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Title: Italian Yesterdays, vol. 1
Author: Fraser, Hugh, Mrs.
Language: English
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                                ITALIAN
                               YESTERDAYS


                                   BY

                            MRS. HUGH FRASER

               Author of “A Diplomatist’s Wife in Japan,”
                 “A Diplomatist’s Wife in Many Lands,”
                   “Reminiscences of a Diplomatist’s
                              Wife,” etc.


                                 VOL. I



                                NEW YORK
                         DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
                                  1913



                          COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY
                         DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
                        Published November, 1913



CONTENTS OF VOL. I


  CHAPTER I

                                                               PAGE

  IMPRESSIONS OF EARLY ROME                                       1

    Romance and Companionship of the Past—Rome the Supremely
    Beloved—Pictures and Legends of Her Origin—Migration of
    the Alban Shepherds—Romulus and Remus—Etruria’s
    Civilisation—Whole World Contributes to Rome’s
    Growth—Brilliant Scenes in the Roman World—Rome’s High
    Destiny—Numa Pompilius, the Law-giver—Egeria’s
    Grotto—Love Story of Herodes Atticus and Annia
    Regilla—Early Christianity.


  CHAPTER II

  REMINISCENCES OF MODERN ROME                                   18

    Rome’s Seasons—Childhood Memories of a Roman Spring—My
    Birthday Festival—A Day in the Country—The Appian
    Way—Rome’s Great Wall—An Adventure with the Campagna
    Steers—Campagna Sheep-Dogs—Early Morning Street
    Scenes—The Giardino Colonna—Secluded Italian
    Gardens—Inroads of Commercialism—Discovery of a
    Dream-Garden of the Renaissance—Song of the Nightingale
    in the Lost Italian Garden.


  CHAPTER III

  LAST DAYS OF THE APOSTLES                                      34

    St. Peter’s First Visit to Rome—Wide Scope of His
    Work—Rome Destined to Become the Seat of Ecclesiastical
    Government—St. Peter’s Early Converts—Persecution of
    the Jews—Life in the Catacombs—Simon Magus and St.
    Peter—Peter’s Return to Rome—Nero’s Slaughter of
    Christians—Peter’s Vision—“Lord, Whither Goest
    Thou?”—Preparation for Martyrdom—Last Epistle—St.
    Peter’s Successor—Imprisonment of St. Peter and St.
    Paul—Scenes of Final Tragedy—Crucifixion of Peter—Paul
    Beheaded—Devotion of Their Followers.


  CHAPTER IV

  ROMAN YESTERDAYS                                               51

    The Gods of the Roman World—Leaven of
    Christianity—Measures of the Emperors Against the
    Christians—Nine General Persecutions—Mad Extremes of
    Heliogabalus—Rescue of the Bodies of the Apostles—Tragic
    History of the Appian Way—The Joys of Solitude—How
    Marion Crawford Became the Master of San Niccola—A
    Solitude of Relaxation and Quiet—A Secluded Garden on
    the River in Rome—The Contrasts of Life and the
    Happiness in Hoping—An Artists’ Festival—How a Roman
    Emperor Looked.


  CHAPTER V

  A FEUDAL VILLA                                                 64

    Ancient Beauty of Villa Borghese—A Sylvan Siesta—The
    Woodland of the Borghese—The Heart of the Trees—The
    Borghese Anemone—Vintage Time in the Grape
    Countries—Tuscany, an Atmosphere of Purity and
    Calm—Bunches of Grapes Two Feet Long—Muscatels of
    Etruria—October Festivals at the Villa Borghese—Peasants
    of the Coast Towns—Picturesque Costume of the
    Albanese—Feast in the Private Garden—Fountains of
    Wine—Classic Chariot Races—The Passing of the Feudal
    System.


  CHAPTER VI

  A CHURCH PILGRIMAGE                                            79

    Church’s Pilgrimage on the Feast of the Apostles—The
    Seven Commemorative Churches—The Byzantine Basilica
    of St. Paul—The Apostle’s Tomb—Ostian Way, the Saddest
    of All Roads—The Tideless Sea—Call of the Unknown,
    Gorgeous East—Santa Pudentiana, the Site of St. Paul’s
    First Abiding Place in Rome—Christianity in Early
    Rome—Priest Pastor’s Story of the Pudens Family—Holy
    Relics—Story of the Crime of the Vico Scellerato—The
    Last of the Roman Kings.


  CHAPTER VII

  THE LATER EMPERORS                                             94

    People and Scenes of the Corso—The Collegio
    Romano—Cardinal Merry del Val—Church of the Trinità
    dei Monti—A Picture of the Emperor Theodosius and His
    Son—The Other Boy Emperor, Gratian—The Usurper,
    Maximus—Nobility of Gratian—Finally Overcome by
    Treachery—Saint Ambrose—Fifth Day at St. Peter of the
    Chains—Two Christian Empresses—The Miracle of the
    Chains—High Mass at San Pietro—Latter Days of the
    Pilgrimage—View from Janiculum Hill—Michelangelo and
    Vasari—Michelangelo’s “Visiting Card.”


  CHAPTER VIII

  THE END OF THE PILGRIMAGE                                     118

    Final Function of the Pilgrimage—St. John Lateran—A
    Daring Climb—A Story of St. Francis of Assisi—Dante’s
    Tribute—Rome’s Ghetto—Yellow Banksia Roses—Fair on the
    Eve of the Feast of St. John the Baptist—Early Figs—St.
    Anthony and the Sucking Pig—Rome’s Studios—A Picture of
    Hébert’s—Hamon’s Work.


  CHAPTER IX

  ST. CECILIA                                                   136

    Persecution Result of Covetousness—Steady Growth of
    Christianity—Story of Saint Cecilia—Dress of a
    Patrician Woman—A Roman Marriage—Cecilia’s
    Consecration—Apparition of St. Paul—Cecilia’s Guardian
    Angel—Conversion of Two Roman Nobles—Slaughter of
    Christians—A Declaration of Faith—Condemnation of the
    Nobles.


  CHAPTER X

  MARTYRDOM OF ST. CECILIA                                      154

    A Glorious Martyrdom—A Vision of Heaven—The Bodies of
    the Martyrs—Prefect Incensed Against St.
    Cecilia—Preparation for Death—Her Trial—Her Victory
    and Martyrdom—The Miracle of Her Three Days’
    Ministering—Final Honours—Martyrdom of St. Urban and
    His Companions—Cecilia’s Place Among Martyrs—Her Tomb
    in the Catacombs—Pope Paschal’s Vision of St.
    Cecilia—Cecilia’s Restoration to Her Own Church—History
    of Her Church—The Second Finding of Her Body—Her
    Statue.


  CHAPTER XI

  THE CHURCH UNDER CONSTANTINE                                  181

    Constantine’s Edict—St. Sylvester, the Friend of
    Constantine—Refuge at Soracte—The Emperor’s Vision—“In
    Hoc Vinces”—Constantine’s Baptism—The Church Has
    Peace—Helena’s Basilica—The Blessing of the Golden
    Rose—Origin of St. Peter’s—The Obelisk from
    Heliopolis—Testimony of the Dust of the Martyrs—The
    Place of the Shock of Horses—The Beauty of St.
    Peter’s—Pilgrims from Britain—Charlemagne, the Blessed.


  CHAPTER XII

  STORY OF ALARIC                                               199

    Pursuit of the Ideal—Alaric, the Friend of
    Theodosius—Theodosius’ Dream—The Victory at the
    Birnbaumer Wald—Defection of Alaric—Pictures of the
    Plundering of Rome—Marcella and Principia—St. Peter’s
    Treasures—Plans Against Africa—Alaric’s Death and Last
    Resting-place.


  CHAPTER XIII

  THE SPHINX OF FRENCH HISTORY                                  212

    The Battleground of Europe—The Riddle of “The Man in the
    Iron Mask”—Its True Story—Louis XIV’s Ambition in
    Italy—Plot to Secure Casale—Character of Charles, Duke
    of Mantua—Count Mattioli, His Favourite—Terms of the
    Transfer—Mission of the Count to Paris—Conclusion of the
    Treaty—Mattioli’s Double Dealing—Ominous Delays—The
    Storm Breaks.


  CHAPTER XIV

  TRUTH OF THE IRON MASK                                        226

    Mattioli’s Betrayal of Louis XIV—Participation of Duke
    Charles—Louis’ True Character Exhibited to
    World—Abduction of Mattioli—Imprisoned for Fifteen
    Years—Insanity—Story of the Mask—Mattioli’s
    Disappearance No Mystery—Explanation of the
    Riddle—Mattioli’s Hardships—His End.


  CHAPTER XV

  A “CAUSE CÉLÈBRE”                                             236

    The Defrêne Case, a Drama of Crime and of Justice—The
    Marquis Defrêne—Marie-Elizabeth du Tillay—Elopement—
    Bogus Marriage—Flight to England—Marriage Made
    Legal—The Marquis Tires of the Marriage State—Evil
    Plans—Marie-Elizabeth Forewarned—Adventures of Her
    Flight—The “Penitent” Defrêne—Compromising Letters—The
    Vindication of Marie-Elizabeth—A Judicial Separation.


  CHAPTER XVI

  EUSTOCHIA                                                     249

    A Child of Sin—Born 1444—Her Early Peculiarities—
    Physical Possession by Evil Spirits—Sent to a
    Convent—A Life of Devotion—Eustochia a Novitiate—A
    Supernatural Accident—Belief that She Was a
    Hypocrite—Resignation—The Evil Spirit in Possession—
    Frightful Torments—Evil Portents—A Sorceress?—
    Imprisonment—Persecutions by Invisible Powers—Regaining
    Good Esteem—A Nun—Her Sanctity and Constancy—Her Death
    and Burial.


  CHAPTER XVII

  A SKETCH OF VERONA                                            270

    Personality of Italian Towns—Verona—Its History—Early
    Years—Ezzelino da Romano, Unique in Cruelty—Wholesale
    Execution and Imprisonment—Pope Alexander IV Assails the
    Monster—Ezzelino Wounded and Captured—Suicide—New Line
    of Despots—Cangrande della Scala—Dante and
    Petrarch—Further Lords of Verona—Later History—The
    Drei Kaiser Bund.


  CHAPTER XVIII

  THE BRAVI OF VENICE                                           288

    Fascination of Venice’s Criminal Administration—Lords
    of the Night—Secret Detectives—Degeneration of
    Republic—Hired Ruffians—Their Murderous Activities—An
    Escapade of Pesaro, Paragon of Bravi—Gambara, Last of
    the Despots—Open War Against Law and Order—Final Pardon.


  CHAPTER XIX

  LEGENDARY VENICE                                              298

    Venice, Bride of the Sea—Its Glorious Children—Pledge
    of the Crown of Thorns—The Miracle of Saint Saba’s
    Relics—Intellectual Humility and Faith—St. Mark, Patron
    of the Venetians—Theft of the Saint’s Remains from
    Alexandria—Reception in Venice—Early History—Tales of
    Hardships—The Gate of the Damsels—Legends of the Saint.


  CHAPTER XX

  A DOGE’S LIFE                                                 311

    A Wicked Son—Becomes Doge—His Marriage—Ambitions—
    Venice a Huge Conspiracy—The Palace Surrounded—His
    Fate—Venetian Ideals—Story of a Feud of the Tenth
    Century—Opened with an Assassination—Murderer Upheld
    by the Emperor—Venice Attacked—A Civil War in
    Venice—Uprising of the Citizens—Another Doge—Building
    of St. Mark’s—The Doge and the French Abbot—The Doge
    Become a Monk—A Story of Marion Crawford’s.


  CHAPTER XXI

  “THE WEDDING OF THE SEA”                                      324

    Origin—Venice’s Growth—Treaties with the Emperor—Pietro
    Orseolo Annihilates the Pirates—Welcome on His
    Return—Story of Marco Polo—A Trader with the East—A
    Strange Journey—Bokhara—Capital of Kublai
    Khan—Impressed with Christian Ideals—Return Journey—At
    Home in Venice—Failure of Plans to Convert the
    Tartars—Again in the Far East—Lost for Twenty-five
    Years—Return to Venice with Vast Wealth—A Gorgeous
    Banquet—Marco’s Rehabilitation—Ruskin and the Church.


  CHAPTER XXII

  WAR WITH GENOA                                                335

    Supernatural Recovery of the Apostle’s Body—Ruskin’s
    Account—Origin of the War—Early Life of Carlo Zeno—His
    Conquests—Governor of a Province in Greece—Return to
    Venice—Adventures at Constantinople—Escape of
    Zeno—Tenedos Becomes Venetian—Attack of the
    Genoese—Their Repulse—Carlo’s Popularity in
    Venice—Pisani’s Career—Carlo Routs the Genoese—Peace—
    Carlo’s Fame—His Visit to Jerusalem—Last Scuffle
    with the Genoese—Life in Venice.



INTRODUCTION


It has not been easy to find a title for the collection of memories,
personal and otherwise, which this book contains, but I hope that
the reader will feel that in calling it “Italian Yesterdays,” I have
honestly tried to describe its contents. Recollections of my own
experiences have found a place beside the stories and legends of
saints and sinners long passed away from the land where they played
their parts,—some virtuous, some infamous, but all notable and worth
remembering for the glory or the tragedy of their lives. I have
sometimes thought that we modern people scarcely know how rich we are,
how many and how choice the treasures that History has devised to us,
and which, for the most part, lie unclaimed in her storehouses. And I
have hoped, in opening some of them, to induce others to seek out for
themselves and make their own some of the wonderful tales of love and
valour which shine at us from the pages, not only of the old books,
but from those which the writers of our own day have so wisely and
lovingly compiled for us. In this connection I must acknowledge my own
indebtedness especially to Hodgkin, Dill, Montalembert, Dom Guéranger,
Hazlitt, and Coletta, historians who, each from his own point of view,
make the past really live before our eyes. For the incidents connected
with Pius IX., no better book can be found than “Rome, its Ruler and
its Institutions,” by J. Maguire. In regard to subjects outside the
range of the writers I have mentioned, it is almost impossible to
give my references, as they cover many scattered records not easily
accessible to the public; but the stories, strange as some of them
appear, are all real ones, very carefully collated and verified.

This seems the right place for the withdrawal of a statement printed in
my last book, “Reminiscences of a Diplomatist’s Wife”; and since the
recantation removes a stain from a memory which I have already been
forced to treat none too gently, I make it with great willingness. I
said that Mr. Nathan, the Mayor of Rome, was the son of Mazzini. The
statement has been sharply corrected, both by Mr. Nathan himself and by
a well-known English writer who was Mazzini’s intimate friend. Misled
by what I must call at least a widely accepted impression, I evidently
fell into a grave error, for which I now wish to tender my apologies to
the memory of the dead, and the expression of my sincere regret to the
living, whose susceptibilities I have wounded on this delicate point.

                                                MARY CRAWFORD FRASER.

  _October, 1913._



CHAPTER I

IMPRESSIONS OF EARLY ROME

  Romance and Companionship of the Past—Rome the Supremely
  Beloved—Pictures and Legends of Her Origin—Migration of the
  Alban Shepherds—Romulus and Remus—Etruria’s Civilisation—Whole
  World Contributes to Rome’s Growth—Brilliant Scenes in the Roman
  World—Rome’s High Destiny—Numa Pompilius, the Law-giver—Egeria’s
  Grotto—Love Story of Herodes Atticus and Annia Regilla—Early
  Christianity.


It has always seemed to me that one of the most perfect experiences
within the grasp of mortals would be that of a child brought up in
seclusion by an adored parent, only known to its heart and mind as
such—and to find, on reaching maturity and coming out into the world,
that the beloved one was the ruler of a mighty empire, venerated and
feared by millions of men. How that knowledge would transfigure and
ennoble the memories of childhood, of the protecting companionship
bestowed, the being rocked to sleep in those strong arms, of the sunny
play-hours of childhood’s day watched by those wise and loving eyes!

All this was Rome to me, through many a long year before the doors were
opened and the glory of her was made known to my mind. Then the old
indulgent comradeship, accessible to every mood of youthful joy and
sorrow, became tinged with awe and yet was doubly cherished; it grew a
thousand times more precious, yet, like some holy relic that one wraps
in silk and gold, had to be enshrined with other sacrednesses in the
sanctuaries of memory. One was no longer Rome’s careless child, to whom
all her yesterdays were playthings of equal value with her wild flowers
of to-day. She called—and there was no disobeying the new command. The
nursery door was closed forever, and one took one’s place silently and
gladly in the last, lowest rank of her subjects and soldiers.

From that moment one began to learn, weakly and imperfectly, it is
true. At first the greatness of the new knowledge overwhelmed one.
I remember writing to the great French Prelate who received me into
the Church, that I felt like a beggar suddenly admitted into the
palace of his King, dazzled with the warmth and splendour, yet utterly
ignorant of which way to turn or how to comport himself in those august
surroundings. I fancy others have experienced the like bewilderment,
and happy they, if they fell into such wise and loving hands as
those which were held out to me and finally helped me to fix on a
study which, far from making the most serious of all subjects dry and
unattractive, enriched it with the warmest touches of human feeling—the
holy glory of the true romance.

Such study, such reading, is really within reach of all in these days
of almost universal translation and simplification; but so many know
nothing of how to obtain the right books—so many, indeed, are utterly
unconscious that there is anything to know beyond the few distorted
facts doled out in non-Catholic schools, that even the most unassuming
effort to share these riches with them may be useful and welcome.
Modern life is apt to be a dry, unflowery affair, but that is because
our own laziness of mind permits it to become so. If we choose to take
the past, it is ours; and I defy any one to claim his inheritance
therein and not find a heart-warming thought, a refreshment and a
fragrance for every moment of solitude, a chapter of high romance for
every day of the long, working year!

A romance must be a love story, and of all the love stories of time,
that of Rome is the most marvellous. Certain girl children, we are
told, were born so beautiful that, like Helen of Troy, Lucrezia
Borgia—and she whose soul was of equal loveliness with what the
chronicler calls “the supreme and royal beauty” of her body, Saint
Radegonde, Queen of France, they were passionately loved, passionately
defended, passionately sung, from the hour of their birth. And Rome,
from the hour when the first hut was built on the right bank of the yet
nameless river, when the stones of her first low wall wrote her name on
that predestined soil, has been loved with a personal passion that has
not its like in the world’s history. So, we know, she will be loved to
the end. The very hatreds that have attacked her, the cataclysms that
have exhausted themselves in attempts to annihilate her, the cupidity
and treachery that have bargained for her whom no price can buy, no
hand of man can hold, all testify to the desire of the nations to call
her theirs. Above and beyond the clamours of earth, she pursues her
immortal destiny, “mother of all earth’s orphans” as Byron called her,
the nurse of every noble and humble soul, the home and property of
the poorest, most ignorant Catholic—but no man’s henchwoman, no King’s
chattel; now as in the past, and till earth’s last sunrise, the true
mistress of the world.

Could she be less, marked at her birth for empire, first of nations and
then of souls? What has not been brought to her by tribute humanity
since nature bore her in flame and upheaval, cradled her in sunshine
and nurtured her with balm? Looking at her to-day and remembering her
past, what wonderful pictures are unrolled before our eyes! Let us go
back to the first of which history speaks, and call up the time when
the nameless river flowed past the yet nameless hills that were to
become the judgment seats of the world.

Standing on the outer rim of the Pincian terrace, watching the primrose
die to grey after a sunset in spring, I have gazed over towards St.
Peter’s and tried to see the land as it looked to Rome’s builders, the
shepherds who fled hither from their ruined homes in the Alban Hills
and halted on the southern side of the yellow river, unbridged and
unnamed as yet. For it was surely the river that stayed their panic
flight only eighteen miles from where the twin volcanoes had vomited
fire from the craters that are now the limpid lakes of Nemi and Albano.
Though near, the spot seemed safe for the first night. Doubtless they
told each other that the next day they would find a ford and travel
twice as far again to the low, dark line of the Cimmerian Hills to the
northward. But here, at any rate, was herbage and water for the sheep
and kine they had saved, and unbroken solitude, where, under the rough
skin canopy spread from bough to bough, the women—the few who had found
strength to travel—could nurse their babies and sleep for one night
unmolested by hostile tribes.

So they rested, the younger men keeping watch by the two or three
campfires built to scare away the wolves and foxes. And the morning
came, a morning of March, with a leap of the sun from behind the Sabine
ramparts, and the dew pearled on oak and wild olive branch overhead, on
moss and fern beneath, with the little wild almond trees on the slopes
across the river snowy with newly burst blossoms, while the first lark
soared up towards the sun-shot blue in an ecstasy of song, and the
swallows, just back from the shores of Africa, wheeled lower and lower
and darted upward again, with angry cries, when they found their last
year’s home invaded by men and beasts. They made friends with men’s
dwellings later, and, forgetting the crannies of the woodlands, have
built in the eaves of palaces for many a century now, but I take it
that in swallow sagas those first traditions have been winged down
and are still twittered about, with due respect, when the patriarchs
hold their sky conclaves in the autumn and the spring, and drill the
fledglings for three weeks before the great semestral migration.

From where the tired shepherds had halted on the high land to the
southeast of the river, the empty cradle of unborn Rome would look
very fair in the clear spring morning, and but short debate must have
decided, for those men of few words, that here the gods meant them to
stay. So here, as we can still trace, Romulus, the wolf’s nursling,
marked (after enquiring of the wise men of Etruria as to the commands
of the gods concerning the foundation of a city) the lines for his
wall, ploughing, as the legend says, with white Campagna steers, on
his chosen hill the Palatine, where the new altar, raised over a pit
in which the first-fruits of the year and a handful of soil from each
man’s former home had been buried, already sent up clouds of incense
into the sweet spring air on that memorable 21st of April, 754 B.C.
And Remus, his twin, wolf-nursed like him, was angry that his own hill,
the Aventine, had not been awarded the honours, mocked at his brother’s
commands, and sprang across the mystic furrow, to be instantly slain by
Celer, Romulus’ faithful henchman, thus conferring the baptism of human
blood which almost till our own times was prescribed by necromancers as
the only means of rendering great strongholds stable and impregnable.

It is strange to find that from the very birthday of Rome she knew
how to levy tribute of the higher kind from other nations. When the
frightened Alban shepherds, mostly men little regarded heretofore in
the rich city of Alba Longa, spread their skin tents and then threw
up their windowless cane huts on the banks of the Tiber, Etruria,
a few score of miles to the north, possessed a written language,
learned hierophants, bold and scientific architects, full-grown arts
of surpassing beauty, marble amphitheatres, great cities supplied
with indefectible streams of pure water, and a costly and complicated
system of drainage. Rome sends humble enquiries to Etruria, beseeching
to be taught how to address and propitiate the great gods. Etruria
gladly condescends to reply, and in a given time, though not without
much strife and bloodshed, Etruria becomes first a tributary and
then a vassal of the adolescent Empress of the world, who, through
all the centuries of her after history, repeats that requisition.
Rough, practical, hard-handed, and strong, yet avid of beauty, she
will have all that is fairest and most precious. Her Art consisted in
appreciation; she resolved to possess; the world had to be conquered
to give her what she desired, but the world gave—Greece her sculpture
and painting and poetry, the Orient its silks and jewels and spices,
the South its gold and grain, its wild beasts and hordes of slaves, the
North its furs and warriors, the West its granite and lead; the seas
swarmed with her laden fleets, and the whole known world became a vast
diagram of white converging roads choked with spoils for Rome.

What strange sights those roads must have seen when the long camel
trains came plodding through from Persia with their escort of
black-bearded, ringletted merchants, raising whirlwinds of dust and
eliciting strings of curses from the fair-haired drivers of ox-teams
from Gaul, drawing huge loads of fruit and wine to Roman markets! There
the vendors of jewels, keen-eyed Jews and Syrians, armed to the teeth,
had to draw aside angrily for the passage of bulky wares which one gem
from the tiny silk-wrapped packet in their bosoms would have paid for
ten times over; here comes a richly draped litter with armed horsemen
in attendance—a great noble’s wife? No, only a beautiful woman being
carried to the slave market where she will fetch the highest price.
Suddenly a solitary horseman dashes through the throng at break-neck
pace, heedless of the death his steed’s hoofs may deal. Shall the
Cæsar’s despatches wait for the safety of the common herd? With perhaps
eight or nine hundred miles of road to cover in a given time, the
Imperial messenger sees nothing, knows nothing, but his goal and the
shortest way to it. How they rode—those express messengers! There are
many wild rides on record, but for swiftness and perseverance I think
that of the benevolent Roman official Cæsarius, hastening from Antioch
to Constantinople to intercede for the guilty Antiocheans, is the most
wonderful. I believe it is Theodoret who attests to the fact that he
covered the distance of nearly eight hundred miles through two ranges
of mountains and over much broken country, in six days!

Many a century had to pass before all roads could lead to Rome, but,
while the city was still a mere fortified hamlet, one spot took on the
character which it has kept through the ages and will keep till the
last day. Looking over to the further bank of the river, the builders
on the Palatine could see, as we see to-day, when the sun has sunk in
the west, a long dark ridge rising like a wall to shut out the lower
crimson of the sky. It was wooded then, with oak and pine, though
now there is but one tree left, the “Doria pine,” to mark where the
forest grew. The ridge sunk at its northern extremity, in irregular
undulations, heavily wooded and mysteriously dark, and these connected
it with a chain of low hills which stretched away along the river’s
bank till they were lost in the mist of the Campagna.

The higher ridge very early took on the name of Mons Janiculum; the
further hills were more or less nameless till the Renaissance: but
the bosky stretch between the two was regarded from the first as
sacred ground. Why, one can scarcely say, except for its solitude and
its cloistered verdure. Looking towards it now, one asks oneself if
there was indeed a time when those who gazed westward from the city’s
ramparts at evening, did not behold, across the sea of mist that lays
twilight on the streets while the heights are still bathed in gold,
that immortal outline of a dome, dark, delicate, and definite, between
them and the setting sun? A time when the soil that bears it held only
the oaks and ilexes of the grove where the “Vates,” the unapproachable
hierophants of high, half-known gods, prayed and prophesied according
to their lights? Where the common people came, not too close, and
paused, hushed and trembling, under the great trees, to learn the
wills and ways of the gods? How gladly they must have sped back, ere
night fell, across the one bridge, to their safe, crowded homes within
the walls, to lean together across the olive-wood fire and speak in
whispers of the oracles they had heard, while the baby rolled naked
on the soft goatskin, and the brown-legged youngsters sat on their
haunches, sniffing at the goat’s meat bubbling in the caldron on the
hook, and the good wife brought out the fern basket of snowy cheese
and washed the crisp fennel roots on the doorstep! Were they merely
men of their hands, those first Romans, thinking more of comfort and
safety than of anything else? A writer who could surely speak with
authority tells us that from the first the people of Rome itself have
been innately religious, always conscious or subconscious of their
city’s destiny. Surely to one, here and there, in some portentous dawn
or brooding twilight, the figure of things to be was cast up against
the sky! Did not the slowly-moving clouds sometimes pause over that low
ridge in the west, to mass themselves in the likeness of a dome, the
stars sink down from their courses to foreshadow the gold of a cross?

The Mons Vaticanus, low, and excluded from the city limits, was never
reckoned one of the seven hills; of all the Roman district it was
considered the least healthy part, the land being swampy and subject,
on its lowest levels, to the periodical incursions of the river. The
“Vates,” versed as they were in all wisdoms, doubtless discovered means
by which to preserve themselves from malaria, for this continued to
be their sanctuary, if not their home, for many generations. After
the Romans had, at the prayer of their stolen Sabine wives, become
reconciled with the men of Sabina—and, in true Roman fashion, first
given them part in the land and invited them to assist in government,
and then taken them on as masters—the great Sabine Judge-King, Numa
Pompilius, established himself among the Vatican groves to compile his
books of laws. There he wrote, there he died, and there was buried,
commanding that his precious volumes should have a separate tomb near
his own. “A man’s works live after him;” the site of Numa’s tomb
was mere guess-work, his very existence was scoffed at as a myth,
by progressive historians, till accident revealed the still intact
sepulchre of his cherished writings, precisely on the spot marked by
tradition for some twenty-five centuries. The good law-giver was one
of the revered realities of my childhood; with sorrow I saw his memory
cast away, when I grew up, on the ever-growing scrap-heap of condemned
myths, where the iconoclasts of history throw everything that does not
fit in to their small neat conceptions; he has come back to me in these
later years, and how welcome the towering luminous figure that hovered
so protectingly over my early mind pictures of infant Rome!

One point in his history always puzzled me, the great distance between
his home across the Tiber and the grotto where Egeria, the heavenly
nymph, instructed him in wisdom. That lay in a fold of the Cælian Hill,
and the entire length of the city has to be traversed to reach it from
the Vatican. I used to weave many fairy tales for myself about Egeria
when, as children, we were taken to spend the day in the lovely spot
then known as her “Grotto,” and so exquisitely described by Byron in
“Childe Harold” that there seems nothing left for ordinary mortals to
tell about it. But—I will take the risk of appearing presumptuous and
say that one factor was wanting to Byron for the task—he was not born
a Roman, and his sad childhood, unlike my own, held no memories of
paradisial hours of play and dreaming round the hallowed fountain, and
in the sacred grove.

For sacred the spot remains, although we know now that it was not, as
men thought for many centuries, Egeria’s grotto and Egeria’s grove, but
the shrine and monument of a merely human love, very strong and pure,
the love of a husband mourning a good wife and vowing to perpetuate her
memory in beauty and charity. Since this book is not for the learned,
but for those who, treading the busy walks of modern life, have no time
to pore over history and its romances, I will venture to tell again the
story of this true lover.

During the short reign of Nerva (96-98 A.D.), an Athenian gentleman,
named Hipparchus, fell into disgrace with the still very Greek
government of his native city. I do not know the origin of the trouble,
but Athens always dealt rather capriciously with her great ones, and
we may infer that the great wealth of Hipparchus had aroused envy in
his less fortunate fellow-citizens. His entire fortune was confiscated,
nothing being left to him but an apparently worthless plot of ground
near the Acropolis. This ground his son, Atticus, undertook with
philosophical patience to cultivate, so as to provide some food for the
impoverished family. To his amazement the furrow intended to produce
leeks and cabbages revealed a hidden treasure of gold, buried there in
some forgotten stress of past ages, and so abundant that the young man,
after his first joy of surprise, was filled with terror.

The discovery was portentous and the revulsion of feeling almost too
much for a mortal to bear. However, he had presence of mind enough to
keep the thing secret from all but his own family. One can fancy how,
in the blue Athenian morning, he hastily threw the earth and stones
back over the precious find, and, abandoning spade and ploughshare,
went home to take counsel as to his conduct in regard to it. Did the
old man, Hipparchus, die of joy on hearing of his good fortune? It
may have been so, for at this point he disappears from the story and
returns no more. Atticus remains in possession, but such hazardous
possession! If his fellow-citizens heard of the treasure, they would
wrest it from him; if the Emperor learnt of it, he, as lord of all soil
of the Empire, had the right to claim it for himself. To enjoy it on
the spot or to remove it in secret was equally impossible, and Atticus
wisely decided to throw himself on the well-known generosity of the
Emperor. So he sent him word that he had discovered a fortune on his
land, and humbly asked to be directed as to the disposal of it. The
Emperor, too busy to give the subject much thought, or else pleased
with the man’s honesty, replied that he could use it as he liked. But
this casual authorisation was not enough to calm the fears of Atticus.
Once more he wrote to Nerva, saying that the treasure was too great for
the use of a private person and that he entreated the Emperor to make
known his will in regard to it. This time he received a most explicit
answer, to the effect that his own good fortune had bestowed the gift
upon him and that he was to “use what he could, and abuse the rest.”

Thus fortified in his rights, Atticus did use his wealth royally, and
bequeathed it to his own son, Herodes Atticus, who, forgetting past
injuries, lavished it in ornamenting with splendid buildings the city
of his birth, in all-embracing charities, in providing public games of
the greatest splendour, and in the encouragement of art and literature.
Then, desiring to see the seat of Empire and enjoy the intellectual
atmosphere of the Augustan age, he removed to Rome, and on account
of his great learning and attainments, was appointed tutor to Marcus
Aurelius and Lucius Verus, the adopted sons of the then reigning
Emperor, Antoninus Pius. He left no literary monument of his own for
us to admire, but the clear beauty of the style of Marcus Aurelius is
doubtless due in great part to the early training received from his
Greek tutor.

Standing thus high in imperial favour, Herodes Atticus was enabled
to make a splendid alliance. He obtained the hand of Annia Regilla, a
daughter of the great Julian House, and thus crowned the long romance
of his life by a real love marriage. Annia Regilla was marvellously
beautiful, as good as she was fair, and returned her husband’s
affection by a love as whole-hearted as his own. In an age when
universal selfishness and luxury made it necessary to legislate against
race suicide, she bore Herodes child after child, each more welcome to
its parents than the last. Was ever a man’s cup of earthly happiness so
royally full?

Then it was dashed from him and emptied at a blow. Annia Regilla died
very suddenly when the birth of her fifth child was hourly expected,
and for a time her broken-hearted husband seemed likely to succumb to
despair; but the very magnitude of his grief saved him—in more ways
than one. The Greek desire for concrete expression, the impulse to
embody in visible form the worshipped ideals of the mind, drove him at
first to violent manifestations of mourning which appeared extravagant
and unreal to the easy-going superficial Romans of his day. They took
life pretty much as it came, even as the Romans do now, and the sight
of Herodes Atticus in his black robes, in his house hung completely
with black—where he even removed the flowery-tinted marbles of walls
and pavements to replace them with sombre grey—all this afforded
intense amusement to his fashionable friends.

But he had one enemy. His wife’s brother had deeply resented the
marriage of Annia Regilla to a man whom he considered a low-born
outsider, quite unfit to mate with a maid of his own patrician house;
and, she being dead, the haughty aristocrat gave free rein to his
animosity and accused Herodes of having poisoned his spouse. The
absurdity of the indictment was potent to all, but the outraged widower
insisted upon being publicly tried for the crime. The outcome, as he
intended it should, crushed the calumny forever, the Judges declaring
that his devotion to his wife during her lifetime and the unmistakable
sincerity of his grief at her death were all-sufficient proofs of his
innocence.

The fury of anger roused in him by the attack seems to have recalled
his energies and restored his balance of mind. He quit mere repining,
and swore to erect to his dead such a monument as woman never had
before. The beautiful villa where their happy years had been passed
stood in a shallow valley of the Campagna, some little distance to
the right of the Appian Way, not far from the already ancient tomb of
Cecilia Metella. At that time the land along the Appian Way, nearly as
far as the Alban Hills, was covered with palaces and villas, costly
monuments and beautiful gardens. The home of the wealthy Greek was
remarkable enough to be famous even among these, although he had
chosen for its site a piece of land belonging to his wife, indeed, but
held till then in rather scornful repute. In spite of the fact that
a small temple of Jupiter had stood there from very early times, this
charming valley had been used as a spot to which the “Jews,” otherwise
the Christians, had more than once been banished under very hard
conditions, to punish their contumacy in refusing to sacrifice to the
statues of the gods. Here, says a learned Catholic historian, St. Peter
himself came with many of his flock, during his first visit to Rome,
to take refuge in the subterranean crypts which, hastily dug in those
early years, were afterwards enlarged and extended till they formed an
underground city for the living and a safe resting-place for the dead.

Of Christianity, whether above or below ground, Herodes Atticus knew
little and doubtless cared less. The despised sect aroused but faint
interest in the upper classes, and the most scathing reproaches on
their voluntary degradation were addressed to any of the latter who
joined it or manifested pity for its sufferers. But Atticus had a warm
and generous heart in his bereavement; it is said that he gave away
great sums in charity, and one can scarcely doubt that some of these
gifts relieved the wants of the poor Christians who begged for alms
along the Appian Way, and, as we shall presently see, served the Church
so notably in times of persecution, both before and after the days of
Herodes Atticus. The estate of the latter covered all the ground on the
right from the third to the fourth milestone of the famous road, and
he had vowed during Annia Regilla’s lifetime that he would make it the
most beautiful as well as hospitable of all the suburban villages. Now,
he laid out what was afterwards known as the “Pagus Triopius” in lovely
gardens, baths, and temples, where all his friends, rich and poor, were
invited to enjoy their share of his wealth by an inscription over one
of the gates, which ran, “This is the abode of hospitality.”

After his acquittal from the abominable accusation brought against him
by his brother-in-law, he offered all his wife’s jewels to the Temple
of Ceres and Proserpine, asking Heaven to smite him if he had been
guilty of the imagined crime; then he built her a magnificent tomb in
a garden laid out for that purpose—a garden which he called “The Field
of Sepulchre” and in which only her direct descendants were to be laid
forever.

In reading all the story of this true lover (translated—for Greek is
still Greek to me—from the very full inscriptions found at the Pagus,
and from the writings of Philostrates and Pausanias) I could not help
reflecting how few direct ways true love has of manifesting itself—for
one and the same was the thought of Abraham, insisting on buying and
holding for his very own the field of Mamre, to bury Sara in—and the
preoccupation of the highly cultured Greek to enshrine the remains
of his beloved Annia, where, by all human prevision, they could never
be disturbed. Also, the beloved Annia’s tomb has crumbled into dust.
All that is left of Herodes Atticus’ garden is the ilex grove and the
ruined nymphæum with the broken statue and the clear fountain, which,
as a little girl, I knew as the grotto of Egeria.

But that which, all unknown to Atticus, was even then burrowing and
spreading beneath his beautiful gardens and palaces, the underground
city of Christianity, where the faith lay like rich seed in the dark,
warm earth, _that_ survives, and its ways have been worn smooth by the
feet of thousands of pilgrims for nearly twenty centuries. The rent
bodies and few poor ashes of the “Christian Beggars” of the Appian
Way were never approached save with love and veneration, and, whereas
the slab of exquisite Pentelic marble on which Annia’s epitaph—in
thirty-nine Greek verses—was inscribed, has become part of a public
collection, the name and date, and the rude attempt at a palm branch to
indicate the martyr’s death, stand out as clear to-day on the walls of
the Catacombs as they did when they were hastily scratched in the soft
clay, at some midnight burial under Nero or Diocletian, the envious
though mourning brethren praying “that the Church might have peace,”
but, yet more fervently, that they also might be found worthy if their
own hour must come first.



CHAPTER II

REMINISCENCES OF MODERN ROME

  Rome’s Seasons—Childhood Memories of a Roman Spring—My Birthday
  Festival—A Day in the Country—The Appian Way—Rome’s Great Wall—An
  Adventure with the Campagna Steers—Campagna Sheep-Dogs—Early
  Morning Street Scenes—The Giardino Colonna—Secluded Italian
  Gardens—Inroads of Commercialism—Discovery of a Dream-Garden of the
  Renaissance—Song of the Nightingale in the Lost Italian Garden.


It is time to take breath. So far, we have been living over in mind
the joys and sorrows of certain dwellers near the Appian Way, but
every true story, however fair and fine, seems to run like crystal
beads strung on a dark thread. The shadow of possible tragedy is behind
all things human, and even the happiest tales of old leave one with a
little pang at heart for the black hour of death which came to all the
actors in them sooner or later. One turns with relief to the things
that people wrongly call inanimate—the things of Nature, whose life is
so comfortingly different from our own, so rich in vitality that each
declining season is lifted up and carried on in the arms of the next,
as it were, to return in all its vigour and beauty when the moment
arrives.

