ever attaining to the papacy. Every
afternoon, however, Donna Serafina devoted herself to the task of winning
votes under the direction of her confessor, Father Lorenza, whom she saw
daily at the Collegio Germanico, now the last refuge of the Jesuits in
Rome, for they have ceased to be masters of the Gesu. The chief hope of
success lay in Prada's formal declaration that he would not put in an
appearance. The whole affair wearied and irritated him; the imputations
levelled against him as a man, seemed to him supremely odious and
ridiculous; and he no longer even took the trouble to reply to the
assignations which were sent to him. He acted indeed as if he had never
been married, though deep in his heart the wound dealt to his passion and
his pride still lingered, bleeding afresh whenever one or another of the
scandalous rumours in circulation reached his ears. However, as their
adversary desisted from all action, one can understand that the hopes of
Benedetta and Dario increased, the more so as hardly an evening passed
without Donna Serafina telling them that she believed she had gained the
support of another cardinal.

But the man who terrified them all was Monsignor Palma, whom the
Congregation had appointed to defend the sacred ties of matrimony. His
rights and privileges were almost unlimited, he could appeal yet again,
and in any case would make the affair drag on as long as it pleased him.
His first report, in reply to Morano's memoir, had been a terrible blow,
and it was now said that a second one which he was preparing would prove
yet more pitiless, establishing as a fundamental principle of the Church
that it could not annul a marriage whose nonconsummation was purely and
simply due to the action of the wife in refusing obedience to her
husband. In presence of such energy and logic, it was unlikely that the
cardinals, even if sympathetic, would dare to advise the Holy Father to
dissolve the marriage. And so discouragement was once more overcoming
Benedetta when Donna Serafina, on returning from a visit to Monsignor
Nani, calmed her somewhat by telling her that a mutual friend had
undertaken to deal with Monsignor Palma. However, said she, even if they
succeeded, it would doubtless cost them a large sum.

Monsignor Palma, a theologist expert in all canonical affairs, and a
perfectly honest man in pecuniary matters, had met with a great
misfortune in his life. He had a niece, a poor and lovely girl, for whom,
unhappily, in his declining years he conceived an insensate passion, with
the result that to avoid a scandal he was compelled to marry her to a
rascal who now preyed upon her and even beat her. And the prelate was now
passing through a fearful crisis, weary of reducing himself to beggary,
and indeed no longer having the money necessary to extricate his nephew
by marriage from a very nasty predicament, the result of cheating at
cards. So the idea was to save the young man by a considerable pecuniary
payment, and then to procure him employment without asking aught of his
uncle, who, as if offering complicity, came in tears one evening, when
night had fallen, to thank Donna Serafina for her exceeding goodness.

Pierre was with Dario that evening when Benedetta entered the room,
laughing and joyfully clapping her bands. "It's done, it's done!" she
said, "he has just left aunt, and vowed eternal gratitude to her. He will
now be obliged to show himself amiable."

However Dario distrustfully inquired: "But was he made to sign anything,
did he enter into a formal engagement?"

"Oh! no; how could one do that? It's such a delicate matter," replied
Benedetta. "But people say that he is a very honest man." Nevertheless,
in spite of these words, she herself became uneasy. What if Monsignor
Palma should remain incorruptible in spite of the great service which had
been rendered him? Thenceforth this idea haunted them, and their suspense
began once more.

Dario, eager to divert his mind, was imprudent enough to get up before he
was perfectly cured, and, his wound reopening, he was obliged to take to
his bed again for a few days. Every evening, as previously, Pierre strove
to enliven him with an account of his strolls. The young priest was now
getting bolder, rambling in turn through all the districts of Rome, and
discovering the many "classical" curiosities catalogued in the
guide-books. One evening he spoke with a kind of affection of the
principal squares of the city which he had first thought commonplace, but
which now seemed to him very varied, each with original features of its
own. There was the noble Piazza del Popolo of such monumental symmetry
and so full of sunlight; there was the Piazza di Spagna, the lively
meeting-place of foreigners, with its double flight of a hundred and
thirty steps gilded by the sun; there was the vast Piazza Colonna, always
swarming with people, and the most Italian of all the Roman squares from
the presence of the idle, careless crowd which ever lounged round the
column of Marcus Aurelius as if waiting for fortune to fall from heaven;
there was also the long and regular Piazza Navona, deserted since the
market was no longer held there, and retaining a melancholy recollection
of its former bustling life; and there was the Campo dei Fiori, which was
invaded each morning by the tumultuous fruit and vegetable markets, quite
a plantation of huge umbrellas sheltering heaps of tomatoes, pimentoes,
and grapes amidst a noisy stream of dealers and housewives. Pierre's
great surprise, however, was the Piazza del Campidoglio--the "Square of
the Capitol"--which to him suggested a summit, an open spot overlooking
the city and the world, but which he found to be small and square, and on
three sides enclosed by palaces, whilst on the fourth side the view was
of little extent.* There are no passers-by there; visitors usually come
up by a flight of steps bordered by a few palm-trees, only foreigners
making use of the winding carriage-ascent. The vehicles wait, and the
tourists loiter for a while with their eyes raised to the admirable
equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, in antique bronze, which occupies
the centre of the piazza. Towards four o'clock, when the sun gilds the
left-hand palace, and the slender statues of its entablature show vividly
against the blue sky, you might think yourself in some warm cosy square
of a little provincial town, what with the women of the neighbourhood who
sit knitting under the arcade, and the bands of ragged urchins who
disport themselves on all sides like school-boys in a playground.

