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Title: The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome, Volume 1
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 1" ***

                          THE THREE CITIES



                            EMILE ZOLA



IN submitting to the English-speaking public this second volume of M.
Zola's trilogy "Lourdes, Rome, Paris," I have no prefatory remarks to
offer on behalf of the author, whose views on Rome, its past, present,
and future, will be found fully expounded in the following pages. That a
book of this character will, like its forerunner "Lourdes," provoke
considerable controversy is certain, but comment or rejoinder may well be
postponed until that controversy has arisen. At present then I only
desire to say, that in spite of the great labour which I have bestowed on
this translation, I am sensible of its shortcomings, and in a work of
such length, such intricacy, and such a wide range of subject, it will
not be surprising if some slips are discovered. Any errors which may be
pointed out to me, however, shall be rectified in subsequent editions. I
have given, I think, the whole essence of M. Zola's text; but he himself
has admitted to me that he has now and again allowed his pen to run away
with him, and thus whilst sacrificing nothing of his sense I have at
times abbreviated his phraseology so as slightly to condense the book. I
may add that there are no chapter headings in the original, and that the
circumstances under which the translation was made did not permit me to
supply any whilst it was passing through the press; however, as some
indication of the contents of the book--which treats of many more things
than are usually found in novels--may be a convenience to the reader, I
have prepared a table briefly epitomising the chief features of each
successive chapter.

                                                         E. A. V.

          April, 1896.


"NEW ROME"--Abbe Froment in the Eternal City--His First Impressions--His
Book and the Rejuvenation of Christianity

"BLACK MOUTH, RED SOUL"--The Boccaneras, their Mansion, Ancestors,
History, and Friends

ROMANS OF THE CHURCH--Cardinals Boccanera and Sanguinetti--Abbes
Paparelli and Santobono--Don Vigilio--Monsignor Nani


ROMANS OF NEW ITALY--The Pradas and the Saccos--The Corso and the Pincio

THE BLOOD OF AUGUSTUS--The Palaces of the Caesars--The Capitol--The
Forum--The Appian Way--The Campagna--The Catacombs--St. Peter's.

VENUS AND HERCULES--The Vatican--The Sixtine Chapel--Michael Angelo and
Raffaelle--Botticelli and Bernini--Gods and Goddesses--The Gardens--Leo
XIII--The Revolt of Passion


PRINCE AND PONTIFF--The International Pilgrimage--The Papal Revenue--A
Function at St. Peter's--The Pope-King--The Temporal Power

THE POOR AND THE POPE--The Building Mania--The Financial Crash--The
Horrors of the Castle Fields--The Roman Workman--May Christ's Vicar
Gamble?--Hopes and Fears of the Papacy

TITO's WARNING--Aspects of Rome--The Via Giulia--The Tiber by Day--The
Gardens--The Villa Medici---The Squares--The Fountains--Poussin and the
Campagna--The Campo Verano--The Trastevere--The "Palaces"--Aristocracy,
Middle Class, Democracy--The Tiber by Night


FROM PILLAR TO POST--The Propaganda--The Index--Dominicans, Jesuits,
Franciscans--The Secular Clergy--Roman Worship--Freemasonry--Cardinal
Vicar and Cardinal Secretary--The Inquisition.

POISON!--Frascati--A Cardinal and his Creature--Albano, Castel Gandolfo,
Nemi--Across the Campagna--An Osteria--Destiny on the March

THE AGONY OF PASSION--A Roman Gala--The Buongiovannis--The Grey
World--The Triumph of Benedetta--King Humbert and Queen Margherita--The
Fig-tree of Judas

DESTINY!--A Happy Morning--The Mid-day Meal--Dario and the Figs--Extreme
Unction--Benedetta's Curse--The Lovers' Death


SUBMISSION--The Vatican by Night--The Papal Anterooms--Some Great
Popes--His Holiness's Bed-room--Pierre's Reception--Papal Wrath--Pierre's
Appeal--The Pope's Policy--Dogma and Lourdes--Pierre Reprobates his Book

A HOUSE OF MOURNING--Lying in State--Mother and Son--Princess and
Work-girl--Nani the Jesuit--Rival Cardinals--The Pontiff of Destruction

JUDGMENT--Pierre and Orlando--Italian Rome--Wanted, a Democracy--Italy
and France--The Rome of the Anarchists--The Agony of Guilt--A
Botticelli--The Papacy Condemned--The Coming Schism--The March of
Science--The Destruction of Rome--The Victory of Reason--Justice not
Charity--Departure--The March of Civilisation--One Fatherland for All


                               PART I


THE train had been greatly delayed during the night between Pisa and
Civita Vecchia, and it was close upon nine o'clock in the morning when,
after a fatiguing journey of twenty-five hours' duration, Abbe Pierre
Froment at last reached Rome. He had brought only a valise with him, and,
springing hastily out of the railway carriage amidst the scramble of the
arrival, he brushed the eager porters aside, intent on carrying his
trifling luggage himself, so anxious was he to reach his destination, to
be alone, and look around him. And almost immediately, on the Piazza dei
Cinquecento, in front of the railway station, he climbed into one of the
small open cabs ranged alongside the footwalk, and placed the valise near
him after giving the driver this address:

"Via Giulia, Palazzo Boccanera."*

  * Boccanera mansion, Julia Street.

It was a Monday, the 3rd of September, a beautifully bright and mild
morning, with a clear sky overhead. The cabby, a plump little man with
sparkling eyes and white teeth, smiled on realising by Pierre's accent
that he had to deal with a French priest. Then he whipped up his lean
horse, and the vehicle started off at the rapid pace customary to the
clean and cheerful cabs of Rome. However, on reaching the Piazza delle
Terme, after skirting the greenery of a little public garden, the man
turned round, still smiling, and pointing to some ruins with his whip,

"The baths of Diocletian," said he in broken French, like an obliging
driver who is anxious to court favour with foreigners in order to secure
their custom.

Then, at a fast trot, the vehicle descended the rapid slope of the Via
Nazionale, which dips down from the summit of the Viminalis,* where the
railway station is situated. And from that moment the driver scarcely
ceased turning round and pointing at the monuments with his whip. In this
broad new thoroughfare there were only buildings of recent erection.
Still, the wave of the cabman's whip became more pronounced and his voice
rose to a higher key, with a somewhat ironical inflection, when he gave
the name of a huge and still chalky pile on his left, a gigantic erection
of stone, overladen with sculptured work-pediments and statues.

  * One of the seven hills on which Rome is built. The other six
    are the Capitoline, Aventine, Quirinal, Esquiline, Coelian,
    and Palatine. These names will perforce frequently occur in
    the present narrative.

"The National Bank!" he said.

Pierre, however, during the week which had followed his resolve to make
the journey, had spent wellnigh every day in studying Roman topography in
maps and books. Thus he could have directed his steps to any given spot
without inquiring his way, and he anticipated most of the driver's
explanations. At the same time he was disconcerted by the sudden slopes,
the perpetually recurring hills, on which certain districts rose, house
above house, in terrace fashion. On his right-hand clumps of greenery
were now climbing a height, and above them stretched a long bare yellow
building of barrack or convent-like aspect.

"The Quirinal, the King's palace," said the driver.

Lower down, as the cab turned across a triangular square, Pierre, on
raising his eyes, was delighted to perceive a sort of aerial garden high
above him--a garden which was upheld by a lofty smooth wall, and whence
the elegant and vigorous silhouette of a parasol pine, many centuries
old, rose aloft into the limpid heavens. At this sight he realised all
the pride and grace of Rome.

"The Villa Aldobrandini," the cabman called.

Then, yet lower down, there came a fleeting vision which decisively
impassioned Pierre. The street again made a sudden bend, and in one
corner, beyond a short dim alley, there was a blazing gap of light. On a
lower level appeared a white square, a well of sunshine, filled with a
blinding golden dust; and amidst all that morning glory there arose a
gigantic marble column, gilt from base to summit on the side which the
sun in rising had laved with its beams for wellnigh eighteen hundred
years. And Pierre was surprised when the cabman told him the name of the
column, for in his mind he had never pictured it soaring aloft in such a
dazzling cavity with shadows all around. It was the column of Trajan.

The Via Nazionale turned for the last time at the foot of the slope. And
then other names fell hastily from the driver's lips as his horse went on
at a fast trot. There was the Palazzo Colonna, with its garden edged by
meagre cypresses; the Palazzo Torlonia, almost ripped open by recent
"improvements"; the Palazzo di Venezia, bare and fearsome, with its
crenelated walls, its stern and tragic appearance, that of some fortress
of the middle ages, forgotten there amidst the commonplace life of
nowadays. Pierre's surprise increased at the unexpected aspect which
certain buildings and streets presented; and the keenest blow of all was
dealt him when the cabman with his whip triumphantly called his attention
to the Corso, a long narrow thoroughfare, about as broad as Fleet
Street,* white with sunshine on the left, and black with shadows on the
right, whilst at the far end the Piazza del Popolo (the Square of the
People) showed like a bright star. Was this, then, the heart of the city,
the vaunted promenade, the street brimful of life, whither flowed all the
blood of Rome?

  * M. Zola likens the Corso to the Rue St. Honore in Paris, but
    I have thought that an English comparison would be preferable
    in the present version.--Trans.

However, the cab was already entering the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which
follows the Via Nazionale, these being the two piercings effected right
across the olden city from the railway station to the bridge of St.
Angelo. On the left-hand the rounded apsis of the Gesu church looked
quite golden in the morning brightness. Then, between the church and the
heavy Altieri palace which the "improvers" had not dared to demolish, the
street became narrower, and one entered into cold, damp shade. But a
moment afterwards, before the facade of the Gesu, when the square was
reached, the sun again appeared, dazzling, throwing golden sheets of
light around; whilst afar off at the end of the Via di Ara Coeli, steeped
in shadow, a glimpse could be caught of some sunlit palm-trees.

"That's the Capitol yonder," said the cabman.

The priest hastily leant to the left, but only espied the patch of
greenery at the end of the dim corridor-like street. The sudden
alternations of warm light and cold shade made him shiver. In front of
the Palazzo di Venezia, and in front of the Gesu, it had seemed to him as
if all the night of ancient times were falling icily upon his shoulders;
but at each fresh square, each broadening of the new thoroughfares, there
came a return to light, to the pleasant warmth and gaiety of life. The
yellow sunflashes, in falling from the house fronts, sharply outlined the
violescent shadows. Strips of sky, very blue and very benign, could be
perceived between the roofs. And it seemed to Pierre that the air he
breathed had a particular savour, which he could not yet quite define,
but it was like that of fruit, and increased the feverishness which had
possessed him ever since his arrival.

The Corso Vittorio Emanuele is, in spite of its irregularity, a very fine
modern thoroughfare; and for a time Pierre might have fancied himself in
any great city full of huge houses let out in flats. But when he passed
before the Cancelleria,* Bramante's masterpiece, the typical monument of
the Roman Renascence, his astonishment came back to him and his mind
returned to the mansions which he had previously espied, those bare,
huge, heavy edifices, those vast cubes of stone-work resembling hospitals
or prisons. Never would he have imagined that the famous Roman "palaces"
were like that, destitute of all grace and fancy and external
magnificence. However, they were considered very fine and must be so; he
would doubtless end by understanding things, but for that he would
require reflection.**

  * Formerly the residence of the Papal Vice-Chancellors.

  ** It is as well to point out at once that a palazzo is not a
     palace as we understand the term, but rather a mansion.--Trans.

All at once the cab turned out of the populous Corso Vittorio Emanuele
into a succession of winding alleys, through which it had difficulty in
making its way. Quietude and solitude now came back again; the olden
city, cold and somniferous, followed the new city with its bright
sunshine and its crowds. Pierre remembered the maps which he had
consulted, and realised that he was drawing near to the Via Giulia, and
thereupon his curiosity, which had been steadily increasing, augmented to
such a point that he suffered from it, full of despair at not seeing more
and learning more at once. In the feverish state in which he had found
himself ever since leaving the station, his astonishment at not finding
things such as he had expected, the many shocks that his imagination had
received, aggravated his passion beyond endurance, and brought him an
acute desire to satisfy himself immediately. Nine o'clock had struck but
a few minutes previously, he had the whole morning before him to repair
to the Boccanera palace, so why should he not at once drive to the
classic spot, the summit whence one perceives the whole of Rome spread
out upon her seven hills? And when once this thought had entered into his
mind it tortured him until he was at last compelled to yield to it.

The driver no longer turned his head, so that Pierre rose up to give him
this new address: "To San Pietro in Montorio!"

On hearing him the man at first looked astonished, unable to understand.
He indicated with his whip that San Pietro was yonder, far away. However,
as the priest insisted, he again smiled complacently, with a friendly nod
of his head. All right! For his own part he was quite willing.

The horse then went on at a more rapid pace through the maze of narrow
streets. One of these was pent between high walls, and the daylight
descended into it as into a deep trench. But at the end came a sudden
return to light, and the Tiber was crossed by the antique bridge of
Sixtus IV, right and left of which stretched the new quays, amidst the
ravages and fresh plaster-work of recent erections. On the other side of
the river the Trastevere district also was ripped open, and the vehicle
ascended the slope of the Janiculum by a broad thoroughfare where large
slabs bore the name of Garibaldi. For the last time the driver made a
gesture of good-natured pride as he named this triumphal route.

"Via Garibaldi!"

The horse had been obliged to slacken its pace, and Pierre, mastered by
childish impatience, turned round to look at the city as by degrees it
spread out and revealed itself behind him. The ascent was a long one;
fresh districts were ever rising up, even to the most distant hills.
Then, in the increasing emotion which made his heart beat, the young
priest felt that he was spoiling the contentment of his desire by thus
gradually satisfying it, slowly and but partially effecting his conquest
of the horizon. He wished to receive the shock full in the face, to
behold all Rome at one glance, to gather the holy city together, and
embrace the whole of it at one grasp. And thereupon he mustered
sufficient strength of mind to refrain from turning round any more, in
spite of the impulses of his whole being.

There is a spacious terrace on the summit of the incline. The church of
San Pietro in Montorio stands there, on the spot where, as some say, St.
Peter was crucified. The square is bare and brown, baked by the hot
summer suns; but a little further away in the rear, the clear and noisy
waters of the Acqua Paola fall bubbling from the three basins of a
monumental fountain amidst sempiternal freshness. And alongside the
terrace parapet, on the very crown of the Trastevere, there are always
rows of tourists, slim Englishmen and square-built Germans, agape with
traditional admiration, or consulting their guide-books in order to
identify the monuments.

Pierre sprang lightly from the cab, leaving his valise on the seat, and
making a sign to the driver, who went to join the row of waiting cabs,
and remained philosophically seated on his box in the full sunlight, his
head drooping like that of his horse, both resigning themselves to the
customary long stoppage.

Meantime Pierre, erect against the parapet, in his tight black cassock,
and with his bare feverish hands nervously clenched, was gazing before
him with all his eyes, with all his soul. Rome! Rome! the city of the
Caesars, the city of the Popes, the Eternal City which has twice
conquered the world, the predestined city of the glowing dream in which
he had indulged for months! At last it was before him, at last his eyes
beheld it! During the previous days some rainstorms had abated the
intense August heat, and on that lovely September morning the air had
freshened under the pale blue of the spotless far-spreading heavens. And
the Rome that Pierre beheld was a Rome steeped in mildness, a visionary
Rome which seemed to evaporate in the clear sunshine. A fine bluey haze,
scarcely perceptible, as delicate as gauze, hovered over the roofs of the
low-lying districts; whilst the vast Campagna, the distant hills, died
away in a pale pink flush. At first Pierre distinguished nothing, sought
no particular edifice or spot, but gave sight and soul alike to the whole
of Rome, to the living colossus spread out below him, on a soil
compounded of the dust of generations. Each century had renewed the
city's glory as with the sap of immortal youth. And that which struck
Pierre, that which made his heart leap within him, was that he found Rome
such as he had desired to find her, fresh and youthful, with a volatile,
almost incorporeal, gaiety of aspect, smiling as at the hope of a new
life in the pure dawn of a lovely day.

And standing motionless before the sublime vista, with his hands still
clenched and burning, Pierre in a few minutes again lived the last three
years of his life. Ah! what a terrible year had the first been, spent in
his little house at Neuilly, with doors and windows ever closed,
burrowing there like some wounded animal suffering unto death. He had
come back from Lourdes with his soul desolate, his heart bleeding, with
nought but ashes within him. Silence and darkness fell upon the ruins of
his love and his faith. Days and days went by, without a pulsation of his
veins, without the faintest gleam arising to brighten the gloom of his
abandonment. His life was a mechanical one; he awaited the necessary
courage to resume the tenor of existence in the name of sovereign reason,
which had imposed upon him the sacrifice of everything. Why was he not
stronger, more resistant, why did he not quietly adapt his life to his
new opinions? As he was unwilling to cast off his cassock, through
fidelity to the love of one and disgust of backsliding, why did he not
seek occupation in some science suited to a priest, such as astronomy or
archaeology? The truth was that something, doubtless his mother's spirit,
wept within him, an infinite, distracted love which nothing had yet
satisfied and which ever despaired of attaining contentment. Therein lay
the perpetual suffering of his solitude: beneath the lofty dignity of
reason regained, the wound still lingered, raw and bleeding.

One autumn evening, however, under a dismal rainy sky, chance brought him
into relations with an old priest, Abbe Rose, who was curate at the
church of Ste. Marguerite, in the Faubourg St. Antoine. He went to see
Abbe Rose in the Rue de Charonne, where in the depths of a damp ground
floor he had transformed three rooms into an asylum for abandoned
children, whom he picked up in the neighbouring streets. And from that
moment Pierre's life changed, a fresh and all-powerful source of interest
had entered into it, and by degrees he became the old priest's passionate
helper. It was a long way from Neuilly to the Rue de Charonne, and at
first he only made the journey twice a week. But afterwards he bestirred
himself every day, leaving home in the morning and not returning until
night. As the three rooms no longer sufficed for the asylum, he rented
the first floor of the house, reserving for himself a chamber in which
ultimately he often slept. And all his modest income was expended there,
in the prompt succouring of poor children; and the old priest, delighted,
touched to tears by the young devoted help which had come to him from
heaven, would often embrace Pierre, weeping, and call him a child of God.

It was then that Pierre knew want and wretchedness--wicked, abominable
wretchedness; then that he lived amidst it for two long years. The
acquaintance began with the poor little beings whom he picked up on the
pavements, or whom kind-hearted neighbours brought to him now that the
asylum was known in the district--little boys, little girls, tiny mites
stranded on the streets whilst their fathers and mothers were toiling,
drinking, or dying. The father had often disappeared, the mother had gone
wrong, drunkenness and debauchery had followed slack times into the home;
and then the brood was swept into the gutter, and the younger ones half
perished of cold and hunger on the footways, whilst their elders betook
themselves to courses of vice and crime. One evening Pierre rescued from
the wheels of a stone-dray two little nippers, brothers, who could not
even give him an address, tell him whence they had come. On another
evening he returned to the asylum with a little girl in his arms, a
fair-haired little angel, barely three years old, whom he had found on a
bench, and who sobbed, saying that her mother had left her there. And by
a logical chain of circumstances, after dealing with the fleshless,
pitiful fledglings ousted from their nests, he came to deal with the
parents, to enter their hovels, penetrating each day further and further
into a hellish sphere, and ultimately acquiring knowledge of all its
frightful horror, his heart meantime bleeding, rent by terrified anguish
and impotent charity.

Oh! the grievous City of Misery, the bottomless abyss of human suffering
and degradation--how frightful were his journeys through it during those
two years which distracted his whole being! In that Ste. Marguerite
district of Paris, in the very heart of that Faubourg St. Antoine, so
active and so brave for work, however hard, he discovered no end of
sordid dwellings, whole lanes and alleys of hovels without light or air,
cellar-like in their dampness, and where a multitude of wretches wallowed
and suffered as from poison. All the way up the shaky staircases one's
feet slipped upon filth. On every story there was the same destitution,
dirt, and promiscuity. Many windows were paneless, and in swept the wind
howling, and the rain pouring torrentially. Many of the inmates slept on
the bare tiled floors, never unclothing themselves. There was neither
furniture nor linen, the life led there was essentially an animal life, a
commingling of either sex and of every age--humanity lapsing into
animality through lack of even indispensable things, through indigence of
so complete a character that men, women, and children fought even with
tooth and nail for the very crumbs swept from the tables of the rich. And
the worst of it all was the degradation of the human being; this was no
case of the free naked savage, hunting and devouring his prey in the
primeval forests; here civilised man was found, sunk into brutishness,
with all the stigmas of his fall, debased, disfigured, and enfeebled,
amidst the luxury and refinement of that city of Paris which is one of
the queens of the world.

In every household Pierre heard the same story. There had been youth and
gaiety at the outset, brave acceptance of the law that one must work.
Then weariness had come; what was the use of always toiling if one were
never to get rich? And so, by way of snatching a share of happiness, the
husband turned to drink; the wife neglected her home, also drinking at
times, and letting the children grow up as they might. Sordid
surroundings, ignorance, and overcrowding did the rest. In the great
majority of cases, prolonged lack of work was mostly to blame; for this
not only empties the drawers of the savings hidden away in them, but
exhausts human courage, and tends to confirmed habits of idleness. During
long weeks the workshops empty, and the arms of the toilers lose
strength. In all Paris, so feverishly inclined to action, it is
impossible to find the slightest thing to do. And then the husband comes
home in the evening with tearful eyes, having vainly offered his arms
everywhere, having failed even to get a job at street-sweeping, for that
employment is much sought after, and to secure it one needs influence and
protectors. Is it not monstrous to see a man seeking work that he may
eat, and finding no work and therefore no food in this great city
resplendent and resonant with wealth? The wife does not eat, the children
do not eat. And then comes black famine, brutishness, and finally revolt
and the snapping of all social ties under the frightful injustice meted
out to poor beings who by their weakness are condemned to death. And the
old workman, he whose limbs have been worn out by half a century of hard
toil, without possibility of saving a copper, on what pallet of agony, in
what dark hole must he not sink to die? Should he then be finished off
with a mallet, like a crippled beast of burden, on the day when ceasing
to work he also ceases to eat? Almost all pass away in the hospitals,
others disappear, unknown, swept off by the muddy flow of the streets.
One morning, on some rotten straw in a loathsome hovel, Pierre found a
poor devil who had died of hunger and had been forgotten there for a
week. The rats had devoured his face.

But it was particularly on an evening of the last winter that Pierre's
heart had overflowed with pity. Awful in winter time are the sufferings
of the poor in their fireless hovels, where the snow penetrates by every
chink. The Seine rolls blocks of ice, the soil is frost-bound, in all
sorts of callings there is an enforced cessation of work. Bands of
urchins, barefooted, scarcely clad, hungry and racked by coughing, wander
about the ragpickers' "rents" and are carried off by sudden hurricanes of
consumption. Pierre found families, women with five and six children, who
had not eaten for three days, and who huddled together in heaps to try to
keep themselves warm. And on that terrible evening, before anybody else,
he went down a dark passage and entered a room of terror, where he found
that a mother had just committed suicide with her five little
ones--driven to it by despair and hunger--a tragedy of misery which for a
few hours would make all Paris shudder! There was not an article of
furniture or linen left in the place; it had been necessary to sell
everything bit by bit to a neighbouring dealer. There was nothing but the
stove where the charcoal was still smoking and a half-emptied palliasse
on which the mother had fallen, suckling her last-born, a babe but three
months old. And a drop of blood had trickled from the nipple of her
breast, towards which the dead infant still protruded its eager lips. Two
little girls, three and five years old, two pretty little blondes, were
also lying there, sleeping the eternal sleep side by side; whilst of the
two boys, who were older, one had succumbed crouching against the wall
with his head between his hands, and the other had passed through the
last throes on the floor, struggling as though he had sought to crawl on
his knees to the window in order to open it. Some neighbours, hurrying
in, told Pierre the fearful commonplace story; slow ruin, the father
unable to find work, perchance taking to drink, the landlord weary of
waiting, threatening the family with expulsion, and the mother losing her
head, thirsting for death, and prevailing on her little ones to die with
her, while her husband, who had been out since the morning, was vainly
scouring the streets. Just as the Commissary of Police arrived to verify
what had happened, the poor devil returned, and when he had seen and
understood things, he fell to the ground like a stunned ox, and raised a
prolonged, plaintive howl, such a poignant cry of death that the whole
terrified street wept at it.

Both in his ears and in his heart Pierre carried away with him that
horrible cry, the plaint of a condemned race expiring amidst abandonment
and hunger; and that night he could neither eat nor sleep. Was it
possible that such abomination, such absolute destitution, such black
misery leading straight to death should exist in the heart of that great
city of Paris, brimful of wealth, intoxicated with enjoyment, flinging
millions out of the windows for mere pleasure? What! there should on one
side be such colossal fortunes, so many foolish fancies gratified, with
lives endowed with every happiness, whilst on the other was found
inveterate poverty, lack even of bread, absence of every hope, and
mothers killing themselves with their babes, to whom they had nought to
offer but the blood of their milkless breast! And a feeling of revolt
stirred Pierre; he was for a moment conscious of the derisive futility of
charity. What indeed was the use of doing that which he did--picking up
the little ones, succouring the parents, prolonging the sufferings of the
aged? The very foundations of the social edifice were rotten; all would
soon collapse amid mire and blood. A great act of justice alone could
sweep the old world away in order that the new world might be built. And
at that moment he realised so keenly how irreparable was the breach, how
irremediable the evil, how deathly the cancer of misery, that he
understood the actions of the violent, and was himself ready to accept
the devastating and purifying whirlwind, the regeneration of the world by
flame and steel, even as when in the dim ages Jehovah in His wrath sent
fire from heaven to cleanse the accursed cities of the plains.

However, on hearing him sob that evening, Abbe Rose came up to
remonstrate in fatherly fashion. The old priest was a saint, endowed with
infinite gentleness and infinite hope. Why despair indeed when one had
the Gospel? Did not the divine commandment, "Love one another," suffice
for the salvation of the world? He, Abbe Rose, held violence in horror
and was wont to say that, however great the evil, it would soon be
overcome if humanity would but turn backward to the age of humility,
simplicity, and purity, when Christians lived together in innocent
brotherhood. What a delightful picture he drew of evangelical society, of
whose second coming he spoke with quiet gaiety as though it were to take
place on the very morrow! And Pierre, anxious to escape from his
frightful recollections, ended by smiling, by taking pleasure in Abbe
Rose's bright consoling tale. They chatted until a late hour, and on the
following days reverted to the same subject of conversation, one which
the old priest was very fond of, ever supplying new particulars, and
speaking of the approaching reign of love and justice with the touching
confidence of a good if simple man, who is convinced that he will not die
till he shall have seen the Deity descend upon earth.