To dwellers in Rome the “honied core” of all the year comes with the
first days of spring. Looking back on Roman winters, indeed, from my
later experiences of the season in arctic climates, they were, with
few exceptions, one carol of brightness and sunshine; we spoke of
winter for the sake of putting on our furs and lighting a few fires,
but the violets never ceased to bloom in the open, the shady avenues
of the many villas were not too cool for dalliance, and it was only
when the “tramontana,” blowing over the mountains in the north, turned
the air from balm to crystal, that we had a touch of real winter at
all. Nevertheless, the spring, its opening day marked by the arrival
of the first swallows, was intoxicatingly welcome. The first day of
Lent had put a period to most of the social functions and—such is the
levity of youth—had given us girls time to think of a spring frock or
so. Then, on some March morning, the cry would go through the house,
“The swallows have come!” and thenceforward we lived very much in the
open air. From the time when I was very small it had always been the
same, and even now, at my “far world’s end,” and with five decades
between the “now” and the “then,” the memory of those spring days
goes to my head a little. In a snow-bound land of pale suns and wintry
wastes I can shut my eyes and feel again the bath of sunshine, smell
the bitter-sweet of Campagna thyme and daisy, almost hear the larks
at their singing, the soft bleating of the Campagna lambs, the baying
of the white sheep dogs, the faint piping of the solitary shepherd
boy sitting on the low stone fence while his flock nibbled audibly at
the newly sprung grass. That last is one of the prettiest of outdoor
sounds, I think. The world has to be very still to let one hear it at
all, and then the delicate “crsh-crsh” is like the music of a fairy
March accentuated by the regular moving of the light little hoofs over
the turf.

One such morning comes back to me very vividly. I think it was that of
my tenth birthday, and we had all been taken out to “Egeria’s Grotto”
to mark the festa. I wonder if parents know what a real birthday
festivity means to an imaginative child? Mine came in the outburst of
the Roman April, and, as long as we lived in the old Villa Negroni, was
a perfect carnival of flowers. From the time I awoke in the morning,
an air of joyous mystery pervaded the house. Every servant came to
kiss my hand and bring me a fat posy, sent for to the country, of the
strong farmhouse flowers that did not grow in our garden, marigolds
and marguerites, jessamine and “gagia”—the yellow powdery blossoms that
keep their perfume for fifty years, the whole tied up in a setting of
sweet basil and “madre-cara”—I do not know its name in English—a feast
of clean fragrance—“Cento di questi giorni!” (a hundred of these days)
said every one I met on my way to my mother’s room, for the first thing
to do was to rush into her arms and have her tell me how old I was.
Then, with a handkerchief tied over my eyes, I was solemnly taken into
the big red drawing-room where the rest of the household was already
assembled and led to the place where my portrait hung on the wall.
There was a breathless second of expectation, then the handkerchief
was whisked off, and I saw a bower of white spirea from which my own
picture smiled down at me, above a little table covered with a white
cloth and smothered in spirea, too. Under the foam of the flowers were
all my presents, done up in my dear mother’s favourite parma violet
tissue-paper and satin ribbons. The next hour was an intoxication. It
always seemed as if all the things I had been longing for for months
were collected there. When everybody had been thanked, I was left alone
for a while to examine and exult in my new possessions; then I had to
be dressed in my best clothes for the real crown of the day, a walk
alone with my adored mother, with my pockets stuffed with pennies so
that I could give something to every beggar we met! In the afternoon
there would be a drive out to some point on the Campagna, with a box
of bon-bons to help us enjoy the view, and in the evening the beloved
godfather, Mr. Hooker, always came to dine and help me cut my birthday
cake, a splendid edifice with my name and the date in pink and white
frosting, wreathed in spirea and surrounded by lighted candles to the
number of the years I had attained.

As I grew a little older I preferred to spend the whole day in the
country, and then the place to make for was the so-called Grotto of
Egeria. There was surely solitude, where it seemed as if no one ever
came but ourselves; the outer world was left a thousand miles behind;
the velvet undulations of the lonely valley were all a carpet of short
thyme over which we rolled like the little kids of the goats that
scampered away at our approach. And, best of all, there was the deep
grotto with the broken statue and the shadowy crystal of its mysterious
spring, its sides and vault one mantle of diamond—sprent maidenhair
fern, its moist air and soft green light—a reflection from sun and
grass outside—making it a place where the most light-hearted child
could not but feel the solemnity of something very ancient and very
spiritual. I used to linger there to dream of Egeria, the more than
mortal, less than spirit maid who revealed the lore of Heaven to the
Sabine Sage. I could picture her pale beauty, as she would sit by the
spring and let Numa tell her of all the perplexities and difficulties
of his rule, and very earnestly did I beg her to appear to me too,
but she never came; how could she, when that had never really been her
home? Then I would leap back to earth with a bound and join my brother
and sisters and the little playmates who always came with us, in a
breathless game which began with a mystic incantation I have never
heard except in those days and in my own family. I should be glad if
any one could enlighten me as to its origin, though I fancy it may have
been an inheritance from some witch ancestress. Thus it ran:

    “Intery, Mintery, Cutery, Corn,
    Apple Seed and Apple Thorn,
    Wire, Brier, Limber, Lock,
    Seven Geese in a Flock.
    Sit and Sing,
    By a Spring!
    O, U, T—OUT!”

For every word a head was counted round and round the hand-in-hand
ring, and the unlucky one to whom fell the last one “Out” had to break
away and fly, with all the rest in mad pursuit. Some distant point,
generally the last ilex tree on the far side of the grove, had been
fixed upon as sanctuary; if the fugitive could touch this before being
caught, all was well; if not, he or she was at the orders of the others
for any wild prank they might choose to command—three somersaults down
a steep incline was a favourite one, while the victors looked on and
cheered or derided, as the case might be.

Had our dear governess been of the Faith in those days as she was
later, she could have told us more marvellous and romantic tales
than we had ever heard about our storied playground—the “Triopius
Pagus,”[1] not only of Atticus and Annia Regilla, but of Cecilia and
Valerianus, and Tiburtius, and all the valiant comrades of Urban,
and the immediate successors of his stormy pontificate. As it was,
the classical landmarks were all that the Appian Way held for us,
barring one spot, the “Domine, quo vadis?” of St. Peter, which had an
unexplained fascination for us all. The Appian Way we loved for the
sake of its endless beauties and for the monuments and ruins which
were like a compendium of the history of Rome. A writer that I used to
admire, though time has robbed me of his name, said that the things he
loved best in the world were its high roads; that to look along one of
these and know that it cut its way, in a clean swath, over mountain
and plain, from one end of a continent to the other, was to be free
to travel whithersoever fancy flew, no matter how chained and confined
the body might be. The Appian Way, leading to the favourite seaport of
Brundusium, a distance of rather less than a hundred and fifty miles,
was the true road to Africa, to Palestine, and to all the eastern and
southerly provinces of the huge straggling Empire. It was easier to
sail the sea than to climb and descend the Alps; there are various
records in history of a race, from some spot in the eastern portion of
the Empire, run by accuser and accused, the one by sea and the other by
land, each striving to reach the seat of power in Rome the first; and,
in spite of the capricious storms and calms of the Adriatic, it was
almost invariably the seafarer who won the day.

Starting from the milestone of solid gold, which Rome set up on the
Palatine as the centre of the world and the point from which all
distances were to be measured, the Appian Way ran due south, issuing,
in the early days, from the Capena Gate, which was pulled down and
lost sight of when Aurelian enlarged the city’s precincts and rebuilt
her walls as they stand to-day. Fine walls they were, with their huge
outstanding buttresses at short, regular distances from one another
all the way. The recesses between them were deep enough to shelter a
dozen houses, and were utilised, down to my own time, for the erection
of strong wooden stockades within which riders and pedestrians could
take refuge at the approach of a herd of the fierce Campagna cattle
being driven to market either in Rome or in some town further south.
The Roman oxen look mild and peaceful enough when, nose-ringed and
weighted with the ponderous wooden yoke, they draw the plough or wagon;
but the three-year-old steer, though he is one of the most beautiful
creatures in the world, with his snow-white hide, his startled eyes and
his widely curved, black-tipped, arrow-pointed horns, is a terrifying
customer to meet in his untamed state and with a score or two of his
companions!

It was forbidden of course to drive a herd through the city, but we
often met them in our drives and rides. Once, I remember, riding alone
save for a groom. I was exploring a winding lane, scarcely three feet
wide and cut so deep that even from the saddle I could not see what lay
on either side of it. Mooning along on a gentle little mare, perfectly
happy with my own thoughts, I heard a cry from Tom, the good old
English groom who was temporarily responsible for my safety: “Look out,
Miss! It’s them blooming cattle. Put her at the bank!”

I raised my eyes and saw a forest of horns, like files of spears, the
first pair menacingly lowered, coming round a curve in the lane not
twenty yards ahead of me. How we made the top of the bank I do not
know—the mare quite understood the situation and was as nimble as a
cat—but when we had dropped into the field on the other side we were
both very shaky, and I felt too meek to resent Tom’s curt dictum: “The
high road or the open after this, Miss! Them lanes isn’t safe for the
likes of you!”

He was not my own servant, only an employé of the one English
livery-stable Rome possessed in those days, but if he had seen me grow
up he could not have been more faithful and vigilant for my comfort
and safety. He taught me to ride, and many a delightful scamper
we had together over those ideal stretches of springy turf, but he
never relaxed from his stern contempt of all things not British, and
particularly of Latin equestrianism. I think that and the Englishman’s
incurable homesickness were too much for him, for a year or two later I
heard to my great regret that poor Tom had lost his mind and had had to
be removed to an asylum.

There are other animals, besides oxen, to whom it is well to give a
wide berth on the Campagna—the sheep-dogs. They take their calling
seriously and will let no stranger come within speaking distance
of their flocks. There are two or more to each flock, and when they
scent danger they send up a peculiar howl which summons the guardians
of any others in the vicinity, so that before one knows it one may
find oneself the centre of quite a mob of these formidable creatures,
baying and leaping round one and thirsting for one’s blood. They are
exceedingly handsome, of a pure ivory white, with long silky coats
and well-feathered tails, the head broad at the brow and pointed
at the muzzle in approved sheep-dog style. Brought up at home, they
show great affection for their masters and acquire charming manners,
but as professionals, in the exercise of their duty, they are rather
terrifying. They particularly distrust mounted visitors, and it is more
dangerous to approach them on horseback than on foot. Once, I was out
with Dr. Nevin, the American clergyman, an old cavalry officer and an
enthusiastic rider, who ought to have known every trick of the Campagna
and its beasts, when we stumbled right into a flock of sheep, and the
next moment we were attacked by five or six infuriated sheep-dogs,
barking madly, leaping at our horses’ throats, catching at the skirt of
my riding habit and Dr. Nevin’s long coat in the effort to drag us down
from our saddles. The horses were badly frightened, but managed to kick
quite judiciously, and broke away before either they or we had been
hurt. We had a good run then with the dogs in full pursuit at first;
then they left us alone and returned stolidly to their respective
posts.

Talking of the sheep-dog, whom somebody has rightly called “that bundle
of intelligence,” I would note the fact that he has another delightful
quality rather unusual in big dogs—humour. One of the quaintest
incidents I ever saw occurred in a South Devon watering-place where
we used to spend a good deal of our time. As the clock struck twelve,
one fine summer’s day, a large flock of sheep was driven in at the
upper end of the town, through the whole length of which they had to
pass to come out on the Exeter road beyond. One very old sheep-dog
accompanied them, but just as they had passed the schoolhouse, the
doors were opened and a crowd of little children tumbled out into the
street. The dog saw that the sheep could make but few mistakes in the
straight street, so he deliberately turned back and started to drive
the children after them. Running round and round, barking peremptorily,
pushing the stragglers into place, he got some fifty or sixty little
ones into a compact mass, and drove them along in the wake of the
sheep. The children saw the joke and were immensely amused, but not one
dared to drop out till the old dog, visibly laughing too, said good-bye
with a bark and a wag, and bounded away after his own flock.

I have always wondered why the dogs that accompanied the goats, when
they were driven into Rome to be milked in the morning, were not proper
sheep-dogs, but rather mild-tempered mongrels of every imaginable
variety. I suppose the real sheep-dog would consider it beneath his
dignity to look after mere goats, despised creatures belonging to poor
peasants! Nevertheless, their daily visit was one of the pleasures
of my youth—when I was not too sleepy to get up and look out of the
window towards six or seven A.M. Their coming was heralded by the
soft tinkling of two or three bronze bells hung round the necks of
the leaders of the flocks, and then came the quick pattering of the
little hoofs over the pavement of the Piazza SS. Apostoli. They had
their regular points of call, and that was one of them, in the angle
formed by the side of the convent attached to the Church, and the small
steep street which was one of the outlets of the Piazza. There they
would stay for perhaps half an hour, in the warm brown shade, while
the people from all the houses round ran down with mugs and pitchers
which the goatherd, a handsome young contadino, in peaked hat, goatskin
leggings, and scarlet vest, filled with creamy, foaming milk for about
twopence a quart. I was often ordered to drink it, and the tall glass
overflowing with warm ivory froth was such a pretty object that it made
me forget the rather rank flavour of the draught.

Long before the goats came in, however, the silence of the dawn
had been broken by the strange sad cry of the “Acqua Vi” man, who,
announcing his wares in an almost funereal tone, lured the earliest
labourers and artisans, on their way to their work, to begin the day
with a nip of spirits. He was followed by two “calderari,” or tinkers,
who must have had some secret feud, for they came along within a few
minutes of each other every day on the same beat, and even Roman pots
and kettles do not break down every day. One man announced himself in
deep and hollow tones, his long-drawn “Cal-de-raro!” sounding like a
passing-bell; the other was all that was gay and sprightly, and his
cry was like a ripple of laughter, ending on an impossibly high note.
Then there was the tramp cobbler, the seller of roasted melon seeds
(bruscolinaro), the umbrella-mender, and I do not know how many more;
musical, friendly, familiar, the old street cries gave a great charm to
the morning hours.

At one time, in a certain warm spring and summer, I was taken with
a passion for early rising, and with my mountain-born maid, Adelina,
used to be out and away long before the sun was up, walking for miles
outside one of the gates and enjoying every minute of the divine
morning freshness. The infancy of the day is a very wonderful thing
anywhere, but most of all in my own Romagna, where the glow of the
later hours and the riotous colours of sunset have a ripeness which
blends but too well with the ancientness of the buildings and the
gilded tumble of the ruins that are, and always will be, Campagna’s
landmarks. But at dawn it is all young, bland, mysteriously dewy
and immaculate, tint blending into tint, and shadow shaded through
a hundred indefinable modulations of unborn blue and hinted violet
and cloud grey, that will be plain gold later in the day. One of
my favourite haunts at that hour was the “Giardino Colonna” which
stretches up in a series of terraces from behind the palace just across
the square from the Odescalchi, to end on the Quirinal in Piazza di
Monto Cavallo. On the lower level the gardens can only be approached
from the house, with which they are connected by a series of little
ornamental bridges thrown across a deep and narrow intervening street
utilised as a mews for the palace, but on the hill an imposing iron
gateway, topped by the gilt crown and column which are the arms of
the “Lustrissima Casa Colonna,” gives access to a paradise of trees
and flowers and fountains which is the more delightful because so
unexpected in the very heart of the city.

Italian gardens, though generally planned to give one imposing
spectacle of some kind, with great wealth of statues and marble
balustrades and elaborate formations or quiet stretches of water, are
rich in small sequestered courts of flowers and greenery; the people
who seem to have cared least for privacy in their houses took pains to
make many solitudes in their gardens. Doubtless the desire for shade
from summer heats had much to do with the intricate—apartments, one
might almost call them—which diversify the villas and cut off spot
after spot in an absolute seclusion of high box walls and over-arching
trees, entered only by one small opening somewhere in the otherwise
impenetrable hedge. And, incidentally, the screened shelter thus
afforded has fostered the growth and all-winter blooming of more
delicate flowers and shrubs than could have survived the sudden attacks
of the “tramontana,” in the open. The “Giardino Colonna” was full of
charming surprises of the kind one remembers gratefully in the more
arid stretches of life. One particular morning there remains very
clearly imprinted on my memory, a morning of June, when I was running
about with my small half-brother and sister, feeling very much their
age. I had lost sight of them for a moment, and in seeking for them
broke into an enclosure I had not seen before. Two or three tiny
terraces, bordered with old bas-reliefs, lay just touched by the first
rays of the sun; a delicate mimosa tree, very feathery and fragile,
stood within reach of the spray of a fountain that sent a shaft of
diamonds high into the air; all around was a tangle of Banksia roses
and white lilies, and an ancient sarcophagus of honey-coloured marble
on the top terrace, overflowing with ferns, looked like a golden casket
in the low sunbeams. Every branch and leaf and petal was pearled with
dew and spray, and the fragrance of the flowers in that miraculous
freshness of the morning was almost too sweet for mortal senses to
hear.

It is so funny to see some of our brilliant decadents in art and
literature trying to embody their ideas of the “_joie de vivre_” in
pictures of wild debauch, in mad dances of painted girls and drunken
youths, in reproductions of the entertainments invented to stimulate
the senses of the old Romans and Egyptians—people already half dead
with satiety and incapable of experiencing a single thrill of healthy
pleasure. Five minutes of existence, given a young heart in a young
body, on a summer dawn amid the flowers, outtops their crude imaginings
of the joy of life as completely as the rising sunbeams outshine our
poor artificial lights.

I have been afraid to ask after the “Giardino Colonna” of late years.
So many other Roman gardens have been destroyed by the beauty-haters
who rule the city that I am always expecting to be told that it exists
no longer. The great process of destruction has not been confined to
Rome alone. Only the other day I learnt from a correspondent that the
lovely Villa Doria at Pegli has been swept away to “make room” (in our
half-depopulated Italy!) for a German soap factory! To the vultures of
commerce nothing is sacred. All that is ancient and beautiful is an
insult to the industrial nobodies, with their sordid past and their
ignoble future. The more perfect a spot is the more it arouses their
desire to destroy it and annihilate even its memory by using its site
for the basest ends. After all, everybody feels more at home in a
background suited to his complexion!

I spoke in another book[2] of some forgotten villas that my sister and
I discovered in the vicinity of Rome. One of these has, I have reason
to believe, escaped the notice of the modern vandal, and I have no
intention of revealing to him its name or location. Lying far out of
the city, in a depression of the Campagna, it is invisible till one is
close upon it, and we had passed near it hundreds of times before an
accident revealed its existence to us. The very road to it is unmarked
on the guide-book maps, and even from the road little is to be seen
through the iron gate in the high brick wall save a formal court
overgrown with grass, and a long low house, of graceful architecture,
but much defaced by time and weather. Something of a mournful dignity
in its aspect attracted us, and my sister suggested that we should
alight from the carriage and see if we could get in. After ringing
many times at the iron gate, we saw an alarmed contadino regarding us
suspiciously from a corner of the house, evidently uncertain as to our
character and motives. We lost no time in explanations, but promised
him a lira if he would open the gate, whereupon he took courage, came
and examined us more closely, and, seeing only two young girls with a
private carriage and a respectable family coachman smiling in amusement
at our enthusiasm, the guardian of the place relented and let us in.

Then we realised what we had found. That which we had taken for the
front of the house was only its back, turned, Moorish fashion, to the
public road. Its front, all balconies and arches and tall old windows,
looked towards the southeast, and from the first terrace, with its
supporting colonnade, the ground sloped away in ever-widening spaces of
wild greenery intersected with thick avenues of ilex trees that twisted
away and lost themselves in dells beyond our view. The house really
stood high, and was placed just where an opening in the undulations
beyond gave a wide view of the Campagna stretching away to Tivoli and
the Sabine Hills; but a moment after stepping down from that first
terrace the outside world vanished and we found ourselves in one of
the dream-gardens of the Renaissance, where it seemed as if no foot had
trod for the last hundred years. The ilexes, all untrimmed, had united
in dense roofs over the grass-grown avenues; the syringa had everywhere
so interwoven itself with the high box hedges that these were now three
and four feet thick and all abloom in their impenetrable interstices
with white stars of sweetest perfume, mingling with the white cups of
morning glories, unearthly pure and scentless, like the love prayers of
a little nun.

In ecstatic silence we went on and on, catching glimpses, through the
rare openings in the green walls on either hand, of broad enclosures
all a riot of flowers and grasses in the afternoon sun. It must have
been at least a hundred years since the sun had struck through the
many-tiered roof over our heads to touch the brown soil, bedded down
with the leaves and acorns of a hundred autumns, under our feet. The
shade that never could be shadow seemed painted in—a viewless veil
of clear grey-brown, broken to an oval of gold where an archway in
the hedge let in the westering sun. I had gathered a handful of ilex
acorns, those delicate gems of polished grey-green set each in its
fretted cup of colder grey—when a turn in the avenue brought us to
a standstill before a statue on a pedestal—a young god in very old,
dappled marble, his arms stretched out, his head thrown back, as if
calling despairingly after some vanished worshipper. The deep greenery
rose in an arch above him, the green walls shrank back to make a niche;
the clear, colourless light touched his face and limbs almost to life
as we looked at him—and then his appeal was answered. From some unseen
point close to us there burst forth such a torrent of heart-broken
song as can only come from the throat of an Italian nightingale in the
solitude of a lost Italian garden. The silver notes went soaring to
heaven and fell back in a rain of music like audible tears. Then, from
far away, a sister Philomel took up the strain, another and another
broke in and linked it on, till all the air was a delirium of music,
wild and sweet and thrilling—going up from the little brown throats,
without money and without price.

The nightingales’ hour had come, and we, poor human intruders, crept
away silently and left the lost garden to them.



CHAPTER III

LAST DAYS OF THE APOSTLES

  St. Peter’s First Visit to Rome—Wide Scope of His Work—Rome
  Destined to Become the Seat of Ecclesiastical Government—St.
  Peter’s Early Converts—Persecution of the Jews—Life in the
  Catacombs—Simon Magus and St. Peter—Peter’s Return to Rome—Nero’s
  Slaughter of Christians—Peter’s Vision—“Lord, Whither Goest
  Thou?”—Preparation for Martyrdom—Last Epistle—St. Peter’s
  Successor—Imprisonment of St. Peter and St. Paul—Scenes of Final
  Tragedy—Crucifixion of Peter—Paul Beheaded—Devotion of Their
  Followers.


The perusal of the histories of Rome, both ancient and modern, inspires
the reader with amazement, when he realises that, despite countless
invasions, destructions, and changes, certain apparently obscure
landmarks of events which took place in the city during the first
century after Christ, still exist, uneffaced and unforgotten. Yet so
it is, particularly in regard to those connected with the sojourn of
St. Peter in Rome. The devout pilgrim may visit them to-day with as
little doubt as to their identity as did his ancestor in the Faith
nearly two thousand years ago. The Apostle’s first visit to Rome took
place, according to St. Jerome, Eusebius, and the old Roman Calendar
of Bucherius, in the year 45 of our era. Among illiterate sectarians
it was still attempted, when I was young, to uphold the theory,
invented by the so-called Reformers, that he had never been in Rome
at all. Our separated brethren have since grown more enlightened and
do not like to be reminded of that contention, annihilated again and
again even by their own historians, notably by Baratier, a Protestant
divine who published his “Chronological Inquiry” relating to the
Bishops of Rome, from Peter to Victor, at Utrecht, in 1740, and by
the learned Protestant Bishop Pearson, who had preceded him in the
task of demonstrating incontrovertibly that St. Peter had held that
See for many years. On the dispersion of the Apostles after the
first persecution in Jerusalem, St. Peter had reserved the perilous
enterprise of the conquest of “Babylon” (as the seat of empire was
at that time called by the Christians) for himself, but there was
other and nearer work for him to accomplish first, and it was only
some twelve years later that he found it possible to carry out his
intention.

In the meantime he had travelled and preached unceasingly in Asia
Minor, where during those years he organised and held the Bishopric
of Antioch, the third greatest city of the Empire. From thence he
instituted the See of Alexandria, of which he constituted St. Mark
the Bishop, at the same time decreeing that Alexandria should be
the second church of the world, taking precedence of Antioch, which
thenceforth ranked as the third.[3] There had evidently never been
any doubt in his mind that Rome was to be the first, the seat of
ecclesiastical government, long prepared for that destiny by the
decrees of Providence, carried out, as sealed orders, by her conquering
armies abroad, and by the perfection of her far-reaching yet completely
centralised system of organisation at home. We all know that the actual
computation of the Christian era is a slightly faulty one, owing to the
great laxity and confusion prevailing in the chronology of the Empire
at the time of the birth of Christ. But, this much is certain—that some
twelve years after the ascension of our Lord, St. Peter came to preach
the Faith in Rome. St. Leo the Great (440 A.D.), in his splendid sermon
on this subject, describes how the capital of the Empire, “ignorant
of the Divine Author of her destinies, had made herself the slave of
the errors of all the races, at the very moment when she held them
under her laws. She thought she possessed a great religion because
she had accepted every falsehood, but the more closely she was held in
durance by Satan the more marvellously was she delivered by Christ.”
Then, after narrating the partition of the evangelisation of the world
among the Apostles, he exclaims: “And dost thou not fear, Peter, to
come alone into this city? Paul, the companion of thy glory, is still
occupied in founding other Churches; and thou, thou dost plunge into
this forest peopled with wild beasts, thou treadest this ocean, whose
depths growl with tempests, with more courage than on the day when thou
didst walk on the waters towards thy Lord! And thou fearest not Rome,
the mistress of the world, thou who, in the house of Caiaphas didst
tremble at the voice of a serving maid? Was the tribunal of Pilate, or
the cruelty of the Jews, more to be feared than the power of a Claudius
or the ferocity of a Nero? No, but the strength of thy love triumphed
over fear, and thou didst not count them terrible whom thou hadst been
commanded to love.”

Would that some faithful companion had written down for us some details
of that first arrival of St. Peter in Rome! Did he come by sea to
Ostia, or to Parthenopeia, like St. Paul? That seems the more likely
conclusion, as, given fair winds, it was the route usually taken from
the parts of Palestine or Asia Minor. But what must have been his
feelings when, from far off, he first beheld the gorgeous, insolent
city, towering in gold and marble on its seven hills, swarming with
its two million inhabitants, of whose very language he was ignorant!
Did some of the few brethren then come out to meet him, as they did
St. Paul, later? If he entered by the Ostian Way, he must have passed
quite near to the spot which was to witness their double martyrdom
twenty-five years afterwards. All we know is that his intrepid soul was
not affrighted at the wealth and splendour of the hostile city which he
meant to win back to his Master before his own labours should cease.
From that day, although he had to leave it again and again to attend
to the churches elsewhere, Rome was his home, his especial fold, the
centre of Christendom, and the Holy City of generations to come, since
Jerusalem had forfeited that title forever.

It was not to the owners of Rome, but to the thousands of poor Jews
who had been brought there as captives, that St. Peter first came to
preach. Already they were the despised hewers of wood and drawers of
water for their enemies, and had managed, very early in their sojourn,
to rouse the ire of their Roman masters. At first the Christian
converts in Rome were entirely drawn from their ranks, and the Romans
called them all “Jews,” and occasionally banished them, as I have said
elsewhere, from the city, to that spot, near the Porta Capena, which
afterwards became the headquarters of the Church through centuries
of persecution. Here, at least, they could do as they liked, and no
one seems to have taken exception to their commencing that series of
widely spreading underground labyrinths known now as the Catacombs,
and usually regarded, quite mistakenly, as having been intended solely
for purposes of sepulture. That was provided for as one of its great
objects, certainly; but there were Churches where crowds could kneel
together in worship round the tomb of some illustrious martyr; and
there were halls and chambers as well, where, as after history showed,
whole communities could live for weeks or months when it was not safe
for Christians to show their faces above ground.

St. Peter had it from his Master’s lips that he should follow Him
in the manner of His death, but the day fixed by the Lord for that
“birthday” (as the Christians called martyrdom) was hidden from him
till almost the end. He was away from Rome when he heard that his once
defeated adversary, the wizard-impostor, Simon Magus, was revelling
there in the favour of Nero, and regarded by all as almost, if not
actually, a god. The calling of the necromancer appealed strongly
to Pagan sympathies at that time, and Nero was only too delighted to
possess himself of the services of the famous magician. He showered
gifts upon him, brought him to live in his own palace, and caused,
or permitted a statue of him to be erected, of which the inscription
attested his supposed divinity. So Simon Magus was the chief favourite,
and was exercising whatever he had of unholy power, to make himself
necessary to the Emperor and feared by the people. Although the
fiercest of persecutions was raging, St. Peter at once came back to
Rome to confront and confound the diabolical impostor, even as he had
done in Samaria, years before, when he (from whom all traffic in holy
things was named) offered the Apostles money if they would impart to
him the power conferred on them by the Holy Ghost.

Nero, after reigning for five years with unusual mildness for those
times, had, with the murder of his mother, Agrippina, inaugurated a
carnival of slaughter, and the Christians were suffering terribly. St.
Peter hastened to sustain their courage and also their faith, fearing,
as we are told, that the weaker brethren might be led astray by the
skill of the magician, who, like all his kind, could sometimes command
the powers of darkness and was able to supplement them by trickery when
they failed him.

St. Peter feared for the flock over whom he had ruled in person for
some twenty-five years, so, as St. Jerome and other great authorities
tell us, he made all the speed he could, and arrived in Rome to find
the persecution at its height. It was at this time that she who had
been Peter’s wife in his youth, but whom, ever since the hour when
he was called by the Lord, he had regarded as a sister, and who had
followed to minister to him in his wanderings, was led forth with
other Christians to martyrdom. St. Clement of Alexandria describes the
scene, and tells us that, as they passed before St. Peter, who had been
blessing them and praying for them, his last farewell to this faithful
woman was summed up in three words, “Oh, _remember the Lord_!”

All the love and longing of Peter’s heart, all the tender memories
of the Redeemer’s blessed presence in their own house, were in the
cry. She passed on, and won her crown first, but the Apostle had
but a little while to wait for his. Simon Magus, crazed with pride,
had promised to give the Emperor the most magnificent proof of his
supernatural powers—he should behold him fly to heaven! Nero was
delighted. A high and richly decorated scaffolding was erected, from
which the Mage was to take his flight; a throne was raised opposite
to it, whence his patron could watch his triumph; and the whole city
crowded to the spot to witness and applaud.

Not far off in the crowd some poorly clad “Jews” surrounded an old
man called Peter, who knelt and prayed—prayed fervently that God would
confound the wicked and not permit His servants to be deluded by the
snares of the Evil One.

The great moment came. After pompous orations and loud acclaims, Simon
Magus leapt from the scaffolding—and fell, a mangled heap, at the
feet of Nero, whose face and garments were sprinkled with his blood.
He lingered for two or three days and then expired miserably. The
superstitious Emperor believed that magic had been pitted against magic
to compass his own humiliation and his favourite’s downfall. Who was
the offender? Then some courtier pointed out the grey-haired man with
the tear furrows in his cheeks, now returning thanks to God, and from
that time the doom of the Apostle was sealed.

Not at once did the tyrant’s servants succeed in laying hands on St.
Peter. The Christians, ready enough themselves to face martyrdom and
rejoin the victors who had gone before, could not reconcile themselves
to the loss of the beloved Shepherd of their souls, and urged him, with
wild entreaties, to flee to safety. He was still needed, they said;
it could not be God’s will that the Church should be left desolate of
his sustaining presence in such evil times. Sorely against his will he
consented to leave the city, but, as he chose the Appian Way for his
flight, it is clear that he only contemplated remaining hidden for a
time in the subterranean retreats of the Pagus Triopius; had he meant
to reach the coast, he would have taken the road to Ostia, emerging
from the opposite and lower end of the town. In the very first years
of his Pontificate in Rome, an edict of Claudius had banished the
“Jews” from the city and it is believed that St. Peter accompanied them
in their exile to this spot, and he would naturally turn to it in an
emergency.

But, a little beyond the first milestone, the Apostle’s steps were
arrested by a vision which must have filled him with joy and yet wrung
his heart with memories of pain.[4] One came towards him through the
dusk, bearing a cross. The never-to-be-forgotten eyes once more looked
into his. We can almost hear now the wild cry of the Apostle—“Lord,
whither goest Thou?”

“To Rome to be crucified anew,” was the answer.

The vision faded away, and, with a heart breaking with joy and love,
the Apostle retraced his steps and told the faithful of the Lord’s
will, now so clearly revealed. “The Prince of Pastors” had spoken.
The hour for which His great vicar had waited so long was at hand—the
martyrdom for which he thirsted, already prepared. The weeping brethren
went out to see the place where Christ had met their Spiritual Father,
and found there the impress of the Saviour’s blessed foot upon the
stone. Later a church[5] was erected at the spot, but at that time all
that was possible was to cover the sacred footprint and mark the site
for veneration. (This stone was afterwards removed to the Church of
St. Sebastian, but a copy of it is still kept at Domine Quo Vadis.)
Every trace of the history of the Faith was so inexpressibly dear to
those loving hearts! One disciple, who must have followed St. Peter at
a distance on that memorable night, found in the path a little bandage
which had detached itself from his foot (were his feet sore and cut
from the many weary steps that the saving of souls had cost him?)
and this was reverently treasured, and a Basilica called “In Titulus
Fasciolæ,” and now known as the Church of SS. Nereus and Achilleus, was
erected in after years to mark the spot and guard the humble souvenir.

All this happened apparently in the month of September or October.
Within a year, at most, the mourning Christians, led by Clement,
Peter’s successor, put up the marble tablet—found in 1911—a small
tablet of greenish marble, on which these words were inscribed:

“Here the Blessed Peter absolved us, the elect, from the sins
confessed.”

But what a chapter of history had been written between! St. Peter
returned to the city and disposed all things for his death. His
first care was to write his second Epistle General, his last will and
testament, and his farewell to the faithful. “In a little while,” he
says, speaking of his mortal body, “this my tent will be folded away,
as was signified to me by the Lord Himself,” thus evidently referring
to the vision on the Appian Way. Only the words of our Divine Lord
surpass in majesty and tenderness that last Epistle of St. Peter.
Heaven was very near as he wrote it, the celestial melodies were
already in his ears, the recent apparition of his Master had filled his
heart with love and longing almost too great to be borne, but that love
translates itself into the most tender parental care for the children
he was leaving behind. With what tears and devotion must the letter
have been received in the different Churches that had known his care,
when it came to them accompanied by the news of his death!

More important even than his farewell to his children was the matter of
appointing his successor, the second of the long line of which our own
beloved Pius X is the present representative. Although Linus had been
for ten years St. Peter’s fervent auxiliary Bishop, his right hand in
the government of the Church, whose vast growth had made it necessary
in turn to appoint Cletus as auxiliary to Linus, the Apostle passed
over them and chose Clement to immediately succeed him as the Vicar
of Christ.[6] Clement with his noble name, his great gifts, and his
eminent holiness, was the man needed in Rome at that moment, and, as
Tertullian and St. Epiphanius attest, was at this time consecrated by
St. Peter and then solemnly installed by him as head of the Universal
Church.

Then came the beginning of the end, but the first stage was a long
and weary one. St. Paul, it appears, besides his reported share in
the downfall of Simon Magus, had drawn upon himself the furious wrath
of Nero by converting two of his favourites in the palace itself,
one a concubine, the other a chamberlain in close attendance on his
person. His doom was pronounced at the same time as that of St. Peter,
though the manner of their end was not at once decided upon. St. Paul
was removed from the house in the Via Lata (now the Church of Santa
Maria in Via Lata) and, with St. Peter, was thrown into the Mamertine
Prison, and kept there for eight months. The very name of this dungeon
still brings back to me a chill of fear when I hear it pronounced,
for to me it was the most terrible spot in all Rome. Deep under the
eminence which is crowned by the Capitol is a chamber cut in the
rock, unlighted, unaired, and lined with the huge uncemented blocks
which date from Rome’s prehistoric times; a prison dreadful enough by
itself, but there is worse below. A square aperture in the floor, just
large enough for a man’s body to pass through, gives access to another
dungeon excavated beneath it, a pit of blackness, where Jugurtha and
many other poor wretches, condemned to die by violence or starvation,
moaned their lives away, before it was honoured by the presence of the
Apostles. They were let down into it by a rope, and the men who were
lowering St. Peter carried out their task with such brutal roughness
that they knocked his dear head violently against the wall, in his
descent. The wall must have been less hard than their hearts, for it
took the impression, and the mark has been kissed for close on two
thousand years by the lips of ardent pilgrims. I remember touching it,
when, as a child, I saw it first, and receiving the most extraordinary
thrill of a living reality of some kind. There is now a staircase by
which to descend to the lower prison, but in my early days there was
only a rough ladder leading into what, in spite of the guardian’s
taper, showed as a black abyss. The place is thirty feet long and
twenty-two wide, with a height of sixteen feet, and was often crowded
with captives. We do not know how many it contained when the Apostles
(probably not on the same day) were brought there; stagnant water
covered the floor, and fetid odours made the air a poison, but where
St. Peter’s feet first touched the pavement a spring of clear water
bubbled up, and was running gaily when I visited the spot. We know that
St. Peter and St. Paul converted and baptised forty-seven persons in
this den, besides the two captains of their guards, St. Processus and
St. Marcellianus, so that the little spring served for the most noble
ends.

The damp cold of the dungeon is so deathly that the Apostles’ lives
must have been preserved as by a miracle through those terrible eight
months. They had bidden farewell to the light in the golden days of
autumn; they came forth to meet its blinding radiance in the dazzle of
June. Quickly the news spread among the Christians, ever eager to hear
how it fared with their revered Pastors; and already, when these had
but just emerged from their dungeon, loaded with chains and under a
heavy guard, the intrepid crowd had formed in procession to accompany
them to their triumph. Their sentences were already pronounced. St.
Peter, the poor Jew, was to be scourged and crucified; St. Paul’s Roman
citizenship forbade these humiliations; he was to be beheaded.

It is a long way from the Capitol to the Ostian gate and the Vatican,
and the Apostles’ limbs, cramped from long confinement, must have
moved slowly and wearily over the Via Sacra, now, for the first time,
deserving of its name; the heat at that time of year is overpowering,
and the blaze of midday beat down upon their heads. At a certain point,
about three-quarters of a mile from the present gate of St. Paul, the
cortège halted and divided itself into two, and here the Fathers of all
Christianity bade one another farewell—for the few hours which must
pass before they should be reunited “in the Lord.” The little chapel
which marks the spot bears this inscription:[7]

   “In this place SS. Peter and Paul separated on their way
   to Martyrdom, and Paul said to Peter, ‘Peace be with thee,
   Foundation of the Church, Shepherd of the flock of Christ,’ and
   Peter said to Paul, ‘Go in peace, Preacher of good tidings and
   Guide of the salvation of the just.’”

The soldiers who had charge of St. Paul led him away to the westward,
to a spot whither, as St. Clement gives us to understand, the Emperor
Nero deigned to come to enjoy the sight of his sufferings. St. Peter’s
escort had been commanded to bring him to the Vatican hill, the old
place for Christian executions, easy for the people to find, because
of a very ancient terebinth tree which had stood there for hundreds
of years and was a popular landmark. The murderers, when they were
authorised ones, as in this case, always sought to give the greatest
publicity to such executions, hoping (very much against hope, one
would think) that the victims’ courage would give way and fear induce
apostasy at the last moment; or, failing that, that the sight of their
torments would deter others from embracing Christianity.