  * The Piazza del Campidoglio is really a depression between the
    Capitolium proper and the northern height called the Arx. It is
    supposed to have been the exact site of Romulus's traditional

Then, on another evening Pierre told Benedetta and Dario of his
admiration for the Roman fountains, for in no other city of the world
does water flow so abundantly and magnificently in fountains of bronze
and marble, from the boat-shaped Fontana della Barcaccia on the Piazza di
Spagna, the Triton on the Piazza Barberini, and the Tortoises which give
their name to the Piazza delle Tartarughe, to the three fountains of the
Piazza Navona where Bernini's vast central composition of rock and
river-gods rises so triumphantly, and to the colossal and pompous
fountain of Trevi, where King Neptune stands on high attended by lofty
figures of Health and Fruitfulness. And on yet another evening Pierre
came home quite pleased, relating that he had at last discovered why it
was that the old streets around the Capitol and along the Tiber seemed to
him so strange: it was because they had no footways, and pedestrians,
instead of skirting the walls, invariably took the middle of the road,
leisurely wending their way among the vehicles. Pierre was very fond of
those old districts with their winding lanes, their tiny squares so
irregular in shape, and their huge square mansions swamped by a
multitudinous jumble of little houses. He found a charm, too, in the
district of the Esquiline, where, besides innumerable flights of
ascending steps, each of grey pebbles edged with white stone, there were
sudden sinuous slopes, tiers of terraces, seminaries and convents,
lifeless, with their windows ever closed, and lofty, blank walls above
which a superb palm-tree would now and again soar into the spotless blue
of the sky. And on yet another evening, having strolled into the Campagna
beside the Tiber and above the Ponte Molle, he came back full of
enthusiasm for a form of classical art which hitherto he had scarcely
appreciated. Along the river bank, however, he had found the very scenery
that Poussin so faithfully depicted: the sluggish, yellow stream fringed
with reeds; low riven cliffs, whose chalky whiteness showed against the
ruddy background of a far-stretching, undulating plain, bounded by blue
hills; a few spare trees with a ruined porticus opening on to space atop
of the bank, and a line of pale-hued sheep descending to drink, whilst
the shepherd, with an elbow resting on the trunk of an ilex-tree, stood
looking on. It was a special kind of beauty, broad and ruddy, made up of
nothing, sometimes simplified into a series of low, horizontal lines, but
ever ennobled by the great memories it evoked: the Roman legions marching
along the paved highways across the bare Campagna; the long slumber of
the middle ages; and then the awakening of antique nature in the midst of
Catholicism, whereby, for the second time, Rome became ruler of the

One day when Pierre came back from seeing the great modern cemetery, the
Campo Verano, he found Celia, as well as Benedetta, by the side of
Dario's bed. "What, Monsieur l'Abbe!" exclaimed the little Princess when
she learnt where he had been; "it amuses you to visit the dead?"

"Oh those Frenchmen," remarked Dario, to whom the mere idea of a cemetery
was repulsive; "those Frenchmen seem to take a pleasure in making their
lives wretched with their partiality for gloomy scenes."

"But there is no escaping the reality of death," gently replied Pierre;
"the best course is to look it in the face."

This made the Prince quite angry. "Reality, reality," said he, "when
reality isn't pleasant I don't look at it; I try never to think of it

In spite of this rejoinder, Pierre, with his smiling, placid air, went on
enumerating the things which had struck him: first, the admirable manner
in which the cemetery was kept, then the festive appearance which it
derived from the bright autumn sun, and the wonderful profusion in which
marble was lavished in slabs, statues, and chapels. The ancient atavism
had surely been at work, the sumptuous mausoleums of the Appian Way had
here sprung up afresh, making death a pretext for the display of pomp and
pride. In the upper part of the cemetery the Roman nobility had a
district of its own, crowded with veritable temples, colossal statues,
groups of several figures; and if at times the taste shown in these
monuments was deplorable, it was none the less certain that millions had
been expended on them. One charming feature of the place, said Pierre,
was that the marbles, standing among yews and cypresses were remarkably
well preserved, white and spotless; for, if the summer sun slowly gilded
them, there were none of those stains of moss and rain which impart an
aspect of melancholy decay to the statues of northern climes.

Touched by the discomfort of Dario, Benedetta, hitherto silent, ended by
interrupting Pierre. "And was the hunt interesting?" she asked, turning
to Celia.

The little Princess had been taken by her mother to see a fox-hunt, and
had been speaking of it when the priest entered the room.