And now a fresh evolution took place in Pierre's mind. The practice of
benevolence in that poor district had developed infinite compassion in
his breast, his heart failed him, distracted, rent by contemplation of
the misery which he despaired of healing. And in this awakening of his
feelings he often thought that his reason was giving way, he seemed to be
retracing his steps towards childhood, to that need of universal love
which his mother had implanted in him, and dreamt of chimerical
solutions, awaiting help from the unknown powers. Then his fears, his
hatred of the brutality of facts at last brought him an increasing desire
to work salvation by love. No time should be lost in seeking to avert the
frightful catastrophe which seemed inevitable, the fratricidal war of
classes which would sweep the old world away beneath the accumulation of
its crimes. Convinced that injustice had attained its apogee, that but
little time remained before the vengeful hour when the poor would compel
the rich to part with their possessions, he took pleasure in dreaming of
a peaceful solution, a kiss of peace exchanged by all men, a return to
the pure morals of the Gospel as it had been preached by Jesus.

Doubts tortured him at the outset. Could olden Catholicism be
rejuvenated, brought back to the youth and candour of primitive
Christianity? He set himself to study things, reading and questioning,
and taking a more and more passionate interest in that great problem of
Catholic socialism which had made no little noise for some years past.
And quivering with pity for the wretched, ready as he was for the miracle
of fraternisation, he gradually lost such scruples as intelligence might
have prompted, and persuaded himself that once again Christ would work
the redemption of suffering humanity. At last a precise idea took
possession of him, a conviction that Catholicism purified, brought back
to its original state, would prove the one pact, the supreme law that
might save society by averting the sanguinary crisis which threatened it.

When he had quitted Lourdes two years previously, revolted by all its
gross idolatry, his faith for ever dead, but his mind worried by the
everlasting need of the divine which tortures human creatures, a cry had
arisen within him from the deepest recesses of his being: "A new
religion! a new religion!" And it was this new religion, or rather this
revived religion which he now fancied he had discovered in his desire to
work social salvation--ensuring human happiness by means of the only
moral authority that was erect, the distant outcome of the most admirable
implement ever devised for the government of nations.

During the period of slow development through which Pierre passed, two
men, apart from Abbe Rose, exercised great influence on him. A benevolent
action brought him into intercourse with Monseigneur Bergerot, a bishop
whom the Pope had recently created a cardinal, in reward for a whole life
of charity, and this in spite of the covert opposition of the papal
/curia/ which suspected the French prelate to be a man of open mind,
governing his diocese in paternal fashion. Pierre became more impassioned
by his intercourse with this apostle, this shepherd of souls, in whom he
detected one of the good simple leaders that he desired for the future
community. However, his apostolate was influenced even more decisively by
meeting Viscount Philibert de la Choue at the gatherings of certain
workingmen's Catholic associations. A handsome man, with military
manners, and a long noble-looking face, spoilt by a small and broken nose
which seemed to presage the ultimate defeat of a badly balanced mind, the
Viscount was one of the most active agitators of Catholic socialism in
France. He was the possessor of vast estates, a vast fortune, though it
was said that some unsuccessful agricultural enterprises had already
reduced his wealth by nearly one-half. In the department where his
property was situated he had been at great pains to establish model
farms, at which he had put his ideas on Christian socialism into
practice, but success did not seem to follow him. However, it had all
helped to secure his election as a deputy, and he spoke in the Chamber,
unfolding the programme of his party in long and stirring speeches.

Unwearying in his ardour, he also led pilgrimages to Rome, presided over
meetings, and delivered lectures, devoting himself particularly to the
people, the conquest of whom, so he privately remarked, could alone
ensure the triumph of the Church. And thus he exercised considerable
influence over Pierre, who in him admired qualities which himself did not
possess--an organising spirit and a militant if somewhat blundering will,
entirely applied to the revival of Christian society in France. However,
though the young priest learnt a good deal by associating with him, he
nevertheless remained a sentimental dreamer, whose imagination,
disdainful of political requirements, straightway winged its flight to
the future abode of universal happiness; whereas the Viscount aspired to
complete the downfall of the liberal ideas of 1789 by utilising the
disillusion and anger of the democracy to work a return towards the past.

Pierre spent some delightful months. Never before had neophyte lived so
entirely for the happiness of others. He was all love, consumed by the
passion of his apostolate. The sight of the poor wretches whom he
visited, the men without work, the women, the children without bread,
filled him with a keener and keener conviction that a new religion must
arise to put an end to all the injustice which otherwise would bring the
rebellious world to a violent death. And he was resolved to employ all
his strength in effecting and hastening the intervention of the divine,
the resuscitation of primitive Christianity. His Catholic faith remained
dead; he still had no belief in dogmas, mysteries, and miracles; but a
hope sufficed him, the hope that the Church might still work good, by
connecting itself with the irresistible modern democratic movement, so as
to save the nations from the social catastrophe which impended. His soul
had grown calm since he had taken on himself the mission of replanting
the Gospel in the hearts of the hungry and growling people of the
Faubourgs. He was now leading an active life, and suffered less from the
frightful void which he had brought back from Lourdes; and as he no
longer questioned himself, the anguish of uncertainty no longer tortured
him. It was with the serenity which attends the simple accomplishment of
duty that he continued to say his mass. He even finished by thinking that
the mystery which he thus celebrated--indeed, that all the mysteries and
all the dogmas were but symbols--rites requisite for humanity in its
childhood, which would be got rid of later on, when enlarged, purified,
and instructed humanity should be able to support the brightness of naked

And in his zealous desire to be useful, his passion to proclaim his
belief aloud, Pierre one morning found himself at his table writing a
book. This had come about quite naturally; the book proceeded from him
like a heart-cry, without any literary idea having crossed his mind. One
night, whilst he lay awake, its title suddenly flashed before his eyes in
the darkness: "NEW ROME." That expressed everything, for must not the new
redemption of the nations originate in eternal and holy Rome? The only
existing authority was found there; rejuvenescence could only spring from
the sacred soil where the old Catholic oak had grown. He wrote his book
in a couple of months, having unconsciously prepared himself for the work
by his studies in contemporary socialism during a year past. There was a
bubbling flow in his brain as in a poet's; it seemed to him sometimes as
if he dreamt those pages, as if an internal distant voice dictated them
to him.

When he read passages written on the previous day to Viscount Philibert
de la Choue, the latter often expressed keen approval of them from a
practical point of view, saying that one must touch the people in order
to lead them, and that it would also be a good plan to compose pious and
yet amusing songs for singing in the workshops. As for Monseigneur
Bergerot, without examining the book from the dogmatic standpoint, he was
deeply touched by the glowing breath of charity which every page exhaled,
and was even guilty of the imprudence of writing an approving letter to
the author, which letter he authorised him to insert in his work by way
of preface. And yet now the Congregation of the Index Expurgatorius was
about to place this book, issued in the previous June, under interdict;
and it was to defend it that the young priest had hastened to Rome,
inflamed by the desire to make his ideas prevail, and resolved to plead
his cause in person before the Holy Father, having, he was convinced of
it, simply given expression to the pontiff's views.

Pierre had not stirred whilst thus living his three last years afresh: he
still stood erect before the parapet, before Rome, which he had so often
dreamt of and had so keenly desired to see. There was a constant
succession of arriving and departing vehicles behind him; the slim
Englishmen and the heavy Germans passed away after bestowing on the
classic view the five minutes prescribed by their guidebooks; whilst the
driver and the horse of Pierre's cab remained waiting complacently, each
with his head drooping under the bright sun, which was heating the valise
on the seat of the vehicle. And Pierre, in his black cassock, seemed to
have grown slimmer and elongated, very slight of build, as he stood there
motionless, absorbed in the sublime spectacle. He had lost flesh after
his journey to Lourdes, his features too had become less pronounced.
Since his mother's part in his nature had regained ascendency, the broad,
straight forehead, the intellectual air which he owed to his father
seemed to have grown less conspicuous, while his kind and somewhat large
mouth, and his delicate chin, bespeaking infinite affection, dominated,
revealing his soul, which also glowed in the kindly sparkle of his eyes.

Ah! how tender and glowing were the eyes with which he gazed upon the
Rome of his book, the new Rome that he had dreamt of! If, first of all,
the /ensemble/ had claimed his attention in the soft and somewhat veiled
light of that lovely morning, at present he could distinguish details,
and let his glance rest upon particular edifices. And it was with
childish delight that he identified them, having long studied them in
maps and collections of photographs. Beneath his feet, at the bottom of
the Janiculum, stretched the Trastevere district with its chaos of old
ruddy houses, whose sunburnt tiles hid the course of the Tiber. He was
somewhat surprised by the flattish aspect of everything as seen from the
terraced summit. It was as though a bird's-eye view levelled the city,
the famous hills merely showing like bosses, swellings scarcely
perceptible amidst the spreading sea of house-fronts. Yonder, on the
right, distinct against the distant blue of the Alban mountains, was
certainly the Aventine with its three churches half-hidden by foliage;
there, too, was the discrowned Palatine, edged as with black fringe by a
line of cypresses. In the rear, the Coelian hill faded away, showing only
the trees of the Villa Mattei paling in the golden sunshine. The slender
spire and two little domes of Sta. Maria Maggiore alone indicated the
summit of the Esquiline, right in front and far away at the other end of
the city; whilst on the heights of the neighbouring Viminal, Pierre only
perceived a confused mass of whitish blocks, steeped in light and
streaked with fine brown lines--recent erections, no doubt, which at that
distance suggested an abandoned stone quarry. He long sought the Capitol
without being able to discover it; he had to take his bearings, and ended
by convincing himself that the square tower, modestly lost among
surrounding house-roofs, which he saw in front of Sta. Maria Maggiore was
its campanile. Next, on the left, came the Quirinal, recognisable by the
long facade of the royal palace, a barrack or hospital-like facade, flat,
crudely yellow in hue, and pierced by an infinite number of regularly
disposed windows. However, as Pierre was completing the circuit, a sudden
vision made him stop short. Without the city, above the trees of the
Botanical Garden, the dome of St. Peter's appeared to him. It seemed to
be poised upon the greenery, and rose up into the pure blue sky, sky-blue
itself and so ethereal that it mingled with the azure of the infinite.
The stone lantern which surmounts it, white and dazzling, looked as
though it were suspended on high.

Pierre did not weary, and his glances incessantly travelled from one end
of the horizon to the other. They lingered on the noble outlines, the
proud gracefulness of the town-sprinkled Sabine and Alban mountains,
whose girdle limited the expanse. The Roman Campagna spread out in far
stretches, bare and majestic, like a desert of death, with the glaucous
green of a stagnant sea; and he ended by distinguishing "the stern round
tower" of the tomb of Cecilia Metella, behind which a thin pale line
indicated the ancient Appian Way. Remnants of aqueducts strewed the short
herbage amidst the dust of the fallen worlds. And, bringing his glance
nearer in, the city again appeared with its jumble of edifices, on which
his eyes lighted at random. Close at hand, by its loggia turned towards
the river, he recognised the huge tawny cube of the Palazzo Farnese. The
low cupola, farther away and scarcely visible, was probably that of the
Pantheon. Then by sudden leaps came the freshly whitened walls of San
Paolo-fuori-le-Mura,* similar to those of some huge barn, and the statues
crowning San Giovanni in Laterano, delicate, scarcely as big as insects.
Next the swarming of domes, that of the Gesu, that of San Carlo, that of
St'. Andrea della Valle, that of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini; then a
number of other sites and edifices, all quivering with memories, the
castle of St'. Angelo with its glittering statue of the Destroying Angel,
the Villa Medici dominating the entire city, the terrace of the Pincio
with its marbles showing whitely among its scanty verdure; and the
thick-foliaged trees of the Villa Borghese, whose green crests bounded
the horizon. Vainly however did Pierre seek the Colosseum.

  * St. Paul-beyond-the-walls.

The north wind, which was blowing very mildly, had now begun to dissipate
the morning haze. Whole districts vigorously disentangled themselves, and
showed against the vaporous distance like promontories in a sunlit sea.
Here and there, in the indistinct swarming of houses, a strip of white
wall glittered, a row of window panes flared, or a garden supplied a
black splotch, of wondrous intensity of hue. And all the rest, the medley
of streets and squares, the endless blocks of buildings, scattered about
on either hand, mingled and grew indistinct in the living glory of the
sun, whilst long coils of white smoke, which had ascended from the roofs,
slowly traversed the pure sky.

Guided by a secret influence, however, Pierre soon ceased to take
interest in all but three points of the mighty panorama. That line of
slender cypresses which set a black fringe on the height of the Palatine
yonder filled him with emotion: beyond it he saw only a void: the palaces
of the Caesars had disappeared, had fallen, had been razed by time; and
he evoked their memory, he fancied he could see them rise like vague,
trembling phantoms of gold amidst the purple of that splendid morning.
Then his glances reverted to St. Peter's, and there the dome yet soared
aloft, screening the Vatican which he knew was beside the colossus,
clinging to its flanks. And that dome, of the same colour as the heavens,
appeared so triumphant, so full of strength, so vast, that it seemed to
him like a giant king, dominating the whole city and seen from every spot
throughout eternity. Then he fixed his eyes on the height in front of
him, on the Quirinal, and there the King's palace no longer appeared
aught but a flat low barracks bedaubed with yellow paint.

And for him all the secular history of Rome, with its constant
convulsions and successive resurrections, found embodiment in that
symbolical triangle, in those three summits gazing at one another across
the Tiber. Ancient Rome blossoming forth in a piling up of palaces and
temples, the monstrous florescence of imperial power and splendour; Papal
Rome, victorious in the middle ages, mistress of the world, bringing that
colossal church, symbolical of beauty regained, to weigh upon all
Christendom; and the Rome of to-day, which he knew nothing of, which he
had neglected, and whose royal palace, so bare and so cold, brought him
disparaging ideas--the idea of some out-of-place, bureaucratic effort,
some sacrilegious attempt at modernity in an exceptional city which
should have been left entirely to the dreams of the future. However, he
shook off the almost painful feelings which the importunate present
brought to him, and would not let his eyes rest on a pale new district,
quite a little town, in course of erection, no doubt, which he could
distinctly see near St. Peter's on the margin of the river. He had dreamt
of his own new Rome, and still dreamt of it, even in front of the
Palatine whose edifices had crumbled in the dust of centuries, of the
dome of St. Peter's whose huge shadow lulled the Vatican to sleep, of the
Palace of the Quirinal repaired and repainted, reigning in homely fashion
over the new districts which swarmed on every side, while with its ruddy
roofs the olden city, ripped up by improvements, coruscated beneath the
bright morning sun.

Again did the title of his book, "NEW ROME," flare before Pierre's eyes,
and another reverie carried him off; he lived his book afresh even as he
had just lived his life. He had written it amid a flow of enthusiasm,
utilising the /data/ which he had accumulated at random; and its division
into three parts, past, present, and future, had at once forced itself
upon him.

The PAST was the extraordinary story of primitive Christianity, of the
slow evolution which had turned this Christianity into present-day
Catholicism. He showed that an economical question is invariably hidden
beneath each religious evolution, and that, upon the whole, the
everlasting evil, the everlasting struggle, has never been aught but one
between the rich and the poor. Among the Jews, when their nomadic life
was over, and they had conquered the land of Canaan, and ownership and
property came into being, a class warfare at once broke out. There were
rich, and there were poor; thence arose the social question. The
transition had been sudden, and the new state of things so rapidly went
from bad to worse that the poor suffered keenly, and protested with the
greater violence as they still remembered the golden age of the nomadic
life. Until the time of Jesus the prophets are but rebels who surge from
out the misery of the people, proclaim its sufferings, and vent their
wrath upon the rich, to whom they prophesy every evil in punishment for
their injustice and their harshness. Jesus Himself appears as the
claimant of the rights of the poor. The prophets, whether socialists or
anarchists, had preached social equality, and called for the destruction
of the world if it were unjust. Jesus likewise brings to the wretched
hatred of the rich. All His teaching threatens wealth and property; and
if by the Kingdom of Heaven which He promised one were to understand
peace and fraternity upon this earth, there would only be a question of
returning to a life of pastoral simplicity, to the dream of the Christian
community, such as after Him it would seem to have been realised by His
disciples. During the first three centuries each Church was an experiment
in communism, a real association whose members possessed all in
common--wives excepted. This is shown to us by the apologists and early
fathers of the Church. Christianity was then but the religion of the
humble and the poor, a form of democracy, of socialism struggling against
Roman society. And when the latter toppled over, rotted by money, it
succumbed far more beneath the results of frantic speculation, swindling
banks, and financial disasters, than beneath the onslaught of barbarian
hordes and the stealthy, termite-like working of the Christians.

The money question will always be found at the bottom of everything. And
a new proof of this was supplied when Christianity, at last triumphing by
virtue of historical, social, and human causes, was proclaimed a State
religion. To ensure itself complete victory it was forced to range itself
on the side of the rich and the powerful; and one should see by means of
what artfulness and sophistry the fathers of the Church succeeded in
discovering a defence of property and wealth in the Gospel of Jesus. All
this, however, was a vital political necessity for Christianity; it was
only at this price that it became Catholicism, the universal religion.
From that time forth the powerful machine, the weapon of conquest and
rule, was reared aloft: up above were the powerful and the wealthy, those
whose duty it was to share with the poor, but who did not do so; while
down below were the poor, the toilers, who were taught resignation and
obedience, and promised the kingdom of futurity, the divine and eternal
reward--an admirable monument which has lasted for ages, and which is
entirely based on the promise of life beyond life, on the
inextinguishable thirst for immortality and justice that consumes

Pierre had completed this first part of his book, this history of the
past, by a broad sketch of Catholicism until the present time. First
appeared St. Peter, ignorant and anxious, coming to Rome by an
inspiration of genius, there to fulfil the ancient oracles which had
predicted the eternity of the Capitol. Then came the first popes, mere
heads of burial associations, the slow rise of the all-powerful papacy
ever struggling to conquer the world, unremittingly seeking to realise
its dream of universal domination. At the time of the great popes of the
middle ages it thought for a moment that it had attained its goal, that
it was the sovereign master of the nations. Would not absolute truth and
right consist in the pope being both pontiff and ruler of the world,
reigning over both the souls and the bodies of all men, even like the
Deity whose vicar he is? This, the highest and mightiest of all
ambitions, one, too, that is perfectly logical, was attained by Augustus,
emperor and pontiff, master of all the known world; and it is the
glorious figure of Augustus, ever rising anew from among the ruins of
ancient Rome, which has always haunted the popes; it is his blood which
has pulsated in their veins.

But power had become divided into two parts amidst the crumbling of the
Roman empire; it was necessary to content oneself with a share, and leave
temporal government to the emperor, retaining over him, however, the
right of coronation by divine grant. The people belonged to God, and in
God's name the pope gave the people to the emperor, and could take it
from him; an unlimited power whose most terrible weapon was
excommunication, a superior sovereignty, which carried the papacy towards
real and final possession of the empire. Looking at things broadly, the
everlasting quarrel between the pope and the emperor was a quarrel for
the people, the inert mass of humble and suffering ones, the great silent
multitude whose irremediable wretchedness was only revealed by occasional
covert growls. It was disposed of, for its good, as one might dispose of
a child. Yet the Church really contributed to civilisation, rendered
constant services to humanity, diffused abundant alms. In the convents,
at any rate, the old dream of the Christian community was ever coming
back: one-third of the wealth accumulated for the purposes of worship,
the adornment and glorification of the shrine, one-third for the priests,
and one-third for the poor. Was not this a simplification of life, a
means of rendering existence possible to the faithful who had no earthly
desires, pending the marvellous contentment of heavenly life? Give us,
then, the whole earth, and we will divide terrestrial wealth into three
such parts, and you shall see what a golden age will reign amidst the
resignation and the obedience of all!

However, Pierre went on to show how the papacy was assailed by the
greatest dangers on emerging from its all-powerfulness of the middle
ages. It was almost swept away amidst the luxury and excesses of the
Renascence, the bubbling of living sap which then gushed from eternal
nature, downtrodden and regarded as dead for ages past. More threatening
still were the stealthy awakenings of the people, of the great silent
multitude whose tongue seemed to be loosening. The Reformation burst
forth like the protest of reason and justice, like a recall to the
disregarded truths of the Gospel; and to escape total annihilation Rome
needed the stern defence of the Inquisition, the slow stubborn labour of
the Council of Trent, which strengthened the dogmas and ensured the
temporal power. And then the papacy entered into two centuries of peace
and effacement, for the strong absolute monarchies which had divided
Europe among themselves could do without it, and had ceased to tremble at
the harmless thunderbolts of excommunication or to look on the pope as
aught but a master of ceremonies, controlling certain rites. The
possession of the people was no longer subject to the same rules.
Allowing that the kings still held the people from God, it was the pope's
duty to register the donation once for all, without ever intervening,
whatever the circumstances, in the government of states. Never was Rome
farther away from the realisation of its ancient dream of universal
dominion. And when the French Revolution burst forth, it may well have
been imagined that the proclamation of the rights of man would kill that
papacy to which the exercise of divine right over the nations had been
committed. And so how great at first was the anxiety, the anger, the
desperate resistance with which the Vatican opposed the idea of freedom,
the new /credo/ of liberated reason, of humanity regaining
self-possession and control. It was the apparent /denouement/ of the long
struggle between the pope and the emperor for possession of the people:
the emperor vanished, and the people, henceforward free to dispose of
itself, claimed to escape from the pope--an unforeseen solution, in which
it seemed as though all the ancient scaffolding of the Catholic world
must fall to the very ground.

At this point Pierre concluded the first part of his book by contrasting
primitive Christianity with present-day Catholicism, which is the triumph
of the rich and the powerful. That Roman society which Jesus had come to
destroy in the name of the poor and humble, had not Catholic Rome
steadily continued rebuilding it through all the centuries, by its policy
of cupidity and pride? And what bitter irony it was to find, after
eighteen hundred years of the Gospel, that the world was again collapsing
through frantic speculation, rotten banks, financial disasters, and the
frightful injustice of a few men gorged with wealth whilst thousands of
their brothers were dying of hunger! The whole redemption of the wretched
had to be worked afresh. However, Pierre gave expression to all these
terrible things in words so softened by charity, so steeped in hope, that
they lost their revolutionary danger. Moreover, he nowhere attacked the
dogmas. His book, in its sentimental, somewhat poetic form, was but the
cry of an apostle glowing with love for his fellow-men.

Then came the second part of the work, the PRESENT, a study of Catholic
society as it now exists. Here Pierre had painted a frightful picture of
the misery of the poor, the misery of a great city, which he knew so well
and bled for, through having laid his hands upon its poisonous wounds.
The present-day injustice could no longer be tolerated, charity was
becoming powerless, and so frightful was the suffering that all hope was
dying away from the hearts of the people. And was it not the monstrous
spectacle presented by Christendom, whose abominations corrupted the
people, and maddened it with hatred and vengeance, that had largely
destroyed its faith? However, after this picture of rotting and crumbling
society, Pierre returned to history, to the period of the French
Revolution, to the mighty hope with which the idea of freedom had filled
the world. The middle classes, the great Liberal party, on attaining
power had undertaken to bring happiness to one and all. But after a
century's experience it really seemed that liberty had failed to bring
any happiness whatever to the outcasts. In the political sphere illusions
were departing. At all events, if the reigning third estate declares
itself satisfied, the fourth estate, that of the toilers,* still suffers
and continues to demand its share of fortune. The working classes have
been proclaimed free; political equality has been granted them, but the
gift has been valueless, for economically they are still bound to
servitude, and only enjoy, as they did formerly, the liberty of dying of
hunger. All the socialist revendications have come from that; between
labour and capital rests the terrifying problem, the solution of which
threatens to sweep away society. When slavery disappeared from the olden
world to be succeeded by salaried employment the revolution was immense,
and certainly the Christian principle was one of the great factors in the
destruction of slavery. Nowadays, therefore, when the question is to
replace salaried employment by something else, possibly by the
participation of the workman in the profits of his work, why should not
Christianity again seek a new principle of action? The fatal and
proximate accession of the democracy means the beginning of another phase
in human history, the creation of the society of to-morrow. And Rome
cannot keep away from the arena; the papacy must take part in the quarrel
if it does not desire to disappear from the world like a piece of
mechanism that has become altogether useless.

  * In England we call the press the fourth estate, but in France
    and elsewhere the term is applied to the working classes, and
    in that sense must be taken here.--Trans.

Hence it followed that Catholic socialism was legitimate. On every side
the socialist sects were battling with their various solutions for the
privilege of ensuring the happiness of the people, and the Church also
must offer her solution of the problem. Here it was that New Rome
appeared, that the evolution spread into a renewal of boundless hope.
Most certainly there was nothing contrary to democracy in the principles
of the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed she had only to return to the
evangelical traditions, to become once more the Church of the humble and
the poor, to re-establish the universal Christian community. She is
undoubtedly of democratic essence, and if she sided with the rich and
the powerful when Christianity became Catholicism, she only did so
perforce, that she might live by sacrificing some portion of her
original purity; so that if to-day she should abandon the condemned
governing classes in order to make common cause with the multitude of
the wretched, she would simply be drawing nearer to Christ, thereby
securing a new lease of youth and purifying herself of all the political
compromises which she formerly was compelled to accept. Without
renouncing aught of her absolutism the Church has at all times known how
to bow to circumstances; but she reserves her perfect sovereignty,
simply tolerating that which she cannot prevent, and patiently waiting,
even through long centuries, for the time when she shall again become
the mistress of the world.

Might not that time come in the crisis which was now at hand? Once more,
all the powers are battling for possession of the people. Since the
people, thanks to liberty and education, has become strong, since it has
developed consciousness and will, and claimed its share of fortune, all
rulers have been seeking to attach it to themselves, to reign by it, and
even with it, should that be necessary. Socialism, therein lies the
future, the new instrument of government; and the kings tottering on
their thrones, the middle-class presidents of anxious republics, the
ambitious plotters who dream of power, all dabble in socialism! They all
agree that the capitalist organisation of the State is a return to pagan
times, to the olden slave-market; and they all talk of breaking for ever
the iron law by which the labour of human beings has become so much
merchandise, subject to supply and demand, with wages calculated on an
estimate of what is strictly necessary to keep a workman from dying of
hunger. And, down in the sphere below, the evil increases, the workmen
agonise with hunger and exasperation, while above them discussion still
goes on, systems are bandied about, and well-meaning persons exhaust
themselves in attempting to apply ridiculously inadequate remedies.
There is much stir without any progress, all the wild bewilderment which
precedes great catastrophes. And among the many, Catholic socialism,
quite as ardent as Revolutionary socialism, enters the lists and strives
to conquer.

