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Title: The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome, Complete
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, Complete" ***



By Emile Zola

Translated By Ernest A. Vizetelly


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




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?



ON the afternoon of that same day Pierre, having leisure before him, at
once thought of beginning his peregrinations through Rome by a visit on
which he had set his heart. Almost immediately after the publication of
“New Rome” he had been deeply moved and interested by a letter addressed
to him from the Eternal City by old Count Orlando Prada, the hero of
Italian independence and reunion, who, although unacquainted with him,
had written spontaneously after a first hasty perusal of his book. And
the letter had been a flaming protest, a cry of the patriotic faith still
young in the heart of that aged man, who accused him of having forgotten
Italy and claimed Rome, the new Rome, for the country which was at last
free and united. Correspondence had ensued, and the priest, while
clinging to his dream of Neo-Catholicism saving the world, had from afar
grown attached to the man who wrote to him with such glowing love of
country and freedom. He had eventually informed him of his journey, and
promised to call upon him. But the hospitality which he had accepted at
the Boccanera mansion now seemed to him somewhat of an impediment; for
after Benedetta’s kindly, almost affectionate, greeting, he felt that he
could not, on the very first day and with out warning her, sally forth to
visit the father of the man from whom she had fled and from whom she now
asked the Church to part her for ever. Moreover, old Orlando was actually
living with his son in a little palazzo which the latter had erected at
the farther end of the Via Venti Settembre.

Before venturing on any step Pierre resolved to confide in the Contessina
herself; and this seemed the easier as Viscount Philibert de la Choue had
told him that the young woman still retained a filial feeling, mingled
with admiration, for the old hero. And indeed, at the very first words
which he uttered after lunch, Benedetta promptly retorted: “But go,
Monsieur l’Abbe, go at once! Old Orlando, you know, is one of our
national glories--you must not be surprised to hear me call him by his
Christian name. All Italy does so, from pure affection and gratitude. For
my part I grew up among people who hated him, who likened him to Satan.
It was only later that I learned to know him, and then I loved him, for
he is certainly the most just and gentle man in the world.”

She had begun to smile, but timid tears were moistening her eyes at the
recollection, no doubt, of the year of suffering she had spent in her
husband’s house, where her only peaceful hours had been those passed with
the old man. And in a lower and somewhat tremulous voice she added: “As
you are going to see him, tell him from me that I still love him, and,
whatever happens, shall never forget his goodness.”

So Pierre set out, and whilst he was driving in a cab towards the Via
Venti Settembre, he recalled to mind the heroic story of old Orlando’s
life which had been told him in Paris. It was like an epic poem, full of
faith, bravery, and the disinterestedness of another age.

Born of a noble house of Milan, Count Orlando Prada had learnt to hate
the foreigner at such an early age that, when scarcely fifteen, he
already formed part of a secret society, one of the ramifications of the
antique Carbonarism. This hatred of Austrian domination had been
transmitted from father to son through long years, from the olden days of
revolt against servitude, when the conspirators met by stealth in
abandoned huts, deep in the recesses of the forests; and it was rendered
the keener by the eternal dream of Italy delivered, restored to herself,
transformed once more into a great sovereign nation, the worthy daughter
of those who had conquered and ruled the world. Ah! that land of whilom
glory, that unhappy, dismembered, parcelled Italy, the prey of a crowd of
petty tyrants, constantly invaded and appropriated by neighbouring
nations--how superb and ardent was that dream to free her from such long
opprobrium! To defeat the foreigner, drive out the despots, awaken the
people from the base misery of slavery, to proclaim Italy free and Italy
united--such was the passion which then inflamed the young with
inextinguishable ardour, which made the youthful Orlando’s heart leap
with enthusiasm. He spent his early years consumed by holy indignation,
proudly and impatiently longing for an opportunity to give his blood for
his country, and to die for her if he could not deliver her.

Quivering under the yoke, wasting his time in sterile conspiracies, he
was living in retirement in the old family residence at Milan, when,
shortly after his marriage and his twenty-fifth birthday, tidings came to
him of the flight of Pius IX and the Revolution of Rome.* And at once he
quitted everything, wife and hearth, and hastened to Rome as if summoned
thither by the call of destiny. This was the first time that he set out
scouring the roads for the attainment of independence; and how
frequently, yet again and again, was he to start upon fresh campaigns,
never wearying, never disheartened! And now it was that he became
acquainted with Mazzini, and for a moment was inflamed with enthusiasm
for that mystical unitarian Republican. He himself indulged in an ardent
dream of a Universal Republic, adopted the Mazzinian device, “_Dio e
popolo_” (God and the people), and followed the procession which wended
its way with great pomp through insurrectionary Rome. The time was one of
vast hopes, one when people already felt a need of renovated religion,
and looked to the coming of a humanitarian Christ who would redeem the
world yet once again. But before long a man, a captain of the ancient
days, Giuseppe Garibaldi, whose epic glory was dawning, made Orlando
entirely his own, transformed him into a soldier whose sole cause was
freedom and union. Orlando loved Garibaldi as though the latter were a
demi-god, fought beside him in defence of Republican Rome, took part in
the victory of Rieti over the Neapolitans, and followed the stubborn
patriot in his retreat when he sought to succour Venice, compelled as he
was to relinquish the Eternal City to the French army of General Oudinot,
who came thither to reinstate Pius IX. And what an extraordinary and
madly heroic adventure was that of Garibaldi and Venice! Venice, which
Manin, another great patriot, a martyr, had again transformed into a
republican city, and which for long months had been resisting the
Austrians! And Garibaldi starts with a handful of men to deliver the
city, charters thirteen fishing barks, loses eight in a naval engagement,
is compelled to return to the Roman shores, and there in all wretchedness
is bereft of his wife, Anita, whose eyes he closes before returning to
America, where, once before, he had awaited the hour of insurrection. Ah!
that land of Italy, which in those days rumbled from end to end with the
internal fire of patriotism, where men of faith and courage arose in
every city, where riots and insurrections burst forth on all sides like
eruptions--it continued, in spite of every check, its invincible march to

  * It was on November 24, 1848, that the Pope fled to Gaeta,
    consequent upon the insurrection which had broken out nine
    days previously.--Trans.

Orlando returned to his young wife at Milan, and for two years lived
there, almost in concealment, devoured by impatience for the glorious
morrow which was so long in coming. Amidst his fever a gleam of happiness
softened his heart; a son, Luigi, was born to him, but the birth killed
the mother, and joy was turned into mourning. Then, unable to remain any
longer at Milan, where he was spied upon, tracked by the police,
suffering also too grievously from the foreign occupation, Orlando
decided to realise the little fortune remaining to him, and to withdraw
to Turin, where an aunt of his wife took charge of the child. Count di
Cavour, like a great statesman, was then already seeking to bring about
independence, preparing Piedmont for the decisive _role_ which it was
destined to play. It was the time when King Victor Emmanuel evinced
flattering cordiality towards all the refugees who came to him from every
part of Italy, even those whom he knew to be Republicans, compromised and
flying the consequences of popular insurrection. The rough, shrewd House
of Savoy had long been dreaming of bringing about Italian unity to the
profit of the Piedmontese monarchy, and Orlando well knew under what
master he was taking service; but in him the Republican already went
behind the patriot, and indeed he had begun to question the possibility
of a united Republican Italy, placed under the protectorate of a liberal
Pope, as Mazzini had at one time dreamed. Was that not indeed a chimera
beyond realisation which would devour generation after generation if one
obstinately continued to pursue it? For his part, he did not wish to die
without having slept in Rome as one of the conquerors. Even if liberty
was to be lost, he desired to see his country united and erect, returning
once more to life in the full sunlight. And so it was with feverish
happiness that he enlisted at the outset of the war of 1859; and his
heart palpitated with such force as almost to rend his breast, when,
after Magenta, he entered Milan with the French army--Milan which he had
quitted eight years previously, like an exile, in despair. The treaty of
Villafranca which followed Solferino proved a bitter deception: Venetia
was not secured, Venice remained enthralled. Nevertheless the Milanese
was conquered from the foe, and then Tuscany and the duchies of Parma and
Modena voted for annexation. So, at all events, the nucleus of the
Italian star was formed; the country had begun to build itself up afresh
around victorious Piedmont.

Then, in the following year, Orlando plunged into epopoeia once more.
Garibaldi had returned from his two sojourns in America, with the halo of
a legend round him--paladin-like feats in the pampas of Uruguay, an
extraordinary passage from Canton to Lima--and he had returned to take
part in the war of 1859, forestalling the French army, overthrowing an
Austrian marshal, and entering Como, Bergamo, and Brescia. And now, all
at once, folks heard that he had landed at Marsala with only a thousand
men--the Thousand of Marsala, the ever illustrious handful of braves!
Orlando fought in the first rank, and Palermo after three days’
resistance was carried. Becoming the dictator’s favourite lieutenant, he
helped him to organise a government, then crossed the straits with him,
and was beside him on the triumphal entry into Naples, whose king had
fled. There was mad audacity and valour at that time, an explosion of the
inevitable; and all sorts of supernatural stories were current--Garibaldi
invulnerable, protected better by his red shirt than by the strongest
armour, Garibaldi routing opposing armies like an archangel, by merely
brandishing his flaming sword! The Piedmontese on their side had defeated
General Lamoriciere at Castelfidardo, and were invading the States of the
Church. And Orlando was there when the dictator, abdicating power, signed
the decree which annexed the Two Sicilies to the Crown of Italy; even as
subsequently he took part in that forlorn attempt on Rome, when the
rageful cry was “Rome or Death!”--an attempt which came to a tragic issue
at Aspromonte, when the little army was dispersed by the Italian troops,
and Garibaldi, wounded, was taken prisoner, and sent back to the solitude
of his island of Caprera, where he became but a fisherman and a tiller of
the rocky soil.*

  * M. Zola’s brief but glowing account of Garibaldi’s glorious
    achievements has stirred many memories in my mind. My uncle,
    Frank Vizetelly, the war artist of the _Illustrated London
    News_, whose bones lie bleaching somewhere in the Soudan, was
    one of Garibaldi’s constant companions throughout the memorable
    campaign of the Two Sicilies, and afterwards he went with him
    to Caprera. Later, in 1870, my brother, Edward Vizetelly, acted
    as orderly-officer to the general when he offered the help of
    his sword to France.--Trans.

Six years of waiting again went by, and Orlando still dwelt at Turin,
even after Florence had been chosen as the new capital. The Senate had
acclaimed Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy; and Italy was indeed almost
built, it lacked only Rome and Venice. But the great battles seemed all
over, the epic era was closed; Venice was to be won by defeat. Orlando
took part in the unlucky battle of Custozza, where he received two
wounds, full of furious grief at the thought that Austria should be
triumphant. But at that same moment the latter, defeated at Sadowa,
relinquished Venetia, and five months later Orlando satisfied his desire
to be in Venice participating in the joy of triumph, when Victor Emmanuel
made his entry amidst the frantic acclamations of the people. Rome alone
remained to be won, and wild impatience urged all Italy towards the city;
but friendly France had sworn to maintain the Pope, and this acted as a
check. Then, for the third time, Garibaldi dreamt of renewing the feats
of the old-world legends, and threw himself upon Rome like a soldier of
fortune illumined by patriotism and free from every tie. And for the
third time Orlando shared in that fine heroic madness destined to be
vanquished at Mentana by the Pontifical Zouaves supported by a small
French corps. Again wounded, he came back to Turin in almost a dying
condition. But, though his spirit quivered, he had to resign himself; the
situation seemed to have no outlet; only an upheaval of the nations could
give Rome to Italy.

All at once the thunderclap of Sedan, of the downfall of France,
resounded through the world; and then the road to Rome lay open, and
Orlando, having returned to service in the regular army, was with the
troops who took up position in the Campagna to ensure the safety of the
Holy See, as was said in the letter which Victor Emmanuel wrote to Pius
IX. There was, however, but the shadow of an engagement: General
Kanzler’s Pontifical Zouaves were compelled to fall back, and Orlando was
one of the first to enter the city by the breach of the Porta Pia. Ah!
that twentieth of September--that day when he experienced the greatest
happiness of his life--a day of delirium, of complete triumph, which
realised the dream of so many years of terrible contest, the dream for
which he had sacrificed rest and fortune, and given both body and mind!

Then came more than ten happy years in conquered Rome--in Rome adored,
flattered, treated with all tenderness, like a woman in whom one has
placed one’s entire hope. From her he awaited so much national vigour,
such a marvellous resurrection of strength and glory for the endowment of
the young nation. Old Republican, old insurrectional soldier that he was,
he had been obliged to adhere to the monarchy, and accept a senatorship.
But then did not Garibaldi himself--Garibaldi his divinity--likewise call
upon the King and sit in parliament? Mazzini alone, rejecting all
compromises, was unwilling to rest content with a united and independent
Italy that was not Republican. Moreover, another consideration influenced
Orlando, the future of his son Luigi, who had attained his eighteenth
birthday shortly after the occupation of Rome. Though he, Orlando, could
manage with the crumbs which remained of the fortune he had expended in
his country’s service, he dreamt of a splendid destiny for the child of
his heart. Realising that the heroic age was over, he desired to make a
great politician of him, a great administrator, a man who should be
useful to the mighty nation of the morrow; and it was on this account
that he had not rejected royal favour, the reward of long devotion,
desiring, as he did, to be in a position to help, watch, and guide Luigi.
Besides, was he himself so old, so used-up, as to be unable to assist in
organisation, even as he had assisted in conquest? Struck by his son’s
quick intelligence in business matters, perhaps also instinctively
divining that the battle would now continue on financial and economic
grounds, he obtained him employment at the Ministry of Finances. And
again he himself lived on, dreaming, still enthusiastically believing in
a splendid future, overflowing with boundless hope, seeing Rome double
her population, grow and spread with a wild vegetation of new districts,
and once more, in his loving enraptured eyes, become the queen of the

But all at once came a thunderbolt. One morning, as he was going
downstairs, Orlando was stricken with paralysis. Both his legs suddenly
became lifeless, as heavy as lead. It was necessary to carry him up
again, and never since had he set foot on the street pavement. At that
time he had just completed his fifty-sixth year, and for fourteen years
since he had remained in his arm-chair, as motionless as stone, he who
had so impetuously trod every battlefield of Italy. It was a pitiful
business, the collapse of a hero. And worst of all, from that room where
he was for ever imprisoned, the old soldier beheld the slow crumbling of
all his hopes, and fell into dismal melancholy, full of unacknowledged
fear for the future. Now that the intoxication of action no longer dimmed
his eyes, now that he spent his long and empty days in thought, his
vision became clear. Italy, which he had desired to see so powerful, so
triumphant in her unity, was acting madly, rushing to ruin, possibly to
bankruptcy. Rome, which to him had ever been the one necessary capital,
the city of unparalleled glory, requisite for the sovereign people of
to-morrow, seemed unwilling to take upon herself the part of a great
modern metropolis; heavy as a corpse she weighed with all her centuries
on the bosom of the young nation. Moreover, his son Luigi distressed him.
Rebellious to all guidance, the young man had become one of the devouring
offsprings of conquest, eager to despoil that Italy, that Rome, which his
father seemed to have desired solely in order that he might pillage them
and batten on them. Orlando had vainly opposed Luigi’s departure from the
ministry, his participation in the frantic speculations on land and house
property to which the mad building of the new districts had given rise.
But at the same time he loved his son, and was reduced to silence,
especially now when everything had succeeded with Luigi, even his most
risky financial ventures, such as the transformation of the Villa
Montefiori into a perfect town--a colossal enterprise in which many of
great wealth had been ruined, but whence he himself had emerged with
millions. And it was in part for this reason that Orlando, sad and
silent, had obstinately restricted himself to one small room on the third
floor of the little palazzo erected by Luigi in the Via Venti
Settembre--a room where he lived cloistered with a single servant,
subsisting on his own scanty income, and accepting nothing but that
modest hospitality from his son.

As Pierre reached that new Via Venti Settembre* which climbs the side and
summit of the Viminal hill, he was struck by the heavy sumptuousness of
the new “palaces,” which betokened among the moderns the same taste for
the huge that marked the ancient Romans. In the warm afternoon glow,
blent of purple and old gold, the broad, triumphant thoroughfare, with
its endless rows of white house-fronts, bore witness to new Rome’s proud
hope of futurity and sovereign power. And Pierre fairly gasped when he
beheld the Palazzo delle Finanze, or Treasury, a gigantic erection, a
cyclopean cube with a profusion of columns, balconies, pediments, and
sculptured work, to which the building mania had given birth in a day of
immoderate pride. And on the other side of the street, a little higher
up, before reaching the Villa Bonaparte, stood Count Prada’s little

  * The name--Twentieth September Street--was given to the
    thoroughfare to commemorate the date of the occupation
    of Rome by Victor Emmanuel’s army.--Trans.

After discharging his driver, Pierre for a moment remained somewhat
embarrassed. The door was open, and he entered the vestibule; but, as at
the mansion in the Via Giulia, no door porter or servant was to be seen.
So he had to make up his mind to ascend the monumental stairs, which with
their marble balustrades seemed to be copied, on a smaller scale, from
those of the Palazzo Boccanera. And there was much the same cold
bareness, tempered, however, by a carpet and red door-hangings, which
contrasted vividly with the white stucco of the walls. The
reception-rooms, sixteen feet high, were on the first floor, and as a
door chanced to be ajar he caught a glimpse of two _salons_, one
following the other, and both displaying quite modern richness, with a
profusion of silk and velvet hangings, gilt furniture, and lofty mirrors
reflecting a pompous assemblage of stands and tables. And still there was
nobody, not a soul, in that seemingly forsaken abode, which exhaled
nought of woman’s presence. Indeed Pierre was on the point of going down
again to ring, when a footman at last presented himself.

“Count Prada, if you please.”

The servant silently surveyed the little priest, and seemed to
understand. “The father or the son?” he asked.

“The father, Count Orlando Prada.”

“Oh! that’s on the third floor.” And he condescended to add: “The little
door on the right-hand side of the landing. Knock loudly if you wish to
be admitted.”

Pierre indeed had to knock twice, and then a little withered old man of
military appearance, a former soldier who had remained in the Count’s
service, opened the door and apologised for the delay by saying that he
had been attending to his master’s legs. Immediately afterwards he
announced the visitor, and the latter, after passing through a dim and
narrow ante-room, was lost in amazement on finding himself in a
relatively small chamber, extremely bare and bright, with wall-paper of a
light hue studded with tiny blue flowers. Behind a screen was an iron
bedstead, the soldier’s pallet, and there was no other furniture than the
arm-chair in which the cripple spent his days, with a table of black wood
placed near him, and covered with books and papers, and two old
straw-seated chairs which served for the accommodation of the infrequent
visitors. A few planks, fixed to one of the walls, did duty as
book-shelves. However, the broad, clear, curtainless window overlooked
the most admirable panorama of Rome that could be desired.

Then the room disappeared from before Pierre’s eyes, and with a sudden
shock of deep emotion he only beheld old Orlando, the old blanched lion,
still superb, broad, and tall. A forest of white hair crowned his
powerful head, with its thick mouth, fleshy broken nose, and large,
sparkling, black eyes. A long white beard streamed down with the vigour
of youth, curling like that of an ancient god. By that leonine muzzle one
divined what great passions had growled within; but all, carnal and
intellectual alike, had erupted in patriotism, in wild bravery, and
riotous love of independence. And the old stricken hero, his torso still
erect, was fixed there on his straw-seated arm-chair, with lifeless legs
buried beneath a black wrapper. Alone did his arms and hands live, and
his face beam with strength and intelligence.

Orlando turned towards his servant, and gently said to him: “You can go
away, Batista. Come back in a couple of hours.” Then, looking Pierre full
in the face, he exclaimed in a voice which was still sonorous despite his
seventy years: “So it’s you at last, my dear Monsieur Froment, and we
shall be able to chat at our ease. There, take that chair, and sit down
in front of me.”

He had noticed the glance of surprise which the young priest had cast
upon the bareness of the room, and he gaily added: “You will excuse me
for receiving you in my cell. Yes, I live here like a monk, like an old
invalided soldier, henceforth withdrawn from active life. My son long
begged me to take one of the fine rooms downstairs. But what would have
been the use of it? I have no needs, and I scarcely care for feather
beds, for my old bones are accustomed to the hard ground. And then too I
have such a fine view up here, all Rome presenting herself to me, now
that I can no longer go to her.”

With a wave of the hand towards the window he sought to hide the
embarrassment, the slight flush which came to him each time that he thus
excused his son; unwilling as he was to tell the true reason, the scruple
of probity which had made him obstinately cling to his bare pauper’s

“But it is very nice, the view is superb!” declared Pierre, in order to
please him. “I am for my own part very glad to see you, very glad to be
able to grasp your valiant hands, which accomplished so many great

Orlando made a fresh gesture, as though to sweep the past away. “Pooh!
pooh! all that is dead and buried. Let us talk about you, my dear
Monsieur Froment, you who are young and represent the present; and
especially about your book, which represents the future! Ah! if you only
knew how angry your book, your ‘New Rome,’ made me first of all.”

He began to laugh, and took the book from off the table near him; then,
tapping on its cover with his big, broad hand, he continued: “No, you
cannot imagine with what starts of protest I read your book. The Pope,
and again the Pope, and always the Pope! New Rome to be created by the
Pope and for the Pope, to triumph thanks to the Pope, to be given to the
Pope, and to fuse its glory in the glory of the Pope! But what about us?
What about Italy? What about all the millions which we have spent in
order to make Rome a great capital? Ah! only a Frenchman, and a Frenchman
of Paris, could have written such a book! But let me tell you, my dear
sir, if you are ignorant of it, that Rome has become the capital of the
kingdom of Italy, that we here have King Humbert, and the Italian people,
a whole nation which must be taken into account, and which means to keep
Rome--glorious, resuscitated Rome--for itself!”

This juvenile ardour made Pierre laugh in turn. “Yes, yes,” said he, “you
wrote me that. Only what does it matter from my point of view? Italy is
but one nation, a part of humanity, and I desire concord and fraternity
among all the nations, mankind reconciled, believing, and happy. Of what
consequence, then, is any particular form of government, monarchy or
republic, of what consequence is any question of a united and independent
country, if all mankind forms but one free people subsisting on truth and

To only one word of this enthusiastic outburst did Orlando pay attention.
In a lower tone, and with a dreamy air, he resumed: “Ah! a republic. In
my youth I ardently desired one. I fought for one; I conspired with
Mazzini, a saintly man, a believer, who was shattered by collision with
the absolute. And then, too, one had to bow to practical necessities; the
most obstinate ended by submitting. And nowadays would a republic save
us? In any case it would differ but little from our parliamentary
monarchy. Just think of what goes on in France! And so why risk a
revolution which would place power in the hands of the extreme
revolutionists, the anarchists? We fear all that, and this explains our
resignation. I know very well that a few think they can detect salvation
in a republican federation, a reconstitution of all the former little
states in so many republics, over which Rome would preside. The Vatican
would gain largely by any such transformation; still one cannot say that
it endeavours to bring it about; it simply regards the eventuality
without disfavour. But it is a dream, a dream!”

At this Orlando’s gaiety came back to him, with even a little gentle
irony: “You don’t know, I suppose, what it was that took my fancy in your
book--for, in spite of all my protests, I have read it twice. Well, what
pleased me was that Mazzini himself might almost have written it at one
time. Yes! I found all my youth again in your pages, all the wild hope of
my twenty-fifth year, the new religion of a humanitarian Christ, the
pacification of the world effected by the Gospel! Are you aware that,
long before your time, Mazzini desired the renovation of Christianity? He
set dogma and discipline on one side and only retained morals. And it was
new Rome, the Rome of the people, which he would have given as see to the
universal Church, in which all the churches of the past were to be
fused--Rome, the eternal and predestined city, the mother and queen,
whose domination was to arise anew to ensure the definitive happiness of
mankind! Is it not curious that all the present-day Neo-Catholicism, the
vague, spiritualistic awakening, the evolution towards communion and
Christian charity, with which some are making so much stir, should be
simply a return of the mystical and humanitarian ideas of 1848? Alas! I
saw all that, I believed and burned, and I know in what a fine mess those
flights into the azure of mystery landed us! So it cannot be helped, I
lack confidence.”

Then, as Pierre on his side was growing impassioned and sought to reply,
he stopped him: “No, let me finish. I only want to convince you how
absolutely necessary it was that we should take Rome and make her the
capital of Italy. Without Rome new Italy could not have existed; Rome
represented the glory of ancient time; in her dust lay the sovereign
power which we wished to re-establish; she brought strength, beauty,
eternity to those who possessed her. Standing in the middle of our
country, she was its heart, and must assuredly become its life as soon as
she should be awakened from the long sleep of ruin. Ah! how we desired
her, amidst victory and amidst defeat, through years and years of
frightful impatience! For my part I loved her, and longed for her, far
more than for any woman, with my blood burning, and in despair that I
should be growing old. And when we possessed her, our folly was a desire
to behold her huge, magnificent, and commanding all at once, the equal of
the other great capitals of Europe--Berlin, Paris, and London. Look at
her! she is still my only love, my only consolation now that I am
virtually dead, with nothing alive in me but my eyes.”

With the same gesture as before, he directed Pierre’s attention to the
window. Under the glowing sky Rome stretched out in its immensity,
empurpled and gilded by the slanting sunrays. Across the horizon, far,
far away, the trees of the Janiculum stretched a green girdle, of a
limpid emerald hue, whilst the dome of St. Peter’s, more to the left,
showed palely blue, like a sapphire bedimmed by too bright a light. Then
came the low town, the old ruddy city, baked as it were by centuries of
burning summers, soft to the eye and beautiful with the deep life of the
past, an unbounded chaos of roofs, gables, towers, _campanili_, and
cupolas. But, in the foreground under the window, there was the new
city--that which had been building for the last five and twenty
years--huge blocks of masonry piled up side by side, still white with
plaster, neither the sun nor history having as yet robed them in purple.
And in particular the roofs of the colossal Palazzo delle Finanze had a
disastrous effect, spreading out like far, bare steppes of cruel
hideousness. And it was upon the desolation and abomination of all the
newly erected piles that the eyes of the old soldier of conquest at last

Silence ensued. Pierre felt the faint chill of hidden, unacknowledged
sadness pass by, and courteously waited.

“I must beg your pardon for having interrupted you just now,” resumed
Orlando; “but it seems to me that we cannot talk about your book to any
good purpose until you have seen and studied Rome closely. You only
arrived yesterday, did you not? Well, stroll about the city, look at
things, question people, and I think that many of your ideas will change.
I shall particularly like to know your impression of the Vatican since
you have cone here solely to see the Pope and defend your book against
the Index. Why should we discuss things to-day, if facts themselves are
calculated to bring you to other views, far more readily than the finest
speeches which I might make? It is understood, you will come to see me
again, and we shall then know what we are talking about, and, maybe,
agree together.”

“Why certainly, you are too kind,” replied Pierre. “I only came to-day to
express my gratitude to you for having read my book so attentively, and
to pay homage to one of the glories of Italy.”