"Yes, it was very interesting, my dear," she replied; "the meet was at
noon near the tomb of Caecilia Metella, where a buffet had been arranged
under a tent. And there was such a number of people--the foreign colony,
the young men of the embassies, and some officers, not to mention
ourselves--all the men in scarlet and a great many ladies in habits. The
'throw-off' was at one o'clock, and the gallop lasted more than two hours
and a half, so that the fox had a very long run. I wasn't able to follow,
but all the same I saw some extraordinary things--a great wall which the
whole hunt had to leap, and then ditches and hedges--a mad race indeed in
the rear of the hounds. There were two accidents, but nothing serious;
one gentleman, who was unseated, sprained his wrist badly, and another
broke his leg."*

  * The Roman Hunt, which counts about one hundred subscribers,
    has flourished since 1840. There is a kennel of English
    hounds, an English huntsman and whip, and a stable of
    English hunters.--Trans.

Dario had listened to Celia with passionate interest, for fox-hunting is
one of the great pleasures of Rome, and the Campagna, flat and yet
bristling with obstacles, is certainly well adapted to the sport. "Ah!"
said the young Prince in a despairing tone, "how idiotic it is to be
riveted to this room! I shall end by dying of /ennui/!"

Benedetta contented herself with smiling; neither reproach nor expression
of sadness came from her at this candid display of egotism. Her own
happiness at having him all to herself in the room where she nursed him
was great indeed; still her love, at once full of youth and good sense,
included a maternal element, and she well understood that he hardly
amused himself, deprived as he was of his customary pleasures and severed
from his friends, few of whom he was willing to receive, for he feared
that they might think the story of the dislocated shoulder suspicious. Of
course there were no more /fetes/, no more evenings at the theatre, no
more flirtations. But above everything else Dario missed the Corso, and
suffered despairingly at no longer seeing or learning anything by
watching the procession of Roman society from four to five each
afternoon. Accordingly, as soon as an intimate called, there were endless
questions: Had the visitor seen so and so? Had such a one reappeared? How
had a certain friend's love affair ended? Was any new adventure setting
the city agog? And so forth; all the petty frivolities, nine days'
wonders, and puerile intrigues in which the young Prince had hitherto
expended his manly energy.

After a pause Celia, who was fond of coming to him with innocent gossip,
fixed her candid eyes on him--the fathomless eyes of an enigmatical
virgin, and resumed: "How long it takes to set a shoulder right!"

Had she, child as she was, with love her only business, divined the
truth? Dario in his embarrassment glanced at Benedetta, who still smiled.
However, the little Princess was already darting to another subject: "Ah!
you know, Dario, at the Corso yesterday I saw a lady--" Then she stopped
short, surprised and embarrassed that these words should have escaped
her. However, in all bravery she resumed like one who had been a friend
since childhood, sharing many a little love secret: "Yes, a very pretty
person whom you know. Well, she had a bouquet of white roses with her all
the same."

At this Benedetta indulged in a burst of frank merriment, and Dario,
still looking at her, also laughed. She had twitted him during the early
days because no young woman ever sent to make inquiries about him. For
his part, he was not displeased with the rupture, for the continuance of
the connection might have proved embarrassing; and so, although his
vanity may have been slightly hurt, the news that he was already replaced
in La Tonietta's affections was welcome rather than otherwise. "Ah!" he
contented himself with saying, "the absent are always in the wrong."

"The man one loves is never absent," declared Celia with her grave,
candid air.

However, Benedetta had stepped up to the bed to raise the young man's
pillows: "Never mind, Dario /mio/," said she, "all those things are over;
I mean to keep you, and you will only have me to love."

He gave her a passionate glance and kissed her hair. She spoke the truth:
he had never loved any one but her, and she was not mistaken in her
anticipation of keeping him always to herself alone, as soon as they
should be wedded. To her great delight, since she had been nursing him he
had become quite childish again, such as he had been when she had learnt
to love him under the orange-trees of the Villa Montefiori. He retained a
sort of puerility, doubtless the outcome of impoverished blood, that
return to childhood which one remarks amongst very ancient races; and he
toyed on his bed with pictures, gazed for hours at photographs, which
made him laugh. Moreover, his inability to endure suffering had yet
increased; he wished Benedetta to be gay and sing, and amused her with
his petty egotism which led him to dream of a life of continual joy with
her. Ah! how pleasant it would be to live together and for ever in the
sunlight, to do nothing and care for nothing, and even if the world
should crumble somewhere to heed it not!

"One thing which greatly pleases me," suddenly said the young Prince, "is
that Monsieur l'Abbe has ended by falling in love with Rome."

Pierre admitted it with a good grace.

"We told you so," remarked Benedetta. "A great deal of time is needed for
one to understand and love Rome. If you had only stayed here for a
fortnight you would have gone off with a deplorable idea of us, but now
that you have been here for two full months we are quite at ease, for you
will never think of us without affection."

She looked exceedingly charming as she spoke these words, and Pierre
again bowed. However, he had already given thought to the phenomenon, and
fancied he could explain it. When a stranger comes to Rome he brings with
him a Rome of his own, a Rome such as he dreams of, so ennobled by
imagination that the real Rome proves a terrible disenchantment. And so
it is necessary to wait for habituation, for the mediocrity of the
reality to soften, and for the imagination to have time to kindle again,
and only behold things such as they are athwart the prodigious splendour
of the past.