So St. Peter, praying and rejoicing, was first scourged after the
cruel Roman manner, and then both bound and nailed to his cross, head
downward by his own request, since he said he was not worthy to die
like his Lord. The blood that flowed from his wounds was gathered on
linen cloths by the weeping Christians, who stood around him for the
long hours he hung there.

The ancient antiphon which used to be sung on the Feast, thus describes
the martyrdom of St. Peter:

   “As they were leading Peter the Apostle to the cross, he, filled
   with a great joy, said: ‘I am not worthy to die on the cross like
   my Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, while I was formed
   of the clay of the earth; therefore, my cross must show my head
   to the ground.’”

So they reversed the cross, and nailed his feet at the top and his
hands at the base. While Peter was on the cross there came a great
multitude, cursing Cæsar, and there was great lamentation before the
cross.

Peter, from the cross, exhorted the people, saying: “Weep not, but
rejoice with me, because I go to-day to prepare a place for you.”
And having thus spoken he said: “Good Shepherd, I thank Thee that the
sheep Thou didst confide to me take part in heart with my sufferings; I
beseech Thee that they may also take part with me in Thy grace for all
eternity.”

‘Tis said that he repeated over and over in his heart that humble
protestation, “Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee!” And when at last
his praying and blessing ceased, and the beloved face turned grey and
stiff, they took him down, washed the stains away from those furrows
that the tears of repentance for his denial had been scoring in his
cheeks for nigh on forty years, closed the eyes that had looked on the
Lord and had been such wells of sorrow and contrition, and buried his
blessed body close by, in the stricken soil that the Romans had learnt
to shun.

And “by the power of this other cross, raised in Rome, Babylon became
that day the Holy City, while Zion must forever rest under malediction
for having crucified her Saviour. Rome may reject the Man-God as she
will, she may shed His blood in that of His martyrs, but no crime of
hers can avail against the tremendous fact accomplished in this hour;
the cross of Peter has transferred to her all the rights in the Cross
of Jesus,—it is she who is now Jerusalem.”

... “This tribute of death, Levi knew it not; this dower of blood,
Jehovah demanded it not of Aaron; men die not for a slave—and the
Synagogue was not the Spouse.”[8]

The Vatican crypt which received the body of St. Peter immediately
after his martyrdom, was excavated under a temple of Apollo, the deity
supposed to preside over public games, near the old circus of Nero.
By the year 89 or 90 A.D., when St. Peter’s fourth successor, St.
Anacletus, became Pontiff, during the reign of the Emperor Domitian,
one is led to suppose that this temple was more or less forsaken
as a place of pagan worship, since Anacletus was able to “build,”
as the phrase runs, a tiny oratory, just large enough for two or
three persons to kneel in, around the tomb of St. Peter. Here again,
apparent accident served the ultimate designs of Providence in regard
to this fore-hallowed site. The Christians desired greatly to deposit
the Apostle’s remains in the deep and secret excavations, already
crowded with the bodies of martyrs, near the fourth milestone on
the Appian Way, the vaults which had more than once afforded refuge
to the persecuted brethren and to the Apostle himself. But with the
persecution that was raging at the moment of his death, it would have
been impossible to transport the body without attracting notice, so
the nearest spot was chosen, regardless of the fact that it was in the
close neighbourhood of a number of pagan tombs. As we shall see later,
this humble resting-place was threatened with desecration in its turn,
and was emptied of its treasure for many years in favour of the more
distant cemetery.

The martyrdom of St. Peter attracted little notice except from the poor
Christians who gathered round his hard deathbed, to weep and pray and
receive his last blessing; that of St. Paul, the Roman citizen, was
a much more public and popular affair. The intrepid band of disciples
who followed him to the chosen spot on the Ostian Way, not far from the
other (but divided by the slopes of the Janiculum), risked death more
certainly in doing so, and some of them doubtless paid its penalty.

Before reaching the place of execution, St. Paul saw, weeping bitterly
by the roadside, the holy matron Plautilla, one of his converts, who
had hastened thither to bid him farewell and ask for his last blessing.
As our Lord, on the way to Calvary, paused to speak to the daughters of
Jerusalem, so St. Paul stayed his steps to console this faithful woman.
He asked her to give him her veil, that he might cover his eyes with
it when he was beheaded, and he promised that he would return it to her
after his death. Plautilla, feeling scarcely worthy of such an honour,
yet rejoiced to be able to serve him, eagerly placed her veil in his
hands, while his jailers mocked at the Apostle’s promise. But her faith
and love were rewarded, and she beheld the beloved Pastor again with
her bodily eyes, when, after his martyrdom, he appeared to her and
restored the veil, all stained with his blood.

At the spot called then “ad Acquas Salvias,” St. Paul was tied to a
pillar, and the executioner’s sword severed his head from his body. The
head, in falling, bounded away, touching the ground three times in all,
and, at each point where it touched, a spring of clear water instantly
burst forth and is still flowing. The first was warm as life-blood,
the second tepid, and the third, icy cold. A Frenchwoman has written
of this miracle as only a Frenchwoman could: “At the first touch, the
soul has but just escaped from the body—that glorious head is yet full
of life! At the second, the shadow of death is already cast over those
wonderful features; at the third, the eternal sleep has overtaken them,
and, though still radiant in beauty, they announce that the lips will
never open again in this world, and that the eagle glance is veiled
forever.”

The show is over, the Emperor is borne away by his slaves and
sycophants, sulky, perhaps, at not having seen more blood or greater
wonders. But the destruction of Simon Magus and the alienation of his
favourites is avenged. That is something to take back with him to the
night’s debauch on the Palatine. The vulgar crowd has followed him,
and as the quick Italian night comes down, and the mists roll along
the river, while the evening star hangs white in the low crimson of the
West, the mourners gather up the sacred body and the haloed head, and
hasten, as in St. Peter’s case, to bury the martyr close by, in a bit
of land owned by the noble matron Lucina, who, years later, built on it
a splendid tomb for his earthly resting-place.



CHAPTER IV

ROMAN YESTERDAYS

  The Gods of the Roman World—Leaven of Christianity—Measures of
  the Emperors Against the Christians—Nine General Persecutions—Mad
  Extremes of Heliogabalus—Rescue of the Bodies of the
  Apostles—Tragic History of the Appian Way—The Joys of Solitude—How
  Marion Crawford Became the Master of San Niccola—A Solitude of
  Relaxation and Quiet—A Secluded Garden on the River in Rome—The
  Contrasts of Life and the Happiness in Hoping—An Artist’s
  Festival—How a Roman Emperor Looked.


Few things in the records of the past are stranger than the variations
of attitude of the Roman Emperors (barring some hæmatomaniacs like
Nero) towards Christianity during the first three or four centuries
of our era, quite apart from the moral attributes of the Emperors
themselves. One feels, through the edicts, the bored irritation of the
rulers at having to trouble themselves at all about a few low-born
individuals led away, as was believed, by a crazy illusion about
another world, a life after this one, which they promised to all who
would renounce the real pleasures—those considered as such by the great
ones of the day and their followers—pride and power, riches, ambition,
the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh. “Surely,” one seems to
hear authority exclaim, “human nature may be trusted to fight for its
own, against such fanatics! We have had our Stoics and their disciples,
and no one had to legislate against them. All they claimed was the
right to despise ease and pleasure, and to find their reward in the
admiration or notoriety that they gained in the process. Their very
uncomfortable doctrines were never the cause of great social upheavals!
What is behind this new teaching that men should be so excited about
it?”

Then little by little there creeps in the sign of an unexplained fear,
the sense of being confronted by a new mysterious power, great enough
to be menacing to the old order of things, which, after all, had served
well and should not be interfered with unnecessarily. Few of the upper
classes, except in times of great trouble, really relied much on the
protection of Rome’s inherited gods, but all felt that their worship
was a powerful weapon wherewith to control or drive the great mass
of the people. The common herd clung tenaciously to the belief that
prosperity followed on faithfulness to the old deities, and misfortune
on any affront offered them. These tiresome Christians went out of
their way to show their scorn of the very mixed crowd of gods and
goddesses whom Rome had enshrined on her altars, and it was imprudent
to seem to pass over such offences against the public taste. One ruler
tries to suppress the Christians with a high hand; another suggests a
compromise—he is willing to place the statue of Christ in the Capitol
if they will show equal respect for the earlier residents there. No?
Oh, well, let them be exterminated, then, since they are so bent on
destruction! The edicts are issued and fiercely followed up, till
even the persecutors weary of the diversion and stop as if for want
of breath. But the edicts are not repealed, and they lie there at the
disposal of bloody-minded governors or covetous informers, who desire
to annex some Christian’s estates or to possess themselves of beautiful
Christian maids. Nine official general persecutions we count in all,
spread over some three hundred years, but it must not be thought that
the Church had peace, except occasionally for very short intervals,
between. The reigning Emperor might be a monster like Nero or Domitian,
or a gentle-minded tolerant man like Alexander Severus, the streams of
blood were made to flow with awful continuity just the same, owing to
the enormous power placed in the hands of his deputies, the governors
of the cities and provinces that made up the unwieldy Empire.

These fluctuations account for the many transportations of the relics
of the chief martyrs to different hiding-places during those early
centuries. For some hundred and fifty years the bodies of the Apostles,
St. Peter and St. Paul, reposed in the tombs where they had been
first placed, and where they now lie, but soon after the accession
of Heliogabalus to the throne, the reigning Pope, St. Calixtus, found
it necessary to remove them to a distant and secret spot in order to
protect them from the most revolting sacrilege. Heliogabalus, the
maddest of all the mad Emperors, suddenly decreed that no god but
himself should be worshipped in Rome. He built a gorgeous temple to
himself on the Palatine, and as the pagan historian, Lampridius, tells
us, made arrangements to transfer to this temple not only all the
objects of worship most sacred in the eyes of the Romans, and regarded
by them as talismans upon the safeguarding of which the destinies
of the Empire depended—the fire of Vesta, the statue of Cybele,
the Palladium, the Ancilia—but also “the religions of the Jews and
Samaritans, and the Christian objects of devotion, in order that the
priests of Heliogabalus should hold the secrets of every worship.”

It was well known that the objects most dear to Christian devotion were
the bodies of the glorious Apostles, and a hundred and fifty years of
continuous pilgrimage to their tombs had marked the way fairly clearly
to those once secluded spots. St. Calixtus, it seems, was already
preparing to remove the bodies when a new whim of the maniac Emperor
caused him to do so with extreme haste. Heliogabalus issued orders for
a great exhibition of harnessed elephants on the Vatican plain, and, to
procure sufficient space for the show, commanded that all inequalities
should be levelled and all the sepulchres, pagan or Christian, should
be destroyed.

In fear and haste, St. Calixtus transported the holy remains to the
Appian Way, already by that time honey-combed with subterranean vaults
and passages. Above ground, the place was marked by the monuments of
the Cæcilii, whose illustrious daughter was soon to lie below; but St.
Calixtus feared that the existing vaults, now for the first time called
“Catacombs,” were already too widely known to offer complete protection
to the precious relics; so he caused a new chamber to be dug deep in
the rock, to the right of the way, disposing the only entrance to it
through a well; and there he laid the Apostles, each in a separate
tomb, to abide the hour of the triumph of the Church.

The Appian Way, with its miles of magnificent pagan monuments on the
surface, and its far-reaching secret sanctuaries below, has in the
course of time taken on something like a personality of its own. It is
like a ribbon of marble laid across a sea of beauty even now, when the
famous villas and gardens, overflowing with blooms gathered from every
clime and shaded by groves of ilex and cedar, of palm and sycamore and
cypress, have all been swept into the rich, soft mould; there you can
look across twenty miles of waving grasses and wild flowers, broken
only by some fragment still majestic in ruin and guarded by the dark,
slender watch-towers—memories of a later age, when the few scared
shepherds had to fly from Hun or Saracen—that rise at intervals all the
way to the sea. The solitude seems boundless, yet gentle and familiar;
little blind winds come wandering across from the south and lose their
way among the flowers; for the Via Appia leads due south, and one knows
that it goes on into the war-ploughed Kingdom of Naples, that “hothouse
of Saints and Sinners,” with its fierce suns burning down on castles
whose very stones cry tragedy, on scorching hillsides where the black
grapes ripen into fiery wine, on flats seething in the heat under the
man-high crops of maize. But near Rome, looking towards the soft green
outline of the Alban Hills, all _that_ seems illusion; this is reality,
this empty space, untroubled by past or future, this sweep of dun gold
and fading purple; its surrounding hills that all look towards Rome
have seen the place unpeopled, seen it swarming with life; have seen it
flaring with pomp and then submerged in blood; now they are guardians
of that which modern cataclysms have failed to rend—the peace of a
place whence even the memory of humanity is banished and Nature smiles
and broods alone over her lovely handiwork.

Often I have longed to withdraw for a time to one of those lonely
watch-towers to “think things out.” We Crawfords have never been able
to see a really solitary spot without wanting it for our own. A certain
empty tomb lost among the Umbrian hills, with the sun turning the red
rock to gold and the wild camomile swaying its yellow blossoms in the
breeze over the doorway, has been a haven of my spirit through many a
breathless, over-peopled hour. I could fly there in mind, for days at
a time, into an atmosphere of such still liberty as is only granted
to disembodied souls. My dear brother Marion could never resist the
call of fortressed solitudes. The story of how he became the master of
San Niccola in Calabria is too characteristic not to be told in this
connection. San Niccola is an Angevin castle, with walls twenty feet
thick in places, perched on the rocks over an inhospitable little bay
on the coast of Calabria, a bay too small and shallow to permit of
sailing vessels being anchored inside its natural breakwater of tumbled
stones. Marion often sailed thither, and, leaving the yacht outside,
would scramble on shore and linger for hours in the shade of the huge
pile, weaving new stories and calling up pictures of the days when the
cry would ring along the coast that a Saracen sail was in sight, and
the inhabitants, snatching up whatever they could carry, raced for the
nearest tower of refuge. San Niccola looks like a huge dark monolith,
wide at the base and tapering slightly towards its truncated summit. It
contained but two apartments, a vast square space, without windows, for
animals below, and one great hall, as sparsely windowed as possible,
above. In this it resembles most of its fellows along the coast, where
“Carlo d’Angiò,” still almost a living personality to the people,
planted them, at short distances from one another, for this very
purpose.

It was a roasting hot day in August; the felucca (this was before my
brother bought the _Alda_) was swinging at anchor in deep water, and
the “padroni,” Marion and my sister-in-law, were sitting on the rocks
in the shade, after lunch—the hour when most people go to sleep, but
always a particularly inspiring one to him and responsible for many of
his quaint whims. Suddenly he jumped up and announced that he needed
a walk—he would go to the town—a tiny hamlet some miles distant—and
buy—I forget what—fresh eggs for the morrow’s breakfast, I think. Would
Bessie like to come?

Bessie, dozing over a novel under the shelter of a huge pink parasol,
scarcely thought it necessary to reply audibly to such a crazy
proposition, but as Marion turned and walked away she signalled to the
faithful Luigi to follow and look after him, which Luigi—with what
groans one can imagine, just after the midday macaroni and in that
blazing heat—obediently did.

The day wore on, the sun began to sink, and the evening breeze ruffled
the water. The parasol had long been closed, the novel thrown aside,
and Bessie was beginning to look anxiously landward, when the truants
reappeared in the distance. As they drew nearer she could see that
Marion carried in his hand a huge iron key, while Luigi, directly
behind him, was flinging his arms up in the air in gestures of
despair. As they came close, the gestures became those of beseeching
deprecation, and she realised that he was trying to say, unbeknown to
the “padrone,” “It was not my fault, Signora mia, oh indeed, not my
fault!” while Marion, a little in doubt as to his reception, stopped
before her and held up the great rusty key, saying, “It’s mine, _mine_,
my dear, for the next thirty years!”

“What—this awful place? Oh, why did I let you go away without me?” she
wailed. “What on earth are you going to do with it?—and what have you
paid for it?”

He mentioned the sum—not a very large one, it is true—but Luigi,
hovering near, pale and scared, whispered, with every appearance of
sincere grief: “He could have had it for the hundredth part of that,
Signora! Alas, for the good money! But it was not my fault—there was
no holding the Signore, and those assassins at the Municipio took
advantage of him!”

To tell the truth, it was not the money side of the matter which
distressed my sister-in-law so much as the prospect of being required
to come and pass weeks at a time in this grim dungeon, without a single
convenience of life, twelve miles from a market town, and of course
lashed to the battlements by every Mediterranean storm. It took her
some days to reconcile herself to the new acquisition—poor girl—but
Marion had not made a mistake, after all. The family was not invited
to San Niccola till he had made several journeys thither himself,
with carpenters and materials, and when they did come they found that
the lonely keep had been transformed internally to a quite possible
dwelling—though certainly an inconveniently isolated one. Generally,
however, he went there alone, to rest from everything connected with
modern life, and he found it a fine, quiet place for writing in, at any
rate.

I fancy that people who take such keen delight as we do in sympathetic
and cheery society are probably the ones who most enjoy—and need—the
relaxation of seclusion and quiet. I remember a curious nook that my
sister and I discovered in Rome itself; we never told any one about it,
and used to go there day after day to think the “long, long thoughts”
of youth and make wonderful plans for the two or three hundred years we
must have expected to live if they were all to be carried out!

From the Via di Repetta, on the right bank of the Tiber, we had noticed
on the opposite side two or three very old little houses, with tiny
gardens formed on the projecting bastions of a fragment of ancient
wall which must have been built to protect the Via Lungara from the
periodical overflowing of the river. Over the low parapet of one of
them we could see a few flowers, a lemon tree, and an oleander bush in
bloom; the owners of the old dwelling were never visible, but we made
up our minds to bribe them to let us into their deserted and alluring
back yard. Once in the Lungara we had some little trouble in locating
the house, as nothing of the river was visible between the closely-set
buildings that faced the street, but after one or two wrong shots we
found it—in the possession of a good-natured young woman who could
not in the least understand why we should offer her a lira for the
privilege of passing through to her “loggia,” a place she evidently
despised since, to our joy, we found that she never even hung out the
clothes to dry there, preferring the lines which run from window to
window on the upper stories of most of the poor houses in Rome. She
led us across the brick-floored kitchen, opened a door and shut it
behind us as soon as we had passed through, and we found ourselves in
a tiny paradise of flowers and herbs interspersed with fragments of
sculptured marble—a frond of acanthus, a whorl of tracery—and provided
with a stone seat inside the parapet. The whole jutted far out into
the river, whose rushing water filled the air with drowsy sound. A few
jonquils were blooming white and yellow in the clear shade; the pot
of carnations—every Italian woman of the lower class has one, which
she cherishes jealously—was spilling over with huge red “garofoli,”
scenting the air with their spicy fragrance, and from the seat by the
wall we could look up and down the river for a long, long way. The
coolness, the unassailable privacy yet open-air sweetness of it all was
indescribably delightful; for years we used to fly there when we had
something to think out; and when the new works for keeping the Tiber
within bounds swept the little old houses and their wee gardens away we
felt as if we had been robbed of a bit of home.

My dear sister Annie was usually the pioneer of our discoveries and
expeditions; she was of a bolder spirit than I, and was ever on the
alert for material for her painting, which was not always done with the
brush. She shared in particular my love of things Etruscan. We used to
fancy that we had both lived among the mysterious, beauty-loving people
of Etruria some three thousand years earlier. Everything connected with
them had a haunting power over us, and sometimes we used to put words
to the scenes on the vases and act them out with much fidelity for our
own satisfaction. Only one friend was admitted to share these archaic
sympathies and diversions; if these lines ever fall under “Minnie’s”
eyes, will she remember one notable night when she and Annie acted
the parts of the devoted maidens, in clinging drapery and fillet-bound
hair, who rescued the beautiful young warrior—myself—from the hideous
fate decreed for him by the (necessarily) invisible hierophants of
the sacred fane in the wardrobe—the dressing table serving for the
altar upon which he was to have been sacrificed? We were all three so
overcome at the conclusion of the drama that we broke down and wept in
each other’s arms! “La gioventù è un fiore che non ritorna più!”

But those whose youth has been fed with colour and imagination and
beauty keep young in spite of the passing of years. In looking back,
those stand out as the real things—the prosaic grind of existence
falls away and shows itself as mere illusion. After all, what would
life be without contrasts? They are the chief elements of drama. They
furnish all its spice. The blackest shadows prove the existence of the
brightest sun. It is the people who have nothing to wish for who are
to be pitied. The very poorest can dream and hope for some lightening
of their lot; and when pleasures come to them—little tiny pleasures
even—they enjoy them intensely; whereas those to whom nothing has
been denied find life so atrociously dull that only a constant series
of fictitious excitements enables them to bear it at all. Two men I
know were walking down Fifth Avenue one day and paused to admire a
magnificent diamond necklace displayed in a jeweller’s window. One of
them said, with a sigh, “What wouldn’t I give to be able to buy that
for my wife!” The other, a poor multi-millionaire, turned to him with a
snarl of envious rage: “You lucky fellow! You have something still left
to wish for!”

The best—in the way of mere pleasure—that some of us could desire would
be to live some hours over again and see once more the pictures that
filled them. There used to be a day in May when all the artists in
Rome united to hold high festival out in the country, and—speaking of
pictures—one such day comes back to me and claims its record. Nobody
was allowed to know beforehand what the brotherhood was planning to
do, but it was sure to be something very picturesque—and no wonder,
considering the elements and facilities brought to bear on it!

All who could do so went out towards the appointed spot, the caves
of Cervara, that morning, and we passed so many vehicles on the road
that we decided to turn off and make for our point across the turf,
all unenclosed in that part of the plain. We almost forgot what we had
come to look for, in the pleasure of moving soundlessly over the short,
new grass which gave out a warm fragrance of mint and thyme as it was
pressed by the horses’ feet. The velvety undulations between which we
threaded our way, shut out everything but the blue overhead and some
glimpses of the Sabines, swimming like huge sapphires in a haze of
airy gold. Suddenly, on the sky-line of a low ridge just ahead of us,
a towering car moved into view, drawn by four white oxen, whose gilded
horns were hung with wreaths of roses. The heavy wheels were smothered
in roses too, scattering pink and white petals as they revolved over
the newly-sprung grass. The sides of the car were all of fretted gold,
catching the sun in a hundred lovely scrolls and arabesques; raised
high on a gold and ivory throne sate—a Roman Emperor, his white robes
covered with jewels, the laurel wreath on his brow, his smooth young
beauty facing the radiant morning with bland immobile insolence, his
dark eyes fixed on the horizon, as if seeing his empire stretching
away till its confines were lost in the unknown East. Behind him two
black slaves held huge fans of white feathers over his head to protect
him from the heat; at his feet, on a swirl of panther skins, sate his
favourite of the moment, a beautiful, lithe Greek woman, her golden
hair crowned with roses, her bare arms covered with bracelets and
gleaming like marble in the sun, while a score or more of lovely girls
in classical draperies leaned over the gilt balustrades that sank, tier
below tier, from the sides of the throne down to the upper ledge of
the rose-wreathed wheels. Black slaves in scarlet tunics led the oxen,
urging them on with pointed gilt wands, and behind the Emperor’s car,
as far as one could see, followed a long procession of others, nearly
as splendid as the first, crowded with all his attendants, gorgeous
in raiment, grouped to perfection—and all, saving the ox-drivers,
motionless as statues. It was a dream of Imperial times, too surprising
to be real, till, as the first car passed close to us, one of the girls
began to laugh and flung a handful of rose-petals in my face.

How those young artists had enjoyed themselves in planning and
producing the marvellous show! Painting pictures on canvas is all very
well, but fancy the delight of making them live, on such a background,
before people’s eyes—of handling all that superb material to embody
visions that had haunted one despairingly for years, crying out to
be used and shown! Upon my word, if I could start life over again and
choose my own vocation, I believe I would make it that of a theatrical
manager—an artist in flesh and blood!



CHAPTER V

A FEUDAL VILLA

  Ancient Beauty of Villa Borghese—A Sylvan Siesta—The Woodland of
  the Borghese—The Heart of the Trees—The Borghese Anemone—Vintage
  Time in the Grape Countries—Tuscany, an Atmosphere of Purity and
  Calm—Bunches of Grapes Two Feet Long—Muscatels of Etruria—October
  Festivals at the Villa Borghese—Peasants of the Coast
  Towns—Picturesque Costume of the Albanese—Feast in the Private
  Garden—Fountains of Wine—Classic Chariot Races—The Passing of the
  Feudal System.


The recollection of the artists’ festival brings to my mind some
festivals of other times, remembered by very few persons now alive.
Next to those connected with the great religious anniversaries,
the ones most appreciated by the Romans were, I think, the lavish
entertainments given by Prince Borghese in his villa to celebrate the
vintage, in October. The Villa Borghese, as every one knows, is a great
pleasure park just outside the Porta del Popolo, but those who see it
as it is now, exploited for the most vulgar commercial ends, and at the
same time sadly neglected, can scarcely form an idea of its original
plan and ancient beauty. Even in earlier days the fashionable crowd
that drove there in the afternoon knew nothing of the remote dells and
glades that lay lost in the great masses of woodland, of the meadows
that spread beyond the woods, of statues and fountains shrined in
the green and sequestered places that one might pass near a hundred
times without becoming aware of their existence. It was one of the
playgrounds of my babyhood, but even after I was grown up I sometimes
made new discoveries there.

In the very dawn of my recollections there is the memory of one
of childhood’s long, long springs—when the days are all blue and
silver overhead, and golden haze in the distance, and live emerald
underfoot—when my old Maria used to convey me in the morning all
the way from Villa Negroni on the Esquiline to Villa Borghese at
Porta del Popolo, there to play in the grass till the sun began to
sink towards St. Peter’s. I was three years old, and there was as
yet no all-important baby brother to whose existence my own was to
be subordinated a year later. Nobody had yet started to train and
discipline me, and each sun that rose shone through just so many hours
of Paradise. To Maria I was sun and moon, and if I was happy she was
happy, but there was one occupation that kept her busy hour after hour
in the distant villa, while I rolled on the grass—the picking of wild
chicory for her supper salad. I can see her now, bent double, her
good-natured dark face quite flushed with excitement as she pounced
on the tender shoots that cropped up everywhere through the turf, till
the red handkerchief in which she tied them up would hold no more, and
she would slip it over her wrist, pick me up in her arms, and climb
the tiers of the amphitheatre to reach our favourite luncheon room, a
clear bubbling fountain in the avenue of ilex trees which crowned the
ridge behind it. Here, close to the fountain, we had our midday meal,
with the birds singing overhead and the wind dancing through the ilexes
so that the ground was all a moving arabesque of sun and shade—the
sweet fragrant ground that I could dig my fingers into to bring up
handfuls of the gem-like ilex acorns that I loved so much. When the
meal was over and my little silver mug had dipped up a drink for me
from the fountain, I used to fall asleep in Maria’s arms to her queer
lullabies—“Fringa, fringa!” or “Io vorrei ché alla luna ci s’andasse
in carretella per védé le donne di lassù!” It always seemed to me that
I woke up when she stopped singing, and I could not understand why
Maria, with her head against a tree-trunk, was snoring happily and had
to be waked up herself. But our sylvan siesta had lasted an hour or
two; the sun was no longer overhead, but streaming in floods of level
gold through all the lower branches, turning the turf and moss into
live velvet, and flushing the statues’ pale cheeks to a semblance of
life. Then, with many a halt for gathering anemones and violets, and
some running away on my part to hide in the intricacies of the marble
grottoes which burrow behind the rococo temple fountain at the first
parting of the great avenue, we wandered towards the entrance, avoiding
the avenue itself and threading our way through the little woods, till
we came out by “Napoleon’s Tomb”—the exact copy of the original one
at St. Helena, weeping willow and all—till the great iron gates came
in sight, and we had to re-enter the city again. Sometimes Maria was
instructed to bring me back to Nazzarri’s, in the Piazza di Spagna, in
the middle of the day, for a solid meal; and then, scorning the “filet”
which dear old Madame Nazzarri had had specially cooked for me, I used
to persuade Maria to “trade” it for her own lunch, which I liked much
better—“pane sott’ olio,” pieces of coarse casareccio bread sliced up
in oil and vinegar, a favourite dish among the poorer classes to this
day. Of course these little vagaries were most reprehensible and were
never referred to at home—Maria’s conscience concerning itself with
one thing only—my three-year-old will and pleasure! I believe she had a
husband and son somewhere, and I know her old age was cosily cared for
in the country, whence she used to come at intervals long after I was
grown up, with a basket of “ciambelle” in one hand and a huge bunch of
pink roses in the other.

I started to speak of the villa and not of myself, but it was one of
those places so inextricably entwined with the web of my own life that
I cannot even now set it apart from personal associations and memories.
I think it must have been there that I first made friends with trees—as
trees. In our enchanted garden on the Esquiline we had cypresses—the
most perfect in all Italy—orange trees and ilexes, and one or two
flowering junipers, but no shade trees or bits of woodland like those
in the Borghese, where the ancient oaks and chestnuts and beeches meet
high overhead along avenues so extensive that to make the round twice
in an afternoon was as much as most people ever did. As one drove
through those avenues one looked down on the unexplored and ever varied
fields and woods within the circle, and, whether in winter or summer,
at morning or at evening, one could always catch some new and lovely
aspect of light and shade; it might be of mossed foliage, all bronze
and velvet, thinning off into a copse of saplings unfurling their veil
of feathery green in some breath of wind that left the giants calm and
unruffled; or it might be a screen of bare tracery rising from some
ridge, in cool, neutral tints into the chastened blue of an autumn
sky; or again the fervid umber of slender trunks and branches cast up
against the pale lemon and chrysoprase of a winter sunset; the blessed
trees sounded every note, clothed themselves in every tint that human
love and passion know, from the fresh unconscious caress of childhood
to the pomegranate outburst of first love—and on to the gathered
changeless riches of the heart’s maturity—beyond which there lies
nothing but dissolution and re-birth. I cannot explain these things;
those who know them as I do admit the mystic relationship of some of
us to the trees; they can suffer, as I do, when murderers slay them
ruthlessly, can kneel beside the fallen monarch and touch his pitiful
wounds, and murmur all our love and veneration to the great heart that
never will feel the sap leap and surge again. One poet said it for us
all, when he wept in the woods before dawn and cried:

    “Great man-bodied tree,
    That mine arms in the dark are embracing,
    What magic of sympathy lies
    Between dear over-beautiful trees and the rain of the eyes?”

It was in the Villa Borghese, driving round and round during the balmy
afternoons of the spring before I was married, that my mother and I
read William Morris’s “Jason” aloud to each other, and never did a
perfect poem have a more perfect setting. Where the lie of the land
mounts a little towards the Pincio side of the Borghese, four avenues
converge on a circle, in the centre of which is one of those broad
lake fountains only to be seen in Rome, marble-rimmed and guarded by
a group of marble sea-horses rearing and pawing round the tall shaft
of water that bursts up from their midst. The carriage way is broad
around the fountain, for here all the vehicles must pass, and the Roman
world of my day prided itself on its shining equipages and thoroughbred
horses. But all its pomp and brilliancy pales, at a certain moment of
the spring, before the pink forest of juniper trees that thrust their
thick-set branches out, from the darker foliage behind, to smother the
marble seats below them in one enormous wreath of rose-coloured bloom,
a carnival of loveliness only to be matched by the cherry blossoms in
Japan. Here we used to leave the carriage and make our way into the
vast enclosures of meadow under the stone-pines, where the wild anemone
hid all the grass under a mantle of vivid pink. The Borghese anemone
was a real wild thing, very like the English wind-flower that shimmers
all along the landslip and the undercliff where the spring tides are
flinging the Channel surf in thunder against the cliffs of the Isle
of Wight. Only the English wind-flower is pale and fragile, white or
lavender for choice, and the Roman one is of a flaunting purple-pink,
with a strong stem the colour of brown madder—as is fitting for a
self-respecting flower sprung from a soil that has been steeped in sun
and soaked in blood. And it has this peculiarity, unique, so far as I
know, among wild flowers, that if you bring it home, in handfuls, as
we used to do, and set it in water overnight, it will have grown many
inches by the morning, every stalk stiff and proud, as if saying: “You
thought I belonged in the fields, didn’t you? No, indeed, _my_ place is
in a palace!”

Very different is the anemone of Villa Doria, far away across the city,
on the Janiculum. It too nestles beneath the stone-pines, in the fine
short grass, but it is a patrician bloom, each flower perfect, with
broad polished petals of pure ivory or vivid scarlet or monsignore
purple, diverging from a heart as black as jet. It is chary of growth
and keeps close to the ground, and you must tread delicately or you
will crush some yet unopened buds. It meant a good deal to some of
us—I wonder if the others remember? One did. Far away in China, just
before my eldest boy was born, there blew to me across the world a
film of Honiton lace, and when I spread it out, there was a garland of
Villa Doria anemones worked in the red West Country that is the Italy
of England, and sent as a greeting by a comrade of the vanished Roman
days. Why don’t we all die when we are young and sweet and true?

But to return—(for the —th time?)—to my very much strayed sheep—the
old October entertainments in the Villa Borghese. Those who have not
lived in them would find it hard to understand what that month means to
the children of the grape countries. It is the very crown of the year
in Romagna, indeed all over Italy. The heats of summer, the stifling
languors of scirocco, are over and gone; the air is divinely cool and
bright, and everything sparkles in a sun that warms but no longer
scorches; the wind comes dancing over the mountains, like a song,
rustling the trees and shaking little showers of bronzed leaves down on
one’s head. In the vineyards the vines were stripped of most of their
leaves in August to let the grapes bake in the sun till their hearts
are like syrup in the black tight-drawn skins. Now, if the year is a
good one, the rain came after the Feast of the Assumption to soften and
swell the purple covering to all but bursting point, and the few leaves
that hang on the vines have turned scarlet and yellow, so that they
look like huge gaudy butterflies hovering round the long pear-shaped
clusters of fruit. The strong wilful “ceps” is like fretted gold in the
sunshine; every bunch that is brought to one’s table must be of perfect
shape and have two or three inches of that corrugated stem to carry
it by and two leaves at its head for wings; but by the first day of
October the mere cutting for market is over, and the real business of
the vintage begins, when the great wains go lumbering down the alleys
of the vineyard, drawn by meek white oxen who move slowly but plunge
into the rich loose soil up to the fetlock at every step.

The vintners creep through the vine-rows, clipping, clipping with their
clumsy shears, and tossing the fruit into the osier baskets strapped
on their backs, while they sing the strange old songs that have been
sung at the vintage since the days of Servius Tullius; the women’s
white head-coverings and dark blue skirts and scarlet bodices blaze out
against the gold and green of the vine-rows, and as they carry their
baskets—on their heads, after immemorial custom—to the man waiting
on the wagon, they move with smooth, stately steps, like caryatides
released from the marble. Towards midday the first wagons are full and
go trailing up to the wine press near the house; the “treaders,” the
strongest of the young men, have been sitting on the stone bench in the
shade, for their work is all before them and they have to keep limbs
and garments clean. Now the wagon is drawn close to the vat, and the
vintagers, working like demons, toss in a ton or two of grapes till the
huge receptacle is piled high above its edges with a mountain of purple
fruit. A ladder is set against it and the treader scrambles up, his
bared limbs gleaming like copper in the sun, and the next instant he is
a young Dionysus, leaping and dancing on that piled sweetness, chanting
the song to which his feet keep time, while the rosy froth streams from
the opening below into a second vat that ere long becomes a lake of
dimpling crimson must, whose heady fragrance floats out intoxicatingly
on the October air. Ah, the good days! It would indeed have been a poor
heart that could not rejoice in them!

More than once it was my good fortune to watch this almost sacred
process in the villa where I happened to be spending the summer, and,
though I am jealous for the glories of Romagna, I must admit that it is
far more picturesque and attractive in Tuscany. The whole atmosphere
there is imbued with a purity and calm unknown to the perfervid
rollicking South; the hills are the hills of Umbria—of Perugino’s and
Francia’s backgrounds, pale and clear, rounding into little knolls
that are more silvery than golden when the sun kisses side or summit;
the mulberry and the acacia and the olive throw fans of timid tracery
against the elusive sky; where the olive rustles to silver in the
breeze a thousand shades of grey delight the eye, and on every ridge
the sparse spires of the Tuscan cypresses, so feathery slender that
the tapering points are fragile as a fern’s fronds, delimit the view
in lines of dark delicacy most restfully symmetrical and definite.
All is ascetic, yet tender, save where, far off on the plain, the low
red wall of a city lies like a sword across the land. In the distance
Umbria, with its clean, pale landscapes, so significant and lucent
under the quivering dome of white, seems less of earth than Heaven,
almost breathlessly impersonal, a country more for angels than for men;
but nearer at hand she smiles at you, like some saint turning from the
ravishments of contemplation to encourage a fellow-being whose vision
is not clarified to behold what she has seen.

If you stand where I used to stand, on the terraced eminence of a
Tuscan “podere,” you find yourself at the apex of a net of deep and
wide grassways, diverging from you in every direction till the lines
are lost in a froth of greenery, trained along avenues of mulberry
trees that humbly support the airy garlands twenty and thirty feet
from the ground. The trees are set with perfect regularity, but wide
apart, and the grapevines fling themselves from one to another in
sweeping curves that are a joy to see. In Romagna the vineyard has
little beauty of its own, for the modern cultivator keeps his grapes
within a few feet of the ground; often he pulls them up every year,
stores them carefully, and replaces them in the spring. But further
north the stocky stem is encouraged to grow and harden for all time;
time bestows upon it the proportions and ruggedness of a tree; and the
fruit, gloriously confident of its parent, throws out bunches sometimes
two feet long; of incomparable fulness and flavour. Around Chiusi,
in the heart of Etruria, the grapes are all muscatels, big globes of
pale green jade, freckled with agate, and the perfume they distill is
that of the white Roman rose—a fragrance indescribably exquisite, and
individual to that fruit and that flower alone. In my girlhood there
were times when I was not very strong; life was almost too full, and
I had to rest from it sometimes. Then my angel mother would make me
lie down in her favourite room, the one where the walls were rose
and old-gold, and the ceiling a vault of mother-of-pearl seen through
Tuscan grapevines, and she would set a bunch of those white roses and
a tiny Venetian goblet of amber-coloured “Est-Est” beside me, and leave
me alone for hours, while the fountain played in the courtyard and the
Roman dusk came down and made shadows in the room. Then I used to close
my eyes and play a little game, trying to find out which was rose and
which was wine—and fall asleep before the point was decided—to dream
that I was angel or butterfly—all wings, anyway, free in a world where
language was scent and music. Spoiling? Surely. But it was training,
in a way. Why not develop all the senses that can help us in the long,
long march of life?

There was nothing languorous in the Tuscan airs. Even in the hottest
hour of summer one was eager, interested, glad to move about; and
when early autumn brought the vintage, life simply bubbled in one’s
veins. I could stand all day watching the oxen crawling up those grassy
roads between the trellised vines, with the splendid loads of grapes,
or hover near the vats where the white-clad youths, who looked like
Carpaccio’s pages, danced and leapt as they trod the wine-press. We had
to come away before the vintage was over, so as not to miss too much of
the October loveliness at home, but the grapes followed us all the way.
There was one station—that of Chiusi, I think—where the “ristorante”
consisted of a little hand-cart with a high rail all around the sides;
the rail was hung with hundreds of bunches of those scented, freckled
grapes—two sous a bunch, if you please—and the vendor pushed it up and
down the platform close to the carriage windows. It was a hot day, and
never was fruit more welcome!