Orlando was not listening, but remained for a moment absorbed in thought,
with his eyes still resting upon Rome. And overcome, despite himself, by
secret disquietude, he resumed in a low voice as though making an
involuntary confession: “We have gone too fast, no doubt. There were
expenses of undeniable utility--the roads, ports, and railways. And it
was necessary to arm the country also; I did not at first disapprove of
the heavy military burden. But since then how crushing has been the war
budget--a war which has never come, and the long wait for which has
ruined us. Ah! I have always been the friend of France. I only reproach
her with one thing, that she has failed to understand the position in
which we were placed, the vital reasons which compelled us to ally
ourselves with Germany. And then there are the thousand millions of
_lire_* swallowed up in Rome! That was the real madness; pride and
enthusiasm led us astray. Old and solitary as I’ve been for many years
now, given to deep reflection, I was one of the first to divine the
pitfall, the frightful financial crisis, the deficit which would bring
about the collapse of the nation. I shouted it from the housetops, to my
son, to all who came near me; but what was the use? They didn’t listen;
they were mad, still buying and selling and building, with no thought but
for gambling booms and bubbles. But you’ll see, you’ll see. And the worst
is that we are not situated as you are; we haven’t a reserve of men and
money in a dense peasant population, whose thrifty savings are always at
hand to fill up the gaps caused by big catastrophes. There is no social
rise among our people as yet; fresh men don’t spring up out of the lower
classes to reinvigorate the national blood, as they constantly do in your
country. And, besides, the people are poor; they have no stockings to
empty. The misery is frightful, I must admit it. Those who have any money
prefer to spend it in the towns in a petty way rather than to risk it in
agricultural or manufacturing enterprise. Factories are but slowly built,
and the land is almost everywhere tilled in the same primitive manner as
it was two thousand years ago. And then, too, take Rome--Rome, which
didn’t make Italy, but which Italy made its capital to satisfy an ardent,
overpowering desire--Rome, which is still but a splendid bit of scenery,
picturing the glory of the centuries, and which, apart from its
historical splendour, has only given us its degenerate papal population,
swollen with ignorance and pride! Ah! I loved Rome too well, and I still
love it too well to regret being now within its walls. But, good heavens!
what insanity its acquisition brought us, what piles of money it has cost
us, and how heavily and triumphantly it weighs us down! Look! look!”

  * 40,000,000 pounds.

He waved his hand as he spoke towards the livid roofs of the Palazzo
delle Finanze, that vast and desolate steppe, as though he could see the
harvest of glory all stripped off and bankruptcy appear with its fearful,
threatening bareness. Restrained tears were dimming his eyes, and he
looked superbly pitiful with his expression of baffled hope and grievous
disquietude, with his huge white head, the muzzle of an old blanched lion
henceforth powerless and caged in that bare, bright room, whose
poverty-stricken aspect was instinct with so much pride that it seemed,
as it were, a protest against the monumental splendour of the whole
surrounding district! So those were the purposes to which the conquest
had been put! And to think that he was impotent, henceforth unable to
give his blood and his soul as he had done in the days gone by.

“Yes, yes,” he exclaimed in a final outburst; “one gave everything, heart
and brain, one’s whole life indeed, so long as it was a question of
making the country one and independent. But, now that the country is
ours, just try to stir up enthusiasm for the reorganisation of its
finances! There’s no ideality in that! And this explains why, whilst the
old ones are dying off, not a new man comes to the front among the young

All at once he stopped, looking somewhat embarrassed, yet smiling at his
feverishness. “Excuse me,” he said, “I’m off again, I’m incorrigible. But
it’s understood, we’ll leave that subject alone, and you’ll come back
here, and we’ll chat together when you’ve seen everything.”

From that moment he showed himself extremely pleasant, and it was
apparent to Pierre that he regretted having said so much, by the
seductive affability and growing affection which he now displayed. He
begged the young priest to prolong his sojourn, to abstain from all hasty
judgments on Rome, and to rest convinced that, at bottom, Italy still
loved France. And he was also very desirous that France should love
Italy, and displayed genuine anxiety at the thought that perhaps she
loved her no more. As at the Boccanera mansion, on the previous evening,
Pierre realised that an attempt was being made to persuade him to
admiration and affection. Like a susceptible woman with secret misgivings
respecting the attractive power of her beauty, Italy was all anxiety with
regard to the opinion of her visitors, and strove to win and retain their

However, Orlando again became impassioned when he learnt that Pierre was
staying at the Boccanera mansion, and he made a gesture of extreme
annoyance on hearing, at that very moment, a knock at the outer door.
“Come in!” he called; but at the same time he detained Pierre, saying,
“No, no, don’t go yet; I wish to know--”

But a lady came in--a woman of over forty, short and extremely plump, and
still attractive with her small features and pretty smile swamped in fat.
She was a blonde, with green, limpid eyes; and, fairly well dressed in a
sober, nicely fitting mignonette gown, she looked at once pleasant,
modest, and shrewd.

“Ah! it’s you, Stefana,” said the old man, letting her kiss him.

“Yes, uncle, I was passing by and came up to see how you were getting

The visitor was the Signora Sacco, niece of Prada and a Neapolitan by
birth, her mother having quitted Milan to marry a certain Pagani, a
Neapolitan banker, who had afterwards failed. Subsequent to that disaster
Stefana had married Sacco, then merely a petty post-office clerk. He,
later on, wishing to revive his father-in-law’s business, had launched
into all sorts of terrible, complicated, suspicious affairs, which by
unforeseen luck had ended in his election as a deputy. Since he had
arrived in Rome, to conquer the city in his turn, his wife had been
compelled to assist his devouring ambition by dressing well and opening a
_salon_; and, although she was still a little awkward, she rendered him
many real services, being very economical and prudent, a thorough good
housewife, with all the sterling, substantial qualities of Northern Italy
which she had inherited from her mother, and which showed conspicuously
beside the turbulence and carelessness of her husband, in whom flared
Southern Italy with its perpetual, rageful appetite.

Despite his contempt for Sacco, old Orlando had retained some affection
for his niece, in whose veins flowed blood similar to his own. He thanked
her for her kind inquiries, and then at once spoke of an announcement
which he had read in the morning papers, for he suspected that the deputy
had sent his wife to ascertain his opinion.

“Well, and that ministry?” he asked.

The Signora had seated herself and made no haste to reply, but glanced at
the newspapers strewn over the table. “Oh! nothing is settled yet,” she
at last responded; “the newspapers spoke out too soon. The Prime Minister
sent for Sacco, and they had a talk together. But Sacco hesitates a good
deal; he fears that he has no aptitude for the Department of Agriculture.
Ah! if it were only the Finances--However, in any case, he would not have
come to a decision without consulting you. What do you think of it,

He interrupted her with a violent wave of the hand: “No, no, I won’t mix
myself up in such matters!”

To him the rapid success of that adventurer Sacco, that schemer and
gambler who had always fished in troubled waters, was an abomination, the
beginning of the end. His son Luigi certainly distressed him; but it was
even worse to think that--whilst Luigi, with his great intelligence and
many remaining fine qualities, was nothing at all--Sacco, on the other
hand, Sacco, blunderhead and ever-famished battener that he was, had not
merely slipped into parliament, but was now, it seemed, on the point of
securing office! A little, swarthy, dry man he was, with big, round eyes,
projecting cheekbones, and prominent chin. Ever dancing and chattering,
he was gifted with a showy eloquence, all the force of which lay in his
voice--a voice which at will became admirably powerful or gentle! And
withal an insinuating man, profiting by every opportunity, wheedling and
commanding by turn.

“You hear, Stefana,” said Orlando; “tell your husband that the only
advice I have to give him is to return to his clerkship at the
post-office, where perhaps he may be of use.”

What particularly filled the old soldier with indignation and despair was
that such a man, a Sacco, should have fallen like a bandit on Rome--on
that Rome whose conquest had cost so many noble efforts. And in his turn
Sacco was conquering the city, was carrying it off from those who had won
it by such hard toil, and was simply using it to satisfy his wild passion
for power and its attendant enjoyments. Beneath his wheedling air there
was the determination to devour everything. After the victory, while the
spoil lay there, still warm, the wolves had come. It was the North that
had made Italy, whereas the South, eager for the quarry, simply rushed
upon the country, preyed upon it. And beneath the anger of the old
stricken hero of Italian unity there was indeed all the growing
antagonism of the North towards the South--the North industrious,
economical, shrewd in politics, enlightened, full of all the great modern
ideas, and the South ignorant and idle, bent on enjoying life
immediately, amidst childish disorder in action, and an empty show of
fine sonorous words.

Stefana had begun to smile in a placid way while glancing at Pierre, who
had approached the window. “Oh, you say that, uncle,” she responded; “but
you love us well all the same, and more than once you have given me
myself some good advice, for which I’m very thankful to you. For
instance, there’s that affair of Attilio’s--”

She was alluding to her son, the lieutenant, and his love affair with
Celia, the little Princess Buongiovanni, of which all the drawing-rooms,
white and black alike, were talking.

“Attilio--that’s another matter!” exclaimed Orlando. “He and you are both
of the same blood as myself, and it’s wonderful how I see myself again in
that fine fellow. Yes, he is just the same as I was at his age,
good-looking and brave and enthusiastic! I’m paying myself compliments,
you see. But, really now, Attilio warms my heart, for he is the future,
and brings me back some hope. Well, and what about his affair?”

“Oh! it gives us a lot of worry, uncle. I spoke to you about it before,
but you shrugged your shoulders, saying that in matters of that kind all
that the parents had to do was to let the lovers settle their affairs
between them. Still, we don’t want everybody to repeat that we are urging
our son to get the little princess to elope with him, so that he may
afterwards marry her money and title.”

At this Orlando indulged in a frank outburst of gaiety: “That’s a fine
scruple! Was it your husband who instructed you to tell me of it? I know,
however, that he affects some delicacy in this matter. For my own part, I
believe myself to be as honest as he is, and I can only repeat that, if I
had a son like yours, so straightforward and good, and candidly loving, I
should let him marry whomsoever he pleased in his own way. The
Buongiovannis--good heavens! the Buongiovannis--why, despite all their
rank and lineage and the money they still possess, it will be a great
honour for them to have a handsome young man with a noble heart as their

Again did Stefana assume an expression of placid satisfaction. She had
certainly only come there for approval. “Very well, uncle,” she replied,
“I’ll repeat that to my husband, and he will pay great attention to it;
for if you are severe towards him he holds you in perfect veneration. And
as for that ministry--well, perhaps nothing will be done, Sacco will
decide according to circumstances.”

She rose and took her leave, kissing the old soldier very affectionately
as on her arrival. And she complimented him on his good looks, declaring
that she found him as handsome as ever, and making him smile by speaking
of a lady who was still madly in love with him. Then, after acknowledging
the young priest’s silent salutation by a slight bow, she went off, once
more wearing her modest and sensible air.

For a moment Orlando, with his eyes turned towards the door, remained
silent, again sad, reflecting no doubt on all the difficult, equivocal
present, so different from the glorious past. But all at once he turned
to Pierre, who was still waiting. “And so, my friend,” said he, “you are
staying at the Palazzo Boccanera? Ah! what a grievous misfortune there
has been on that side too!”

However, when the priest had told him of his conversation with Benedetta,
and of her message that she still loved him and would never forget his
goodness to her, no matter whatever happened, he appeared moved and his
voice trembled: “Yes, she has a good heart, she has no spite. But what
would you have? She did not love Luigi, and he was possibly violent.
There is no mystery about the matter now, and I can speak to you freely,
since to my great grief everybody knows what has happened.”

Then Orlando abandoned himself to his recollections, and related how keen
had been his delight on the eve of the marriage at the thought that so
lovely a creature would become his daughter, and set some youth and charm
around his invalid’s arm-chair. He had always worshipped beauty, and
would have had no other love than woman, if his country had not seized
upon the best part of him. And Benedetta on her side loved him, revered
him, constantly coming up to spend long hours with him, sharing his poor
little room, which at those times became resplendent with all the divine
grace that she brought with her. With her fresh breath near him, the pure
scent she diffused, the caressing womanly tenderness with which she
surrounded him, he lived anew. But, immediately afterwards, what a
frightful drama and how his heart had bled at his inability to reconcile
the husband and the wife! He could not possibly say that his son was in
the wrong in desiring to be the loved and accepted spouse. At first
indeed he had hoped to soften Benedetta, and throw her into Luigi’s arms.
But when she had confessed herself to him in tears, owning her old love
for Dario, and her horror of belonging to another, he realised that she
would never yield. And a whole year had then gone by; he had lived for a
whole year imprisoned in his arm-chair, with that poignant drama
progressing beneath him in those luxurious rooms whence no sound even
reached his ears. How many times had he not listened, striving to hear,
fearing atrocious quarrels, in despair at his inability to prove still
useful by creating happiness. He knew nothing by his son, who kept his
own counsel; he only learnt a few particulars from Benedetta at intervals
when emotion left her defenceless; and that marriage in which he had for
a moment espied the much-needed alliance between old and new Rome, that
unconsummated marriage filled him with despair, as if it were indeed the
defeat of every hope, the final collapse of the dream which had filled
his life. And he himself had ended by desiring the divorce, so unbearable
had become the suffering caused by such a situation.

“Ah! my friend!” he said to Pierre; “never before did I so well
understand the fatality of certain antagonism, the possibility of working
one’s own misfortune and that of others, even when one has the most
loving heart and upright mind!”

But at that moment the door again opened, and this time, without
knocking, Count Luigi Prada came in. And after rapidly bowing to the
visitor, who had risen, he gently took hold of his father’s hands and
felt them, as if fearing that they might be too warm or too cold.

“I’ve just arrived from Frascati, where I had to sleep,” said he; “for
the interruption of all that building gives me a lot of worry. And I’m
told that you spent a bad night!”

“No, I assure you.”

“Oh! I knew you wouldn’t own it. But why will you persist in living up
here without any comfort? All this isn’t suited to your age. I should be
so pleased if you would accept a more comfortable room where you might
sleep better.”

“No, no--I know that you love me well, my dear Luigi. But let me do as my
old head tells me. That’s the only way to make me happy.”

Pierre was much struck by the ardent affection which sparkled in the eyes
of the two men as they gazed at one another, face to face. This seemed to
him very touching and beautiful, knowing as he did how many contrary
ideas and actions, how many moral divergencies separated them. And he
next took an interest in comparing them physically. Count Luigi Prada,
shorter, more thick-set than his father, had, however, much the same
strong energetic head, crowned with coarse black hair, and the same frank
but somewhat stern eyes set in a face of clear complexion, barred by
thick moustaches. But his mouth differed--a sensual, voracious mouth it
was, with wolfish teeth--a mouth of prey made for nights of rapine, when
the only question is to bite, and tear, and devour others. And for this
reason, when some praised the frankness in his eyes, another would
retort: “Yes, but I don’t like his mouth.” His feet were large, his hands
plump and over-broad, but admirably cared for.

And Pierre marvelled at finding him such as he had anticipated. He knew
enough of his story to picture in him a hero’s son spoilt by conquest,
eagerly devouring the harvest garnered by his father’s glorious sword.
And he particularly studied how the father’s virtues had deflected and
become transformed into vices in the son--the most noble qualities being
perverted, heroic and disinterested energy lapsing into a ferocious
appetite for possession, the man of battle leading to the man of booty,
since the great gusts of enthusiasm no longer swept by, since men no
longer fought, since they remained there resting, pillaging, and
devouring amidst the heaped-up spoils. And the pity of it was that the
old hero, the paralytic, motionless father beheld it all--beheld the
degeneration of his son, the speculator and company promoter gorged with

However, Orlando introduced Pierre. “This is Monsieur l’Abbe Pierre
Froment, whom I spoke to you about,” he said, “the author of the book
which I gave you to read.”

Luigi Prada showed himself very amiable, at once talking of home with an
intelligent passion like one who wished to make the city a great modern
capital. He had seen Paris transformed by the Second Empire; he had seen
Berlin enlarged and embellished after the German victories; and,
according to him, if Rome did not follow the movement, if it did not
become the inhabitable capital of a great people, it was threatened with
prompt death: either a crumbling museum or a renovated, resuscitated
city--those were the alternatives.*

  * Personally I should have thought the example of Berlin a great
    deterrent. The enlargement and embellishment of the Prussian
    capital, after the war of 1870, was attended by far greater
    roguery and wholesale swindling than even the previous
    transformation of Paris. Thousands of people too were ruined,
    and instead of an increase of prosperity the result was the
    very reverse.--Trans.

Greatly struck, almost gained over already, Pierre listened to this
clever man, charmed with his firm, clear mind. He knew how skilfully
Prada had manoeuvred in the affair of the Villa Montefiori, enriching
himself when every one else was ruined, having doubtless foreseen the
fatal catastrophe even while the gambling passion was maddening the
entire nation. However, the young priest could already detect marks of
weariness, precocious wrinkles and a fall of the lips, on that
determined, energetic face, as though its possessor were growing tired of
the continual struggle that he had to carry on amidst surrounding
downfalls, the shock of which threatened to bring the most firmly
established fortunes to the ground. It was said that Prada had recently
had grave cause for anxiety; and indeed there was no longer any solidity
to be found; everything might be swept away by the financial crisis which
day by day was becoming more and more serious. In the case of Luigi,
sturdy son though he was of Northern Italy, a sort of degeneration had
set in, a slow rot, caused by the softening, perversive influence of
Rome. He had there rushed upon the satisfaction of every appetite, and
prolonged enjoyment was exhausting him. This, indeed, was one of the
causes of the deep silent sadness of Orlando, who was compelled to
witness the swift deterioration of his conquering race, whilst Sacco, the
Italian of the South--served as it were by the climate, accustomed to the
voluptuous atmosphere, the life of those sun-baked cities compounded of
the dust of antiquity--bloomed there like the natural vegetation of a
soil saturated with the crimes of history, and gradually grasped
everything, both wealth and power.

As Orlando spoke of Stefana’s visit to his son, Sacco’s name was
mentioned. Then, without another word, the two men exchanged a smile. A
rumour was current that the Minister of Agriculture, lately deceased,
would perhaps not be replaced immediately, and that another minister
would take charge of the department pending the next session of the

Next the Palazzo Boccanera was mentioned, and Pierre, his interest
awakened, became more attentive. “Ah!” exclaimed Count Luigi, turning to
him, “so you are staying in the Via Giulia? All the Rome of olden time
sleeps there in the silence of forgetfulness.”

With perfect ease he went on to speak of the Cardinal and even of
Benedetta--“the Countess,” as he called her. But, although he was careful
to let no sign of anger escape him, the young priest could divine that he
was secretly quivering, full of suffering and spite. In him the
enthusiastic energy of his father appeared in a baser, degenerate form.
Quitting the yet handsome Princess Flavia in his passion for Benedetta,
her divinely beautiful niece, he had resolved to make the latter his own
at any cost, determined to marry her, to struggle with her and overcome
her, although he knew that she loved him not, and that he would almost
certainly wreck his entire life. Rather than relinquish her, however, he
would have set Rome on fire. And thus his hopeless suffering was now
great indeed: this woman was but his wife in name, and so torturing was
the thought of her disdain, that at times, however calm his outward
demeanour, he was consumed by a jealous vindictive sensual madness that
did not even recoil from the idea of crime.

“Monsieur l’Abbe is acquainted with the situation,” sadly murmured old

His son responded by a wave of the hand, as though to say that everybody
was acquainted with it. “Ah! father,” he added, “but for you I should
never have consented to take part in those proceedings for annulling the
marriage! The Countess would have found herself compelled to return here,
and would not nowadays be deriding us with her lover, that cousin of
hers, Dario!”

At this Orlando also waved his hand, as if in protest.

“Oh! it’s a fact, father,” continued Luigi. “Why did she flee from here
if it wasn’t to go and live with her lover? And indeed, in my opinion,
it’s scandalous that a Cardinal’s palace should shelter such goings-on!”

This was the report which he spread abroad, the accusation which he
everywhere levelled against his wife, of publicly carrying on a shameless
_liaison_. In reality, however, he did not believe a word of it, being
too well acquainted with Benedetta’s firm rectitude, and her
determination to belong to none but the man she loved, and to him only in
marriage. However, in Prada’s eyes such accusations were not only fair
play but also very efficacious.

And now, although he turned pale with covert exasperation, and laughed a
hard, vindictive, cruel laugh, he went on to speak in a bantering tone of
the proceedings for annulling the marriage, and in particular of the plea
put forward by Benedetta’s advocate Morano. And at last his language
became so free that Orlando, with a glance towards the priest, gently
interposed: “Luigi! Luigi!”

“Yes, you are right, father, I’ll say no more,” thereupon added the young
Count. “But it’s really abominable and ridiculous. Lisbeth, you know, is
highly amused at it.”

Orlando again looked displeased, for when visitors were present he did
not like his son to refer to the person whom he had just named. Lisbeth
Kauffmann, very blonde and pink and merry, was barely thirty years of
age, and belonged to the Roman foreign colony. For two years past she had
been a widow, her husband having died at Rome whither he had come to
nurse a complaint of the lungs. Thenceforward free, and sufficiently well
off, she had remained in the city by taste, having a marked predilection
for art, and painting a little, herself. In the Via Principe Amadeo, in
the new Viminal district, she had purchased a little palazzo, and
transformed a large apartment on its second floor into a studio hung with
old stuffs, and balmy in every season with the scent of flowers. The
place was well known to tolerant and intellectual society. Lisbeth was
there found in perpetual jubilation, clad in a long blouse, somewhat of a
_gamine_ in her ways, trenchant too and often bold of speech, but
nevertheless capital company, and as yet compromised with nobody but
Prada. Their _liaison_ had begun some four months after his wife had left
him, and now Lisbeth was near the time of becoming a mother. This she in
no wise concealed, but displayed such candid tranquillity and happiness
that her numerous acquaintances continued to visit her as if there were
nothing in question, so facile and free indeed is the life of the great
cosmopolitan continental cities. Under the circumstances which his wife’s
suit had created, Prada himself was not displeased at the turn which
events had taken with regard to Lisbeth, but none the less his incurable
wound still bled.

There could be no compensation for the bitterness of Benedetta’s disdain,
it was she for whom his heart burned, and he dreamt of one day wreaking
on her a tragic punishment.

Pierre, knowing nothing of Lisbeth, failed to understand the allusions of
Orlando and his son. But realising that there was some embarrassment
between them, he sought to take countenance by picking from off the
littered table a thick book which, to his surprise, he found to be a
French educational work, one of those manuals for the _baccalaureat_,*
containing a digest of the knowledge which the official programmes
require. It was but a humble, practical, elementary work, yet it
necessarily dealt with all the mathematical, physical, chemical, and
natural sciences, thus broadly outlining the intellectual conquests of
the century, the present phase of human knowledge.

  * The examination for the degree of bachelor, which degree is
    the necessary passport to all the liberal professions in France.
    M. Zola, by the way, failed to secure it, being ploughed for
    “insufficiency in literature”!--Trans.

“Ah!” exclaimed Orlando, well pleased with the diversion, “you are
looking at the book of my old friend Theophile Morin. He was one of the
thousand of Marsala, you know, and helped us to conquer Sicily and
Naples. A hero! But for more than thirty years now he has been living in
France again, absorbed in the duties of his petty professorship, which
hasn’t made him at all rich. And so he lately published that book, which
sells very well in France it seems; and it occurred to him that he might
increase his modest profits on it by issuing translations, an Italian one
among others. He and I have remained brothers, and thinking that my
influence would prove decisive, he wishes to utilise it. But he is
mistaken; I fear, alas! that I shall be unable to get anybody to take up
his book.”

At this Luigi Prada, who had again become very composed and amiable,
shrugged his shoulders slightly, full as he was of the scepticism of his
generation which desired to maintain things in their actual state so as
to derive the greatest profit from them. “What would be the good of it?”
 he murmured; “there are too many books already!”

“No, no!” the old man passionately retorted, “there can never be too many
books! We still and ever require fresh ones! It’s by literature, not by
the sword, that mankind will overcome falsehood and injustice and attain
to the final peace of fraternity among the nations--Oh! you may smile; I
know that you call these ideas my fancies of ‘48, the fancies of a
greybeard, as people say in France. But it is none the less true that
Italy is doomed, if the problem be not attacked from down below, if the
people be not properly fashioned. And there is only one way to make a
nation, to create men, and that is to educate them, to develop by
educational means the immense lost force which now stagnates in ignorance
and idleness. Yes, yes, Italy is made, but let us make an Italian nation.
And give us more and more books, and let us ever go more and more forward
into science and into light, if we wish to live and to be healthy, good,
and strong!”

With his torso erect, with his powerful leonine muzzle flaming with the
white brightness of his beard and hair, old Orlando looked superb. And in
that simple, candid chamber, so touching with its intentional poverty, he
raised his cry of hope with such intensity of feverish faith, that before
the young priest’s eyes there arose another figure--that of Cardinal
Boccanera, erect and black save for his snow-white hair, and likewise
glowing with heroic beauty in his crumbling palace whose gilded ceilings
threatened to fall about his head! Ah! the magnificent stubborn men of
the past, the believers, the old men who still show themselves more
virile, more ardent than the young! Those two represented the opposite
poles of belief; they had not an idea, an affection in common, and in
that ancient city of Rome, where all was being blown away in dust, they
alone seemed to protest, indestructible, face to face like two parted
brothers, standing motionless on either horizon. And to have seen them
thus, one after the other, so great and grand, so lonely, so detached
from ordinary life, was to fill one’s day with a dream of eternity.

Luigi, however, had taken hold of the old man’s hands to calm him by an
affectionate filial clasp. “Yes, yes, you are right, father, always
right, and I’m a fool to contradict you. Now, pray don’t move about like
that, for you are uncovering yourself, and your legs will get cold

So saying, he knelt down and very carefully arranged the wrapper; and
then remaining on the floor like a child, albeit he was two and forty, he
raised his moist eyes, full of mute, entreating worship towards the old
man who, calmed and deeply moved, caressed his hair with a trembling

Pierre had been there for nearly two hours, when he at last took leave,
greatly struck and affected by all that he had seen and heard. And again
he had to promise that he would return and have a long chat with Orlando.
Once out of doors he walked along at random. It was barely four o’clock,
and it was his idea to ramble in this wise, without any predetermined
programme, through Rome at that delightful hour when the sun sinks in the
refreshed and far blue atmosphere. Almost immediately, however, he found
himself in the Via Nazionale, along which he had driven on arriving the
previous day. And he recognised the huge livid Banca d’Italia, the green
gardens climbing to the Quirinal, and the heaven-soaring pines of the
Villa Aldobrandini. Then, at the turn of the street, as he stopped short
in order that he might again contemplate the column of Trajan which now
rose up darkly from its low piazza, already full of twilight, he was
surprised to see a victoria suddenly pull up, and a young man courteously
beckon to him.

“Monsieur l’Abbe Froment! Monsieur l’Abbe Froment!”