However, Celia had risen and was taking leave. "Good-bye, dear," she
said; "I hope the wedding will soon take place. You know, Dario, that I
mean to be betrothed before the end of the month. Oh yes, I intend to
make my father give a grand entertainment. And how nice it would be if
the two weddings could take place at the same time!"

Two days later, after a long ramble through the Trastevere district,
followed by a visit to the Palazzo Farnese, Pierre felt that he could at
last understand the terrible, melancholy truth about Rome. He had several
times already strolled through the Trastevere, attracted towards its
wretched denizens by his compassion for all who suffered. Ah! that
quagmire of wretchedness and ignorance! He knew of abominable nooks in
the faubourgs of Paris, frightful "rents" and "courts" where people
rotted in heaps, but there was nothing in France to equal the listless,
filthy stagnation of the Trastevere. On the brightest days a dank gloom
chilled the sinuous, cellar-like lanes, and the smell of rotting
vegetables, rank oil, and human animality brought on fits of nausea.
Jumbled together in a confusion which artists of romantic turn would
admire, the antique, irregular houses had black, gaping entrances diving
below ground, outdoor stairways conducting to upper floors, and wooden
balconies which only a miracle upheld. There were crumbling fronts,
shored up with beams; sordid lodgings whose filth and bareness could be
seen through shattered windows; and numerous petty shops, all the
open-air cook-stalls of a lazy race which never lighted a fire at home:
you saw frying-shops with heaps of polenta, and fish swimming in stinking
oil, and dealers in cooked vegetables displaying huge turnips, celery,
cauliflowers, and spinach, all cold and sticky. The butcher's meat was
black and clumsily cut up; the necks of the animals bristled with bloody
clots, as though the heads had simply been torn away. The baker's loaves,
piled on planks, looked like little round paving stones; at the beggarly
greengrocers' merely a few pimentoes and fir-apples were shown under the
strings of dry tomatoes which festooned the doorways; and the only shops
which were at all attractive were those of the pork butchers with their
salted provisions and their cheese, whose pungent smell slightly
attenuated the pestilential reek of the gutters. Lottery offices,
displaying lists of winning numbers, alternated with wine-shops, of which
latter there was a fresh one every thirty yards with large inscriptions
setting forth that the best wines of Genzano, Marino, and Frascati were
to be found within. And the whole district teemed with ragged, grimy
denizens, children half naked and devoured by vermin, bare-headed,
gesticulating and shouting women, whose skirts were stiff with grease,
old men who remained motionless on benches amidst swarms of hungry flies;
idleness and agitation appearing on all sides, whilst cobblers sat on the
sidewalks quietly plying their trade, and little donkeys pulled carts
hither and thither, and men drove turkeys along, whip in hand, and hands
of beggars rushed upon the few anxious tourists who had timorously
ventured into the district. At the door of a little tailor's shop an old
house-pail dangled full of earth, in which a succulent plant was
flowering. And from every window and balcony, as from the many cords
which stretched across the street from house to house, all the household
washing hung like bunting, nameless drooping rags, the symbolical banners
of abominable misery.

Pierre's fraternal, soul filled with pity at the sight. Ah! yes, it was
necessary to demolish all those pestilential districts where the populace
had wallowed for centuries as in a poisonous gaol! He was for demolition
and sanitary improvement, even if old Rome were killed and artists
scandalised. Doubtless the Trastevere was already greatly changed,
pierced with several new thoroughfares which let the sun stream in. And
amidst the /abattis/ of rubbish and the spacious clearings, where nothing
new had yet been erected, the remaining portions of the old district
seemed even blacker and more loathsome. Some day, no doubt, it would all
be rebuilt, but how interesting was this phase of the city's evolution:
old Rome expiring and new Rome just dawning amidst countless
difficulties! To appreciate the change it was necessary to have known the
filthy Rome of the past, swamped by sewage in every form. The recently
levelled Ghetto had, over a course of centuries, so rotted the soil on
which it stood that an awful pestilential odour yet arose from its bare
site. It was only fitting that it should long remain waste, so that it
might dry and become purified in the sun. In all the districts on either
side of the Tiber where extensive improvements have been undertaken you
find the same scenes. You follow some narrow, damp, evil-smelling street
with black house-fronts and overhanging roofs, and suddenly come upon a
clearing as in a forest of ancient leprous hovels. There are squares,
broad footways; lofty white carved buildings yet in the rough, littered
with rubbish and fenced off. On every side you find as it were a huge
building yard, which the financial crisis perpetuates; the city of
to-morrow arrested in its growth, stranded there in its monstrous,
precocious, surprising infancy. Nevertheless, therein lies good and
healthful work, such as was and is absolutely necessary if Rome is to
become a great modern city, instead of being left to rot, to dwindle into
a mere ancient curiosity, a museum show-piece.