After these explanations Pierre gave an account of the long efforts made
by Catholic socialism throughout the Christian world. That which
particularly struck one in this connection was that the warfare became
keener and more victorious whenever it was waged in some land of
propaganda, as yet not completely conquered by Roman Catholicism. For
instance, in the countries where Protestantism confronted the latter, the
priests fought with wondrous passion, as for dear life itself, contending
with the schismatical clergy for possession of the people by dint of
daring, by unfolding the most audacious democratic theories. In Germany,
the classic land of socialism, Mgr. Ketteler was one of the first to
speak of adequately taxing the rich; and later he fomented a wide-spread
agitation which the clergy now directs by means of numerous associations
and newspapers. In Switzerland Mgr. Mermillod pleaded the cause of the
poor so loudly that the bishops there now almost make common cause with
the democratic socialists, whom they doubtless hope to convert when the
day for sharing arrives. In England, where socialism penetrates so very
slowly, Cardinal Manning achieved considerable success, stood by the
working classes on the occasion of a famous strike, and helped on a
popular movement, which was signalised by numerous conversions. But it
was particularly in the United States of America that Catholic socialism
proved triumphant, in a sphere of democracy where the bishops, like Mgr.
Ireland, were forced to set themselves at the head of the working-class
agitation. And there across the Atlantic a new Church seems to be
germinating, still in confusion but overflowing with sap, and upheld by
intense hope, as at the aurora of the rejuvenated Christianity of

Passing thence to Austria and Belgium, both Catholic countries, one found
Catholic socialism mingling in the first instance with anti-semitism,
while in the second it had no precise sense. And all movement ceased and
disappeared when one came to Spain and Italy, those old lands of faith.
The former with its intractable bishops who contented themselves with
hurling excommunication at unbelievers as in the days of the Inquisition,
seemed to be abandoned to the violent theories of revolutionaries, whilst
Italy, immobilised in the traditional courses, remained without
possibility of initiative, reduced to silence and respect by the presence
of the Holy See. In France, however, the struggle remained keen, but it
was more particularly a struggle of ideas. On the whole, the war was
there being waged against the revolution, and to some it seemed as though
it would suffice to re-establish the old organisation of monarchical
times in order to revert to the golden age. It was thus that the question
of working-class corporations had become the one problem, the panacea for
all the ills of the toilers. But people were far from agreeing; some,
those Catholics who rejected State interference and favoured purely moral
action, desired that the corporations should be free; whilst others, the
young and impatient ones, bent on action, demanded that they should be
obligatory, each with capital of its own, and recognised and protected by
the State.

Viscount Philibert de la Choue had by pen and speech carried on a
vigorous campaign in favour of the obligatory corporations; and his great
grief was that he had so far failed to prevail on the Pope to say whether
in his opinion these corporations should be closed or open. According to
the Viscount, herein lay the fate of society, a peaceful solution of the
social question or the frightful catastrophe which must sweep everything
away. In reality, though he refused to own it, the Viscount had ended by
adopting State socialism. And, despite the lack of agreement, the
agitation remained very great; attempts, scarcely happy in their results,
were made; co-operative associations, companies for erecting workmen's
dwellings, popular savings' banks were started; many more or less
disguised efforts to revert to the old Christian community organisation
were tried; while day by day, amidst the prevailing confusion, in the
mental perturbation and political difficulties through which the country
passed, the militant Catholic party felt its hopes increasing, even to
the blind conviction of soon resuming sway over the whole world.

The second part of Pierre's book concluded by a picture of the moral and
intellectual uneasiness amidst which the end of the century is
struggling. While the toiling multitude suffers from its hard lot and
demands that in any fresh division of wealth it shall be ensured at least
its daily bread, the /elite/ is no better satisfied, but complains of the
void induced by the freeing of its reason and the enlargement of its
intelligence. It is the famous bankruptcy of rationalism, of positivism,
of science itself which is in question. Minds consumed by need of the
absolute grow weary of groping, weary of the delays of science which
recognises only proven truths; doubt tortures them, they need a complete
and immediate synthesis in order to sleep in peace; and they fall on
their knees, overcome by the roadside, distracted by the thought that
science will never tell them all, and preferring the Deity, the mystery
revealed and affirmed by faith. Even to-day, it must be admitted, science
calms neither our thirst for justice, our desire for safety, nor our
everlasting idea of happiness after life in an eternity of enjoyment. To
one and all it only brings the austere duty to live, to be a mere
contributor in the universal toil; and how well one can understand that
hearts should revolt and sigh for the Christian heaven, peopled with
lovely angels, full of light and music and perfumes! Ah! to embrace one's
dead, to tell oneself that one will meet them again, that one will live
with them once more in glorious immortality! And to possess the certainty
of sovereign equity to enable one to support the abominations of
terrestrial life! And in this wise to trample on the frightful thought of
annihilation, to escape the horror of the disappearance of the /ego/, and
to tranquillise oneself with that unshakable faith which postpones until
the portal of death be crossed the solution of all the problems of
destiny! This dream will be dreamt by the nations for ages yet. And this
it is which explains why, in these last days of the century, excessive
mental labour and the deep unrest of humanity, pregnant with a new world,
have awakened religious feeling, anxious, tormented by thoughts of the
ideal and the infinite, demanding a moral law and an assurance of
superior justice. Religions may disappear, but religious feelings will
always create new ones, even with the help of science. A new religion! a
new religion! Was it not the ancient Catholicism, which in the soil of
the present day, where all seemed conducive to a miracle, was about to
spring up afresh, throw out green branches and blossom in a young yet
mighty florescence?

At last, in the third part of his book and in the glowing language of an
apostle, Pierre depicted the FUTURE: Catholicism rejuvenated, and
bringing health and peace, the forgotten golden age of primitive
Christianity, back to expiring society. He began with an emotional and
sparkling portrait of Leo XIII, the ideal Pope, the Man of Destiny
entrusted with the salvation of the nations. He had conjured up a
presentment of him and beheld him thus in his feverish longing for the
advent of a pastor who should put an end to human misery. It was perhaps
not a close likeness, but it was a portrait of the needed saviour, with
open heart and mind, and inexhaustible benevolence, such as he had
dreamed. At the same time he had certainly searched documents, studied
encyclical letters, based his sketch upon facts: first Leo's religious
education at Rome, then his brief nunciature at Brussels, and afterwards
his long episcopate at Perugia. And as soon as Leo became pope in the
difficult situation bequeathed by Pius IX, the duality of his nature
appeared: on one hand was the firm guardian of dogmas, on the other the
supple politician resolved to carry conciliation to its utmost limits. We
see him flatly severing all connection with modern philosophy, stepping
backward beyond the Renascence to the middle ages and reviving Christian
philosophy, as expounded by "the angelic doctor," St. Thomas Aquinas, in
Catholic schools. Then the dogmas being in this wise sheltered, he
adroitly maintains himself in equilibrium by giving securities to every
power, striving to utilise every opportunity. He displays extraordinary
activity, reconciles the Holy See with Germany, draws nearer to Russia,
contents Switzerland, asks the friendship of Great Britain, and writes to
the Emperor of China begging him to protect the missionaries and
Christians in his dominions. Later on, too, he intervenes in France and
acknowledges the legitimacy of the Republic.

From the very outset an idea becomes apparent in all his actions, an idea
which will place him among the great papal politicians. It is moreover
the ancient idea of the papacy--the conquest of every soul, Rome capital
and mistress of the world. Thus Leo XIII has but one desire, one object,
that of unifying the Church, of drawing all the dissident communities to
it in order that it may be invincible in the coming social struggle. He
seeks to obtain recognition of the moral authority of the Vatican in
Russia; he dreams of disarming the Anglican Church and of drawing it into
a sort of fraternal truce; and he particularly seeks to come to an
understanding with the Schismatical Churches of the East, which he
regards as sisters, simply living apart, whose return his paternal heart
entreats. Would not Rome indeed dispose of victorious strength if she
exercised uncontested sway over all the Christians of the earth?

And here the social ideas of Leo XIII come in. Whilst yet Bishop of
Perugia he wrote a pastoral letter in which a vague humanitarian
socialism appeared. As soon, however, as he had assumed the triple crown
his opinions changed and he anathematised the revolutionaries whose
audacity was terrifying Italy. But almost at once he corrected himself,
warned by events and realising the great danger of leaving socialism in
the hands of the enemies of the Church. Then he listened to the bishops
of the lands of propaganda, ceased to intervene in the Irish quarrel,
withdrew the excommunications which he had launched against the American
"knights of labour," and would not allow the bold works of Catholic
socialist writers to be placed in the Index. This evolution towards
democracy may be traced through his most famous encyclical letters:
/Immortale Dei/, on the constitution of States; /Libertas/, on human
liberty; /Sapientoe/, on the duties of Christian citizens; /Rerum
novarum/, on the condition of the working classes; and it is particularly
this last which would seem to have rejuvenated the Church. The Pope
herein chronicles the undeserved misery of the toilers, the undue length
of the hours of labour, the insufficiency of salaries. All men have the
right to live, and all contracts extorted by threats of starvation are
unjust. Elsewhere he declares that the workman must not be left
defenceless in presence of a system which converts the misery of the
majority into the wealth of a few. Compelled to deal vaguely with
questions of organisation, he contents himself with encouraging the
corporative movement, placing it under State patronage; and after thus
contributing to restore the secular power, he reinstates the Deity on the
throne of sovereignty, and discerns the path to salvation more
particularly in moral measures, in the ancient respect due to family ties
and ownership. Nevertheless, was not the helpful hand which the august
Vicar of Christ thus publicly tendered to the poor and the humble, the
certain token of a new alliance, the announcement of a new reign of Jesus
upon earth? Thenceforward the people knew that it was not abandoned. And
from that moment too how glorious became Leo XIII, whose sacerdotal
jubilee and episcopal jubilee were celebrated by all Christendom amidst
the coming of a vast multitude, of endless offerings, and of flattering
letters from every sovereign!

Pierre next dealt with the question of the temporal power, and this he
thought he might treat freely. Naturally, he was not ignorant of the fact
that the Pope in his quarrel with Italy upheld the rights of the Church
over Rome as stubbornly as his predecessor; but he imagined that this was
merely a necessary conventional attitude, imposed by political
considerations, and destined to be abandoned when the times were ripe.
For his own part he was convinced that if the Pope had never appeared
greater than he did now, it was to the loss of the temporal power that he
owed it; for thence had come the great increase of his authority, the
pure splendour of moral omnipotence which he diffused.

What a long history of blunders and conflicts had been that of the
possession of the little kingdom of Rome during fifteen centuries!
Constantine quits Rome in the fourth century, only a few forgotten
functionaries remaining on the deserted Palatine, and the Pope naturally
rises to power, and the life of the city passes to the Lateran. However,
it is only four centuries later that Charlemagne recognises accomplished
facts and formally bestows the States of the Church upon the papacy. From
that time warfare between the spiritual power and the temporal powers has
never ceased; though often latent it has at times become acute, breaking
forth with blood and fire. And to-day, in the midst of Europe in arms, is
it not unreasonable to dream of the papacy ruling a strip of territory
where it would be exposed to every vexation, and where it could only
maintain itself by the help of a foreign army? What would become of it in
the general massacre which is apprehended? Is it not far more sheltered,
far more dignified, far more lofty when disentangled from all terrestrial
cares, reigning over the world of souls?

In the early times of the Church the papacy from being merely local,
merely Roman, gradually became catholicised, universalised, slowly
acquiring dominion over all Christendom. In the same way the Sacred
College, at first a continuation of the Roman Senate, acquired an
international character, and in our time has ended by becoming the most
cosmopolitan of assemblies, in which representatives of all the nations
have seats. And is it not evident that the Pope, thus leaning on the
cardinals, has become the one great international power which exercises
the greater authority since it is free from all monarchical interests,
and can speak not merely in the name of country but in that of humanity
itself? The solution so often sought amidst such long wars surely lies in
this: Either give the Pope the temporal sovereignty of the world, or
leave him only the spiritual sovereignty. Vicar of the Deity, absolute
and infallible sovereign by divine delegation, he can but remain in the
sanctuary if, ruler already of the human soul, he is not recognised by
every nation as the one master of the body also--the king of kings.

But what a strange affair was this new incursion of the papacy into the
field sown by the French Revolution, an incursion conducting it perhaps
towards the domination, which it has striven for with a will that has
upheld it for centuries! For now it stands alone before the people. The
kings are down. And as the people is henceforth free to give itself to
whomsoever it pleases, why should it not give itself to the Church? The
depreciation which the idea of liberty has certainly undergone renders
every hope permissible. The liberal party appears to be vanquished in the
sphere of economics. The toilers, dissatisfied with 1789 complain of the
aggravation of their misery, bestir themselves, seek happiness
despairingly. On the other hand the new /regimes/ have increased the
international power of the Church; Catholic members are numerous in the
parliaments of the republics and the constitutional monarchies. All
circumstances seem therefore to favour this extraordinary return of
fortune, Catholicism reverting to the vigour of youth in its old age.
Even science, remember, is accused of bankruptcy, a charge which saves
the /Syllabus/ from ridicule, troubles the minds of men, and throws the
limitless sphere of mystery and impossibility open once more. And then a
prophecy is recalled, a prediction that the papacy shall be mistress of
the world on the day when she marches at the head of the democracy after
reuniting the Schismatical Churches of the East to the Catholic,
Apostolic, and Roman Church. And, in Pierre's opinion, assuredly the
times had come since Pope Leo XIII, dismissing the great and the wealthy
of the world, left the kings driven from their thrones in exile to place
himself like Jesus on the side of the foodless toilers and the beggars of
the high roads. Yet a few more years, perhaps, of frightful misery,
alarming confusion, fearful social danger, and the people, the great
silent multitude which others have so far disposed of, will return to the
cradle, to the unified Church of Rome, in order to escape the destruction
which threatens human society.

Pierre concluded his book with a passionate evocation of New Rome, the
spiritual Rome which would soon reign over the nations, reconciled and
fraternising as in another golden age. Herein he even saw the end of
superstitions. Without making a direct attack on dogma, he allowed
himself to dream of an enlargement of religious feeling, freed from
rites, and absorbed in the one satisfaction of human charity. And still
smarting from his journey to Lourdes, he felt the need of contenting his
heart. Was not that gross superstition of Lourdes the hateful symptom of
the excessive suffering of the times? On the day when the Gospel should
be universally diffused and practised, suffering ones would cease seeking
an illusory relief so far away, assured as they would be of finding
assistance, consolation, and cure in their homes amidst their brothers.
At Lourdes there was an iniquitous displacement of wealth, a spectacle so
frightful as to make one doubt of God, a perpetual conflict which would
disappear in the truly Christian society of to-morrow. Ah! that society,
that Christian community, all Pierre's work ended in an ardent longing
for its speedy advent: Christianity becoming once more the religion of
truth and justice which it had been before it allowed itself to be
conquered by the rich and the powerful! The little ones and the poor ones
reigning, sharing the wealth of earth, and owing obedience to nought but
the levelling law of work! The Pope alone erect at the head of the
federation of nations, prince of peace, with the simple mission of
supplying the moral rule, the link of charity and love which was to unite
all men! And would not this be the speedy realisation of the promises of
Christ? The times were near accomplishment, secular and religious society
would mingle so closely that they would form but one; and it would be the
age of triumph and happiness predicted by all the prophets, no more
struggles possible, no more antagonism between the mind and the body, but
a marvellous equilibrium which would kill evil and set the kingdom of
heaven upon earth. New Rome, the centre of the world, bestowing on the
world the new religion!

Pierre felt that tears were coming to his eyes, and with an unconscious
movement, never noticing how much he astonished the slim Englishmen and
thick-set Germans passing along the terrace, he opened his arms and
extended them towards the /real/ Rome, steeped in such lovely sunshine
and stretched out at his feet. Would she prove responsive to his dream?
Would he, as he had written, find within her the remedy for our
impatience and our alarms? Could Catholicism be renewed, could it return
to the spirit of primitive Christianity, become the religion of the
democracy, the faith which the modern world, overturned and in danger of
perishing, awaits in order to be pacified and to live?

Pierre was full of generous passion, full of faith. He again beheld good
Abbe Rose weeping with emotion as he read his book. He heard Viscount
Philibert de la Choue telling him that such a book was worth an army. And
he particularly felt strong in the approval of Cardinal Bergerot, that
apostle of inexhaustible charity. Why should the Congregation of the
Index threaten his work with interdiction? Since he had been officiously
advised to go to Rome if he desired to defend himself, he had been
turning this question over in his mind without being able to discover
which of his pages were attacked. To him indeed they all seemed to glow
with the purest Christianity. However, he had arrived quivering with
enthusiasm and courage: he was all eagerness to kneel before the Pope,
and place himself under his august protection, assuring him that he had
not written a line without taking inspiration from his ideas, without
desiring the triumph of his policy. Was it possible that condemnation
should be passed on a book in which he imagined in all sincerity that he
had exalted Leo XIII by striving to help him in his work of Christian
reunion and universal peace?

For a moment longer Pierre remained standing before the parapet. He had
been there for nearly an hour, unable to drink in enough of the grandeur
of Rome, which, given all the unknown things she hid from him, he would
have liked to possess at once. Oh! to seize hold of her, know her,
ascertain at once the true word which he had come to seek from her! This
again, like Lourdes, was an experiment, but a graver one, a decisive one,
whence he would emerge either strengthened or overcome for evermore. He
no longer sought the simple, perfect faith of the little child, but the
superior faith of the intellectual man, raising himself above rites and
symbols, working for the greatest happiness of humanity as based on its
need of certainty. His temples throbbed responsive to his heart. What
would be the answer of Rome?

The sunlight had increased and the higher districts now stood out more
vigorously against the fiery background. Far away the hills became gilded
and empurpled, whilst the nearer house-fronts grew very distinct and
bright with their thousands of windows sharply outlined. However, some
morning haze still hovered around; light veils seemed to rise from the
lower streets, blurring the summits for a moment, and then evaporating in
the ardent heavens where all was blue. For a moment Pierre fancied that
the Palatine had vanished, for he could scarcely see the dark fringe of
cypresses; it was as though the dust of its ruins concealed the hill. But
the Quirinal was even more obscured; the royal palace seemed to have
faded away in a fog, so paltry did it look with its low flat front, so
vague in the distance that he no longer distinguished it; whereas above
the trees on his left the dome of St. Peter's had grown yet larger in the
limpid gold of the sunshine, and appeared to occupy the whole sky and
dominate the whole city!

Ah! the Rome of that first meeting, the Rome of early morning, whose new
districts he had not even noticed in the burning fever of his
arrival--with what boundless hopes did she not inspirit him, this Rome
which he believed he should find alive, such indeed as he had dreamed!
And whilst he stood there in his thin black cassock, thus gazing on her
that lovely day, what a shout of coming redemption seemed to arise from
her house-roofs, what a promise of universal peace seemed to issue from
that sacred soil, twice already Queen of the world! It was the third
Rome, it was New Rome whose maternal love was travelling across the
frontiers to all the nations to console them and reunite them in a common
embrace. In the passionate candour of his dream he beheld her, he heard
her, rejuvenated, full of the gentleness of childhood, soaring, as it
were, amidst the morning freshness into the vast pure heavens.

But at last Pierre tore himself away from the sublime spectacle. The
driver and the horse, their heads drooping under the broad sunlight, had
not stirred. On the seat the valise was almost burning, hot with rays of
the sun which was already heavy. And once more Pierre got into the
vehicle and gave this address:

"Via Giulia, Palazzo Boccanera."


THE Via Giulia, which runs in a straight line over a distance of five
hundred yards from the Farnese palace to the church of St. John of the
Florentines, was at that hour steeped in bright sunlight, the glow
streaming from end to end and whitening the small square paving stones.
The street had no footways, and the cab rolled along it almost to the
farther extremity, passing the old grey sleepy and deserted residences
whose large windows were barred with iron, while their deep porches
revealed sombre courts resembling wells. Laid out by Pope Julius II, who
had dreamt of lining it with magnificent palaces, the street, then the
most regular and handsome in Rome, had served as Corso* in the sixteenth
century. One could tell that one was in a former luxurious district,
which had lapsed into silence, solitude, and abandonment, instinct with a
kind of religious gentleness and discretion. The old house-fronts
followed one after another, their shutters closed and their gratings
occasionally decked with climbing plants. At some doors cats were seated,
and dim shops, appropriated to humble trades, were installed in certain
dependencies. But little traffic was apparent. Pierre only noticed some
bare-headed women dragging children behind them, a hay cart drawn by a
mule, a superb monk draped in drugget, and a bicyclist speeding along
noiselessly, his machine sparkling in the sun.

  * The Corso was so called on account of the horse races held in
    it at carnival time.--Trans.

At last the driver turned and pointed to a large square building at the
corner of a lane running towards the Tiber.

"Palazzo Boccanera."

Pierre raised his head and was pained by the severe aspect of the
structure, so bare and massive and blackened by age. Like its neighbours
the Farnese and Sacchetti palaces, it had been built by Antonio da
Sangallo in the early part of the sixteenth century, and, as with the
former of those residences, the tradition ran that in raising the pile
the architect had made use of stones pilfered from the Colosseum and the
Theatre of Marcellus. The vast, square-looking facade had three upper
stories, each with seven windows, and the first one very lofty and noble.
Down below, the only sign of decoration was that the high ground-floor
windows, barred with huge projecting gratings as though from fear of
siege, rested upon large consoles, and were crowned by attics which
smaller consoles supported. Above the monumental entrance, with folding
doors of bronze, there was a balcony in front of the central first-floor
window. And at the summit of the facade against the sky appeared a
sumptuous entablature, whose frieze displayed admirable grace and purity
of ornamentation. The frieze, the consoles, the attics, and the door-case
were of white marble, but marble whose surface had so crumbled and so
darkened that it now had the rough yellowish grain of stone. Right and
left of the entrance were two antique seats upheld by griffons also of
marble; and incrusted in the wall at one corner, a lovely Renascence
fountain, its source dried up, still lingered; and on it a cupid riding a
dolphin could with difficulty be distinguished, to such a degree had the
wear and tear of time eaten into the sculpture.

Pierre's eyes, however, had been more particularly attracted by an
escutcheon carved above one of the ground-floor windows, the escutcheon
of the Boccaneras, a winged dragon venting flames, and underneath it he
could plainly read the motto which had remained intact: "/Bocca nera,
Alma rossa/" (black mouth, red soul). Above another window, as a pendant
to the escutcheon, there was one of those little shrines which are still
common in Rome, a satin-robed statuette of the Blessed Virgin, before
which a lantern burnt in the full daylight.

The cabman was about to drive through the dim and gaping porch, according
to custom, when the young priest, overcome by timidity, stopped him. "No,
no," he said; "don't go in, it's useless."

Then he alighted from the vehicle, paid the man, and, valise in hand,
found himself first under the vaulted roof, and then in the central court
without having met a living soul.

It was a square and fairly spacious court, surrounded by a porticus like
a cloister. Some remnants of statuary, marbles discovered in excavating,
an armless Apollo, and the trunk of a Venus, were ranged against the
walls under the dismal arcades; and some fine grass had sprouted between
the pebbles which paved the soil as with a black and white mosaic. It
seemed as if the sun-rays could never reach that paving, mouldy with
damp. A dimness and a silence instinct with departed grandeur and
infinite mournfulness reigned there.

Surprised by the emptiness of this silent mansion, Pierre continued
seeking somebody, a porter, a servant; and, fancying that he saw a shadow
flit by, he decided to pass through another arch which led to a little
garden fringing the Tiber. On this side the facade of the building was
quite plain, displaying nothing beyond its three rows of symmetrically
disposed windows. However, the abandonment reigning in the garden brought
Pierre yet a keener pang. In the centre some large box-plants were
growing in the basin of a fountain which had been filled up; while among
the mass of weeds, some orange-trees with golden, ripening fruit alone
indicated the tracery of the paths which they had once bordered. Between
two huge laurel-bushes, against the right-hand wall, there was a
sarcophagus of the second century--with fauns offering violence to
nymphs, one of those wild /baccanali/, those scenes of eager passion
which Rome in its decline was wont to depict on the tombs of its dead;
and this marble sarcophagus, crumbling with age and green with moisture,
served as a tank into which a streamlet of water fell from a large tragic
mask incrusted in the wall. Facing the Tiber there had formerly been a
sort of colonnaded loggia, a terrace whence a double flight of steps
descended to the river. For the construction of the new quays, however,
the river bank was being raised, and the terrace was already lower than
the new ground level, and stood there crumbling and useless amidst piles
of rubbish and blocks of stone, all the wretched chalky confusion of the
improvements which were ripping up and overturning the district.

Pierre, however, was suddenly convinced that he could see somebody
crossing the court. So he returned thither and found a woman somewhat
short of stature, who must have been nearly fifty, though as yet she had
not a white hair, but looked very bright and active. At sight of the
priest, however, an expression of distrust passed over her round face and
clear eyes.

Employing the few words of broken Italian which he knew, Pierre at once
sought to explain matters: "I am Abbe Pierre Froment, madame--" he began.

However, she did not let him continue, but exclaimed in fluent French,
with the somewhat thick and lingering accent of the province of the
Ile-de-France: "Ah! yes, Monsieur l'Abbe, I know, I know--I was expecting
you, I received orders about you." And then, as he gazed at her in
amazement, she added: "Oh! I'm a Frenchwoman! I've been here for five and
twenty years, but I haven't yet been able to get used to their horrible

Pierre thereupon remembered that Viscount Philibert de la Choue had
spoken to him of this servant, one Victorine Bosquet, a native of Auneau
in La Beauce, who, when two and twenty, had gone to Rome with a
consumptive mistress. The latter's sudden death had left her in as much
terror and bewilderment as if she had been alone in some land of savages;
and so she had gratefully devoted herself to the Countess Ernesta
Brandini, a Boccanera by birth, who had, so to say, picked her up in the
streets. The Countess had at first employed her as a nurse to her
daughter Benedetta, hoping in this way to teach the child some French;
and Victorine--remaining for some five and twenty years with the same
family--had by degrees raised herself to the position of housekeeper,
whilst still remaining virtually illiterate, so destitute indeed of any
linguistic gift that she could only jabber a little broken Italian, just
sufficient for her needs in her intercourse with the other servants.

"And is Monsieur le Vicomte quite well?" she resumed with frank
familiarity. "He is so very pleasant, and we are always so pleased to see
him. He stays here, you know, each time he comes to Rome. I know that the
Princess and the Contessina received a letter from him yesterday
announcing you."

It was indeed Viscount Philibert de la Choue who had made all the
arrangements for Pierre's sojourn in Rome. Of the ancient and once
vigorous race of the Boccaneras, there now only remained Cardinal Pio
Boccanera, the Princess his sister, an old maid who from respect was
called "Donna" Serafina, their niece Benedetta--whose mother Ernesta had
followed her husband, Count Brandini, to the tomb--and finally their
nephew, Prince Dario Boccanera, whose father, Prince Onofrio, was
likewise dead, and whose mother, a Montefiori, had married again. It so
chanced that the Viscount de la Choue was connected with the family, his
younger brother having married a Brandini, sister to Benedetta's father;
and thus, with the courtesy rank of uncle, he had, in Count Brandini's
time, frequently sojourned at the mansion in the Via Giulia. He had also
become attached to Benedetta, especially since the advent of a private
family drama, consequent upon an unhappy marriage which the young woman
had contracted, and which she had petitioned the Holy Father to annul.
Since Benedetta had left her husband to live with her aunt Serafina and
her uncle the Cardinal, M. de la Choue had often written to her and sent
her parcels of French books. Among others he had forwarded her a copy of
Pierre's book, and the whole affair had originated in that wise. Several
letters on the subject had been exchanged when at last Benedetta sent
word that the work had been denounced to the Congregation of the Index,
and that it was advisable the author should at once repair to Rome, where
she graciously offered him the hospitality of the Boccanera mansion.