It was young Prince Dario Boccanera, on his way to his daily drive along
the Corso. He now virtually subsisted on the liberality of his uncle the
Cardinal, and was almost always short of money. But, like all the Romans,
he would, if necessary, have rather lived on bread and water than have
forgone his carriage, horse, and coachman. An equipage, indeed, is the
one indispensable luxury of Rome.

“If you will come with me, Monsieur l’Abbe Froment,” said the young
Prince, “I will show you the most interesting part of our city.”

He doubtless desired to please Benedetta, by behaving amiably towards her
protege. Idle as he was, too, it seemed to him a pleasant occupation to
initiate that young priest, who was said to be so intelligent, into what
he deemed the inimitable side, the true florescence of Roman life.

Pierre was compelled to accept, although he would have preferred a
solitary stroll. Yet he was interested in this young man, the last born
of an exhausted race, who, while seemingly incapable of either thought or
action, was none the less very seductive with his high-born pride and
indolence. Far more a Roman than a patriot, Dario had never had the
faintest inclination to rally to the new order of things, being well
content to live apart and do nothing; and passionate though he was, he
indulged in no follies, being very practical and sensible at heart, as
are all his fellow-citizens, despite their apparent impetuosity. As soon
as his carriage, after crossing the Piazza di Venezia, entered the Corso,
he gave rein to his childish vanity, his desire to shine, his passion for
gay, happy life in the open under the lovely sky. All this, indeed, was
clearly expressed in the simple gesture which he made whilst exclaiming:
“The Corso!”

As on the previous day, Pierre was filled with astonishment. The long
narrow street again stretched before him as far as the white dazzling
Piazza del Popolo, the only difference being that the right-hand houses
were now steeped in sunshine, whilst those on the left were black with
shadow. What! was that the Corso then, that semi-obscure trench, close
pressed by high and heavy house-fronts, that mean roadway where three
vehicles could scarcely pass abreast, and which serried shops lined with
gaudy displays? There was neither space, nor far horizon, nor refreshing
greenery such as the fashionable drives of Paris could boast! Nothing but
jostling, crowding, and stifling on the little footways under the narrow
strip of sky. And although Dario named the pompous and historical
palaces, Bonaparte, Doria, Odescalchi, Sciarra, and Chigi; although he
pointed out the column of Marcus Aurelius on the Piazza Colonna, the most
lively square of the whole city with its everlasting throng of lounging,
gazing, chattering people; although, all the way to the Piazza del
Popolo, he never ceased calling attention to churches, houses, and
side-streets, notably the Via dei Condotti, at the far end of which the
Trinity de’ Monti, all golden in the glory of the sinking sun, appeared
above that famous flight of steps, the triumphal Scala di Spagna--Pierre
still and ever retained the impression of disillusion which the narrow,
airless thoroughfare had conveyed to him: the “palaces” looked to him
like mournful hospitals or barracks, the Piazza Colonna suffered terribly
from a lack of trees, and the Trinity de’ Monti alone took his fancy by
its distant radiance of fairyland.

But it was necessary to come back from the Piazza del Popolo to the
Piazza di Venezia, then return to the former square, and come back yet
again, following the entire Corso three and four times without wearying.
The delighted Dario showed himself and looked about him, exchanging
salutations. On either footway was a compact crowd of promenaders whose
eyes roamed over the equipages and whose hands could have shaken those of
the carriage folks. So great at last became the number of vehicles that
both lines were absolutely unbroken, crowded to such a point that the
coachmen could do no more than walk their horses. Perpetually going up
and coming down the Corso, people scrutinised and jostled one another. It
was open-air promiscuity, all Rome gathered together in the smallest
possible space, the folks who knew one another and who met here as in a
friendly drawing-room, and the folks belonging to adverse parties who did
not speak together but who elbowed each other, and whose glances
penetrated to each other’s soul. Then a revelation came to Pierre, and he
suddenly understood the Corso, the ancient custom, the passion and glory
of the city. Its pleasure lay precisely in the very narrowness of the
street, in that forced elbowing which facilitated not only desired
meetings but the satisfaction of curiosity, the display of vanity, and
the garnering of endless tittle-tattle. All Roman society met here each
day, displayed itself, spied on itself, offering itself in spectacle to
its own eyes, with such an indispensable need of thus beholding itself
that the man of birth who missed the Corso was like one out of his
element, destitute of newspapers, living like a savage. And withal the
atmosphere was delightfully balmy, and the narrow strip of sky between
the heavy, rusty mansions displayed an infinite azure purity.

Dario never ceased smiling, and slightly inclining his head while he
repeated to Pierre the names of princes and princesses, dukes and
duchesses--high-sounding names whose flourish had filled history, whose
sonorous syllables conjured up the shock of armour on the battlefield and
the splendour of papal pomp with robes of purple, tiaras of gold, and
sacred vestments sparkling with precious stones. And as Pierre listened
and looked he was pained to see merely some corpulent ladies or
undersized gentlemen, bloated or shrunken beings, whose ill-looks seemed
to be increased by their modern attire. However, a few pretty women went
by, particularly some young, silent girls with large, clear eyes. And
just as Dario had pointed out the Palazzo Buongiovanni, a huge
seventeenth-century facade, with windows encompassed by foliaged
ornamentation deplorably heavy in style, he added gaily:

“Ah! look--that’s Attilio there on the footway. Young Lieutenant
Sacco--you know, don’t you?”

Pierre signed that he understood. Standing there in uniform, Attilio, so
young, so energetic and brave of appearance, with a frank countenance
softly illumined by blue eyes like his mother’s, at once pleased the
priest. He seemed indeed the very personification of youth and love, with
all their enthusiastic, disinterested hope in the future.

“You’ll see by and by, when we pass the palace again,” said Dario. “He’ll
still be there and I’ll show you something.”

Then he began to talk gaily of the girls of Rome, the little princesses,
the little duchesses, so discreetly educated at the convent of the Sacred
Heart, quitting it for the most part so ignorant and then completing
their education beside their mothers, never going out but to accompany
the latter on the obligatory drive to the Corso, and living through
endless days, cloistered, imprisoned in the depths of sombre mansions.
Nevertheless what tempests raged in those mute souls to which none had
ever penetrated! what stealthy growth of will suddenly appeared from
under passive obedience, apparent unconsciousness of surroundings! How
many there were who stubbornly set their minds on carving out their lives
for themselves, on choosing the man who might please them, and securing
him despite the opposition of the entire world! And the lover was chosen
there from among the stream of young men promenading the Corso, the lover
hooked with a glance during the daily drive, those candid eyes speaking
aloud and sufficing for confession and the gift of all, whilst not a
breath was wafted from the lips so chastely closed. And afterwards there
came love letters, furtively exchanged in church, and the winning-over of
maids to facilitate stolen meetings, at first so innocent. In the end, a
marriage often resulted.

Celia, for her part, had determined to win Attilio on the very first day
when their eyes had met. And it was from a window of the Palazzo
Buongiovanni that she had perceived him one afternoon of mortal
weariness. He had just raised his head, and she had taken him for ever
and given herself to him with those large, pure eyes of hers as they
rested on his own. She was but an _amorosa_--nothing more; he pleased
her; she had set her heart on him--him and none other. She would have
waited twenty years for him, but she relied on winning him at once by
quiet stubbornness of will. People declared that the terrible fury of the
Prince, her father, had proved impotent against her respectful, obstinate
silence. He, man of mixed blood as he was, son of an American woman, and
husband of an English woman, laboured but to retain his own name and
fortune intact amidst the downfall of others; and it was rumoured that as
the result of a quarrel which he had picked with his wife, whom he
accused of not sufficiently watching over their daughter, the Princess
had revolted, full not only of the pride of a foreigner who had brought a
huge dowry in marriage, but also of such plain, frank egotism that she
had declared she no longer found time enough to attend to herself, let
alone another. Had she not already done enough in bearing him five
children? She thought so; and now she spent her time in worshipping
herself, letting Celia do as she listed, and taking no further interest
in the household through which swept stormy gusts.

However, the carriage was again about to pass the Buongiovanni mansion,
and Dario forewarned Pierre. “You see,” said he, “Attilio has come back.
And now look up at the third window on the first floor.”

It was at once rapid and charming. Pierre saw the curtain slightly drawn
aside and Celia’s gentle face appear. Closed, candid lily, she did not
smile, she did not move. Nothing could be read on those pure lips, or in
those clear but fathomless eyes of hers. Yet she was taking Attilio to
herself, and giving herself to him without reserve. And soon the curtain
fell once more.

“Ah, the little mask!” muttered Dario. “Can one ever tell what there is
behind so much innocence?”

As Pierre turned round he perceived Attilio, whose head was still raised,
and whose face was also motionless and pale, with closed mouth, and
widely opened eyes. And the young priest was deeply touched, for this was
love, absolute love in its sudden omnipotence, true love, eternal and
juvenescent, in which ambition and calculation played no part.

Then Dario ordered the coachman to drive up to the Pincio; for, before or
after the Corso, the round of the Pincio is obligatory on fine, clear
afternoons. First came the Piazza del Popolo, the most airy and regular
square of Rome, with its conjunction of thoroughfares, its churches and
fountains, its central obelisk, and its two clumps of trees facing one
another at either end of the small white paving-stones, betwixt the
severe and sun-gilt buildings. Then, turning to the right, the carriage
began to climb the inclined way to the Pincio--a magnificent winding
ascent, decorated with bas-reliefs, statues, and fountains--a kind of
apotheosis of marble, a commemoration of ancient Rome, rising amidst
greenery. Up above, however, Pierre found the garden small, little better
than a large square, with just the four necessary roadways to enable the
carriages to drive round and round as long as they pleased. An
uninterrupted line of busts of the great men of ancient and modern Italy
fringed these roadways. But what Pierre most admired was the trees--trees
of the most rare and varied kinds, chosen and tended with infinite care,
and nearly always evergreens, so that in winter and summer alike the spot
was adorned with lovely foliage of every imaginable shade of verdure. And
beside these trees, along the fine, breezy roadways, Dario’s victoria
began to turn, following the continuous, unwearying stream of the other

Pierre remarked one young woman of modest demeanour and attractive
simplicity who sat alone in a dark-blue victoria, drawn by a
well-groomed, elegantly harnessed horse. She was very pretty, short, with
chestnut hair, a creamy complexion, and large gentle eyes. Quietly robed
in dead-leaf silk, she wore a large hat, which alone looked somewhat
extravagant. And seeing that Dario was staring at her, the priest
inquired her name, whereat the young Prince smiled. Oh! she was nobody,
La Tonietta was the name that people gave her; she was one of the few
_demi-mondaines_ that Roman society talked of. Then, with the freeness
and frankness which his race displays in such matters, Dario added some
particulars. La Tonietta’s origin was obscure; some said that she was the
daughter of an innkeeper of Tivoli, and others that of a Neapolitan
banker. At all events, she was very intelligent, had educated herself,
and knew thoroughly well how to receive and entertain people at the
little palazzo in the Via dei Mille, which had been given to her by old
Marquis Manfredi now deceased. She made no scandalous show, had but one
protector at a time, and the princesses and duchesses who paid attention
to her at the Corso every afternoon, considered her nice-looking. One
peculiarity had made her somewhat notorious. There was some one whom she
loved and from whom she never accepted aught but a bouquet of white
roses; and folks would smile indulgently when at times for weeks together
she was seen driving round the Pincio with those pure, white bridal
flowers on the carriage seat.

Dario, however, suddenly paused in his explanations to address a
ceremonious bow to a lady who, accompanied by a gentleman, drove by in a
large landau. Then he simply said to the priest: “My mother.”

Pierre already knew of her. Viscount de la Choue had told him her story,
how, after Prince Onofrio Boccanera’s death, she had married again,
although she was already fifty; how at the Corso, just like some young
girl, she had hooked with her eyes a handsome man to her liking--one,
too, who was fifteen years her junior. And Pierre also knew who that man
was, a certain Jules Laporte, an ex-sergeant of the papal Swiss Guard, an
ex-traveller in relics, compromised in an extraordinary “false relic”
 fraud; and he was further aware that Laporte’s wife had made a
fine-looking Marquis Montefiori of him, the last of the fortunate
adventurers of romance, triumphing as in the legendary lands where
shepherds are wedded to queens.

At the next turn, as the large landau again went by, Pierre looked at the
couple. The Marchioness was really wonderful, blooming with all the
classical Roman beauty, tall, opulent, and very dark, with the head of a
goddess and regular if somewhat massive features, nothing as yet
betraying her age except the down upon her upper lip. And the Marquis,
the Romanised Swiss of Geneva, really had a proud bearing, with his solid
soldierly figure and long wavy moustaches. People said that he was in no
wise a fool but, on the contrary, very gay and very supple, just the man
to please women. His wife so gloried in him that she dragged him about
and displayed him everywhere, having begun life afresh with him as if she
were still but twenty, spending on him the little fortune which she had
saved from the Villa Montefiori disaster, and so completely forgetting
her son that she only saw the latter now and again at the promenade and
acknowledged his bow like that of some chance acquaintance.

“Let us go to see the sun set behind St. Peter’s,” all at once said
Dario, conscientiously playing his part as a showman of curiosities.

The victoria thereupon returned to the terrace, where a military band was
now playing with a terrific blare of brass instruments. In order that
their occupants might hear the music, a large number of carriages had
already drawn up, and a growing crowd of loungers on foot had assembled
there. And from that beautiful terrace, so broad and lofty, one of the
most wonderful views of Rome was offered to the gaze. Beyond the Tiber,
beyond the pale chaos of the new district of the castle meadows,* and
between the greenery of Monte Mario and the Janiculum arose St. Peter’s.
Then on the left came all the olden city, an endless stretch of roofs, a
rolling sea of edifices as far as the eye could reach. But one’s glances
always came back to St. Peter’s, towering into the azure with pure and
sovereign grandeur. And, seen from the terrace, the slow sunsets in the
depths of the vast sky behind the colossus were sublime.

  * See _ante_ note on castle meadows.

Sometimes there are topplings of sanguineous clouds, battles of giants
hurling mountains at one another and succumbing beneath the monstrous
ruins of flaming cities. Sometimes only red streaks or fissures appear on
the surface of a sombre lake, as if a net of light has been flung to fish
the submerged orb from amidst the seaweed. Sometimes, too, there is a
rosy mist, a kind of delicate dust which falls, streaked with pearls by a
distant shower, whose curtain is drawn across the mystery of the horizon.
And sometimes there is a triumph, a _cortege_ of gold and purple chariots
of cloud rolling along a highway of fire, galleys floating upon an azure
sea, fantastic and extravagant pomps slowly sinking into the less and
less fathomable abyss of the twilight.

But that night the sublime spectacle presented itself to Pierre with a
calm, blinding, desperate grandeur. At first, just above the dome of St.
Peter’s, the sun, descending in a spotless, deeply limpid sky, proved yet
so resplendent that one’s eyes could not face its brightness. And in this
resplendency the dome seemed to be incandescent, you would have said a
dome of liquid silver; whilst the surrounding districts, the house-roofs
of the Borgo, were as though changed into a lake of live embers. Then, as
the sun was by degrees inclined, it lost some of its blaze, and one could
look; and soon afterwards sinking with majestic slowness it disappeared
behind the dome, which showed forth darkly blue, while the orb, now
entirely hidden, set an aureola around it, a glory like a crown of
flaming rays. And then began the dream, the dazzling symbol, the singular
illumination of the row of windows beneath the cupola which were
transpierced by the light and looked like the ruddy mouths of furnaces,
in such wise that one might have imagined the dome to be poised upon a
brazier, isolated, in the air, as though raised and upheld by the
violence of the fire. It all lasted barely three minutes. Down below the
jumbled roofs of the Borgo became steeped in violet vapour, sank into
increasing gloom, whilst from the Janiculum to Monte Mario the horizon
showed its firm black line. And it was the sky then which became all
purple and gold, displaying the infinite placidity of a supernatural
radiance above the earth which faded into nihility. Finally the last
window reflections were extinguished, the glow of the heavens departed,
and nothing remained but the vague, fading roundness of the dome of St.
Peter’s amidst the all-invading night.

And, by some subtle connection of ideas, Pierre at that moment once again
saw rising before him the lofty, sad, declining figures of Cardinal
Boccanera and old Orlando. On the evening of that day when he had learnt
to know them, one after the other, both so great in the obstinacy of
their hope, they seemed to be there, erect on the horizon above their
annihilated city, on the fringe of the heavens which death apparently was
about to seize. Was everything then to crumble with them? was everything
to fade away and disappear in the falling night following upon
accomplished Time?


ON the following day Narcisse Habert came in great worry to tell Pierre
that Monsignor Gamba del Zoppo complained of being unwell, and asked for
a delay of two or three days before receiving the young priest and
considering the matter of his audience. Pierre was thus reduced to
inaction, for he dared not make any attempt elsewhere in view of seeing
the Pope. He had been so frightened by Nani and others that he feared he
might jeopardise everything by inconsiderate endeavours. And so he began
to visit Rome in order to occupy his leisure.

His first visit was for the ruins of the Palatine. Going out alone one
clear morning at eight o’clock, he presented himself at the entrance in
the Via San Teodoro, an iron gateway flanked by the lodges of the
keepers. One of the latter at once offered his services, and though
Pierre would have preferred to roam at will, following the bent of his
dream, he somehow did not like to refuse the offer of this man, who spoke
French very distinctly, and smiled in a very good-natured way. He was a
squatly built little man, a former soldier, some sixty years of age, and
his square-cut, ruddy face was barred by thick white moustaches.

“Then will you please follow me, Monsieur l’Abbe,” said he. “I can see
that you are French, Monsieur l’Abbe. I’m a Piedmontese myself, but I
know the French well enough; I was with them at Solferino. Yes, yes,
whatever people may say, one can’t forget old friendships. Here, this
way, please, to the right.”

Raising his eyes, Pierre had just perceived the line of cypresses edging
the plateau of the Palatine on the side of the Tiber; and in the delicate
blue atmosphere the intense greenery of these trees showed like a black
fringe. They alone attracted the eye; the slope, of a dusty, dirty grey,
stretched out bare and devastated, dotted by a few bushes, among which
peeped fragments of ancient walls. All was instinct with the ravaged,
leprous sadness of a spot handed over to excavation, and where only men
of learning could wax enthusiastic.

“The palaces of Tiberius, Caligula, and the Flavians are up above,”
 resumed the guide. “We must keep then for the end and go round.”
 Nevertheless he took a few steps to the left, and pausing before an
excavation, a sort of grotto in the hillside, exclaimed: “This is the
Lupercal den where the wolf suckled Romulus and Remus. Just here at the
entry used to stand the Ruminal fig-tree which sheltered the twins.”

Pierre could not restrain a smile, so convinced was the tone in which the
old soldier gave these explanations, proud as he was of all the ancient
glory, and wont to regard the wildest legends as indisputable facts.
However, when the worthy man pointed out some vestiges of Roma
Quadrata--remnants of walls which really seemed to date from the
foundation of the city--Pierre began to feel interested, and a first
touch of emotion made his heart beat. This emotion was certainly not due
to any beauty of scene, for he merely beheld a few courses of tufa
blocks, placed one upon the other and uncemented. But a past which had
been dead for seven and twenty centuries seemed to rise up before him,
and those crumbling, blackened blocks, the foundation of such a mighty
eclipse of power and splendour, acquired extraordinary majesty.

Continuing their inspection, they went on, skirting the hillside. The
outbuildings of the palaces must have descended to this point; fragments
of porticoes, fallen beams, columns and friezes set up afresh, edged the
rugged path which wound through wild weeds, suggesting a neglected
cemetery; and the guide repeated the words which he had used day by day
for ten years past, continuing to enunciate suppositions as facts, and
giving a name, a destination, a history, to every one of the fragments.

“The house of Augustus,” he said at last, pointing towards some masses of
earth and rubbish.

Thereupon Pierre, unable to distinguish anything, ventured to inquire:
“Where do you mean?”

“Oh!” said the man, “it seems that the walls were still to be seen at the
end of the last century. But it was entered from the other side, from the
Sacred Way. On this side there was a huge balcony which overlooked the
Circus Maximus so that one could view the sports. However, as you can
see, the greater part of the palace is still buried under that big garden
up above, the garden of the Villa Mills. When there’s money for fresh
excavations it will be found again, together with the temple of Apollo
and the shrine of Vesta which accompanied it.”

Turning to the left, he next entered the Stadium, the arena erected for
foot-racing, which stretched beside the palace of Augustus; and the
priest’s interest was now once more awakened. It was not that he found
himself in presence of well-preserved and monumental remains, for not a
column had remained erect, and only the right-hand walls were still
standing. But the entire plan of the building had been traced, with the
goals at either end, the porticus round the course, and the colossal
imperial tribune which, after being on the left, annexed to the house of
Augustus, had afterwards opened on the right, fitting into the palace of
Septimius Severus. And while Pierre looked on all the scattered remnants,
his guide went on chattering, furnishing the most copious and precise
information, and declaring that the gentlemen who directed the
excavations had mentally reconstructed the Stadium in each and every
particular, and were even preparing a most exact plan of it, showing all
the columns in their proper order and the statues in their niches, and
even specifying the divers sorts of marble which had covered the walls.

“Oh! the directors are quite at ease,” the old soldier eventually added
with an air of infinite satisfaction. “There will be nothing for the
Germans to pounce on here. They won’t be allowed to set things
topsy-turvy as they did at the Forum, where everybody’s at sea since they
came along with their wonderful science!”

Pierre--a Frenchman--smiled, and his interest increased when, by broken
steps and wooden bridges thrown over gaps, he followed the guide into the
great ruins of the palace of Severus. Rising on the southern point of the
Palatine, this palace had overlooked the Appian Way and the Campagna as
far as the eye could reach. Nowadays, almost the only remains are the
substructures, the subterranean halls contrived under the arches of the
terraces, by which the plateau of the hill was enlarged; and yet these
dismantled substructures suffice to give some idea of the triumphant
palace which they once upheld, so huge and powerful have they remained in
their indestructible massiveness. Near by arose the famous Septizonium,
the tower with the seven tiers of arcades, which only finally disappeared
in the sixteenth century. One of the palace terraces yet juts out upon
cyclopean arches and from it the view is splendid. But all the rest is a
commingling of massive yet crumbling walls, gaping depths whose ceilings
have fallen, endless corridors and vast halls of doubtful destination.
Well cared for by the new administration, swept and cleansed of weeds,
the ruins have lost their romantic wildness and assumed an aspect of bare
and mournful grandeur. However, flashes of living sunlight often gild the
ancient walls, penetrate by their breaches into the black halls, and
animate with their dazzlement the mute melancholy of all this dead
splendour now exhumed from the earth in which it slumbered for centuries.
Over the old ruddy masonry, stripped of its pompous marble covering, is
the purple mantle of the sunlight, draping the whole with imperial glory
once more.

For more than two hours already Pierre had been walking on, and yet he
still had to visit all the earlier palaces on the north and east of the
plateau. “We must go back,” said the guide, “the gardens of the Villa
Mills and the convent of San Bonaventura stop the way. We shall only be
able to pass on this side when the excavations have made a clearance. Ah!
Monsieur l’Abbe, if you had walked over the Palatine merely some fifty
years ago! I’ve seen some plans of that time. There were only some
vineyards and little gardens with hedges then, a real campagna, where not
a soul was to be met. And to think that all these palaces were sleeping

Pierre followed him, and after again passing the house of Augustus, they
ascended the slope and reached the vast Flavian palace,* still half
buried by the neighbouring villa, and composed of a great number of halls
large and small, on the nature of which scholars are still arguing. The
aula regia, or throne-room, the basilica, or hall of justice, the
triclinium, or dining-room, and the peristylium seem certainties; but for
all the rest, and especially the small chambers of the private part of
the structure, only more or less fanciful conjectures can be offered.
Moreover, not a wall is entire; merely foundations peep out of the
ground, mutilated bases describing the plan of the edifice. The only ruin
preserved, as if by miracle, is the house on a lower level which some
assert to have been that of Livia,* a house which seems very small beside
all the huge palaces, and where are three halls comparatively intact,
with mural paintings of mythological scenes, flowers, and fruits, still
wonderfully fresh. As for the palace of Tiberius, not one of its stones
can be seen; its remains lie buried beneath a lovely public garden;
whilst of the neighbouring palace of Caligula, overhanging the Forum,
there are only some huge substructures, akin to those of the house of
Severus--buttresses, lofty arcades, which upheld the palace, vast
basements, so to say, where the praetorians were posted and gorged
themselves with continual junketings. And thus this lofty plateau
dominating the city merely offered some scarcely recognisable vestiges to
the view, stretches of grey, bare soil turned up by the pick, and dotted
with fragments of old walls; and it needed a real effort of scholarly
imagination to conjure up the ancient imperial splendour which once had
triumphed there.

  * Begun by Vespasian and finished by Domitian.--Trans.

  ** Others assert it to have been the house of Germanicus,
     father of Caligula.--Trans.

Nevertheless Pierre’s guide, with quiet conviction, persisted in his
explanations, pointing to empty space as though the edifices still rose
before him. “Here,” said he, “we are in the Area Palatina. Yonder, you
see, is the facade of Domitian’s palace, and there you have that of
Caligula’s palace, while on turning round the temple of Jupiter Stator is
in front of you. The Sacred Way came up as far as here, and passed under
the Porta Mugonia, one of the three gates of primitive Rome.”

He paused and pointed to the northwest portion of the height. “You will
have noticed,” he resumed, “that the Caesars didn’t build yonder. And
that was evidently because they had to respect some very ancient
monuments dating from before the foundation of the city and greatly
venerated by the people. There stood the temple of Victory built by
Evander and his Arcadians, the Lupercal grotto which I showed you, and
the humble hut of Romulus constructed of reeds and clay. Oh! everything
has been found again, Monsieur l’Abbe; and, in spite of all that the
Germans say there isn’t the slightest doubt of it.”

Then, quite abruptly, like a man suddenly remembering the most
interesting thing of all, he exclaimed: “Ah! to wind up we’ll just go to
see the subterranean gallery where Caligula was murdered.”

Thereupon they descended into a long crypto-porticus, through the
breaches of which the sun now casts bright rays. Some ornaments of stucco
and fragments of mosaic-work are yet to be seen. Still the spot remains
mournful and desolate, well fitted for tragic horror. The old soldier’s
voice had become graver as he related how Caligula, on returning from the
Palatine games, had been minded to descend all alone into this gallery to
witness certain sacred dances which some youths from Asia were practising
there. And then it was that the gloom gave Cassius Chaereas, the chief of
the conspirators, an opportunity to deal him the first thrust in the
abdomen. Howling with pain, the emperor sought to flee; but the
assassins, his creatures, his dearest friends, rushed upon him, threw him
down, and dealt him blow after blow, whilst he, mad with rage and fright,
filled the dim, deaf gallery with the howling of a slaughtered beast.
When he had expired, silence fell once more, and the frightened murderers

The classical visit to the Palatine was now over, and when Pierre came up
into the light again, he wished to rid himself of his guide and remain
alone in the pleasant, dreamy garden on the summit of the height. For
three hours he had been tramping about with the guide’s voice buzzing in
his ears. The worthy man was now talking of his friendship for France and
relating the battle of Magenta in great detail. He smiled as he took the
piece of silver which Pierre offered him, and then started on the battle
of Solferino. Indeed, it seemed impossible to stop him, when fortunately
a lady came up to ask for some information. And, thereupon, he went off
with her. “Good-evening, Monsieur l’Abbe,” he said; “you can go down by
way of Caligula’s palace.”