That day, as Pierre went from the Trastevere to the Palazzo Farnese,
where he was expected, he chose a roundabout route, following the Via di
Pettinari and the Via dei Giubbonari, the former so dark and narrow with
a great hospital wall on one side and a row of wretched houses on the
other, and the latter animated by a constant stream of people and
enlivened by the jewellers' windows, full of big gold chains, and the
displays of the drapers' shops, where stuffs hung in bright red, blue,
green, and yellow lengths. And the popular district through which he had
roamed and the trading district which he was now crossing reminded him of
the castle fields with their mass of workpeople reduced to mendicity by
lack of employment and forced to camp in the superb, unfinished,
abandoned mansions. Ah! the poor, sad people, who were yet so childish,
kept in the ignorance and credulity of a savage race by centuries of
theocracy, so habituated to mental night and bodily suffering that even
to-day they remained apart from the social awakening, simply desirous of
enjoying their pride, indolence, and sunlight in peace! They seemed both
blind and deaf in their decadence, and whilst Rome was being overturned
they continued to lead the stagnant life of former times, realising
nought but the worries of the improvements, the demolition of the old
favourite districts, the consequent change in habits, and the rise in the
cost of food, as if indeed they would rather have gone without light,
cleanliness, and health, since these could only be secured by a great
financial and labour crisis. And yet, at bottom, it was solely for the
people, the populace, that Rome was being cleansed and rebuilt with the
idea of making it a great modern capital, for democracy lies at the end
of these present day transformations; it is the people who will inherit
the cities whence dirt and disease are being expelled, and where the law
of labour will end by prevailing and killing want. And so, though one may
curse the dusting and repairing of the ruins and the stripping of all the
wild flora from the Colosseum, though one may wax indignant at sight of
the hideous fortress like ramparts which imprison the Tiber, and bewail
the old romantic banks with their greenery and their antique dwellings
dipping into the stream, one must at the same time acknowledge that life
springs from death, and that to-morrow must perforce blossom in the dust
of the past.

While thinking of all these things Pierre had reached the deserted,
stern-looking Piazza Farnese, and for a moment he looked up at the bare
monumental facade of the heavy square Palazzo, its lofty entrance where
hung the tricolour, its rows of windows and its famous cornice sculptured
with such marvellous art. Then he went in. A friend of Narcisse Habert,
one of the /attaches/ of the embassy to the King of Italy, was waiting
for him, having offered to show him over the huge pile, the finest palace
in Rome, which France had leased as a lodging for her ambassador.* Ah!
that colossal, sumptuous, deadly dwelling, with its vast court whose
porticus is so dark and damp, its giant staircase with low steps, its
endless corridors, its immense galleries and halls. All was sovereign
pomp blended with death. An icy, penetrating chill fell from the walls.
With a discreet smile the /attache/ owned that the embassy was frozen in
winter and baked in summer. The only part of the building which was at
all lively and pleasant was the first storey, overlooking the Tiber,
which the ambassador himself occupied. From the gallery there, containing
the famous frescoes of Annibale Caracci, one can see the Janiculum, the
Corsini gardens, and the Acqua Paola above San Pietro in Montorio. Then,
after a vast drawing-room comes the study, peaceful and pleasant, and
enlivened by sunshine. But the dining-room, the bed-chambers, and other
apartments occupied by the /personnel/ look out on to the mournful gloom
of a side street. All these vast rooms, twenty and four-and-twenty feet
high, have admirable carved or painted ceilings, bare walls, a few of
them decorated with frescoes, and incongruous furniture, superb pier
tables mingling with modern /bric-a-brac/. And things become abominable
when you enter the gala reception-rooms overlooking the piazza, for there
you no longer find an article of furniture, no longer a hanging, nothing
but disaster, a series of magnificent deserted halls given over to rats
and spiders. The embassy occupies but one of them, where it heaps up its
dusty archives. Near by is a huge hall occupying the height of two
floors, and thus sixty feet in elevation. Reserved by the owner of the
palace, the ex-King of Naples, it has become a mere lumber-room where
/maquettes/, unfinished statues, and a very fine sarcophagus are stowed
away amidst all kinds of remnants. And this is but a part of the palace.
The ground floor is altogether uninhabited; the French "Ecole de Rome"
occupies a corner of the second floor; while the embassy huddles in
chilly fashion in the most habitable corner of the first floor, compelled
to abandon everything else and lock the doors to spare itself the useless
trouble of sweeping. No doubt it is grand to live in the Palazzo Farnese,
built by Pope Paul III and for more than a century inhabited by
cardinals; but how cruel the discomfort and how frightful the melancholy
of this huge ruin, three-fourths of whose rooms are dead, useless,
impossible, cut off from life. And the evenings, oh! the evenings, when
porch, court, stairs, and corridors are invaded by dense gloom, against
which a few smoky gas lamps struggle in vain, when a long, long journey
lies before one through the lugubrious desert of stone, before one
reaches the ambassador's warm and cheerful drawing-room!

  * The French have two embassies at Rome: one at the Palazzo
    Farnese, to the Italian Court, and the other at the Palazzo
    Rospigliosi, to the Vatican.--Trans.