The Viscount was quite as much astonished as the young priest at these
tidings, and failed to understand why the book should be threatened at
all; however, he prevailed on Pierre to make the journey as a matter of
good policy, becoming himself impassioned for the achievement of a
victory which he counted in anticipation as his own. And so it was easy
to understand the bewildered condition of Pierre, on tumbling into this
unknown mansion, launched into an heroic adventure, the reasons and
circumstances of which were beyond him.

Victorine, however, suddenly resumed: "But I am leaving you here,
Monsieur l'Abbe. Let me conduct you to your rooms. Where is your

Then, when he had shown her his valise which he had placed on the ground
beside him, and explained that having no more than a fortnight's stay in
view he had contented himself with bringing a second cassock and some
linen, she seemed very much surprised.

"A fortnight! You only expect to remain here a fortnight? Well, well,
you'll see."

And then summoning a big devil of a lackey who had ended by making his
appearance, she said: "Take that up into the red room, Giacomo. Will you
kindly follow me, Monsieur l'Abbe?"

Pierre felt quite comforted and inspirited by thus unexpectedly meeting
such a lively, good-natured compatriot in this gloomy Roman "palace."
Whilst crossing the court he listened to her as she related that the
Princess had gone out, and that the Contessina--as Benedetta from motives
of affection was still called in the house, despite her marriage--had not
yet shown herself that morning, being rather poorly. However, added
Victorine, she had her orders.

The staircase was in one corner of the court, under the porticus. It was
a monumental staircase with broad, low steps, the incline being so gentle
that a horse might easily have climbed it. The stone walls, however, were
quite bare, the landings empty and solemn, and a death-like mournfulness
fell from the lofty vault above.

As they reached the first floor, noticing Pierre's emotion, Victorine
smiled. The mansion seemed to be uninhabited; not a sound came from its
closed chambers. Simply pointing to a large oaken door on the right-hand,
the housekeeper remarked: "The wing overlooking the court and the river
is occupied by his Eminence. But he doesn't use a quarter of the rooms.
All the reception-rooms on the side of the street have been shut. How
could one keep up such a big place, and what, too, would be the use of
it? We should need somebody to lodge."

With her lithe step she continued ascending the stairs. She had remained
essentially a foreigner, a Frenchwoman, too different from those among
whom she lived to be influenced by her environment. On reaching the
second floor she resumed: "There, on the left, are Donna Serafina's
rooms; those of the Contessina are on the right. This is the only part of
the house where there's a little warmth and life. Besides, it's Monday
to-day, the Princess will be receiving visitors this evening. You'll

Then, opening a door, beyond which was a second and very narrow
staircase, she went on: "We others have our rooms on the third floor. I
must ask Monsieur l'Abbe to let me go up before him."

The grand staircase ceased at the second floor, and Victorine explained
that the third story was reached exclusively by this servants' staircase,
which led from the lane running down to the Tiber on one side of the
mansion. There was a small private entrance in this lane, which was very

At last, reaching the third story, she hurried along a passage, again
calling Pierre's attention to various doors. "These are the apartments of
Don Vigilio, his Eminence's secretary. These are mine. And these will be
yours. Monsieur le Vicomte will never have any other rooms when he comes
to spend a few days in Rome. He says that he enjoys more liberty up here,
as he can come in and go out as he pleases. I gave him a key to the door
in the lane, and I'll give you one too. And, besides, you'll see what a
nice view there is from here!"

Whilst speaking she had gone in. The apartments comprised two rooms: a
somewhat spacious /salon/, with wall-paper of a large scroll pattern on a
red ground, and a bed-chamber, where the paper was of a flax grey,
studded with faded blue flowers. The sitting-room was in one corner of
the mansion overlooking the lane and the Tiber, and Victorine at once
went to the windows, one of which afforded a view over the distant lower
part of the river, while the other faced the Trastevere and the Janiculum
across the water.

"Ah! yes, it's very pleasant!" said Pierre, who had followed and stood
beside her.

Giaccomo, who did not hurry, came in behind them with the valise. It was
now past eleven o'clock; and seeing that the young priest looked tired,
and realising that he must be hungry after such a journey, Victorine
offered to have some breakfast served at once in the sitting-room. He
would then have the afternoon to rest or go out, and would only meet the
ladies in the evening at dinner. At the mere suggestion of resting,
however, Pierre began to protest, declaring that he should certainly go
out, not wishing to lose an entire afternoon. The breakfast he readily
accepted, for he was indeed dying of hunger.

However, he had to wait another full half hour. Giaccomo, who served him
under Victorine's orders, did everything in a most leisurely way. And
Victorine, lacking confidence in the man, remained with the young priest
to make sure that everything he might require was provided.

"Ah! Monsieur l'Abbe," said she, "what people! What a country! You can't
have an idea of it. I should never get accustomed to it even if I were to
live here for a hundred years. Ah! if it were not for the Contessina, but
she's so good and beautiful."

Then, whilst placing a dish of figs on the table, she astonished Pierre
by adding that a city where nearly everybody was a priest could not
possibly be a good city. Thereupon the presence of this gay, active,
unbelieving servant in the queer old palace again scared him.

"What! you are not religious?" he exclaimed.

"No, no, Monsieur l'Abbe, the priests don't suit me," said Victorine; "I
knew one in France when I was very little, and since I've been here I've
seen too many of them. It's all over. Oh! I don't say that on account of
his Eminence, who is a holy man worthy of all possible respect. And
besides, everybody in the house knows that I've nothing to reproach
myself with. So why not leave me alone, since I'm fond of my employers
and attend properly to my duties?"

She burst into a frank laugh. "Ah!" she resumed, "when I was told that
another priest was coming, just as if we hadn't enough already, I
couldn't help growling to myself. But you look like a good young man,
Monsieur l'Abbe, and I feel sure we shall get on well together. . . . I
really don't know why I'm telling you all this--probably it's because
you've come from yonder, and because the Contessina takes an interest in
you. At all events, you'll excuse me, won't you, Monsieur l'Abbe? And
take my advice, stay here and rest to-day; don't be so foolish as to go
running about their tiring city. There's nothing very amusing to be seen
in it, whatever they may say to the contrary."

When Pierre found himself alone, he suddenly felt overwhelmed by all the
fatigue of his journey coupled with the fever of enthusiasm that had
consumed him during the morning. And as though dazed, intoxicated by the
hasty meal which he had just made--a couple of eggs and a cutlet--he
flung himself upon the bed with the idea of taking half an hour's rest.
He did not fall asleep immediately, but for a time thought of those
Boccaneras, with whose history he was partly acquainted, and of whose
life in that deserted and silent palace, instinct with such dilapidated
and melancholy grandeur, he began to dream. But at last his ideas grew
confused, and by degrees he sunk into sleep amidst a crowd of shadowy
forms, some tragic and some sweet, with vague faces which gazed at him
with enigmatical eyes as they whirled before him in the depths of

The Boccaneras had supplied two popes to Rome, one in the thirteenth, the
other in the fifteenth century, and from those two favoured ones, those
all-powerful masters, the family had formerly derived its vast
fortune--large estates in the vicinity of Viterbo, several palaces in
Rome, enough works of art to fill numerous spacious galleries, and a pile
of gold sufficient to cram a cellar. The family passed as being the most
pious of the Roman /patriziato/, a family of burning faith whose sword
had always been at the service of the Church; but if it were the most
believing family it was also the most violent, the most disputatious,
constantly at war, and so fiercely savage that the anger of the
Boccaneras had become proverbial. And thence came their arms, the winged
dragon spitting flames, and the fierce, glowing motto, with its play on
the name "/Bocca sera, Alma rossa/" (black mouth, red soul), the mouth
darkened by a roar, the soul flaming like a brazier of faith and love.

Legends of endless passion, of terrible deeds of justice and vengeance
still circulated. There was the duel fought by Onfredo, the Boccanera by
whom the present palazzo had been built in the sixteenth century on the
site of the demolished antique residence of the family. Onfredo, learning
that his wife had allowed herself to be kissed on the lips by young Count
Costamagna, had caused the Count to be kidnapped one evening and brought
to the palazzo bound with cords. And there in one of the large halls,
before freeing him, he compelled him to confess himself to a monk. Then
he severed the cords with a stiletto, threw the lamps over and
extinguished them, calling to the Count to keep the stiletto and defend
himself. During more than an hour, in complete obscurity, in this hall
full of furniture, the two men sought one another, fled from one another,
seized hold of one another, and pierced one another with their blades.
And when the doors were broken down and the servants rushed in they found
among the pools of blood, among the overturned tables and broken seats,
Costamagna with his nose sliced off and his hips pierced with two and
thirty wounds, whilst Onfredo had lost two fingers of his right hand, and
had both shoulders riddled with holes! The wonder was that neither died
of the encounter.

A century later, on that same bank of the Tiber, a daughter of the
Boccaneras, a girl barely sixteen years of age, the lovely and passionate
Cassia, filled all Rome with terror and admiration. She loved Flavio
Corradini, the scion of a rival and hated house, whose alliance her
father, Prince Boccanera, roughly rejected, and whom her elder brother,
Ercole, swore to slay should he ever surprise him with her. Nevertheless
the young man came to visit her in a boat, and she joined him by the
little staircase descending to the river. But one evening Ercole, who was
on the watch, sprang into the boat and planted his dagger full in
Flavio's heart. Later on the subsequent incidents were unravelled; it was
understood that Cassia, wrathful and frantic with despair, unwilling to
survive her love and bent on wreaking justice, had thrown herself upon
her brother, had seized both murderer and victim with the same grasp
whilst overturning the boat; for when the three bodies were recovered
Cassia still retained her hold upon the two men, pressing their faces one
against the other with her bare arms, which had remained as white as

But those were vanished times. Nowadays, if faith remained, blood
violence seemed to be departing from the Boccaneras. Their huge fortune
also had been lost in the slow decline which for a century past has been
ruining the Roman /patriziato/. It had been necessary to sell the
estates; the palace had emptied, gradually sinking to the mediocrity and
bourgeois life of the new times. For their part the Boccaneras
obstinately declined to contract any alien alliances, proud as they were
of the purity of their Roman blood. And poverty was as nothing to them;
they found contentment in their immense pride, and without a plaint
sequestered themselves amidst the silence and gloom in which their race
was dwindling away.

Prince Ascanio, dead since 1848, had left four children by his wife, a
Corvisieri; first Pio, the Cardinal; then Serafina, who, in order to
remain with her brother, had not married; and finally Ernesta and
Onofrio, both of whom were deceased. As Ernesta had merely left a
daughter, Benedetta, behind her, it followed that the only male heir, the
only possible continuator of the family name was Onofrio's son, young
Prince Dario, now some thirty years of age. Should he die without
posterity, the Boccaneras, once so full of life and whose deeds had
filled Roman history in papal times, must fatally disappear.

Dario and his cousin Benedetta had been drawn together by a deep,
smiling, natural passion ever since childhood. They seemed born one for
the other; they could not imagine that they had been brought into the
world for any other purpose than that of becoming husband and wife as
soon as they should be old enough to marry. When Prince Onofrio--an
amiable man of forty, very popular in Rome, where he spent his modest
fortune as his heart listed--espoused La Montefiori's daughter, the
little Marchesa Flavia, whose superb beauty, suggestive of a youthful
Juno, had maddened him, he went to reside at the Villa Montefiori, the
only property, indeed the only belonging, that remained to the two
ladies. It was in the direction of St'. Agnese-fuori-le-Mura,* and there
were vast grounds, a perfect park in fact, planted with centenarian
trees, among which the villa, a somewhat sorry building of the
seventeenth century, was falling into ruins.

  * St. Agnes-without-the-walls, N.E. of Rome.

Unfavourable reports were circulated about the ladies, the mother having
almost lost caste since she had become a widow, and the girl having too
bold a beauty, too conquering an air. Thus the marriage had not met with
the approval of Serafina, who was very rigid, or of Onofrio's elder
brother Pio, at that time merely a /Cameriere segreto/ of the Holy Father
and a Canon of the Vatican basilica. Only Ernesta kept up a regular
intercourse with Onofrio, fond of him as she was by reason of his gaiety
of disposition; and thus, later on, her favourite diversion was to go
each week to the Villa Montefiori with her daughter Benedetta, there to
spend the day. And what a delightful day it always proved to Benedetta
and Dario, she ten years old and he fifteen, what a fraternal loving day
in that vast and almost abandoned garden with its parasol pines, its
giant box-plants, and its clumps of evergreen oaks, amidst which one lost
oneself as in a virgin forest.

The poor stifled soul of Ernesta was a soul of pain and passion. Born
with a mighty longing for life, she thirsted for the sun--for a free,
happy, active existence in the full daylight. She was noted for her large
limpid eyes and the charming oval of her gentle face. Extremely ignorant,
like all the daughters of the Roman nobility, having learnt the little
she knew in a convent of French nuns, she had grown up cloistered in the
black Boccanera palace, having no knowledge of the world than by those
daily drives to the Corso and the Pincio on which she accompanied her
mother. Eventually, when she was five and twenty, and was already weary
and desolate, she contracted the customary marriage of her caste,
espousing Count Brandini, the last-born of a very noble, very numerous
and poor family, who had to come and live in the Via Giulia mansion,
where an entire wing of the second floor was got ready for the young
couple. And nothing changed, Ernesta continued to live in the same cold
gloom, in the midst of the same dead past, the weight of which, like that
of a tombstone, she felt pressing more and more heavily upon her.

The marriage was, on either side, a very honourable one. Count Brandini
soon passed as being the most foolish and haughty man in Rome. A strict,
intolerant formalist in religious matters, he became quite triumphant
when, after innumerable intrigues, secret plottings which lasted ten long
years, he at last secured the appointment of grand equerry to the Holy
Father. With this appointment it seemed as if all the dismal majesty of
the Vatican entered his household. However, Ernesta found life still
bearable in the time of Pius IX--that is until the latter part of
1870--for she might still venture to open the windows overlooking the
street, receive a few lady friends otherwise than in secrecy, and accept
invitations to festivities. But when the Italians had conquered Rome and
the Pope declared himself a prisoner, the mansion in the Via Giulia
became a sepulchre. The great doors were closed and bolted, even nailed
together in token of mourning; and during ten years the inmates only went
out and came in by the little staircase communicating with the lane. It
was also forbidden to open the window shutters of the facade. This was
the sulking, the protest of the black world, the mansion sinking into
death-like immobility, complete seclusion; no more receptions, barely a
few shadows, the intimates of Donna Serafina who on Monday evenings
slipped in by the little door in the lane which was scarcely set ajar.
And during those ten lugubrious years, overcome by secret despair, the
young woman wept every night, suffered untold agony at thus being buried

Ernesta had given birth to her daughter Benedetta rather late in life,
when three and thirty years of age. At first the little one helped to
divert her mind. But afterwards her wonted existence, like a grinding
millstone, again seized hold of her, and she had to place the child in
the charge of the French nuns, by whom she herself had been educated, at
the convent of the Sacred Heart of La Trinita de' Monti. When Benedetta
left the convent, grown up, nineteen years of age, she was able to speak
and write French, knew a little arithmetic and her catechism, and
possessed a few hazy notions of history. Then the life of the two women
was resumed, the life of a /gynoeceum/, suggestive of the Orient; never
an excursion with husband or father, but day after day spent in closed,
secluded rooms, with nought to cheer one but the sole, everlasting,
obligatory promenade, the daily drive to the Corso and the Pincio.

At home, absolute obedience was the rule; the tie of relationship
possessed an authority, a strength, which made both women bow to the will
of the Count, without possible thought of rebellion; and to the Count's
will was added that of Donna Serafina and that of Cardinal Pio, both of
whom were stern defenders of the old-time customs. Since the Pope had
ceased to show himself in Rome, the post of grand equerry had left the
Count considerable leisure, for the number of equipages in the pontifical
stables had been very largely reduced; nevertheless, he was constant in
his attendance at the Vatican, where his duties were now a mere matter of
parade, and ever increased his devout zeal as a mark of protest against
the usurping monarchy installed at the Quirinal. However, Benedetta had
just attained her twentieth year, when one evening her father returned
coughing and shivering from some ceremony at St. Peter's. A week later he
died, carried off by inflammation of the lungs. And despite their
mourning, the loss was secretly considered a deliverance by both women,
who now felt that they were free.

Thenceforward Ernesta had but one thought, that of saving her daughter
from that awful life of immurement and entombment. She herself had
sorrowed too deeply: it was no longer possible for her to remount the
current of existence; but she was unwilling that Benedetta should in her
turn lead a life contrary to nature, in a voluntary grave. Moreover,
similar lassitude and rebellion were showing themselves among other
patrician families, which, after the sulking of the first years, were
beginning to draw nearer to the Quirinal. Why indeed should the children,
eager for action, liberty, and sunlight, perpetually keep up the quarrel
of the fathers? And so, though no reconciliation could take place between
the black world and the white world,* intermediate tints were already
appearing, and some unexpected matrimonial alliances were contracted.

  * The "blacks" are the supporters of the papacy, the "whites"
    those of the King of Italy.--Trans.

Ernesta for her part was indifferent to the political question; she knew
next to nothing about it; but that which she passionately desired was
that her race might at last emerge from that hateful sepulchre, that
black, silent Boccanera mansion, where her woman's joys had been frozen
by so long a death. She had suffered very grievously in her heart, as
girl, as lover, and as wife, and yielded to anger at the thought that her
life should have been so spoiled, so lost through idiotic resignation.
Then, too, her mind was greatly influenced by the choice of a new
confessor at this period; for she had remained very religious, practising
all the rites of the Church, and ever docile to the advice of her
spiritual director. To free herself the more, however, she now quitted
the Jesuit father whom her husband had chosen for her, and in his stead
took Abbe Pisoni, the rector of the little church of Sta. Brigida, on the
Piazza Farnese, close by. He was a man of fifty, very gentle, and very
good-hearted, of a benevolence seldom found in the Roman world; and
archaeology, a passion for the old stones of the past, had made him an
ardent patriot. Humble though his position was, folks whispered that he
had on several occasions served as an intermediary in delicate matters
between the Vatican and the Quirinal. And, becoming confessor not only of
Ernesta but of Benedetta also, he was fond of discoursing to them about
the grandeur of Italian unity, the triumphant sway that Italy would
exercise when the Pope and the King should agree together.

Meantime Benedetta and Dario loved as on the first day, patiently, with
the strong tranquil love of those who know that they belong to one
another. But it happened that Ernesta threw herself between them and
stubbornly opposed their marriage. No, no! her daughter must not espouse
that Dario, that cousin, the last of the name, who in his turn would
immure his wife in the black sepulchre of the Boccanera palace! Their
union would be a prolongation of entombment, an aggravation of ruin, a
repetition of the haughty wretchedness of the past, of the everlasting
peevish sulking which depressed and benumbed one! She was well acquainted
with the young man's character; she knew that he was egotistical and
weak, incapable of thinking and acting, predestined to bury his race with
a smile on his lips, to let the last remnant of the house crumble about
his head without attempting the slightest effort to found a new family.
And that which she desired was fortune in another guise, a new birth for
her daughter with wealth and the florescence of life amid the victors and
powerful ones of to-morrow.

From that moment the mother did not cease her stubborn efforts to ensure
her daughter's happiness despite herself. She told her of her tears,
entreated her not to renew her own deplorable career. Yet she would have
failed, such was the calm determination of the girl who had for ever
given her heart, if certain circumstances had not brought her into
connection with such a son-in-law as she dreamt of. At that very Villa
Montefiori where Benedetta and Dario had plighted their troth, she met
Count Prada, son of Orlando, one of the heroes of the reunion of Italy.
Arriving in Rome from Milan, with his father, when eighteen years of age,
at the time of the occupation of the city by the Italian Government,
Prada had first entered the Ministry of Finances as a mere clerk, whilst
the old warrior, his sire, created a senator, lived scantily on a petty
income, the last remnant of a fortune spent in his country's service. The
fine war-like madness of the former comrade of Garibaldi had, however, in
the son turned into a fierce appetite for booty, so that the young man
became one of the real conquerors of Rome, one of those birds of prey
that dismembered and devoured the city. Engaged in vast speculations on
land, already wealthy according to popular report, he had--at the time of
meeting Ernesta--just become intimate with Prince Onofrio, whose head he
had turned by suggesting to him the idea of selling the far-spreading
grounds of the Villa Montefiori for the erection of a new suburban
district on the site. Others averred that he was the lover of the
princess, the beautiful Flavia, who, although nine years his senior, was
still superb. And, truth to tell, he was certainly a man of violent
desires, with an eagerness to rush on the spoils of conquest which
rendered him utterly unscrupulous with regard either to the wealth or to
the wives of others.

From the first day that he beheld Benedetta he desired her. But she, at
any rate, could only become his by marriage. And he did not for a moment
hesitate, but broke off all connection with Flavia, eager as he was for
the pure virgin beauty, the patrician youth of the other. When he
realised that Ernesta, the mother, favoured him, he asked her daughter's
hand, feeling certain of success. And the surprise was great, for he was
some fifteen years older than the girl. However, he was a count, he bore
a name which was already historical, he was piling up millions, he was
regarded with favour at the Quirinal, and none could tell to what heights
he might not attain. All Rome became impassioned.

Never afterwards was Benedetta able to explain to herself how it happened
that she had eventually consented. Six months sooner, six months later,
such a marriage would certainly have been impossible, given the fearful
scandal which it raised in the black world. A Boccanera, the last maiden
of that antique papal race, given to a Prada, to one of the despoilers of
the Church! Was it credible? In order that the wild project might prove
successful it had been necessary that it should be formed at a particular
brief moment--a moment when a supreme effort was being made to conciliate
the Vatican and the Quirinal. A report circulated that an agreement was
on the point of being arrived at, that the King consented to recognise
the Pope's absolute sovereignty over the Leonine City,* and a narrow band
of territory extending to the sea. And if such were the case would not
the marriage of Benedetta and Prada become, so to say, a symbol of union,
of national reconciliation? That lovely girl, the pure lily of the black
world, was she not the acquiescent sacrifice, the pledge granted to the

  * The Vatican suburb of Rome, called the /Civitas Leonina/,
    because Leo IV, to protect it from the Saracens and Arabs,
    enclosed it with walls in the ninth century.--Trans.

For a fortnight nothing else was talked of; people discussed the
question, allowed their emotion rein, indulged in all sorts of hopes. The
girl, for her part, did not enter into the political reasons, but simply
listened to her heart, which she could not bestow since it was hers no
more. From morn till night, however, she had to encounter her mother's
prayers entreating her not to refuse the fortune, the life which offered.
And she was particularly exercised by the counsels of her confessor, good
Abbe Pisoni, whose patriotic zeal now burst forth. He weighed upon her
with all his faith in the Christian destinies of Italy, and returned
heartfelt thanks to Providence for having chosen one of his penitents as
the instrument for hastening the reconciliation which would work God's
triumph throughout the world. And her confessor's influence was certainly
one of the decisive factors in shaping Benedetta's decision, for she was
very pious, very devout, especially with regard to a certain Madonna
whose image she went to adore every Sunday at the little church on the
Piazza Farnese. One circumstance in particular struck her: Abbe Pisoni
related that the flame of the lamp before the image in question whitened
each time that he himself knelt there to beg the Virgin to incline his
penitent to the all-redeeming marriage. And thus superior forces
intervened; and she yielded in obedience to her mother, whom the Cardinal
and Donna Serafina had at first opposed, but whom they left free to act
when the religious question arose.

Benedetta had grown up in such absolute purity and ignorance, knowing
nothing of herself, so shut off from existence, that marriage with
another than Dario was to her simply the rupture of a long-kept promise
of life in common. It was not the violent wrenching of heart and flesh
that it would have been in the case of a woman who knew the facts of
life. She wept a good deal, and then in a day of self-surrender she
married Prada, lacking the strength to continue resisting everybody, and
yielding to a union which all Rome had conspired to bring about.

But the clap of thunder came on the very night of the nuptials. Was it
that Prada, the Piedmontese, the Italian of the North, the man of
conquest, displayed towards his bride the same brutality that he had
shown towards the city he had sacked? Or was it that the revelation of
married life filled Benedetta with repulsion since nothing in her own
heart responded to the passion of this man? On that point she never
clearly explained herself; but with violence she shut the door of her
room, locked it and bolted it, and refused to admit her husband. For a
month Prada was maddened by her scorn. He felt outraged; both his pride
and his passion bled; and he swore to master her, even as one masters a
colt, with the whip. But all his virile fury was impotent against the
indomitable determination which had sprung up one evening behind
Benedetta's small and lovely brow. The spirit of the Boccaneras had awoke
within her; nothing in the world, not even the fear of death, would have
induced her to become her husband's wife.* And then, love being at last
revealed to her, there came a return of her heart to Dario, a conviction
that she must reserve herself for him alone, since it was to him that she
had promised herself.

  * Many readers will doubtless remember that the situation as
    here described is somewhat akin to that of the earlier part
    of M. George Ohnet's /Ironmaster/, which, in its form as a
    novel, I translated into English many years ago. However,
    all resemblance between /Rome/ and the /Ironmaster/ is confined
    to this one point.--Trans.

Ever since that marriage, which he had borne like a bereavement, the
young man had been travelling in France. She did not hide the truth from
him, but wrote to him, again vowing that she would never be another's.
And meantime her piety increased, her resolve to reserve herself for the
lover she had chosen mingled in her mind with constancy of religious
faith. The ardent heart of a great /amorosa/ had ignited within her, she
was ready for martyrdom for faith's sake. And when her despairing mother
with clasped hands entreated her to resign herself to her conjugal
duties, she replied that she owed no duties, since she had known nothing
when she married. Moreover, the times were changing; the attempts to
reconcile the Quirinal and the Vatican had failed, so completely, indeed,
that the newspapers of the rival parties had, with renewed violence,
resumed their campaign of mutual insult and outrage; and thus that
triumphal marriage, to which every one had contributed as to a pledge of
peace, crumbled amid the general smash-up, became but a ruin the more
added to so many others.

Ernesta died of it. She had made a mistake. Her spoilt life--the life of
a joyless wife--had culminated in this supreme maternal error. And the
worst was that she alone had to bear all the responsibility of the
disaster, for both her brother, the Cardinal, and her sister, Donna
Serafina, overwhelmed her with reproaches. For consolation she had but
the despair of Abbe Pisoni, whose patriotic hopes had been destroyed, and
who was consumed with grief at having contributed to such a catastrophe.
And one morning Ernesta was found, icy white and cold, in her bed. Folks
talked of the rupture of a blood-vessel, but grief had been sufficient,
for she had suffered frightfully, secretly, without a plaint, as indeed
she had suffered all her life long.