Delightful was Pierre’s relief when he was at last able to rest for a
moment on one of the marble seats in the garden. There were but few
clumps of trees, cypresses, box-trees, palms, and some fine evergreen
oaks; but the latter, sheltering the seat, cast a dark shade of exquisite
freshness around. The charm of the spot was also largely due to its
dreamy solitude, to the low rustle which seemed to come from that ancient
soil saturated with resounding history. Here formerly had been the
pleasure grounds of the Villa Farnese which still exists though greatly
damaged, and the grace of the Renascence seems to linger here, its breath
passing caressingly through the shiny foliage of the old evergreen oaks.
You are, as it were, enveloped by the soul of the past, an ethereal
conglomeration of visions, and overhead is wafted the straying breath of
innumerable generations buried beneath the sod.

After a time, however, Pierre could no longer remain seated, so powerful
was the attraction of Rome, scattered all around that august summit. So
he rose and approached the balustrade of a terrace; and beneath him
appeared the Forum, and beyond it the Capitoline hill. To the eye the
latter now only presented a commingling of grey buildings, lacking both
grandeur and beauty. On the summit one saw the rear of the Palace of the
Senator, flat, with little windows, and surmounted by a high, square
campanile. The large, bare, rusty-looking walls hid the church of Santa
Maria in Ara Coeli and the spot where the temple of Capitoline Jove had
formerly stood, radiant in all its royalty. On the left, some ugly houses
rose terrace-wise upon the slope of Monte Caprino, where goats were
pastured in the middle ages; while the few fine trees in the grounds of
the Caffarelli palace, the present German embassy, set some greenery
above the ancient Tarpeian rock now scarcely to be found, lost, hidden as
it is, by buttress walls. Yet this was the Mount of the Capitol, the most
glorious of the seven hills, with its citadel and its temple, the temple
to which universal dominion was promised, the St. Peter’s of pagan Rome;
this indeed was the hill--steep on the side of the Forum, and a precipice
on that of the Campus Martius--where the thunder of Jupiter fell, where
in the dimmest of the far-off ages the Asylum of Romulus rose with its
sacred oaks, a spot of infinite savage mystery. Here, later, were
preserved the public documents of Roman grandeur inscribed on tablets of
brass; hither climbed the heroes of the triumphs; and here the emperors
became gods, erect in statues of marble. And nowadays the eye inquires
wonderingly how so much history and so much glory can have had for their
scene so small a space, such a rugged, jumbled pile of paltry buildings,
a mole-hill, looking no bigger, no loftier than a hamlet perched between
two valleys.

Then another surprise for Pierre was the Forum, starting from the Capitol
and stretching out below the Palatine: a narrow square, close pressed by
the neighbouring hills, a hollow where Rome in growing had been compelled
to rear edifice close to edifice till all stifled for lack of breathing
space. It was necessary to dig very deep--some fifty feet--to find the
venerable republican soil, and now all you see is a long, clean, livid
trench, cleared of ivy and bramble, where the fragments of paving, the
bases of columns, and the piles of foundations appear like bits of bone.
Level with the ground the Basilica Julia, entirely mapped out, looks like
an architect’s ground plan. On that side the arch of Septimius Severus
alone rears itself aloft, virtually intact, whilst of the temple of
Vespasian only a few isolated columns remain still standing, as if by
miracle, amidst the general downfall, soaring with a proud elegance, with
sovereign audacity of equilibrium, so slender and so gilded, into the
blue heavens. The column of Phocas is also erect; and you see some
portions of the Rostra fitted together out of fragments discovered near
by. But if the eye seeks a sensation of extraordinary vastness, it must
travel beyond the three columns of the temple of Castor and Pollux,
beyond the vestiges of the house of the Vestals, beyond the temple of
Faustina, in which the Christian Church of San Lorenzo has so composedly
installed itself, and even beyond the round temple of Romulus, to light
upon the Basilica of Constantine with its three colossal, gaping
archways. From the Palatine they look like porches built for a nation of
giants, so massive that a fallen fragment resembles some huge rock hurled
by a whirlwind from a mountain summit. And there, in that illustrious,
narrow, overflowing Forum the history of the greatest of nations held for
centuries, from the legendary time of the Sabine women, reconciling their
relatives and their ravishers, to that of the proclamation of public
liberty, so slowly wrung from the patricians by the plebeians. Was not
the Forum at once the market, the exchange, the tribunal, the open-air
hall of public meeting? The Gracchi there defended the cause of the
humble; Sylla there set up the lists of those whom he proscribed; Cicero
there spoke, and there, against the rostra, his bleeding head was hung.
Then, under the emperors, the old renown was dimmed, the centuries buried
the monuments and temples with such piles of dust that all that the
middle ages could do was to turn the spot into a cattle market! Respect
has come back once more, a respect which violates tombs, which is full of
feverish curiosity and science, which is dissatisfied with mere
hypotheses, which loses itself amidst this historical soil where
generations rise one above the other, and hesitates between the fifteen
or twenty restorations of the Forum that have been planned on paper, each
of them as plausible as the other. But to the mere passer-by, who is not
a professional scholar and has not recently re-perused the history of
Rome, the details have no significance. All he sees on this searched and
scoured spot is a city’s cemetery where old exhumed stones are whitening,
and whence rises the intense sadness that envelops dead nations. Pierre,
however, noting here and there fragments of the Sacred Way, now turning,
now running down, and now ascending with their pavement of silex indented
by the chariot-wheels, thought of the triumphs, of the ascent of the
triumpher, so sorely shaken as his chariot jolted over that rough
pavement of glory.

But the horizon expanded towards the southeast, and beyond the arches of
Titus and Constantine he perceived the Colosseum. Ah! that colossus, only
one-half or so of which has been destroyed by time as with the stroke of
a mighty scythe, it rises in its enormity and majesty like a stone
lace-work with hundreds of empty bays agape against the blue of heaven!
There is a world of halls, stairs, landings, and passages, a world where
one loses oneself amidst death-like silence and solitude. The furrowed
tiers of seats, eaten into by the atmosphere, are like shapeless steps
leading down into some old extinct crater, some natural circus excavated
by the force of the elements in indestructible rock. The hot suns of
eighteen hundred years have baked and scorched this ruin, which has
reverted to a state of nature, bare and golden-brown like a
mountain-side, since it has been stripped of its vegetation, the flora
which once made it like a virgin forest. And what an evocation when the
mind sets flesh and blood and life again on all that dead osseous
framework, fills the circus with the 90,000 spectators which it could
hold, marshals the games and the combats of the arena, gathers a whole
civilisation together, from the emperor and the dignitaries to the
surging plebeian sea, all aglow with the agitation and brilliancy of an
impassioned people, assembled under the ruddy reflection of the giant
purple velum. And then, yet further, on the horizon, were other cyclopean
ruins, the baths of Caracalla, standing there like relics of a race of
giants long since vanished from the world: halls extravagantly and
inexplicably spacious and lofty; vestibules large enough for an entire
population; a _frigidarium_ where five hundred people could swim
together; a _tepidarium_ and a _calidarium_* on the same proportions,
born of a wild craving for the huge; and then the terrific massiveness of
the structures, the thickness of the piles of brick-work, such as no
feudal castle ever knew; and, in addition, the general immensity which
makes passing visitors look like lost ants; such an extraordinary riot of
the great and the mighty that one wonders for what men, for what
multitudes, this monstrous edifice was reared. To-day, you would say a
mass of rocks in the rough, thrown from some height for building the
abode of Titans.

  * Tepidarium, warm bath; calidarium, vapour bath.--Trans.

And as Pierre gazed, he became more and more immersed in the limitless
past which encompassed him. On all sides history rose up like a surging
sea. Those bluey plains on the north and west were ancient Etruria; those
jagged crests on the east were the Sabine Mountains; while southward, the
Alban Mountains and Latium spread out in the streaming gold of the
sunshine. Alba Longa was there, and so was Monte Cavo, with its crown of
old trees, and the convent which has taken the place of the ancient
temple of Jupiter. Then beyond the Forum, beyond the Capitol, the greater
part of Rome stretched out, whilst behind Pierre, on the margin of the
Tiber, was the Janiculum. And a voice seemed to come from the whole city,
a voice which told him of Rome’s eternal life, resplendent with past
greatness. He remembered just enough of what he had been taught at school
to realise where he was; he knew just what every one knows of Rome with
no pretension to scholarship, and it was more particularly his artistic
temperament which awoke within him and gathered warmth from the flame of
memory. The present had disappeared, and the ocean of the past was still
rising, buoying him up, carrying him away.

And then his mind involuntarily pictured a resurrection instinct with
life. The grey, dismal Palatine, razed like some accursed city, suddenly
became animated, peopled, crowned with palaces and temples. There had
been the cradle of the Eternal City, founded by Romulus on that summit
overlooking the Tiber. There assuredly the seven kings of its two and a
half centuries of monarchical rule had dwelt, enclosed within high,
strong walls, which had but three gateways. Then the five centuries of
republican sway spread out, the greatest, the most glorious of all the
centuries, those which brought the Italic peninsula and finally the known
world under Roman dominion. During those victorious years of social and
war-like struggle, Rome grew and peopled the seven hills, and the
Palatine became but a venerable cradle with legendary temples, and was
even gradually invaded by private residences. But at last Caesar, the
incarnation of the power of his race, after Gaul and after Pharsalia
triumphed in the name of the whole Roman people, having completed the
colossal task by which the five following centuries of imperialism were
to profit, with a pompous splendour and a rush of every appetite. And
then Augustus could ascend to power; glory had reached its climax;
millions of gold were waiting to be filched from the depths of the
provinces; and the imperial gala was to begin in the world’s capital,
before the eyes of the dazzled and subjected nations. Augustus had been
born on the Palatine, and after Actium had given him the empire, he set
his pride in reigning from the summit of that sacred mount, venerated by
the people. He bought up private houses and there built his palace with
luxurious splendour: an atrium upheld by four pilasters and eight
columns; a peristylium encompassed by fifty-six Ionic columns; private
apartments all around, and all in marble; a profusion of marble, brought
at great cost from foreign lands, and of the brightest hues, resplendent
like gems. And he lodged himself with the gods, building near his own
abode a large temple of Apollo and a shrine of Vesta in order to ensure
himself divine and eternal sovereignty. And then the seed of the imperial
palaces was sown; they were to spring up, grow and swarm, and cover the
entire mount.

Ah! the all-powerfulness of Augustus, his four and forty years of total,
absolute, superhuman power, such as no despot has known even in his
dreams! He had taken to himself every title, united every magistracy in
his person. Imperator and consul, he commanded the armies and exercised
executive power; pro-consul, he was supreme in the provinces; perpetual
censor and princeps, he reigned over the senate; tribune, he was the
master of the people. And, formerly called Octavius, he had caused
himself to be declared Augustus, sacred, god among men, having his
temples and his priests, worshipped in his lifetime like a divinity
deigning to visit the earth. And finally he had resolved to be supreme
pontiff, annexing religious to civil power, and thus by a stroke of
genius attaining to the most complete dominion to which man can climb. As
the supreme pontiff could not reside in a private house, he declared his
abode to be State property. As the supreme pontiff could not leave the
vicinity of the temple of Vesta, he built a temple to that goddess near
his own dwelling, leaving the guardianship of the ancient altar below the
Palatine to the Vestal virgins. He spared no effort, for he well realised
that human omnipotence, the mastery of mankind and the world, lay in that
reunion of sovereignty, in being both king and priest, emperor and pope.
All the sap of a mighty race, all the victories achieved, and all the
favours of fortune yet to be garnered, blossomed forth in Augustus, in a
unique splendour which was never again to shed such brilliant radiance.
He was really the master of the world, amidst the conquered and pacified
nations, encompassed by immortal glory in literature and in art. In him
would seem to have been satisfied the old intense ambition of his people,
the ambition which it had pursued through centuries of patient conquest,
to become the people-king. The blood of Rome, the blood of Augustus, at
last coruscated in the sunlight, in the purple of empire. And the blood
of Augustus, of the divine, triumphant, absolute sovereign of bodies and
souls, of the man in whom seven centuries of national pride had
culminated, was to descend through the ages, through an innumerable
posterity with a heritage of boundless pride and ambition. For it was
fatal: the blood of Augustus was bound to spring into life once more and
pulsate in the veins of all the successive masters of Rome, ever haunting
them with the dream of ruling the whole world. And later on, after the
decline and fall, when power had once more become divided between the
king and the priest, the popes--their hearts burning with the red,
devouring blood of their great forerunner--had no other passion, no other
policy, through the centuries, than that of attaining to civil dominion,
to the totality of human power.

But Augustus being dead, his palace having been closed and consecrated,
Pierre saw that of Tiberius spring up from the soil. It had stood where
his feet now rested, where the beautiful evergreen oaks sheltered him. He
pictured it with courts, porticoes, and halls, both substantial and
grand, despite the gloomy bent of the emperor who betook himself far from
Rome to live amongst informers and debauchees, with his heart and brain
poisoned by power to the point of crime and most extraordinary insanity.
Then the palace of Caligula followed, an enlargement of that of Tiberius,
with arcades set up to increase its extent, and a bridge thrown over the
Forum to the Capitol, in order that the prince might go thither at his
ease to converse with Jove, whose son he claimed to be. And sovereignty
also rendered this one ferocious--a madman with omnipotence to do as he
listed! Then, after Claudius, Nero, not finding the Palatine large
enough, seized upon the delightful gardens climbing the Esquiline in
order to set up his Golden House, a dream of sumptuous immensity which he
could not complete and the ruins of which disappeared in the troubles
following the death of this monster whom pride demented. Next, in
eighteen months, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius fell one upon the other, in
mire and in blood, the purple converting them also into imbeciles and
monsters, gorged like unclean beasts at the trough of imperial enjoyment.
And afterwards came the Flavians, at first a respite, with commonsense
and human kindness: Vespasian; next Titus, who built but little on the
Palatine; but then Domitian, in whom the sombre madness of omnipotence
burst forth anew amidst a _regime_ of fear and spying, idiotic atrocities
and crimes, debauchery contrary to nature, and building enterprises born
of insane vanity instinct with a desire to outvie the temples of the
gods. The palace of Domitian, parted by a lane from that of Tiberius,
arose colossal-like--a palace of fairyland. There was the hall of
audience, with its throne of gold, its sixteen columns of Phrygian and
Numidian marble and its eight niches containing colossal statues; there
were the hall of justice, the vast dining-room, the peristylium, the
sleeping apartments, where granite, porphyry, and alabaster overflowed,
carved and decorated by the most famous artists, and lavished on all
sides in order to dazzle the world. And finally, many years later, a last
palace was added to all the others--that of Septimius Severus: again a
building of pride, with arches supporting lofty halls, terraced storeys,
towers o’er-topping the roofs, a perfect Babylonian pile, rising up at
the extreme point of the mount in view of the Appian Way, so that the
emperor’s compatriots--those from the province of Africa, where he was
born--might, on reaching the horizon, marvel at his fortune and worship
him in his glory.

And now Pierre beheld all those palaces which he had conjured up around
him, resuscitated, resplendent in the full sunlight. They were as if
linked together, parted merely by the narrowest of passages. In order
that not an inch of that precious summit might be lost, they had sprouted
thickly like the monstrous florescence of strength, power, and unbridled
pride which satisfied itself at the cost of millions, bleeding the whole
world for the enjoyment of one man. And in truth there was but one palace
altogether, a palace enlarged as soon as one emperor died and was placed
among the deities, and another, shunning the consecrated pile where
possibly the shadow of death frightened him, experienced an imperious
need to build a house of his own and perpetuate in everlasting stone the
memory of his reign. All the emperors were seized with this building
craze; it was like a disease which the very throne seemed to carry from
one occupant to another with growing intensity, a consuming desire to
excel all predecessors by thicker and higher walls, by a more and more
wonderful profusion of marbles, columns, and statues. And among all these
princes there was the idea of a glorious survival, of leaving a testimony
of their greatness to dazzled and stupefied generations, of perpetuating
themselves by marvels which would not perish but for ever weigh heavily
upon the earth, when their own light ashes should long since have been
swept away by the winds. And thus the Palatine became but the venerable
base of a monstrous edifice, a thick vegetation of adjoining buildings,
each new pile being like a fresh eruption of feverish pride; while the
whole, now showing the snowy brightness of white marble and now the
glowing hues of coloured marble, ended by crowning Rome and the
world with the most extraordinary and most insolent abode of
sovereignty--whether palace, temple, basilica, or cathedral--that
omnipotence and dominion have ever reared under the heavens.

But death lurked beneath this excess of strength and glory. Seven hundred
and thirty years of monarchy and republic had sufficed to make Rome
great; and in five centuries of imperial sway the people-king was to be
devoured down to its last muscles. There was the immensity of the
territory, the more distant provinces gradually pillaged and exhausted;
there was the fisc consuming everything, digging the pit of fatal
bankruptcy; and there was the degeneration of the people, poisoned by the
scenes of the circus and the arena, fallen to the sloth and debauchery of
their masters, the Caesars, while mercenaries fought the foe and tilled
the soil. Already at the time of Constantine, Rome had a rival,
Byzantium; disruption followed with Honorius; and then some ten emperors
sufficed for decomposition to be complete, for the bones of the dying
prey to be picked clean, the end coming with Romulus Augustulus, the
sorry creature whose name is, so to say, a mockery of the whole glorious
history, a buffet for both the founder of Rome and the founder of the

The palaces, the colossal assemblage of walls, storeys, terraces, and
gaping roofs, still remained on the deserted Palatine; many ornaments and
statues, however, had already been removed to Byzantium. And the empire,
having become Christian, had afterwards closed the temples and
extinguished the fire of Vesta, whilst yet respecting the ancient
Palladium. But in the fifth century the barbarians rush upon Rome, sack
and burn it, and carry the spoils spared by the flames away in their
chariots. As long as the city was dependent on Byzantium a custodian of
the imperial palaces remained there watching over the Palatine. Then all
fades and crumbles in the night of the middle ages. It would really seem
that the popes then slowly took the place of the Caesars, succeeding them
both in their abandoned marble halls and their ever-subsisting passion
for domination. Some of them assuredly dwelt in the palace of Septimius
Severus; a council of the Church was held in the Septizonium; and, later
on, Gelasius II was elected in a neighbouring monastery on the sacred
mount. It was as if Augustus were again rising from the tomb, once more
master of the world, with a Sacred College of Cardinals resuscitating the
Roman Senate. In the twelfth century the Septizonium belonged to some
Benedictine monks, and was sold by them to the powerful Frangipani
family, who fortified it as they had already fortified the Colosseum and
the arches of Constantine and Titus, thus forming a vast fortress round
about the venerable cradle of the city. And the violent deeds of civil
war and the ravages of invasion swept by like whirlwinds, throwing down
the walls, razing the palaces and towers. And afterwards successive
generations invaded the ruins, installed themselves in them by right of
trover and conquest, turned them into cellars, store-places for forage,
and stables for mules. Kitchen gardens were formed, vines were planted on
the spots where fallen soil had covered the mosaics of the imperial
halls. All around nettles and brambles grew up, and ivy preyed on the
overturned porticoes, till there came a day when the colossal assemblage
of palaces and temples, which marble was to have rendered eternal, seemed
to dive beneath the dust, to disappear under the surging soil and
vegetation which impassive Nature threw over it. And then, in the hot
sunlight, among the wild flowerets, only big, buzzing flies remained,
whilst herds of goats strayed in freedom through the throne-room of
Domitian and the fallen sanctuary of Apollo.

A great shudder passed through Pierre. To think of so much strength,
pride, and grandeur, and such rapid ruin--a world for ever swept away! He
wondered how entire palaces, yet peopled by admirable statuary, could
thus have been gradually buried without any one thinking of protecting
them. It was no sudden catastrophe which had swallowed up those
masterpieces, subsequently to be disinterred with exclamations of
admiring wonder; they had been drowned, as it were--caught progressively
by the legs, the waist, and the neck, till at last the head had sunk
beneath the rising tide. And how could one explain that generations had
heedlessly witnessed such things without thought of putting forth a
helping hand? It would seem as if, at a given moment, a black curtain
were suddenly drawn across the world, as if mankind began afresh, with a
new and empty brain which needed moulding and furnishing. Rome had become
depopulated; men ceased to repair the ruins left by fire and sword; the
edifices which by their very immensity had become useless were utterly
neglected, allowed to crumble and fall. And then, too, the new religion
everywhere hunted down the old one, stole its temples, overturned its
gods. Earthly deposits probably completed the disaster--there were, it is
said, both earthquakes and inundations--and the soil was ever rising, the
alluvia of the young Christian world buried the ancient pagan society.
And after the pillaging of the temples, the theft of the bronze roofs and
marble columns, the climax came with the filching of the stones torn from
the Colosseum and the Theatre of Marcellus, with the pounding of the
statuary and sculpture-work, thrown into kilns to procure the lime needed
for the new monuments of Catholic Rome.

It was nearly one o’clock, and Pierre awoke as from a dream. The sun-rays
were streaming in a golden rain between the shiny leaves of the
ever-green oaks above him, and down below Rome lay dozing, overcome by
the great heat. Then he made up his mind to leave the garden, and went
stumbling over the rough pavement of the Clivus Victoriae, his mind still
haunted by blinding visions. To complete his day, he had resolved to
visit the old Appian Way during the afternoon, and, unwilling to return
to the Via Giulia, he lunched at a suburban tavern, in a large, dim room,
where, alone with the buzzing flies, he lingered for more than two hours,
awaiting the sinking of the sun.

Ah! that Appian Way, that ancient queen of the high roads, crossing the
Campagna in a long straight line with rows of proud tombs on either
hand--to Pierre it seemed like a triumphant prolongation of the Palatine.
He there found the same passion for splendour and domination, the same
craving to eternise the memory of Roman greatness in marble and daylight.
Oblivion was vanquished; the dead refused to rest, and remained for ever
erect among the living, on either side of that road which was traversed
by multitudes from the entire world. The deified images of those who were
now but dust still gazed on the passers-by with empty eyes; the
inscriptions still spoke, proclaiming names and titles. In former times
the rows of sepulchres must have extended without interruption along all
the straight, level miles between the tomb of Caecilia Metella and that
of Casale Rotondo, forming an elongated cemetery where the powerful and
wealthy competed as to who should leave the most colossal and lavishly
decorated mausoleum: such, indeed, was the craving for survival, the
passion for pompous immortality, the desire to deify death by lodging it
in temples; whereof the present-day monumental splendour of the Genoese
Campo Santo and the Roman Campo Verano is, so to say, a remote
inheritance. And what a vision it was to picture all the tremendous tombs
on the right and left of the glorious pavement which the legions trod on
their return from the conquest of the world! That tomb of Caecilia
Metella, with its bond-stones so huge, its walls so thick that the middle
ages transformed it into the battlemented keep of a fortress! And then
all the tombs which follow, the modern structures erected in order that
the marble fragments discovered might be set in place, the old blocks of
brick and concrete, despoiled of their sculptured-work and rising up like
seared rocks, yet still suggesting their original shapes as shrines,
_cippi_, and _sarcophagi_. There is a wondrous succession of high reliefs
figuring the dead in groups of three and five; statues in which the dead
live deified, erect; seats contrived in niches in order that wayfarers
may rest and bless the hospitality of the dead; laudatory epitaphs
celebrating the dead, both the known and the unknown, the children of
Sextius Pompeius Justus, the departed Marcus Servilius Quartus, Hilarius
Fuscus, Rabirius Hermodorus; without counting the sepulchres venturously
ascribed to Seneca and the Horatii and Curiatii. And finally there is the
most extraordinary and gigantic of all the tombs, that known as Casale
Rotondo, which is so large that it has been possible to establish a
farmhouse and an olive garden on its substructures, which formerly upheld
a double rotunda, adorned with Corinthian pilasters, large candelabra,
and scenic masks.*

  * Some believe this tomb to have been that of Messalla Corvinus,
    the historian and poet, a friend of Augustus and Horace; others
    ascribe it to his son, Aurelius Messallinus Cotta.--Trans.

Pierre, having driven in a cab as far as the tomb of Caecilia Metella,
continued his excursion on foot, going slowly towards Casale Rotondo. In
many places the old pavement appears--large blocks of basaltic lava, worn
into deep ruts that jolt the best-hung vehicles. Among the ruined tombs
on either hand run bands of grass, the neglected grass of cemeteries,
scorched by the summer suns and sprinkled with big violet thistles and
tall sulphur-wort. Parapets of dry stones, breast high, enclose the
russet roadsides, which resound with the crepitation of grasshoppers;
and, beyond, the Campagna stretches, vast and bare, as far as the eye can
see. A parasol pine, a eucalyptus, some olive or fig trees, white with
dust, alone rise up near the road at infrequent intervals. On the left
the ruddy arches of the Acqua Claudia show vigorously in the meadows, and
stretches of poorly cultivated land, vineyards, and little farms, extend
to the blue and lilac Sabine and Alban hills, where Frascati, Rocca di
Papa, and Albano set bright spots, which grow and whiten as one gets
nearer to them. Then, on the right, towards the sea, the houseless,
treeless plain grows and spreads with vast, broad ripples, extraordinary
ocean-like simplicity and grandeur, a long, straight line alone parting
it from the sky. At the height of summer all burns and flares on this
limitless prairie, then of a ruddy gold; but in September a green tinge
begins to suffuse the ocean of herbage, which dies away in the pink and
mauve and vivid blue of the fine sunsets.

As Pierre, quite alone and in a dreary mood, slowly paced the endless,
flat highway, that resurrection of the past which he had beheld on the
Palatine again confronted his mind’s eye. On either hand the tombs once
more rose up intact, with marble of dazzling whiteness. Had not the head
of a colossal statue been found, mingled with fragments of huge sphinxes,
at the foot of yonder vase-shaped mass of bricks? He seemed to see the
entire colossal statue standing again between the huge, crouching beasts.
Farther on a beautiful headless statue of a woman had been discovered in
the cella of a sepulchre, and he beheld it, again whole, with features
expressive of grace and strength smiling upon life. The inscriptions also
became perfect; he could read and understand them at a glance, as if
living among those dead ones of two thousand years ago. And the road,
too, became peopled: the chariots thundered, the armies tramped along,
the people of Rome jostled him with the feverish agitation of great
communities. It was a return of the times of the Flavians or the
Antonines, the palmy years of the empire, when the pomp of the Appian
Way, with its grand sepulchres, carved and adorned like temples, attained
its apogee. What a monumental Street of Death, what an approach to Rome,
that highway, straight as an arrow, where with the extraordinary pomp of
their pride, which had survived their dust, the great dead greeted the
traveller, ushered him into the presence of the living! He may well have
wondered among what sovereign people, what masters of the world, he was
about to find himself--a nation which had committed to its dead the duty
of telling strangers that it allowed nothing whatever to perish--that its
dead, like its city, remained eternal and glorious in monuments of
extraordinary vastness! To think of it--the foundations of a fortress,
and a tower sixty feet in diameter, that one woman might be laid to rest!
And then, far away, at the end of the superb, dazzling highway, bordered
with the marble of its funereal palaces, Pierre, turning round,
distinctly beheld the Palatine, with the marble of its imperial
palaces--the huge assemblage of palaces whose omnipotence had dominated
the world!