Pierre came away quite aghast. And, as he walked along, the many other
grand palaces which he had seen during his strolls rose before him, one
and all of them stripped of their splendour, shorn of their princely
establishments, let out in uncomfortable flats! What could be done with
those grandiose galleries and halls now that no fortune could defray the
cost of the pompous life for which they had been built, or even feed the
retinue needed to keep them up? Few indeed were the nobles who, like
Prince Aldobrandini, with his numerous progeny, still occupied their
entire mansions. Almost all of them let the antique dwellings of their
forefathers to companies or individual tenants, reserving only a storey,
and at times a mere lodging in some dark corner, for themselves. The
Palazzo Chigi was let: the ground floor to bankers and the first floor to
the Austrian ambassador, while the Prince and his family divided the
second floor with a cardinal. The Palazzo Sciarra was let: the first
floor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the second to a senator,
while the Prince and his mother merely occupied the ground floor. The
Palazzo Barberini was let: its ground floor, first floor, and second
floor to various families, whilst the Prince found a refuge on the third
floor in the rooms which had been occupied by his ancestors' lackeys. The
Palazzo Borghese was let: the ground floor to a dealer in antiquities,
the first floor to a Lodge of Freemasons, and the rest to various
households, whilst the Prince only retained the use of a small suite of
apartments. And the Palazzo Odescalchi, the Palazzo Colonna, the Palazzo
Doria were let: their Princes reduced to the position of needy landlords
eager to derive as much profit as possible from their property in order
to make both ends meet. A blast of ruin was sweeping over the Roman
patriziato, the greatest fortunes had crumbled in the financial crisis,
very few remained wealthy, and what a wealth it was, stagnant and dead,
which neither commerce nor industry could renew. The numerous princes who
had tried speculation were stripped of their fortunes. The others,
terrified, called upon to pay enormous taxes, amounting to nearly
one-third of their incomes, could henceforth only wait and behold their
last stagnant millions dwindle away till they were exhausted or
distributed according to the succession laws. Such wealth as remained to
these nobles must perish, for, like everything else, wealth perishes when
it lacks a soil in which it may fructify. In all this there was solely a
question of time: eventual ruin was a foregone and irremediable
conclusion, of absolute, historical certainty. Those who resigned
themselves to the course of letting their deserted mansions still
struggled for life, seeking to accommodate themselves to present-day
exigencies; whilst death already dwelt among the others, those stubborn,
proud ones who immured themselves in the tombs of their race, like that
appalling Palazzo Boccanera, which was falling into dust amidst such
chilly gloom and silence, the latter only broken at long intervals when
the Cardinal's old coach rumbled over the grassy court.

The point which most struck Pierre, however, was that his visits to the
Trastevere and the Palazzo Farnese shed light one on the other, and led
him to a conclusion which had never previously seemed so manifest. As yet
no "people," and soon no aristocracy. He had found the people so
wretched, ignorant, and resigned in its long infancy induced by historic
and climatic causes that many years of instruction and culture were
necessary for it to become a strong, healthy, and laborious democracy,
conscious of both its rights and its duties. As for the aristocracy, it
was dwindling to death in its crumbling palaces, no longer aught than a
finished, degenerate race, with such an admixture also of American,
Austrian, Polish, and Spanish blood that pure Roman blood became a rare
exception; and, moreover, it had ceased to belong either to sword or
gown, unwilling to serve constitutional Italy and forsaking the Sacred
College, where only /parvenus/ now donned the purple. And between the
lowly and the aristocracy there was as yet no firmly seated middle class,
with the vigour of fresh sap and sufficient knowledge, and good sense to
act as the transitional educator of the nation. The middle class was made
up in part of the old servants and clients of the princes, the farmers
who rented their lands, the stewards, notaries, and solicitors who
managed their fortunes; in part, too, of all the employees, the
functionaries of every rank and class, the deputies and senators, whom
the new Government had brought from the provinces; and, in particular, of
the voracious hawks who had swooped down upon Rome, the Pradas, the men
of prey from all parts of the kingdom, who with beak and talon devoured
both people and aristocracy. For whom, then, had one laboured? For whom
had those gigantic works of new Rome been undertaken? A shudder of fear
sped by, a crack as of doom was heard, arousing pitiful disquietude in
every fraternal heart. Yes, a threat of doom and annihilation: as yet no
people, soon no aristocracy, and only a ravenous middle class, quarrying,
vulture-like, among the ruins.