In the “spacious days” of the earlier part of the century the
Borghese family, being, though not the most ancient, the wealthiest
in Rome, used to mark the crown of the year by giving in their villa
certain entertainments, intended chiefly for their own tenants, but
the hospitality of which was extended to the entire population. The
princely lavishness of these festivities resembled nothing that I have
ever heard of in modern times; it recalled indeed the days of Roman
Emperors whose only claim to the throne rested on their popularity
with the people. On the Sundays of October the villa was thrown open at
sunrise, and from all the “castelli” of the Sabine and Alban Hills, and
from the sea-coast too, the peasants, who had been watching all night
(and in some cases all the previous day), having heard Mass, trooped in
with their wives and families, to eat and drink and enjoy themselves.
Those were the times when every district had its distinctive costume,
and the dazzling effects of colour were such as we shall never see
again. The coast towns are very Greek, and the dress of the Nettuno and
Fano women is almost Greek still—a clinging skirt and close-fitting
coatlet of vivid scarlet, the tint that makes the eyes swim and
wince—imparted, by secrets of their own, to a cloth of such velvety
purity and softness that it lasts through three and four generations,
and cost them (it is probably unobtainable now) five dollars the
“palmo” of ten inches—half a dollar an inch. The hair was worn in two
long braids hanging down the back from under a small cap of the same
cloth, set rather far back on the head, and cap and bodice and skirt
were stiff with gold embroidery. The effect was magnificent.

Very different was the dress of the Albanese, with which, in a modified
form, most travellers are familiar, since the women of Albano still
have the privilege of nursing the aristocratic babies of Rome. Their
costume consists of a long full skirt of flowered silk, pale blue
or cinnamon colour, brocaded with red carnations or pink roses; the
“busto” or corset, as well as the tight long cuffs that reach from
wrist to elbow, are of that same scarlet cloth and trimmed with heavy
gold braid; but the chief beauty of the costume is in the fine lace
of the voluminous “fichu” which is pinned low down in folds behind to
leave the strong young neck bare, and folded in to the corset in front,
over a camisole of finest linen, also much adorned with lace. The fichu
leaves all the throat—such a column of ivory!—and some expanse of chest
bare to rise and fall under half a dozen strings of dark faceted red
coral, huge beads bought by the ounce and treasured for hundreds of
years; the earrings are great danglums of dropping pearls, and the
headdress a crown of ruffled ribbon three or four inches wide, set
tight round the coil of braids and held in place by big pins of gold
filigree, while two long streamers of the ribbon hang nearly down to
the hem of the skirt behind. A lace apron, like that which Hungarian
ladies wear with court dress, completes the costume, and nobody can
quarrel with “Balia” for holding her handsome head very high when she
wears it.

No greater contrast can be imagined than that presented by these two
costumes, of which one or the other strikes the type all through
Romagna; and the men, in old times, were as picturesquely clad as
the women, though deprived of the gold and lace in which the latter
delighted. Fancy hundreds and hundreds of these splendidly attired
beings, with the beauty which is still the land’s blessed heritage,
streaming up the different avenues under those noble trees and then
gathering in to the feast prepared for them in the private garden—a
large open space laid out in variegated flower-beds of quaint design,
and, on these famous Sundays, converted into an open-air banqueting
hall where, at long tables loaded with good things, the crowds could
eat their full, quenching their thirst at one of the fountains which
ran with wine from dawn to dark. None were debarred from sharing the
Prince’s hospitality, whether they were his own people or strangers,
and the “plebs” of Rome, who poured out in thousands, were as welcome
as all the tenants and labourers on his many estates. My dear old
stepfather, who saw it all when he was a young man and described it
to me, said that what most impressed him was the perfect order that
prevailed all day, the Romans having the happy gift of being able to
enjoy themselves without becoming riotous.

One of the great features of the villa is the “Teatro di Siena,” the
amphitheatre on the Pincio side of the principal avenue. The base
is a green expanse of turf, from which rise several tiers of narrow
terraces marked in white marble and also paved with turf. The summit
of the circle is guarded by a ring of tall stone-pines which close
it in and make an admirable frame for the spectacles of one kind and
another which have taken place there. The prettiest I ever saw was the
tournament given at the time of the Duke of Genoa’s wedding, in which
the present King of Italy, then a young boy, took such an animated
part.[9] In the October days of which I was speaking a still more
interesting show was provided in the form of chariot races, copied
exactly from the ancient Roman ones, the charioteers, bareheaded
youths in classical costume, standing in the gilt “bigas” and urging
their teams to wildest speed round the broad race-course, while the
bands filled the air with stirring music, and the people stood up in
their seats and yelled and cheered, and laid their money on this or
that chariot, just as their ancestors did in the Coliseum or in Nero’s
circus two thousand years ago. Now, as then, the only official reward
for the victor was a laurel crown and the renown that came with it.

The upheavals of 1848 made an end of the old feudal ways and
festivities; but, though it may appear incomprehensible to the
philistines who rule the world to-day, they furnished mighty strands
in the ties of sympathy and good-will which hold class and class
together and keep a country sober, contented, and law-abiding. All
healthy human nature needs healthy excitement from time to time, and,
if that be unattainable, the craving is so imperative that it will find
satisfaction in other and less wholesome ways.

Talking of excitement, one realises that the ancients, in spite of the
good taste with which we usually credit them, would have participated
only too joyfully in all our modern crimes of speed had the opportunity
been afforded. The inscription unearthed at Pompeii the other day shows
that they could be as callous as ourselves in the pursuit of pleasure.
“To-day”—here follows the date—“a Roman Knight in his biga ran over our
little Calpurnius, aged three years. May Pluto shortly have his soul!”
One is reminded of the child at the East-end Sunday-school, who, being
asked to define the meaning of the clause in the Creed which speaks of
“the quick and the dead,” replied: “Them that runs away when the motors
is coming is the quick, and them that _doesn’t_ is the _dead_!”



CHAPTER VI

A CHURCH PILGRIMAGE

  Church’s Pilgrimage on the Feast of the Apostles—The Seven
  Commemorative Churches—The Byzantine Basilica of St. Paul—The
  Apostle’s Tomb—Ostian Way, the Saddest of All Roads—The Tideless
  Sea—Call of the Unknown, Gorgeous East—Santa Pudentiana, the Site
  of St. Paul’s First Abiding Place in Rome—Christianity in Early
  Rome—Priest Pastor’s Story of the Pudens Family—Holy Relics—Story
  of the Crime of the Vico Scellerato—The Last of the Roman Kings.


From things of the recent past let us turn for a moment to follow a
pilgrimage which the Church makes during the seven days following the
Feast of the Apostles in June and in the course of which she draws our
attention to the seven spots in the Eternal City most closely connected
with their glorious end. These spots had been for long centuries points
of attraction to the Christians who flocked Rome-wards from all over
the world at that time of year, but it was not till 1743 that Benedict
XIV, Prospero Lambertini of Bologna (and the fifth Pontiff born in that
city of learning), laid down the order in which the seven sanctuaries
should be publicly honoured.[10]

In a bull dated April 1, 1743, Benedict decreed that the various
corporations of the hierarchy should take it in turn to honour the
Octave of SS. Peter and Paul by proceeding in state to the Church
designated for the day when a pontifical Mass was to be celebrated,
with the assistance of the whole body of the Pope’s Chair. These seven
Churches are so bound up with the last days of our great Fathers in
the Faith that in passing from one to another it is possible to realise
very vividly the scenes of the tremendous drama enacted in the year of
grace 67 during the last days of Heaven’s patience with the tyranny of
Nero.

Taking them in their order we will leave the Pope, according to his
wish, to say his Mass in St. Peter’s on the 30th of June, and follow
the Apostolic Vicars, his “Assistants of the Throne,” as they go in
state to the Basilica of St. Paul without the Walls. Once that long
road skirting the river was the most crowded of the approaches to the
city, but that was before the Tiber, having gorged itself to congestion
with silt and plunder, had turned aside to find another outlet, when
the galleys could still be rowed up within sight of Rome and tumble out
their freight of grain or marble or wild beasts on the quays that are
deserted to-day. The Ostian Way is the saddest of all roads now; few
ever pass over it; there is but one habitation between the city gate
and the Basilica, nearly two miles distant. The river rolls, yellow
and sullen, to the sea, through flat lowland, reeking with malaria from
the swamps, where the fierce black buffaloes still wander at will, and
vehemently resent the intrusion of a stranger on their domain.

The Basilica to which the Vicars Apostolic of Benedict XIV went in
state was not the one which pilgrims visit now; in the early days it
was the centre of a thriving little town outside the town, the suburb
of Joannopolis, so called from Pope John VII, who founded and fortified
it as a stronghold for the defence of Rome on the side towards the
sea. Built in the time of Constantine, added to through the centuries,
ever more beautified and never defaced, those who saw it tell us that
it was a perfect specimen of the Byzantine Basilica, nobly severe,
making the impression of vast undisturbed spaces for worship, yet in
reality a treasure-house of riches and art. Its mysterious destruction
by fire, scarcely to be accounted for in an erection all of marble
and stone, took place on the 15th of July, 1823, on the last night
of the life of Pius VII, the Pontiff upon whom Napoleon had laid
sacrilegious hands and kept in captivity over five years—a captivity
that in years, months, and days was precise in duration with his own
after-imprisonment at Saint Helena. Dates are curious things!

While Pius VII lay on his deathbed on that night of the 15th of July
(the anniversary of his signing of the Concordat, twenty-two years
earlier), he was greatly distressed by a dream which roused him again
and again from torpor to enquire of his attendants whether some great
calamity had not fallen on Rome. With the dawn came the news of the
burning of the Basilica, but it was kept from him, and he passed away
that day, without learning the truth of that which the clairvoyance of
approaching dissolution had cloudily revealed to him.

Some fragments were saved and incorporated in the new Church which
at once rose to replace the ancient one, of which the Sovereigns of
England were, until the Reformation, proud to call themselves the
titular protectors. The minute description of the original Basilica,
left us by Cardinal Wiseman and others who had seen it, shows how, in
all respects save one, the new one falls short of the earlier beauty
and majesty; but the tomb of St. Paul, the heart of the whole, remains
to us intact, far below the level where fire or storm can rend it,
and the very emptiness and bareness of the great Church above seem to
enhance the awe inspired by that great sarcophagus in the crypt—raised
high from the ground of the deep vault, as on an altar throne, so as
to be above the depredations of the Tiber even in the river’s most
uncontrollable outbreaks.

There, as far as human foresight can discern, the holy, weary relics
will lie till the Judgment Day, resting after all the travel and
shipwrecks, the cold and hunger and strifes of life, and from the
hurried journeys on which they were carried hither and thither, in
search of safety from profanation, after death. There is a loneliness
of grandeur about the character and mission of St. Paul which, in
these ends of time, have come to surround his grave also, and they suit
it well. Often in my girlhood I traversed that desolate road between
the city and the sea, and all the vitality of youth could not avert
the shudder of cold and solitude that came over me in doing so, no
matter how numerous and gay my companions might be. We used to drive
out to Ostia in the spring, when the sea calls so alluringly to its
lovers, and spend long hours under the pines that fringe the beach.
The Tiber abandoned the old port long ago and twists itself into the
Mediterranean a couple of miles north of its original outlet. In April
the stretch of low rolling ground near Castel Fusano is all one field
of wild jonquils that fill the air with perfume, and beyond them there
is nothing but the long forsaken beach and the regular beat of the
tideless sea. I stood there one day on a little rock as far out as I
dared to go, with the waves breaking round my feet, and the west wind
singing in my ears—singing strange songs of far lands that were already
beckoning me away from my Roman home. The sun had sunk towards them,
leaving the sky a dome of green and citron, delicate and dim; the sea
was sullen grey on the hither side, and floating opal in the west; and
when at last I was called back to land, the pines leaned together and
whispered dark things about the destinies of mortal maids who ventured
to listen to the call of the Unknown.

And how it calls me yet—the Unknown that has just flicked its
fringes in my eyes, wafted a ghost of its scent in my nostrils! There
are two of us—I and my first-born—to whom Mother Asia still cries
heart-breakingly through all the stress and all the staleness of
life in the ready-made places. We began our life there together, the
baby who opened his eyes in the white heat of an Asiatic summer, and
I, who had passed from girlhood to motherhood at his coming; we two
knew it, the air of the great plains that reach from Pechili to the
Tundras, from Peking to Lake Oo-nor—and the Altai—the padding of the
camels’ feet in the dust—the smell of camphor and sandal-wood, and
tea-brick—the touch of Siberian sable and silver fox, lighter than
my kiss on his cheek, warmer than my arms around his body—the clang
of the hammer on the bronze, the damp sweetness of the temple courts,
the gleam of rough gold and the blue of the turquoise—the melancholy
eternal splendour of the heart of Asia, the dear raw strength of it
all, uncannily perfumed and terrifyingly sacred, as the scent let loose
from some regal, balm-stuffed tomb! And we go back to Asia and follow
the caravans starting for Nijni Novgorod, and talk with the merchants,
and rest in our own fairy temple among the white pines of the western
hills—for whole nights together sometimes—and the next day return to
our places in the cheap civilised world as if nothing had happened—and
we never tell anybody where we have been!


But we must continue to follow another and more important pilgrimage.
On the 1st of July, the “Apostolic Pronotaries” celebrate the Divine
Mysteries in the Church of Santa Pudentiana, the sanctuary which stands
upon the site of the house where St. Paul lived during his first stay
in Rome from 41 to 50 A.D. It was the property of Pudens, the same,
apparently, whom St. Paul mentions in his second Epistle to Timothy,
together with Eubulus and Linus (afterwards Pope) and Claudia. Pudens
was a wealthy Senator who eagerly embraced the Christian Faith and
brought all his family and household into the Fold. What power they had
for good, those masters of huge households, in the Rome of the First
Century of our era! Doubtless, Pudens, like many others of whom it is
consoling to read even in that age of gross selfishness and cruelty,
had ever been a just man and merciful to his slaves; but what must have
been the rejoicing of the poor bondsmen when he summoned them to listen
to the Apostle and learn that Christ died for all, that He had bought
for each one of them, as fully as for the greatest potentate on earth,
an eternity of happiness in which they would be compensated for all
the privations and sorrows of life! Think what that doctrine meant to
the unfortunate creatures for whom not only life itself with no hope
or intimation of a beyond, but every alleviation of their wretched lot,
depended on the whim of an owner, who, if reasonable and kind himself,
might at any moment sell or present them to another, of the most cruel
and savage character! Even to those of them who did not at once embrace
Christianity the master’s altered convictions must have brought intense
relief and comfort, and, to those who did, it must have been like the
rising of a sun of warmth in darkest, coldest night.

We get a beautiful glimpse into the home life of Christians in those
days in the detailed story of the family of Pudens, left us by the
Priest, Pastor, the brother of Pius I. The friend and host of St.
Paul, having mightily aided the cause of the Faith, was rewarded, it
is believed, with the crown of martyrdom, under Nero, but his son,
also named Pudens, and heir to his virtues as well as his estates,
vigorously continued the good work begun by the father, and brought
up his two daughters, Praxedis and Pudentiana, in the love of God from
their earliest years. Of the manner of his end I have found no record,
though we may be sure it was a happy one; we know that by the time
Pudentiana was sixteen, she and her sister were orphans, the possessors
of great riches, and that they had vowed themselves to the service of
God and His poor.

It was the privilege of wealthy Christians to provide fitting places
for the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries and for the assembling
of catechumens for instruction, whenever a lull in the tempests of
fast-succeeding persecutions made it safe for them to pray and teach
elsewhere than in the Catacombs. Pudentiana, although the younger of
the two sisters and scarcely more than a child when she died, seems to
have been of a most valiant spirit, the one to direct and organise,
while the gentle Praxedis, destined to survive her for some years,
supported and aided her in all things. These two rich girls, in the
flower of their youth, gave all their time to prayer and praise, to
charity and penance. “They desired,” says Pastor, “to have a baptistery
in their house, to which the blessed Pius not only consented, but drew
the plan of the fountain for it with his own hand. Then, calling in
their slaves, both from town and country, the two virgins gave liberty
to those who were Christians, and urged belief in the Faith on those
who had not yet received it. By the advice of the blessed Pius, the
affranchisement was declared, with all the ancient usages, in the
oratory founded by Pudens; then, at the festival of Easter, ninety-six
neophytes were baptised; so that thenceforth assemblies were constantly
held in the said oratory, which resounded with hymns of praise night
and day. Many pagans gladly came thither to find the faith and receive
baptism.

“Meanwhile the Emperor Antoninus, being informed of what was taking
place, issued an edict commanding all Christians to dwell apart in
their own houses, without mixing with the rest of the people; also
forbidding them to go to the public shops or to frequent the baths.
Praxedis and Pudentiana then gathered into their own house those
whom they had led to the faith, and sheltered and nourished them for
many days, all watching and praying. The blessed Bishop Pius himself
frequently visited us with joy, and often offered the Sacrifice for us
to the Saviour.

“Then Pudentiana went to God. Her sister and I wrapped her in perfumes
and kept her concealed in the oratory. Then, at the end of twenty-eight
days, we carried her to the cemetery of Priscilla, and laid her near
her father, Pudens.

“Eleven months after, Novatus[11] died in his turn. He bequeathed
all his goods to Praxedis, and she then begged of St. Pius to erect
a Church in the baths of Novatus, which were no longer used and where
there was a large and spacious hall. The Bishop made the dedication in
the name of the blessed virgin Praxedis herself, and in the same place
he consecrated a baptistery.

“But at the end of two years a great persecution was declared against
the Christians, and many received the crown of martyrdom. Praxedis
concealed a great number of them in her oratory and nourished them
with the food of this world and the Word of God. But the Emperor
Antoninus, having learnt that these meetings took place in the oratory
of Praxedis, caused it to be searched, and many Christians were taken,
especially the Priest Simetrius and twenty-two others, and the blessed
Praxedis collected their bodies by night, and buried them in the
cemetery of Priscilla on the seventh day of the Kalends of June. Then
the virgin of the Saviour, worn out with sorrow, only asked for death.
Her tears and her prayers reached to Heaven, and fifty-four days after
her brethren had suffered she passed to God. And I, Pastor the Priest,
have buried her body near that of her father, Pudens.”[12]

There is nothing that could be added to the Priest Pastor’s story. It
is so complete, so loving, and so illuminating in the gentle charity
with which it tells us that “Pudentiana passed to God.” Not a word of
her cruel death—we know of that from other sources, no complaints about
the rampant hatred which made it necessary to conceal her body for four
weeks before it could be laid beside that of her father in the holy
ground of the Appian Way. All is told without a spark of rancour or an
exclamation of grief—yet when Pastor buried Praxedis beside her sister,
the loving circle to which he had ministered in their house was broken
up, every member of the family was dead, as well as most of the friends
they gathered there; the home had been raided and desecrated, and he
was a marked man, holding himself in readiness for his end.

What strikes one particularly in all the stories of this time is
the resolute veneration with which the Christians, in spite of
all prohibitions, collected the bodies of their slain comrades and
succeeded in burying them in holy ground. The bodies of Pudentiana and
Praxedis were finally restored to their home, already consecrated as a
church, and there we can behold at this day the phials in which they
gathered up the blood of the martyrs. It was the zeal of the valiant
Pudentiana in this work of love which drew down upon her the wrath of
the persecutors and hastened her own death. A hundred years later the
noble Cecilia, with her husband and his brother, suffered for the same
cause, and what thousands had been immolated for it between! Nothing
could daunt the Christian spirit in this regard, and it cannot but
enhance the preciousness of our holy relics to reflect that so many of
our forbears in the Faith preserved them for us at the price of their
own lives.

There are some startling juxtapositions in the topography of old Rome.
But a stone’s throw from the venerable Church of St. Pudentiana is
a spot which, when I was a child, was still regarded by the Romans
as cursed, still known to us as the Vico Scellerato, though I do not
find the name on the modern lists of Roman streets. It was there that
was enacted the last scene of one of the ugliest tragedies in the
records of humanity, a story of crime so appalling that it has survived
twenty-five centuries of oblivion, and is still told, with shudders of
horror, among the poor people of that quarter of the city, even as the
memory of the good Queen Tanaquil is still venerated for her virtue
and wisdom. In these times, when so much instructive old material has
been swept away to make room for the fads and futilities of modern
education, it seems worth while to place the tale on record again.
It opens (as did the history of Hipparchus) with a Greek, one Lucumo,
who drifted to Italy in the days of Ancus Martius. Lucumo was the son
of a native of Corinth, and, on landing in Italy, settled at a town
in the heart of Etruria, called Tarquinii. Doubtless he found friends
and countrymen there, for the Greeks were ever a roving people and,
to judge by the Greek influence so visible in Etruscan Art, must very
early have brought their love of beauty and skill in labour thither.
Tarquinii was a walled city, five miles in circumference, as can
still be seen from the remains near Corneto Tarquinii, the town which
has replaced it. But it was not stirring enough for the venturesome
Lucumo, and, moved perhaps by some such mysterious power as that which,
centuries later, whispered in Alaric’s ear, “Penetrabis ad Urbem,”
travelled southwards and came to Rome, bringing with him his beautiful
Greek wife, Tanaquil, and all his goods, which appear to have been of
great value. It was quite a caravan, therefore, which approached the
northern gate of the city, and one can fancy the hum of excited talk
among children and dependents as they paused to gaze at it.

At that moment a great eagle, flapping along in search of a Campagna
lambkin for its brood in the Sabines, hovered above the travellers for
a moment, its dark wings spread motionless against the blue; then it
darted down, and, snatching the cap from the head of Lucumo, soared
away with it, while all gazed up in awe and consternation, wondering
what the marvel might portend. In an instant another followed. The
eagle, after wheeling aloft, swooped down once more and replaced the
covering on the leader’s head, then flew away and was no more seen. “It
is a happy omen!” cried Tanaquil to her husband, “of this great city
thou shalt one day be King!”

He found a warm welcome in Rome and so endeared himself to the
inhabitants by his generosity and wisdom that when Ancus, the reigning
King, died, they chose Lucumo to replace him. The new King did much to
embellish and fortify the city, and Tanaquil, while sharing his state
and councils, became the model of all Roman matrons, spinning and
weaving the wool for the garments of her family, and clinging in all
her ways to the old simple, frugal ideals; her distaff and spindle, and
her woollen girdle, were preserved for many centuries, and ranked in
importance with the “palladium” and other venerated insignia of Rome’s
power.

One day, as she was crossing the court of the palace, the Queen saw
some of her servants gathered in a group, staring at some object on
the steps leading into the atrium. On approaching she beheld a young
boy of great beauty—Servius Tullius by name—whom she had taken into
her service, lying asleep on the step, while a crown of lambent flame
played above his unconscious head. The servants were terrified, but
Tanaquil, versed in all the Etrurian lore of omen, at once perceived
that he was to be a favourite of the gods. She told her husband that
the boy was destined to great glory, and Lucumo, ever heedful of her
wise counsels, henceforth treated him as a son and educated him with
the greatest care.

Lucumo, whom the Romans by this time called Lucius, had sons of his
own, but the succession, still purely elective, was coveted by the
two sons of his predecessor Ancus. Filled with jealousy of the young
Servius, whose election as his own successor they feared that Lucius
would procure, they laid a trap for the latter by requesting a private
audience with him. When they found themselves alone with the King, now
an aged man—he had reigned forty years—they basely murdered him and
rushed out into the city to tell the people he had died suddenly, and
to sway the populace to make them Kings in his place.

But so great was the mourning for good King Lucius when his death was
announced, that the people gave themselves up to their grief and put
the matter of the election aside. And Tanaquil, the wise woman, caused
it to be proclaimed, in an hour or two, that Lucius was merely stunned
and not dead at all, and that until his recovery should be complete he
desired that Servius should fill his place. Great was the rejoicing
in Rome, and with much alacrity the people put themselves under the
orders of the young Servius, who himself in all things obeyed the noble
Tanaquil. So, for many days, the government was carried on, and when
the people had become accustomed to regarding Servius as their ruler,
Tanaquil told them that her beloved husband had at last succumbed to
his wounds, and that Servius Tullius would in all things follow his
good example if they would elect him as King.

This they gladly did, and he reigned over them in peace and honour
for many years; but, alas! the bright portent of his youth no longer
hovered over his destiny, and dark days were at hand for him and for
Rome. He had two daughters, both called Tullia—the elder good and pure
as Tanaquil, who had now passed away, and the younger with a heart full
of evil and cruelty. These two girls their father had given in marriage
to the two sons of his benefactor Lucius, in hope of securing peace
to the kingdom by thus uniting the families. The two sons of Lucius
presented the same violent contrasts of character as the daughters of
Servius; one was a sinner, the other a saint; and marriage mismated
them, giving the elder Tullia to proud, wicked Lucius Tarquinius, and
her black-hearted younger sister to the good Aruns. The consequences
were soon all too apparent. Lucius fell in love with his brother’s
wife; she responded to his passion; they two conspired to murder their
lawful spouses, carried out their bloodthirsty plot, and then turned
their attention to the removal of the aged Servius from their path to
the throne.

Servius, sprung from the people, had made many enemies among the
nobles by restraining their oppressions, and by championing the
poorer classes, and the wicked Lucius found no difficulty in drawing
discontented men into a plot to kill the King. They waited craftily
till the height of the harvest season, when the able-bodied workingmen
were all busy in the fields outside the city; then, gathering in force
in the Forum, they installed Lucius in the seat from which Servius was
accustomed to judge the causes that were brought before him. Servius
was at once warned of that which was taking place, and hurried on
foot from the royal residence on the so-called Cispian Hill; in haste
to reach the Forum and quell the insurrection, he took the short-cut
through what is now the Via Urbana. At the end of this street he was
met by a band of assassins who hewed him down and left him in his
blood, lying right across the road.

Meanwhile his daughter Tullia had left her own home (now marked by
the Church of St. Peter of the Chains) and bade her charioteer drive
at full speed to her father’s house, of which it was arranged that
she should take possession while the slayers were despatching him. On
reaching the Via Urbana the driver, aghast, pulled up his horses.

“We can go no further on this road, Lady!” he said, pointing to the
body of the murdered King.

“Drive on!” she commanded.

“I cannot—without crushing the King’s body,” he protested.

“Drive on!” she cried, frantic to reach her goal, and the trembling
man obeyed. The wheels bit deep into the yet warm flesh, and dripped
and spattered her father’s blood all along the road which the daughter
followed to reach the stolen throne. And from that day on through all
the ages the thoroughfare was called the Vico Scellerato—the atrocious
road!

Tullia’s son grew up to be “False Sextus,” whose crime forced chaste
Lucrece to take her own life. Then the people rose against the tyrants
and drove them out, to die despised and in exile and never another
“King” ruled in Rome till it opened its dishonoured gates to Victor
Emmanuel in 1870.



CHAPTER VII

THE LATER EMPERORS

  People and Scenes of the Corso—The Collegio Romano—Cardinal Merry
  del Val—Church of the Trinità dei Monti—A Picture of the Emperor
  Theodosius and His Son—The Other Boy Emperor, Gratian—The Usurper,
  Maximus—Nobility of Gratian—Finally Overcome by Treachery—Saint
  Ambrose—Fifth Day at St. Peter of the Chains—Two Christian
  Empresses—The Miracle of the Chains—High Mass at San Pietro—Latter
  Days of the Pilgrimage—View from Janiculum Hill—Michelangelo and
  Vasari—Michelangelo’s “Visiting Card.”


The second day of July, if we follow out our proposed seven days’
pilgrimage, brings us to a spot in the Corso which so hums and stirs
with modern life that it is difficult for the imagination to connect it
with antiquity at all. Not that the Corso itself has the appearance of
a modern street by any means. Narrow and anything but straight, with
great palaces and mean buildings crowding promiscuously and set as
close together as possible—princely houses flanked by humble shops—with
cross streets debouching into it every few hundred yards, and pouring
forth a stream of traffic, spreading away here and there as if pushed
out by main force, but yielding as little as possible of the coveted
sidewalks, it is the real artery of Rome, pulsing with the life of a
people who, from the days of Julius Cæsar to our own, have carried on
existence in the open air. There the lawyers discuss their cases, the
politicians air their opinions; the young men, at a certain hour of the
afternoon, stand in long lines, like troops on guard, on the outer edge
of the sidewalk, to ogle and criticise the women who roll by in their
carriages trying to look unconscious of the enfilade. But the morning
is the Corso’s real prime, a midday of spring for choice, when, from
a cloudless sky, the sun in his zenith rakes the long street from the
Piazza di Venezia to the Popolo without leaving so much as an inch of
shade as a refuge from his fierce rays, except where the shop-awnings
extend a merciful protection to foot-passengers. The flower vendors
are everywhere, offering whole baskets of lilacs—the fat Roman
lilacs—carnations, and roses for a franc or two, and eagerly offering
to carry the burden home for one on the spot. The great ladies, who
would rather die than be seen in the Corso on foot in the afternoon,
are racing about in twos and threes, dressed as simply as possible,
it is true, but with the huge diamond earrings, from which they never
part, focussing the sunbeams, while their high-voiced, intimate chatter
and proud faces express their complete contempt for and ignoring of
any human being outside their own aristocratic circle. This is the
golden hour for the dressmakers and milliners and jewellers, and their
faces are wreathed in smiles as they fly about to satisfy the wealthy
customers who make the morning their own. Few foreigners are seen;
they haunt the Piazza di Spagna and the Via Condotti, the street of
the jewellers, who work solely for them in Etruscan gold and cameos
and mosaics, ornaments which no Roman would ever think of buying or
wearing, though they are far more artistic than the Frenchified tiaras
and rivières to be seen on the Corso.

A few minutes before noon the crowd thickens there near the Collegio
Romano till it is hard to make one’s way through it; the buzz of talk
ceases, men get out their watches, and hold them in their hands while
all eyes are turned upward as if expecting the advent of some celestial
apparition. Silence reigns for a minute or two; then it is rent by the
thunderous boom of the midday gun at Sant’ Angelo, and the next instant
a babel of deafening sound has broken over the city. Every Church
bell in Rome is ringing madly. The crowd cries “Mezzo Giorno!” with
one voice, the black cone has run up on the flagstaff of the College
observatory, and the watches have been returned to their owners’
pockets. There is a kind of stampede to homes and restaurants for the
midday meal, unless it is checked by the appearance of a squadron of
dragoons clattering down the street like mounted suns, their helmets
and breastplates shining intolerably bright, their big black horses
pretending to paw and chafe in tune with the military band that follows
them and which is filling the air with the joyous strains of a popular
march that tries to outdo the pealing of the bells. Beside and behind
the band comes every ragamuffin in Rome, marching delightedly, head
in air, mouth open, and roaring out the tune; hunger and rags are
forgotten for the moment and every beggar boy feels like a victorious
general attending his own triumph.

Now the doors of the Collegio have opened to let out another great
stream to join the throng—students of all classes and nationalities
pour into the street. On certain days those of the Collegio di
Propaganda Fide may be seen hurrying across the town to take their
exercise in the suburbs. Here come Greeks and Copts, Bengalis and
Chinese, crossing similar processions of fair-haired English and
Germans, the latter picturesquely notable as they stride along, two
by two, some forty of them perhaps, in the vivid scarlet cassock
and hat which Gregory XVI imposed upon them to cure them of slipping
unnoticed into a “birreria” for a glass of their national beverage,
and which costume has caused the Romans to give them the nickname of
“Gamberi”—Lobsters! They make a great contrast to the English-speaking
students, Scotch, Irish, American, and English proper, who wear sombre
black or dark purple; but the form of the uniform is always the same,
a long cassock with St. Ignatius’ streamers reaching to the hem and
flying from the shoulders at every touch of wind, every movement of the
muscular young bodies. The whole is crowned by a wide, three-cornered
hat, from under which the boyish faces look out roguishly enough on
what the owners evidently consider a mighty pleasant world.

A young priest who lately returned from studying for three years at the
American College in Rome, was telling me the other day what delightful
recollections he had brought away with him, of the cheery home-like
atmosphere of the college—of the wisdom and kindness of the Superior
and his aides, and of all the merry larks that the American boys
indulged in when study hours were over. A frequent visitor there was
Cardinal Merry del Val, the most boyish-hearted of ecclesiastics; he
took the greatest interest in their baseball contests, which he used to
watch closely to learn the rules of the game.

The Cardinal’s father was the Spanish ambassador to the Pope for many
years, and the Countess was a friend of my own dear mother, who admired
her enthusiastically. She was a highly cultivated and most holy woman,
combining all the dignity of the old-time great lady with the gentle
urbanity of a Religious; indeed, when she and her young daughters
entered a room they seemed to bring with them that ineffable convent
fragrance, sweet as the message of hidden violets, which one scarcely
looks to meet in the outside world. Their home was in the Spanish
palace, from which the Piazza di Spagna takes its name, standing just
opposite the splendid sweep of the “Spanish Steps,” which mount in
broad gradations to their crown, the towering Church of the Trinità dei
Monti.

But I was talking of a warm spring morning, and that ascent should be
made in the cooler hours. It is pleasanter just now to linger under
some awning near the end of the Corso, and, looking down across the
sun-smitten expanse of the Piazza del Popolo to the gate of that name,
to muse on the processions which have passed through that northern
portal of the city. There is one picture that returns oftener than
others to my mind when I look at it, the picture of Theodosius,
the great Emperor, entering the city in state, with his little son,
Honorius, on his knee, and his co-emperor, the younger Valentinian, by
his side. Rome, like some aged and neglected parent, was seldom visited
by her Emperors in those days; their headquarters were fixed where
great events were stirring—in Constantinople, in Ravenna, in Milan, or
Treves. So the 13th of June, 309 A.D., marked an event long remembered
by the Romans, the hour when they looked upon their rulers’ faces
for the first time. There was but one real ruler just then, however;
his younger colleague and his little son were merely being trained to
take their places when he should be no more. The cheering crowds were
carried away by the sight of the princely child, as crowds always are,
but some of the more thoughtful must have gazed—not too confidently—on
the face of Theodosius, the strong, dark, capable Spaniard, so just and
merciful in his calm moments, so violent in his angry ones that only
his beloved adopted daughter, Serena, dared approach him then. And,
whether calm or angry, there was one memory that seems never to have
left him, the memory of his brave, loyal soldier father, ignominiously
put to death by the Roman Emperor whom he had faithfully served—on a
charge so futile that it was not even mentioned in the order for his
execution.

Yet, remembering, he forgave, and did all in his power to protect and
help the Romans. His son grew up, alas! a mere shadow of a man, too
weak and indolent even to be wicked, his short life a strange contrast
to another, cut off in the flush of youth the year before he was born.
Even with a son of his own to follow him, we know Theodosius never
ceased to mourn the untimely death of Gratian, “the graceful,” “the
gracious,” “the gratitude inspiring,” as the orator Themistius calls
him.

We have indeed one beautiful picture of Honorius, when still but a
youth he entered Rome again, and again heard the Roman shouts as he
passed on to the Palatine, standing in his gilded chariot, the sun
resting on his dark head and playing radiantly on the great necklaces
of emeralds that rose and fell in response to the joyful beatings of a
heart still very young, still responsive at times to noble impulses,
the people cheering him madly, and the women weeping for joy at the
sight of his beauty. After that, all is darkness; his intellect, such
as it was, was devoted to the most futile of pursuits—the raising of
prize poultry! It was but a few years later that, on being told that
“Rome had perished,” he cried out in dismay, “What, my beautiful fowl?”
And on being told that it was the Mother of cities, the Heart of the
Empire, which had succumbed to Alaric, the Goth invader, he gave a sigh
of relief, exclaiming, “I thought you meant my bird was dead!”

Far different was the character of the other boy-Emperor, Gratian, the
son of Valentinian.

There is something wonderfully appealing as well as pathetic in the
story of this pure and high-hearted youth into whose twenty-five years
of life there entered every element of the fierce mental and material
conflicts that convulsed the world in the fourth century of our era,
the century when Imperial children were used as shields and standards
for the conflicting parties and were called upon to exercise the powers
of government almost before they had learnt to read. Valentinian, bent,
like those before and after him, on converting an elective sovereignty
into an hereditary one, resolved on taking his son into partnership on
the throne while Gratian was, by most accounts, only eight years old.
As usual, the question would be decided by the army, or that portion of
it nearest at hand, and Valentinian, having insinuated the idea into
his soldiers’ minds, found that they were not averse to it. Any such
proceeding was sure to be welcome to them, since it was certain to be
accompanied by the large donatives of money for the sake of which the
Purple was so constantly changing wearers in those times.

Valentinian was at Amiens, and the troops, having been called together
in the plain before the city, he presented the boy to them in a
harangue full of spirit, reminding them that Gratian, from his birth,
had played with their children, grown up with their own sons, and
promising that he should be a worthy leader of such noble company. The
bright, fearless child stood up beside his father on the tribunal,
and the soldiers, forgetting ulterior motives, hailed him with real
enthusiasm, shouting, “Gratiane Auguste! Gratiane Auguste!” with all
their heart. There was a great burst of trumpets and clash of arms,
and then Valentinian spoke to the boy, so that all could hear him.
It is a fine speech, the speech of a soldier, and short, as soldiers’
speeches should be: “Thou hast now, my Gratian, by my decision and that
of my brave comrades, been invested with the Imperial robes. Begin to
strengthen thy soul to bear their weight. Prepare to cross the Danube
and the Rhine, to stand firm in battle with these thy warrior friends,
to shed thy blood and give up thy life itself for the defence of thy
subjects, to think nothing too great or too little by which thou canst
preserve the safety of the Empire. This is all I will say to thee
now, but the rest shall be told thee when thou art mature enough to
comprehend it.” Then, turning to the troops, he ended by saying: “To
you, my brave soldiers, I commit the boy—with the prayer that your love
may guard him, your arms defend him, all his life!”

Valentinian’s next care was to provide Gratian with wise tutors, and
surely few youths were ever more favoured in that respect. The tie
between him and St. Ambrose was as strong and tender a one as history
has ever presented to our admiration. Gratian, in every circumstance
of his short and stormy life, turns to the great Bishop for support
and counsel. Ambrose never seems to have the young ruler out of his
thoughts; the Saint’s outburst of sorrow at his death is the cry of
a broken heart. It all forms a chapter of most unusual beauty in the
story of mankind.

Hardly less attractive is Gratian’s affection for his other tutor,
Ausonius, whom, even in the urgency of affairs and the stress of
war, he never forgets, taking time to send him a letter or a gift,
remembering even the poet’s harmless weaknesses, and making a
long journey so as to assist in person at the investiture with the
Consulship, which Gratian had bestowed upon him, thus crowning the
highest ambition of the good man’s heart. Yet, what a contrast the two
teachers present! Ambrose, the “golden-mouthed” indeed, but inflexible,
the unconquerable fighter for the independence of the Church, the
judge of his Emperor Theodosius, whom he punishes—during eight long
months—for the Thessalonian massacre, by forbidding him to enter the
sanctuary till he has repented of his cruelty publicly in dust and
ashes before its threshold—and Ausonius, the “tranquil and indulgent
man, mild of voice and eye,” rejoicing in the beauties of his lovely
home by the Moselle, bringing the exquisite freshness of a summer
morning before us as few others have done, his sincere Christianity
all warmed and illumined by his born kinship with Nature and his
gratitude to the Creator; yet so human in his fluttering delight at
Gratian’s favours, his innocent triumph when the young Emperor not only
associates him with himself in the Consulship, but sends him the very
purple robe embroidered with palm branches which the great Constantine
had worn on the same occasion.