But suddenly he started: two carabiniers had just appeared among the
ruins. The spot was not safe; the authorities watched over tourists even
in broad daylight. And later on came another meeting which caused him
some emotion. He perceived an ecclesiastic, a tall old man, in a black
cassock, edged and girt with red; and was surprised to recognise Cardinal
Boccanera, who had quitted the roadway, and was slowly strolling along
the band of grass, among the tall thistles and sulphur-wort. With his
head lowered and his feet brushing against the fragments of the tombs,
the Cardinal did not even see Pierre. The young priest courteously turned
aside, surprised to find him so far from home and alone. Then, on
perceiving a heavy coach, drawn by two black horses, behind a building,
he understood matters. A footman in black livery was waiting motionless
beside the carriage, and the coachman had not quitted his box. And Pierre
remembered that the Cardinals were not expected to walk in Rome, so that
they were compelled to drive into the country when they desired to take
exercise. But what haughty sadness, what solitary and, so to say,
ostracised grandeur there was about that tall, thoughtful old man, thus
forced to seek the desert, and wander among the tombs, in order to
breathe a little of the evening air!

Pierre had lingered there for long hours; the twilight was coming on, and
once again he witnessed a lovely sunset. On his left the Campagna became
blurred, and assumed a slaty hue, against which the yellowish arcades of
the aqueduct showed very plainly, while the Alban hills, far away, faded
into pink. Then, on the right, towards the sea, the planet sank among a
number of cloudlets, figuring an archipelago of gold in an ocean of dying
embers. And excepting the sapphire sky, studded with rubies, above the
endless line of the Campagna, which was likewise changed into a sparkling
lake, the dull green of the herbage turning to a liquid emerald tint,
there was nothing to be seen, neither a hillock nor a flock--nothing,
indeed, but Cardinal Boccanera’s black figure, erect among the tombs, and
looking, as it were, enlarged as it stood out against the last purple
flush of the sunset.

Early on the following morning Pierre, eager to see everything, returned
to the Appian Way in order to visit the catacomb of St. Calixtus, the
most extensive and remarkable of the old Christian cemeteries, and one,
too, where several of the early popes were buried. You ascend through a
scorched garden, past olives and cypresses, reach a shanty of boards and
plaster in which a little trade in “articles of piety” is carried on, and
there a modern and fairly easy flight of steps enables you to descend.
Pierre fortunately found there some French Trappists, who guard these
catacombs and show them to strangers. One brother was on the point of
going down with two French ladies, the mother and daughter, the former
still comely and the other radiant with youth. They stood there smiling,
though already slightly frightened, while the monk lighted some long,
slim candles. He was a man with a bossy brow, the large, massive jaw of
an obstinate believer and pale eyes bespeaking an ingenuous soul.

“Ah! Monsieur l’Abbe,” he said to Pierre, “you’ve come just in time. If
the ladies are willing, you had better come with us; for three Brothers
are already below with people, and you would have a long time to wait.
This is the great season for visitors.”

The ladies politely nodded, and the Trappist handed a candle to the
priest. In all probability neither mother nor daughter was devout, for
both glanced askance at their new companion’s cassock, and suddenly
became serious. Then they all went down and found themselves in a narrow
subterranean corridor. “Take care, mesdames,” repeated the Trappist,
lighting the ground with his candle. “Walk slowly, for there are
projections and slopes.”

Then, in a shrill voice full of extraordinary conviction, he began his
explanations. Pierre had descended in silence, his heart beating with
emotion. Ah! how many times, indeed, in his innocent seminary days, had
he not dreamt of those catacombs of the early Christians, those asylums
of the primitive faith! Even recently, while writing his book, he had
often thought of them as of the most ancient and venerable remains of
that community of the lowly and simple, for the return of which he
called. But his brain was full of pages written by poets and great prose
writers. He had beheld the catacombs through the magnifying glass of
those imaginative authors, and had believed them to be vast, similar to
subterranean cities, with broad highways and spacious halls, fit for the
accommodation of vast crowds. And now how poor and humble the reality!

“Well, yes,” said the Trappist in reply to the ladies’ questions, “the
corridor is scarcely more than a yard in width; two persons could not
pass along side by side. How they dug it? Oh! it was simple enough. A
family or a burial association needed a place of sepulchre. Well, a first
gallery was excavated with pickaxes in soil of this description--granular
tufa, as it is called--a reddish substance, as you can see, both soft and
yet resistant, easy to work and at the same time waterproof. In a word,
just the substance that was needed, and one, too, that has preserved the
remains of the buried in a wonderful way.” He paused and brought the
flamelet of his candle near to the compartments excavated on either hand
of the passage. “Look,” he continued, “these are the _loculi_. Well, a
subterranean gallery was dug, and on both sides these compartments were
hollowed out, one above the other. The bodies of the dead were laid in
them, for the most part simply wrapped in shrouds. Then the aperture was
closed with tiles or marble slabs, carefully cemented. So, as you can
see, everything explains itself. If other families joined the first one,
or the burial association became more numerous, fresh galleries were
added to those already filled. Passages were excavated on either hand, in
every sense; and, indeed, a second and lower storey, at times even a
third, was dug out. And here, you see, we are in a gallery which is
certainly thirteen feet high. Now, you may wonder how they raised the
bodies to place them in the compartments of the top tier. Well, they did
not raise them to any such height; in all their work they kept on going
lower and lower, removing more and more of the soil as the compartments
became filled. And in this wise, in these catacombs of St. Calixtus, in
less than four centuries, the Christians excavated more than ten miles of
galleries, in which more than a million of their dead must have been laid
to rest. Now, there are dozens of catacombs; the environs of Rome are
honeycombed with them. Think of that, and perhaps you will be able to
form some idea of the vast number of people who were buried in this

Pierre listened, feeling greatly impressed. He had once visited a coal
pit in Belgium, and he here found the same narrow passages, the same
heavy, stifling atmosphere, the same nihility of darkness and silence.
The flamelets of the candles showed merely like stars in the deep gloom;
they shed no radiance around. And he at last understood the character of
this funereal, termite-like labour--these chance burrowings continued
according to requirements, without art, method, or symmetry. The rugged
soil was ever ascending and descending, the sides of the gallery snaked:
neither plumb-line nor square had been used. All this, indeed, had simply
been a work of charity and necessity, wrought by simple, willing
grave-diggers, illiterate craftsmen, with the clumsy handiwork of the
decline and fall. Proof thereof was furnished by the inscriptions and
emblems on the marble slabs. They reminded one of the childish drawings
which street urchins scrawl upon blank walls.

“You see,” the Trappist continued, “most frequently there is merely a
name; and sometimes there is no name, but simply the words _In Pace_. At
other times there is an emblem, the dove of purity, the palm of
martyrdom, or else the fish whose name in Greek is composed of five
letters which, as initials, signify: ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God,

He again brought his candle near to the marble slabs, and the palm could
be distinguished: a central stroke, whence started a few oblique lines;
and then came the dove or the fish, roughly outlined, a zigzag indicating
a tail, two bars representing the bird’s feet, while a round point
simulated an eye. And the letters of the short inscriptions were all
askew, of various sizes, often quite misshapen, as in the coarse
handwriting of the ignorant and simple.

However, they reached a crypt, a sort of little hall, where the graves of
several popes had been found; among others that of Sixtus II, a holy
martyr, in whose honour there was a superbly engraved metrical
inscription set up by Pope Damasus. Then, in another hall, a family vault
of much the same size, decorated at a later stage, with naive mural
paintings, the spot where St. Cecilia’s body had been discovered was
shown. And the explanations continued. The Trappist dilated on the
paintings, drawing from them a confirmation of every dogma and belief,
baptism, the Eucharist, the resurrection, Lazarus arising from the tomb,
Jonas cast up by the whale, Daniel in the lions’ den, Moses drawing water
from the rock, and Christ--shown beardless, as was the practice in the
early ages--accomplishing His various miracles.

“You see,” repeated the Trappist, “all those things are shown there; and
remember that none of the paintings was specially prepared: they are
absolutely authentic.”

At a question from Pierre, whose astonishment was increasing, he admitted
that the catacombs had been mere cemeteries at the outset, when no
religious ceremonies had been celebrated in them. It was only later, in
the fourth century, when the martyrs were honoured, that the crypts were
utilised for worship. And in the same way they only became places of
refuge during the persecutions, when the Christians had to conceal the
entrances to them. Previously they had remained freely and legally open.
This was indeed their true history: cemeteries four centuries old
becoming places of asylum, ravaged at times during the persecutions;
afterwards held in veneration till the eighth century; then despoiled of
their holy relics, and subsequently blocked up and forgotten, so that
they remained buried during more than seven hundred years, people
thinking of them so little that at the time of the first searches in the
fifteenth century they were considered an extraordinary discovery--an
intricate historical problem--one, moreover, which only our own age has

“Please stoop, mesdames,” resumed the Trappist. “In this compartment here
is a skeleton which has not been touched. It has been lying here for
sixteen or seventeen hundred years, and will show you how the bodies were
laid out. Savants say that it is the skeleton of a female, probably a
young girl. It was still quite perfect last spring; but the skull, as you
can see, is now split open. An American broke it with his walking stick
to make sure that it was genuine.”

The ladies leaned forward, and the flickering light illumined their pale
faces, expressive of mingled fright and compassion. Especially noticeable
was the pitiful, pain-fraught look which appeared on the countenance of
the daughter, so full of life with her red lips and large black eyes.
Then all relapsed into gloom, and the little candles were borne aloft and
went their way through the heavy darkness of the galleries. The visit
lasted another hour, for the Trappist did not spare a detail, fond as he
was of certain nooks and corners, and as zealous as if he desired to work
the redemption of his visitors.

While Pierre followed the others, a complete evolution took place within
him. As he looked about him, and formed a more and more complete idea of
his surroundings, his first stupefaction at finding the reality so
different from the embellished accounts of story-tellers and poets, his
disillusion at being plunged into such rudely excavated mole-burrows,
gave way to fraternal emotion. It was not that he thought of the fifteen
hundred martyrs whose sacred bones had rested there. But how humble,
resigned, yet full of hope had been those who had chosen such a place of
sepulchre! Those low, darksome galleries were but temporary
sleeping-places for the Christians. If they did not burn the bodies of
their dead, as the Pagans did, it was because, like the Jews, they
believed in the resurrection of the body; and it was that lovely idea of
sleep, of tranquil rest after a just life, whilst awaiting the celestial
reward, which imparted such intense peacefulness, such infinite charm, to
the black, subterranean city. Everything there spoke of calm and silent
night; everything there slumbered in rapturous quiescence, patient until
the far-off awakening. What could be more touching than those terra-cotta
tiles, those marble slabs, which bore not even a name--nothing but the
words _In Pace_--at peace. Ah! to be at peace--life’s work at last
accomplished; to sleep in peace, to hope in peace for the advent of
heaven! And the peacefulness seemed the more delightful as it was enjoyed
in such deep humility. Doubtless the diggers worked chance-wise and
clumsily; the craftsmen no longer knew how to engrave a name or carve a
palm or a dove. Art had vanished; but all the feebleness and ignorance
were instinct with the youth of a new humanity. Poor and lowly and meek
ones swarmed there, reposing beneath the soil, whilst up above the sun
continued its everlasting task. You found there charity and fraternity
and death; husband and wife often lying together with their offspring at
their feet; the great mass of the unknown submerging the personage, the
bishop, or the martyr; the most touching equality--that springing from
modesty--prevailing amidst all that dust, with compartments ever similar
and slabs destitute of ornament, so that rows and rows of the sleepers
mingled without distinctive sign. The inscriptions seldom ventured on a
word of praise, and then how prudent, how delicate it was: the men were
very worthy, very pious: the women very gentle, very beautiful, very
chaste. A perfume of infancy arose, unlimited human affection spread:
this was death as understood by the primitive Christians--death which hid
itself to await the resurrection, and dreamt no more of the empire of the

And all at once before Pierre’s eyes arose a vision of the sumptuous
tombs of the Appian Way, displaying the domineering pride of a whole
civilisation in the sunlight--tombs of vast dimensions, with a profusion
of marbles, grandiloquent inscriptions, and masterpieces of
sculptured-work. Ah! what an extraordinary contrast between that pompous
avenue of death, conducting, like a highway of triumph, to the regal
Eternal City, when compared with the subterranean necropolis of the
Christians, that city of hidden death, so gentle, so beautiful, and so
chaste! Here only quiet slumber, desired and accepted night, resignation
and patience were to be found. Millions of human beings had here laid
themselves to rest in all humility, had slept for centuries, and would
still be sleeping here, lulled by the silence and the gloom, if the
living had not intruded on their desire to remain in oblivion so long as
the trumpets of the Judgment Day did not awaken them. Death had then
spoken of Life: nowhere had there been more intimate and touching life
than in these buried cities of the unknown, lowly dead. And a mighty
breath had formerly come from them--the breath of a new humanity destined
to renew the world. With the advent of meekness, contempt for the flesh,
terror and hatred of nature, relinquishment of terrestrial joys, and a
passion for death, which delivers and opens the portals of Paradise,
another world had begun. And the blood of Augustus, so proud of purpling
in the sunlight, so fired by the passion for sovereign dominion, seemed
for a moment to disappear, as if, indeed, the new world had sucked it up
in the depths of its gloomy sepulchres.

However, the Trappist insisted on showing the ladies the steps of
Diocletian, and began to tell them the legend. “Yes,” said he, “it was a
miracle. One day, under that emperor, some soldiers were pursuing several
Christians, who took refuge in these catacombs; and when the soldiers
followed them inside the steps suddenly gave way, and all the persecutors
were hurled to the bottom. The steps remain broken to this day. Come and
see them; they are close by.”

But the ladies were quite overcome, so affected by their prolonged
sojourn in the gloom and by the tales of death which the Trappist had
poured into their ears that they insisted on going up again. Moreover,
the candles were coming to an end. They were all dazzled when they found
themselves once more in the sunlight, outside the little hut where
articles of piety and souvenirs were sold. The girl bought a paper
weight, a piece of marble on which was engraved the fish symbolical of
“Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour of Mankind.”

On the afternoon of that same day Pierre decided to visit St. Peter’s. He
had as yet only driven across the superb piazza with its obelisk and twin
fountains, encircled by Bernini’s colonnades, those four rows of columns
and pilasters which form a girdle of monumental majesty. At the far end
rises the basilica, its facade making it look smaller and heavier than it
really is, but its sovereign dome nevertheless filling the heavens.

Pebbled, deserted inclines stretched out, and steps followed steps, worn
and white, under the burning sun; but at last Pierre reached the door and
went in. It was three o’clock. Broad sheets of light streamed in through
the high square windows, and some ceremony--the vesper service, no
doubt--was beginning in the Capella Clementina on the left. Pierre,
however, heard nothing; he was simply struck by the immensity of the
edifice, as with raised eyes he slowly walked along. At the entrance came
the giant basins for holy water with their boy-angels as chubby as
Cupids; then the nave, vaulted and decorated with sunken coffers; then
the four cyclopean buttress-piers upholding the dome, and then again the
transepts and apsis, each as large as one of our churches. And the proud
pomp, the dazzling, crushing splendour of everything, also astonished
him: he marvelled at the cupola, looking like a planet, resplendent with
the gold and bright colours of its mosaic-work, at the sumptuous
_baldacchino_ of bronze, crowning the high altar raised above the very
tomb of St. Peter, and whence descend the double steps of the Confession,
illumined by seven and eighty lamps, which are always kept burning. And
finally he was lost in astonishment at the extraordinary profusion of
marble, both white and coloured. Oh! those polychromatic marbles,
Bernini’s luxurious passion! The splendid pavement reflecting the entire
edifice, the facings of the pilasters with their medallions of popes, the
tiara and the keys borne aloft by chubby angels, the walls covered with
emblems, particularly the dove of Innocent X, the niches with their
colossal statues uncouth in taste, the _loggie_ and their balconies, the
balustrade and double steps of the Confession, the rich altars and yet
richer tombs--all, nave, aisles, transepts, and apsis, were in marble,
resplendent with the wealth of marble; not a nook small as the palm of
one’s hand appearing but it showed the insolent opulence of marble. And
the basilica triumphed, beyond discussion, recognised and admired by
every one as the largest and most splendid church in the whole world--the
personification of hugeness and magnificence combined.

Pierre still wandered on, gazing, overcome, as yet not distinguishing
details. He paused for a moment before the bronze statue of St. Peter,
seated in a stiff, hierarchical attitude on a marble pedestal. A few of
the faithful were there kissing the large toe of the Saint’s right foot.
Some of them carefully wiped it before applying their lips; others, with
no thought of cleanliness, kissed it, pressed their foreheads to it, and
then kissed it again. Next, Pierre turned into the transept on the left,
where stand the confessionals. Priests are ever stationed there, ready to
confess penitents in every language. Others wait, holding long staves,
with which they lightly tap the heads of kneeling sinners, who thereby
obtain thirty days’ indulgence. However, there were few people present,
and inside the small wooden boxes the priests occupied their leisure time
in reading and writing, as if they were at home. Then Pierre again found
himself before the Confession, and gazed with interest at the eighty
lamps, scintillating like stars. The high altar, at which the Pope alone
can officiate, seemed wrapped in the haughty melancholy of solitude under
its gigantic, flowery _baldacchino_, the casting and gilding of which
cost two and twenty thousand pounds. But suddenly Pierre remembered the
ceremony in the Capella Clementina, and felt astonished, for he could
hear nothing of it. As he drew near a faint breath, like the far-away
piping of a flute, was wafted to him. Then the volume of sound slowly
increased, but it was only on reaching the chapel that he recognised an
organ peal. The sunlight here filtered through red curtains drawn before
the windows, and thus the chapel glowed like a furnace whilst resounding
with the grave music. But in that huge pile all became so slight, so
weak, that at sixty paces neither voice nor organ could be distinguished.

On entering the basilica Pierre had fancied that it was quite empty and
lifeless. There were, however, some people there, but so few and far
between that their presence was not noticed. A few tourists wandered
about wearily, guide-book in hand. In the grand nave a painter with his
easel was taking a view, as in a public gallery. Then a French seminary
went by, conducted by a prelate who named and explained the tombs. But in
all that space these fifty or a hundred people looked merely like a few
black ants who had lost themselves and were vainly seeking their way. And
Pierre pictured himself in some gigantic gala hall or tremendous
vestibule in an immeasurable palace of reception. The broad sheets of
sunlight streaming through the lofty square windows of plain white glass
illumined the church with blending radiance. There was not a single stool
or chair: nothing but the superb, bare pavement, such as you might find
in a museum, shining mirror-like under the dancing shower of sunrays. Nor
was there a single corner for solitary reflection, a nook of gloom and
mystery, where one might kneel and pray. In lieu thereof the sumptuous,
sovereign dazzlement of broad daylight prevailed upon every side. And, on
thus suddenly finding himself in this deserted opera-house, all aglow
with flaring gold and purple, Pierre could but remember the quivering
gloom of the Gothic cathedrals of France, where dim crowds sob and
supplicate amidst a forest of pillars. In presence of all this ceremonial
majesty--this huge, empty pomp, which was all Body--he recalled with a
pang the emaciate architecture and statuary of the middle ages, which
were all Soul. He vainly sought for some poor, kneeling woman, some
creature swayed by faith or suffering, yielding in a modest half-light to
thoughts of the unknown, and with closed lips holding communion with the
invisible. These he found not: there was but the weary wandering of the
tourists, and the bustle of the prelates conducting the young priests to
the obligatory stations; while the vesper service continued in the
left-hand chapel, nought of it reaching the ears of the visitors save,
perhaps, a confused vibration, as of the peal of a bell penetrating from
outside through the vaults above.

And Pierre then understood that this was the splendid skeleton of a
colossus whence life was departing. To fill it, to animate it with a
soul, all the gorgeous display of great religious ceremonies was needed;
the eighty thousand worshippers which it could hold, the great pontifical
pomps, the festivals of Christmas and Easter, the processions and
_corteges_ displaying all the luxury of the Church amidst operatic
scenery and appointments. And he tried to conjure up a picture of the
past magnificence--the basilica overflowing with an idolatrous multitude,
and the superhuman _cortege_ passing along whilst every head was lowered;
the cross and the sword opening the march, the cardinals going two by
two, like twin divinities, in their rochets of lace and their mantles and
robes of red moire, which train-bearers held up behind them; and at last,
with Jove-like pomp, the Pope, carried on a stage draped with red velvet,
seated in an arm-chair of red velvet and gold, and dressed in white
velvet, with cope of gold, stole of gold, and tiara of gold. The bearers
of the _Sedia gestatoria_* shone bravely in red tunics broidered with
gold. Above the one and only Sovereign Pontiff of the world the
_flabelli_ waved those huge fans of feathers which formerly were waved
before the idols of pagan Rome. And around the seat of triumph what a
dazzling, glorious court there was! The whole pontifical family, the
stream of assistant prelates, the patriarchs, the archbishops, and the
bishops, with vestments and mitres of gold, the _Camerieri segreti
partecipanti_ in violet silk, the _Camerieri partecipanti_ of the cape
and the sword in black velvet Renascence costumes, with ruffs and golden
chains, the whole innumerable ecclesiastical and laical suite, which not
even a hundred pages of the “Gerarchia” can completely enumerate, the
prothonotaries, the chaplains, the prelates of every class and degree,
without mentioning the military household, the gendarmes with their
busbies, the Palatine Guards in blue trousers and black tunics, the Swiss
Guards costumed in red, yellow, and black, with breastplates of silver,
suggesting the men at arms of some drama of the Romantic school, and the
Noble Guards, superb in their high boots, white pigskins, red tunics,
gold lace, epaulets, and helmets! However, since Rome had become the
capital of Italy the doors were no longer thrown wide open; on the rare
occasions when the Pope yet came down to officiate, to show himself as
the supreme representative of the Divinity on earth, the basilica was
filled with chosen ones. To enter it you needed a card of invitation. You
no longer saw the people--a throng of fifty, even eighty, thousand
Christians--flocking to the Church and swarming within it promiscuously;
there was but a select gathering, a congregation of friends convened as
for a private function. Even when, by dint of effort, thousands were
collected together there, they formed but a picked audience invited to
the performance of a monster concert.

  * The chair and stage are known by that name.--Trans.

And as Pierre strolled among the bright, crude marbles in that cold if
gorgeous museum, the feeling grew upon him that he was in some pagan
temple raised to the deity of Light and Pomp. The larger temples of
ancient Rome were certainly similar piles, upheld by the same precious
columns, with walls covered with the same polychromatic marbles and
vaulted ceilings having the same gilded panels. And his feeling was
destined to become yet more acute after his visits to the other
basilicas, which could but reveal the truth to him. First one found the
Christian Church quietly, audaciously quartering itself in a pagan
church, as, for instance, San Lorenzo in Miranda installed in the temple
of Antoninus and Faustina, and retaining the latter’s rare porticus in
_cipollino_ marble and its handsome white marble entablature. Then there
was the Christian Church springing from the ruins of the destroyed pagan
edifice, as, for example, San Clemente, beneath which centuries of
contrary beliefs are stratified: a very ancient edifice of the time of
the kings or the republic, then another of the days of the empire
identified as a temple of Mithras, and next a basilica of the primitive
faith. Then, too, there was the Christian Church, typified by that of
Saint Agnes-beyond-the-walls which had been built on exactly the same
pattern as the Roman secular basilica--that Tribunal and Exchange which
accompanied every Forum. And, in particular, there was the Christian
Church erected with material stolen from the demolished pagan temples. To
this testified the sixteen superb columns of that same Saint Agnes,
columns of various marbles filched from various gods; the one and twenty
columns of Santa Maria in Trastevere, columns of all sorts of orders torn
from a temple of Isis and Serapis, who even now are represented on their
capitals; also the six and thirty white marble Ionic columns of Santa
Maria Maggiore derived from the temple of Juno Lucina; and the two and
twenty columns of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, these varying in substance,
size, and workmanship, and certain of them said to have been stolen from
Jove himself, from the famous temple of Jupiter Capitolinus which rose
upon the sacred summit. In addition, the temples of the opulent Imperial
period seemed to resuscitate in our times at San Giovanni in Laterano and
San Paolo-fuori-le-mura. Was not that Basilica of San Giovanni--“the
Mother and Head of all the churches of the city and the earth”--like the
abode of honour of some pagan divinity whose splendid kingdom was of this
world? It boasted five naves, parted by four rows of columns; it was a
profusion of bas-reliefs, friezes, and entablatures, and its twelve
colossal statues of the Apostles looked like subordinate deities lining
the approach to the master of the gods! And did not San Paolo, lately
completed, its new marbles shimmering like mirrors, recall the abode of
the Olympian immortals, typical temple as it was with its majestic
colonnade, its flat, gilt-panelled ceiling, its marble pavement
incomparably beautiful both in substance and workmanship, its violet
columns with white bases and capitals, and its white entablature with
violet frieze: everywhere, indeed, you found, the mingling of those two
colours so divinely carnal in their harmony. And there, as at St.
Peter’s, not one patch of gloom, not one nook of mystery where one might
peer into the invisible, could be found! And, withal, St. Peter’s
remained the monster, the colossus, larger than the largest of all
others, an extravagant testimony of what the mad passion for the huge can
achieve when human pride, by dint of spending millions, dreams of lodging
the divinity in an over-vast, over-opulent palace of stone, where in
truth that pride itself, and not the divinity, triumphs!