On the evening of that day, when all was dark, Pierre went to spend an
hour on the river quay beyond the Boccanera mansion. He was very fond of
meditating on that deserted spot in spite of the warnings of Victorine,
who asserted that it was not safe. And, indeed, on such inky nights as
that one, no cutthroat place ever presented a more tragic aspect. Not a
soul, not a passer-by; a dense gloom, a void in front and on either hand.
At a corner of the mansion, now steeped in darkness, there was a gas lamp
which stood in a hollow since the river margin had been banked up, and
this lamp cast an uncertain glimmer upon the quay, level with the
latter's bossy soil. Thus long vague shadows stretched from the various
materials, piles of bricks and piles of stone, which were strewn around.
On the right a few lights shone upon the bridge near San Giovanni and in
the windows of the hospital of the Santo Spirito. On the left, amidst the
dim recession of the river, the distant districts were blotted out. Then
yonder, across the stream, was the Trastevere, the houses on the bank
looking like vague, pale phantoms, with infrequent window-panes showing a
blurred yellow glimmer, whilst on high only a dark band shadowed the
Janiculum, near whose summit the lamps of some promenade scintillated
like a triangle of stars. But it was the Tiber which impassioned Pierre;
such was its melancholy majesty during those nocturnal hours. Leaning
over the parapet, he watched it gliding between the new walls, which
looked like those of some black and monstrous prison built for a giant.
So long as lights gleamed in the windows of the houses opposite he saw
the sluggish water flow by, showing slow, moire-like ripples there where
the quivering reflections endowed it with a mysterious life. And he often
mused on the river's famous past and evoked the legends which assert that
fabulous wealth lies buried in its muddy bed. At each fresh invasion of
the barbarians, and particularly when Rome was sacked, the treasures of
palaces and temples are said to have been cast into the water to prevent
them from falling into the hands of the conquerors. Might not those
golden bars trembling yonder in the glaucous stream be the branches of
the famous candelabrum which Titus brought from Jerusalem? Might not
those pale patches whose shape remained uncertain amidst the frequent
eddies indicate the white marble of statues and columns? And those deep
moires glittering with little flamelets, were they not promiscuous heaps
of precious metal, cups, vases, ornaments enriched with gems? What a
dream was that of the swarming riches espied athwart the old river's
bosom, of the hidden life of the treasures which were said to have
slumbered there for centuries; and what a hope for the nation's pride and
enrichment centred in the miraculous finds which might be made in the
Tiber if one could some day dry it up and search its bed, as had already
been suggested! Therein, perchance, lay Rome's new fortune.

However, on that black night, whilst Pierre leant over the parapet, it
was stern reality alone which occupied his mind. He was still pursuing
the train of thought suggested by his visits to the Trastevere and the
Farnese palace, and in presence of that lifeless water was coming to the
conclusion that the selection of Rome for transformation into a modern
capital was the great misfortune to which the sufferings of young Italy
were due. He knew right well that the selection had been inevitable: Rome
being the queen of glory, the antique ruler of the world to whom eternity
had been promised, and without whom the national unity had always seemed
an impossibility. And so the problem was a terrible one, since without
Rome Italy could not exist, and with Rome it seemed difficult for it to
exist. Ah! that dead river, how it symbolised disaster! Not a boat upon
its surface, not a quiver of the commercial and industrial activity of
those waters which bear life to the very hearts of great modern cities!
There had been fine schemes, no doubt--Rome a seaport, gigantic works,
canalisation to enable vessels of heavy tonnage to come up to the
Aventine; but these were mere delusions; the authorities would scarcely
be able to clear the river mouth, which deposits were continually
choking. And there was that other cause of mortal languishment, the
Campagna--the desert of death which the dead river crossed and which
girdled Rome with sterility. There was talk of draining and planting it;
much futile discussion on the question whether it had been fertile in the
days of the old Romans; and even a few experiments were made; but, all
the same, Rome remained in the midst of a vast cemetery like a city of
other times, for ever separated from the modern world by that /lande/ or
moor where the dust of centuries had accumulated. The geographical
considerations which once gave the city the empire of the world no longer
exist. The centre of civilisation has been displaced. The basin of the
Mediterranean has been divided among powerful nations. In Italy all roads
now lead to Milan, the city of industry and commerce, and Rome is but a
town of passage. And so the most valiant efforts have failed to rouse it
from its invincible slumber. The capital which the newcomers sought to
improvise with such extreme haste has remained unfinished, and has almost
ruined the nation. The Government, legislators, and functionaries only
camp there, fleeing directly the warm weather sets in so as to escape the
pernicious climate. The hotels and shops even put up their shutters, and
the streets and promenades become deserts, the city having failed to
acquire any life of its own, and relapsing into death as soon as the
artificial life instilled into it is withdrawn. So all remains in
suspense in this purely decorative capital, where only a fresh growth of
men and money can finish and people the huge useless piles of the new
districts. If it be true that to-morrow always blooms in the dust of the
past, one ought to force oneself to hope; but Pierre asked himself if the
soil were not exhausted, and since mere buildings could no longer grow on
it, if it were not for ever drained of the sap which makes a race
healthy, a nation powerful.

As the night advanced the lights in the houses of the Trastevere went out
one by one: yet Pierre for a long time lingered on the quay, leaning over
the blackened river and yielding to hopelessness. There was now no
distance to the gloom; all had become dense; no longer did any
reflections set a moire-like, golden quiver in the water, or reveal
beneath its mystery-concealing current a fantastic, dancing vision of
fabulous wealth. Gone was the legend, gone the seven-branched golden
candelabrum, gone the golden vases, gone the golden jewellery, the whole
dream of antique treasure that had vanished into night, even like the
antique glory of Rome. Not a glimmer, nothing but slumber, disturbed
solely by the heavy fall of sewage from the drain on the right-hand,
which could not be seen. The very water had disappeared, and Pierre no
longer espied its leaden flow through the darkness, no longer had any
perception of the sluggish senility, the long-dating weariness, the
intense sadness of that ancient and glorious Tiber, whose waters now
rolled nought but death. Only the vast, opulent sky, the eternal, pompous
sky displayed the dazzling life of its milliards of planets above that
river of darkness, bearing away the ruins of wellnigh three thousand

Before returning to his own chamber that evening Pierre entered Dario's
room, and found Victorine there preparing things for the night. And as
soon as she heard where he had been she raised her voice in protest:
"What! you have again been to the quay at this time of night, Monsieur
l'Abbe? You want to get a good knife thrust yourself, it seems. Well, for
my part, I certainly wouldn't take the air at such a late hour in this
dangerous city." Then, with her wonted familiarity, she turned and spoke
to the Prince, who was lying back in an arm-chair and smiling: "That
girl, La Pierina," she said, "hasn't been back here, but all the same
I've lately seen her prowling about among the building materials."