At this time Benedetta had been married about a twelvemonth: still strong
in her resistance to her husband, but remaining under the conjugal roof
in order to spare her mother the terrible blow of a public scandal.
However, her aunt Serafina had brought influence to bear on her, by
opening to her the hope of a possible nullification of her marriage,
should she throw herself at the feet of the Holy Father and entreat his
intervention. And Serafina ended by persuading her of this, when,
deferring to certain advice, she removed her from the spiritual control
of Abbe Pisoni, and gave her the same confessor as herself. This was a
Jesuit father named Lorenza, a man scarce five and thirty, with bright
eyes, grave and amiable manners, and great persuasive powers. However, it
was only on the morrow of her mother's death that Benedetta made up her
mind, and returned to the Palazzo Boccanera, to occupy the apartments
where she had been born, and where her mother had just passed away.

Immediately afterwards proceedings for annulling the marriage were
instituted, in the first instance, for inquiry, before the Cardinal Vicar
charged with the diocese of Rome. It was related that the Contessina had
only taken this step after a secret audience with his Holiness, who had
shown her the most encouraging sympathy. Count Prada at first spoke of
applying to the law courts to compel his wife to return to the conjugal
domicile; but, yielding to the entreaties of his old father Orlando, whom
the affair greatly grieved, he eventually consented to accept the
ecclesiastical jurisdiction. He was infuriated, however, to find that the
nullification of the marriage was solicited on the ground of its
non-consummation through /impotentia mariti/; this being one of the most
valid and decisive pleas on which the Church of Rome consents to part
those whom she has joined. And far more unhappy marriages than might be
imagined are severed on these grounds, though the world only gives
attention to those cases in which people of title or renown are
concerned, as it did, for instance, with the famous Martinez Campos suit.

In Benedetta's case, her counsel, Consistorial-Advocate Morano, one of
the leading authorities of the Roman bar, simply neglected to mention, in
his memoir, that if she was still merely a wife in name, this was
entirely due to herself. In addition to the evidence of friends and
servants, showing on what terms the husband and wife had lived since
their marriage, the advocate produced a certificate of a medical
character, showing that the non-consummation of the union was certain.
And the Cardinal Vicar, acting as Bishop of Rome, had thereupon remitted
the case to the Congregation of the Council. This was a first success for
Benedetta, and matters remained in this position. She was waiting for the
Congregation to deliver its final pronouncement, hoping that the
ecclesiastical dissolution of the marriage would prove an irresistible
argument in favour of the divorce which she meant to solicit of the civil
courts. And meantime, in the icy rooms where her mother Ernesta,
submissive and desolate, had lately died, the Contessina resumed her
girlish life, showing herself calm, yet very firm in her passion, having
vowed that she would belong to none but Dario, and that she would not
belong to him until the day when a priest should have joined them
together in God's holy name.

As it happened, some six months previously, Dario also had taken up his
abode at the Boccanera palace in consequence of the death of his father
and the catastrophe which had ruined him. Prince Onofrio, after adopting
Prada's advice and selling the Villa Montefiori to a financial company
for ten million /lire/,* had, instead of prudently keeping his money in
his pockets, succumbed to the fever of speculation which was consuming
Rome. He began to gamble, buying back his own land, and ending by losing
everything in the formidable /krach/ which was swallowing up the wealth
of the entire city. Totally ruined, somewhat deeply in debt even, the
Prince nevertheless continued to promenade the Corso, like the handsome,
smiling, popular man he was, when he accidentally met his death through
falling from his horse; and four months later his widow, the ever
beautiful Flavia--who had managed to save a modern villa and a personal
income of forty thousand /lire/* from the disaster--was remarried to a
man of magnificent presence, her junior by some ten years. This was a
Swiss named Jules Laporte, originally a sergeant in the Papal Swiss
Guard, then a traveller for a shady business in "relics," and finally
Marchese Montefiore, having secured that title in securing his wife,
thanks to a special brief of the Holy Father. Thus the Princess Boccanera
had again become the Marchioness Montefiori.

  * 400,000 pounds.
  ** 1,800 pounds.

It was then that Cardinal Boccanera, feeling greatly hurt, insisted on
his nephew Dario coming to live with him, in a small apartment on the
first floor of the palazzo. In the heart of that holy man, who seemed
dead to the world, there still lingered pride of name and lineage, with a
feeling of affection for his young, slightly built nephew, the last of
the race, the only one by whom the old stock might blossom anew.
Moreover, he was not opposed to Dario's marriage with Benedetta, whom he
also loved with a paternal affection; and so proud was he of the family
honour, and so convinced of the young people's pious rectitude that, in
taking them to live with him, he absolutely scorned the abominable
rumours which Count Prada's friends in the white world had begun to
circulate ever since the two cousins had resided under the same roof.
Donna Serafina guarded Benedetta, as he, the Cardinal, guarded Dario, and
in the silence and the gloom of the vast deserted mansion, ensanguined of
olden time by so many tragic deeds of violence, there now only remained
these four with their restrained, stilled passions, last survivors of a
crumbling world upon the threshold of a new one.

When Abbe Pierre Froment all at once awoke from sleep, his head heavy
with painful dreams, he was worried to find that the daylight was already
waning. His watch, which he hastened to consult, pointed to six o'clock.
Intending to rest for an hour at the utmost, he had slept on for nearly
seven hours, overcome beyond power of resistance. And even on awaking he
remained on the bed, helpless, as though he were conquered before he had
fought. Why, he wondered, did he experience this prostration, this
unreasonable discouragement, this quiver of doubt which had come he knew
not whence during his sleep, and which was annihilating his youthful
enthusiasm of the morning? Had the Boccaneras any connection with this
sudden weakening of his powers? He had espied dim disquieting figures in
the black night of his dreams; and the anguish which they had brought him
continued, and he again evoked them, scared as he was at thus awaking in
a strange room, full of uneasiness in presence of the unknown. Things no
longer seemed natural to him. He could not understand why Benedetta
should have written to Viscount Philibert de la Choue to tell him that
his, Pierre's, book had been denounced to the Congregation of the Index.
What interest too could she have had in his coming to Rome to defend
himself; and with what object had she carried her amiability so far as to
desire that he should take up his quarters in the mansion? Pierre's
stupefaction indeed arose from his being there, on that bed in that
strange room, in that palace whose deep, death-like silence encompassed
him. As he lay there, his limbs still overpowered and his brain seemingly
empty, a flash of light suddenly came to him, and he realised that there
must be certain circumstances that he knew nothing of that, simple though
things appeared, they must really hide some complicated intrigue.
However, it was only a fugitive gleam of enlightenment; his suspicions
faded; and he rose up shaking himself and accusing the gloomy twilight of
being the sole cause of the shivering and the despondency of which he
felt ashamed.

In order to bestir himself, Pierre began to examine the two rooms. They
were furnished simply, almost meagrely, in mahogany, there being scarcely
any two articles alike, though all dated from the beginning of the
century. Neither the bed nor the windows nor the doors had any hangings.
On the floor of bare tiles, coloured red and polished, there were merely
some little foot-mats in front of the various seats. And at sight of this
middle-class bareness and coldness Pierre ended by remembering a room
where he had slept in childhood--a room at Versailles, at the abode of
his grandmother, who had kept a little grocer's shop there in the days of
Louis Philippe. However, he became interested in an old painting which
hung in the bed-room, on the wall facing the bed, amidst some childish
and valueless engravings. But partially discernible in the waning light,
this painting represented a woman seated on some projecting stone-work,
on the threshold of a great stern building, whence she seemed to have
been driven forth. The folding doors of bronze had for ever closed behind
her, yet she remained there in a mere drapery of white linen; whilst
scattered articles of clothing, thrown forth chance-wise with a violent
hand, lay upon the massive granite steps. Her feet were bare, her arms
were bare, and her hands, distorted by bitter agony, were pressed to her
face--a face which one saw not, veiled as it was by the tawny gold of her
rippling, streaming hair. What nameless grief, what fearful shame, what
hateful abandonment was thus being hidden by that rejected one, that
lingering victim of love, of whose unknown story one might for ever dream
with tortured heart? It could be divined that she was adorably young and
beautiful in her wretchedness, in the shred of linen draped about her
shoulders; but a mystery enveloped everything else--her passion, possibly
her misfortune, perhaps even her transgression--unless, indeed, she were
there merely as a symbol of all that shivers and that weeps visageless
before the ever closed portals of the unknown. For a long time Pierre
looked at her, and so intently that he at last imagined he could
distinguish her profile, divine in its purity and expression of
suffering. But this was only an illusion; the painting had greatly
suffered, blackened by time and neglect; and he asked himself whose work
it might be that it should move him so intensely. On the adjoining wall a
picture of a Madonna, a bad copy of an eighteenth-century painting,
irritated him by the banality of its smile.

Night was falling faster and faster, and, opening the sitting-room
window, Pierre leant out. On the other bank of the Tiber facing him arose
the Janiculum, the height whence he had gazed upon Rome that morning. But
at this dim hour Rome was no longer the city of youth and dreamland
soaring into the early sunshine. The night was raining down, grey and
ashen; the horizon was becoming blurred, vague, and mournful. Yonder, to
the left, beyond the sea of roofs, Pierre could still divine the presence
of the Palatine; and yonder, to the right, there still arose the Dome of
St. Peter's, now grey like slate against the leaden sky; whilst behind
him the Quirinal, which he could not see, must also be fading away into
the misty night. A few minutes went by, and everything became yet more
blurred; he realised that Rome was fading, departing in its immensity of
which he knew nothing. Then his causeless doubt and disquietude again
came on him so painfully that he could no longer remain at the window. He
closed it and sat down, letting the darkness submerge him with its flood
of infinite sadness. And his despairing reverie only ceased when the door
gently opened and the glow of a lamp enlivened the room.

It was Victorine who came in quietly, bringing the light. "Ah! so you are
up, Monsieur l'Abbe," said she; "I came in at about four o'clock but I
let you sleep on. You have done quite right to take all the rest you

Then, as he complained of pains and shivering, she became anxious. "Don't
go catching their nasty fevers," she said. "It isn't at all healthy near
their river, you know. Don Vigilio, his Eminence's secretary, is always
having the fever, and I assure you that it isn't pleasant."

She accordingly advised him to remain upstairs and lie down again. She
would excuse his absence to the Princess and the Contessina. And he ended
by letting her do as she desired, for he was in no state to have any will
of his own. By her advice he dined, partaking of some soup, a wing of a
chicken, and some preserves, which Giaccomo, the big lackey, brought up
to him. And the food did him a great deal of good; he felt so restored
that he refused to go to bed, desiring, said he, to thank the ladies that
very evening for their kindly hospitality. As Donna Serafina received on
Mondays he would present himself before her.

"Very good," said Victorine approvingly. "As you are all right again it
can do you no harm, it will even enliven you. The best thing will be for
Don Vigilio to come for you at nine o'clock and accompany you. Wait for
him here."

Pierre had just washed and put on the new cassock he had brought with
him, when, at nine o'clock precisely, he heard a discreet knock at his
door. A little priest came in, a man scarcely thirty years of age, but
thin and debile of build, with a long, seared, saffron-coloured face. For
two years past attacks of fever, coming on every day at the same hour,
had been consuming him. Nevertheless, whenever he forgot to control the
black eyes which lighted his yellow face, they shone out ardently with
the glow of his fiery soul. He bowed, and then in fluent French
introduced himself in this simple fashion: "Don Vigilio, Monsieur l'Abbe,
who is entirely at your service. If you are willing, we will go down."

Pierre immediately followed him, expressing his thanks, and Don Vigilio,
relapsing into silence, answered his remarks with a smile. Having
descended the small staircase, they found themselves on the second floor,
on the spacious landing of the grand staircase. And Pierre was surprised
and saddened by the scanty illumination, which, as in some dingy
lodging-house, was limited to a few gas-jets, placed far apart, their
yellow splotches but faintly relieving the deep gloom of the lofty,
endless corridors. All was gigantic and funereal. Even on the landing,
where was the entrance to Donna Serafina's apartments, facing those
occupied by her niece, nothing indicated that a reception was being held
that evening. The door remained closed, not a sound came from the rooms,
a death-like silence arose from the whole palace. And Don Vigilio did not
even ring, but, after a fresh bow, discreetly turned the door-handle.

A single petroleum lamp, placed on a table, lighted the ante-room, a
large apartment with bare fresco-painted walls, simulating hangings of
red and gold, draped regularly all around in the antique fashion. A few
men's overcoats and two ladies' mantles lay on the chairs, whilst a pier
table was littered with hats, and a servant sat there dozing, with his
back to the wall.

However, as Don Vigilio stepped aside to allow Pierre to enter a first
reception-room, hung with red /brocatelle/, a room but dimly lighted and
which he imagined to be empty, the young priest found himself face to
face with an apparition in black, a woman whose features he could not at
first distinguish. Fortunately he heard his companion say, with a low
bow, "Contessina, I have the honour to present to you Monsieur l'Abbe
Pierre Froment, who arrived from France this morning."

Then, for a moment, Pierre remained alone with Benedetta in that deserted
/salon/, in the sleepy glimmer of two lace-veiled lamps. At present,
however, a sound of voices came from a room beyond, a larger apartment
whose doorway, with folding doors thrown wide open, described a
parallelogram of brighter light.

The young woman at once showed herself very affable, with perfect
simplicity of manner: "Ah! I am happy to see you, Monsieur l'Abbe. I was
afraid that your indisposition might be serious. You are quite recovered
now, are you not?"

Pierre listened to her, fascinated by her slow and rather thick voice, in
which restrained passion seemed to mingle with much prudent good sense.
And at last he saw her, with her hair so heavy and so dark, her skin so
white, the whiteness of ivory. She had a round face, with somewhat full
lips, a small refined nose, features as delicate as a child's. But it was
especially her eyes that lived, immense eyes, whose infinite depths none
could fathom. Was she slumbering? Was she dreaming? Did her motionless
face conceal the ardent tension of a great saint and a great /amorosa/?
So white, so young, and so calm, her every movement was harmonious, her
appearance at once very staid, very noble, and very rhythmical. In her
ears she wore two large pearls of matchless purity, pearls which had come
from a famous necklace of her mother's, known throughout Rome.

Pierre apologised and thanked her. "You see me in confusion, madame,"
said he; "I should have liked to express to you this morning my gratitude
for your great kindness."

He had hesitated to call her madame, remembering the plea brought forward
in the suit for the dissolution of her marriage. But plainly enough
everybody must call her madame. Moreover, her face had retained its calm
and kindly expression.

"Consider yourself at home here, Monsieur l'Abbe," she responded, wishing
to put him at his ease. "It is sufficient that our relative, Monsieur de
la Choue, should be fond of you, and take interest in your work. I have,
you know, much affection for him." Then her voice faltered slightly, for
she realised that she ought to speak of the book, the one reason of
Pierre's journey and her proffered hospitality. "Yes," she added, "the
Viscount sent me your book. I read it and found it very beautiful. It
disturbed me. But I am only an ignoramus, and certainly failed to
understand everything in it. We must talk it over together; you will
explain your ideas to me, won't you, Monsieur l'Abbe?"

In her large clear eyes, which did not know how to lie, Pierre then read
the surprise and emotion of a child's soul when confronted by disquieting
and undreamt-of problems. So it was not she who had become impassioned
and had desired to have him near her that she might sustain him and
assist his victory. Once again, and this time very keenly, he suspected a
secret influence, a hidden hand which was directing everything towards
some unknown goal. However, he was charmed by so much simplicity and
frankness in so beautiful, young, and noble a creature; and he gave
himself to her after the exchange of those few words, and was about to
tell her that she might absolutely dispose of him, when he was
interrupted by the advent of another woman, whose tall, slight figure,
also clad in black, stood out strongly against the luminous background of
the further reception-room as seen through the open doorway.

"Well, Benedetta, have you sent Giaccomo up to see?" asked the newcomer.
"Don Vigilio has just come down and he is quite alone. It is improper."

"No, no, aunt. Monsieur l'Abbe is here," was the reply of Benedetta,
hastening to introduce the young priest. "Monsieur l'Abbe Pierre
Froment--The Princess Boccanera."

Ceremonious salutations were exchanged. The Princess must have been
nearly sixty, but she laced herself so tightly that from behind one might
have taken her for a young woman. This tight lacing, however, was her
last coquetry. Her hair, though still plentiful, was quite white, her
eyebrows alone remaining black in her long, wrinkled face, from which
projected the large obstinate nose of the family. She had never been
beautiful, and had remained a spinster, wounded to the heart by the
selection of Count Brandini, who had preferred her younger sister,
Ernesta. From that moment she had resolved to seek consolation and
satisfaction in family pride alone, the hereditary pride of the great
name which she bore. The Boccaneras had already supplied two Popes to the
Church, and she hoped that before she died her brother would become the
third. She had transformed herself into his housekeeper, as it were,
remaining with him, watching over him, and advising him, managing all the
household affairs herself, and accomplishing miracles in order to conceal
the slow ruin which was bringing the ceilings about their heads. If every
Monday for thirty years past she had continued receiving a few intimates,
all of them folks of the Vatican, it was from high political
considerations, so that her drawing-room might remain a meeting-place of
the black world, a power and a threat.

And Pierre divined by her greeting that she deemed him of little account,
petty foreign priest that he was, not even a prelate. This too again
surprised him, again brought the puzzling question to the fore: Why had
he been invited, what was expected of him in this society from which the
humble were usually excluded? Knowing the Princess to be austerely
devout, he at last fancied that she received him solely out of regard for
her kinsman, the Viscount, for in her turn she only found these words of
welcome: "We are so pleased to receive good news of Monsieur de la Choue!
He brought us such a beautiful pilgrimage two years ago."

Passing the first through the doorway, she at last ushered the young
priest into the adjoining reception-room. It was a spacious square
apartment, hung with old yellow /brocatelle/ of a flowery Louis XIV
pattern. The lofty ceiling was adorned with a very fine panelling, carved
and coloured, with gilded roses in each compartment. The furniture,
however, was of all sorts. There were some high mirrors, a couple of
superb gilded pier tables, and a few handsome seventeenth-century
arm-chairs; but all the rest was wretched. A heavy round table of
first-empire style, which had come nobody knew whence, caught the eye
with a medley of anomalous articles picked up at some bazaar, and a
quantity of cheap photographs littered the costly marble tops of the pier
tables. No interesting article of /virtu/ was to be seen. The old
paintings on the walls were with two exceptions feebly executed. There
was a delightful example of an unknown primitive master, a
fourteenth-century Visitation, in which the Virgin had the stature and
pure delicacy of a child of ten, whilst the Archangel, huge and superb,
inundated her with a stream of dazzling, superhuman love; and in front of
this hung an antique family portrait, depicting a very beautiful young
girl in a turban, who was thought to be Cassia Boccanera, the /amorosa/
and avengeress who had flung herself into the Tiber with her brother
Ercole and the corpse of her lover, Flavio Corradini. Four lamps threw a
broad, peaceful glow over the faded room, and, like a melancholy sunset,
tinged it with yellow. It looked grave and bare, with not even a flower
in a vase to brighten it.

In a few words Donna Serafina at once introduced Pierre to the company;
and in the silence, the pause which ensued in the conversation, he felt
that every eye was fixed upon him as upon a promised and expected
curiosity. There were altogether some ten persons present, among them
being Dario, who stood talking with little Princess Celia Buongiovanni,
whilst the elderly relative who had brought the latter sat whispering to
a prelate, Monsignor Nani, in a dim corner. Pierre, however, had been
particularly struck by the name of Consistorial-Advocate Morano, of whose
position in the house Viscount de la Choue had thought proper to inform
him in order to avert any unpleasant blunder. For thirty years past
Morano had been Donna Serafina's /amico/. Their connection, formerly a
guilty one, for the advocate had wife and children of his own, had in
course of time, since he had been left a widower, become one of those
/liaisons/ which tolerant people excuse and except. Both parties were
extremely devout and had certainly assured themselves of all needful
"indulgences." And thus Morano was there in the seat which he had always
taken for a quarter of a century past, a seat beside the chimney-piece,
though as yet the winter fire had not been lighted, and when Donna
Serafina had discharged her duties as mistress of the house, she returned
to her own place in front of him, on the other side of the chimney.

When Pierre in his turn had seated himself near Don Vigilio, who, silent
and discreet, had already taken a chair, Dario resumed in a louder voice
the story which he had been relating to Celia. Dario was a handsome man,
of average height, slim and elegant. He wore a full beard, dark and
carefully tended, and had the long face and pronounced nose of the
Boccaneras, but the impoverishment of the family blood over a course of
centuries had attenuated, softened as it were, any sharpness or undue
prominence of feature.

"Oh! a beauty, an astounding beauty!" he repeated emphatically.

"Whose beauty?" asked Benedetta, approaching him.

Celia, who resembled the little Virgin of the primitive master hanging
above her head, began to laugh. "Oh! Dario's speaking of a poor girl, a
work-girl whom he met to-day," she explained.

Thereupon Dario had to begin his narrative again. It appeared that while
passing along a narrow street near the Piazza Navona, he had perceived a
tall, shapely girl of twenty, who was weeping and sobbing violently,
prone upon a flight of steps. Touched particularly by her beauty, he had
approached her and learnt that she had been working in the house outside
which she was, a manufactory of wax beads, but that, slack times having
come, the workshops had closed and she did not dare to return home, so
fearful was the misery there. Amidst the downpour of her tears she raised
such beautiful eyes to his that he ended by drawing some money from his
pocket. But at this, crimson with confusion, she sprang to her feet,
hiding her hands in the folds of her skirt, and refusing to take
anything. She added, however, that he might follow her if it so pleased
him, and give the money to her mother. And then she hurried off towards
the Ponte St'. Angelo.*

  * Bridge of St. Angelo.

"Yes, she was a beauty, a perfect beauty," repeated Dario with an air of
ecstasy. "Taller than I, and slim though sturdy, with the bosom of a
goddess. In fact, a real antique, a Venus of twenty, her chin rather
bold, her mouth and nose of perfect form, and her eyes wonderfully pure
and large! And she was bare-headed too, with nothing but a crown of heavy
black hair, and a dazzling face, gilded, so to say, by the sun."

They had all begun to listen to him, enraptured, full of that passionate
admiration for beauty which, in spite of every change, Rome still retains
in her heart.

"Those beautiful girls of the people are becoming very rare," remarked
Morano. "You might scour the Trastevere without finding any. However,
this proves that there is at least one of them left."

"And what was your goddess's name?" asked Benedetta, smiling, amused and
enraptured like the others.

"Pierina," replied Dario, also with a laugh.

"And what did you do with her?"

At this question the young man's excited face assumed an expression of
discomfort and fear, like the face of a child on suddenly encountering
some ugly creature amidst its play.

"Oh! don't talk of it," said he. "I felt very sorry afterwards. I saw
such misery--enough to make one ill."

Yielding to his curiosity, it seemed, he had followed the girl across the
Ponte St'. Angelo into the new district which was being built over the
former castle meadows*; and there, on the first floor of an abandoned
house which was already falling into ruins, though the plaster was
scarcely dry, he had come upon a frightful spectacle which still stirred
his heart: a whole family, father and mother, children, and an infirm old
uncle, dying of hunger and rotting in filth! He selected the most
dignified words he could think of to describe the scene, waving his hand
the while with a gesture of fright, as if to ward off some horrible

  * The meadows around the Castle of St. Angelo. The district, now
    covered with buildings, is quite flat and was formerly greatly
    subject to floods. It is known as the Quartiere dei Prati.--Trans.

"At last," he concluded, "I ran away, and you may be sure that I shan't
go back again."

A general wagging of heads ensued in the cold, irksome silence which fell
upon the room. Then Morano summed up the matter in a few bitter words, in
which he accused the despoilers, the men of the Quirinal, of being the
sole cause of all the frightful misery of Rome. Were not people even
talking of the approaching nomination of Deputy Sacco as Minister of
Finances--Sacco, that intriguer who had engaged in all sorts of underhand
practices? His appointment would be the climax of impudence; bankruptcy
would speedily and infallibly ensue.

Meantime Benedetta, who had fixed her eyes on Pierre, with his book in
her mind, alone murmured: "Poor people, how very sad! But why not go back
to see them?"

Pierre, out of his element and absent-minded during the earlier moments,
had been deeply stirred by the latter part of Dario's narrative. His
thoughts reverted to his apostolate amidst the misery of Paris, and his
heart was touched with compassion at being confronted by the story of
such fearful sufferings on the very day of his arrival in Rome.
Unwittingly, impulsively, he raised his voice, and said aloud: "Oh! we
will go to see them together, madame; you will take me. These questions
impassion me so much."

The attention of everybody was then again turned upon the young priest.
The others questioned him, and he realised that they were all anxious
about his first impressions, his opinion of their city and of themselves.
He must not judge Rome by mere outward appearances, they said. What
effect had the city produced on him? How had he found it, and what did he
think of it? Thereupon he politely apologised for his inability to answer
them. He had not yet gone out, said he, and had seen nothing. But this
answer was of no avail; they pressed him all the more keenly, and he
fully understood that their object was to gain him over to admiration and
love. They advised him, adjured him not to yield to any fatal
disillusion, but to persist and wait until Rome should have revealed to
him her soul.

"How long do you expect to remain among us, Monsieur l'Abbe?" suddenly
inquired a courteous voice, with a clear but gentle ring.

It was Monsignor Nani, who, seated in the gloom, thus raised his voice
for the first time. On several occasions it had seemed to Pierre that the
prelate's keen blue eyes were steadily fixed upon him, though all the
while he pretended to be attentively listening to the drawling chatter of
Celia's aunt. And before replying Pierre glanced at him. In his
crimson-edged cassock, with a violet silk sash drawn tightly around his
waist, Nani still looked young, although he was over fifty. His hair had
remained blond, he had a straight refined nose, a mouth very firm yet
very delicate of contour, and beautifully white teeth.

"Why, a fortnight or perhaps three weeks, Monsignor," replied Pierre.

The whole /salon/ protested. What, three weeks! It was his pretension to
know Rome in three weeks! Why, six weeks, twelve months, ten years were
required! The first impression was always a disastrous one, and a long
sojourn was needed for a visitor to recover from it.

"Three weeks!" repeated Donna Serafina with her disdainful air. "Is it
possible for people to study one another and get fond of one another in
three weeks? Those who come back to us are those who have learned to know

Instead of launching into exclamations like the others, Nani had at first
contented himself with smiling, and gently waving his shapely hand, which
bespoke his aristocratic origin. Then, as Pierre modestly explained
himself, saying that he had come to Rome to attend to certain matters and
would leave again as soon as those matters should have been concluded,
the prelate, still smiling, summed up the argument with the remark: "Oh!
Monsieur l'Abbe will stay with us for more than three weeks; we shall
have the happiness of his presence here for a long time, I hope."

These words, though spoken with quiet cordiality, strangely disturbed the
young priest. What was known, what was meant? He leant towards Don
Vigilio, who had remained near him, still and ever silent, and in a
whisper inquired: "Who is Monsignor Nani?"

The secretary, however, did not at once reply. His feverish face became
yet more livid. Then his ardent eyes glanced round to make sure that
nobody was watching him, and in a breath he responded: "He is the
Assessor of the Holy Office."*

  * Otherwise the Inquisition.