And to think that after long centuries that gala colossus had been the
outcome of the fervour of primitive faith! You found there a blossoming
of that ancient sap, peculiar to the soil of Rome, which in all ages has
thrown up preposterous edifices, of exaggerated hugeness and dazzling and
ruinous luxury. It would seem as if the absolute masters successively
ruling the city brought that passion for cyclopean building with them,
derived it from the soil in which they grew, for they transmitted it one
to the other, without a pause, from civilisation to civilisation, however
diverse and contrary their minds. It has all been, so to say, a
continuous blossoming of human vanity, a passionate desire to set one’s
name on an imperishable wall, and, after being master of the world, to
leave behind one an indestructible trace, a tangible proof of one’s
passing glory, an eternal edifice of bronze and marble fit to attest that
glory until the end of time. At the bottom the spirit of conquest, the
proud ambition to dominate the world, subsists; and when all has
crumbled, and a new society has sprung up from the ruins of its
predecessor, men have erred in imagining it to be cured of the sin of
pride, steeped in humility once more, for it has had the old blood in its
veins, and has yielded to the same insolent madness as its ancestors, a
prey to all the violence of its heredity directly it has become great and
strong. Among the illustrious popes there has not been one that did not
seek to build, did not revert to the traditions of the Caesars,
eternising their reigns in stone and raising temples for resting-places,
so as to rank among the gods. Ever the same passion for terrestrial
immortality has burst forth: it has been a battle as to who should leave
the highest, most substantial, most gorgeous monument; and so acute has
been the disease that those who, for lack of means and opportunity, have
been unable to build, and have been forced to content themselves with
repairing, have, nevertheless, desired to bequeath the memory of their
modest achievements to subsequent generations by commemorative marble
slabs engraved with pompous inscriptions! These slabs are to be seen on
every side: not a wall has ever been strengthened but some pope has
stamped it with his arms, not a ruin has been restored, not a palace
repaired, not a fountain cleaned, but the reigning pope has signed the
work with his Roman and pagan title of “Pontifex Maximus.” It is a
haunting passion, a form of involuntary debauchery, the fated florescence
of that compost of ruins, that dust of edifices whence new edifices are
ever arising. And given the perversion with which the old Roman soil
almost immediately tarnished the doctrines of Jesus, that resolute
passion for domination and that desire for terrestrial glory which
wrought the triumph of Catholicism in scorn of the humble and pure, the
fraternal and simple ones of the primitive Church, one may well ask
whether Rome has ever been Christian at all!

And whilst Pierre was for the second time walking round the huge
basilica, admiring the tombs of the popes, truth, like a sudden
illumination, burst upon him and filled him with its glow. Ah! those
tombs! Yonder in the full sunlight, in the rosy Campagna, on either side
of the Appian Way--that triumphal approach to Rome, conducting the
stranger to the august Palatine with its crown of circling palaces--there
arose the gigantic tombs of the powerful and wealthy, tombs of
unparalleled artistic splendour, perpetuating in marble the pride and
pomp of a strong race that had mastered the world. Then, near at hand,
beneath the sod, in the shrouding night of wretched mole-holes, other
tombs were hidden--the tombs of the lowly, the poor, and the
suffering--tombs destitute of art or display, but whose very humility
proclaimed that a breath of affection and resignation had passed by, that
One had come preaching love and fraternity, the relinquishment of the
wealth of the earth for the everlasting joys of a future life, and
committing to the soil the good seed of His Gospel, sowing the new
humanity which was to transform the olden world. And, behold, from that
seed, buried in the soil for centuries, behold, from those humble,
unobtrusive tombs, where martyrs slept their last and gentle sleep whilst
waiting for the glorious call, yet other tombs had sprung, tombs as
gigantic and as pompous as the ancient, destroyed sepulchres of the
idolaters, tombs uprearing their marbles among a pagan-temple-like
splendour, proclaiming the same superhuman pride, the same mad passion
for universal sovereignty. At the time of the Renascence Rome became
pagan once more; the old imperial blood frothed up and swept Christianity
away with the greatest onslaught ever directed against it. Ah! those
tombs of the popes at St. Peter’s, with their impudent, insolent
glorification of the departed, their sumptuous, carnal hugeness, defying
death and setting immortality upon this earth. There are giant popes of
bronze, allegorical figures and angels of equivocal character wearing the
beauty of lovely girls, of passion-compelling women with the thighs and
the breasts of pagan goddesses! Paul III is seated on a high pedestal,
Justice and Prudence are almost prostrate at his feet. Urban VIII is
between Prudence and Religion, Innocent XI between Religion and Justice,
Innocent XII between Justice and Charity, Gregory XIII between Religion
and Strength. Attended by Prudence and Justice, Alexander VII appears
kneeling, with Charity and Truth before him, and a skeleton rises up
displaying an empty hour-glass. Clement XIII, also on his knees, triumphs
above a monumental sarcophagus, against which leans Religion bearing the
Cross; while the Genius of Death, his elbow resting on the right-hand
corner, has two huge, superb lions, emblems of omnipotence, beneath him.
Bronze bespeaks the eternity of the figures, white marble describes
opulent flesh, and coloured marble winds around in rich draperies,
deifying the monuments under the bright, golden glow of nave and aisles.

And Pierre passed from one tomb to the other on his way through the
magnificent, deserted, sunlit basilica. Yes, these tombs, so imperial in
their ostentation, were meet companions for those of the Appian Way.
Assuredly it was Rome, the soil of Rome, that soil where pride and
domination sprouted like the herbage of the fields that had transformed
the humble Christianity of primitive times, the religion of fraternity,
justice, and hope into what it now was: victorious Catholicism, allied to
the rich and powerful, a huge implement of government, prepared for the
conquest of every nation. The popes had awoke as Caesars. Remote heredity
had acted, the blood of Augustus had bubbled forth afresh, flowing
through their veins and firing their minds with immeasurable ambition. As
yet none but Augustus had held the empire of the world, had been both
emperor and pontiff, master of the body and the soul. And thence had come
the eternal dream of the popes in despair at only holding the spiritual
power, and obstinately refusing to yield in temporal matters, clinging
for ever to the ancient hope that their dream might at last be realised,
and the Vatican become another Palatine, whence they might reign with
absolute despotism over all the conquered nations.


PIERRE had been in Rome for a fortnight, and yet the affair of his book
was no nearer solution. He was still possessed by an ardent desire to see
the Pope, but could in no wise tell how to satisfy it, so frequent were
the delays and so greatly had he been frightened by Monsignor Nani’s
predictions of the dire consequences which might attend any imprudent
action. And so, foreseeing a prolonged sojourn, he at last betook himself
to the Vicariate in order that his “celebret” might be stamped, and
afterwards said his mass each morning at the Church of Santa Brigida,
where he received a kindly greeting from Abbe Pisoni, Benedetta’s former

One Monday evening he resolved to repair early to Donna Serafina’s
customary reception in the hope of learning some news and expediting his
affairs. Perhaps Monsignor Nani would look in; perhaps he might be lucky
enough to come across some cardinal or domestic prelate willing to help
him. It was in vain that he had tried to extract any positive information
from Don Vigilio, for, after a short spell of affability and willingness,
Cardinal Pio’s secretary had relapsed into distrust and fear, and avoided
Pierre as if he were resolved not to meddle in a business which, all
considered, was decidedly suspicious and dangerous. Moreover, for a
couple of days past a violent attack of fever had compelled him to keep
his room.

Thus the only person to whom Pierre could turn for comfort was Victorine
Bosquet, the old Beauceronne servant who had been promoted to the rank of
housekeeper, and who still retained a French heart after thirty years’
residence in Rome. She often spoke to the young priest of Auneau, her
native place, as if she had left it only the previous day; but on that
particular Monday even she had lost her wonted gay vivacity, and when she
heard that he meant to go down in the evening to see the ladies she
wagged her head significantly. “Ah! you won’t find them very cheerful,”
 said she. “My poor Benedetta is greatly worried. Her divorce suit is not
progressing at all well.”

All Rome, indeed, was again talking of this affair. An extraordinary
revival of tittle-tattle had set both white and black worlds agog. And so
there was no need for reticence on Victorine’s part, especially in
conversing with a compatriot. It appeared, then, that, in reply to
Advocate Morano’s memoir setting forth that the marriage had not been
consummated, there had come another memoir, a terrible one, emanating
from Monsignor Palma, a doctor in theology, whom the Congregation of the
Council had selected to defend the marriage. As a first point, Monsignor
Palma flatly disputed the alleged non-consummation, questioned the
certificate put forward on Benedetta’s behalf, and quoted instances
recorded in scientific text-books which showed how deceptive appearances
often were. He strongly insisted, moreover, on the narrative which Count
Prada supplied in another memoir, a narrative well calculated to inspire
doubt; and, further, he so turned and twisted the evidence of Benedetta’s
own maid as to make that evidence also serve against her. Finally he
argued in a decisive way that, even supposing the marriage had not been
consummated, this could only be ascribed to the resistance of the
Countess, who had thus set at defiance one of the elementary laws of
married life, which was that a wife owed obedience to her husband.

Next had come a fourth memoir, drawn up by the reporter of the
Congregation, who analysed and discussed the three others, and
subsequently the Congregation itself had dealt with the matter, opining
in favour of the dissolution of the marriage by a majority of one
vote--such a bare majority, indeed, that Monsignor Palma, exercising his
rights, had hastened to demand further inquiry, a course which brought
the whole _procedure_ again into question, and rendered a fresh vote

“Ah! the poor Contessina!” exclaimed Victorine, “she’ll surely die of
grief, for, calm as she may seem, there’s an inward fire consuming her.
It seems that Monsignor Palma is the master of the situation, and can
make the affair drag on as long as he likes. And then a deal of money had
already been spent, and one will have to spend a lot more. Abbe Pisoni,
whom you know, was very badly inspired when he helped on that marriage;
and though I certainly don’t want to soil the memory of my good mistress,
Countess Ernesta, who was a real saint, it’s none the less true that she
wrecked her daughter’s life when she gave her to Count Prada.”

The housekeeper paused. Then, impelled by an instinctive sense of
justice, she resumed. “It’s only natural that Count Prada should be
annoyed, for he’s really being made a fool of. And, for my part, as there
is no end to all the fuss, and this divorce is so hard to obtain, I
really don’t see why the Contessina shouldn’t live with her Dario without
troubling any further. Haven’t they loved one another ever since they
were children? Aren’t they both young and handsome, and wouldn’t they be
happy together, whatever the world might say? Happiness, _mon Dieu_! one
finds it so seldom that one can’t afford to let it pass.”

Then, seeing how greatly surprised Pierre was at hearing such language,
she began to laugh with the quiet composure of one belonging to the
humble classes of France, whose only desire is a quiet and happy life,
irrespective of matrimonial ties. Next, in more discreet language, she
proceeded to lament another worry which had fallen on the household,
another result of the divorce affair. A rupture had come about between
Donna Serafina and Advocate Morano, who was very displeased with the ill
success of his memoir to the congregation, and accused Father
Lorenza--the confessor of the Boccanera ladies--of having urged them into
a deplorable lawsuit, whose only fruit could be a wretched scandal
affecting everybody. And so great had been Morano’s annoyance that he had
not returned to the Boccanera mansion, but had severed a connection of
thirty years’ standing, to the stupefaction of all the Roman
drawing-rooms, which altogether disapproved of his conduct. Donna
Serafina was, for her part, the more grieved as she suspected the
advocate of having purposely picked the quarrel in order to secure an
excuse for leaving her; his real motive, in her estimation, being a
sudden, disgraceful passion for a young and intriguing woman of the
middle classes.

That Monday evening, when Pierre entered the drawing-room, hung with
yellow brocatelle of a flowery Louis XIV pattern, he at once realised
that melancholy reigned in the dim light radiating from the lace-veiled
lamps. Benedetta and Celia, seated on a sofa, were chatting with Dario,
whilst Cardinal Sarno, ensconced in an arm-chair, listened to the
ceaseless chatter of the old relative who conducted the little Princess
to each Monday gathering. And the only other person present was Donna
Serafina, seated all alone in her wonted place on the right-hand side of
the chimney-piece, and consumed with secret rage at seeing the chair on
the left-hand side unoccupied--that chair which Morano had always taken
during the thirty years that he had been faithful to her. Pierre noticed
with what anxious and then despairing eyes she observed his entrance, her
glance ever straying towards the door, as though she even yet hoped for
the fickle one’s return. Withal her bearing was erect and proud; she
seemed to be more tightly laced than ever; and there was all the wonted
haughtiness on her hard-featured face, with its jet-black eyebrows and
snowy hair.

Pierre had no sooner paid his respects to her than he allowed his own
worry to appear by inquiring whether they would not have the pleasure of
seeing Monsignor Nani that evening. Thereupon Donna Serafina could not
refrain from answering: “Oh! Monsignor Nani is forsaking us like the
others. People always take themselves off when they can be of service.”

She harboured a spite against the prelate for having done so little to
further the divorce in spite of his many promises. Beneath his outward
show of extreme willingness and caressing affability he doubtless
concealed some scheme of his own which he was tenaciously pursuing.
However, Donna Serafina promptly regretted the confession which anger had
wrung from her, and resumed: “After all, he will perhaps come. He is so
good-natured, and so fond of us.”

In spite of the vivacity of her temperament she really wished to act
diplomatically, so as to overcome the bad luck which had recently set in.
Her brother the Cardinal had told her how irritated he was by the
attitude of the Congregation of the Council; he had little doubt that the
frigid reception accorded to his niece’s suit had been due in part to the
desire of some of his brother cardinals to be disagreeable to him.
Personally, he desired the divorce, as it seemed to him the only means of
ensuring the perpetuation of the family; for Dario obstinately refused to
marry any other woman than his cousin. And thus there was an accumulation
of disasters; the Cardinal was wounded in his pride, his sister shared
his sufferings and on her own side was stricken in the heart, whilst both
lovers were plunged in despair at finding their hopes yet again deferred.

As Pierre approached the sofa where the young folks were chatting he
found that they were speaking of the catastrophe. “Why should you be so
despondent?” asked Celia in an undertone. “After all, there was a
majority of a vote in favour of annulling the marriage. Your suit hasn’t
been rejected; there is only a delay.”

But Benedetta shook her head. “No, no! If Monsignor Palma proves
obstinate his Holiness will never consent. It’s all over.”

“Ah! if one were only rich, very rich!” murmured Dario, with such an air
of conviction that no one smiled. And, turning to his cousin, he added in
a whisper: “I must really have a talk with you. We cannot go on living
like this.”

In a breath she responded: “Yes, you are right. Come down to-morrow
evening at five. I will be here alone.”

Then dreariness set in; the evening seemed to have no end. Pierre was
greatly touched by the evident despair of Benedetta, who as a rule was so
calm and sensible. The deep eyes which illumined her pure, delicate,
infantile face were now blurred as by restrained tears. He had already
formed a sincere affection for her, pleased as he was with her equable if
somewhat indolent disposition, the semblance of discreet good sense with
which she veiled her soul of fire. That Monday even she certainly tried
to smile while listening to the pretty secrets confided to her by Celia,
whose love affairs were prospering far more than her own. There was only
one brief interval of general conversation, and that was brought about by
the little Princess’s aunt, who, suddenly raising her voice, began to
speak of the infamous manner in which the Italian newspapers referred to
the Holy Father. Never, indeed, had there been so much bad feeling
between the Vatican and the Quirinal. Cardinal Sarno felt so strongly on
the subject that he departed from his wonted silence to announce that on
the occasion of the sacrilegious festivities of the Twentieth of
September, celebrating the capture of Rome, the Pope intended to cast a
fresh letter of protest in the face of all the Christian powers, whose
indifference proved their complicity in the odious spoliation of the

“Yes, indeed! what folly to try and marry the Pope and the King,”
 bitterly exclaimed Donna Serafina, alluding to her niece’s deplorable

The old maid now seemed quite beside herself; it was already so late that
neither Monsignor Nani nor anybody else was expected. However, at the
unhoped-for sound of footsteps her eyes again brightened and turned
feverishly towards the door. But it was only to encounter a final
disappointment. The visitor proved to be Narcisse Habert, who stepped up
to her, apologising for making so late a call. It was Cardinal Sarno, his
uncle by marriage, who had introduced him into this exclusive _salon_,
where he had received a cordial reception on account of his religious
views, which were said to be most uncompromising. If, however, despite
the lateness of the hour, he had ventured to call there that evening, it
was solely on account of Pierre, whom he at once drew on one side.

“I felt sure I should find you here,” he said. “Just now I managed to see
my cousin, Monsignor Gamba del Zoppo, and I have some good news for you.
He will see us to-morrow at about eleven in his rooms at the Vatican.”
 Then, lowering his voice: “I think he will endeavour to conduct you to
the Holy Father. Briefly, the audience seems to me assured.”

Pierre was greatly delighted by this promised certainty, which came to
him so suddenly in that dreary drawing-room, where for a couple of hours
he had been gradually sinking into despair! So at last a solution was at

Meantime Narcisse, after shaking hands with Dario and bowing to Benedetta
and Celia, approached his uncle the Cardinal, who, having rid himself of
the old relation, made up his mind to talk. But his conversation was
confined to the state of his health, and the weather, and sundry
insignificant anecdotes which he had lately heard. Not a word escaped him
respecting the thousand complicated matters with which he dealt at the
Propaganda. It was as though, once outside his office, he plunged into
the commonplace and the unimportant by way of resting from the anxious
task of governing the world. And after he had spoken for a time every one
got up, and the visitors took leave.

“Don’t forget,” Narcisse repeated to Pierre, “you will find me at the
Sixtine Chapel to-morrow at ten. And I will show you the Botticellis
before we go to our appointment.”

At half-past nine on the following morning Pierre, who had come on foot,
was already on the spacious Piazza of St. Peter’s; and before turning to
the right, towards the bronze gate near one corner of Bernini’s
colonnade, he raised his eyes and lingered, gazing at the Vatican.
Nothing to his mind could be less monumental than the jumble of buildings
which, without semblance of architectural order or regularity of any
kind, had grown up in the shadow cast by the dome of the basilica. Roofs
rose one above the other and broad, flat walls stretched out chance-wise,
just as wings and storeys had been added. The only symmetry observable
above the colonnade was that of the three sides of the court of San
Damaso, where the lofty glass-work which now encloses the old _loggie_
sparkled in the sun between the ruddy columns and pilasters, suggesting,
as it were, three huge conservatories.

And this was the most beautiful palace in the world, the largest of all
palaces, comprising no fewer than eleven thousand apartments and
containing the most admirable masterpieces of human genius! But Pierre,
disillusioned as he was, had eyes only for the lofty facade on the right,
overlooking the piazza, for he knew that the second-floor windows there
were those of the Pope’s private apartments. And he contemplated those
windows for a long time, and remembered having been told that the fifth
one on the right was that of the Pope’s bed-room, and that a lamp could
always be seen burning there far into the night.

What was there, too, behind that gate of bronze which he saw before
him--that sacred portal by which all the kingdoms of the world
communicated with the kingdom of heaven, whose august vicar had secluded
himself behind those lofty, silent walls? From where he stood Pierre
gazed on that gate with its metal panels studded with large square-headed
nails, and wondered what it defended, what it concealed, what it shut off
from the view, with its stern, forbidding air, recalling that of the gate
of some ancient fortress. What kind of world would he find behind it,
what treasures of human charity jealously preserved in yonder gloom, what
revivifying hope for the new nations hungering for fraternity and
justice? He took pleasure in fancying, in picturing the one holy pastor
of humanity, ever watching in the depths of that closed palace, and,
while the nations strayed into hatred, preparing all for the final reign
of Jesus, and at last proclaiming the advent of that reign by
transforming our democracies into the one great Christian community
promised by the Saviour. Assuredly the world’s future was being prepared
behind that bronze portal; assuredly it was that future which would issue

But all at once Pierre was amazed to find himself face to face with
Monsignor Nani, who had just left the Vatican on his way to the
neighbouring Palace of the Inquisition, where, as Assessor, he had his

“Ah! Monsignor,” said Pierre, “I am very pleased. My friend Monsieur
Habert is going to present me to his cousin, Monsignor Gamba del Zoppo,
and I think I shall obtain the audience I so greatly desire.”

Monsignor Nani smiled with his usual amiable yet keen expression. “Yes,
yes, I know.” But, correcting himself as it were, he added: “I share your
satisfaction, my dear son. Only, you must be prudent.” And then, as if
fearing that the young priest might have understood by his first words
that he had just seen Monsignor Gamba, the most easily terrified prelate
of the whole prudent pontifical family, he related that he had been
running about since an early hour on behalf of two French ladies, who
likewise were dying of a desire to see the Pope. However, he greatly
feared that the help he was giving them would not prove successful.

“I will confess to you, Monsignor,” replied Pierre, “that I myself was
getting very discouraged. Yes, it is high time I should find a little
comfort, for my sojourn here is hardly calculated to brace my soul.”

He went on in this strain, allowing it to be seen that the sights of Rome
were finally destroying his faith. Such days as those which he had spent
on the Palatine and along the Appian Way, in the Catacombs and at St.
Peter’s, grievously disturbed him, spoilt his dream of Christianity
rejuvenated and triumphant. He emerged from them full of doubt and
growing lassitude, having already lost much of his usually rebellious

Still smiling, Monsignor Nani listened and nodded approvingly. Yes, no
doubt that was the fatal result. He seemed to have foreseen it, and to be
well satisfied thereat. “At all events, my dear son,” said he,
“everything is going on well, since you are now certain that you will see
his Holiness.”

“That is true, Monsignor; I have placed my only hope in the very just and
perspicacious Leo XIII. He alone can judge me, since he alone can
recognise in my book his own ideas, which I think I have very faithfully
set forth. Ah! if he be willing he will, in Jesus’ name and by democracy
and science, save this old world of ours!”

Pierre’s enthusiasm was returning again, and Nani, smiling more and more
affably with his piercing eyes and thin lips, again expressed approval:
“Certainly; quite so, my dear son. You will speak to him, you will see.”

Then as they both raised their heads and looked towards the Vatican, Nani
carried his amiability so far as to undeceive Pierre with respect to the
Pope’s bed-room. No, the window where a light was seen every evening was
simply that of a landing where the gas was kept burning almost all night.
The window of his Holiness’s bed-chamber was the second one farther on.
Then both relapsed into silence, equally grave as they continued to gaze
at the facade.

“Well, till we meet again, my dear son,” said Nani at last. “You will
tell me of your interview, I hope.”

As soon as Pierre was alone he went in by the bronze portal, his heart
beating violently, as if he were entering some redoubtable sanctuary
where the future happiness of mankind was elaborated. A sentry was on
duty there, a Swiss guard, who walked slowly up and down in a grey-blue
cloak, below which one only caught a glimpse of his baggy red, black, and
yellow breeches; and it seemed as if this cloak of sober hue were
purposely cast over a disguise in order to conceal its strangeness, which
had become irksome. Then, on the right-hand, came the covered stairway
conducting to the Court of San Damaso; but to reach the Sixtine Chapel it
was necessary to follow a long gallery, with columns on either hand, and
ascend the royal staircase, the Scala Regia. And in this realm of the
gigantic, where every dimension is exaggerated and replete with
overpowering majesty, Pierre’s breath came short as he ascended the broad

He was much surprised on entering the Sixtine Chapel, for it at first
seemed to him small, a sort of rectangular and lofty hall, with a
delicate screen of white marble separating the part where guests
congregate on the occasion of great ceremonies from the choir where the
cardinals sit on simple oaken benches, while the inferior prelates remain
standing behind them. On a low platform to the right of the soberly
adorned altar is the pontifical throne; while in the wall on the left
opens the narrow singing gallery with its balcony of marble. And for
everything suddenly to spread out and soar into the infinite one must
raise one’s head, allow one’s eyes to ascend from the huge fresco of the
Last Judgment, occupying the whole of the end wall, to the paintings
which cover the vaulted ceiling down to the cornice extending between the
twelve windows of white glass, six on either hand.

Fortunately there were only three or four quiet tourists there; and
Pierre at once perceived Narcisse Habert occupying one of the cardinals’
seats above the steps where the train-bearers crouch. Motionless, and
with his head somewhat thrown back, the young man seemed to be in
ecstasy. But it was not the work of Michael Angelo that he thus
contemplated. His eyes never strayed from one of the earlier frescoes
below the cornice; and on recognising the priest he contented himself
with murmuring: “Ah! my friend, just look at the Botticelli.” Then, with
dreamy eyes, he relapsed into a state of rapture.

Pierre, for his part, had received a great shock both in heart and in
mind, overpowered as he was by the superhuman genius of Michael Angelo.
The rest vanished; there only remained, up yonder, as in a limitless
heaven, the extraordinary creations of the master’s art. That which at
first surprised one was that the painter should have been the sole
artisan of the mighty work. No marble cutters, no bronze workers, no
gilders, no one of another calling had intervened. The painter with his
brush had sufficed for all--for the pilasters, columns, and cornices of
marble, for the statues and the ornaments of bronze, for the _fleurons_
and roses of gold, for the whole of the wondrously rich decorative work
which surrounded the frescoes. And Pierre imagined Michael Angelo on the
day when the bare vault was handed over to him, covered with plaster,
offering only a flat white surface, hundreds of square yards to be
adorned. And he pictured him face to face with that huge white page,
refusing all help, driving all inquisitive folks away, jealously,
violently shutting himself up alone with his gigantic task, spending four
and a half years in fierce solitude, and day by day adding to his
colossal work of creation. Ah! that mighty work, a task to fill a whole
lifetime, a task which he must have begun with quiet confidence in his
own will and power, drawing, as it were, an entire world from his brain
and flinging it there with the ceaseless flow of creative virility in the
full heyday of its omnipotence.

And Pierre was yet more overcome when he began to examine these
presentments of humanity, magnified as by the eyes of a visionary,
overflowing in mighty sympathetic pages of cyclopean symbolisation. Royal
grace and nobility, sovereign peacefulness and power--every beauty shone
out like natural florescence. And there was perfect science, the most
audacious foreshortening risked with the certainty of success--an
everlasting triumph of technique over the difficulty which an arched
surface presented. And, in particular, there was wonderful simplicity of
medium; matter was reduced almost to nothingness; a few colours were used
broadly without any studied search for effect or brilliancy. Yet that
sufficed, the blood seethed freely, the muscles projected, the figures
became animated and stood out of their frames with such energy and dash
that it seemed as if a flame were flashing by aloft, endowing all those
beings with superhuman and immortal life. Life, aye, it was life, which
burst forth and triumphed--mighty, swarming life, miraculous life, the
creation of one sole hand possessed of the supreme gift--simplicity
blended with power.