It is difficult to understand how the grandson of “Gratian the
rope-maker”—that rough country lad who wandered into the Roman camp
at Cibalæ in Pannonia to sell his wares, and so pleased the soldiers
by his strength and audacity that they kept him with them—should have
come to be the very model and ideal of a gentle knight, both in heart
and person. He seems far more nearly allied to the noble Constantine,
of whom he speaks indeed as a parent, but only on the ground of
having married his granddaughter Constantia. It was an age when the
unending ramifications of the various Imperial families furnished more
occupants for thrones than there were thrones to occupy, and in which a
successful claimant could almost always find a royal bride with whose
name to strengthen his own hold on power. Add to this multiplicity of
true heirs the numberless usurpers who struck but for themselves, or
those whom the different Legions raised to the purple for their own
ends (“barrack Emperors” as our own great historian, Thomas Hodgkin,
called them), and you have such a bewildering crowd of Emperors and
sham Emperors, of usurpers and rival usurpers, that one can scarcely
remember their names, and their histories only awake a passing thrill
of pity for the violent ends to which most of them came.

One of the usurpers indeed (Magnentius by name) left an important, if
disturbing, legacy to the world in the person of his widow Justina,
a beautiful but not over-wise Sicilian woman whom his conqueror,
Valentinian, already the father of Gratian, took to wife. The story
of her triumphs and misfortunes, of the obstinate championship of the
Arian heresy which brought her into such a series of battles with St.
Ambrose, would fill volumes, and one gathers that she was a great thorn
in the side of her stepson Gratian, who, while obliged to restrain her
as far as possible, nevertheless treated her with unvarying kindness
and deference. One of the most touching incidents in the life of the
boy Emperor is the fear and depression expressed in the letter in
which he beseeches St. Ambrose to send him some good book from which
he can draw faith and courage in the struggle lying before him, the
subjugation of the Goths, who had rebelled against his Arian uncle,
Valens, still the reigning Emperor in the East. St. Ambrose responds
by writing and sending his treatise “Of Faith,” and from that time
forth it is said that Gratian carried the little book about with him,
studying it even in his chariot when on his travels.

These were never-ending, his vigilance driving him hither and thither,
to settle disputes, subdue rebellions, to pacify his still barbarous
allies or correct the misdemeanours of iniquitous governors of
provinces. His actual reign only lasted seven or eight years, but very
little even of that time can have been passed at the nominal seat of
government, Augusta Treverorum, the modern Treves, at that time the
finest and best fortified city in the Empire, and showing, even now,
magnificent blocks of fortress long put to base uses, but in these days
restored to the original ones by the energetic militarism of Prussia.

If Gratian was fortunate in having the holy Ambrose and the wise
Ausonius to instruct him in the Faith and in the humanities, he was
hardly less so in the military adviser who taught him the arts of war.
The old Frankish general, Merobaudes, is one of the people I always
feel I should have liked to know. He was as loyal as he was valiant and
experienced, and the young Emperor reposed implicit and well-merited
trust in him. But even his craft and courage could not save Gratian
from falling a victim to treachery at last.

In spite of his elevated and attractive character, his prudence, his
zeal, his clemency, there were two parties in the Empire of whom one
remained and the other became irreconcilable to Gratian’s policy. The
first, though not the most powerful, consisted of the large number of
Senators and nobles in Rome who adhered to the old pagan worship with
the tenacity of despair. It had never been proscribed, but its outward
ceremonies were discouraged when they were not actually forbidden;
idols had been removed from the public places where it was customary to
burn incense before them, and in some instances revenues pertaining to
the discredited faith had been diverted to other uses. The partisans of
paganism, counting on Gratian’s youth and inexperience, made repeated
efforts to obtain from him some official recognition of the ancient
religion, particularly in the matter of replacing the Altar of Victory,
which Constantius, a zealous though Arian Christian, had removed from
the Senate hall in the Capitol where it had stood for four hundred
years. They also attempted to persuade him to take on the state and
robes of “Pontifex Maximus,” the head and high priest of the cult of
the Olympian deities. Some of Gratian’s immediate predecessors had been
either indulgent or indifferent about such matters, and had now and
then yielded a point to the old traditions, but the young and ardent
Gratian looked upon these weaknesses with horror and met such demands
with stern and uncompromising denial. When the hierophants who had
besought him to assume the robe of the chief of their order withdrew,
in sullen mortification, from the audience, their leader uttered
a prediction which proved to be a threat: “The Emperor may refuse
this honour, but in spite of him there will soon be another Pontifex
Maximus.” This was later construed into a prophecy, pointing to the
usurper Maximus who, for the sorrow of the Empire, snatched the purple
and held it for a while after Gratian’s death.

This Maximus, a Spaniard of low extraction, was both the mouthpiece
and the tool of the other and far more powerful party in the Empire
which had some show of reason for being discontented with Gratian’s
rule, the Roman Legionaries whose jealousy was aroused by his frank
preference for his Gothic and Teutonic fighting men. The preference
was fully justified; the “Barbarians,” as the Romans still affected to
call them, were brave, clean-living loyal soldiers, great fair-haired
fellows rejoicing in feats of strength and in the display of rich
ornaments on their handsome persons; they were far more sympathetic
to Gratian than the decadent Romans, many of whom, as Hodgkin points
out, were themselves the effeminate descendants of quite recently
Romanised aliens. The parvenu is always the most zealous defender of
the privileges of the class to which he has been undeservedly promoted;
they made no secret of their discontent when the Emperor chose some
big, genial Alani for his bodyguard and for many positions of honour
and sent a couple of Roman Legions to improve their health and mend
their ways in the sad isle of Britain.

It is amusing to read the wailing complaints of the exiled sybarites,
condemned to what they considered a kind of convict station and quite
the most miserable spot in the world. What, they, the flower of the
aristocracy and the army, were to pass their precious time in dreary
solitudes where the sun never shone, where grapes did not grow, and
where the pay of an officer did not permit him even a decent glass
of wine? Live under grey skies, on a soggy island cut off from the
real world by most uncomfortably rough seas (the Latin is a wretched
sailor to this day), where there was no music, no fun, and scarcely any
pretty women—and, for their sole occupation, to have to keep the savage
inhabitants from exterminating one another? No, it was not to be borne!
And, after the usual time had passed in ever more angry grumbling, the
Legions revolted, deposed the absent and unconscious Gratian, and named
Maximus Emperor in his stead.

Had the garrison of Great Britain alone been in question, we
should most likely never have heard of their mutiny, but that was
unfortunately not the case. The jealousy and discontent in Gaul and
other portions of the realm had spread and smouldered till but a single
touch was needed to make it burst out in a blaze. That was applied
by Maximus, who now, with a large body of troops, abandoned Britain
and appeared in Gaul at the mouth of the Rhine. Gratian, who had been
subduing some hostile tribes, hastened back to his camp to find that
a large proportion of his men had deserted him to join his rival. He
could still count, however, on sufficient numbers to give him hopes
of success, and one is glad to read that the good veteran Merobaudes
was with him and that another brave captain, one Vallio, clung to him
loyally in this great emergency. They found Maximus encamped near
Paris, but all their efforts failed to draw him to do battle. The
crafty adventurer kept the commanders busy with feints of attack and
cleverly planned skirmishes, and utilised the time thus gained to draw
the Emperor’s men to desert, by lavish bribes and promises. At the
end of a few days Gratian, who had no money wherewith to buy fidelity,
found himself forsaken by all but his two old friends and some three
hundred horsemen, and, in bitter humiliation and anger, turned to flee,
hoping to reach Milan, the first point where he would have been able
to pause in safety. The journey was a terrible one; the news of his
disaster travelled faster than he did, every door was closed to him,
and he could scarcely procure food enough to sustain life. Meanwhile
the pursuers, led by one Andragathius, his bitterest enemy, raced at
his heels, and every day that passed diminished his chances of escape.
But the faith and courage of which he had given so many proofs before
did not leave him now. A hunted fugitive, forsaken and starving, he
never wavered or repined. “My soul waiteth upon God,” he said. “My foes
can slay my body, but they cannot quench the life of my soul.”

He was taken by treachery at last. As he drew near the city of Lyons,
he perceived, on the opposite bank of the Rhone, a litter hurrying
along escorted only by a few servants. Some one told him that the
traveller was Læta, the beautiful girl he had just married, Constantia
having died some little time before. He insisted on crossing the
river—rushed to the litter—and was instantly caught in the arms of
Andragathius, triumphant at the success of the snare he had prepared.
Gratian was conducted, with some show of respect, to Lyons, where,
with every appearance of sincere deference, he was invited to wear the
Imperial Purple and to take his place at a magnificent banquet. He
was not wholly deceived by these specious attentions, and asked his
entertainers to give their oath that no harm was intended. This they
did, most solemnly; Gratian, incapable of believing in their deliberate
perjury, consented to their request, and a few moments later fell,
stabbed to the heart, calling on Ambrose with his last breath.

The great Bishop had suffered agonies of suspense about his beloved
pupil from the moment he had received the news of his discomfiture. He
followed him in spirit on his flight, saw in mind all his suffering and
danger, and was utterly broken-hearted when he learnt of his cruel and
untimely death at the hands of the usurper Maximus. But the bitterest
moment in the Saint’s whole life must have come, when, a little later,
Justina, wild with anxiety as to the fate meditated for her own young
son Valentinian (he had been associated with Gratian as Emperor,
dethroned by Maximus, and was now twelve years old), twice prevailed
upon him to travel to Treves and intercede with the murderer for the
boy’s life and for peace. The studied insults inflicted upon Ambrose
by Maximus on that occasion were hard to bear, but we have it from his
own lips that the internal trial of holding intercourse with the slayer
of his beloved pupil was a furnace of tribulation, which at times
threatened to overcome every consideration of policy and necessity,
and for which the partial success of his missions in no way consoled
him. For Maximus, after being foiled in his attempts to get possession
of the person of Valentinian, decided that he had gone far enough in
extermination and, being firmly seated on the throne, consented to
let the boy appear to share it with him for a time. Of Gratian’s two
friends, Merobaudes and Vallio—the former, seeing a disgraceful death
awaiting him, took his own life; the latter, apparently by the orders
of Maximus, was privately hanged, and it was given out that he had
killed himself in this cowardly manner because he—the staunch fighting
man—was afraid of cold steel! The incident reminds one of the recent
murder of the French Freemason, who, on his conversion to Christianity,
became the victim of a similar fate and a similar calumny, inflicted by
former associates. Even the Devil makes very stupid mistakes sometimes.

The walk down the Corso has indeed taken us a long way from our
starting-point, the Church of Sta. Maria in Via Lata, where over the
now subterranean chapel in which the Doctor of the Gentiles dictated to
St. Luke the Acts of the Apostles, the prelates called the “Auditors
of the Rota” with the “Master of the Sacred Palace” (the Vatican)
celebrated the fourth day of the Octave of the Feast of the Apostles.
On the fifth day, in pursuance of the design by which each department
of the hierarchy should in its turn honour the Princes of the Faith,
the Pope said Mass at the Church of St. Peter of the Chains, assisted
by the ecclesiastical body known as the Clerks of the Chamber. “San
Pietro in Vincoli” stands on a rather lonely part of the Esquiline, the
highest of the Seven Hills. The great poet of the Tenth Century, Adam
of St. Victor, the author of some of our most beautiful hymns, compares
the Apostles to the Hills, because the rising sun strikes them first
and then reaches the regions below. On the spot where now stands the
Church of St. Peter’s Chains there was originally, according to the
most ancient authorities, St. Jerome, the Venerable Bede, and others,
a sanctuary dedicated by St. Peter himself on the first of August, in
order to consecrate to God the month which the Romans had named after
Augustus Cæsar, and which they devoted to his worship. Of the precious
chains with which the sanctuary was destined to be enriched, those
which had fallen from St. Peter’s limbs in Herod’s prison were still
treasured by the Christians in Jerusalem; the others, in which he was
to be led out to martyrdom, were perhaps not yet forged, for he was
still a free man when he came to consecrate the Church on the Hill that
looks to the east, and to fix August the first as a day of special
reparation to the Almighty for the idolatry which that month saw the
Romans lavish on a dead mortal.

St. Peter’s chapel was still standing and attracted many pilgrims
when, some four hundred years after its erection, it was enclosed
and incorporated in the large Church we now know, called, from her
who built it, the Eudoxian Basilica. The name brings before us two
Christian Empresses, a mother and daughter, the elder the wife of
Theodosius II, Emperor of the East; the younger married to Valentinian
III, Emperor of the West. The elder Eudoxia[13] had made a vow to go
on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and when she visited the Holy City, the
faithful there presented to her the Chains of St. Peter, which she
received with transports of gratitude, holding them more precious than
the rarest jewels. Then, having venerated them with great devotion,
she sent them as a gift to her beloved daughter Eudoxia, the wife of
the Emperor of the West. The young Empress was in Rome at the time,
and she at once took the chains to the Pontiff, St. Leo the Great, and
he, to her joy and surprise, told her that in return for her piety he
would show her the Chains with which St. Peter had been loaded in Rome.
Apparently the Empress did not know that they had been preserved and
venerated there ever since the beginning of the Second Century. It was
some forty years after the martyrdom of St. Peter that the reigning
Pope, St. Alexander, was made a captive, and placed under the charge
of the Tribune Quirinus, the governor of the Roman prisons. Quirinus
had a young daughter named Balbina, who was miraculously cured of a
great sickness by touching the chains of St. Alexander. As she knelt
in the transports of her joy, she could not cease from kissing and
weeping over the blessed chains, and Alexander said to her: “Kiss not
my chains, but rather go and find those of the Blessed Peter and kiss
them!”

Balbina hastened to obey. The chains with which Nero bound St. Peter
had been devoutly preserved by the Christians, and she had no trouble
in finding them. With the Pope’s consent she gave them into the keeping
of Theodora, the sister of St. Hermes, the Roman magistrate who had
been martyred under Trajan a few years earlier. Theodora seems to have
deposited them in St. Peter’s own little Church on the Esquiline, and
we can infer that it was there that the wonderful scene described in
the Roman Breviary took place more than four hundred years later. How
one wishes one could have seen the fair young Empress in her straight
Byzantine robe, stiff with gold and gleaming with jewels, kneeling with
clasped hands, her eyes wide with wonder, in the half light of the
old chapel, while St. Leo, not too absorbed in devotion to be keenly
interested in his examination, as he was in everything that seemed
worthy of attention at all—stood where the sun rays fell through one
dim window, and, the chain from Jerusalem in one hand and the Roman one
in the other, held them close together to compare and judge of them.
As he did so, they touched—and then the marvel happened. Link sprang to
meet link, ring welded into ring, and while the Pontiff gazed mute and
awestruck, that which he held had become one chain without scar or flaw
to show the point of union—the Chain still guarded, still venerated on
the very spot where the portent occurred.

Eudoxia built a noble Church as a shrine for the relic; this Church was
restored and added to as the ages passed on, and exactly one thousand
years after Eudoxia’s time, in 1477, Sixtus IV and his nephew, Giuliano
della Rovere, caused a splendid casket with bronze doors to be made and
placed under the High Altar to receive St. Peter’s Chains. There they
now lie, and on the 1st of August, every year, there is high festival
in San Pietro in Vincoli; the walls are hung from top to bottom with
crimson brocade, the pavement is strewn all the way from the door
to the High Altar with freshly gathered box sprigs, and their fresh,
clean fragrance mingles with the perfume of incense and the peculiar
sweetness that pure wax candles give out when lighted in great numbers
close together. There is High Mass with solemn music and the celebrant
and his assistant wear their richest vestments. The Church is crowded
with worshippers and wreathed in flowers, and when the two Chains which
became one in the hands of St. Leo are shown to the faithful, the sight
seems to bridge the centuries for us, and fills our hearts with love
and gratitude to God for giving us our first great Pastor, who bore
them so rejoicingly for his and our Master’s sake.


On the sixth day of the Octave the Pontiff said Mass in the Mamertine
Prison, where the two Apostles passed the last days of their life on
earth—the “Voters of the Chamber” assisting at the function. On the
seventh, the chosen sanctuary was that of S. Pietro in Montorio, the
spot on the Janiculum Hill where St. Peter suffered martyrdom. Its
terrace porch, high on the side of the slope, is the one spot I know
of from which all Rome can be seen, spread out like a mantle of jewels
on either side of its yellow river and raising its classic hills in a
wide semicircle against the shifting red and gold of the Campagna, the
blue of the serrated Sabines to the east and the soft green outlines of
the Alban Mountains to the south. The vast perfection of the scene is
almost more than sight can suffer; the beauty becomes a menace in some
strange way; it is as if man had challenged the Creator to a contest of
production. Exquisite as is the distant landscape, more lovely still is
that huge city with its hundred domes tossed up like opals to the sun,
its proud honey-coloured palaces raising tier after tier of fretted
marble in noble and perfect outlines, its mediæval towers, windowless,
huge, indestructible memorials of long past strife and carnage,
standing like half-drowned breakwaters frowning on the tide of ever
growing life and splendour that they have been powerless to arrest; the
Coliseum crouches like a sulky monster at the foot of the Esquiline,
whence St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran look down on it as the
angels might look down on the dead; wherever a convent or villa lies
along a ridge, the slender spires of cypresses mark the line, answering
to every kiss of the breeze, though the dark velvet of their foliage
refuses a single gleam to the sun; add to this the rush and sparkle
of Rome’s innumerable fountains, and you have a vision so matchless in
beauty and so supreme in associations that it inspires an awe too great
for delight.

Yet, splendid as it appears to us, how much more splendid must it have
shone, externally, when St. Peter’s dying eyes looked their last on the
“Golden City” of Nero, teeming with its two millions of inhabitants;
and St. Peter saw what our eyes are too dim to see, the victorious army
of his martyred children already crowned in Heaven, the vast field
which they had bedewed with their blood to nourish the seed of the
Church—the miles of hidden sepulchres whence their bodies are to rise
triumphant at the Last Day; and the tears we are told he shed ere he
died were surely tears of joy for the glory that was to be Rome’s.

In the courtyard of the monastery attached to the Church of San Pietro
in Montorio, the exact spot where his inverted cross was erected is
enclosed in a lovely circular chapel surrounded by granite columns,
the work of the great Bramante. The hole where the cross stood has
never been filled up, but is left open to view, and, if you are one
of the faithful, the good monk who shows it will give you a few grains
of that consecrated soil to take home with you. The Church itself was
built by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and Michelangelo took great
interest in it, going to the length of quarrelling bitterly with his
friend Vasari about the design for the chapel which they had jointly
undertaken to put in for the reigning Pope, Julius III. He desired to
have there a fitting sepulchre and memorial for his Cardinal-uncle,
Antonio dei Monti, through whom the obscure Tuscan family had risen
to power and prominence. The sculptor, seeing with his mind’s eye
the statues he intended to place there, vowed that there should be no
architectural ornamentation to detract from their effect; Vasari looked
upon the statues as mere details of the ornamentation of the whole. So
they quarrelled, both about the subordinates chosen by Vasari to carry
out the work and about the work itself. Michelangelo won his point, the
chapel was left austerely bare; the statues looked cold and lonely in
it; and Michelangelo, who would have died rather than subscribe to an
artistic falsehood, admitted his error and acknowledged that Vasari had
been right.

He left some fine traces of his genius in the paintings now in other
chapels of the Church; he supplied Sebastian del Piombo with the design
for the “Scourging of Christ,” and Vasari tells us a quaint story
about another picture there. It seems that the famous Cardinal San
Giorgio had a barber who, in his leisure hours, had learnt to handle
the brush and had become a fine artist in tempera, but who could not
draw a single correct line. Michelangelo discovered him, encouraged him
to persevere, and, wishing to give him a chance, made a very careful
cartoon of St. Francis receiving the Stigmata, and told the barber
to copy and carry it out in colour. This the humble painter did, very
successfully, and his name, Giovanni dei Vecchi, has come down to us,
with those of the approved artists of his day.

The incident leaves us with a delightful impression of the
great-hearted genius, so patiently and kindly helping on an obscure
disciple, and lends much interest to the painting which stands as a
memorial of his condescension. There is another souvenir of him in
Rome, which calls up a picture equally attractive—that of his wandering
into the Farnesina one fine morning to have a chat with his young
friend, Raffaelle Sanzio of Urbino, who was employed in decorating
the sala of the exquisite little palace of the “Farnesina” with the
immortal story of Cupid and Psyche. But the place was deserted. Messer
Raffaelle had gone off to get his dinner, and Michelangelo could not
have any of the talk he enjoyed so much. Looking round for something
on which to write his name and let his friend know that he had tried to
see him, his eyes fell on Raffaelle’s palette and brushes, all charged
with colour. Michelangelo snatched them up, and, laughing in his beard
at the schoolboy joke he was perpetrating, mounted on a step-ladder and
dashed in a great strong head on one of the yet empty lunettes. It took
him just half an hour, and then he ran away, chuckling at the thought
of the young man’s surprise and perplexity when he should return and
see what some unknown visitor had done. But Messer Raffaelle was not
in the least perplexed. There was but one hand in the world that could
have drawn those bold, tempestuous lines. He refused to efface them,
and the head is there to this day, a tribute to Michelangelo’s humour
and Raphael’s reverence. They call it “Michelangelo’s visiting card.”



CHAPTER VIII

THE END OF THE PILGRIMAGE

  Final Function of the Pilgrimage—St. John Lateran—A Daring Climb—A
  Story of St. Francis of Assisi—Dante’s Tribute—Rome’s Ghetto—Yellow
  Banksia Roses—Fair on the Eve of the Feast of St. John the
  Baptist—Early Figs—St. Anthony and the Sucking Pig—Rome’s Studios—A
  Picture of Hébert’s—Hamon’s Work.


The sixth day of July closes the Octave of the 29th of June with a
magnificent function, attended by the whole College of Cardinals, in
the Church of St. John Lateran, the outpost of the Eternal City on its
southern side. The Basilica faces in that direction and is the last
building within the city walls, which still raise their crenellated
barrier of Roman masonry between it and the Campagna beyond. This,
the real approach to the Church, is very beautiful. The portico is
surmounted by statues of the Apostles, which are visible from a great
distance away on the Campagna, and is reached by a series of shallow
marble steps, where, in my early days, many devout beggars were wont
to sit and ask for alms. Below the steps and commanding a glorious
view of the Campagna and its encircling hills, stretches a wide grassy
terrace where we often walked up and down for a long time, at the
end of an afternoon drive, thus following the example of many of the
Popes, with whom this was a favourite spot, when in residence at the
Lateran Palace. Distances are deceptive where spaces are so great;
the grassy stretch never looked very vast; the feathery mulberry trees
that grew under the old Aurelian wall seemed almost within reach; but
in reality were quite a little way from the green terrace. The wall
always fascinated me because of its crown of small loop-holed towers,
set near together and connected by a covered way that still looked
practicable enough, although I believe there was no mode of reaching it
except by scrambling up from the outside. In those days the sturdy ruin
was covered with wild flowers and creeping plants, the long garlands
of yellow camomile waving like strings of stars in the wind, some
lovely things, whose name I never knew, sending out arm-long shafts
of pink and purple from every crevice, two or three live-oak saplings
finding good root-hold on the top, and every foot of surface covered
with the velvety jewelled leaves and tiny lilac flowers of another
little old friend, which I think the wise men call the “parietary” and
which I found, true to its name, clothing whole walls of our temple
home in North China. There the blossoms were much larger, and during
the stagnating days of one scorching summer I used to pass hours in
the deep, damp court where they grew, and discovered (what I suppose
any botanist could have told me) that their strange lucency comes from
a sticky liquid effused over the petals, which themselves throw out
a network of all but invisible hairs; that flies and gnats settle on
these hairs, get caught by the treacherous gum—and then are quietly
sucked in and devoured by the flower!

It was always in my mind to make a secret expedition, with my
adventurous sister, to that old Aurelian wall, when no one should be
about, and somehow or other reach the top, but we never carried out
that plan, though we did some pretty risky climbing in other ruins,
notably at the Baths of Caracalla, where we scaled the very highest
point of the biggest arch and lay at full length—we dared not stand on
a block of stone that rocked as we moved—looking down from the dizzy
height on a world of tiny people and things below. Some glorious tufts
of wallflower were our only companions and I remember how wonderful
was that mass of fervid orange swaying in the sun, against the azure
of the sky and the deep, dreamy blue of the distant hills. We went
there many times—but at last there came a day when the authorities
decreed that that particular bit of the ruin was so near falling that
it constituted a menace to the remains below. It was removed, and some
of the approaches to the other heights were walled up so that no one
could risk life and limb upon them any more, and we never cared to go
to the Baths again. Now, of course, there is no temptation to linger
in any of the ruins, as the ignorant beauty-haters who took possession
of our Rome in 1870 declared that the unique vegetation which adorned
them was an agent of destruction and must be swept away. Every vestige
of flower and shrub was rooted out, the poor old buildings became an
eyesore instead of a delight, and the process of stripping off the
kindly mantle which the ages had cast over their nakedness inflicted
greater damage, the experts now tell us, than five hundred years more
of age and weather could possibly have done. My dear brother Marion
used to say that the world was peopled chiefly with fools and—blanked
fools. What a charming world it would be if the blanked fools never got
into power!

But to return to the porch of the Lateran and its devout beggars. On a
certain day some eight hundred years ago, the Pope was walking on that
green stretch just below it, followed by a silent group of Cardinals
and Chamberlains, silent because the Holy Father was evidently thinking
hard about some high and important problem. Innocent III was a great
and good Pope, but he lived in a turbulent age. During fourteen years
of his reign two rivals, Philip and Otto, were rending Europe with
their struggles for the supreme honours of the Holy Roman Empire;
the Albigensian heresy was holding a hideous carnival of sacrilege,
carnage, and obscenity in some of its fairest lands; Rome itself was
the scene of ever-recurring battles between the great nobles, who would
ride forth in the morning followed by great companies of armed men,
on the chance of meeting an enemy or an enemy’s retainer to kill. And
with all this there were the vast affairs of the Church to govern,
and many spiritual matters to regulate. No wonder that the Pontiff,
walking in absorbed silence, and meditating on his course of action,
should have been extremely irritated when a company of travel-stained,
dusty beggars, disregarding the protestations of the horrified guard of
officials, came straight towards him and cast themselves at his feet!

He looked down at them in frowning disapproval. What did such conduct
mean? Their leader was a pale young man with dark eyes and a face
lighted up with a very fire of enthusiasm. Like his companions, he
was dressed in a coarse brown robe with a simple girdle, and his
bare feet showed many a cut and bruise from which the ragged sandals
had not saved them in the long tramp from Assisi down through Umbria
and Romagna. For this was the Blessed St. Francis with his “little
brothers,” come to ask the Pope for leave to found a new order, the
Order of Poverty. And the Pope scarcely answered him. Was it likely
that these ragged, ignorant tramps should have been chosen by Divine
Providence to found a new family in the Church? Ah, no!—Innocent shook
his head, reproved them for their presumption, and ordered them to
retire.

They accepted the rebuke, withdrew from his presence with perfect
humility, and laid their case before the Lord in prayer. The Pope,
doubtless finding that the view from the green terrace had lost its
charm at this squalid incursion, retired to his apartments in the
Lateran Palace, and when night fell lay down and went to sleep. And
in sleep his eyes were opened to that which had been hidden from them
by day. He dreamed that a tender young palm-tree sprang suddenly from
the ground beneath his feet and in a moment shot up to the sky and
threw out strong branches on every side, forming a vast roof of fresh
verdure under which millions of men found refuge and refreshment. Then
he understood that the poor mendicants who had knelt before him that
day were chosen by Heaven to found an order that should cover the world
with a mantle of charity; and as soon as he awoke he sent messengers in
haste to seek the little brown brothers—who were sure to be found in or
near the Lateran Basilica, and bring them to him.

We all know the result of the interview. How the Pope lovingly received
the brothers, but how strongly he protested against St. Francis’
apparent imprudence in founding his institution on a vow of absolute
poverty. How St. Francis refused to be shaken in his loyalty to his
loved bride, the “Lady Poverty,” and how at last the great Pope yielded
to the great Saint, discerning that Heaven itself was leading him
on this thorny path. So much has been written about St. Francis by
heretics, unbelievers, and amateurs, from whose company he would have
fled in horror, on earth, who have bespattered him with their poisonous
praises, who have each and all insulted him by the lies which they
invented in order to represent him as the patron of their abominable
errors, that a Catholic pen almost hesitates to write his blessed name.
As one good man says: “He has conquered the world, and his victory
would make him weep!” But he conquered it in another way too—in the way
he intended. Travel where you will, to the very ends of the earth, and
you will find the brown robes, the sandalled feet, the arms held open
to the poor and the suffering and the despised; you will find the Sons
of St. Francis toiling in the stoniest, roughest part of the vineyard,
with and of the poor, praying for all men, teaching the children,
nursing the sick, baptising the babes and the heathen, burying the
dead, begging, more for their poor than for themselves, from door to
door, leading the hardest of lives, yet always cheery and contented,
the friends of all who need them, the “gente poverella” are indeed
friends who never change or fail.

Of all the panegyrics of St. Francis, and of the “Lady Poverty,” I
think the one that Dante put into the mouth of St. Thomas Aquinas in
the eleventh canto of the “Paradiso,” is the most perfect and complete.
And the description of St. Dominic in the next canto is its match.
Here, Dante let his “great, grieved heart” have its way for once, and
every line that he wrote about these glorious friends of God throbs
with passionate veneration. Brothers in heart they were on earth,
and he sees them not separated in Heaven. How one wishes that he had
left us, in the two lines that are all he needs to paint an immortal
picture, a description of their first meeting in the Church of St. John
Lateran!

For it was there that they met. St. Dominic had had a strange dream
the night before, in which he beheld the Saviour preparing to smite and
exterminate the wicked—the proud, the voluptuaries, the misers; but His
Blessed Mother suddenly appeared, and stayed His wrath by presenting
to Him two monks: one was Dominic himself; the other, a poor holy man
clothed in rags, whom he had never seen. Greatly exercised in soul,
he went to the Lateran Church in the morning to ask for light and
guidance. As he entered his eyes fell on a ragged mendicant who was
praying so fervently that his face was all aflame with love and joy.
It was the face Dominic had seen in his dream. He rushed to Francis
and clasped him in his arms, exclaiming: “Thou art my comrade and my
brother! We run one race, we pant for the same goal. Let us be united
henceforth, and no enemy can conquer us!”

And so it was. These two suns of warmth and light, as Dante calls them,
founded each his own great spiritual family, worked wherever their
beloved Master sent them, in separate fields, but from that morning
moment in the Church of San Giovanni in Laterano to the end of their
blessed lives they were, as the old chronicle says, “One heart and one
soul in God.”

Of the riches and glories of the Lateran Basilica and the Lateran
Palace it is not for me to write. The mere lists of them occupy whole
chapters in the guidebooks and even there they have to be much boiled
down, often only a word or two indicating objects and places of
paramount interest to Catholic travellers; and these slighting mentions
are defaced for us, even in such valuable and sweet-minded works as
Augustus Hare’s “Walks in Rome,” by a question mark or an exclamation
mark, intended to denote ridicule, inserted after the word “miracle”
or “relic,” to show that the writer was anxious to be exonerated from
any suspicion of sharing the pious beliefs of devout persons on such
subjects. I have seen one or two Catholic guidebooks to Rome, but they
were meagre and unsatisfactory, more pamphlets than books. If a really
good modern one exists, I should be grateful to any reader who would
tell me about it.

There are some very ancient ones indeed, compiled between the Seventh
and the Tenth centuries, which were apparently well known and readily
available for the pilgrims of the age of Faith, although, so far as I
know, there are but very few copies of any of them in existence now.
They are called the “Salzburg,” the “Einsiedeln,” and the “Malmesbury”
guides, and must make interesting reading not only for their own
sake, but on account of the actual descriptions of the city which has
undergone so many changes and revolutions of its topography during the
last thousand years of its history. The changes of the last fifty years
have been perhaps the most surprising of all, considering that they
were not brought about by the time-honoured means of war and pillage,
but forced upon Rome under the comprehensive but sometimes mendacious
name of “improvements.” There was plenty of room for improvements,
and where these have been genuine nobody would wish to quarrel with
them, although even some of them were not needed, as claimed, for
the health of the city. The Ghetto, for instance, was an eyesore—and
looked, with its squalid crowds of rag-pickers and old-clothes dealers,
as if it must be a hot-bed of disease. It was precisely the contrary.
When the old pestilence or the new cholera were carrying off many
hundreds a day in the better parts of the city, there was not a single
case in the Ghetto. My brother points out, in “Ave, Roma Immortalis,”
that the regulation confining them to that tiny district, from the
gates of which they might not issue after dark, though intended as a
measure of repression, was really a great advantage to them, in that
behind those gates they were protected from robbery and violence and
governed themselves according to their own queer laws without any
interference from the municipal authorities. Certain industries they
monopolised altogether. I remember that whenever a new carpet was to
be put down in my mother’s house, Lucia, the housekeeper, would send
one of her underlings to summon “la Giudea” to sew it—and fierce old
Lucia would never have let a Jewess cross the threshold had she been
able to find a Christian to undertake the task! I was always glad
when this happened, for Lucia’s particular Jewess was a most cheery,
sociable soul, who would sit on the hard stone floor all day making
her huge needle fly in and out of the heavy carpet-stuff, and look up
and shake her black ringlets and greet me with the merriest of smiles
every time I passed through the room. Not only such coarse work, but
all the finest of darning was entrusted to her. Some disastrous rent in
new broad-cloth—“un sette” as the Italians call it, because it always
outlines the figure seven—would come back from her dark thin hands
so deftly mended that it was difficult to find the place; did some
careless guest drop a lighted cigarette on one of the satiny damask
table-cloths—quick, send it to the Giudea and the Signora herself may
forget that it ever was burnt! Darning and patching came to the women
naturally, I suppose, seeing that the chief industry of the Ghetto
consists in mending old clothes and selling them for new. Pius IX set
the Jews free from all the old humiliating restrictions of their life
in Rome, but until the Ghetto was swept away by the present Government,
they clung to it tenaciously, and no wonder, for it was their very
own, a little fortress of Jewry where no Christian ever came to disturb
them, either at work or worship.

With the inherited aversion and all the old traditions strong in us,
we children of Rome never set foot there more than once or twice in
all our lives. Our home was at the other end of the city, on the noble
heights of the Esquiline, and almost all that we loved best grouped
itself in that quarter. I have the most delightful recollections of
the walk from Santa Maria Maggiore, our own Church, to the great free
spaces round the Lateran. The last part of the way led through the Via
San Giovanni, on the right side of which were scarcely any buildings
at all, but only a long wall overhung, in the late spring, with masses
of yellow Banksia roses, their trailing wreaths hanging so near our
heads that we had but to spring and snatch to carry away big handfuls
of the flowers, and what flowers! Yard-long arcs of ruffled honey
tossed up against that Roman blue, every petal of the million a wing
of translucent gold in sun and breeze; no stem, no foliage visible
through the crowded blooms, except where the trailers tapered to the
last tiny cluster of unopened buds, set like yellow pearls in the
green calix, tapered to a point so delicate that the faintest breath
would set them waving and quivering as if mad to burst their bonds and
flutter in the sunshine like the rest. And their perfume, that perfume
of warm wax, the purest and sweetest in this world, filled the whole
street—not altogether honestly perhaps, for, by a rare harmony of the
eternal fitness of things, the long wall on which they grew sheltered,
in the middle of a beautiful garden, a wax factory where Church candles
of every size were made, from the four-foot pillar, painted like a
missal, that serves for the Paschal candle in Church, to the slim taper
that the poorest could buy to light before the picture of their patron
saint. It was worth while to be young, with every sense unspoiled,
and to go dancing along that road on a summer afternoon; to stop where
a low gateway led into the hidden garden and buy from the gardener’s
wife some of her fat bunches of red carnations and lavender, for the
sake of the Blessed St. John, whose especial flowers they are—also the
cones of lavender made by tying a bundle just below the flowers, then
turning the stalks back over these and tying them again to form an
egg-shaped casket from which nothing could escape, and within which the
flowers themselves could crumble to fragrant dust that would keep your
linen sweet for at least ten years from the day they were gathered.
We never felt the summer had really come till the 24th of June, when
the Feast of John the Baptist was kept in and around the Church of St.
John the Evangelist. On the eve the Piazza was always the scene of a
great fair, the only one held in Rome, during the whole year, except
that of the “Befana”[14] in the heart of winter, on the eve of the
Epiphany. Of course the “Eve of St. John” is the midsummer eve that
was regarded with special and superstitious veneration not only by the
pagans of Southern Europe, but by our own Teutonic and Scandinavian
ancestors as well, from the times of the Druids themselves; for all
it has been the festival of fire—because, I imagine, people wanted to
scare away the dead who are supposed to leave their graves and. revisit
their old haunts on that night, but still more, in the beginning of
man-made worships, to render homage to the sun at the moment of his
supreme triumph during those two or three days of midsummer. The
bonfires were the great feature of the Roman fair; scores of them were
lighted in the broad Piazza, and the boys and young men chased each
other through them, trying to clear the flames at a leap and screaming
out unintelligible old songs that probably served their ancestors
for charms. The Feast of St. John is the first day on which it is
considered safe to eat fresh figs, and the booths around the Piazza
were piled up with baskets of these. We used to get the big purple
ones, bursting with crimson syrup, some weeks earlier, but the Romans
do not consider them as real figs. They are called “Fior di fico”; the
pale green sort, with firm rose-coloured pulp and holding each its drop
of amber gum on the tip, is the real fig, and it stays with us right
through the summer. In Tuscany I used to climb into a fig tree (their
smooth bark and fat low branches afford delightful seats) and stay
there half the day, with a book, eating all I could desire of the ripe
fruit and quite forgetting the feast when dinner time came. But when
I was young the word “dyspepsia” had not crossed the Atlantic, and it
had never dawned on any of us that any one could possibly be upset by
such a trifle as mere food, whatever the kind or quantity indulged in!
Once, I remember, our faithful “O Sté” of Rocca di Papa was terribly
concerned because Marion, aged eight, whom he had conducted to the Fair
at Grotia Ferrata, had eaten, as the old man thought, a little too
voraciously. “The Signorino has frightened me,” he said tremblingly
to our governess as he restored the youngster to her in the evening.
“Twelve eggs and half a sucking pig he consumed for his dinner—I could
not stop him—but I pray that he may come to no harm!”