This information sufficed, for Pierre was not ignorant of the fact that
the assessor, who was present in silence at the meetings of the Holy
Office, waited upon his Holiness every Wednesday evening after the
sitting, to render him an account of the matters dealt with in the
afternoon. This weekly audience, this hour spent with the Pope in a
privacy which allowed of every subject being broached, gave the assessor
an exceptional position, one of considerable power. Moreover the office
led to the cardinalate; the only "rise" that could be given to the
assessor was his promotion to the Sacred College.

Monsignor Nani, who seemed so perfectly frank and amiable, continued to
look at the young priest with such an encouraging air that the latter
felt obliged to go and occupy the seat beside him, which Celia's old aunt
at last vacated. After all, was there not an omen of victory in meeting,
on the very day of his arrival, a powerful prelate whose influence would
perhaps open every door to him? He therefore felt very touched when
Monsignor Nani, immediately after the first words, inquired in a tone of
deep interest, "And so, my dear child, you have published a book?"

After this, gradually mastered by his enthusiasm and forgetting where he
was, Pierre unbosomed himself, and recounted the birth and progress of
his burning love amidst the sick and the humble, gave voice to his dream
of a return to the olden Christian community, and triumphed with the
rejuvenescence of Catholicism, developing into the one religion of the
universal democracy. Little by little he again raised his voice, and
silence fell around him in the stern, antique reception-room, every one
lending ear to his words with increasing surprise, with a growing
coldness of which he remained unconscious.

At last Nani gently interrupted him, still wearing his perpetual smile,
the faint irony of which, however, had departed. "No doubt, no doubt, my
dear child," he said, "it is very beautiful, oh! very beautiful, well
worthy of the pure and noble imagination of a Christian. But what do you
count on doing now?"

"I shall go straight to the Holy Father to defend myself," answered

A light, restrained laugh went round, and Donna Serafina expressed the
general opinion by exclaiming: "The Holy Father isn't seen as easily as

Pierre, however, was quite impassioned. "Well, for my part," he rejoined,
"I hope I shall see him. Have I not expressed his views? Have I not
defended his policy? Can he let my book be condemned when I believe that
I have taken inspiration from all that is best in him?"

"No doubt, no doubt," Nani again hastily replied, as if he feared that
the others might be too brusque with the young enthusiast. "The Holy
Father has such a lofty mind. And of course it would be necessary to see
him. Only, my dear child, you must not excite yourself so much; reflect a
little; take your time." And, turning to Benedetta, he added, "Of course
his Eminence has not seen Abbe Froment yet. It would be well, however,
that he should receive him to-morrow morning to guide him with his wise

Cardinal Boccanera never attended his sister's Monday-evening receptions.
Still, he was always there in the spirit, like some absent sovereign

"To tell the truth," replied the Contessina, hesitating, "I fear that my
uncle does not share Monsieur l'Abbe's views."

Nani again smiled. "Exactly; he will tell him things which it is good he
should hear."

Thereupon it was at once settled with Don Vigilio that the latter would
put down the young priest's name for an audience on the following morning
at ten o'clock.

However, at that moment a cardinal came in, clad in town costume--his
sash and his stockings red, but his simar black, with a red edging and
red buttons. It was Cardinal Sarno, a very old intimate of the
Boccaneras; and whilst he apologised for arriving so late, through press
of work, the company became silent and deferentially clustered round him.
This was the first cardinal Pierre had seen, and he felt greatly
disappointed, for the newcomer had none of the majesty, none of the fine
port and presence to which he had looked forward. On the contrary, he was
short and somewhat deformed, with the left shoulder higher than the
right, and a worn, ashen face with lifeless eyes. To Pierre he looked
like some old clerk of seventy, half stupefied by fifty years of office
work, dulled and bent by incessantly leaning over his writing desk ever
since his youth. And indeed that was Sarno's story. The puny child of a
petty middle-class family, he had been educated at the Seminario Romano.
Then later he had for ten years professed Canon Law at that same
seminary, afterwards becoming one of the secretaries of the Congregation
for the Propagation of the Faith. Finally, five and twenty years ago, he
had been created a cardinal, and the jubilee of his cardinalate had
recently been celebrated. Born in Rome, he had always lived there; he was
the perfect type of the prelate who, through growing up in the shade of
the Vatican, has become one of the masters of the world. Although he had
never occupied any diplomatic post, he had rendered such important
services to the Propaganda, by his methodical habits of work, that he had
become president of one of the two commissions which furthered the
interests of the Church in those vast countries of the west which are not
yet Catholic. And thus, in the depths of his dim eyes, behind his low,
dull-looking brow, the huge map of Christendom was stored away.

Nani himself had risen, full of covert respect for the unobtrusive but
terrible man whose hand was everywhere, even in the most distant corners
of the earth, although he had never left his office. As Nani knew,
despite his apparent nullity, Sarno, with his slow, methodical, ably
organised work of conquest, possessed sufficient power to set empires in

"Has your Eminence recovered from that cold which distressed us so much?"
asked Nani.

"No, no, I still cough. There is a most malignant passage at the offices.
I feel as cold as ice as soon as I leave my room."

From that moment Pierre felt quite little, virtually lost. He was not
even introduced to the Cardinal. And yet he had to remain in the room for
nearly another hour, looking around and observing. That antiquated world
then seemed to him puerile, as though it had lapsed into a mournful
second childhood. Under all the apparent haughtiness and proud reserve he
could divine real timidity, unacknowledged distrust, born of great
ignorance. If the conversation did not become general, it was because
nobody dared to speak out frankly; and what he heard in the corners was
simply so much childish chatter, the petty gossip of the week, the
trivial echoes of sacristies and drawing-rooms. People saw but little of
one another, and the slightest incidents assumed huge proportions. At
last Pierre ended by feeling as though he were transported into some
/salon/ of the time of Charles X, in one of the episcopal cities of the
French provinces. No refreshments were served. Celia's old aunt secured
possession of Cardinal Sarno; but, instead of replying to her, he simply
wagged his head from time to time. Don Vigilio had not opened his mouth
the whole evening. However, a conversation in a very low tone was started
by Nani and Morano, to whom Donna Serafina listened, leaning forward and
expressing her approval by slowly nodding her head. They were doubtless
speaking of the dissolution of Benedetta's marriage, for they glanced at
the young woman gravely from time to time. And in the centre of the
spacious room, in the sleepy glow of the lamps, there was only the young
people, Benedetta, Dario, and Celia who seemed to be at all alive,
chattering in undertones and occasionally repressing a burst of laughter.

All at once Pierre was struck by the great resemblance between Benedetta
and the portrait of Cassia hanging on the wall. Each displayed the same
delicate youth, the same passionate mouth, the same large, unfathomable
eyes, set in the same round, sensible, healthy-looking face. In each
there was certainly the same upright soul, the same heart of flame. Then
a recollection came to Pierre, that of a painting by Guido Reni, the
adorable, candid head of Beatrice Cenci, which, at that moment and to his
thinking, the portrait of Cassia closely resembled. This resemblance
stirred him and he glanced at Benedetta with anxious sympathy, as if all
the fierce fatality of race and country were about to fall on her. But
no, it could not be; she looked so calm, so resolute, and so patient!
Besides, ever since he had entered that room he had noticed none other
than signs of gay fraternal tenderness between her and Dario, especially
on her side, for her face ever retained the bright serenity of a love
which may be openly confessed. At one moment, it is true, Dario in a
joking way had caught hold of her hands and pressed them; but while he
began to laugh rather nervously, with a brighter gleam darting from his
eyes, she on her side, all composure, slowly freed her hands, as though
theirs was but the play of old and affectionate friends. She loved him,
though, it was visible, with her whole being and for her whole life.

At last when Dario, after stifling a slight yawn and glancing at his
watch, had slipped off to join some friends who were playing cards at a
lady's house, Benedetta and Celia sat down together on a sofa near
Pierre; and the latter, without wishing to listen, overheard a few words
of their confidential chat. The little Princess was the eldest daughter
of Prince Matteo Buongiovanni, who was already the father of five
children by an English wife, a Mortimer, to whom he was indebted for a
dowry of two hundred thousand pounds. Indeed, the Buongiovannis were
known as one of the few patrician families of Rome that were still rich,
still erect among the ruins of the past, now crumbling on every side.
They also numbered two popes among their forerunners, yet this had not
prevented Prince Matteo from lending support to the Quirinal without
quarrelling with the Vatican. Son of an American woman, no longer having
the pure Roman blood in his veins, he was a more supple politician than
other aristocrats, and was also, folks said, extremely grasping,
struggling to be one of the last to retain the wealth and power of olden
times, which he realised were condemned to death. Yet it was in his
family, renowned for its superb pride and its continued magnificence,
that a love romance had lately taken birth, a romance which was the
subject of endless gossip: Celia had suddenly fallen in love with a young
lieutenant to whom she had never spoken; her love was reciprocated, and
the passionate attachment of the officer and the girl only found vent in
the glances they exchanged on meeting each day during the usual drive
through the Corso. Nevertheless Celia displayed a tenacious will, and
after declaring to her father that she would never take any other
husband, she was waiting, firm and resolute, in the certainty that she
would ultimately secure the man of her choice. The worst of the affair
was that the lieutenant, Attilio Sacco, happened to be the son of Deputy
Sacco, a parvenu whom the black world looked down upon, as upon one sold
to the Quirinal and ready to undertake the very dirtiest job.

"It was for me that Morano spoke just now," Celia murmured in Benedetta's
ear. "Yes, yes, when he spoke so harshly of Attilio's father and that
ministerial appointment which people are talking about. He wanted to give
me a lesson."

The two girls had sworn eternal affection in their school-days, and
Benedetta, the elder by five years, showed herself maternal. "And so,"
she said, "you've not become a whit more reasonable. You still think of
that young man?"

"What! are you going to grieve me too, dear?" replied Celia. "I love
Attilio and mean to have him. Yes, him and not another! I want him and
I'll have him, because I love him and he loves me. It's simple enough."

Pierre glanced at her, thunderstruck. With her gentle virgin face she was
like a candid, budding lily. A brow and a nose of blossom-like purity; a
mouth all innocence with its lips closing over pearly teeth, and eyes
like spring water, clear and fathomless. And not a quiver passed over her
cheeks of satiny freshness, no sign, however faint, of anxiety or
inquisitiveness appeared in her candid glance. Did she think? Did she
know? Who could have answered? She was virginity personified with all its
redoubtable mystery.

"Ah! my dear," resumed Benedetta, "don't begin my sad story over again.
One doesn't succeed in marrying the Pope and the King."

All tranquillity, Celia responded: "But you didn't love Prada, whereas I
love Attilio. Life lies in that: one must love."

These words, spoken so naturally by that ignorant child, disturbed Pierre
to such a point that he felt tears rising to his eyes. Love! yes, therein
lay the solution of every quarrel, the alliance between the nations, the
reign of peace and joy throughout the world! However, Donna Serafina had
now risen, shrewdly suspecting the nature of the conversation which was
impassioning the two girls. And she gave Don Vigilio a glance, which the
latter understood, for he came to tell Pierre in an undertone that it was
time to retire. Eleven o'clock was striking, and Celia went off with her
aunt. Advocate Morano, however, doubtless desired to retain Cardinal
Sarno and Nani for a few moments in order that they might privately
discuss some difficulty which had arisen in the divorce proceedings. On
reaching the outer reception-room, Benedetta, after kissing Celia on both
cheeks, took leave of Pierre with much good grace.

"In answering the Viscount to-morrow morning," said she, "I shall tell
him how happy we are to have you with us, and for longer than you think.
Don't forget to come down at ten o'clock to see my uncle, the Cardinal."

Having climbed to the third floor again, Pierre and Don Vigilio, each
carrying a candlestick which the servant had handed to them, were about
to part for the night, when the former could not refrain from asking the
secretary a question which had been worrying him for hours: "Is Monsignor
Nani a very influential personage?"

Don Vigilio again became quite scared, and simply replied by a gesture,
opening his arms as if to embrace the world. Then his eyes flashed, and
in his turn he seemed to yield to inquisitiveness. "You already knew him,
didn't you?" he inquired.

"I? not at all!"

"Really! Well, he knows you very well. Last Monday I heard him speak of
you in such precise terms that he seemed to be acquainted with the
slightest particulars of your career and your character."

"Why, I never even heard his name before."

"Then he must have procured information."

Thereupon Don Vigilio bowed and entered his room; whilst Pierre,
surprised to find his door open, saw Victorine come out with her calm
active air.

"Ah! Monsieur l'Abbe, I wanted to make sure that you had everything you
were likely to want. There are candles, water, sugar, and matches. And
what do you take in the morning, please? Coffee? No, a cup of milk with a
roll. Very good; at eight o'clock, eh? And now rest and sleep well. I was
awfully afraid of ghosts during the first nights I spent in this old
palace! But I never saw a trace of one. The fact is, when people are
dead, they are too well pleased, and don't want to break their rest!"

Then off she went, and Pierre at last found himself alone, glad to be
able to shake off the strain imposed on him, to free himself from the
discomfort which he had felt in that reception-room, among those people
who in his mind still mingled and vanished like shadows in the sleepy
glow of the lamps. Ghosts, thought he, are the old dead ones of long ago
whose distressed spirits return to love and suffer in the breasts of the
living of to-day. And, despite his long afternoon rest, he had never felt
so weary, so desirous of slumber, confused and foggy as was his mind,
full of the fear that he had hitherto not understood things aright. When
he began to undress, his astonishment at being in that room returned to
him with such intensity that he almost fancied himself another person.
What did all those people think of his book? Why had he been brought to
this cold dwelling whose hostility he could divine? Was it for the
purpose of helping him or conquering him? And again in the yellow
glimmer, the dismal sunset of the drawing-room, he perceived Donna
Serafina and Advocate Morano on either side of the chimney-piece, whilst
behind the calm yet passionate visage of Benedetta appeared the smiling
face of Monsignor Nani, with cunning eyes and lips bespeaking indomitable

He went to bed, but soon got up again, stifling, feeling such a need of
fresh, free air that he opened the window wide in order to lean out. But
the night was black as ink, the darkness had submerged the horizon. A
mist must have hidden the stars in the firmament; the vault above seemed
opaque and heavy like lead; and yonder in front the houses of the
Trastevere had long since been asleep. Not one of all their windows
glittered; there was but a single gaslight shining, all alone and far
away, like a lost spark. In vain did Pierre seek the Janiculum. In the
depths of that ocean of nihility all sunk and vanished, Rome's four and
twenty centuries, the ancient Palatine and the modern Quirinal, even the
giant dome of St. Peter's, blotted out from the sky by the flood of
gloom. And below him he could not see, he could not even hear the Tiber,
the dead river flowing past the dead city.


AT a quarter to ten o'clock on the following morning Pierre came down to
the first floor of the mansion for his audience with Cardinal Boccanera.
He had awoke free of all fatigue and again full of courage and candid
enthusiasm; nothing remaining of his strange despondency of the previous
night, the doubts and suspicions which had then come over him. The
morning was so fine, the sky so pure and so bright, that his heart once
more palpitated with hope.

On the landing he found the folding doors of the first ante-room wide
open. While closing the gala saloons which overlooked the street, and
which were rotting with old age and neglect, the Cardinal still used the
reception-rooms of one of his grand-uncles, who in the eighteenth century
had risen to the same ecclesiastical dignity as himself. There was a
suite of four immense rooms, each sixteen feet high, with windows facing
the lane which sloped down towards the Tiber; and the sun never entered
them, shut off as it was by the black houses across the lane. Thus the
installation, in point of space, was in keeping with the display and pomp
of the old-time princely dignitaries of the Church. But no repairs were
ever made, no care was taken of anything, the hangings were frayed and
ragged, and dust preyed on the furniture, amidst an unconcern which
seemed to betoken some proud resolve to stay the course of time.

Pierre experienced a slight shock as he entered the first room, the
servants' ante-chamber. Formerly two pontifical /gente d'armi/ in full
uniform had always stood there amidst a stream of lackeys; and the single
servant now on duty seemed by his phantom-like appearance to increase the
melancholiness of the vast and gloomy hall. One was particularly struck
by an altar facing the windows, an altar with red drapery surmounted by a
/baldacchino/ with red hangings, on which appeared the escutcheon of the
Boccaneras, the winged dragon spitting flames with the device, /Bocca
nera, Alma rossa/. And the grand-uncle's red hat, the old huge ceremonial
hat, was also there, with the two cushions of red silk, and the two
antique parasols which were taken in the coach each time his Eminence
went out. And in the deep silence it seemed as if one could almost hear
the faint noise of the moths preying for a century past upon all this
dead splendour, which would have fallen into dust at the slightest touch
of a feather broom.

The second ante-room, that was formerly occupied by the secretary, was
also empty, and it was only in the third one, the /anticamera nobile/,
that Pierre found Don Vigilio. With his retinue reduced to what was
strictly necessary, the Cardinal had preferred to have his secretary near
him--at the door, so to say, of the old throne-room, where he gave
audience. And Don Vigilio, so thin and yellow, and quivering with fever,
sat there like one lost, at a small, common, black table covered with
papers. Raising his head from among a batch of documents, he recognised
Pierre, and in a low voice, a faint murmur amidst the silence, he said,
"His Eminence is engaged. Please wait."

Then he again turned to his reading, doubtless to escape all attempts at

Not daring to sit down, Pierre examined the apartment. It looked perhaps
yet more dilapidated than the others, with its hangings of green damask
worn by age and resembling the faded moss on ancient trees. The ceiling,
however, had remained superb. Within a frieze of gilded and coloured
ornaments was a fresco representing the Triumph of Amphitrite, the work
of one of Raffaelle's pupils. And, according to antique usage, it was
here that the /berretta/, the red cap, was placed, on a credence, below a
large crucifix of ivory and ebony.

As Pierre grew used to the half-light, however, his attention was more
particularly attracted by a recently painted full-length portrait of the
Cardinal in ceremonial costume--cassock of red moire, rochet of lace, and
/cappa/ thrown like a royal mantle over his shoulders. In these vestments
of the Church the tall old man of seventy retained the proud bearing of a
prince, clean shaven, but still boasting an abundance of white hair which
streamed in curls over his shoulders. He had the commanding visage of the
Boccaneras, a large nose and a large thin-lipped mouth in a long face
intersected by broad lines; and the eyes which lighted his pale
countenance were indeed the eyes of his race, very dark, yet sparkling
with ardent life under bushy brows which had remained quite black. With
laurels about his head he would have resembled a Roman emperor, very
handsome and master of the world, as though indeed the blood of Augustus
pulsated in his veins.

Pierre knew his story which this portrait recalled. Educated at the
College of the Nobles, Pio Boccanera had but once absented himself from
Rome, and that when very young, hardly a deacon, but nevertheless
appointed oblegate to convey a /berretta/ to Paris. On his return his
ecclesiastical career had continued in sovereign fashion. Honours had
fallen on him naturally, as by right of birth. Ordained by Pius IX
himself, afterwards becoming a Canon of the Vatican Basilica, and
/Cameriere segreto/, he had risen to the post of Majordomo about the time
of the Italian occupation, and in 1874 had been created a Cardinal. For
the last four years, moreover, he had been Papal Chamberlain
(/Camerlingo/), and folks whispered that Leo XIII had appointed him to
that post, even as he himself had been appointed to it by Pius IX, in
order to lessen his chance of succeeding to the pontifical throne; for
although the conclave in choosing Leo had set aside the old tradition
that the Camerlingo was ineligible for the papacy, it was not probable
that it would again dare to infringe that rule. Moreover, people asserted
that, even as had been the case in the reign of Pius, there was a secret
warfare between the Pope and his Camerlingo, the latter remaining on one
side, condemning the policy of the Holy See, holding radically different
opinions on all things, and silently waiting for the death of Leo, which
would place power in his hands with the duty of summoning the conclave,
and provisionally watching over the affairs and interests of the Church
until a new Pope should be elected. Behind Cardinal Pio's broad, stern
brow, however, in the glow of his dark eyes, might there not also be the
ambition of actually rising to the papacy, of repeating the career of
Gioachino Pecci, Camerlingo and then Pope, all tradition notwithstanding?
With the pride of a Roman prince Pio knew but Rome; he almost gloried in
being totally ignorant of the modern world; and verily he showed himself
very pious, austerely religious, with a full firm faith into which the
faintest doubt could never enter.

But a whisper drew Pierre from his reflections. Don Vigilio, in his
prudent way, invited him to sit down: "You may have to wait some time:
take a stool."

Then he began to cover a large sheet of yellowish paper with fine
writing, while Pierre seated himself on one of the stools ranged
alongside the wall in front of the portrait. And again the young man fell
into a reverie, picturing in his mind a renewal of all the princely pomp
of the old-time cardinals in that antique room. To begin with, as soon as
nominated, a cardinal gave public festivities, which were sometimes very
splendid. During three days the reception-rooms remained wide open, all
could enter, and from room to room ushers repeated the names of those who
came--patricians, people of the middle class, poor folks, all Rome
indeed, whom the new cardinal received with sovereign kindliness, as a
king might receive his subjects. Then there was quite a princely retinue;
some cardinals carried five hundred people about with them, had no fewer
than sixteen distinct offices in their households, lived, in fact, amidst
a perfect court. Even when life subsequently became simplified, a
cardinal, if he were a prince, still had a right to a gala train of four
coaches drawn by black horses. Four servants preceded him in liveries,
emblazoned with his arms, and carried his hat, cushion, and parasols. He
was also attended by a secretary in a mantle of violet silk, a
train-bearer in a gown of violet woollen stuff, and a gentleman in
waiting, wearing an Elizabethan style of costume, and bearing the
/berretta/ with gloved hands. Although the household had then become
smaller, it still comprised an /auditore/ specially charged with the
congregational work, a secretary employed exclusively for correspondence,
a chief usher who introduced visitors, a gentleman in attendance for the
carrying of the /berretta/, a train-bearer, a chaplain, a majordomo and a
/valet-de-chambre/, to say nothing of a flock of underlings, lackeys,
cooks, coachmen, grooms, quite a population, which filled the vast
mansions with bustle. And with these attendants Pierre mentally sought to
fill the three spacious ante-rooms now so deserted; the stream of lackeys
in blue liveries broidered with emblazonry, the world of abbes and
prelates in silk mantles appeared before him, again setting magnificent
and passionate life under the lofty ceilings, illumining all the
semi-gloom with resuscitated splendour.

But nowadays--particularly since the Italian occupation of Rome--nearly
all the great fortunes of the Roman princes have been exhausted, and the
pomp of the great dignitaries of the Church has disappeared. The ruined
patricians have kept aloof from badly remunerated ecclesiastical offices
to which little renown attaches, and have left them to the ambition of
the petty /bourgeoisie/. Cardinal Boccanera, the last prince of ancient
nobility invested with the purple, received scarcely more than 30,000
/lire/* a year to enable him to sustain his rank, that is 22,000
/lire/,** the salary of his post as Camerlingo, and various small sums
derived from other functions. And he would never have made both ends meet
had not Donna Serafina helped him with the remnants of the former family
fortune which he had long previously surrendered to his sisters and his
brother. Donna Serafina and Benedetta lived apart, in their own rooms,
having their own table, servants, and personal expenses. The Cardinal
only had his nephew Dario with him, and he never gave a dinner or held a
public reception. His greatest source of expense was his carriage, the
heavy pair-horse coach, which ceremonial usage compelled him to retain,
for a cardinal cannot go on foot through the streets of Rome. However,
his coachman, an old family servant, spared him the necessity of keeping
a groom by insisting on taking entire charge of the carriage and the two
black horses, which, like himself, had grown old in the service of the
Boccaneras. There were two footmen, father and son, the latter born in
the house. And the cook's wife assisted in the kitchen. However, yet
greater reductions had been made in the ante-rooms, where the staff, once
so brilliant and numerous, was now simply composed of two petty priests,
Don Vigilio, who was at once secretary, auditore, and majordomo, and Abbe
Paparelli, who acted as train-bearer, chaplain, and chief usher. There,
where a crowd of salaried people of all ranks had once moved to and fro,
filling the vast halls with bustle and colour, one now only beheld two
little black cassocks gliding noiselessly along, two unobtrusive shadows
flitting about amidst the deep gloom of the lifeless rooms.

  * 1,200 pounds.

  ** 880 pounds.

And Pierre now fully understood the haughty unconcern of the Cardinal,
who suffered time to complete its work of destruction in that ancestral
mansion, to which he was powerless to restore the glorious life of former
times! Built for that shining life, for the sovereign display of a
sixteenth-century prince, it was now deserted and empty, crumbling about
the head of its last master, who had no servants left him to fill it, and
would not have known how to pay for the materials which repairs would
have necessitated. And so, since the modern world was hostile, since
religion was no longer sovereign, since men had changed, and one was
drifting into the unknown, amidst the hatred and indifference of new
generations, why not allow the old world to collapse in the stubborn,
motionless pride born of its ancient glory? Heroes alone died standing,
without relinquishing aught of their past, preserving the same faith
until their final gasp, beholding, with pain-fraught bravery and infinite
sadness, the slow last agony of their divinity. And the Cardinal's tall
figure, his pale, proud face, so full of sovereign despair and courage,
expressed that stubborn determination to perish beneath the ruins of the
old social edifice rather than change a single one of its stones.

Pierre was roused by a rustling of furtive steps, a little mouse-like
trot, which made him raise his head. A door in the wall had just opened,
and to his surprise there stood before him an abbe of some forty years,
fat and short, looking like an old maid in a black skirt, a very old maid
in fact, so numerous were the wrinkles on his flabby face. It was Abbe
Paparelli, the train-bearer and usher, and on seeing Pierre he was about
to question him, when Don Vigilio explained matters.

"Ah! very good, very good, Monsieur l'Abbe Froment. His Eminence will
condescend to receive you, but you must wait, you must wait."

Then, with his silent rolling walk, he returned to the second ante-room,
where he usually stationed himself.

Pierre did not like his face--the face of an old female devotee, whitened
by celibacy, and ravaged by stern observance of the rites; and so, as Don
Vigilio--his head weary and his hands burning with fever--had not resumed
his work, the young man ventured to question him. Oh! Abbe Paparelli, he
was a man of the liveliest faith, who from simple humility remained in a
modest post in his Eminence's service. On the other hand, his Eminence
was pleased to reward him for his devotion by occasionally condescending
to listen to his advice.

As Don Vigilio spoke, a faint gleam of irony, a kind of veiled anger
appeared in his ardent eyes. However, he continued to examine Pierre, and
gradually seemed reassured, appreciating the evident frankness of this
foreigner who could hardly belong to any clique. And so he ended by
departing somewhat from his continual sickly distrust, and even engaged
in a brief chat.

"Yes, yes," he said, "there is a deal of work sometimes, and rather hard
work too. His Eminence belongs to several Congregations, the
Consistorial, the Holy Office, the Index, the Rites. And all the
documents concerning the business which falls to him come into my hands.
I have to study each affair, prepare a report on it, clear the way, so to
say. Besides which all the correspondence is carried on through me.
Fortunately his Eminence is a holy man, and intrigues neither for himself
nor for others, and this enables us to taste a little peace."