Dario raised his hand to silence her, and, addressing Pierre, exclaimed:
"But you spoke to her, didn't you? It's becoming idiotic! Just fancy that
brute Tito coming back to dig his knife into my other shoulder--"

All at once he paused, for he had just perceived Benedetta standing there
and listening to him; she had slipped into the room a moment previously
in order to wish him good-night. At sight of her his embarrassment was
great indeed; he wished to speak, explain his words, and swear that he
was wholly innocent in the affair. But she, with a smiling face,
contented herself with saying, "I knew all about it, Dario /mio/. I am
not so foolish as not to have thought it all over and understood the
truth. If I ceased questioning you it was because I knew, and loved you
all the same."

The young woman looked very happy as she spoke, and for this she had good
cause, for that very evening she had learnt that Monsignor Palma had
shown himself grateful for the service rendered to his nephew by laying a
fresh and favourable memoir on the marriage affair before the
Congregation of the Council. He had been unwilling to recall his previous
opinions so far as to range himself completely on the Contessina's side,
but the certificates of two doctors whom she had recently seen had
enabled him to conclude that her own declarations were accurate. And
gliding over the question of wifely obedience, on which he had previously
laid stress, he had skilfully set forth the reasons which made a
dissolution of the marriage desirable. No hope of reconciliation could be
entertained, so it was certain that both parties were constantly exposed
to temptation and sin. He discreetly alluded to the fact that the husband
had already succumbed to this danger, and praised the wife's lofty
morality and piety, all the virtues which she displayed, and which
guaranteed her veracity. Then, without formulating any conclusion of his
own, he left the decision to the wisdom of the Congregation. And as he
virtually repeated Advocate Morano's arguments, and Prada stubbornly
refused to enter an appearance, it now seemed certain that the
Congregation would by a great majority pronounce itself in favour of
dissolution, a result which would enable the Holy Father to act

"Ah! Dario /mio/!" said Benedetta, "we are at the end of our worries. But
what a lot of money, what a lot of money it all costs! Aunt says that
they will scarcely leave us water to drink."

So speaking she laughed with the happy heedlessness of an impassioned
/amorosa/. It was not that the jurisdiction of the Congregations was in
itself ruinous; indeed, in principle, it was gratuitous. Still there were
a multitude of petty expenses, payments to subaltern employees, payments
for medical consultations and certificates, copies of documents, and the
memoirs and addresses of counsel. And although the votes of the cardinals
were certainly not bought direct, some of them ended by costing
considerable sums, for it often became necessary to win over dependants,
to induce quite a little world to bring influence to bear upon their
Eminences; without mentioning that large pecuniary gifts, when made with
tact, have a decisive effect in clearing away the greatest difficulties
in that sphere of the Vatican. And, briefly, Monsignor Palma's nephew by
marriage had cost the Boccaneras a large sum.

"But it doesn't matter, does it, Dario /mio/?" continued Benedetta.
"Since you are now cured, they must make haste to give us permission to
marry. That's all we ask of them. And if they want more, well, I'll give
them my pearls, which will be all I shall have left me."

He also laughed, for money had never held any place in his life. He had
never had it at his pleasure, and simply hoped that he would always live
with his uncle the cardinal, who would certainly not leave him and his
young wife in the streets. Ruined as the family was, one or two hundred
thousand francs represented nothing to his mind, and he had heard that
certain dissolutions of marriage had cost as much as half a million. So,
by way of response, he could only find a jest: "Give them my ring as
well," said he; "give them everything, my dear, and we shall still be
happy in this old palace even if we have to sell the furniture!"

His words filled her with enthusiasm; she took his head between both
hands and kissed him madly on the eyes in an extraordinary transport of
passion. Then, suddenly turning to Pierre, she said: "Oh! excuse me,
Monsieur l'Abbe. I was forgetting that I have a commission for you. Yes,
Monsignor Nani, who brought us that good news, bade me tell you that you
are making people forget you too much, and that you ought to set to work
to defend your book."

The priest listened in astonishment; then replied: "But it was he who
advised me to disappear."

"No doubt--only it seems that the time has now come for you to see people
and plead your cause. And Monsignor Nani has been able to learn that the
reporter appointed to examine your book is Monsignor Fornaro, who lives
on the Piazza Navona."

Pierre's stupefaction was increasing, for a reporter's name is never
divulged, but kept quite secret, in order to ensure a free exercise of
judgment. Was a new phase of his sojourn in Rome about to begin then? His
mind was all wonderment. However, he simply answered: "Very good, I will
set to work and see everybody."

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome, Volume 3" ***

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