That excursion must have been made for the Feast of Sant’ Antonio, our
Blessed Saint Anthony of Padua, for, as it falls on the 13th of June,
it is the occasion of the sale of the first piglings of the season,
and everybody makes it a point of honour to eat roast sucking pig
on that day, unless he buys the little pinky white thing to fatten
for the winter. This is why, in some of the representations of St.
Anthony, there is a little pig lying at his feet. I saw a funny sight
in Sorrento once on the day of his feast. There were baby pigs for sale
everywhere, all along the deep lanes that intersect the Penisola, and
a young seminarist, in ecclesiastical hat and soutane, had made up his
mind to take one home as a present to his family. Anxiously he looked
at and felt of a dozen or so before he made his choice; then came
the bargaining for the price—half the fun to both buyer and seller.
The boy was of the country and knew just what he ought to pay; the
owner, seeing his costume, had taken him for a greenhorn and tried to
impose upon him; the duel was long and vivacious. At last the matter
was settled, the right sum paid, and then the seminarist undertook
to carry his fairing home. But the pig refused to go, and a much more
amusing duel than the first one took place before my eyes, the little
pig slipping away from its would-be captor’s hands and scuttling
off in a cloud of dust down the lane, the seminarist in pursuit, his
soutane flying, his three-cornered hat pushed back, his round young
face crimson with excitement, while the man who had sold him the animal
looked on in roars of laughter. Finally the pig was conquered, and
the last I saw of him was his wriggling hindquarters and curled-up
tail protruding from the folds of the cassock in which the boy had
rolled him up and tucked him under his arm, while he raced for home,
triumphant, yet fearful that the obstinate little beast would get the
best of him on the road.


One interest that generally came with the spring and early summer was
that of making the round of the studios, where the artists let their
friends look at the result of the year’s work before leaving town on
their vacation wanderings. Sometimes the studio and its surroundings
were more attractive than the productions it contained and then
it required some self-control to keep one’s eye, under the jealous
observation of the artist, on the canvases or the statues, instead
of on the view from the windows or the beautiful draperies and curios
which the wealthiest ones were even then beginning to collect around
them. This has always seemed to me to be a mistake. The old idea was
that the artist’s workshop should contain nothing unconnected with his
work or at any rate contributive to it. On entering the studio of a
modern successful artist one has to pinch oneself to make sure one is
not in a bric-à-brac establishment where spoils from all the curiosity
shops in Europe have been tumbled together in view of a quick sale.
There is none of the impressive space and concentration of purpose that
one felt in the old ascetic studio with its hard north light, its aged
painting table, its few seriously thought-out pictures, and its shoals
of preparatory drawings and sketches. There were no “studio teas” in
those days; the artist opened the door himself and told one frankly
whether the visit were well-timed or not; if he were prosperous his
one familiar, some humble “Giuseppe” or “Antonio,” came in at the end
of the day to wash the brushes and perhaps sweep the floor; most of
the time there were no chairs except one for the model and one for the
painter. But the atmosphere of work was there, and the respect for it
struck every one who crossed the threshold, so that voices were lowered
and even the most enthusiastic admiration very soberly expressed.

I always felt like an ignorant intruder when I had penetrated into one
of these sanctuaries, but there were some from which I could not keep
away. One belonged to Hébert, the then president of the French Academy
in Rome. He was a grave, dark-eyed man with a low voice and much
indulgence for youth and ignorance, and he never asked one for comments
or ideas—just let one stand before his glowing paintings and dream—as
his Madonnas seemed to dream—in silent happiness. Not that his superb
Armenian beauties were really Madonnas at all; their loveliness was
mysterious but not spiritual; the unfathomable eyes had seen all the
glory and the tragedy of earth, but they had never looked on Heaven;
the glowing cheeks had never paled with awe, the exquisite idle hands
could never have been folded in prayer. It was perfect beauty, but
beauty unbaptised, a type which might have served for a Cleopatra,
could Cleopatra have lived without sin, but never for Mary of Nazareth.

One year, I remember, Hébert had devoted all his time to one great
allegorical canvas, the Shunamite of the Canticle seeking news of
her Beloved from the maidens by the gate. The faint eastern dawn was
paling the sky and bringing out mistily a few features of the city
in the background, as a train of girls who had been to fetch water
were returning from the well. They were human girls, and had been
chattering gaily as they approached the gate; then the words died on
their lips, the foremost ones fell back, crowding those behind, for
they were met by the Shunamite, a maid in all the white beauty of first
youth, undraped, naked as truth, and pure as Eve on the morning of
her creation, her eyes shining with love through brimming tears, and
her hands stretched out entreatingly as she asked, “Have ye seen my
Beloved, ye daughters of Jerusalem?”

It was a strange picture; the thought was the same that Titian
expressed in his “Divine and Earthly Love,” which is, to me, the most
beautiful of his paintings. Hébert had got away from his own gorgeous
traditions altogether and had painted with true inspiration. The girl’s
body was like a slender reed of flame, just hovering on earth before
rising to Heaven.

There was every year an exhibition, at the French Academy, of the
work of the students, who, having won the “Prix de Rome” in Paris,
were privileged to study in Rome for three years at the expense of
the French Government. Unfortunately for the attractiveness of the
exhibition, it was incumbent on the students to introduce one or more
nude figures into their paintings to show what progress they were
making in anatomical drawing. The more zealous ones would sometimes
cover a fifteen-foot canvas with a crowd of nude warriors in every
stress of effort that the most violent conflict could call forth, the
copious bloodshed depicted demonstrating, to a thoughtful mind, the
young painter’s feelings towards the strict and exigent judges who were
to pronounce upon his merits. I remember a “Rape of the Sabines,” where
some rather dandified Roman robbers were taking no end of trouble to
possess themselves of a mob of huge, beefy viragos who were kicking and
struggling with all their might—creatures whom no practical man would
attempt for a moment to bring into his home.

But, once free from the drill of training, the French painters of
those days gave us some very charming and poetical productions. One
of my favourite artists was Hamon, a man whose fancies were usually
as delicate and elusive as thistledown floating on a moonbeam. He
saw everything through dawnlight or twilight; his nymphs and loves,
hovering over flowers, painting the morning-glories, sowing white
stars for lilies and golden ones for honeysuckles, were too ethereal
to be quite human, too alluring to be all spiritual—but exquisite
beyond words. Yet he too painted one serious picture which, once
seen, could never be forgotten. It was called “Le triste Rivage.” In
the foreground rolled the inky Styx, with Charon, sitting, dark and
saturninely indifferent, in his skiff, oars shipped ready to put out
as soon as the craft should be full. And to it, down a narrow canyon
between high granite walls, pressed a stream of humanity, old men and
youths, kings and pontiffs and beggars, mothers with their babies in
their arms, young beauties in all the pomp of silk and pearls, sages
with calm sapient eyes, and naked criminals dragging their chains,
not one conscious of any presence but his own—the awful loneliness of
death stamped on every face—yet all crowding and pushing forward to
the narrow beach and the waiting boat—every eye strained to catch some
glimpse of the land that lay, shrouded in darkness, on the other side.
It made one think.

Talking of pictures, I must speak of one that my sister and I saw
in Munich or Dresden, in 1867, I think, a year which was considered
remarkably rich in good modern exhibitions abroad—where, by the way,
the average was immeasurably higher than I ever found it at the Academy
shows in London. This that we fell in love with was a painting of a
Sphinx—a great white marble creature with globed breasts and a face
of bestial beauty, cold as ice. She crouched on her high pedestal in
a tangle of white roses flooded with moonlight. A young man, little
more than a boy, was falling back from her, his ashy face, sublime
in death, still transfigured with the mortal ecstasy of her kiss; and
her pitiless marble talons were yet clutching his body. I wish I could
remember the name of the painter. He must have been a true poet.



CHAPTER IX

ST. CECILIA

  Persecution Result of Covetousness—Steady Growth of
  Christianity—Story of Saint Cecilia—Dress of a Patrician
  Woman—A Roman Marriage—Cecilia’s Consecration—Apparition of
  St. Paul—Cecilia’s Guardian Angel—Conversion of Two Roman
  Nobles—Slaughter of Christians—A Declaration of Faith—Condemnation
  of the Nobles.


Time passes on; madmen and sages, dolts and fighters succeed one
another on the Imperial Throne, and try to hold together such rags
of the Purple as are left to them; one and all agree in looking upon
Christianity as a pestilential fad, to be stamped out by any means that
come to hand. Some institute official persecutions, some merely leave
the governors of cities and provinces to deal with the pest according
to their own ideas. Even the most careless or the most indulgent never
revoke the ancient edicts of proscription, and these edicts are always
there in reserve to strengthen the hand of any man in authority, who,
for his own ends, desires to destroy and confiscate. For it must be
remembered that in the Roman Empire, from the First to the Fourth
Century, even as in England under Henry and Elizabeth and their
successors, persecution was mostly the result of covetousness, and that
the insane law adjudging the property of the condemned to those who
procured their conviction was the same in both cases and constituted an
appeal to selfish passions far too strong to go unused.

The more energetic or less vicious of the Emperors spent but little
time in Rome itself after the middle of the Second Century; the safety
of the Empire, surrounded by a fringe of enemies and barbarians,
constantly required their presence elsewhere, and so the supreme
municipal power fell almost completely into the hands of the governors,
men who had rarely reached that prominence honestly and who made haste
to reap their private harvest as rapidly as possible. Such an one was
a certain Turcius Almachius who became the Prefect of the city under
Alexander Severus in the early part of the Third Century. Alexander is
generally described as a fair-minded and indulgent man, who, though he
permitted the edicts of proscription to remain on the statute books,
had no personal hostility to the Christians and did not consider that
their existence constituted a menace to the State. Perhaps he thought
enough had been done already to annihilate their claims, and believed
that the “superstition,” as it was called, would die a natural death.
And, all the time, Christianity was growing to be a great force,
nullifying the sentence of death pronounced upon it, by the solid
irresistible pressure of its own vitality, even as the tender shoot
sprung from an acorn will at last rend and shatter the heavy tombstone
beneath which it lay.

This steady yet gentle growth of Christianity during the hundred and
eighty years which had passed between the date of St. Peter’s coming
to Rome and that of the accession of Alexander Severus, is vividly
illustrated in the fact that various wealthy pagan parents of the
latter epoch did nothing to oppose the Christian education of their
children when accident or the designs of Providence rendered such
education possible. One cannot help thinking that even they realised
that Christianity taught the boys and girls to be very virtuous and
obedient children, from whom they would always receive the highest
measure of filial love and duty. So it was that the only daughter of
the noble Cecilius, one of the few representatives left of the true
aristocracy of better times, was brought up from her infancy in the
Christian faith. We are not told who her teacher was—perhaps some poor
slave, who thus conferred on her master’s family an honour before which
all those of noble ancestry and vast possessions were destined to pale,
the honour of giving one of her most illustrious martyrs to the Church.

The maiden Cecilia was so beautiful, so good, so accomplished, and
withal such a loving, docile daughter, that it must have been with a
great pang at heart that her father and mother saw the hour approach in
which she must leave them for the house of the husband they had chosen
for her, the young Valerianus, a fit mate in every way for their dear
child, in her parents’ eyes. But to Cecilia their decision brought
great fear and perplexity. Valerianus was all that they believed him
to be—noble, upright, kind-hearted, a distinguished officer, with a
heart as clean as his countenance was beautiful—but Cecilia had long
ago vowed her life to God; the Pontiff, St. Urban, had approved of her
high choice, and she had been assured by her Guardian Angel—constantly
visible to her pure eyes in daily life—that God had accepted the
sacrifice and would never permit her love for Him to be shared with
an earthly spouse. Yet we, who know less of God’s ways than did the
holy girl, read with something like astonishment that Cecilia ventured
upon no open opposition to her parents’ plans for her. The authority
of a Roman father was so supreme that it would have appeared to her
an impiety to resist it. That she was consumed with anxiety and fear,
we know, and that she spent nights and days in prayer to God, to His
Angels, and to the Blessed Apostles, to protect her from the threatened
danger. No “Acts of the Martyrs” are more full and authentic than
those of St. Cecilia, written by those who had known her in life and
who witnessed her death. As the dreaded day approached, she redoubled
in fervour, and, fearing her own weakness in presence of the young man
whom his high spirit, virtue, and beauty made her love as a brother,
she fought down all carnal impulses by prayer and fasting (sometimes
for three days together) and mortified her flesh by wearing a hair
shirt under her rich dress.

At last the wedding day dawned, and the great palace was all humming
with joyous excitement. Her mother came into Cecilia’s room to dress
her for her marriage. Her beautiful hair was braided in six long
strands, in imitation of that of the Vestal Virgins; her family had
always clung to the high ideals of ancient Rome, and no taint from
the deluge of luxury and vice in which the Empire was plunged had ever
penetrated into their sternly guarded homes. In daily life we are told
that Cecilia went clothed, like other patrician ladies, in garments
richly embroidered with gold, but on this, the day of her wedding, her
mother put upon her a robe of plain home-spun wool spotlessly white,
copied from the one woven by her ancestress, Caia Cecilia, hundreds
of years before, and which was the original tunic, the model upon
which woman’s costume was founded for something like a thousand years
afterwards. Good Roman women still looked upon the wise and simple
Tanaquil as their pattern in all the matters of domestic life, and
at the period of which we are speaking the Etrurian Queen’s spindle
and distaff were still preserved among the sacred insignia of the
city. A white woollen girdle, like Queen Tanaquil’s, was bound round
Cecilia’s waist, and then she was shrouded in the flame-coloured veil
with which every Roman girl, noble or simple, covered her face and
head when she went to meet her bridegroom. The veil not only signified
maiden modesty, but denoted the firm constancy with which the bride
was prepared to cling to her husband. It was originally the badge of
the women of the Flaminia, a race which, some four hundred years before
St. Cecilia’s day, held the Catholic belief as to the inviolability of
marriage, and prohibited divorce. The “Flammeum,” as the flame-coloured
veil was called, remained, for this reason, in use at Christian
weddings, until, at any rate, the Fourth Century, when St. Ambrose
spoke of it in his treatise on “Virginity.”

But Cecilia’s marriage was a purely pagan ceremony, the first at which
she had ever been obliged to assist. Wine and milk were offered to
the gods, and she raised her heart to the one true God, renewing the
offer of her whole being to Him; the cake, “the symbol of alliance,”
was broken and shared, her hand was placed in the hand of her ardent
bridegroom, and they were now man and wife. As the sun sank behind the
Janiculum Hill, the bride was conducted, with great pomp and rejoicing,
to the dwelling of her husband, across the Tiber, now the Church of St.
Cecilia in Trastevere that we all know so well.

All the way, through the songs and music, Cecilia prayed in her heart
that she might be protected, and be helped to keep her vow; brighter
than the numberless torches carried in the procession shone her faith
in God, who has never forsaken His own when they called upon Him.
Valerianus was waiting for her in the stately pillared portico, all
decorated with rich white tapestry and strewn with flowers. Here the
second plighting of their bond took place, after the ancient Roman
custom.

“Who art thou?” asked the bridegroom, as the bride first stepped on the
portico.

“Where thou art Caius, I will be Caia,” Cecilia replied, in the
invariable formula, which, in her case, was a double assurance, since
she was directly descended from the noble Caia Cecilia, the type and
standard for all good wives. To her was then presented, first, clear
water, the emblem of purity, and then a key, symbolic of the care
she must have of the household and its goods. After that she sate
down for a moment on a fleece intended to remind her that she must
work with her hands; and, these ceremonies over, the family and the
guests accompanied the newly married ones into the dining-hall and
the wedding banquet went merrily forward to the sound of music. Music
was Cecilia’s own language, but she had always used her sweet voice to
sing the praises of the one true God. Now she “sang to Him what was in
her heart” and ceased not to pray. When all was over and the guests
withdrew, the chosen band of matrons led Cecilia to the door of the
sumptuous chamber, perfumed, full of flowers, dimly lighted, where her
splendid passionate lover would come to make her his own.

Who cannot feel the awe and thrill of that moment, the choking of heart
with which the maiden listened for Valerianus’ footsteps, the fear and
the hope, the sublime trust in God, yet the full realisation of the
struggle to come?

Valerianus entered, and came towards his bride, and Cecilia with great
gentleness said: “Oh, most sweet and most beloved youth, there is a
secret which I must confide to thee if now thou wilt swear sacredly to
respect it.” Valerianus promised, very solemnly, that he would forever
hold secret what she was about to tell him, and Cecilia continued:
“I am under the care of an Angel whom God has appointed protector of
my virginity. If thou shouldst violate it, his fury will be enkindled
against thee, and thou wilt fall a victim to his vengeance. If, on the
other hand, thou wilt respect it, he will bestow on thee his love and
obtain for thee many blessings.”

Valerianus was greatly astonished and agitated, but Divine Grace
was already working in his heart, and he replied: “Cecilia, if thou
desirest that I should believe thee, let me see this Angel. Then, if I
recognise him as truly an Angel of God, I will do as thou hast asked
me. But, if I find thou lovest another man, both him and thee I will
slay with my own sword.”

With calm and heavenly authority, Cecilia replied: “If thou wilt follow
my counsel, Valerianus, if thou wilt consent to be purified in the
fountain of eternal life, if thou wilt believe in the one true and
living God, thou shalt behold my Guardian Angel.”

Eagerly Valerianus cried, “And who will purify me, that I may see him?”

“There is a holy old man who thus purifies mortals,” she said.

“And where shall I find him?” Valerianus asked.

In Cecilia’s reply to this question we have a wonderfully vivid picture
of Christian life in Rome at that time:

   “Thou must go out of the city by the Appian Way as far as the
   third milestone. There thou wilt find some poor beggars who will
   ask an alms of thee. I have always taken care of them, and they
   well know my secret. Give them my blessing and say: ‘Cecilia
   sends me to you that you may conduct me to the holy old man, for
   I have a secret message which I must bring to him.’ And thou,
   Valerianus, when thou art in the presence of Urban, relate to
   him all my words, and he will purify thee and clothe thee in new
   white garments, and then, when thou returnest to this chamber,
   thou shalt see the holy Angel, who will evermore be thy friend
   and obtain for thee all that thou shalt ask of him.”

Valerianus believed. The innocent, yet earthly love, which a few
moments earlier had fired his heart, was transfigured into a heavenly
flame which aspired to God. Without an instant’s delay he set out,
alone, on foot, and in the dead of night—his wedding night—to traverse
the whole city and miles of the solitary road beyond, to find the
dispenser of Grace. All was as Cecilia had told him; the beggars gladly
obeyed her commands and led him to the refuge where Urban prayed and
whence he governed the Church. And what a revelation it must have
been to the brilliant young officer to discover, concealed beneath the
ground over which he must often have led his company of cavalry in all
their pomp of golden helmets and shining armour, the subterranean city
of the Christian Faith!

Throwing himself at Urban’s feet, Valerianus poured out his story, and
the venerable Servant of God was so overcome with joy that he fell on
his knees, and, while tears of gratitude coursed down his cheeks, thus
gave thanks for the noble young soul called to great salvation:

   “Lord Jesus Christ, sower of chaste counsels, receive the fruit
   of that which Thou didst sow in Cecilia! Lord Jesus Christ,
   good Shepherd, Cecilia Thy handmaid hath served Thee like a
   faithful[15] lamb. The spouse who was like an untamed lion, she
   has made into a most gentle lamb, for he who is here, did he not
   believe, would not have come. Therefore, Lord, open the gate of
   his heart to Thy Words, that he may know Thee for his Creator,
   and that he may renounce the Devil with his pomps and idols.”

Urban remained long in prayer; Valerianus was deeply touched. Suddenly
a venerable old man, with garments white as snow, appeared before
them, holding in his hand a book written in characters of gold. It
was the great Apostle St. Paul. Valerianus, half dead with terror,
fell prostrate on the ground. The Apostle gently raised him up,
saying: “Read this book and believe. Thou wilt then be worthy of being
purified, and of beholding the Angel whom Cecilia promised that thou
shouldst see.”

The young man raised his eyes to the book and read, in the golden
letters, these words—as we of to-day read them when we raise our eyes
under the dome of St. Peter’s: “One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; one
God and Father of all, Who is above all, through all, and in us all!”

The Apostle asked him, “Believest thou this, or dost thou yet doubt?”

And Valerianus, with his heart in the cry, exclaimed, “There is nothing
else more truly to be believed under Heaven!”

Then he found himself alone with Urban; the holy apparition had
vanished. Urban led him to the baptismal Font, washed his soul from
every stain of sin, gave him the Food of Angels, called down the Holy
Ghost upon him to clothe him in strength and virtue, put over his rich
robes the white garment of the Neophyte, and bade him return to his
bride.

The night had passed, and the sun had risen upon the city as he made
his way back through the streets where so many were dressed in white in
those days that his mystical garment attracted no unusual attention.
All was quiet in the great palace across the river. The slaves were
moving silently about their work so as not to disturb the slumbers of
their master and mistress in the remote chamber whence no sound had yet
issued, and if some looked up in surprise as Valerianus passed in, none
would dare to question him as to his early walk. Swiftly he went on,
and parted the hangings of the entrance to the chamber where Cecilia
had knelt motionless in prayer through the long night. There he paused
in awe and joy, for, standing close to her was the Angel of the Lord,
his wings effulgent plumes, his countenance a flame of radiance, while
in his hands he held two crowns, flashing with roses and snowy with
lilies.

These he gently placed on the bowed young heads, saying, in tones of
such music as Valerianus had never heard before: “Guard these crowns by
purity of heart and sanctity of body, for I have brought them to you
from the Paradise of God; and this shall be a sign to you—never shall
their beauty fade nor their sweet fragrance diminish, nor shall they
be visible to others save such as have pleased God by their purity as
you have pleased Him. And since thou, Valerianus, didst consent to the
course of chastity, Christ the Son of God hath sent me to thee, that
thou shouldst ask for whatever thou most desirest.”

Valerianus threw himself at the Angel’s feet, and thus besought
him: “Nothing in this life is sweeter to me than the love of my only
brother, and it is terrible to me that I, being liberated, must see my
brother still in danger of perdition. This one prayer will I set before
every other petition, and beseech God that He will deign to deliver my
brother Tiburtius as He has delivered me, and that He will make us both
perfect in the confession of His Name.”

At Valerianus’ request, the Angel’s face was transfigured with rapture.
“Since thou hast asked this,” he replied, “which Christ desires to
grant more than thou to receive, even as by His servant Cecilia thou
wast won to Him, so by thee shall thy brother be won, and both shall
obtain the Martyr’s palm.”

Then the Angel left them and returned to Heaven, and Cecilia and
Valerianus remained together, their hearts almost breaking with joy.
For long hours they talked of heavenly things, and then, towards
the afternoon, their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of
Tiburtius, the gay, loving younger brother, who declared that he had
stayed away long enough and _must_ see his dear Valerianus! Advancing
towards his new sister, he bent down and lightly kissed her hair, and
then exclaimed, in delight at the exquisite fragrance emanating from
it: “Cecilia, I am full of wonder to know whence, at this season of the
year, comes this perfume of roses and lilies? For, even if I held real
roses and real lilies in my hands, they could not diffuse such sweet
odours on my senses. I declare to you that I feel as refreshed as if I
had just received new being!”

It was Valerianus who answered: “The enjoyment of this fragrance, which
has been granted to thee at my prayer, Tiburtius, shall, if thou wilt
now believe, be surpassed by the joy of seeing these heavenly flowers
and of knowing Him Whose Blood flows red as the rose, Whose Flesh is
white as lilies. We two wear crowns, invisible to thee now, woven of
flowers dazzling as purple, purer than snow.”

At these words the first faint dawn of things spiritual broke on the
mind of Tiburtius, but there was a struggle before it could pierce the
veil of contented materialism that had enveloped him all his life. “Art
thou dreaming, Valerianus?” he cried, “or is it possible that these
things are truth?”

“We have dreamed all our lives, brother,” was the reply. “Now we have
awaked, to see the truth.”

The colloquy goes on; Valerianus, with all the ardour of his recent
illumination upon him, trying to impart to his brother that which
he learned but a few hours earlier. Cecilia has kept silence before
the quick flow of question and answer, but at a given moment she
intervenes, and, with the calm majesty that so singularly invests all
her words and actions, says: “It is to me, dear Tiburtius, that you
should put these questions. Valerianus is new in the Faith—I have known
all its doctrines from my childhood.” And then comes that magnificent
unfolding of the truths of Christianity which sounds more like the
authoritative teaching of one of the Fathers of the Church than the
profession of faith of a young girl. No point seems left in doubt;
it is a luminous paraphrase of the Creed, adapted, with sublime tact
and wisdom, to the requirements of the youth nurtured in merely pagan
piety, surrounded with everything that could make this life attractive,
and utterly unconscious of the immortality that was in him.

That breaks on him as a new light, undreamt of before, but he does not
yield at once like Valerianus. He cries out in revolt when told that
in order to be purified he must take the same road, cast himself at the
feet of a poor proscribed old man hiding underground among the tombs of
despised victims. “But there is a price set on that old man’s head,” he
urges, “and, if we are known to hold any intercourse with him, we shall
be tortured and killed, and shall lose our lives here for a hope which
may be vain, after all!”

Cecilia had convinced him of the folly of worshipping idols made, as
she said, “of stone and metal dug and fashioned by criminals”; but
life, life as he knew it, was too sweet and real to be risked for
anything less than the certainty of a better one. “Is it possible,” he
breaks out, “that there can be another life after this one? Never have
I heard of such a doctrine!”

Few in Rome had. The very Barbarians held some misty hope of future
reward, some half-formed fear of future punishment; but the masters
of the world then, like so many of its masters now, had sunk so deep
in materialism that atheism was the only doctrine suited to their
voluntary blindness, and even gallant, honest young men like Tiburtius
and his brother had not a suspicion that any other could exist. Yet,
because they were honest, and their hearts were pure, they did not
turn their eyes away when the light was shown them. Cecilia went
on to explain the truths of our Redemption, her discourse evidently
intended not only to enlighten Tiburtius, but to amplify and perfect
for Valerianus the instruction received from Urban during the preceding
night. At last Tiburtius, all his doubts set at rest, threw himself,
with many tears, at her feet, crying: “If ever again I consider this
present life worth a thought or a wish, let me never obtain life
eternal! Let fools hold to the insensate pleasures that pass away—I,
who have lived until to-day without an object, will never henceforth
live without one.” Then, appealing to Valerianus, he implored: “Have
mercy on me, dearest brother, for I can bear no waiting. I fear delay.
I cannot carry this weight! I beseech thee, take me to the man of God,
that, purifying me, he may make me a partaker of the other life!”

Gladly Valerianus led him to Urban, who received him tenderly, baptised
him the next day, and kept him at his side for seven days following,
during which the generous boy’s ardour was inflamed by beholding the
crowded tombs of the martyrs, all marked by palm branches in sign of
victory. He returned to the palace by the Tiber, a giant in strength,
only desiring the hour when he should be called upon to confess Christ
before men. And then began that beautiful life of the three Saints,
which lasted indeed but a few months, but which must have been like a
foretaste of Heaven, a life all full of love of God and charity to man.
Cecilia gave much time and most of her wealth to the poor Christians,
among whom were great numbers of widows and orphans deprived of
their bread-winner by the ferocity of Almachius, who boasted, if I
remember rightly, that during his Prætorship he had caused the death
of more than five thousand Christians of the poorer sort. The chief
characteristics of Turcius Almachius were rapacity and cruelty. While
Alexander Severus was actually in Rome, the Emperor’s presence, and his
known dislike of bloodshed in times of peace, acted as a salutary curb
on the inclinations of the Prefect of the city; but in the year 230
Alexander was absent for a long time, apparently in Persia, since some
medals commemorating his victories there were struck with this date.
The civil power reposed entirely in the hands of Almachius, and he made
haste to use it to satisfy his virulent hatred of the Christians. In
this he found powerful allies among the people, whose feelings against
the new religion had been fomented by a thousand calumnies, amusingly
like those which the enemies of the Church pay such large sums to
have circulated now. No sooner had the Emperor departed than the storm
of the Prefect’s fury broke out; the Christians, chiefly poor people
with no one to defend them, were apprehended, tortured, and killed in
enormous numbers. The places of execution ran day after day with their
blood. But the rage of their official persecutor was not satisfied with
inflicting merely suffering and death. Knowing the great reverence with
which the followers of Christ regarded the bodies of the martyrs, he
issued an edict forbidding their burial. They were to lie where they
fell, and whosoever should attempt to give them sepulture was to be
condemned to share their fate.

So frightful was the slaughter at this time that the old underground
cemeteries were all choked with dead; but St. Calixtus, the predecessor
of Urban, had foreseen, or had perceived by prophetic revelation,
the coming necessity, and had prepared a vast new catacomb adjoining
the older ones along the Appian Way. It had not long to wait for its
glorious occupants. The Christians regarded the burial of the martyrs
as a most solemn duty, from which no danger to themselves was ever
allowed to deter them. Those who had money frequently paid great sums
to obtain the mangled remains, which they lovingly gathered together,
wrapped in spices and perfumes, and carried, at the risk of their
lives, into the sacred vaults of the Catacombs. Great numbers paid for
their devotion with their blood, but others always came forward to take
their places.

What was the surprise of the poor hunted Christians to behold, in that
spring of 230, two of the noblest and most brilliant young officers
in Rome present themselves day after day to assist in this perilous
duty! With all the courage of their rank and profession, Valerianus and
Tiburtius devoted themselves to saving the holy bodies from profanation
and spent their wealth lavishly in bestowing on them funeral honours.
Cecilia had long done all she could to assist in the pious work, but
the restrictions placed on noble ladies had so far saved her from
attracting the baneful notice of the Prefect. It was otherwise with
Valerianus and his brother. They were well known and could not pass
unperceived. Almachius was furious when he heard of their actions.
He was ready enough to persecute the poor; should the Emperor on his
return enquire into the sacrifice of so many thousands of his subjects,
the old excuse could be given—either they had raised a sedition, or
else the people had turned against them and the authorities had not
been able to control the popular fury. But when it came to wealthy
young officers of the Guard, everywhere respected and admired, a very
different sort of enquiry would be instituted, and the Prefect would
probably be severely reprimanded, if not actually punished, for having
laid hands upon them.

Yet, for his own sake, he must see that his orders were respected.
Doubtless these fashionable youths had been led away by foolish
enthusiasm and would see reason when the all-powerful Governor laid it
before them. He would send for them and give them a good lecture; they
would express their regret at having offended him, and then he would
let them go.

Little he knew the spirit of those gallant boys! When they stood
before him, he sought to appeal to their pride by asking them if it
were really true that they, men of patrician standing, were not only
squandering their fortune on low-born wretches, but were actually
giving their dead bodies honourable burial! Was it possible that nobles
had become the accomplices of criminals!

Tiburtius, the younger and more impulsive of the brothers, answered
him. “Would to God,” he cried, “that those whom you call our
accomplices would permit us to become their servants! They have
obtained the only reality. May we imitate their holiness and one day
follow in their footsteps!”

This was not what Almachius had expected, and he tried to soothe and
flatter the young man’s feelings by turning the conversation into
other channels, particularly by complimenting him on his remarkable
resemblance to his brother; but Tiburtius was not to be lured aside.
A strange dialogue on the philosophy of Christianity ensued, and then
the Governor, declaring that Tiburtius had lost his reason, smilingly
dismissed him and addressed himself, with no better fortune, to
Valerianus. His great object now was to prevent the young men from
making a public profession of their Christianity; one sees how the
crafty middle-aged man feared equally the risk of bringing them to
punishment and that of having his supremacy openly flouted before
the people. But all his cowardly efforts were in vain. Valerianus, in
presence of the multitudes that curiosity or sympathy had now gathered
around him, boldly declared that there was but one true God, and
that those who worshipped idols made by men were destined to eternal
punishment. Then, the impossible happened to silence him. Almachius
commanded that he, the free-born Roman noble, should be publicly
scourged. The sentence was executed on the spot, Tiburtius mourning
that he did not share it—his brother had preceded him in suffering for
Christ!

The greatest excitement prevailed. The sound of the lead-laden scourge
tearing the martyr’s flesh filled the air; a herald shouted, for
the benefit of the onlookers, “Beware of blaspheming the gods and
goddesses!” With a great effort, Valerianus made his voice heard above
the tumult. “Citizens of Rome,” he cried, “be not discouraged by the
sight of my torments from confessing the truth! Be firm in your faith
and believe in the one true, holy God! Destroy the false gods to whom
Almachius sacrifices, crush and annihilate them, for all who adore them
will be tormented everlastingly.”

In spite of the constancy of the brothers, Almachius, frightened at the
possible consequences of his acts, was at this point inclined to let
them go; but the Devil, in the shape of one Tarquinius, his assessor of
taxes, managed to whisper in his ear: “If you do not condemn them now,
they will give all their wealth to the poor, and there will be nothing
left for you—to confiscate.”

Instantly Avarice sprang to her throne in the ever docile soul of
Almachius. With much pomp and severity he pronounced sentence on the
“criminals.” They were to be led out to the Pagus Triopius, to the
Temple of Jupiter, by the fourth milestone of the Appian Way, and there
commanded to offer incense to the idol. If they refused, they were to
be beheaded and their bodies left where they should fall.



CHAPTER X

MARTYRDOM OF ST. CECILIA

  A Glorious Martyrdom—A Vision of Heaven—The Bodies of the
  Martyrs—Prefect Incensed Against St. Cecilia—Preparation for
  Death—Her Trial—Her Victory and Martyrdom—The Miracle of Her
  Three Days’ Ministering—Final Honours—Martyrdom of St. Urban
  and His Companions—Cecilia’s Place Among Martyrs—Her Tomb in
  the Catacombs—Pope Paschal’s Vision of St. Cecilia—Cecilia’s
  Restoration to Her Own Church—History of Her Church—The Second
  Finding of Her Body—Her Statue.


And Cecilia? While the first chapter of the glorious tragedy was being
enacted before the tribunal of Almachius, she had been immersed in
fervent prayer for those she loved, asking not that their lives should
be spared, but that their faith should be strengthened and that they
might come triumphantly through their ordeal. Valerianus, through
some Christian friend, immediately informed her of all that was taking
place. Still she waited and prayed. The officer charged with carrying
out the commands of Almachius was his notary, Maximus, a man of upright
life and kind heart. As he led the brothers away he mourned openly
over the terrible doom which they had drawn down upon themselves,
and entreated them to reconsider their resolutions and save their
lives, pointing out that they were throwing away all their splendid
advantages of youth, wealth, and a brilliant future, for a miserable
delusion. Valerianus, filled with the Spirit of God, explained to him
the Christian doctrine of a future life, which so amazed the honest
man that he swore, by all he held sacred, that if he could believe in
eternal happiness he would sacrifice everything on earth to attain it.

“Only repent of your sins,” Valerianus replied, “and I promise you that
at the moment of our death, the Heavens shall be opened to you, and you
shall behold with your own eyes the glory of the Blessed.”

“I accept,” Maximus answered. “May the thunderbolts of Heaven consume
me if, after you have shown me what you promise, I do not confess the
One God who has prepared another life to follow this one!”

Now Valerianus was filled with a great desire to see Maximus baptised
before his own death, so he asked him to delay the execution of the
sentence for a few hours and to conduct his prisoners to his own
house, where, as he explained, the soldiers could still keep guard over
them, so that no lapse from duty could be laid to the notary’s charge.
Maximus gladly consented, and led the brothers and their guards to his
dwelling—we are not told where it stood—and there Cecilia hastened to
rejoin them. No word is recorded of her anguish at seeing her beloved
Valerianus all torn and bleeding from the lashes of the whips. Surely
she kissed and washed the pitiful wounds so joyously received for
Christ’s sake; but this was a time for quick and courageous action,
and the one thought in her mind as in that of her husband and his
brother was to save as many souls as possible in this supreme hour.
She hastened to summon several priests, and, under cover of nightfall,
brought them to the house of Maximus, where, by this time, many persons
were assembled. The notary, his entire family, and the soldiers under
his command listened eagerly to the instructions of the priests, and,
before the first gleam of dawn tinged the sky, were all baptised. A
great chorus of thanksgiving went up to God. Not one had been left out,
not a voice but joined in that pæan.

Then, the sun rose and a great silence fell—“Facto magno silentio,”
Cecilia spake, not in words of her own choosing—she repeated that
splendid battle cry of St. Paul: “Arise, soldiers of Christ! Cast off
the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. You have fought a
good fight, you have finished your course, you have kept the Faith. Go
to receive the Crown of Life which the Just Judge gives to you, and not
to you only, but to all who love His coming!”

She, who had opened to her dear ones the gates of life, now bade them
forth to death. No word she spoke of her own grief, of the desolation
that awaited her till her own hour (not far away, as she knew) should
come. We are not told whether she accompanied the martyrs to the place
of execution. With all her glorious valour she was but a young and
loving woman, and God may have chosen to spare her the last dreadful
sight, may have led her back to her empty home to pray, rather than out
to the public road to shudder and weep.

Maximus and his soldiers, praying also, led Valerianus and Tiburtius
over the well-known road as far as the temple in the Pagus Triopius,
where the waiting priests of Jupiter commanded them to offer incense
before the idol. For answer, the young men knelt down and offered
their necks to the executioner’s sword. Those who had been charged with
the cruel mission confessed loudly that they were Christians now, and
refused to perform it, but others were present who offered themselves
as substitutes. A moment later the two young heads rolled on the
ground, and Maximus, as Valerianus had promised him, saw the souls of
the martyrs carried to Heaven, which was opened before his eyes, on the
wings of Angels resplendent as suns. He could not contain the ecstasy
with which the sight had filled him, and was now himself consumed with
the love of God and the desire to attain to the same glory. Many of
the pagans who had gathered around were converted on the spot, and
Almachius, incensed beyond measure, caused Maximus to be scourged to
death a few days afterwards.

The Christians obtained possession of the bodies of Valerianus and
Tiburtius, and Cecilia, weeping and rejoicing, received the dear
remains, wrapped them in costly silks with great wealth of precious
balms, and buried them in the cemetery of Pretextatus near the second
milestone of the Appian Way. She sealed their tomb with the emblems
of victory, the palm and crown, and returned to the palace beyond the
Tiber to await the will of God in regard to herself. When she heard of
the martyrdom of Maximus she came forth to take up his body, which she
buried with her own hands near those of her husband and his brother,
and on his tomb she caused to be engraved the symbol of resurrection,
the phœnix rising from its own ashes.

Her next care was to forestall the rapacity of Almachius by
distributing all the goods of Valerianus to the poor, a measure which
so inflamed the Prefect’s fury that he began to cast about for some
means of doing away with her, without arousing the ire of the people; a
difficult matter, since all in Rome, both pagans and Christians, knew
and admired her for her noble birth, her great beauty, and her many
virtues, more especially for her all-embracing charity. The murder
of Valerianus and Tiburtius had not pleased the populace; that of
Cecilia might easily cause a riot; it behooved Almachius to proceed
with caution. As in the former case, he felt that her Christianity,
so openly professed in the face of his thundered prohibitions, was a
direct affront to his authority and that she must be forced to retract;
yet he feared the resentment of the Emperor, and also of the people,
should he venture upon bringing her to a public trial. So he hit upon
an expedient which, he thought, would satisfy all parties. He sent some
officers to see her, and to tell her that, if she would sacrifice to
the gods in their presence, in the privacy of her home, the Governor
would be satisfied and would molest her no further.