Pierre took a keen interest in these particulars of the life led by a
prince of the Church. He learnt that the Cardinal rose at six o'clock,
summer and winter alike. He said his mass in his chapel, a little room
which simply contained an altar of painted wood, and which nobody but
himself ever entered. His private apartments were limited to three
rooms--a bed-room, dining-room, and study--all very modest and small,
contrived indeed by partitioning off portions of one large hall. And he
led a very retired life, exempt from all luxury, like one who is frugal
and poor. At eight in the morning he drank a cup of cold milk for his
breakfast. Then, when there were sittings of the Congregations to which
he belonged, he attended them; otherwise he remained at home and gave
audience. Dinner was served at one o'clock, and afterwards came the
siesta, lasting until five in summer and until four at other seasons--a
sacred moment when a servant would not have dared even to knock at the
door. On awaking, if it were fine, his Eminence drove out towards the
ancient Appian Way, returning at sunset when the /Ave Maria/ began to
ring. And finally, after again giving audience between seven and nine, he
supped and retired into his room, where he worked all alone or went to
bed. The cardinals wait upon the Pope on fixed days, two or three times
each month, for purposes connected with their functions. For nearly a
year, however, the Camerlingo had not been received in private audience
by his Holiness, and this was a sign of disgrace, a proof of secret
warfare, of which the entire black world spoke in prudent whispers.

"His Eminence is sometimes a little rough," continued Don Vigilio in a
soft voice. "But you should see him smile when his niece the Contessina,
of whom he is very fond, comes down to kiss him. If you have a good
reception, you know, you will owe it to the Contessina."

At this moment the secretary was interrupted. A sound of voices came from
the second ante-room, and forthwith he rose to his feet, and bent very
low at sight of a stout man in a black cassock, red sash, and black hat,
with twisted cord of red and gold, whom Abbe Paparelli was ushering in
with a great display of deferential genuflections. Pierre also had risen
at a sign from Don Vigilio, who found time to whisper to him, "Cardinal
Sanguinetti, Prefect of the Congregation of the Index."

Meantime Abbe Paparelli was lavishing attentions on the prelate,
repeating with an expression of blissful satisfaction: "Your most
reverend Eminence was expected. I have orders to admit your most reverend
Eminence at once. His Eminence the Grand Penitentiary is already here."

Sanguinetti, loud of voice and sonorous of tread, spoke out with sudden
familiarity, "Yes, yes, I know. A number of importunate people detained
me! One can never do as one desires. But I am here at last."

He was a man of sixty, squat and fat, with a round and highly coloured
face distinguished by a huge nose, thick lips, and bright eyes which were
always on the move. But he more particularly struck one by his active,
almost turbulent, youthful vivacity, scarcely a white hair as yet showing
among his brown and carefully tended locks, which fell in curls about his
temples. Born at Viterbo, he had studied at the seminary there before
completing his education at the Universita Gregoriana in Rome. His
ecclesiastical appointments showed how rapidly he had made his way, how
supple was his mind: first of all secretary to the nunciature at Lisbon;
then created titular Bishop of Thebes, and entrusted with a delicate
mission in Brazil; on his return appointed nuncio first at Brussels and
next at Vienna; and finally raised to the cardinalate, to say nothing of
the fact that he had lately secured the suburban episcopal see of
Frascati.* Trained to business, having dealt with every nation in Europe,
he had nothing against him but his ambition, of which he made too open a
display, and his spirit of intrigue, which was ever restless. It was said
that he was now one of the irreconcilables who demanded that Italy should
surrender Rome, though formerly he had made advances to the Quirinal. In
his wild passion to become the next Pope he rushed from one opinion to
the other, giving himself no end of trouble to gain people from whom he
afterwards parted. He had twice already fallen out with Leo XIII, but had
deemed it politic to make his submission. In point of fact, given that he
was an almost openly declared candidate to the papacy, he was wearing
himself out by his perpetual efforts, dabbling in too many things, and
setting too many people agog.

  * Cardinals York and Howard were Bishops of Frascati.--Trans.

Pierre, however, had only seen in him the Prefect of the Congregation of
the Index; and the one idea which struck him was that this man would
decide the fate of his book. And so, when the Cardinal had disappeared
and Abbe Paparelli had returned to the second ante-room, he could not
refrain from asking Don Vigilio, "Are their Eminences Cardinal
Sanguinetti and Cardinal Boccanera very intimate, then?"

An irrepressible smile contracted the secretary's lips, while his eyes
gleamed with an irony which he could no longer subdue: "Very
intimate--oh! no, no--they see one another when they can't do otherwise."

Then he explained that considerable deference was shown to Cardinal
Boccanera's high birth, and that his colleagues often met at his
residence, when, as happened to be the case that morning, any grave
affair presented itself, requiring an interview apart from the usual
official meetings. Cardinal Sanguinetti, he added, was the son of a petty
medical man of Viterbo. "No, no," he concluded, "their Eminences are not
at all intimate. It is difficult for men to agree when they have neither
the same ideas nor the same character, especially too when they are in
each other's way."

Don Vigilio spoke these last words in a lower tone, as if talking to
himself and still retaining his sharp smile. But Pierre scarcely
listened, absorbed as he was in his own worries. "Perhaps they have met
to discuss some affair connected with the Index?" said he.

Don Vigilio must have known the object of the meeting. However, he merely
replied that, if the Index had been in question, the meeting would have
taken place at the residence of the Prefect of that Congregation.
Thereupon Pierre, yielding to his impatience, was obliged to put a
straight question. "You know of my affair--the affair of my book," he
said. "Well, as his Eminence is a member of the Congregation, and all the
documents pass through your hands, you might be able to give me some
useful information. I know nothing as yet and am so anxious to know!"

At this Don Vigilio relapsed into scared disquietude. He stammered,
saying that he had not seen any documents, which was true. "Nothing has
yet reached us," he added; "I assure you I know nothing."

Then, as the other persisted, he signed to him to keep quiet, and again
turned to his writing, glancing furtively towards the second ante-room as
if he believed that Abbe Paparelli was listening. He had certainly said
too much, he thought, and he made himself very small, crouching over the
table, and melting, fading away in his dim corner.

Pierre again fell into a reverie, a prey to all the mystery which
enveloped him--the sleepy, antique sadness of his surroundings. Long
minutes went by; it was nearly eleven when the sound of a door opening
and a buzz of voices roused him. Then he bowed respectfully to Cardinal
Sanguinetti, who went off accompanied by another cardinal, a very thin
and tall man, with a grey, bony, ascetic face. Neither of them, however,
seemed even to see the petty foreign priest who bent low as they went by.
They were chatting aloud in familiar fashion.

"Yes! the wind is falling; it is warmer than yesterday."

"We shall certainly have the sirocco to-morrow."

Then solemn silence again fell on the large, dim room. Don Vigilio was
still writing, but his pen made no noise as it travelled over the stiff
yellow paper. However, the faint tinkle of a cracked bell was suddenly
heard, and Abbe Paparelli, after hastening into the throne-room for a
moment, returned to summon Pierre, whom he announced in a restrained
voice: "Monsieur l'Abbe Pierre Froment."

The spacious throne-room was like the other apartments, a virtual ruin.
Under the fine ceiling of carved and gilded wood-work, the red
wall-hangings of /brocatelle/, with a large palm pattern, were falling
into tatters. A few holes had been patched, but long wear had streaked
the dark purple of the silk--once of dazzling magnificence--with pale
hues. The curiosity of the room was its old throne, an arm-chair
upholstered in red silk, on which the Holy Father had sat when visiting
Cardinal Pio's grand-uncle. This chair was surmounted by a canopy,
likewise of red silk, under which hung the portrait of the reigning Pope.
And, according to custom, the chair was turned towards the wall, to show
that none might sit on it. The other furniture of the apartment was made
up of sofas, arm-chairs, and chairs, with a marvellous Louis Quatorze
table of gilded wood, having a top of mosaic-work representing the rape
of Europa.

But at first Pierre only saw Cardinal Boccanera standing by the table
which he used for writing. In his simple black cassock, with red edging
and red buttons, the Cardinal seemed to him yet taller and prouder than
in the portrait which showed him in ceremonial costume. There was the
same curly white hair, the same long, strongly marked face, with large
nose and thin lips, and the same ardent eyes, illumining the pale
countenance from under bushy brows which had remained black. But the
portrait did not express the lofty tranquil faith which shone in this
handsome face, a complete certainty of what truth was, and an absolute
determination to abide by it for ever.

Boccanera had not stirred, but with black, fixed glance remained watching
his visitor's approach; and the young priest, acquainted with the usual
ceremonial, knelt and kissed the large ruby which the prelate wore on his
hand. However, the Cardinal immediately raised him.

"You are welcome here, my dear son. My niece spoke to me about you with
so much sympathy that I am happy to receive you." With these words Pio
seated himself near the table, as yet not telling Pierre to take a chair,
but still examining him whilst speaking slowly and with studied
politeness: "You arrived yesterday morning, did you not, and were very

"Your Eminence is too kind--yes, I was worn out, as much through emotion
as fatigue. This journey is one of such gravity for me."

The Cardinal seemed indisposed to speak of serious matters so soon. "No
doubt; it is a long way from Paris to Rome," he replied. "Nowadays the
journey may be accomplished with fair rapidity, but formerly how
interminable it was!" Then speaking yet more slowly: "I went to Paris
once--oh! a long time ago, nearly fifty years ago--and then for barely a
week. A large and handsome city; yes, yes, a great many people in the
streets, extremely well-bred people, a nation which has accomplished
great and admirable things. Even in these sad times one cannot forget
that France was the eldest daughter of the Church. But since that one
journey I have not left Rome--"

Then he made a gesture of quiet disdain, expressive of all he left
unsaid. What was the use of journeying to a land of doubt and rebellion?
Did not Rome suffice--Rome, which governed the world--the Eternal City
which, when the times should be accomplished, would become the capital of
the world once more?

Silently glancing at the Cardinal's lofty stature, the stature of one of
the violent war-like princes of long ago, now reduced to wearing that
simple cassock, Pierre deemed him superb with his proud conviction that
Rome sufficed unto herself. But that stubborn resolve to remain in
ignorance, that determination to take no account of other nations
excepting to treat them as vassals, disquieted him when he reflected on
the motives that had brought him there. And as silence had again fallen
he thought it politic to approach the subject he had at heart by words of

"Before taking any other steps," said he, "I desired to express my
profound respect for your Eminence; for in your Eminence I place my only
hope; and I beg your Eminence to be good enough to advise and guide me."

With a wave of the hand Boccanera thereupon invited Pierre to take a
chair in front of him. "I certainly do not refuse you my counsel, my dear
son," he replied. "I owe my counsel to every Christian who desires to do
well. But it would be wrong for you to rely on my influence. I have none.
I live entirely apart from others; I cannot and will not ask for
anything. However, this will not prevent us from chatting." Then,
approaching the question in all frankness, without the slightest
artifice, like one of brave and absolute mind who fears no responsibility
however great, he continued: "You have written a book, have you
not?--'New Rome,' I believe--and you have come to defend this book which
has been denounced to the Congregation of the Index. For my own part I
have not yet read it. You will understand that I cannot read everything.
I only see the works that are sent to me by the Congregation which I have
belonged to since last year; and, besides, I often content myself with
the reports which my secretary draws up for me. However, my niece
Benedetta has read your book, and has told me that it is not lacking in
interest. It first astonished her somewhat, and then greatly moved her.
So I promise you that I will go through it and study the incriminated
passages with the greatest care."

Pierre profited by the opportunity to begin pleading his cause. And it
occurred to him that it would be best to give his references at once.
"Your Eminence will realise how stupefied I was when I learnt that
proceedings were being taken against my book," he said. "Monsieur le
Vicomte Philibert de la Choue, who is good enough to show me some
friendship, does not cease repeating that such a book is worth the best
of armies to the Holy See."

"Oh! De la Choue, De la Choue!" repeated the Cardinal with a pout of
good-natured disdain. "I know that De la Choue considers himself a good
Catholic. He is in a slight degree our relative, as you know. And when he
comes to Rome and stays here, I willingly see him, on condition however
that no mention is made of certain subjects on which it would be
impossible for us to agree. To tell the truth, the Catholicism preached
by De la Choue--worthy, clever man though he is--his Catholicism, I say,
with his corporations, his working-class clubs, his cleansed democracy
and his vague socialism, is after all merely so much literature!"

This pronouncement struck Pierre, for he realised all the disdainful
irony contained in it--an irony which touched himself. And so he hastened
to name his other reference, whose authority he imagined to be above
discussion: "His Eminence Cardinal Bergerot has been kind enough to
signify his full approval of my book."

At this Boccanera's face suddenly changed. It no longer wore an
expression of derisive blame, tinged with the pity that is prompted by a
child's ill-considered action fated to certain failure. A flash of anger
now lighted up the Cardinal's dark eyes, and a pugnacious impulse
hardened his entire countenance. "In France," he slowly resumed,
"Cardinal Bergerot no doubt has a reputation for great piety. We know
little of him in Rome. Personally, I have only seen him once, when he
came to receive his hat. And I would not therefore allow myself to judge
him if his writings and actions had not recently saddened my believing
soul. Unhappily, I am not the only one; you will find nobody here, of the
Sacred College, who approves of his doings." Boccanera paused, then in a
firm voice concluded: "Cardinal Bergerot is a Revolutionary!"

This time Pierre's surprise for a moment forced him to silence. A
Revolutionary--good heavens! a Revolutionary--that gentle pastor of
souls, whose charity was inexhaustible, whose one dream was that Jesus
might return to earth to ensure at last the reign of peace and justice!
So words did not have the same signification in all places; into what
religion had he now tumbled that the faith of the poor and the humble
should be looked upon as a mere insurrectional, condemnable passion? As
yet unable to understand things aright, Pierre nevertheless realised that
discussion would be both discourteous and futile, and his only remaining
desire was to give an account of his book, explain and vindicate it. But
at his first words the Cardinal interposed.

"No, no, my dear son. It would take us too long and I wish to read the
passages. Besides, there is an absolute rule. All books which meddle with
the faith are condemnable and pernicious. Does your book show perfect
respect for dogma?"

"I believe so, and I assure your Eminence that I have had no intention of
writing a work of negation."

"Good: I may be on your side if that is true. Only, in the contrary case,
I have but one course to advise you, which is to withdraw your work,
condemn it, and destroy it without waiting until a decision of the Index
compels you to do so. Whosoever has given birth to scandal must stifle it
and expiate it, even if he have to cut into his own flesh. The only
duties of a priest are humility and obedience, the complete annihilation
of self before the sovereign will of the Church. And, besides, why write
at all? For there is already rebellion in expressing an opinion of one's
own. It is always the temptation of the devil which puts a pen in an
author's hand. Why, then, incur the risk of being for ever damned by
yielding to the pride of intelligence and domination? Your book again, my
dear son--your book is literature, literature!"

This expression again repeated was instinct with so much contempt that
Pierre realised all the wretchedness that would fall upon the poor pages
of his apostolate on meeting the eyes of this prince who had become a
saintly man. With increasing fear and admiration he listened to him, and
beheld him growing greater and greater.

"Ah! faith, my dear son, everything is in faith--perfect, disinterested
faith--which believes for the sole happiness of believing! How restful it
is to bow down before the mysteries without seeking to penetrate them,
full of the tranquil conviction that, in accepting them, one possesses
both the certain and the final! Is not the highest intellectual
satisfaction that which is derived from the victory of the divine over
the mind, which it disciplines, and contents so completely that it knows
desire no more? And apart from that perfect equilibrium, that explanation
of the unknown by the divine, no durable peace is possible for man. If
one desires that truth and justice should reign upon earth, it is in God
that one must place them. He that does not believe is like a battlefield,
the scene of every disaster. Faith alone can tranquillise and deliver."

For an instant Pierre remained silent before the great figure rising up
in front of him. At Lourdes he had only seen suffering humanity rushing
thither for health of the body and consolation of the soul; but here was
the intellectual believer, the mind that needs certainty, finding
satisfaction, tasting the supreme enjoyment of doubting no more. He had
never previously heard such a cry of joy at living in obedience without
anxiety as to the morrow of death. He knew that Boccanera's youth had
been somewhat stormy, traversed by acute attacks of sensuality, a flaring
of the red blood of his ancestors; and he marvelled at the calm majesty
which faith had at last implanted in this descendant of so violent a
race, who had no passion remaining in him but that of pride.

"And yet," Pierre at last ventured to say in a timid, gentle voice, "if
faith remains essential and immutable, forms change. From hour to hour
evolution goes on in all things--the world changes."

"That is not true!" exclaimed the Cardinal, "the world does not change.
It continually tramps over the same ground, loses itself, strays into the
most abominable courses, and it continually has to be brought back into
the right path. That is the truth. In order that the promises of Christ
may be fulfilled, is it not necessary that the world should return to its
starting point, its original innocence? Is not the end of time fixed for
the day when men shall be in possession of the full truth of the Gospel?
Yes, truth is in the past, and it is always to the past that one must
cling if one would avoid the pitfalls which evil imaginations create. All
those fine novelties, those mirages of that famous so-called progress,
are simply traps and snares of the eternal tempter, causes of perdition
and death. Why seek any further, why constantly incur the risk of error,
when for eighteen hundred years the truth has been known? Truth! why it
is in Apostolic and Roman Catholicism as created by a long succession of
generations! What madness to desire to change it when so many lofty
minds, so many pious souls have made of it the most admirable of
monuments, the one instrument of order in this world, and of salvation in
the next!"

Pierre, whose heart had contracted, refrained from further protest, for
he could no longer doubt that he had before him an implacable adversary
of his most cherished ideas. Chilled by a covert fear, as though he felt
a faint breath, as of a distant wind from a land of ruins, pass over his
face, bringing with it the mortal cold of a sepulchre, he bowed
respectfully whilst the Cardinal, rising to his full height, continued in
his obstinate voice, resonant with proud courage: "And if Catholicism, as
its enemies pretend, be really stricken unto death, it must die standing
and in all its glorious integrality. You hear me, Monsieur l'Abbe--not
one concession, not one surrender, not a single act of cowardice!
Catholicism is such as it is, and cannot be otherwise. No modification of
the divine certainty, the entire truth, is possible. The removal of the
smallest stone from the edifice could only prove a cause of instability.
Is this not evident? You cannot save old houses by attacking them with
the pickaxe under pretence of decorating them. You only enlarge the
fissures. Even if it were true that Rome were on the eve of falling into
dust, the only result of all the repairing and patching would be to
hasten the catastrophe. And instead of a noble death, met unflinchingly,
we should then behold the basest of agonies, the death throes of a coward
who struggles and begs for mercy! For my part I wait. I am convinced that
all that people say is but so much horrible falsehood, that Catholicism
has never been firmer, that it imbibes eternity from the one and only
source of life. But should the heavens indeed fall, on that day I should
be here, amidst these old and crumbling walls, under these old ceilings
whose beams are being devoured by the worms, and it is here, erect, among
the ruins, that I should meet my end, repeating my /credo/ for the last

His final words fell more slowly, full of haughty sadness, whilst with a
sweeping gesture he waved his arms towards the old, silent, deserted
palace around him, whence life was withdrawing day by day. Had an
involuntary presentiment come to him, did the faint cold breath from the
ruins also fan his own cheeks? All the neglect into which the vast rooms
had fallen was explained by his words; and a superb, despondent grandeur
enveloped this prince and cardinal, this uncompromising Catholic who,
withdrawing into the dim half-light of the past, braved with a soldier's
heart the inevitable downfall of the olden world.

Deeply impressed, Pierre was about to take his leave when, to his
surprise, a little door opened in the hangings. "What is it? Can't I be
left in peace for a moment?" exclaimed Boccanera with sudden impatience.

Nevertheless, Abbe Paparelli, fat and sleek, glided into the room without
the faintest sign of emotion. And he whispered a few words in the ear of
the Cardinal, who, on seeing him, had become calm again. "What curate?"
asked Boccanera. "Oh! yes, Santobono, the curate of Frascati. I
know--tell him I cannot see him just now."

Paparelli, however, again began whispering in his soft voice, though not
in so low a key as previously, for some of his words could be overheard.
The affair was urgent, the curate was compelled to return home, and had
only a word or two to say. And then, without awaiting consent, the
train-bearer ushered in the visitor, a /protege/ of his, whom he had left
just outside the little door. And for his own part he withdrew with the
tranquillity of a retainer who, whatever the modesty of his office, knows
himself to be all powerful.

Pierre, who was momentarily forgotten, looked at the visitor--a big
fellow of a priest, the son of a peasant evidently, and still near to the
soil. He had an ungainly, bony figure, huge feet and knotted hands, with
a seamy tanned face lighted by extremely keen black eyes. Five and forty
and still robust, his chin and cheeks bristling, and his cassock,
overlarge, hanging loosely about his big projecting bones, he suggested a
bandit in disguise. Still there was nothing base about him; the
expression of his face was proud. And in one hand he carried a small
wicker basket carefully covered over with fig-leaves.

Santobono at once bent his knees and kissed the Cardinal's ring, but with
hasty unconcern, as though only some ordinary piece of civility were in
question. Then, with that commingling of respect and familiarity which
the little ones of the world often evince towards the great, he said, "I
beg your most reverend Eminence's forgiveness for having insisted. But
there were people waiting, and I should not have been received if my old
friend Paparelli had not brought me by way of that door. Oh! I have a
very great service to ask of your Eminence, a real service of the heart.
But first of all may I be allowed to offer your Eminence a little

The Cardinal listened with a grave expression. He had been well
acquainted with Santobono in the years when he had spent the summer at
Frascati, at a princely residence which the Boccaneras had possessed
there--a villa rebuilt in the seventeenth century, surrounded by a
wonderful park, whose famous terrace overlooked the Campagna, stretching
far and bare like the sea. This villa, however, had since been sold, and
on some vineyards, which had fallen to Benedetta's share, Count Prada,
prior to the divorce proceedings, had begun to erect quite a district of
little pleasure houses. In former times, when walking out, the Cardinal
had condescended to enter and rest in the dwelling of Santobono, who
officiated at an antique chapel dedicated to St. Mary of the Fields,
without the town. The priest had his home in a half-ruined building
adjoining this chapel, and the charm of the place was a walled garden
which he cultivated himself with the passion of a true peasant.

"As is my rule every year," said he, placing his basket on the table, "I
wished that your Eminence might taste my figs. They are the first of the
season. I gathered them expressly this morning. You used to be so fond of
them, your Eminence, when you condescended to gather them from the tree
itself. You were good enough to tell me that there wasn't another tree in
the world that produced such fine figs."

The Cardinal could not help smiling. He was indeed very fond of figs, and
Santobono spoke truly: his fig-tree was renowned throughout the district.
"Thank you, my dear Abbe," said Boccanera, "you remember my little
failings. Well, and what can I do for you?"

Again he became grave, for, in former times, there had been unpleasant
discussions between him and the curate, a lack of agreement which had
angered him. Born at Nemi, in the core of a fierce district, Santobono
belonged to a violent family, and his eldest brother had died of a stab.
He himself had always professed ardently patriotic opinions. It was said
that he had all but taken up arms for Garibaldi; and, on the day when the
Italians had entered Rome, force had been needed to prevent him from
raising the flag of Italian unity above his roof. His passionate dream
was to behold Rome mistress of the world, when the Pope and the King
should have embraced and made cause together. Thus the Cardinal looked on
him as a dangerous revolutionary, a renegade who imperilled Catholicism.

"Oh! what your Eminence can do for me, what your Eminence can do if only
condescending and willing!" repeated Santobono in an ardent voice,
clasping his big knotty hands. And then, breaking off, he inquired, "Did
not his Eminence Cardinal Sanguinetti explain my affair to your most
reverend Eminence?"

"No, the Cardinal simply advised me of your visit, saying that you had
something to ask of me."

Whilst speaking Boccanera's face had clouded over, and it was with
increased sternness of manner that he again waited. He was aware that the
priest had become Sanguinetti's "client" since the latter had been in the
habit of spending weeks together at his suburban see of Frascati. Walking
in the shadow of every cardinal who is a candidate to the papacy, there
are familiars of low degree who stake the ambition of their life on the
possibility of that cardinal's election. If he becomes Pope some day, if
they themselves help him to the throne, they enter the great pontifical
family in his train. It was related that Sanguinetti had once already
extricated Santobono from a nasty difficulty: the priest having one day
caught a marauding urchin in the act of climbing his wall, had beaten the
little fellow with such severity that he had ultimately died of it.
However, to Santobono's credit it must be added that his fanatical
devotion to the Cardinal was largely based upon the hope that he would
prove the Pope whom men awaited, the Pope who would make Italy the
sovereign nation of the world.

"Well, this is my misfortune," he said. "Your Eminence knows my brother
Agostino, who was gardener at the villa for two years in your Eminence's
time. He is certainly a very pleasant and gentle young fellow, of whom
nobody has ever complained. And so it is hard to understand how such an
accident can have happened to him, but it seems that he has killed a man
with a knife at Genzano, while walking in the street in the evening. I am
dreadfully distressed about it, and would willingly give two fingers of
my right hand to extricate him from prison. However, it occurred to me
that your Eminence would not refuse me a certificate stating that
Agostino was formerly in your Eminence's service, and that your Eminence
was always well pleased with his quiet disposition."

But the Cardinal flatly protested: "I was not at all pleased with
Agostino. He was wildly violent, and I had to dismiss him precisely
because he was always quarrelling with the other servants."

"Oh! how grieved I am to hear your Eminence say that! So it is true,
then, my poor little Agostino's disposition has really changed! Still
there is always a way out of a difficulty, is there not? You can still
give me a certificate, first arranging the wording of it. A certificate
from your Eminence would have such a favourable effect upon the law

"No doubt," replied Boccanera; "I can understand that, but I will give no

"What! does your most reverend Eminence refuse my prayer?"

"Absolutely! I know that you are a priest of perfect morality, that you
discharge the duties of your ministry with strict punctuality, and that
you would be deserving of high commendation were it not for your
political fancies. Only your fraternal affection is now leading you
astray. I cannot tell a lie to please you."

Santobono gazed at him in real stupefaction, unable to understand that a
prince, an all-powerful cardinal, should be influenced by such petty
scruples, when the entire question was a mere knife thrust, the most
commonplace and frequent of incidents in the yet wild land of the old
Roman castles.

"A lie! a lie!" he muttered; "but surely it isn't lying just to say what
is good of a man, leaving out all the rest, especially when a man has
good points as Agostino certainly has. In a certificate, too, everything
depends on the words one uses."

He stubbornly clung to that idea; he could not conceive that a person
should refuse to soften the rigour of justice by an ingenious
presentation of the facts. However, on acquiring a certainty that he
would obtain nothing, he made a gesture of despair, his livid face
assuming an expression of violent rancour, whilst his black eyes flamed
with restrained passion.