That a philosophical system, a record of the whole of human destiny,
should have been found therein, with the creation of the world, of man,
and of woman, the fall, the chastisement, then the redemption, and
finally God’s judgment on the last day--this was a matter on which Pierre
was unable to dwell, at this first visit, in the wondering stupor into
which the paintings threw him. But he could not help noticing how the
human body, its beauty, its power, and its grace were exalted! Ah! that
regal Jehovah, at once terrible and paternal, carried off amid the
whirlwind of his creation, his arms outstretched and giving birth to
worlds! And that superb and nobly outlined Adam, with extended hand, whom
Jehovah, though he touch him not, animates with his finger--a wondrous
and admirable gesture, leaving a sacred space between the finger of the
Creator and that of the created--a tiny space, in which, nevertheless,
abides all the infinite of the invisible and the mysterious. And then
that powerful yet adorable Eve, that Eve with the sturdy flanks fit for
the bearing of humanity, that Eve with the proud, tender grace of a woman
bent on being loved even to perdition, that Eve embodying the whole of
woman with her fecundity, her seductiveness, her empire! Moreover, even
the decorative figures of the pilasters at the corners of the frescoes
celebrate the triumph of the flesh: there are the twenty young men
radiant in their nakedness, with incomparable splendour of torso and of
limb, and such intensity of life that a craze for motion seems to carry
them off, bend them, throw them over in superb attitudes. And between the
windows are the giants, the prophets and the sibyls--man and woman
deified, with inordinate wealth of muscle and grandeur of intellectual
expression. There is Jeremiah with his elbow resting on his knee and his
chin on his hand, plunged as he is in reflection--in the very depths of
his visions and his dreams; there is the Sibylla Erithraea, so pure of
profile, so young despite the opulence of her form, and with one finger
resting on the open book of destiny; there is Isaiah with the thick lips
of truth, virile and haughty, his head half turned and his hand raised
with a gesture of command; there is the Sibylla Cumaea, terrifying with
her science and her old age, her wrinkled countenance, her vulture’s
nose, her square protruding chin; there is Jonah cast forth by the whale,
and wondrously foreshortened, his torso twisted, his arms bent, his head
thrown back, and his mouth agape and shouting: and there are the others,
all of the same full-blown, majestic family, reigning with the
sovereignty of eternal health and intelligence, and typifying the dream
of a broader, loftier, and indestructible humanity. Moreover, in the
lunettes and the arches over the windows other figures of grace, power,
and beauty appear and throng, the ancestors of the Christ, thoughtful
mothers with lovely nude infants, men with wondering eyes peering into
the future, representatives of the punished weary race longing for the
promised Redeemer; while in the pendentives of the four corners various
biblical episodes, the victories of Israel over the Spirit of Evil,
spring into life. And finally there is the gigantic fresco at the far
end, the Last Judgment with its swarming multitude, so numerous that days
and days are needed to see each figure aright, a distracted crowd, full
of the hot breath of life, from the dead rising in response to the
furious trumpeting of the angels, from the fearsome groups of the damned
whom the demons fling into hell, even to Jesus the justiciar, surrounded
by the saints and apostles, and to the radiant concourse of the blessed
who ascend upheld by angels, whilst higher and still higher other angels,
bearing the instruments of the Passion, triumph as in full glory. And
yet, above this gigantic composition, painted thirty years subsequently,
in the full ripeness of age, the ceiling retains its ethereality, its
unquestionable superiority, for on it the artist bestowed all his virgin
power, his whole youth, the first great flare of his genius.

And Pierre found but one word to express his feelings: Michael Angelo was
the monster dominating and crushing all others. Beneath his immense
achievement you had only to glance at the works of Perugino,
Pinturicchio, Roselli, Signorelli, and Botticelli, those earlier
frescoes, admirable in their way, which below the cornice spread out
around the chapel.

Narcisse for his part had not raised his eyes to the overpowering
splendour of the ceiling. Wrapt in ecstasy, he did not allow his gaze to
stray from one of the three frescoes of Botticelli. “Ah! Botticelli,” he
at last murmured; “in him you have the elegance and the grace of the
mysterious; a profound feeling of sadness even in the midst of
voluptuousness, a divination of the whole modern soul, with the most
troublous charm that ever attended artist’s work.”

Pierre glanced at him in amazement, and then ventured to inquire: “You
come here to see the Botticellis?”

“Yes, certainly,” the young man quietly replied; “I only come here for
him, and five hours every week I only look at his work. There, just study
that fresco, Moses and the daughters of Jethro. Isn’t it the most
penetrating work that human tenderness and melancholy have produced?”

Then, with a faint, devout quiver in his voice and the air of a priest
initiating another into the delightful but perturbing atmosphere of a
sanctuary, he went on repeating the praises of Botticelli’s art; his
women with long, sensual, yet candid faces, supple bearing, and rounded
forms showing from under light drapery; his young men, his angels of
doubtful sex, blending stateliness of muscle with infinite delicacy of
outline; next the mouths he painted, fleshy, fruit-like mouths, at times
suggesting irony, at others pain, and often so enigmatical with their
sinuous curves that one knew not whether the words they left unuttered
were words of purity or filth; then, too, the eyes which he bestowed on
his figures, eyes of languor and passion, of carnal or mystical rapture,
their joy at times so instinct with grief as they peer into the nihility
of human things that no eyes in the world could be more impenetrable. And
finally there were Botticelli’s hands, so carefully and delicately
painted, so full of life, wantoning so to say in a free atmosphere, now
joining, caressing, and even, as it were, speaking, the whole evincing
such intense solicitude for gracefulness that at times there seems to be
undue mannerism, though every hand has its particular expression, each
varying expression of the enjoyment or pain which the sense of touch can
bring. And yet there was nothing effeminate or false about the painter’s
work: on all sides a sort of virile pride was apparent, an atmosphere of
superb passionate motion, absolute concern for truth, direct study from
life, conscientiousness, veritable realism, corrected and elevated by a
genial strangeness of feeling and character that imparted a
never-to-be-forgotten charm even to ugliness itself.

Pierre’s stupefaction, however, increased as he listened to Narcisse,
whose somewhat studied elegance, whose curly hair cut in the Florentine
fashion, and whose blue, mauvish eyes paling with enthusiasm he now for
the first time remarked. “Botticelli,” he at last said, “was no doubt a
marvellous artist, only it seems to me that here, at any rate, Michael

But Narcisse interrupted him almost with violence. “No! no! Don’t talk of
him! He spoilt everything, ruined everything! A man who harnessed himself
to his work like an ox, who laboured at his task like a navvy, at the
rate of so many square yards a day! And a man, too, with no sense of the
mysterious and the unknown, who saw everything so huge as to disgust one
with beauty, painting girls like the trunks of oak-trees, women like
giant butchers, with heaps and heaps of stupid flesh, and never a gleam
of a divine or infernal soul! He was a mason--a colossal mason, if you
like--but he was nothing more.”

Weary “modern” that Narcisse was, spoilt by the pursuit of the original
and the rare, he thus unconsciously gave rein to his fated hate of health
and power. That Michael Angelo who brought forth without an effort, who
had left behind him the most prodigious of all artistic creations, was
the enemy. And his crime precisely was that he had created life, produced
life in such excess that all the petty creations of others, even the most
delightful among them, vanished in presence of the overflowing torrent of
human beings flung there all alive in the sunlight.

“Well, for my part,” Pierre courageously declared, “I’m not of your
opinion. I now realise that life is everything in art; that real
immortality belongs only to those who create. The case of Michael Angelo
seems to me decisive, for he is the superhuman master, the monster who
overwhelms all others, precisely because he brought forth that
magnificent living flesh which offends your sense of delicacy. Those who
are inclined to the curious, those who have minds of a pretty turn, whose
intellects are ever seeking to penetrate things, may try to improve on
the equivocal and invisible, and set all the charm of art in some
elaborate stroke or symbolisation; but, none the less, Michael Angelo
remains the all-powerful, the maker of men, the master of clearness,
simplicity, and health.”

At this Narcisse smiled with indulgent and courteous disdain. And he
anticipated further argument by remarking: “It’s already eleven. My
cousin was to have sent a servant here as soon as he could receive us. I
am surprised to have seen nobody as yet. Shall we go up to see the
_stanze_ of Raffaelle while we wait?”

Once in the rooms above, he showed himself perfect, both lucid in his
remarks and just in his appreciations, having recovered all his easy
intelligence as soon as he was no longer upset by his hatred of colossal
labour and cheerful decoration.

It was unfortunate that Pierre should have first visited the Sixtine
Chapel; for it was necessary he should forget what he had just seen and
accustom himself to what he now beheld in order to enjoy its pure beauty.
It was as if some potent wine had confused him, and prevented any
immediate relish of a lighter vintage of delicate fragrance. Admiration
did not here fall upon one with lightning speed; it was slowly,
irresistibly that one grew charmed. And the contrast was like that of
Racine beside Corneille, Lamartine beside Hugo, the eternal pair, the
masculine and feminine genius coupled through centuries of glory. With
Raffaelle it is nobility, grace, exquisiteness, and correctness of line,
and divineness of harmony that triumph. You do not find in him merely the
materialist symbolism so superbly thrown off by Michael Angelo; he
introduces psychological analysis of deep penetration into the painter’s
art. Man is shown more purified, idealised; one sees more of that which
is within him. And though one may be in presence of an artist of
sentimental bent, a feminine genius whose quiver of tenderness one can
feel, it is also certain that admirable firmness of workmanship confronts
one, that the whole is very strong and very great. Pierre gradually
yielded to such sovereign masterliness, such virile elegance, such a
vision of supreme beauty set in supreme perfection. But if the “Dispute
on the Sacrament” and the so-called “School of Athens,” both prior to the
paintings of the Sixtine Chapel, seemed to him to be Raffaelle’s
masterpieces, he felt that in the “Burning of the Borgo,” and
particularly in the “Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple,” and “Pope
St. Leo staying Attila at the Gates of Rome,” the artist had lost the
flower of his divine grace, through the deep impression which the
overwhelming grandeur of Michael Angelo had wrought upon him. How
crushing indeed had been the blow when the Sixtine Chapel was thrown open
and the rivals entered! The creations of the monster then appeared, and
the greatest of the humanisers lost some of his soul at sight of them,
thenceforward unable to rid himself of their influence.

From the _stanze_ Narcisse took Pierre to the _loggie_, those glazed
galleries which are so high and so delicately decorated. But here you
only find work which pupils executed after designs left by Raffaelle at
his death. The fall was sudden and complete, and never had Pierre better
understood that genius is everything--that when it disappears the school
collapses. The man of genius sums up his period; at a given hour he
throws forth all the sap of the social soil, which afterwards remains
exhausted often for centuries. So Pierre became more particularly
interested in the fine view that the _loggie_ afford, and all at once he
noticed that the papal apartments were in front of him, just across the
Court of San Damaso. This court, with its porticus, fountain, and white
pavement, had an aspect of empty, airy, sunlit solemnity which surprised
him. There was none of the gloom or pent-up religious mystery that he had
dreamt of with his mind full of the surroundings of the old northern
cathedrals. Right and left of the steps conducting to the rooms of the
Pope and the Cardinal Secretary of State four or five carriages were
ranged, the coachmen stiffly erect and the horses motionless in the
brilliant light; and nothing else peopled that vast square desert of a
court which, with its bareness gilded by the coruscations of its
glass-work and the ruddiness of its stones, suggested a pagan temple
dedicated to the sun. But what more particularly struck Pierre was the
splendid panorama of Rome, for he had not hitherto imagined that the Pope
from his windows could thus behold the entire city spread out before him
as if he merely had to stretch forth his hand to make it his own once

While Pierre contemplated the scene a sound of voices caused him to turn;
and he perceived a servant in black livery who, after repeating a message
to Narcisse, was retiring with a deep bow. Looking much annoyed, the
_attache_ approached the young priest. “Monsignor Gamba del Zoppo,” said
he, “has sent word that he can’t see us this morning. Some unexpected
duties require his presence.” However, Narcisse’s embarrassment showed
that he did not believe in the excuse, but rather suspected some one of
having so terrified his cousin that the latter was afraid of compromising
himself. Obliging and courageous as Habert himself was, this made him
indignant. Still he smiled and resumed: “Listen, perhaps there’s a means
of forcing an entry. If your time is your own we can lunch together and
then return to visit the Museum of Antiquities. I shall certainly end by
coming across my cousin and we may, perhaps, be lucky enough to meet the
Pope should he go down to the gardens.”

At the news that his audience was yet again postponed Pierre had felt
keenly disappointed. However, as the whole day was at his disposal, he
willingly accepted the _attache’s_ offer. They lunched in front of St.
Peter’s, in a little restaurant of the Borgo, most of whose customers
were pilgrims, and the fare, as it happened, was far from good. Then at
about two o’clock they set off for the museum, skirting the basilica by
way of the Piazza della Sagrestia. It was a bright, deserted, burning
district; and again, but in a far greater degree, did the young priest
experience that sensation of bare, tawny, sun-baked majesty which had
come upon him while gazing into the Court of San Damaso. Then, as he
passed the apse of St. Peter’s, the enormity of the colossus was brought
home to him more strongly than ever: it rose like a giant bouquet of
architecture edged by empty expanses of pavement sprinkled with fine
weeds. And in all the silent immensity there were only two children
playing in the shadow of a wall. The old papal mint, the Zecca, now an
Italian possession, and guarded by soldiers of the royal army, is on the
left of the passage leading to the museums, while on the right, just in
front, is one of the entrances of honour to the Vatican where the papal
Swiss Guard keeps watch and ward; and this is the entrance by which,
according to etiquette, the pair-horse carriages convey the Pope’s
visitors into the Court of San Damaso.

Following the long lane which ascends between a wing of the palace and
its garden wall, Narcisse and Pierre at last reached the Museum of
Antiquities. Ah! what a museum it is, with galleries innumerable, a
museum compounded of three museums, the Pio-Clementino, Chiaramonti, and
the Braccio-Nuovo, and containing a whole world found beneath the soil,
then exhumed, and now glorified in full sunlight. For more than two hours
Pierre went from one hall to another, dazzled by the masterpieces,
bewildered by the accumulation of genius and beauty. It was not only the
celebrated examples of statuary, the Laocoon and the Apollo of the
cabinets of the Belvedere, the Meleager, or even the torso of
Hercules--that astonished him. He was yet more impressed by the
_ensemble_, by the innumerable quantities of Venuses, Bacchuses, and
deified emperors and empresses, by the whole superb growth of beautiful
or August flesh celebrating the immortality of life. Three days
previously he had visited the Museum of the Capitol, where he had admired
the Venus, the Dying Gaul,* the marvellous Centaurs of black marble, and
the extraordinary collection of busts, but here his admiration became
intensified into stupor by the inexhaustible wealth of the galleries.
And, with more curiosity for life than for art, perhaps, he again
lingered before the busts which so powerfully resuscitate the Rome of
history--the Rome which, whilst incapable of realising the ideal beauty
of Greece, was certainly well able to create life. The emperors, the
philosophers, the learned men, the poets are all there, and live such as
they really were, studied and portrayed in all scrupulousness with their
deformities, their blemishes, the slightest peculiarities of their
features. And from this extreme solicitude for truth springs a wonderful
wealth of character and an incomparable vision of the past. Nothing,
indeed, could be loftier: the very men live once more, and retrace the
history of their city, that history which has been so falsified that the
teaching of it has caused generations of school-boys to hold antiquity in
horror. But on seeing the men, how well one understands, how fully one
can sympathise! And indeed the smallest bits of marble, the maimed
statues, the bas-reliefs in fragments, even the isolated limbs--whether
the divine arm of a nymph or the sinewy, shaggy thigh of a satyr--evoke
the splendour of a civilisation full of light, grandeur, and strength.

  * Best known in England, through Byron’s lines, as the
    Dying Gladiator, though that appellation is certainly

At last Narcisse brought Pierre back into the Gallery of the Candelabra,
three hundred feet in length and full of fine examples of sculpture.
“Listen, my dear Abbe,” said he. “It is scarcely more than four o’clock,
and we will sit down here for a while, as I am told that the Holy Father
sometimes passes this way to go down to the gardens. It would be really
lucky if you could see him, perhaps even speak to him--who can tell? At
all events, it will rest you, for you must be tired out.”

Narcisse was known to all the attendants, and his relationship to
Monsignor Gamba gave him the run of almost the entire Vatican, where he
was fond of spending his leisure time. Finding two chairs, they sat down,
and the _attache_ again began to talk of art.

How astonishing had been the destiny of Rome, what a singular, borrowed
royalty had been hers! She seemed like a centre whither the whole world
converged, but where nothing grew from the soil itself, which from the
outset appeared to be stricken with sterility. The arts required to be
acclimatised there; it was necessary to transplant the genius of
neighbouring nations, which, once there, however, flourished
magnificently. Under the emperors, when Rome was the queen of the earth,
the beauty of her monuments and sculpture came to her from Greece. Later,
when Christianity arose in Rome, it there remained impregnated with
paganism; it was on another soil that it produced Gothic art, the
Christian Art _par excellence_. Later still, at the Renascence, it was
certainly at Rome that the age of Julius II and Leo X shone forth; but
the artists of Tuscany and Umbria prepared the evolution, brought it to
Rome that it might thence expand and soar. For the second time, indeed,
art came to Rome from without, and gave her the royalty of the world by
blossoming so triumphantly within her walls. Then occurred the
extraordinary awakening of antiquity, Apollo and Venus resuscitated
worshipped by the popes themselves, who from the time of Nicholas V
dreamt of making papal Rome the equal of the imperial city. After the
precursors, so sincere, tender, and strong in their art--Fra Angelico,
Perugino, Botticelli, and so many others--came the two sovereigns,
Michael Angelo and Raffaelle, the superhuman and the divine. Then the
fall was sudden, years elapsed before the advent of Caravaggio with power
of colour and modelling, all that the science of painting could achieve
when bereft of genius. And afterwards the decline continued until Bernini
was reached--Bernini, the real creator of the Rome of the present popes,
the prodigal child who at twenty could already show a galaxy of colossal
marble wenches, the universal architect who with fearful activity
finished the facade, built the colonnade, decorated the interior of St.
Peter’s, and raised fountains, churches, and palaces innumerable. And
that was the end of all, for since then Rome has little by little
withdrawn from life, from the modern world, as though she, who always
lived on what she derived from others, were dying of her inability to
take anything more from them in order to convert it to her own glory.

“Ah! Bernini, that delightful Bernini!” continued Narcisse with his
rapturous air. “He is both powerful and exquisite, his verve always
ready, his ingenuity invariably awake, his fecundity full of grace and
magnificence. As for their Bramante with his masterpiece, that cold,
correct Cancelleria, we’ll dub him the Michael Angelo and Raffaelle of
architecture and say no more about it. But Bernini, that exquisite
Bernini, why, there is more delicacy and refinement in his pretended bad
taste than in all the hugeness and perfection of the others! Our own age
ought to recognise itself in his art, at once so varied and so deep, so
triumphant in its mannerisms, so full of a perturbing solicitude for the
artificial and so free from the baseness of reality. Just go to the Villa
Borghese to see the group of Apollo and Daphne which Bernini executed
when he was eighteen,* and in particular see his statue of Santa Teresa
in ecstasy at Santa Maria della Vittoria! Ah! that Santa Teresa! It is
like heaven opening, with the quiver that only a purely divine enjoyment
can set in woman’s flesh, the rapture of faith carried to the point of
spasm, the creature losing breath and dying of pleasure in the arms of
the Divinity! I have spent hours and hours before that work without
exhausting the infinite scope of its precious, burning symbolisation.”

  * There is also at the Villa Borghese Bernini’s _Anchises carried
    by Aeneas_, which he sculptured when only sixteen. No doubt his
    faults were many; but it was his misfortune to belong to a
    decadent period.--Trans.

Narcisse’s voice died away, and Pierre, no longer astonished at his
covert, unconscious hatred of health, simplicity, and strength, scarcely
listened to him. The young priest himself was again becoming absorbed in
the idea he had formed of pagan Rome resuscitating in Christian Rome and
turning it into Catholic Rome, the new political, sacerdotal, domineering
centre of earthly government. Apart from the primitive age of the
Catacombs, had Rome ever been Christian? The thoughts that had come to
him on the Palatine, in the Appian Way, and in St. Peter’s were gathering
confirmation. Genius that morning had brought him fresh proof. No doubt
the paganism which reappeared in the art of Michael Angelo and Raffaelle
was tempered, transformed by the Christian spirit. But did it not still
remain the basis? Had not the former master peered across Olympus when
snatching his great nudities from the terrible heavens of Jehovah? Did
not the ideal figures of Raffaelle reveal the superb, fascinating flesh
of Venus beneath the chaste veil of the Virgin? It seemed so to Pierre,
and some embarrassment mingled with his despondency, for all those
beautiful forms glorifying the ardent passions of life, were in
opposition to his dream of rejuvenated Christianity giving peace to the
world and reviving the simplicity and purity of the early ages.

All at once he was surprised to hear Narcisse, by what transition he
could not tell, speaking to him of the daily life of Leo XIII. “Yes, my
dear Abbe, at eighty-four* the Holy Father shows the activity of a young
man and leads a life of determination and hard work such as neither you
nor I would care for! At six o’clock he is already up, says his mass in
his private chapel, and drinks a little milk for breakfast. Then, from
eight o’clock till noon, there is a ceaseless procession of cardinals and
prelates, all the affairs of the congregations passing under his eyes,
and none could be more numerous or intricate. At noon the public and
collective audiences usually begin. At two he dines. Then comes the
siesta which he has well earned, or else a promenade in the gardens until
six o’clock. The private audiences then sometimes keep him for an hour or
two. He sups at nine and scarcely eats, lives on nothing, in fact, and is
always alone at his little table. What do you think, eh, of the etiquette
which compels him to such loneliness? There you have a man who for
eighteen years has never had a guest at his table, who day by day sits
all alone in his grandeur! And as soon as ten o’clock strikes, after
saying the Rosary with his familiars, he shuts himself up in his room.
But, although he may go to bed, he sleeps very little; he is frequently
troubled by insomnia, and gets up and sends for a secretary to dictate
memoranda or letters to him. When any interesting matter requires his
attention he gives himself up to it heart and soul, never letting it
escape his thoughts. And his life, his health, lies in all this. His mind
is always busy; his will and strength must always be exerting themselves.
You may know that he long cultivated Latin verse with affection; and I
believe that in his days of struggle he had a passion for journalism,
inspired the articles of the newspapers he subsidised, and even dictated
some of them when his most cherished ideas were in question.”

  * The reader should remember that the period selected for this
    narrative is the year 1894. Leo XIII was born in 1810.--Trans.

Silence fell. At every moment Narcisse craned his neck to see if the
little papal _cortege_ were not emerging from the Gallery of the
Tapestries to pass them on its way to the gardens. “You are perhaps
aware,” he resumed, “that his Holiness is brought down on a low chair
which is small enough to pass through every doorway. It’s quite a
journey, more than a mile, through the _loggie_, the _stanze_ of
Raffaelle, the painting and sculpture galleries, not to mention the
numerous staircases, before he reaches the gardens, where a pair-horse
carriage awaits him. It’s quite fine this evening, so he will surely
come. We must have a little patience.”

Whilst Narcisse was giving these particulars Pierre again sank into a
reverie and saw the whole extraordinary history pass before him. First
came the worldly, ostentatious popes of the Renascence, those who
resuscitated antiquity with so much passion and dreamt of draping the
Holy See with the purple of empire once more. There was Paul II, the
magnificent Venetian who built the Palazzo di Venezia; Sixtus IV, to whom
one owes the Sixtine Chapel; and Julius II and Leo X, who made Rome a
city of theatrical pomp, prodigious festivities, tournaments, ballets,
hunts, masquerades, and banquets. At that time the papacy had just
rediscovered Olympus amidst the dust of buried ruins, and as though
intoxicated by the torrent of life which arose from the ancient soil, it
founded the museums, thus reviving the superb temples of the pagan age,
and restoring them to the cult of universal admiration. Never had the
Church been in such peril of death, for if the Christ was still honoured
at St. Peter’s, Jupiter and all the other gods and goddesses, with their
beauteous, triumphant flesh, were enthroned in the halls of the Vatican.
Then, however, another vision passed before Pierre, one of the modern
popes prior to the Italian occupation--notably Pius IX, who, whilst yet
free, often went into his good city of Rome. His huge red and gold coach
was drawn by six horses, surrounded by Swiss Guards and followed by Noble
Guards; but now and again he would alight in the Corso, and continue his
promenade on foot, and then the mounted men of the escort galloped
forward to give warning and stop the traffic. The carriages drew up, the
gentlemen had to alight and kneel on the pavement, whilst the ladies
simply rose and devoutly inclined their heads, as the Holy Father,
attended by his Court, slowly wended his way to the Piazza del Popolo,
smiling and blessing at every step. And now had come Leo XIII, the
voluntary prisoner, shut up in the Vatican for eighteen years, and he,
behind the high, silent walls, in the unknown sphere where each of his
days flowed by so quietly, had acquired a more exalted majesty, instinct
with sacred and redoubtable mysteriousness.

Ah! that Pope whom you no longer meet or see, that Pope hidden from the
common of mankind like some terrible divinity whom the priests alone dare
to approach! It is in that sumptuous Vatican which his forerunners of the
Renascence built and adorned for giant festivities that he has secluded
himself; it is there he lives, far from the crowd, in prison with the
handsome men and the lovely women of Michael Angelo and Raffaelle, with
the gods and goddesses of marble, with the whole of resplendent Olympus
celebrating around him the religion of life and light. With him the
entire Papacy is there steeped in paganism. What a spectacle when the
slender, weak old man, all soul, so purely white, passes along the
galleries of the Museum of Antiquities on his way to the gardens. Right
and left the statues behold him pass with all their bare flesh. There is
Jupiter, there is Apollo, there is Venus the _dominatrix_, there is Pan,
the universal god in whose laugh the joys of earth ring out. Nereids
bathe in transparent water. Bacchantes roll, unveiled, in the warm grass.
Centaurs gallop by carrying lovely girls, faint with rapture, on their
steaming haunches. Ariadne is surprised by Bacchus, Ganymede fondles the
eagle, Adonis fires youth and maiden with his flame. And on and on passes
the weak, white old man, swaying on his low chair, amidst that splendid
triumph, that display and glorification of the flesh, which shouts aloud
the omnipotence of Nature, of everlasting matter! Since they have found
it again, exhumed it, and honoured it, that it is which once more reigns
there imperishable; and in vain have they set vine leaves on the statues,
even as they have swathed the huge figures of Michael Angelo; sex still
flares on all sides, life overflows, its germs course in torrents through
the veins of the world. Near by, in that Vatican library of incomparable
wealth, where all human science lies slumbering, there lurks a yet more
terrible danger--the danger of an explosion which would sweep away
everything, Vatican and St. Peter’s also, if one day the books in their
turn were to awake and speak aloud as speak the beauty of Venus and the
manliness of Apollo. But the white, diaphanous old man seems neither to
see nor to hear, and the huge heads of Jupiter, the trunks of Hercules,
the equivocal statues of Antinous continue to watch him as he passes on!

However, Narcisse had become impatient, and, going in search of an
attendant, he learnt from him that his Holiness had already gone down. To
shorten the distance, indeed, the _cortege_ often passes along a kind of
open gallery leading towards the Mint. “Well, let us go down as well,”
 said Narcisse to Pierre; “I will try to show you the gardens.”

Down below, in the vestibule, a door of which opened on to a broad path,
he spoke to another attendant, a former pontifical soldier whom he
personally knew. The man at once let him pass with Pierre, but was unable
to tell him whether Monsignor Gamba del Zoppo had accompanied his
Holiness that day.

“No matter,” resumed Narcisse when he and his companion were alone in the
path; “I don’t despair of meeting him--and these, you see, are the famous
gardens of the Vatican.”