The officers very unwillingly accepted the task laid upon them, and,
when they found themselves face to face with Cecilia, were so overcome
by the sight of her calm and heavenly beauty that they could scarcely
explain their mission. Cecilia spoke to them with great gentleness.
She told them that she knew how their hearts revolted from carrying out
the impious designs of their superior. She said that she sorrowed not
at all for herself, since she was only too happy to suffer for Christ,
but that she deeply pitied them, who “in the flower of their youth were
condemned to obey the orders of an unjust judge.”

The young men were cut to the heart to see this exquisite girl (_tam
elegans puella_), so noble and so wise, inviting martyrdom, and they
besought her with tears not to “fling so much beauty to Death!” But in
her calm, lucid way she explained that to die for Christ was to renew
youth forever; that to exchange mortality for immortality was like
giving up a little handful of lead to receive inexhaustible treasures
of purest gold. She saw that the scales were falling from their eyes,
and, all aflame to gain more souls to Christ, she cried, “Do you
believe what I have told you?” And they replied: “We believe Christ the
Son of God to be truly God, Who possesses such a servant!”

Cecilia had won another victory. “Go now,” she commanded, “to unhappy
Almachius, and tell him that I pray him not to hasten my passion, and
then return here to my house and you shall find him who will make you
sharers of Eternal Life.”

The few days’ delay was granted, and the officers returned joyfully
to Cecilia’s house. She had at once sent to inform St. Urban of her
approaching martyrdom, and begged him to come at once, as many whom
she had instructed and converted were desirous of receiving baptism
before her death. The Pope hastened to her side and remained with
her for all that was left of her life. The house became a temple of
prayer and praise; more than four hundred persons, the officers of
Almachius foremost among them, were baptised. In order to prevent the
confiscation of her property, Cecilia made her will devising her house
and all it contained to a certain Gordian, “one of her converts, a most
upright man,” charging him to make of the dwelling where the Sacrament
of Baptism had been conferred a “Church of the Lord forever.”

Then, when all was accomplished and her work on earth completed,
Almachius sent for her to appear before him and answer the accusations
brought against her. Joyfully she obeyed. The account of her trial
is very remarkable, evidently taken down on the spot by some one
who witnessed it, and as evidently genuine not only because of the
endorsement of contemporaries, but because of some curious allusions to
customs prevailing at that particular time.

Too long and diffuse to transcribe here, the proceedings opened with
the usual question, a question regarded evidently as something of
a farce by the onlookers, since all Rome knew of Cecilia, and the
greatest excitement prevailed in the crowd that had assembled to see
the noble, delicately nurtured lady brought to trial like a common
criminal.

Cecilia’s very small stature and delicate frame surprised the Prefect,
who had never seen her before, and his question seems to show that he
had forgotten that she was a married woman.

“Who art thou, child?” he asked.

“I am called Cecilia among men,” she replied, “but I have a more
illustrious name—that of ‘Christian.’”

“What is thy rank?”

“A Roman citizen of illustrious and noble family.”

“We know that. I asked thee of thy religion.”

“Thy interrogation was a strangely incorrect one, since to one question
it required two answers.”

Cecilia’s logic was incontrovertible and the Prefect lost his temper
at once. He reproached her with what he called her insolence, boasted
of his authority, tried to frighten her with threats, was drawn into
arguments as to the existence of the pagan gods and their power to
punish those who should resist them; as to the “invincibility of the
Emperors,” and other points, on every one of which the highly educated,
intellectual girl, calm as an Angel, and relying on God to sustain her,
confounded him publicly, to the great delight, and as she intended, to
the edification and instruction of her hearers. Conscious that he was
losing ground every moment, Almachius floundered and blundered on till
Cecilia closed the interview by saying: “Since you first opened your
mouth you have not uttered a word which I have not proved to be either
unjust or unreasonable.” Then, as concisely and coolly as a lawyer
conducting a case, she summed up her proofs of the dead nothingness
of the pagan idols, and ended with these words: “Christ alone can save
from death, and deliver the guilty from eternal fire.”

There ensued a long silence, during which Almachius considered how he
could do away with her with the least amount of publicity and scandal.
In his mind he already heard the Emperor’s stinging reprimand for his
folly in provoking a scene which could only result in casting obloquy
on the deities worshipped (or rather patronised) by Alexander himself,
and in the condemnation of a beautiful and virtuous lady beloved by
all the people. Cecilia stood undisturbed while her enemy pondered her
fate. She had done with earth; she had vindicated Heaven; her thoughts
were there.

At last Almachius gave some whispered orders to his satellites, and
Cecilia, in her litter, since no Roman lady could walk through the
public streets, carried by her devoted, heart-broken servants, was
sent back to her palace under a heavy guard, among whom were those who
had consented to act as her executioners. These hurried to that one
of the marble bathrooms called the “calidarium,” disposed to produce
the fierce heat of a steam bath. The opening in the gilded ceiling,
intended to moderate the temperature when necessary, was hermetically
closed, and every conduit and furnace heated to raging point. When
the suffocating fumes had so filled the place that no one dared go in,
Cecilia was commanded to enter. She passed in, smiling, and was lost
to view in the dense cloud of steam; then the entrance was closed and a
guard set over it that none of those who were mourning and weeping all
through the halls and courts of the palace might either set her free or
share her end. For the rest of the day and all the ensuing night the
tormentors continued to pile the fires, till it seemed as if the heat
must crack the very marble. No sound came from the sealed room, and at
sunrise the next day the executioners were convinced that their work
was done. Nothing mortal could survive in that furnace.

So they opened the door—and Cecilia, radiant and fresh as a rose washed
in dew, knelt there in prayer, her lovely face raised to Heaven, her
pure hands clasped in love and thanksgiving. Terrified, the men rushed
to tell Almachius of the portent.

“Let a Lictor go and behead her!” was all he said. Some man was found
to do it—though unwillingly, since even the most brutal and ignorant
felt that here was one mysteriously protected by Heaven—and might not
Heaven—even the Heaven of Jupiter and Apollo—smite him who should
raise his hand against her? Still, orders were orders. In the soft
May morning a heavy tread sounded over the mosaic pavements of the
palace. The sweet lady’s friends and dependents cried out as they saw
a man stride along towards the “calidarium”—where, in obedience to
the Prefect’s commands, she had remained—swinging a heavy two-handled
axe. The Christians who were the trophies of her conquests for Christ
besought her, between their sobs, to pray for them in Heaven. She bade
them be comforted—smiling radiantly and mysteriously—and knelt down on
the still wet marble to receive the blow.

But the Lictor’s hands were trembling so that he could scarcely grasp
his weapon. Three times he struck, and each time the steel sank deep
into the meek white neck, and the blood crimsoned the golden robe
and the marble floor. Then he fled in terror. The Roman law forbade a
fourth stroke. Cecilia was lying on the reddened marble, on her side,
Urban and the rest kneeling around her. And it was she who broke the
silence, bidding them pray to God and then listen to her, since she
still had somewhat to say to them. Some among them were yet in need of
instruction, many in need of comfort and encouragement; so she taught
and prayed, and comforted them for three long days, never moving from
the spot where she had sunk down under the strokes of the axe; and they
were left in peace, since cold fear had fallen on the city and none
dared approach Cecilia’s house to ask how it fared with her.

During all this time her face showed that she was suffering the agonies
of death, though she found her old sweet smile for each and all of her
spiritual children and her beloved poor, as they crowded round her to
kiss her garments and try to staunch her wounds, and to dip their linen
cloths in the treasure of her blood. Her last endearments were for the
poor, and whatever remained of her own properties in the house she now
commanded to be given to them. Each word she spoke seemed as if it must
be the last, yet still she lived—and smiled, and blessed them.

On the third day, a great wonder being on all that assemblage, she
bade them leave her for a while, and the holy Pope Urban came and
prayed with her and blessed her. And he begged her to tell him how it
was that she had survived those cruel strokes so long. And Cecilia,
looking up at him most lovingly, replied: “I asked the Lord to give me
these three days, that I might give to your Beatitude my last treasure,
the poor whom I nourished, and who will miss me; and I also give you
this my house that you may consecrate it to be a Church to the Lord
for ever and ever.” Then she thanked her Saviour for all His love, and
especially for having “deigned to give her a part in the glory of the
athletes, for having crowned her with the lilies of virginity and the
roses of martyrdom.” A little faintness came over her then. She had
never moved from the attitude in which she had fallen, and was lying on
her right side, but her hands had been raised in prayer. Now they fell,
still clasped, on the folds of the golden robe so rosy with blood;
she turned her lovely face to the ground, that only God might see the
ecstasy of her reunion with Him, and thus she died.

Pope Urban attended personally to every detail of her burial. A
cypress-wood coffin was prepared, and in this she was laid by the
priests in attendance. Urban would not permit any change from the
attitude of virginal modesty in which she had expired, so with tender
care the consecrated hands raised her and laid her body in the coffin,
just as it was, on the right side, with the face turned to the ground.
The cloths dipped in her blood were rolled up and placed at her feet,
a profusion of rich ointments and perfumes was shed around her, and
then the fragrant casket was closed. Under cover of night the Pontiff
had it carried out to the cemetery of Saint Calixtus on the Appian
Way, wishing to honour her zealous apostleship for Christ by burying
her close to the tomb where he had laid his predecessor, the martyr
Pope, St. Zephyrinus. The cemetery of Pretextatus, where Valerianus and
Tiburtius had been buried, was close at hand, and Urban, to commemorate
the pure love that had united them on earth, made Cecilia’s tomb at the
extreme confine of the Calixtus catacomb, where its direction turned
towards the older one. Fearing desecration, perhaps prophetically
foreseeing that which threatened the resting-places of martyrs in
the invasion of the Arian heretics some two hundred years later, he
closed the tomb with one large slab of stone and left it for the moment
bare of all inscription; doubtless he intended to place one there
immediately, but had no time to do so before his own death.[16] Those
who had loved her needed not to see her name; they came day after day
to weep there and ask for her prayers; but God had inspired His servant
to protect and hide her blessed remains from all the enemies of the
Church.

It seems as if St. Urban’s own life had been prolonged thus far that
he might not only carry out this pious task, but also fulfil Cecilia’s
last commands by giving the remainder of her goods to the poor and by
consecrating as a Church the house in which she died. A short month
later he was taken and brought, with some of his Deacons, before
Almachius, to answer to two charges, that of being a Christian, and
that of having seized Cecilia’s property, which the covetous Prefect
had counted on securing for himself. The usual farce of a trial ensued;
the confessors were dragged out to the Pagus Triopius and, on their
refusing to sacrifice to Jupiter, savagely scourged. One of them,
Lucian, died under the lash; Urban and the others were beheaded, in
another spot, three days later.

Valerianus and his brother had suffered on the 18th of April, Cecilia
a week or more after them, and St. Urban and his companions on the
twenty-fifth day of May. St. Cecilia’s name was inserted at once in the
Canon of the Mass, where only those of six out of the thirty martyr
Popes were admitted. Agnes precedes her; Anastasia, burnt alive on
Christmas Day, under Diocletian, follows; and three hundred years later
St. Gregory inserted those of the two Sicilian martyrs, Agatha and
Lucy; but none inscribed on that sacred list which the priest repeats
every morning at Mass eclipses the name of Cecilia. Her house has never
ceased to be “A Church of the Lord,” as she ordained; every year on her
feast, the most glorious music resounds there, and many a time have I
been one of the crowd gathered on the 22d of November to listen to the
finest singers in Rome gathered to do her honour, because she loved to
praise the Lord in song and psalm. The anniversary of her death often
coincides with the great feasts of the Ascension and of Pentecost, and,
for some reason, of which we have lost the clue, the 22d of November
was fixed for the celebration of it. On that day not only in her Church
is she glorified, but also in the cemetery where her body lay for some
five hundred years and which is brilliantly illuminated and a grand
musical Mass sung there in her honour.

Yet, for centuries that blessed tomb was lost and none could pray
beside it. Every word, almost every look and gesture of Cecilia’s last
days on earth, was written in the “Acts of the Martyrs,” that enormous
collection of archives instituted by St. Clement, who appointed seven
holy and learned notaries to take down at once even the smallest
details connected with the trial and sufferings of the Christian
victims, a work zealously continued by all the succeeding Pontiffs, one
of whom, Anterus, was put to death solely on this charge. The “Acts
of the Martyrs,” as we possess them to-day, were finally compiled in
the Fourth or early part of the Fifth Century. The Latin, though vivid
and powerful, is already notably defective, ungrammatical, but not as
debased as it became at the beginning of the Sixth Century. The great
masters of language in the Fourth Century—St. Augustine, St. Ambrose,
and St. Jerome—were eager to preserve the purity of the Latin tongue,
but their contemporaries all over the Empire, either through ignorance
or carelessness, spoke and wrote an idiom as far removed from that of
the Golden Age of Augustus as is fashionable English to-day from that
of Addison and Pope. Is our misuse of our own noble tongue the cause,
or the effect, of political degeneration? One thing is certain, the
slaughter of its language has invariably accompanied the downfall of a
State.

When the Goths invaded Rome in the Fifth Century their Arian fury was
especially directed at all that Catholics held sacred, barring only the
Tombs of the Apostles, which they feared to profane. They raged through
the Catacombs in the hope of finding plunder, or else some secret
ingress to the city; the Christians, warned of their approach, had time
to fill up and close the entrance of a few of the cemeteries, among
others of that where Cecilia’s body lay. As a result, the pilgrims
were unable to visit these underground sanctuaries for many years, and
when peace was restored to the Church, and the bodies of many martyrs
brought back to the city, all but the vaguest clue to her resting-place
was lost, though it was sought for eagerly and persistently. Her
Church—the “House where Cecilia prayed”[17]—was ever protected from
destruction and continually resounded with prayer and praise, but it
was empty of the treasure of her remains. As time went on, almost all
the bones of the martyrs had been restored to the piety of the Faithful
in the different Churches and Basilicas of Rome; the sanctuaries
ruined and desecrated by the Goths and Lombards had been rebuilt;
the Catacombs reopened and partially restored; so that, although they
would never again inspire quite the veneration with which they had been
regarded before the Barbarians defaced and defiled them, yet pilgrims,
with their strange old guidebooks to direct their steps, would visit
the places which had been hallowed by those noble presences in past
ages.

In 817 Pope Paschal ascended the throne, and made it his especial duty
to rescue from the Catacombs any holy relics that still remained there.
Great was his desire to find the tomb of St. Cecilia; he sought for it
long and patiently, and seems to have passed it more than once, owing
to its lack of inscription. He had already rebuilt her Church, which
had suffered much from time, and decorated it magnificently, but it
seemed destined to be deprived of the honour of sheltering all that
earth still held of her. In great depression he, with many others,
came to the conclusion that her body must have been carried away by the
Lombards when Charlemagne drove them out of Italy.

And then Cecilia herself re-animated him to the search. He has left us
an enchanting description of her visit. On a certain Sunday morning,
very, very early, Pope Paschal was sitting in St. Peter’s, near the
Tomb of the Apostles, listening entranced to the sweet voices of the
Canons, who were singing Lauds, the office with which the Church opens
her day before the first gleam of light has come into the East. It was
not the St. Peter’s that we know, but the ancient Basilica founded
by Constantine and consecrated in the year 326, vast and dark, with
heavy Byzantine arches and windows closed by panes of thin Oriental
alabaster. The good Pope speaks regretfully of a slight weariness which
was creeping over him after the long night’s vigil, and says that, just
as the eastern windows became visible squares in the first faint flush
of dawn, he was overcome with drowsiness and closed his eyes, so that
the soaring music became the music of dreams.

Then a luminous vision appeared: a young virgin, adorned as a bride,
stood before Paschal, and, after reproaching him with his too easy
abandonment of the task he had undertaken, said: “Nevertheless, thou
wast so near me that we could have spoken mouth to mouth!”

Amazed and agitated, Paschal asked her who she was. She replied,
“Cecilia, the servant of Christ.” But the prudent Pontiff, knowing that
all visions are not of Heaven, and fearing a snare of the Evil One,
said: “How can I believe thee? All men say that the body of the holy
Cecilia was carried away by the Lombards.”

Very gently she replied that the Lombards had indeed sought for her,
but that the Blessed Virgin had protected her sepulchre, so that
they had not found it. She bade him persevere in his search, which
she promised should soon be rewarded, and commanded him to bring her
body and those of “other Saints near her” to her own Church. Then she
disappeared, and Paschal, greatly rejoiced, went forth, and straightway
returned to the ground over which he had gone so many times in vain.
In the cemetery of St. Calixtus he now noticed a nameless tomb, which
he had never connected in his mind with that of the Saint, because of
its extreme bareness and apparent obscurity. He now realised that this
must be what he had been seeking. The slab was at once removed from
the wall, disclosing a marble-lined recess, in which a little chest of
cypress-wood, just over four feet long, reposed without a trace of age
or decay.

Very carefully it was lifted down and placed at Paschal’s feet.
The opening of it presented some difficulty, but when the cover was
removed, a strong fragrance of roses and lilies came welling up from
the interior. Then the Pope and his assistants beheld Cecilia, lying
like a child asleep, her head turned down, her hands folded, her robe,
tinged with blood, outlining the modest grace of her young body. That
was whole and sweet as on the day when Urban laid it away hundreds of
years before; no decay or corruption had been suffered to approach it.
All was as on the day of her death, from the great wounds in her neck
to the gold embroidery on her dress, and at her feet were the rolls of
linen steeped in her blood.

They brought her, with great and reverent rejoicing, back to her own
house, now the Lord’s; they brought, too, the bodies of her beloved
husband and his brother, and that of Maximus, the brave officer who
had been charged with their execution, but who chose to follow them to
glory. For greater honour Paschal brought there the body of St. Urban
and placed it with that of Cecilia and her comrade martyrs under the
High Altar.

For Cecilia he prepared a white marble sarcophagus, and in this the
little cypress-wood coffin[18] was placed. Paschal would not have her
body touched, and left her as she had lain ever since that sad and
glorious May morning six hundred years before; but he lined the sides
of the coffin with a rich damask silk with fringed edges, and spread
over her a great veil of silk also, but diaphanously thin, and this
too was delicately fringed. All these details so carefully set down
at the time were destined to be of great value, not only as aids to
identification in after years, but as testimonies to the immeasurable
reverence with which the Church regarded the bodies of the martyrs in
the early ages.

After gazing for the last time at her pure loveliness, Paschal closed
the sarcophagus with a marble slab, and then, with no less love and
reverence, placed the bodies of her three heroes—Valerianus, Tiburtius,
and Maximus—in another sarcophagus, “all together, but each wrapped
in a separate winding sheet.” For St. Urban a third marble coffin was
made, but—a little touch of human nature that brings a smile and a
tear—Paschal feared he “might be lonely” in it, and brought the body of
one of his martyred successors, Lucius, to lie beside him, though he is
careful to tell us that they too had each “a separate winding sheet!”

The three sarcophagi were placed below the High Altar in the Church
now called St. Cecilia in Trastevere; a marble tablet, inscribed with a
cross, the martyrs’ names, and the account of their sepulture in this
spot, was duly placed near them, and then a strong circular wall was
built all around and closed up, so that none could enter the tomb. But
just above it, in the pavement of the Church, a small grating opened on
a long funnel-like aperture through which, according to ancient custom,
the Faithful could lower strips of linen to rest for a moment on the
marble coffins, and then be withdrawn and carried away as precious
souvenirs of the holy ones lying therein.

The Church is one of the most interesting in Rome to the Catholic
Pilgrim; as a well-known Protestant writer[19] says: “The traveller
who tries to overlook Catholicity in his sightseeing in Rome, misses
all that is most interesting to see.” Paschal lavished splendid gifts
on the Church he so dearly loved. The chroniclers have left us minute
descriptions of the gold and the silver, the marvellously embroidered
vestments and hangings that he provided for it, and his successors
adorned it with lovely paintings and mosaics as time went on, but the
best offering of all was Paschal’s own. That Cecilia’s last wish might
be carried out and “the praises of the Lord sound there forever,” he
built and endowed a monastery close by and established there a choir of
monks, who sang those praises night and day from that time forth.

Then he passed away, to be greeted in Heaven by those whom he had so
loved to honour upon earth. There had been many martyrs—so many that
only the Angels could count them—but none greater, more glorious, more
dear to God and beloved of men, than Cecilia.

The devotion to her spread rapidly over Europe; Britain, France,
and Germany emulated Italy in honours paid to her, and many churches
boasted, in perfect good faith, that they possessed some of her relics.
We know, not only from Paschal’s account, but from the eye-testimony
of witnesses quite near to our own times, that only one tiny fragment
of her blessed human frame—and that by accident—was ever parted
from the rest; but we know, too, that the Church counts three other
Cecilias, two of them Roman, among the known martyrs. Their relics were
borne away for veneration, and time caused their origin to be so far
forgotten that they were for centuries regarded as belonging to the
Roman heroine of the Third Century.

Pope Paschal died in 824. The monastery which he had founded passed
away from the Benedictines, was made into a Collegiate Church, was
restored to the Benedictines—and had to be abandoned during the
stirring years of the first part of the Sixteenth Century, because
the zealous sons of St. Benedict had so many institutions to attend
to that their numbers no longer sufficed for the work to be done. The
Church of St. Cecilia, in 1532, had fallen into such decay that it
was barely possible to celebrate her feast there any longer, and this
in spite of the fact that it was still considered the most honourable
“Titular Church” in Rome.[20] On the 19th of December, 1590, Gregory
XIV, who had been made Pope on the fifth day of that month, conferred
the cardinal’s hat on the son of his brother, the young Paul Emilius
Sfondrato, with the “Titular” of St. Cecilia, which the Pontiff had
himself held before his election to the Papacy. The Sfondrati were a
Milanese family, but Paul had already spent much time in Rome under
the spiritual tutorship of St. Philip Nerim, and he joyfully hastened
thither in response to his uncle’s summons. The young Cardinal was
already famous for his wisdom and learning, but still more so for his
goodness and his tender charity to the poor. His two leading motives
in life were the honouring of God and the Saints, and the relief of
suffering. We read that he built and decorated church after church,
recking nothing of spending a great part of his large fortune on the
House of God and the dwellers therein, at the same time denying himself
every sort of luxury and living like a poor man in order that the poor
might not be defrauded of their share of the goods which he considered
he only held in trust for the Lord.

One of his first resolves on coming to Rome in 1591 was to rebuild the
almost ruinous Church of St. Cecilia, and, while doing so, to find her
tomb, of which the exact location had been lost in the eight hundred
years that had elapsed since Paschal closed it. Other traces of her
presence had also disappeared, and it was reserved for Sfondrato to
rediscover the bathroom where she had expired. At first a chapel had
been built over it, but with succeeding modifications this had been
pulled down and the space incorporated in the Church, and, although
there were old men then alive who remembered having prayed there
in their childhood, it was only after much study of the ancient and
actual topography that Sfondrato was led to the correct spot. There,
however, all doubts were set at rest. He found the “calidarium,” of
the small size adapted to a private dwelling, with its marble floor,
its great boiler, and the remains of the leaden and earthenware pipes
through which the steam percolated into the bathroom. When the rubbish
was cleared away it was easy to call up the touching scenes it had
witnessed in those May days fourteen hundred years earlier.

The pious Cardinal, wishing to place under the High Altar of the
restored basilica some precious relics of other saints, commanded the
workmen to take up the pavement, so that the supposed space below could
be utilised for this purpose. They found, however, that there was only
a very small recess there, and that all further excavation was arrested
by a thick rounded wall of exceedingly solid material. Sfondrato at
once realised that this must be the barrier mentioned in Paschal’s
account of the burial of St. Cecilia by himself, and directed the
masons to make some aperture in the wall, through which a glimpse might
be obtained of that which it protected. At the same time he was so
scrupulous as to the respect to be shown to the martyr that he forbade
the men to strike a blow of any kind except in his own presence.

At last, on the twentieth day of October, 1599, an opening was
effected, and Paul Sfondrato, looking through it with beating heart and
straining eyes, beheld by the light of a taper that for which he had
sought so eagerly—two large white marble sarcophagi, standing side by
side immediately below the High Altar. St. Cecilia and her companions
were undoubtedly there, just as Paschal had placed them, but the
prudent Cardinal would not open their tombs except in the presence of
eminent and reliable witnesses. Curbing his impatience, he sent for
four learned and holy men—the Bishop who was acting as Vicegerent of
the Cardinal Vicar, a Canon of St. John Lateran, and two Fathers of the
Society of Jesus. Many others came with them, but a palpitating silence
reigned in the vault while the workmen removed the marble slab from the
coffin nearest the entrance and disclosed, to eyes already misty with
tears, the little cypress casket, so touchingly small, in which Urban
had laid the dear saint on her “Natal Day.”

With extreme precaution this was lifted out, but the perfumed wood
proved to be perfectly solid, as if put together the day before,
only the cover showing some slight marks of the flight of time. At
first this cover baffled all efforts to remove it; it held tightly,
but with no visible fastening. Finally Sfondrato himself found out
the secret—it had been contrived to slip along two perfectly fitted
lateral grooves—and with his own hands drew it off and looked at last
on the body of St. Cecilia, perfect, untouched, lovely, and at rest
like that of a sleeping child. Every detail of Paschal’s description
was verified. The gold embroidery of her dress showed a little dulled
through the airy veil he had thrown over her, and his fringed damask
lining was slightly faded; otherwise no change had been suffered to
approach her whom the Lord so loved. From the last few moments before
her death no one had ever looked on her face, so pathetically turned to
the ground, and none could see now more than the soft outline of the
rounded cheek and the indication of the temple. Her little hands lay
together, and now for the first time it was noticed that her very last
movement must have been a confession of faith, for of one hand three
fingers were distended, of the other, one—to symbolise the Trinity in
Unity. And the last crowning sweetness was not wanting. As soon as the
small coffin was opened a heavenly fragrance as of freshly gathered
lilies and roses welled out from it and filled all the place.

With joy too great and tender to find words, Sfondrato and his
companions carried the precious casket up to the light of day, and
deposited it for safety in the small chapel with grated windows where
the nuns of the contiguous convent were accustomd to assist at Mass.
Raised on a daïs hung with rich silk, surrounded with lighted tapers
that shed a soft glow all around, half smothered in flowers, Cecilia
lay there while all Rome, beside itself with joy, came to gaze upon
her and entreat her prayers. No perfumes were permitted to be used,
since the heavenly fragrance of roses and lilies still emanated from
the coffin. The nuns knelt round her for a guard of honour, and soon
the great Pope Clement VIII, who had barely recovered from a severe
illness, travelled in from Frascati to pray beside her.

The times were very evil just then for him and for the Church;
Calvinism was devastating France and threatening to give her a
sovereign dyed in its abominable impieties; England, Holland,
Scandinavia, and a great part both of Germany and Switzerland were
altogether lost to the faith and had become the bitterest enemies of
the Church, and impious hands were scattering the bones of the saints
on the public highways. Only two months had elapsed since the ghastly
tragedy of the Cenci had thrown a pall of gloom over Rome itself; but
everything was forgotten in the joy of having the beloved Cecilia’s
remains restored to the veneration of her people. Clement himself, the
“hard, stern” old man, was completely overcome when he beheld her;
his tears choked his speech. The Romans of every class thronged to
the place in such numbers that Sfondrato himself was almost crushed to
death in the crowd and the Pontifical Swiss Guards had to be stationed
there to keep order. Such was still the enthusiastic love with which
our forbears regarded all that was dear to God!

Clement, with rare restraint, forbade that even the veil which covered
the virgin’s body should be lifted, but he permitted Sfondrato to
remove the linen cloths rolled up at her feet, to be distributed to
such as were worthy to possess these sacred souvenirs. The Cardinal
gave away all but one piece, a little rag that he had reserved for
himself; another Cardinal, a great historian, was present at the
scenes I have described and tells us that Sfondrato was rewarded for
all his love and charity by finding, adhering to this fragment, a
tiny particle of bone, which must have detached itself under the hand
which was tenderly attempting to staunch one of the wounds inflicted
by the Lictor’s axe. This is the only relic of the saint which was
ever separated from her body, and no greater treasure could she have
bestowed on her faithful servant. He bequeathed it to her Church, where
his own body finally found a resting-place, like that of Clement, at
her feet. He also cut off a tiny piece of her dress, and, as he did so,
felt beneath it the knots of the hair shirt which she continually wore
to mortify her innocent flesh.

The bodies of Valerianus, Tiburtius, and Maximus were found in the
second sarcophagus, everything about them testifying to the truth of
the records of their martyrdom. The two brothers were exactly alike,
as tradition recorded, in form and size, while Maximus was a much
larger, heavier man. The manner of his martyrdom was also attested,
the leaden plummets of the whips having fractured his skull in several
places, so that the thick brown hair, which was perfectly preserved,
was all matted with blood and particles of bone. Urban and Lucius were
found buried directly below Cecilia’s resting-place. To this her body
was returned a month later, when on her feast, the 22d of November,
the Pope, with all the Cardinals and a great concourse of bishops and
prelates, came to celebrate the Holy Mysteries and, for the third
time since her death, consign the dear maid’s body to the keeping
of earth. Clement enclosed the little cypress-wood coffin in one of
silver, superbly ornamented with gold—enclosed this in a newer and
larger marble sarcophagus (the old one being too small for the double
treasure), inscribed on a silver tablet the record of all that had
taken place, sealed the whole with his Pontifical seal, and had the
vault built over once more, not to be opened again, God willing, till
the Last Day.[21]

Before closing the saint’s coffin, Clement sent for the eminent
sculptor, Maderno, and commissioned him to model a statue as like as
possible to the fair body that lay there, but forbade him to remove the
veil. Maderno hastened to obey, and the statue now in the Church and
known by thousands of reproductions all through the artistic world, is
an exact portrait of Cecilia, with every detail of pose and garments,
as then shown, faithfully represented. Baronius and Bosio, to whom he
related them, have minutely chronicled all the circumstances connected
with the second finding of her body.



CHAPTER XI

THE CHURCH UNDER CONSTANTINE

  Constantine’s Edict—St. Sylvester, the Friend of Constantine—Refuge
  at Soracte—The Emperor’s Vision—“In Hoc Vinces”—Constantine’s
  Baptism—The Church Has Peace—Helena’s Basilica—The Blessing
  of the Golden Rose—Origin of St. Peter’s—The Obelisk from
  Heliopolis—Testimony of the Dust of the Martyrs—The Place of
  the Shock of Horses—The Beauty of St. Peter’s—Pilgrims from
  Britain—Charlemagne, the Blessed.


“And the Church had peace!” Those few words are all that are used to
describe the overwhelming relief of the world when Constantine caused
his great edict to be proclaimed throughout the Empire. “Let none
henceforth dare to molest the Christians in the exercise of their
religion or in the building of Temples to God.”

The frightful persecution under Diocletian, more cruel and bloody
than all that had preceded it, had been continued by his successor
Galerius,[22] and was still active, still a living menace to the
faithful; and, as they had done so often during the past three hundred
years, they had to fly to their underground refuges or out into
the desert to call upon the rocks and mountains to cover them. St.
Melchiades, whom St. Augustine calls “the true son of the Peace of
our Lord Jesus Christ,” became Pope in 311 and suffered such great
tribulations for the faith in the beginning of his pontificate that
the Church reckons him among the martyrs, although he lived to see
her triumph, dying only in 313. To him succeeded Sylvester, the great
ruler, the friend of Constantine, whose name is so intimately connected
with the foundation of the two chief basilicas of Christendom, that of
St. John Lateran and that of St. Peter’s.

Before being called to the Papacy, St. Sylvester had been a zealous
and holy priest for many years, but during a part of that time he
had been obliged to live in hiding on Mount Soracte, the strange rock
which raises itself from the Campagna, some twenty-five miles to the
northeast of Rome, to culminate in a precipitous cliff two thousand
two hundred and seventy feet high—as if arrested by the sight of the
distant city. I think it was Byron who compared it to a wave about
to break, and no other simile describes it half so well. I spent a
heavenly day there in my youth and came away regretfully, not only
because of the superb view of the Apennine panorama at which I had
been gazing, but because of the ideal aloofness and sweetness of the
atmosphere round the ruined convent on the summit, where, though I
was then in the first flush of youth, I would gladly have remained for
years. Soracte, under its present name, was well known to the Romans;
Horace had sung of the mantle of the snow that lay on its rough sides
in the winter; Virgil spoke of it reverently as one of the homes of
Apollo, who had a temple there; so its name is not a contraction of
St. Oreste, as some used to think, though a Church and monastery were
dedicated to that saint on Soracte very early in our era. The monk who
acted as our guide could not tell me much about him, but spoke of St.
Sylvester’s sojourn on the mountain as if he had left it but the day
before. The lonely peak was not always lonely, the geologists say. Long
ages previous to the foundation of Rome the Apennines flung out their
chain thus far; then came great heavings in earth’s fiery heart; she
opened and the hills sank back whence they had come, and “the mountains
were made plain”; they disappeared, leaving this solitary vanguard rock
to mark their vanished limit and their actual sepulchre.

How gladly must Sylvester have sped back to Rome over the long Milvian
Way, as soon as he could resume his sacred duties in the city! He must
have been there when Constantine, with his great host, paused at the
“Saxa rubra” (the red rocks over which I have often wandered, seeking
for wild flowers), near the Milvian Bridge, depressed and anxious, and
very fearful that the army he led was not strong enough to overcome the
usurper, Maxentius, who had fortified himself behind its walls. In this
month of May, 1913, Catholics from all over the world are thronging
to Rome to take part in the sixteen-hundredth anniversary of that day.
For Constantine, hesitating to attack, was standing without his camp,
gazing at the western sky, towards which the sun was sinking, as the
chroniclers tell us, thinking of what lay before him, thinking, too,
of what lay behind—of the long years during which he had half believed
in Christianity without being made a Christian; thinking of what would
happen to his soul should he, still unbaptised, be slain in the now
inevitable conflict; thinking, we may be sure, of his good mother,
Helena, over there in Constantinople, storming Heaven with prayers
for his safety. It was all enough to make even an Emperor thoughtful,
and Constantine was a man who took both this life and the next very
seriously.

Then, as officers and men watched their leader’s face grow darker and
more gloomy, and the reflection of his melancholy began to gain them
all, “airy and excellent” the vision came. Resting on the setting
sun as on a pedestal, and paling that glory by its own more dazzling
splendour, a gigantic cross flamed out across the cloudless sky, and as
all gazed, terror-stricken and breathless, these words wrote themselves
in fire against the blue: “In hoc vinces”[23]—“In this thou shalt
conquer!” The portent hung for many minutes, some say for an hour, and
then slowly withdrew into the empyrean, and the empty sky and the empty
Campagna, the gleaming host and the proud rebel city, alone remained.

And Constantine conquered. Maxentius, doomed, came out to meet him,
and there was great slaughter, in which the upstart thief of the Purple
died no honourable death, but was pushed off the bridge in the furious
mêlée and choked in Tiber’s mud. And Constantine caused the Eagles
to be replaced by the Cross on his standards, and entered in triumph
to throw himself at the feet of Sylvester and, holding up his poor
leprous[24] hands in piteous entreaty, to beg for health and baptism.
Gladly and with great thanksgiving the Pope baptised him, and the water
that washed away his sins cleansed his flesh, so that when he came up
out of the sacred fountain there was no mark of leprosy on his body or
of guilt upon his soul—“and the Church had peace.”

Constantine’s first thought was now to honour God by some splendid
testimony of his gratitude, and, under the direction of Sylvester, he
built the Basilica of the Holy Saviour, called also St. John’s before
the Latin Gate. It was here that the evangelist suffered martyrdom
in intention, was cruelly scourged, and plunged in boiling oil. God
saved his life in order that he might write his sublime last book in
the solitude of the Isle of Patmos, whither the persecutors exiled him
after their attempts to slay him had failed; and to him, the beloved
Virgin disciple, Constantine dedicated this, his first thank-offering,
called ever since “the Mother of all the Churches in the World.”

After that came Constantine’s own mother, Saint Helena, to Rome,
having, to her eternal glory, discovered the Saviour’s Cross in
Jerusalem and desiring to bring a part of that sacred Tree to the
centre of Christendom.

Standing on the green terrace at the southern end of Constantine’s
Basilica, she saw a great empty space, beyond which, at the other end
of the long decline that sinks away from it towards the southeast,
there stood a half-ruined villa; there she resolved to raise the
trophy of her own gratitude and to provide a fitting shrine for the
inestimable treasure she had brought. But the Cross was still to rest
on the soil that Jesus had trod. She caused a shipload of earth to be
brought from Jerusalem, and on this the foundations of the Basilica
of the Holy Cross were laid, contiguous to a palace which was her
chosen dwelling during her sojourn in Rome. The Basilica, so frequently
rebuilt and restored that probably no part of the exterior would now
be recognised by the pious Empress, is dark and bare, but symmetrical
in outline and possessing a severe dignity of its own. It presents a
marked contrast to the florid yet noble southern portico of St. John
Lateran, and the long green avenue, shaded by double rows of mulberry
trees, which used to connect the two, seemed to lead the spirit by
fitting degrees from the splendid stability of Catholic worship to-day
to the sterner conditions of that long-vanished past.

Until the Papacy transferred its seat to Avignon, the green plain
between Helena’s Basilica and the Lateran was, once a year, the
scene of a beautiful and mystical ceremony. On the Fourth Sunday in
Lent, when the Church, to encourage her children in their forty days’
career of penance, replaces her sombre vestments by those of crimson
and gold reserved for great feasts, when the organ, dumb since Ash
Wednesday, once more fills the cathedrals with joyous music, when the
Mass begins with the command to rejoice—then the Pope, accompanied
by the Cardinals, went to the “Mother of all the Churches,” St. John
Lateran, and there, with a prayer of wonderful beauty, blessed and
sanctified the “Golden Rose.” The rose being the emblem of Divine
love, shedding around the sweet fragrance of charity, often found a
place in the ceremonial of the Church. For this particular occasion a
cunning jeweller fashioned a flower in pure gold, blossom and leaf and
stem, and the Pontiff prayed to the Creator of all beautiful things,
who was Himself the true Joy and Hope of His children, to bless the
flower carried as a sign of spiritual joy, in order that the faithful,
contemplating it, might raise their hearts to the heavenly Jerusalem,
and persevere in the sweet odour of good works until they should be
eternally united to Him who is the flower come forth from the branch
of Jesse, who called Himself the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the
Valley; and that, in the company of all the blessed, they might glorify
forever the Divine Flower who shall reign in Heaven eternally.

When the prayers were over, the Pope came forth from the Lateran,
wearing the mitre and holding the Golden Rose in his hand; mounting his
white palfrey, and accompanied by the whole Pontifical Court, he rode
down the green way to the Basilica of the Holy Cross. There he preached
a sermon on the virtues symbolised by the rose (there is still one of
these sermons extant, delivered by Innocent III) and then celebrated
Holy Mass. When that was over, he returned on horseback, still holding
the Golden Rose and followed by the whole gorgeous cavalcade to St.
John Lateran, where, if some royal prince happened to be present,
his was the honour of assisting the Holy Father to dismount, and he
received, in reward for his filial piety, the Golden Rose from the
Pope’s own hands.

In our days the ceremony of blessing the Rose takes place in a hall of
the Vatican, and the Holy Father sends it as a gift usually to some
Catholic princess—I remember that a few years ago he sent one to our
little English Queen of Spain. I heard of another, and a very touching,
present sent by Leo XIII to a royal lady who was awaiting the birth of
her child—the baby’s entire layette, marvels of beauty worked by the
nuns, and all blessed by the Holy Father for the small Christian who
was to wear the garments!