"Well, well! each looks on truth in his own way," he said. "I shall go
back to tell his Eminence Cardinal Sanguinetti. And I beg your Eminence
not to be displeased with me for having disturbed your Eminence to no
purpose. By the way, perhaps the figs are not yet quite ripe; but I will
take the liberty to bring another basketful towards the end of the
season, when they will be quite nice and sweet. A thousand thanks and a
thousand felicities to your most reverend Eminence."

Santobono went off backwards, his big bony figure bending double with
repeated genuflections. Pierre, whom the scene had greatly interested, in
him beheld a specimen of the petty clergy of Rome and its environs, of
whom people had told him before his departure from Paris. This was not
the /scagnozzo/, the wretched famished priest whom some nasty affair
brings from the provinces, who seeks his daily bread on the pavements of
Rome; one of the herd of begowned beggars searching for a livelihood
among the crumbs of Church life, voraciously fighting for chance masses,
and mingling with the lowest orders in taverns of the worst repute. Nor
was this the country priest of distant parts, a man of crass ignorance
and superstition, a peasant among the peasants, treated as an equal by
his pious flock, which is careful not to mistake him for the Divinity,
and which, whilst kneeling in all humility before the parish saint, does
not bend before the man who from that saint derives his livelihood. At
Frascati the officiating minister of a little church may receive a
stipend of some nine hundred /lire/ a year,* and he has only bread and
meat to buy if his garden yields him wine and fruit and vegetables. This
one, Santobono, was not without education; he knew a little theology and
a little history, especially the history of the past grandeur of Rome,
which had inflamed his patriotic heart with the mad dream that universal
domination would soon fall to the portion of renascent Rome, the capital
of united Italy. But what an insuperable distance still remained between
this petty Roman clergy, often very worthy and intelligent, and the high
clergy, the high dignitaries of the Vatican! Nobody that was not at least
a prelate seemed to count.

  * About 36 pounds. One is reminded of Goldsmith's line: "And
    passing rich with forty pounds a year."--Trans.

"A thousand thanks to your most reverend Eminence, and may success attend
all your Eminence's desires."

With these words Santobono finally disappeared, and the Cardinal returned
to Pierre, who also bowed preparatory to taking his leave.

"To sum up the matter, Monsieur l'Abbe," said Boccanera, "the affair of
your book presents certain difficulties. As I have told you, I have no
precise information, I have seen no documents. But knowing that my niece
took an interest in you, I said a few words on the subject to Cardinal
Sanguinetti, the Prefect of the Index, who was here just now. And he
knows little more than I do, for nothing has yet left the Secretary's
hands. Still he told me that the denunciation emanated from personages of
rank and influence, and applied to numerous pages of your work, in which
it was said there were passages of the most deplorable character as
regards both discipline and dogma."

Greatly moved by the idea that he had hidden foes, secret adversaries who
pursued him in the dark, the young priest responded: "Oh! denounced,
denounced! If your Eminence only knew how that word pains my heart! And
denounced, too, for offences which were certainly involuntary, since my
one ardent desire was the triumph of the Church! All I can do, then, is
to fling myself at the feet of the Holy Father and entreat him to hear my

Boccanera suddenly became very grave again. A stern look rested on his
lofty brow as he drew his haughty figure to its full height. "His
Holiness," said he, "can do everything, even receive you, if such be his
good pleasure, and absolve you also. But listen to me. I again advise you
to withdraw your book yourself, to destroy it, simply and courageously,
before embarking in a struggle in which you will reap the shame of being
overwhelmed. Reflect on that."

Pierre, however, had no sooner spoken of the Pope than he had regretted
it, for he realised that an appeal to the sovereign authority was
calculated to wound the Cardinal's feelings. Moreover, there was no
further room for doubt. Boccanera would be against his book, and the
utmost that he could hope for was to gain his neutrality by bringing
pressure to bear on him through those about him. At the same time he had
found the Cardinal very plain spoken, very frank, far removed from all
the secret intriguing in which the affair of his book was involved, as he
now began to realise; and so it was with deep respect and genuine
admiration for the prelate's strong and lofty character that he took
leave of him.

"I am infinitely obliged to your Eminence," he said, "and I promise that
I will carefully reflect upon all that your Eminence has been kind enough
to say to me."

On returning to the ante-room, Pierre there found five or six persons who
had arrived during his audience, and were now waiting. There was a
bishop, a domestic prelate, and two old ladies, and as he drew near to
Don Vigilio before retiring, he was surprised to find him conversing with
a tall, fair young fellow, a Frenchman, who, also in astonishment,
exclaimed, "What! are you here in Rome, Monsieur l'Abbe?"

For a moment Pierre had hesitated. "Ah! I must ask your pardon, Monsieur
Narcisse Habert," he replied, "I did not at first recognise you! It was
the less excusable as I knew that you had been an /attache/ at our
embassy here ever since last year."

Tall, slim, and elegant of appearance, Narcisse Habert had a clear
complexion, with eyes of a bluish, almost mauvish, hue, a fair frizzy
beard, and long curling fair hair cut short over the forehead in the
Florentine fashion. Of a wealthy family of militant Catholics, chiefly
members of the bar or bench, he had an uncle in the diplomatic
profession, and this had decided his own career. Moreover, a place at
Rome was marked out for him, for he there had powerful connections. He
was a nephew by marriage of Cardinal Sarno, whose sister had married
another of his uncles, a Paris notary; and he was also cousin german of
Monsignor Gamba del Zoppo, a /Cameriere segreto/, and son of one of his
aunts, who had married an Italian colonel. And in some measure for these
reasons he had been attached to the embassy to the Holy See, his
superiors tolerating his somewhat fantastic ways, his everlasting passion
for art which sent him wandering hither and thither through Rome. He was
moreover very amiable and extremely well-bred; and it occasionally
happened, as was the case that morning, that with his weary and somewhat
mysterious air he came to speak to one or another of the cardinals on
some real matter of business in the ambassador's name.

So as to converse with Pierre at his ease, he drew him into the deep
embrasure of one of the windows. "Ah! my dear Abbe, how pleased I am to
see you!" said he. "You must remember what pleasant chats we had when we
met at Cardinal Bergerot's! I told you about some paintings which you
were to see for your book, some miniatures of the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries. And now, you know, I mean to take possession of you.
I'll show you Rome as nobody else could show it to you. I've seen and
explored everything. Ah! there are treasures, such treasures! But in
truth there is only one supreme work; one always comes back to one's
particular passion. The Botticelli in the Sixtine Chapel--ah, the

His voice died away, and he made a faint gesture as if overcome by
admiration. Then Pierre had to promise that he would place himself in his
hands and accompany him to the Sixtine Chapel. "You know why I am here,"
at last said the young priest. "Proceedings have been taken against my
book; it has been denounced to the Congregation of the Index."

"Your book! is it possible?" exclaimed Narcisse: "a book like that with
pages recalling the delightful St. Francis of Assisi!" And thereupon he
obligingly placed himself at Pierre's disposal. "But our ambassador will
be very useful to you," he said. "He is the best man in the world, of
charming affability, and full of the old French spirit. I will present
you to him this afternoon or to-morrow morning at the latest; and since
you desire an immediate audience with the Pope, he will endeavour to
obtain one for you. His position naturally designates him as your
intermediary. Still, I must confess that things are not always easily
managed. Although the Holy Father is very fond of him, there are times
when his Excellency fails, for the approaches are so extremely

Pierre had not thought of employing the ambassador's good offices, for he
had naively imagined that an accused priest who came to defend himself
would find every door open. However, he was delighted with Narcisse's
offer, and thanked him as warmly as if the audience were already

"Besides," the young man continued, "if we encounter any difficulties I
have relatives at the Vatican, as you know. I don't mean my uncle the
Cardinal, who would be of no use to us, for he never stirs out of his
office at the Propaganda, and will never apply for anything. But my
cousin, Monsignor Gamba del Zoppo, is very obliging, and he lives in
intimacy with the Pope, his duties requiring his constant attendance on
him. So, if necessary, I will take you to see him, and he will no doubt
find a means of procuring you an interview, though his extreme prudence
keeps him perpetually afraid of compromising himself. However, it's
understood, you may rely on me in every respect."

"Ah! my dear sir," exclaimed Pierre, relieved and happy, "I heartily
accept your offer. You don't know what balm your words have brought me;
for ever since my arrival everybody has been discouraging me, and you are
the first to restore my strength by looking at things in the true French

Then, lowering his voice, he told the /attache/ of his interview with
Cardinal Boccanera, of his conviction that the latter would not help him,
of the unfavourable information which had been given by Cardinal
Sanguinetti, and of the rivalry which he had divined between the two
prelates. Narcisse listened, smiling, and in his turn began to gossip
confidentially. The rivalry which Pierre had mentioned, the premature
contest for the tiara which Sanguinetti and Boccanera were waging,
impelled to it by a furious desire to become the next Pope, had for a
long time been revolutionising the black world. There was incredible
intricacy in the depths of the affair; none could exactly tell who was
pulling the strings, conducting the vast intrigue. As regards
generalities it was simply known that Boccanera represented
absolutism--the Church freed from all compromises with modern society,
and waiting in immobility for the Deity to triumph over Satan, for Rome
to be restored to the Holy Father, and for repentant Italy to perform
penance for its sacrilege; whereas Sanguinetti, extremely politic and
supple, was reported to harbour bold and novel ideas: permission to vote
to be granted to all true Catholics,* a majority to be gained by this
means in the Legislature; then, as a fatal corollary, the downfall of the
House of Savoy, and the proclamation of a kind of republican federation
of all the former petty States of Italy under the august protectorate of
the Pope. On the whole, the struggle was between these two antagonistic
elements--the first bent on upholding the Church by a rigorous
maintenance of the old traditions, and the other predicting the fall of
the Church if it did not follow the bent of the coming century. But all
was steeped in so much mystery that people ended by thinking that, if the
present Pope should live a few years longer, his successor would
certainly be neither Boccanera nor Sanguinetti.

  * Since the occupation of Rome by the Italian authorities, the
    supporters of the Church, obedient to the prohibition of the
    Vatican, have abstained from taking part in the political
    elections, this being their protest against the new order of
    things which they do not recognise. Various attempts have been
    made, however, to induce the Pope to give them permission to
    vote, many members of the Roman aristocracy considering the
    present course impolitic and even harmful to the interests of
    the Church.--Trans.

All at once Pierre interrupted Narcisse: "And Monsignor Nani, do you know
him? I spoke with him yesterday evening. And there he is coming in now!"

Nani was indeed just entering the ante-room with his usual smile on his
amiable pink face. His cassock of fine texture, and his sash of violet
silk shone with discreet soft luxury. And he showed himself very amiable
to Abbe Paparelli, who, accompanying him in all humility, begged him to
be kind enough to wait until his Eminence should be able to receive him.

"Oh! Monsignor Nani," muttered Narcisse, becoming serious, "he is a man
whom it is advisable to have for a friend."

Then, knowing Nani's history, he related it in an undertone. Born at
Venice, of a noble but ruined family which had produced heroes, Nani,
after first studying under the Jesuits, had come to Rome to perfect
himself in philosophy and theology at the Collegio Romano, which was then
also under Jesuit management. Ordained when three and twenty, he had at
once followed a nuncio to Bavaria as private secretary; and then had gone
as /auditore/ to the nunciatures of Brussels and Paris, in which latter
city he had lived for five years. Everything seemed to predestine him to
diplomacy, his brilliant beginnings and his keen and encyclopaedical
intelligence; but all at once he had been recalled to Rome, where he was
soon afterwards appointed Assessor to the Holy Office. It was asserted at
the time that this was done by the Pope himself, who, being well
acquainted with Nani, and desirous of having a person he could depend
upon at the Holy Office, had given instructions for his recall, saying
that he could render far more services at Rome than abroad. Already a
domestic prelate, Nani had also lately become a Canon of St. Peter's and
an apostolic prothonotary, with the prospect of obtaining a cardinal's
hat whenever the Pope should find some other favourite who would please
him better as assessor.

"Oh, Monsignor Nani!" continued Narcisse. "He's a superior man,
thoroughly well acquainted with modern Europe, and at the same time a
very saintly priest, a sincere believer, absolutely devoted to the
Church, with the substantial faith of an intelligent politician--a belief
different, it is true, from the narrow gloomy theological faith which we
know so well in France. And this is one of the reasons why you will
hardly understand things here at first. The Roman prelates leave the
Deity in the sanctuary and reign in His name, convinced that Catholicism
is the human expression of the government of God, the only perfect and
eternal government, beyond the pales of which nothing but falsehood and
social danger can be found. While we in our country lag behind, furiously
arguing whether there be a God or not, they do not admit that God's
existence can be doubted, since they themselves are his delegated
ministers; and they entirely devote themselves to playing their parts as
ministers whom none can dispossess, exercising their power for the
greatest good of humanity, and devoting all their intelligence, all their
energy to maintaining themselves as the accepted masters of the nations.
As for Monsignor Nani, after being mixed up in the politics of the whole
world, he has for ten years been discharging the most delicate functions
in Rome, taking part in the most varied and most important affairs. He
sees all the foreigners who come to Rome, knows everything, has a hand in
everything. Add to this that he is extremely discreet and amiable, with a
modesty which seems perfect, though none can tell whether, with his light
silent footstep, he is not really marching towards the highest ambition,
the purple of sovereignty."

"Another candidate for the tiara," thought Pierre, who had listened
passionately; for this man Nani interested him, caused him an instinctive
disquietude, as though behind his pink and smiling face he could divine
an infinity of obscure things. At the same time, however, the young
priest but ill understood his friend, for he again felt bewildered by all
this strange Roman world, so different from what he had expected.

Nani had perceived the two young men and came towards them with his hand
cordially outstretched "Ah! Monsieur l'Abbe Froment, I am happy to meet
you again. I won't ask you if you have slept well, for people always
sleep well at Rome. Good-day, Monsieur Habert; your health has kept good
I hope, since I met you in front of Bernini's Santa Teresa, which you
admire so much.* I see that you know one another. That is very nice. I
must tell you, Monsieur l'Abbe, that Monsieur Habert is a passionate
lover of our city; he will be able to show you all its finest sights."

  * The allusion is to a statue representing St. Theresa in ecstasy,
    with the Angel of Death descending to transfix her with his dart.
    It stands in a transept of Sta. Maria della Vittoria.--Trans.

Then, in his affectionate way, he at once asked for information
respecting Pierre's interview with the Cardinal. He listened attentively
to the young man's narrative, nodding his head at certain passages, and
occasionally restraining his sharp smile. The Cardinal's severity and
Pierre's conviction that he would accord him no support did not at all
astonish Nani. It seemed as if he had expected that result. However, on
hearing that Cardinal Sanguinetti had been there that morning, and had
pronounced the affair of the book to be very serious, he appeared to lose
his self-control for a moment, for he spoke out with sudden vivacity:

"It can't be helped, my dear child, my intervention came too late.
Directly I heard of the proceedings I went to his Eminence Cardinal
Sanguinetti to tell him that the result would be an immense advertisement
for your book. Was it sensible? What was the use of it? We know that you
are inclined to be carried away by your ideas, that you are an
enthusiast, and are prompt to do battle. So what advantage should we gain
by embarrassing ourselves with the revolt of a young priest who might
wage war against us with a book of which some thousands of copies have
been sold already? For my part I desired that nothing should be done. And
I must say that the Cardinal, who is a man of sense, was of the same
mind. He raised his arms to heaven, went into a passion, and exclaimed
that he was never consulted, that the blunder was already committed
beyond recall, and that it was impossible to prevent process from taking
its course since the matter had already been brought before the
Congregation, in consequence of denunciations from authoritative sources,
based on the gravest motives. Briefly, as he said, the blunder was
committed, and I had to think of something else."

All at once Nani paused. He had just noticed that Pierre's ardent eyes
were fixed upon his own, striving to penetrate his meaning. A faint flush
then heightened the pinkiness of his complexion, whilst in an easy way he
continued, unwilling to reveal how annoyed he was at having said too
much: "Yes, I thought of helping you with all the little influence I
possess, in order to extricate you from the worries in which this affair
will certainly land you."

An impulse of revolt was stirring Pierre, who vaguely felt that he was
perhaps being made game of. Why should he not be free to declare his
faith, which was so pure, so free from personal considerations, so full
of glowing Christian charity? "Never," said he, "will I withdraw; never
will I myself suppress my book, as I am advised to do. It would be an act
of cowardice and falsehood, for I regret nothing, I disown nothing. If I
believe that my book brings a little truth to light I cannot destroy it
without acting criminally both towards myself and towards others. No,
never! You hear me--never!"

Silence fell. But almost immediately he resumed: "It is at the knees of
the Holy Father that I desire to make that declaration. He will
understand me, he will approve me."

Nani no longer smiled; henceforth his face remained as it were closed. He
seemed to be studying the sudden violence of the young priest with
curiosity; then sought to calm him with his own tranquil kindliness. "No
doubt, no doubt," said he. "There is certainly great sweetness in
obedience and humility. Still I can understand that, before anything
else, you should desire to speak to his Holiness. And afterwards you will
see--is that not so?--you will see--"

Then he evinced a lively interest in the suggested application for an
audience. He expressed keen regret that Pierre had not forwarded that
application from Paris, before even coming to Rome: in that course would
have rested the best chance of a favourable reply. Bother of any kind was
not liked at the Vatican, and if the news of the young priest's presence
in Rome should only spread abroad, and the motives of his journey be
discussed, all would be lost. Then, on learning that Narcisse had offered
to present Pierre to the French ambassador, Nani seemed full of anxiety,
and deprecated any such proceeding: "No, no! don't do that--it would be
most imprudent. In the first place you would run the risk of embarrassing
the ambassador, whose position is always delicate in affairs of this
kind. And then, too, if he failed--and my fear is that he might
fail--yes, if he failed it would be all over; you would no longer have
the slightest chance of obtaining an audience by any other means. For the
Vatican would not like to hurt the ambassador's feelings by yielding to
other influence after resisting his."

Pierre anxiously glanced at Narcisse, who wagged his head, embarrassed
and hesitating. "The fact is," the /attache/ at last murmured, "we lately
solicited an audience for a high French personage and it was refused,
which was very unpleasant for us. Monsignor is right. We must keep our
ambassador in reserve, and only utilise him when we have exhausted all
other means." Then, noticing Pierre's disappointment, he added
obligingly: "Our first visit therefore shall be for my cousin at the

Nani, his attention again roused, looked at the young man in
astonishment. "At the Vatican? You have a cousin there?"

"Why, yes--Monsignor Gamba del Zoppo."

"Gamba! Gamba! Yes, yes, excuse me, I remember now. Ah! so you thought of
Gamba to bring influence to bear on his Holiness? That's an idea, no
doubt; one must see--one must see."

He repeated these words again and again as if to secure time to see into
the matter himself, to weigh the pros and cons of the suggestion.
Monsignor Gamba del Zoppo was a worthy man who played no part at the
Papal Court, whose nullity indeed had become a byword at the Vatican. His
childish stories, however, amused the Pope, whom he greatly flattered,
and who was fond of leaning on his arm while walking in the gardens. It
was during these strolls that Gamba easily secured all sorts of little
favours. However, he was a remarkable poltroon, and had such an intense
fear of losing his influence that he never risked a request without
having convinced himself by long meditation that no possible harm could
come to him through it.

"Well, do you know, the idea is not a bad one," Nani at last declared.
"Yes, yes, Gamba can secure the audience for you, if he is willing. I
will see him myself and explain the matter."

At the same time Nani did not cease advising extreme caution. He even
ventured to say that it was necessary to be on one's guard with the papal
/entourage/, for, alas! it was a fact his Holiness was so good, and had
such a blind faith in the goodness of others, that he had not always
chosen his familiars with the critical care which he ought to have
displayed. Thus one never knew to what sort of man one might be applying,
or in what trap one might be setting one's foot. Nani even allowed it to
be understood that on no account ought any direct application to be made
to his Eminence the Secretary of State, for even his Eminence was not a
free agent, but found himself encompassed by intrigues of such intricacy
that his best intentions were paralysed. And as Nani went on discoursing
in this fashion, in a very gentle, extremely unctuous manner, the Vatican
appeared like some enchanted castle, guarded by jealous and treacherous
dragons--a castle where one must not take a step, pass through a doorway,
risk a limb, without having carefully assured oneself that one would not
leave one's whole body there to be devoured.

Pierre continued listening, feeling colder and colder at heart, and again
sinking into uncertainty. "/Mon Dieu/!" he exclaimed, "I shall never know
how to act. You discourage me, Monsignor."

At this Nani's cordial smile reappeared. "I, my dear child? I should be
sorry to do so. I only want to repeat to you that you must wait and do
nothing. Avoid all feverishness especially. There is no hurry, I assure
you, for it was only yesterday that a /consultore/ was chosen to report
upon your book, so you have a good full month before you. Avoid
everybody, live in such a way that people shall be virtually ignorant of
your existence, visit Rome in peace and quietness--that is the best
course you can adopt to forward your interests." Then, taking one of the
priest's hands between both his own, so aristocratic, soft, and plump, he
added: "You will understand that I have my reasons for speaking to you
like this. I should have offered my own services; I should have made it a
point of honour to take you straight to his Holiness, had I thought it
advisable. But I do not wish to mix myself up in the matter at this
stage; I realise only too well that at the present moment we should
simply make sad work of it. Later on--you hear me--later on, in the event
of nobody else succeeding, I myself will obtain you an audience; I
formally promise it. But meanwhile, I entreat you, refrain from using
those words 'a new religion,' which, unfortunately, occur in your book,
and which I heard you repeat again only last night. There can be no new
religion, my dear child; there is but one eternal religion, which is
beyond all surrender and compromise--the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman
religion. And at the same time leave your Paris friends to themselves.
Don't rely too much on Cardinal Bergerot, whose lofty piety is not
sufficiently appreciated in Rome. I assure you that I am speaking to you
as a friend."

Then, seeing how disabled Pierre appeared to be, half overcome already,
no longer knowing in what direction to begin his campaign, he again
strove to comfort him: "Come, come, things will right themselves;
everything will end for the best, both for the welfare of the Church and
your own. And now you must excuse me, I must leave you; I shall not be
able to see his Eminence to-day, for it is impossible for me to wait any

Abbe Paparelli, whom Pierre had noticed prowling around with his ears
cocked, now hastened forward and declared to Monsignor Nani that there
were only two persons to be received before him. But the prelate very
graciously replied that he would come back again at another time, for the
affair which he wished to lay before his Eminence was in no wise
pressing. Then he withdrew, courteously bowing to everybody.

Narcisse Habert's turn came almost immediately afterwards. However,
before entering the throne-room he pressed Pierre's hand, repeating, "So
it is understood. I will go to see my cousin at the Vatican to-morrow,
and directly I get a reply I will let you know. We shall meet again soon
I hope."

It was now past twelve o'clock, and the only remaining visitor was one of
the two old ladies who seemed to have fallen asleep. At his little
secretarial table Don Vigilio still sat covering huge sheets of yellow
paper with fine handwriting, from which he only lifted his eyes at
intervals to glance about him distrustfully, and make sure that nothing
threatened him.

In the mournful silence which fell around, Pierre lingered for yet
another moment in the deep embrasure of the window. Ah! what anxiety
consumed his poor, tender, enthusiastic heart! On leaving Paris things
had seemed so simple, so natural to him! He was unjustly accused, and he
started off to defend himself, arrived and flung himself at the feet of
the Holy Father, who listened to him indulgently. Did not the Pope
personify living religion, intelligence to understand, justice based upon
truth? And was he not, before aught else, the Father, the delegate of
divine forgiveness and mercy, with arms outstretched towards all the
children of the Church, even the guilty ones? Was it not meet, then, that
he should leave his door wide open so that the humblest of his sons might
freely enter to relate their troubles, confess their transgressions,
explain their conduct, imbibe comfort from the source of eternal loving
kindness? And yet on the very first day of his, Pierre's, arrival, the
doors closed upon him with a bang; he felt himself sinking into a hostile
sphere, full of traps and pitfalls. One and all cried out to him
"Beware!" as if he were incurring the greatest dangers in setting one
foot before the other. His desire to see the Pope became an extraordinary
pretension, so difficult of achievement that it set the interests and
passions and influences of the whole Vatican agog. And there was endless
conflicting advice, long-discussed manoeuvring, all the strategy of
generals leading an army to victory, and fresh complications ever arising
in the midst of a dim stealthy swarming of intrigues. Ah! good Lord! how
different all this was from the charitable reception that Pierre had
anticipated: the pastor's house standing open beside the high road for
the admission of all the sheep of the flock, both those that were docile
and those that had gone astray.

That which began to frighten Pierre, however, was the evil, the
wickedness, which he could divine vaguely stirring in the gloom: Cardinal
Bergerot suspected, dubbed a Revolutionary, deemed so compromising that
he, Pierre, was advised not to mention his name again! The young priest
once more saw Cardinal Boccanera's pout of disdain while speaking of his
colleague. And then Monsignor Nani had warned him not to repeat those
words "a new religion," as if it were not clear to everybody that they
simply signified the return of Catholicism to the primitive purity of
Christianity! Was that one of the crimes denounced to the Congregation of
the Index? He had begun to suspect who his accusers were, and felt
alarmed, for he was now conscious of secret subterranean plotting, a
great stealthy effort to strike him down and suppress his work. All that
surrounded him became suspicious. If he listened to advice and
temporised, it was solely to follow the same politic course as his
adversaries, to learn to know them before acting. He would spend a few
days in meditation, in surveying and studying that black world of Rome
which to him had proved so unexpected. But, at the same time, in the
revolt of his apostle-like faith, he swore, even as he had said to Nani,
that he would never yield, never change either a page or a line of his
book, but maintain it in its integrity in the broad daylight as the
unshakable testimony of his belief. Even were the book condemned by the
Index, he would not tender submission, withdraw aught of it. And should
it become necessary he would quit the Church, he would go even as far as
schism, continuing to preach the new religion and writing a new book,
/Real Rome/, such as he now vaguely began to espy.

However, Don Vigilio had ceased writing, and gazed so fixedly at Pierre
that the latter at last stepped up to him politely in order to take
leave. And then the secretary, yielding, despite his fears, to a desire
to confide in him, murmured, "He came simply on your account, you know;
he wanted to ascertain the result of your interview with his Eminence."

It was not necessary for Don Vigilio to mention Nani by name; Pierre
understood. "Really, do you think so?" he asked.

"Oh! there is no doubt of it. And if you take my advice you will do what
he desires with a good grace, for it is absolutely certain that you will
do it later on."

These words brought Pierre's disquietude and exasperation to a climax. He
went off with a gesture of defiance. They would see if he would ever

The three ante-rooms which he again crossed appeared to him blacker,
emptier, more lifeless than ever. In the second one Abbe Paparelli
saluted him with a little silent bow; in the first the sleepy lackey did
not even seem to see him. A spider was weaving its web between the
tassels of the great red hat under the /baldacchino/. Would not the
better course have been to set the pick at work amongst all that rotting
past, now crumbling into dust, so that the sunlight might stream in
freely and restore to the purified soil the fruitfulness of youth?

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome, Volume 1" ***

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