They are very extensive grounds, and the Pope can go quite two and a half
miles by passing along the paths of the wood, the vineyard, and the
kitchen garden. Occupying the plateau of the Vatican hill, which the
medieval wall of Leo IV still girdles, the gardens are separated from the
neighbouring valleys as by a fortified rampart. The wall formerly
stretched to the castle of Sant’ Angelo, thereby forming what was known
as the Leonine City. No inquisitive eyes can peer into the grounds
excepting from the dome of St. Peter’s, which casts its huge shadow over
them during the hot summer weather. They are, too, quite a little world,
which each pope has taken pleasure in embellishing. There is a large
parterre with lawns of geometrical patterns, planted with handsome palms
and adorned with lemon and orange trees in pots; there is a less formal,
a shadier garden, where, amidst deep plantations of yoke-elms, you find
Giovanni Vesanzio’s fountain, the Aquilone, and Pius IV’s old Casino;
then, too, there are the woods with their superb evergreen oaks, their
thickets of plane-trees, acacias, and pines, intersected by broad
avenues, which are delightfully pleasant for leisurely strolls; and
finally, on turning to the left, beyond other clumps of trees, come the
kitchen garden and the vineyard, the last well tended.

Whilst walking through the wood Narcisse told Pierre of the life led by
the Holy Father in these gardens. He strolls in them every second day
when the weather allows. Formerly the popes left the Vatican for the
Quirinal, which is cooler and healthier, as soon as May arrived; and
spent the dog days at Castle Gandolfo on the margins of the Lake of
Albano. But nowadays the only summer residence possessed by his Holiness
is a virtually intact tower of the old rampart of Leo IV. He here spends
the hottest days, and has even erected a sort of pavilion beside it for
the accommodation of his suite. Narcisse, like one at home, went in and
secured permission for Pierre to glance at the one room occupied by the
Pope, a spacious round chamber with semispherical ceiling, on which are
painted the heavens with symbolical figures of the constellations; one of
the latter, the lion, having two stars for eyes--stars which a system of
lighting causes to sparkle during the night. The walls of the tower are
so thick that after blocking up a window, a kind of room, for the
accommodation of a couch, has been contrived in the embrasure. Beside
this couch the only furniture is a large work-table, a dining-table with
flaps, and a large regal arm-chair, a mass of gilding, one of the gifts
of the Pope’s episcopal jubilee. And you dream of the days of solitude
and perfect silence, spent in that low donjon hall, where the coolness of
a tomb prevails whilst the heavy suns of August are scorching overpowered

An astronomical observatory has been installed in another tower,
surmounted by a little white cupola, which you espy amidst the greenery;
and under the trees there is also a Swiss chalet, where Leo XIII is fond
of resting. He sometimes goes on foot to the kitchen garden, and takes
much interest in the vineyard, visiting it to see if the grapes are
ripening and if the vintage will be a good one. What most astonished
Pierre, however, was to learn that the Holy Father had been very fond of
“sport” before age had weakened him. He was indeed passionately addicted
to bird snaring. Broad-meshed nets were hung on either side of a path on
the fringe of a plantation, and in the middle of the path were placed
cages containing the decoys, whose songs soon attracted all the birds of
the neighbourhood--red-breasts, white-throats, black-caps, nightingales,
fig-peckers of all sorts. And when a numerous company of them was
gathered together Leo XIII, seated out of sight and watching, would
suddenly clap his hands and startle the birds, which flew up and were
caught by the wings in the meshes of the nets. All that then remained to
be done was to take them out of the nets and stifle them by a touch of
the thumb. Roast fig-peckers are delicious.*

  * Perhaps so; but what a delightful pastime for the Vicar of the

As Pierre came back through the wood he had another surprise. He suddenly
lighted on a “Grotto of Lourdes,” a miniature imitation of the original,
built of rocks and blocks of cement. And such was his emotion at the
sight that he could not conceal it. “It’s true, then!” said he. “I was
told of it, but I thought that the Holy Father was of loftier mind--free
from all such base superstitions!”

“Oh!” replied Narcisse, “I fancy that the grotto dates from Pius IX, who
evinced especial gratitude to our Lady of Lourdes. At all events, it must
be a gift, and Leo XIII simply keeps it in repair.”

For a few moments Pierre remained motionless and silent before that
imitation grotto, that childish plaything. Some zealously devout visitors
had left their visiting cards in the cracks of the cement-work! For his
part, he felt very sad, and followed his companion with bowed head,
lamenting the wretched idiocy of the world. Then, on emerging from the
wood, on again reaching the parterre, he raised his eyes.

Ah! how exquisite in spite of everything was that decline of a lovely
day, and what a victorious charm ascended from the soil in that part of
the gardens. There, in front of that bare, noble, burning parterre, far
more than under the languishing foliage of the wood or among the fruitful
vines, Pierre realised the strength of Nature. Above the grass growing
meagrely over the compartments of geometrical pattern which the pathways
traced there were barely a few low shrubs, dwarf roses, aloes, rare tufts
of withering flowers. Some green bushes still described the escutcheon of
Pius IX in accordance with the strange taste of former times. And amidst
the warm silence one only heard the faint crystalline murmur of the water
trickling from the basin of the central fountain. But all Rome, its
ardent heavens, sovereign grace, and conquering voluptuousness, seemed
with their own soul to animate this vast rectangular patch of decorative
gardening, this mosaic of verdure, which in its semi-abandonment and
scorched decay assumed an aspect of melancholy pride, instinct with the
ever returning quiver of a passion of fire that could not die. Some
antique vases and statues, whitely nude under the setting sun, skirted
the parterres. And above the aroma of eucalyptus and of pine, stronger
even than that of the ripening oranges, there rose the odour of the
large, bitter box-shrubs, so laden with pungent life that it disturbed
one as one passed as if indeed it were the very scent of the fecundity of
that ancient soil saturated with the dust of generations.

“It’s very strange that we have not met his Holiness,” exclaimed
Narcisse. “Perhaps his carriage took the other path through the wood
while we were in the tower.”

Then, reverting to Monsignor Gamba del Zoppo, the _attache_ explained
that the functions of _Copiere_, or papal cup-bearer, which his cousin
should have discharged as one of the four _Camerieri segreti
partecipanti_ had become purely honorary since the dinners offered to
diplomatists or in honour of newly consecrated bishops had been given by
the Cardinal Secretary of State. Monsignor Gamba, whose cowardice and
nullity were legendary, seemed therefore to have no other _role_ than
that of enlivening Leo XIII, whose favour he had won by his incessant
flattery and the anecdotes which he was ever relating about both the
black and the white worlds. Indeed this fat, amiable man, who could even
be obliging when his interests were not in question, was a perfect
newspaper, brimful of tittle-tattle, disdaining no item of gossip
whatever, even if it came from the kitchens. And thus he was quietly
marching towards the cardinalate, certain of obtaining the hat without
other exertion than that of bringing a budget of gossip to beguile the
pleasant hours of the promenade. And Heaven knew that he was always able
to garner an abundant harvest of news in that closed Vatican swarming
with prelates of every kind, in that womanless pontifical family of old
begowned bachelors, all secretly exercised by vast ambitions, covert and
revolting rivalries, and ferocious hatreds, which, it is said, are still
sometimes carried as far as the good old poison of ancient days.

All at once Narcisse stopped. “Ah!” he exclaimed, “I was certain of it.
There’s the Holy Father! But we are not in luck. He won’t even see us; he
is about to get into his carriage again.”

As he spoke a carriage drew up at the verge of the wood, and a little
_cortege_ emerging from a narrow path, went towards it.

Pierre felt as if he had received a great blow in the heart. Motionless
beside his companion, and half hidden by a lofty vase containing a
lemon-tree, it was only from a distance that he was able to see the white
old man, looking so frail and slender in the wavy folds of his white
cassock, and walking so very slowly with short, gliding steps. The young
priest could scarcely distinguish the emaciated face of old diaphanous
ivory, emphasised by a large nose which jutted out above thin lips.
However, the Pontiff’s black eyes were glittering with an inquisitive
smile, while his right ear was inclined towards Monsignor Gamba del
Zoppo, who was doubtless finishing some story at once rich and short,
flowery and dignified. And on the left walked a Noble Guard; and two
other prelates followed.

It was but a familiar apparition; Leo XIII was already climbing into the
closed carriage. And Pierre, in the midst of that large, odoriferous,
burning garden, again experienced the singular emotion which had come
upon him in the Gallery of the Candelabra while he was picturing the Pope
on his way between the Apollos and Venuses radiant in their triumphant
nudity. There, however, it was only pagan art which had celebrated the
eternity of life, the superb, almighty powers of Nature. But here he had
beheld the Pontiff steeped in Nature itself, in Nature clad in the most
lovely, most voluptuous, most passionate guise. Ah! that Pope, that old
man strolling with his Divinity of grief, humility, and renunciation
along the paths of those gardens of love, in the languid evenings of the
hot summer days, beneath the caressing scents of pine and eucalyptus,
ripe oranges, and tall, acrid box-shrubs! The whole atmosphere around him
proclaimed the powers of the great god Pan. How pleasant was the thought
of living there, amidst that magnificence of heaven and of earth, of
loving the beauty of woman and of rejoicing in the fruitfulness of all!
And suddenly the decisive truth burst forth that from a land of such joy
and light it was only possible for a temporal religion of conquest and
political domination to rise; not the mystical, pain-fraught religion of
the North--the religion of the soul!

However, Narcisse led the young priest away, telling him other anecdotes
as they went--anecdotes of the occasional _bonhomie_ of Leo XIII, who
would stop to chat with the gardeners, and question them about the health
of the trees and the sale of the oranges. And he also mentioned the
Pope’s former passion for a pair of gazelles, sent him from Africa, two
graceful creatures which he had been fond of caressing, and at whose
death he had shed tears. But Pierre no longer listened. When they found
themselves on the Piazza of St. Peter’s, he turned round and gazed at the
Vatican once more.

His eyes had fallen on the gate of bronze, and he remembered having
wondered that morning what there might be behind these metal panels
ornamented with big nails. And he did not yet dare to answer the
question, and decide if the new nations thirsting for fraternity and
justice would really find there the religion necessary for the
democracies of to-morrow; for he had not been able to probe things, and
only carried a first impression away with him. But how keen it was, and
how ill it boded for his dreams! A gate of bronze! Yes, a hard,
impregnable gate, so completely shutting the Vatican off from the rest of
the world that nothing new had entered the palace for three hundred
years. Behind that portal the old centuries, as far as the sixteenth,
remained immutable. Time seemed to have stayed its course there for ever;
nothing more stirred; the very costumes of the Swiss Guards, the Noble
Guards, and the prelates themselves were unchanged; and you found
yourself in the world of three hundred years ago, with its etiquette, its
costumes, and its ideas. That the popes in a spirit of haughty protest
should for five and twenty years have voluntarily shut themselves up in
their palace was already regrettable; but this imprisonment of centuries
within the past, within the grooves of tradition, was far more serious
and dangerous. It was all Catholicism which was thus imprisoned, whose
dogmas and sacerdotal organisation were obstinately immobilised. Perhaps,
in spite of its apparent flexibility, Catholicism was really unable to
yield in anything, under peril of being swept away, and therein lay both
its weakness and its strength. And then what a terrible world was there,
how great the pride and ambition, how numerous the hatreds and rivalries!
And how strange the prison, how singular the company assembled behind the
bars--the Crucified by the side of Jupiter Capitolinus, all pagan
antiquity fraternising with the Apostles, all the splendours of the
Renascence surrounding the pastor of the Gospel who reigns in the name of
the humble and the poor!

The sun was sinking, the gentle, luscious sweetness of the Roman evenings
was falling from the limpid heavens, and after that splendid day spent
with Michael Angelo, Raffaelle, the ancients, and the Pope, in the finest
palace of the world, the young priest lingered, distracted, on the Piazza
of St. Peter’s.

“Well, you must excuse me, my dear Abbe,” concluded Narcisse. “But I will
now confess to you that I suspect my worthy cousin of a fear that he
might compromise himself by meddling in your affair. I shall certainly
see him again, but you will do well not to put too much reliance on him.”

It was nearly six o’clock when Pierre got back to the Boccanera mansion.
As a rule, he passed in all modesty down the lane, and entered by the
little side door, a key of which had been given him. But he had that
morning received a letter from M. de la Choue, and desired to communicate
it to Benedetta. So he ascended the grand staircase, and on reaching the
anteroom was surprised to find nobody there. As a rule, whenever the
man-servant went out Victorine installed herself in his place and busied
herself with some needlework. Her chair was there, and Pierre even
noticed some linen which she had left on a little table when probably
summoned elsewhere. Then, as the door of the first reception-room was
ajar, he at last ventured in. It was almost night there already, the
twilight was softly dying away, and all at once the young priest stopped
short, fearing to take another step, for, from the room beyond, the large
yellow _salon_, there came a murmur of feverish, distracted words, ardent
entreaties, fierce panting, a rustling and a shuffling of footsteps. And
suddenly Pierre no longer hesitated, urged on despite himself by the
conviction that the sounds he heard were those of a struggle, and that
some one was hard pressed.

And when he darted into the further room he was stupefied, for Dario was
there, no longer showing the degenerate elegance of the last scion of an
exhausted race, but maddened by the hot, frantic blood of the Boccaneras
which had bubbled up within him. He had clasped Benedetta by the
shoulders in a frenzy of passion and was scorching her face with his hot,
entreating words: “But since you say, my darling, that it is all over,
that your marriage will never be dissolved--oh! why should we be wretched
for ever! Love me as you do love me, and let me love you--let me love

But the Contessina, with an indescribable expression of tenderness and
suffering on her tearful face, repulsed him with her outstretched arms,
she likewise evincing a fierce energy as she repeated: “No, no; I love
you, but it must not, it must not be.”

At that moment, amidst the roar of his despair, Dario became conscious
that some one was entering the room. He turned and gazed at Pierre with
an expression of stupefied insanity, scarce able even to recognise him.
Then he carried his two hands to his face, to his bloodshot eyes and his
cheeks wet with scalding tears, and fled, heaving a terrible,
pain-fraught sigh in which baffled passion mingled with grief and

Benedetta seated herself, breathing hard, her strength and courage
wellnigh exhausted. But as Pierre, too much embarrassed to speak, turned
towards the door, she addressed him in a calmer voice: “No, no, Monsieur
l’Abbe, do not go away--sit down, I pray you; I should like to speak to
you for a moment.”

He thereupon thought it his duty to account for his sudden entrance, and
explained that he had found the door of the first _salon_ ajar, and that
Victorine was not in the ante-room, though he had seen her work lying on
the table there.

“Yes,” exclaimed the Contessina, “Victorine ought to have been there; I
saw her there but a short time ago. And when my poor Dario lost his head
I called her. Why did she not come?” Then, with sudden expansion, leaning
towards Pierre, she continued: “Listen, Monsieur l’Abbe, I will tell you
what happened, for I don’t want you to form too bad an opinion of my poor
Dario. It was all in some measure my fault. Last night he asked me for an
appointment here in order that we might have a quiet chat, and as I knew
that my aunt would be absent at this time to-day I told him to come. It
was only natural--wasn’t it?--that we should want to see one another and
come to an agreement after the grievous news that my marriage will
probably never be annulled. We suffer too much, and must form a decision.
And so when he came this evening we began to weep and embrace, mingling
our tears together. I kissed him again and again, telling him how I
adored him, how bitterly grieved I was at being the cause of his
sufferings, and how surely I should die of grief at seeing him so
unhappy. Ah! no doubt I did wrong; I ought not to have caught him to my
heart and embraced him as I did, for it maddened him, Monsieur l’Abbe; he
lost his head, and would have made me break my vow to the Blessed

She spoke these words in all tranquillity and simplicity, without sign of
embarrassment, like a young and beautiful woman who is at once sensible
and practical. Then she resumed: “Oh! I know my poor Dario well, but it
does not prevent me from loving him; perhaps, indeed, it only makes me
love him the more. He looks delicate, perhaps rather sickly, but in truth
he is a man of passion. Yes, the old blood of my people bubbles up in
him. I know something of it myself, for when I was a child I sometimes
had fits of angry passion which left me exhausted on the floor, and even
now, when the gusts arise within me, I have to fight against myself and
torture myself in order that I may not act madly. But my poor Dario does
not know how to suffer. He is like a child whose fancies must be
gratified. And yet at bottom he has a good deal of common sense; he waits
for me because he knows that the only real happiness lies with the woman
who adores him.”

As Pierre listened he was able to form a more precise idea of the young
prince, of whose character he had hitherto had but a vague perception.
Whilst dying of love for his cousin, Dario had ever been a man of
pleasure. Though he was no doubt very amiable, the basis of his
temperament was none the less egotism. And, in particular, he was unable
to endure suffering; he loathed suffering, ugliness, and poverty, whether
they affected himself or others. Both his flesh and his soul required
gaiety, brilliancy, show, life in the full sunlight. And withal he was
exhausted, with no strength left him but for the idle life he led, so
incapable of thought and will that the idea of joining the new _regime_
had not even occurred to him. Yet he had all the unbounded pride of a
Roman; sagacity--a keen, practical perception of the real--was mingled
with his indolence; while his inveterate love of woman, more frequently
displayed in charm of manner, burst forth at times in attacks of frantic

“After all he is a man,” concluded Benedetta in a low voice, “and I must
not ask impossibilities of him.” Then, as Pierre gazed at her, his
notions of Italian jealousy quite upset, she exclaimed, aglow with
passionate adoration: “No, no. Situated as we are, I am not jealous. I
know very well that he will always return to me, and that he will be mine
alone whenever I please, whenever it may be possible.”

Silence followed; shadows were filling the room, the gilding of the large
pier tables faded away, and infinite melancholy fell from the lofty, dim
ceiling and the old hangings, yellow like autumn leaves. But soon, by
some chance play of the waning light, a painting stood out above the sofa
on which the Contessina was seated. It was the portrait of the beautiful
young girl with the turban--Cassia Boccanera the forerunner, the
_amorosa_ and avengeress. Again was Pierre struck by the portrait’s
resemblance to Benedetta, and, thinking aloud, he resumed: “Passion
always proves the stronger; there invariably comes a moment when one

But Benedetta violently interrupted him: “I! I! Ah! you do not know me; I
would rather die!” And with extraordinary exaltation, all aglow with
love, as if her superstitious faith had fired her passion to ecstasy, she
continued: “I have vowed to the Madonna that I will belong to none but
the man I love, and to him only when he is my husband. And hitherto I
have kept that vow, at the cost of my happiness, and I will keep it
still, even if it cost me my life! Yes, we will die, my poor Dario and I,
if it be necessary; but the holy Virgin has my vow, and the angels shall
not weep in heaven!”

She was all in those words, her nature all simplicity, intricate,
inexplicable though it might seem. She was doubtless swayed by that idea
of human nobility which Christianity has set in renunciation and purity;
a protest, as it were, against eternal matter, against the forces of
Nature, the everlasting fruitfulness of life. But there was more than
this; she reserved herself, like a divine and priceless gift, to be
bestowed on the one being whom her heart had chosen, he who would be her
lord and master when God should have united them in marriage. For her
everything lay in the blessing of the priest, in the religious
solemnisation of matrimony. And thus one understood her long resistance
to Prada, whom she did not love, and her despairing, grievous resistance
to Dario, whom she did love, but who was not her husband. And how
torturing it was for that soul of fire to have to resist her love; how
continual was the combat waged by duty in the Virgin’s name against the
wild, passionate blood of her race! Ignorant, indolent though she might
be, she was capable of great fidelity of heart, and, moreover, she was
not given to dreaming: love might have its immaterial charms, but she
desired it complete.

As Pierre looked at her in the dying twilight he seemed to see and
understand her for the first time. The duality of her nature appeared in
her somewhat full, fleshy lips, in her big black eyes, which suggested a
dark, tempestuous night illumined by flashes of lightning, and in the
calm, sensible expression of the rest of her gentle, infantile face. And,
withal, behind those eyes of flame, beneath that pure, candid skin, one
divined the internal tension of a superstitious, proud, and self-willed
woman, who was obstinately intent on reserving herself for her one love.
And Pierre could well understand that she should be adored, that she
should fill the life of the man she chose with passion, and that to his
own eyes she should appear like the younger sister of that lovely, tragic
Cassia who, unwilling to survive the blow that had rendered self-bestowal
impossible, had flung herself into the Tiber, dragging her brother Ercole
and the corpse of her lover Flavio with her.

However, with a gesture of kindly affection Benedetta caught hold of
Pierre’s hands. “You have been here a fortnight, Monsieur l’Abbe,” said
she, “and I have come to like you very much, for I feel you to be a
friend. If at first you do not understand us, at least pray do not judge
us too severely. Ignorant as I may be, I always strive to act for the
best, I assure you.”

Pierre was greatly touched by her affectionate graciousness, and thanked
her whilst for a moment retaining her beautiful hands in his own, for he
also was becoming much attached to her. A fresh dream was carrying him
off, that of educating her, should he have the time, or, at all events,
of not returning home before winning her soul over to his own ideas of
future charity and fraternity. Did not that adorable, unoccupied,
indolent, ignorant creature, who only knew how to defend her love,
personify the Italy of yesterday? The Italy of yesterday, so lovely and
so sleepy, instinct with a dying grace, charming one even in her
drowsiness, and retaining so much mystery in the fathomless depths of her
black, passionate eyes! And what a _role_ would be that of awakening her,
instructing her, winning her over to truth, making her the rejuvenated
Italy of to-morrow such as he had dreamt of! Even in that disastrous
marriage with Count Prada he tried to see merely a first attempt at
revival which had failed, the modern Italy of the North being over-hasty,
too brutal in its eagerness to love and transform that gentle, belated
Rome which was yet so superb and indolent. But might he not take up the
task? Had he not noticed that his book, after the astonishment of the
first perusal, had remained a source of interest and reflection with
Benedetta amidst the emptiness of her days given over to grief? What! was
it really possible that she might find some appeasement for her own
wretchedness by interesting herself in the humble, in the happiness of
the poor? Emotion already thrilled her at the idea, and he, quivering at
the thought of all the boundless love that was within her and that she
might bestow, vowed to himself that he would draw tears of pity from her

But the night had now almost completely fallen, and Benedetta rose to ask
for a lamp. Then, as Pierre was about to take leave, she detained him for
another moment in the gloom. He could no longer see her; he only heard
her grave voice: “You will not go away with too bad an opinion of us,
will you, Monsieur l’Abbe? We love one another, Dario and I, and that is
no sin when one behaves as one ought. Ah! yes, I love him, and have loved
him for years. I was barely thirteen, he was eighteen, and we already
loved one another wildly in those big gardens of the Villa Montefiori
which are now all broken up. Ah! what days we spent there, whole
afternoons among the trees, hours in secret hiding-places, where we
kissed like little angels. When the oranges ripened their perfume
intoxicated us. And the large box-plants, ah, _Dio!_ how they enveloped
us, how their strong, acrid scent made our hearts beat! I can never smell
then nowadays without feeling faint!”

A man-servant brought in the lamp, and Pierre ascended to his room. But
when half-way up the little staircase he perceived Victorine, who started
slightly, as if she had posted herself there to watch his departure from
the _salon_. And now, as she followed him up, talking and seeking for
information, he suddenly realised what had happened. “Why did you not go
to your mistress instead of running off,” he asked, “when she called you,
while you were sewing in the ante-room?”

At first she tried to feign astonishment and reply that she had heard
nothing. But her good-natured, frank face did not know how to lie, and
she ended by confessing, with a gay, courageous air. “Well,” she said,
“it surely wasn’t for me to interfere between lovers! Besides, my poor
little Benedetta is simply torturing herself to death with those ideas of
hers. Why shouldn’t they be happy, since they love one another? Life
isn’t so amusing as some may think. And how bitterly one regrets not
having seized hold of happiness when the time for it has gone!”

Once alone in his room, Pierre suddenly staggered, quite overcome. The
great box-plants, the great box-plants with their acrid, perturbing
perfume! She, Benedetta, like himself, had quivered as she smelt them;
and he saw them once more in a vision of the pontifical gardens, the
voluptuous gardens of Rome, deserted, glowing under the August sun. And
now his whole day crystallised, assumed clear and full significance. It
spoke to him of the fruitful awakening, of the eternal protest of Nature
and life, Venus and Hercules, whom one may bury for centuries beneath the
soil, but who, nevertheless, one day arise from it, and though one may
seek to wall them up within the domineering, stubborn, immutable Vatican,
reign yet even there, and rule the whole, wide world with sovereign



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, more than three millions,* I’m convinced of it,” the prelate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, you may proceed, you may proceed, my dear son,” said he.

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

“And the expenses?” asked Pierre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then for a while they resumed their chat.

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh! yes, Pierina.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  * 1,800,000 pounds. See _ante_ note.--Trans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, they’ll be finished some day!” said Pierre.

Narcisse gazed at him in astonishment: “For whom?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“_Che bellezza! the bellezza!_” the Contessina repeated without wearying.
“That girl, Dario _mio_, is a real feast for the eyes!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  ** That is 600,000 pounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wasn’t his Eminence indisposed to-day?” the young man asked.

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

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

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

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

A cry leapt from the _amorosa’s_ heart: “Dead!”

“No, no, wounded.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tell me,” she said, “you can see me and hear me, can’t you? What has
happened, good God?”

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

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

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

“But in God’s name what has happened?” she again asked him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  * Afterwards Louis XIV.--Trans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pierre admitted it with a good grace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Don Vigilio nodded. “Yes, yes, I know,” said he.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And will his Eminence soon return?” Pierre inquired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, I know, denounced.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But my book, my book,” exclaimed Pierre, “why these proceedings against
my book?”

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

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

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

“Well, what of the temporal power?” asked Pierre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Jesuits!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This revelation brought Pierre’s emotion to a climax. “You are sure of
that?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And Cardinal Sanguinetti?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  * It is from the Dataria that bulls, rescripts, letters of
    appointment to benefices, and dispensations of marriage,
    are issued, after the affixture of the date and formula
    _Datum Romae_, “Given at Rome.”--Trans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Very well, Signor Conte, I thank you.”

“And where are you going so bravely?”

“Signor Conte, I am going to Rome.”

“What! to Rome, at this late hour?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, will it be Cardinal Bartolini?”

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

“Will it be Cardinal Dozio, then?”

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

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

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

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

“The long cassock, the long cassock,” growled Santobono, despite himself;
“that’s all very well, but--”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ah! _Mon Dieu_!” sighed Pierre, “you will tell me so much that I myself
shall end by trembling, and sha’n’t dare to eat anything but boiled eggs
as long as I stay in this terrible Rome of yours.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All right!” Prada answered, “go and look; and meantime we will have a
_caraffa_ of white wine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good-bye, Abbe,” exclaimed Prada.

“Good-bye, Count, a thousand thanks,” was Santobono’s response.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let us keep together,” Pierre somewhat anxiously replied. “My only
acquaintance is with the _fiancee_, and I want you to introduce me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ah!” resumed Narcisse addressing Pierre, “he’s one of those supple,
practical men who care nothing for a smack in the face. It seems that
unscrupulous individuals like himself become necessary when states get
into trouble and have to pass through political, financial, and moral
crises. It is said that Sacco with his imperturba