After founding the Church of St. John Lateran, the zeal of Constantine
led him to build another and greater one over the tomb of St. Peter.
For this the tomb itself served as a nucleus, and Constantine would
have no hands but his own dig the beginning of the foundations. “Laying
aside the chlamys” (the mantle on which were embroidered the insignia
of his rank) “he opened the earth for the construction of the Basilica.
Then he carried away on his own shoulders twelve basketfuls of earth,
in honour of the twelve Apostles.” The work thus inaugurated was
continued under his direction. The body of the blessed Apostle was at
this time brought back from the Catacombs to its original resting-place
with great glory, and encased in a magnificent silver coffin which in
its turn was placed inside a sarcophagus of gilt bronze. Constantine
forbade any but the priests to touch the sarcophagus, under pain of
severe punishment. At one point on the way, the bearers seemed to be
wavering a little, and a common workman, forgetting the Emperor’s
orders, stretched out his hand to steady it. There was no need for
Constantine to punish him, for the poor fellow’s hand shrivelled up at
the contact, only to be restored after earnest prayers for forgiveness
of this irreverence.

The incident may be legendary, but it reminds me of a later and more
authentic one connected with the obelisk which stands in the centre
of the Piazza of St. Peter’s. This huge monolith of red granite was
brought by Caligula from Heliopolis—the scene of General Kléber’s
victory and violent death on the 14th of June, 1800, while Marengo
was being fought and won. Its arrival caused great excitement in
the imperial city and crowds went out to see it as it lay at Ostia
in a ship built on purpose to carry it and, as Pliny informs us,
“almost as long as the left side of the port of Ostia.” Unlike most
of the Egyptian obelisks, it bears no inscriptions of any kind on
its polished sides. It first stood in the Circus of Nero, on ground
now covered by the Sacristy of St. Peter’s, and it was only under
Sixtus V, in 1586, that it was placed in its present position. Its
enormous size and weight (about three hundred and twenty tons) made
the moving and erection a labour of the greatest difficulty. The work
was superintended by Fontana, the eminent architect, who employed
eight hundred men and one hundred and fifty horses to drag it the
short distance to the centre of the Piazza. Then came the raising
and placing on the pedestal prepared for it, a task so delicate and
anxious that Sixtus forbade any one, under pain of death, to utter
a single word during the process. Slowly and unwillingly the huge
thing submitted to be raised from the ground, but, before it had
reached the perpendicular, that happened which the architect had not
foreseen—the enormous cables began to stretch. The strain dragged on
them so fearfully that in a few minutes they must have parted—and
the obelisk would have thundered to the ground; but a brave sailor
man, casting self-preservation to the winds, shouted, “Water on the
ropes.” Instantly he was obeyed; a thousand hands sent the buckets
flying along, the cables were drenched, and they held till the giant
rose obediently in air and settled squarely on its base. The grateful
Pope sent for the brave sailor and asked his name and birthplace.
“Bresca of Bordighera,” was the answer. What he gave to Bresca, the
chronicler has left to our imagination—probably enough to keep him in
fat comfort to the end of his days; but to Bordighera, that garden of
the Mediterranean shore, he gave the privilege of furnishing forever
the palms used in the Church on Palm Sunday; and down to 1870 there
came, every year, a ship to the mouth of the Tiber, full to the gunwale
with the Bordighera palm branches, which the nuns of Sant’ Antonio wove
and plaited into a thousand fanciful shapes, for use in the Palm Sunday
procession at St. Peter’s.

There is a touching story connected with the Piazza of St. Peter’s.
Twenty years or so before Sixtus V became Pope, the sainted Pius V was
reigning Pontiff (1566-1572). He had a great devotion to the blessed
martyrs—I remember possessing a little terra-cotta lamp ornamented with
Christian emblems, found in the Catacombs, which he had taken in his
hands and blessed for some pious soul. He often had to traverse the
great Piazza in going and coming from the Vatican, and he never did so
without thinking of all the brave Christian blood that had been shed
there in the early times. One day he was walking across the Piazza
deep in conversation with the Ambassador of the King of Poland, when
suddenly he paused, remembering the soil on which they stood. The place
was unpaved then, and the Pope, stooping down, took up a handful of
earth which he gave to the Ambassador, saying: “Keep this dust, for it
is composed of the ashes of the saints and steeped in the blood of the
martyrs.”

The Ambassador, as we gather, received the gift more with respect
for the hand that offered it than for its own sake. He spread out his
handkerchief, the Pope shed on it the handful of dust, and the courtly
Pole rolled it up and put it in his pocket.

When he returned to his palace, he drew the packet out, doubtless
wondering what he should do with the rather inconvenient contents. To
his awe, the cambric was wet with blood. He spread it out—the earth
had vanished and not a grain remained, but the handkerchief was steeped
in the brave blood that had been shed for Christ under Nero and that,
as one writer says, “had sprung forth again to attest, in the face of
heresy and schism, that the faith of the Church under Pius was the same
as the faith of the Church under Peter.”

Talking of Piazzas—the one which immediately conducted to that of St.
Peter’s has always been called “Piazza Scossa Cavalli,” the place of
the “shock of horses,” and this is the story of how it obtained the
name. Constantine’s mother, Helena, was, like her son, somewhat tardy
in openly professing Christianity, but her whole life after her baptism
was devoted to the service of God, particularly in the direction of
preserving and beautifying the holy places sanctified by the life
and sufferings of the Redeemer. To her we owe the finding of the True
Cross, the Crown of Thorns, and other instruments of the Passion; it
was she who built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the one on Mount
Calvary, spots which the pagans had marked for future identification
and veneration by setting up idols to keep the Christians from
praying there! Among other things she found on Mount Moriah the stone,
scrupulously preserved by the ancestor-loving Jews, on which Abraham
was preparing to sacrifice Isaac—the type of Christ—when the Angel
staid his arm and told him that the Lord would prove his faith no
further. This stone Helena conveyed to Rome, intending to place it in
St. Peter’s; but when the horses dragging the wagon which contained
it reached this spot, still quite distant from the Basilica, they
“jibbed,” as we should say, and no power on earth could induce them to
go a step further.

The Empress, her counsellors, and all the people took this as a sign
that Heaven destined the consecrated stone to remain in that place, and
a church, “San Giacomo a Scossa Cavalli,” was built and still stands
there to shelter Abraham’s Altar.

Constantine’s Basilica rose in strength and beauty, and was consecrated
in 326, thirteen years after that 13th of June, 313, when he had seen
the vision. Although only half the size of the present Church, it was,
until this was built, one of the three largest in Europe, the other
two being those of Milan and Seville; strangely enough, the three
were all of equal dimensions—three hundred and ninety-five feet long
by two hundred and twelve in width. Eighty-six marble pillars divided
the nave of St. Peter’s from the aisles and supported the roof; and,
like all the basilicas, it had a rich portico running all along its
front, also decorated with columns. The interior was gorgeous with
gold and Byzantine mosaic and precious marbles, and the Church itself
was the centre of a great mass of other sumptuous buildings, chapels,
and offices and monasteries, for the housing of the great body of
ecclesiastics charged with the service of the Church and the keeping of
the archives. The Basilica of Constantine was worthy of its founder,
and many another royal and imperial head was bent there in worship
during the centuries that followed; yet what storms and vicissitudes
assailed it before it sank away to rise again, like the phœnix of old,
in the glorious pile so dear to our hearts to-day! Constantine would
not have believed—what it is hard for us to accept even on the word
of those who saw it—that a time would come when Rome’s rightful rulers
would be constrained to withdraw not only from her, but from Italy, to
govern the Church from Avignon; when the Mistress of the World would
barely count thirty thousand souls within her walls, and the shepherds
of the Campagna should pasture their sheep on the rank grass that
covered the steps of St. Peter’s and all the ground around!

Were the spirits of the redeemed permitted to contemplate the crimes
and sorrows of earth, how some of them would have wept over the
apparent decay of this most sacred of fanes, the goal so eagerly sought
by all pilgrims, gentle or simple, during the Ages of Faith!

Hither came Charlemagne, and many other great ones, both before and
after him, some worthy of Heaven’s favour, some in the rebellious
attempt to enslave the Church and make her work for them instead of for
Christ. But most entered St. Peter’s with humble and sincere hearts and
it is noticeable that, of the famous royal pilgrims, the larger part
came from Britain. One of the first was Cadwalla, King of the Saxons,
an ardent convert who travelled to Rome to be baptised at St. Peter’s
tomb, and was rewarded for his faith by dying immediately afterwards,
“spotless among the sheep of Christ.” Then we are told of the holy
Cenred, who had renounced the throne of Mercia to become a monk in Rome
and who, as a sign of his sincerity, cut off his flowing locks and laid
them at the shrine of the Apostle; another Briton, good King Ina of
Wessex, comes to pray, and to found a Church in honour of the Mother
of God, so that his subjects who come on pilgrimage may have their
own sanctuary to pray in and their own ground to receive their bodies
should they die in Rome; Offa, the Saxon, comes to ask St. Peter to
consider him as his vassal and Offa’s realm as a loyal tributary of his
own; and, almost greatest of all, in the year 854, our Holy Father, St.
Leo IV, being the reigning Pope, there walks one day into Constantine’s
Basilica a big fair-haired Englishman called Ethelwulf, leading a
little boy, six years old, bright of eye and sturdy of limb, by the
hand.

Behind them, in awed silence, comes a group of the white and ruddy
warriors of the North, gazing in wonder at the splendid Church,
full of treasures from East and West, such as they have never beheld
before. They voice their admiration in gruff whispers in a strange
tongue, unintelligible to the scattered worshippers around them, who,
doubtless, watch them with some apprehension, asking themselves whether
their coming be the herald of another Gothic invasion of Rome. But
the leader of the strangers goes up to the High Altar and kneels for
a space, the child kneeling too, but clinging tightly to his father’s
hand. Then the father stands up, and, addressing one of the attendant
priests in clear Latin, asks to be taken to the Pope.

It is Ethelwulf, King of the Anglo-Saxons; he has come to ask the Holy
Father to crown him; and the little boy, on whom the Pope smiles, and
who receives the pontifical blessing so blithely, grows up to be Alfred
the Great.

But among all the pilgrims of those ages the supreme figure is that of
Charlemagne, the giant in heart and mind and body who declared that he
only ruled to extend the reign of Christ on earth, and in his will left
to his successors, as the most precious part of their heritage, the
privilege of defending and sustaining the Church. He had passed away
forty years before Ethelwulf brought his little son to Rome, but his
greatness lived after him and none can doubt that Alfred pondered his
wise laws and strove to imitate the wonderful combination of strength
and justice and mercy of which he set the example. I saw his crown, in
the Ambras collection at Vienna, a huge straight band of gold, large
enough to slip over an ordinary man’s head and rest on his shoulders,
heavy with barbaric jewels, big as plover’s eggs, set in its circle.
This was, I think, the one he brought to Rome, when having, as he put
it, “with the help of God conquered the world,” he came to ask St. Leo
III to crown him and confirm his dominions. The portraits of him show
us a man indeed eight feet tall, with a long face, light brown beard,
and big anxious eyes—eyes that give one a glimpse of the great mind
behind, ever asking itself if there were any of all the things that
Heaven had asked of him left undone. One fault of his early life has
been so often cast up at his memory that it is but right to mention
it. When he was twenty-eight or twenty-nine, his mother, Bertrade, a
Greek, persuaded him, apparently on the grounds of some irregularity in
the marriage, to repudiate his queen, Himiltrude, and espouse another,
of her choosing, called Hermengarde. The reigning Pope, Stephen IV, on
learning of this action, reprimanded Charlemagne sharply and commanded
him to send away Hermengarde and recall Himiltrude, which command the
monarch obeyed, the second wife having held her place barely a year.
After Himiltrude’s death he made Liutgarde his queen; she also died,
and Charlemagne married again, more than once, but never gave the state
and title of queen to any woman after Liutgarde’s death. He has been
accused of having more than one wife at a time, but the most profound
and impartial students of history declare that the case of Himiltrude
and Hermengarde does not constitute bigamy and that there is no shadow
of support for the calumny in the contemporary chronicles.

Charlemagne’s private life has always been described as remarkably
pure; his enactments against immorality are terribly stringent, placing
illicit connections between unmarried persons on the same footing
as the breaking of the marriage vow; and more than once he published
these enactments, intended to restrain the license of the nobles, in
person, in full council of bishops and the nobles themselves, who, had
his own morals been assailable, would not have hesitated to tell him,
in their very outspoken way, to mend his practice before preaching to
others. There is no record of even a murmur of the kind. Also during
the time when, according to his detractors now, he was living in
sin, he was the close friend and pupil of two holy Popes—St. Adrian
I and St. Leo III, consulting them at every step and following their
advice with devout punctiliousness; we know that the Roman Pontiffs
never stood on ceremony when it was necessary to remonstrate with
Sovereigns as to their morals; yet neither of these saints, supreme
in Christendom, ever addressed a word of reproach to Charlemagne. On
the contrary, they showed, in their relations with him, the greatest
affection and respect. The question of his canonisation, in spite of
his heroic virtues and the miracles worked at his intercession, the
Church left where it was when Frederick Barbarossa, in the second half
of the Twelfth Century, succeeded in having him canonised by one of
the anti-Popes, Paschal III, an invalid proceeding, of course. But the
Church calls him “The Blessed Charlemagne” and permitted his feast
to be kept in numberless Churches of France and Germany; until our
own days several French colleges celebrated it by a banquet at which
the professors mingled on an equal footing with the most promising
of their students. He founded the two great universities of Paris and
Pavia, was deeply versed in theology and in such classical literature
as was available in the Ninth Century; and is perhaps best known to us
moderns by his hymn to the Holy Ghost, which the Church uses not only
at Pentecost, but on almost every day of the year, the immortal “Veni
Sancte Spiritus” so dear to us all.

It would be too long a task to enumerate his labours and conquests
for the faith; these are set forth in detail in the old Breviaries of
France; it took him thirty-four years to subdue the idolatrous Saxons,
alone, and the only penalty he imposed for the half of a lifetime spent
in arduous struggles was that they should listen to instruction and
embrace Christianity. Always hard on himself, fasting often for a week
at a time, wearing, except on great occasions, rough, simple garments
which, we are told, made him appear like one of the humblest of his
subjects, his charity was all-embracing and reached to the confines of
the known world. His honest humility made it dangerous to attempt to
flatter him about his achievements. If any one spoke of his victories,
he would point to the lance with which Longinus pierced the Saviour’s
side and which he always carried with him, and say, “Give God the
glory—_that_ is what overcame!”

Oh, that we might sometimes call up some of the great visions of
the past! Surely there was never one more significant and impressive
than on the day when Charlemagne, surrounded by his Paladins, knelt
on the sacred stone (still marked in the portico of St. Peter’s) and
St. Leo took the heavy crown in his aged hands and placed it on that
magnificent head. Charlemagne must have been one of those of whom the
Prophet spoke, when he said that the kings of the earth should bring
their honour and glory into Heaven. Would that he could return to us
who so need to see, and so despair of seeing, a born ruler, reigning
for God. Like our own Arthur, beloved of grateful and worshipping
humanity, the hope of his return never quite died out. In the places
where he passed, flashing by at the head of his chosen Paladins, is it
only fancy that still makes us hear the thunder of the hoof-beats, the
echo of the voice “sweet in music, strong in speech,” whose commands
the world obeyed? the echo of the call of Roland’s horn—when he blew
that last blast and Charlemagne, hundreds of miles away, leapt forth
with his peers to the rescue? They came too late. The last of the
Paladins fell fighting at Roncesvalles, far from where Charlemagne
lies with his fathers among the Savoyan hills, by the dreamy Lake of
Bourget.

Never had monarch a fairer resting-place. In a long past summer I rowed
across the lake to the lovely and splendid sanctuary, in the cool
of the evening, when twilight was descending, mild as sleep, on the
mountains; and earth and lake and sky were all one soft, mysterious
blue. There were comrades with me, young and gay as I, but when we
stood beside Charlemagne’s tomb in the dim church, a great silence fell
upon us. We felt, though we could not see, the great angels standing
round that royal grave—guarding it till the day when he who lies there
shall come forth, and all the generations that went before and have
come after him shall hear from God the praise he would not take from
men—“Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”



CHAPTER XII

STORY OF ALARIC

  Pursuit of the Ideal—Alaric, the Friend of Theodosius—Theodosius’
  Dream—The Victory at the Birnbaumer Wald—Defection of
  Alaric—Pictures of the Plundering of Rome—Marcella and
  Principia—St. Peter’s Treasures—Plans Against Africa—Alaric’s Death
  and Last Resting-place.


When Edmond Rostand, the truest poet of our latter day, wrote his
“Princesse Lointaine,” he embodied the most ideal passion of the
human heart, the desire of beauty unseen. The Eternal City has again
and again inspired a like overmastering longing; it has been called
by other names—ambition, revenge, desire of conquest—but the primal
sentiment, in the most notable cases at least, reveals itself as an
imperative craving to behold and possess the highest. In the saints the
aspiration leaps from earth to Heaven, for their eyes are opened to
the reality and the shadow; but even among mortals denied the Divine
Spark, this hunger for the best takes on something of the sublime and
translates itself in actions not to be altogether accounted for by
merely human motives. Such a mortal was Alaric, the Visigoth, whose
name still sounds to us across the ages with compelling power. Driven
by the spirit, earth-bound, yet ever straining at his bonds, fiercely
ambitious yet ready to renounce the fruits of conquest when the Voice,
unheard of others, bade him renounce, his career remains an unexplained
mystery, unless we are willing to reckon with the supernatural to which
he rendered such prompt obedience when its commands penetrated the din
of clamorous necessity and reached the ear of his soul.

His very advent has all the emblems of a portentous allegory. Over
the last eastern spur of the Julian Alps the old Roman roadmakers had
cut one of their splendid roads to connect the seat of Empire with
the North. They worked along the lines of least resistance, thinking
only of facilitating the movements of Roman troops, and not at all
of possible invaders who might march down to Rome. On the crest of
the pass they looked for a commanding spot to serve as the site for
a garrison station; the season was early summer and their glance at
once fell on an enormous pear tree, a dome of snowy blossoms visible
for many a mile around. That decided the question, and they built
their military hamlet beside it, and called it “At the Pear Tree,” “Ad
Pirum,” a name which was afterwards bestowed on the whole district,
which is known to us now as the “Birnbaumer Wald.” To this station
came, in the first days of September, 394 A.D., Theodosius the Great,
to meet and subdue the “little Graunnarian Emperor,” Eugenius, and his
terrible dictator, Arbogast, in the “Battle of the Frigidus,” which
turned the course of European history and left the world—as Constantine
had hoped to leave it—Christian and not pagan.

With Theodosius came a young Visigothic chieftain of noble birth,
Alaric by name, commanding a company of his countrymen, the valiant
warriors with whom Theodosius strove to surround himself when there was
real fighting to be done. They called their young leader not “Alaric,”
but “Balthe,” “the Bold,” revered him as sprung from a line that had
for its founders the gods of Walhalla, and were prepared to follow him
to Heaven or Hell. Whither they were to follow him in the end, I fancy,
was decided on that September day when, having secured a spot for their
camp and seen that all things were in order, he went and stood under
the big pear tree and looked down on the beautiful vale of Carniola,
flushing to harvest, rioting in fruit, sheltered on the north and east
by the vigilant Alps, and cooled by the mighty rush of the Frigidus,
which we call the Wipbach, and which bursts full-grown, ice-fed, from
the foot of the hills, and dashes along under banks so teeming with
fruit and grain, at that time of the year, as to be almost hidden from
sight. Tearing down from the caves of Adelsberg, it follows the lie of
the land till it enters Italy, changes name and nationality, becomes
the Isonzo, and finally, joining the other streams flowing down from
the north, empties itself into the Adriatic at Aquileia.

This is Alaric’s first appearance in history, and we can hardly doubt
that with his first view of the paradise that lay south of the Alps
came also the first faint echo of the call that haunted him all his
life, “Penetrabis ad Urbem”—“Thou shalt penetrate to the city”—the
city towards which every northerner looked with covetous longing and
superstitious fear, but which its own rulers, at least in Alaric’s
time, regarded rather as a venerable part of the insignia of the Empire
than as an active agent in its affairs. Alaric, when he first looked
towards Italy, was a loyal ally of Theodosius, and would have hotly
resented the assertion that a day would come when he should sweep the
country as an invader and a declared foe of the great man’s son. But
(how true is the Japanese proverb, “Great generals have no sons!”)
the feeble-minded Honorius again and again refused the honest alliance
and friendship proffered by the Goth, and was thus alone responsible
for those terrible six days of sack and pillage which desolated
Rome sixteen years (almost day for day) after Alaric had fought so
whole-heartedly for Theodosius in the Battle of the Frigidus.

That was indeed a hard-fought fight; Arbogast knew every inch of the
country, his troops outnumbered those of Theodosius, and the cunning
old soldier had so disposed them that, unknown to the Emperor, they cut
off every line of march save the narrow one by which he had come. The
first day’s fighting resulted in a practical defeat for the loyalists,
and as the night came down and hostilities were necessarily suspended,
Theodosius realised with anguish that the next day’s sun would probably
see paganism triumphant and the Cross of his standards trampled
underfoot. He had lost great numbers of men; those who remained were
deeply discouraged, and he doubted whether they could be persuaded to
meet the enemy again. From the adversary’s camp came shouts of triumph
and sounds of feasting; he was passing the night in celebrating what he
reckoned as a conclusive victory. Theodosius wandered away alone into
the hills and remained all night in fervent prayer that God would help
the right and vindicate His own cause. As the dawn came up behind the
eastern hills the Emperor fell asleep and had a wonderful dream. In his
dream he saw two radiant knights, clothed in white and mounted on white
horses, come towards him. They told him that they were John and Philip,
the Apostles of the Lord, and that he should be of good courage, for
God had heard his prayers. Theodosius awoke, but only to begin praying
again; nor did he cease until, just as the sun leapt up behind the
Nanosberg, an officer came running to tell him of a wonderful dream
that one of his soldiers had had—and described the same vision that had
visited and comforted the Emperor.

Then indeed Theodosius knew that he should prevail, but he neglected
no smallest point that could aid him to victory. When all was ready
he made the sign of the Cross, the preconcerted signal of attack, and
hurled his men on the foe, who was somewhat dazed and disorganised
after the night’s excesses. Still Arbogast’s men fought so fiercely
that the issue seemed once more wavering in the balance, and then
the great Emperor, like another David, rising in his saddle, shouted,
“Where is the Lord God of Theodosius?” and dashed into the thickest of
the fray. Like those other valiant ones, who carried no weapons, his
soldiers said, “Let us perish with him!” and flew to follow; and then
the Lord God of Theodosius let loose His servant, the terrible “Bora,”
the wind that science cannot account for, that blows once in a century
or once in a decade, as the case may be, and always carries death on
its wings. From behind the spurs of the Alps it roared down that day,
as if placed under the Emperor’s orders, and in its fury the very darts
of Arbogast’s men were turned back and buried in the bowmen’s flesh.

It was a great victory, one of the decisive battles of the world,
and Alaric had helped to win it, but from that day his enthusiasm
for the Emperor waned. Theodosius had given him to understand that,
if Eugenius and Arbogast were subdued, he should be promoted to high
military office and, in time, be entrusted with the command of Roman
troops in the very centre of any future line of battle; but Theodosius
forgot, or trusted that Alaric had forgotten the hopes thus held out,
and the proud young chief found himself still in the second rank, a
leader of auxiliaries, while the foremost honours of conflict remained
with men whom his soul disdained and his intelligence discredited.
There was no open rupture till after the death of Theodosius on the
17th of January, 395, little over four months after the battle of the
Frigidus. The Goths had long been murmuring that they were weary of
fighting the Romans’ battles for them and would prefer to fight for
themselves; Alaric’s allegiance to the Emperor had been in great part
a personal matter; the feeble boys, Arcadius and Honorius, who were
now hailed as the Emperors of the East and West, had inherited none
of the great attributes which the young Goth had admired and respected
in their father, and were mere tools in the hands of their ministers,
whose policy did not lead them to encourage or highly recompense their
Barbarian allies; and so it came about that soon after St. Ambrose had
pronounced his immortal funeral oration over the body of Theodosius,
the Goths, camped on the fair Illyrian plain, took Alaric, placed him
on a shield, and, raising it high on their shoulders, broke forth into
a mighty shout echoed by all their comrades: “Theodosius! Theodosius!”
“A King, a King!”

And he was a born king who stood there, smiling down on them as his
graceful young figure balanced itself so lightly and easily on the
upraised shield—and not only a king, but a king-maker and the first
of a long line of Kings, ruling over that which was destined to be
for ages the richest and most Catholic realm in Europe, the Kingdom
of Spain—the true Fatherland of dead Theodosius. But Alaric’s thoughts
travelled not thither; when his spirit freed itself at a leap from all
the practical surroundings of his life, when the veil of the present
was drawn aside in dreams, and the future, vague yet glorious, revealed
itself for a fleeting moment to his eyes, it was Rome that they saw,
insolent and mighty even in her decay, pagan at heart still, and
it was he, Alaric, who was to chastise her for her sins and cleanse
her from her corruption. His Arian impiety, shared with almost all
his countrymen, in no way diminished his zeal for Christianity as he
apprehended it, though it is hard for us to reckon as Christians the
Arian detractors from the divinity of Christ. Even in our own day the
Unitarians are indignant when we refuse the appellation to them—so
coveted are the virtues of Christianity by those who make of Christ,
the Son of God, a liar and a fraud!

So the spring of 395 saw Alaric start on a conquering career for
himself, an enterprise great enough to suit his soaring ambition,
and aided, all unconsciously, by the Huns, who chose the same moment
for their first descent on Europe. The enfeebled empires of the East
and West were appalled at the flood of devastation thus let loose
and scarcely knew which foe to meet first—Alaric in Greece (whither
he first turned his steps) or the Huns, who were pouring over the
Caucasus and terrifying Central Europe with their hideous faces and
savage war-cries. It seemed as if the last days of the world had come,
and black despair breathes out of every page of the chronicles of
the time. But Alaric at least had no idea of continuous fighting for
mere fighting’s sake; and although he did, when it suited him, permit
orgies of plunder to his followers, he showed again and again the most
unexpected and, as we should call it, capricious moderation, renouncing
suddenly, and without apparent motive, the entire fruits of a hard-won
victory. Thus, when Athens with all its riches lay, a tamed captive,
to his hand, one of those strange revulsions of feeling came over him
and he made peace with its rulers, entered the city as their guest, and
left it without having touched any of its treasures. Twice he stood
before the Gates of Rome and twice, in obedience to the Inner Voice
that had sent him there, halted at the sacred threshold and withdrew,
exacting, however, a heavy indemnity to pacify his troops.

But when, in just rage at the folly of Honorius, he stood for the third
time before Rome’s gates, neither the promptings of the “Voice” nor
the entreaties of the holy monk who had attempted to stay him and had
prophesied his doom should he persist, could turn him from his resolve
to take the city. And it is for the sake of my city that I have told
these few scanty details of the story of Alaric. His invasion was to
be the prototype of many another, but this is the first picture thrown
out by the magic lantern of history showing a self-styled Christian
and his horde robbing, destroying, dishonouring in the very streets
of the Capital of Christianity. The Goths were given but six days
(some writers say only three) in which to sate the thirst for riches
and treasures which the intercourse with Rome and Constantinople
had long ago aroused in their hearts. On Alaric’s former visit a
great part of the tribute exacted had been stipulated for in costly
garments, and—of all things!—pepper, a luxury already highly prized
by the Barbarians, perhaps as stimulating to their naturally noble
thirst for strong drinks; this time every man helped himself, the only
prohibitions proclaimed extending to holy vessels pertaining to the
great sanctuaries. It is claimed for Alaric that he forbade bloodshed,
but, if he did, the command was disregarded, as the contemporary
lamentations of St. Jerome and St. Augustine show us there was terrible
slaughter, the citizens probably attempting, at all risks, to defend
their goods and their women. St. Jerome’s quiet retreat at Bethlehem
was crowded with refugees, the cream of Roman aristocracy, who gave
him such terrible descriptions of the downfall of the city that he
was, as he tells us himself, utterly overcome with sorrow and despair.
It was on learning of the ruin of the Mistress of the World that St.
Augustine, once more convinced of the passing nature of earthly things,
conceived the idea of writing his great work, “De Civitate Dei,”
showing the indestructibility of God’s City of the Soul, the marvellous
spiritual edifice not made with hands, of which every true Christian is
co-builder and co-heir.

Alaric prided himself on his Christianity, but the sectarian hatred
of many things that Catholicism reveres was so irrepressible that, as
I have already related, the tombs of the martyrs were sacked whenever
they were discovered, and the traces of their blessed footsteps all
but obliterated in many of the Catacombs. There were, too, some of
the fairest virtues of Christianity in which the Arian conquerors
simply refused to believe; charity, self-denial, voluntary poverty
for Christ’s sake—these were such unbelievable folly in the eyes
of those baptised Barbarians that they laughed at and punished them
as various forms of fraud. One pitiful picture stands out from the
red reek of those awful six days—that of the saintly Lady Marcella,
living in her old age in her palace on the Aventine, whence every
object of value had long vanished—to feed the orphan and the widow.
Her only earthly treasure is one sweet girl, her adopted daughter,
Principia, who repays her love with all the devotion of a young heart,
and follows her example, asking nothing from life but the honour of
serving Christ in His suffering poor. No slaves surround the two noble
women; their garments are mean and threadbare in the eyes of men,
though they look marvellously rich to their Guardian Angels. Alone
in their empty palace they two pray and weep while the roar of the
sack and the shrieks of the dying sound up from the streets below.
Then the invaders have sighted the fair palace on the hill; there is
a rush for the entrance—every man would be the first to pick his loot
from the treasures it must contain. Marcella drags Principia to a
remote hiding-place—those fierce eyes only rest on youth and beauty to
destroy—and returns to face the robbers, alone. The great fair-haired
fellows, drunk with license, crowd round her, shouting in their uncouth
tongue that she must bring forth her treasures. In vain the delicate
old lady assures them that she has none, that the threadbare garments
she points to are the only ones she possesses, and that the only
vessels she uses are those common earthenware cups and jars in the
corner, that all the rest has gone to the poor.

“It is a lie!” they cry. “A lie! You have buried your gold and
silver—show us where it is!”

She calls on Heaven to witness that she has nothing, nothing but what
they see, but the lust of gold has driven them mad. They seize her,
throw her to the ground, and beat her with their heavy clubs till
she is all but dead. Yet her heart lives. She has been praying for
one thing in her torture and now she asks it of them as, weary of her
obstinacy, they turn to search the dwelling for themselves:

“One thing I ask of you, and I freely forgive you all your cruelty.
Leave me my daughter Principia—let me live for her sake. She is
young—timid—if we are separated—if she is left desolate of my
protection—she will die of despair!”

Then they believed, and they went out quietly, murmuring to one
another: “The poor old creature is mad—who ever heard of voluntary
poverty?” But they molested her no more. And she recovered from the
effect of their blows, and soon after left Rome, taking her dear
Principia with her, and they went to a far country, where they served
God according to the counsels of perfection, and, when their time came,
died in peace.

One other picture from those memorable days stands out—not sadly, but
in an almost humorous light. Alaric, with all his Arian fierceness,
had a great veneration for the Shrine of St. Peter and for the other
great Churches; any one who took sanctuary in them was to be safe, and
he forbade his men to touch any of the vessels pertaining to sacred
worship. Now, St. Peter’s was surrounded by a number of convents and
other buildings connected with its service, and one morning a big
Goth, unaware that he was treading on forbidden ground, walked into
one of these buildings to see what he could find. He was immediately
confronted by a very old nun, who boldly asked him what he was doing
there? He replied that he was in search of gold and silver, that he
was certain she had treasures concealed in the house, and that she must
produce them at once.

“Yes,” she replied meekly, “I have much silver and gold. I will show it
to you.” And, to the Goth’s huge delight, she brought out of various
hiding-places such an array of precious objects as he had never yet
beheld. Silently she spread them all before him—chalices and patens of
pure gold, lamps and candlesticks of bronze and silver—till he could
scarcely believe his eyes and began to wonder how he could carry them
all away.

Then the nun spoke. “This is all,” she said. “Behold these great
treasures! There is no one in the house but myself, and I am an old
woman, too feeble to guard them. BUT—they belong to St. Peter, and, if
you lay so much as a finger on one of them, the wrath of Heaven will
strike you dead!”

That was enough. The terrified warrior fled, and, rushing to Alaric,
told him what he had seen. “St. Peter’s treasures?” cried the chief.
“They shall indeed be taken care of!” And he commanded one of his
officers to lead a great body of men to the deserted house and see that
the old nun and the holy vessels were deposited inside the Basilica. So
that quarter of the city showed a strange sight to its inhabitants—a
hundred or so of sturdy Goths, tricked out in stolen silks and gems,
each carrying a bit of St. Peter’s property in devout fear, as if
expecting that it would blow him up; and in their midst, blinking at
the sunlight, a shabby old nun, who directed their steps and issued
her orders as to where everything should be placed when the frightened
procession finally defiled into the great, dark Church, and halted as
far as possible from the High Altar and the Tomb of the Apostle.

But St. Peter did not save Alaric. Doom was waiting for him and to doom
he marched unknowingly, though I believe he would not have swerved from
the path had he seen with his eyes its unsheathed sword. He had taken
Rome—but Rome, devastated, famine-stricken, plague-scourged, as she was
then, would have been a mere empty flare of glory in his crown, without
Rome’s storehouse and granary, Africa. Like England to-day, she had
long outgrown any possibility of dependence on her own supplies and she
had to be fed from abroad. When the African grain ships were delayed on
their way, Rome and many of her provinces went hungry; so Alaric’s next
move was towards Africa. He went down through the “Regno,” pausing not
except at Nola, the place destined long centuries after to be glorified
by St. Alphonsus’ pastorate. Thence he hurried, past all the riches
and beauty of that teeming garden country, towards Reggio in Calabria,
meaning apparently to take ship from Sicily for the opposite coast.

But he never reached Reggio; death was waiting for him at Cosenza. All
we know is that it was quick, if not sudden. And then came that funeral
which the world can never forget. Where two rivers meet, the greater
one, the Busento, was dammed up and turned aside into its sister
stream, the Crati, and in the bed thus laid bare Alaric’s last bed was
made. There they buried him who was born on an island at the mouth of
the Danube, so that the music of rushing waters might soothe his last
sleep as it had soothed his first. Great treasure they laid with him in
his deep grave, and horses and weapons, that he might ride in state to
meet his peers in Valhalla—for Valhalla was still Paradise for them.
And they sang their great old war songs for his farewell, sounding
his triumphs in his ears to the end, while the captives who had raised
the dam dug it down, each man with the sweat of death on his brow, for
the war songs were to be their requiem, too. When the Busento roared
back to its bed and took its own old way to the sea, it carried their
corpses with it, and the warriors turned away satisfied, because none
could point out and none could disturb Alaric’s last resting-place.



CHAPTER XIII

THE SPHINX OF FRENCH HISTORY

  The Battleground of Europe—The Riddle of “The Man in the Iron
  Mask”—Its True Story—Louis XIV’s Ambition in Italy—Plot to Secure
  Casale—Character of Charles, Duke of Mantua—Count Mattioli,
  His Favourite—Terms of the Transfer—Mission of the Count to
  Paris—Conclusion of the Treaty—Mattioli’s Double Dealing—Ominous
  Delays—The Storm Breaks.


It is a far cry, geographically speaking, from Rome to the vast,
alluvial plain of Lombardo-Venezia, that most bloodstained, perhaps,
of all the districts of the earth; for, if Flanders has been called the
cock-pit of Europe, the immense lowlands of upper Italy may with equal
justice lay claim to the title of the battlefield of the old world.

Scarcely a parish of it, from Rivoli in the west, to Aquileia in the
east, but has, at one time or another—and, in many instances, not
once but again and again—been deluged with the blood of armies and
of individuals in public and private struggles during the course of
the centuries. From Rivoli, rock-bound in the shadow of the Savoy and
Alps, across to sad Aquileia, slowly decaying among its fever-stricken
rice-fields by the Adriatic lagoons, shades of Masséna’s Frenchmen may
well look over to where their hereditary foes first poured into the
southern “Mayland,” as they named it under the leadership of Attila,
a thousand and three hundred and forty-five years earlier; whilst,
between the two, the dust of innumerable armoured condottieri and
“Landsknechte” of the middle ages and the Renaissance is mingled with
that of hundreds of thousands—Latins, Teutons, Slavs, and Magyars—since
fallen in this, the cloth-and-bullet age of our development from the
days of Pavia to those of Solferino and Custozza.

Truly, this “Mayland” of the Gothic invaders—whence, as some hold,
is derived the name of Milan—is one of the most fertile of all soils
for those endowed with the gift of what Sir Thomas Browne so quaintly
styled, “the art of reminiscential evocation.” Its history has been
made familiar to us, moreover, by many writers and painters and
sculptors, all along the road of the centuries; and yet, for me, at
least, the very essence of its fascination lies in some of the less
known recesses of its treasure-house of human vicissitudes and human
good and evil. Its towns and castles, its villas and churches, have
their tales of glory or of terror, of sorrow or triumph to tell; and
the story of them is the story of a people, and of a society, that
have preserved their characteristics intact throughout more changes of
government and of ideas than have fallen to the lot of any others in
all the world, with the possible exception of the inhabitants of the
kingdom of Naples.


There are in this world of ours certain spots that, on first beholding
them, cause our hearts to thrill and glow with an extraordinary
gladness, by reason of their perfect beauty and the exquisite harmony
of them with their surroundings; until, suddenly, we learn the name of
the place—and then it seems to us as though the loveliness at which we
have been gazing changes under our very eyes, and, as we draw closer
to it, becomes swiftly hideous with all the loathsomeness of some dead
thing first seen from afar.

Such a one was once, for Victor Hugo, on viewing it of a summer’s
evening from the window of a railway train, the town of Sedan, and just
such another, for the wanderer who comes into sight of it for the first
time, is to be found in a little old bourg at the foot of the mountains
in western Lombardy, nestling among poplars and gardens, and crowned
by the spire of an ancient church that rises from near the remains of a
contemporary castle, once the citadel of the place.

The name of the town is Pinerolo.

The name of Pinerolo, though not so widely known as that of Sedan,
is yet linked for ever with one of the most tragically famous of all
personalities—that of the “Man in the Iron Mask,” Hercules Anthony
Mattioli, as he has now at last been proved irrefutably to have been
by Monsieur Funck-Brentano in that gentleman’s luminous “Legends and
Archives of the Bastille,” in which at one blow the writer destroys the
pretensions of the several other candidates for that mournful honour.

Very few riddles, I should think, if any at all, have so constantly
occupied the minds of those interested in historical curiosities during
the last hundred and fifty years as has done that of the mysterious
prisoner of Louis XIV; rarely, if ever, has any question been so hotly
disputed by one generation and another of antiquarian scholars. But
perhaps the most fascinating work on the subject is an English one,
that of Mr. Tighe Hopkins,[25] which I would cordially recommend to all
lovers of historical writings.

The whole episode of the “Man in the Iron Mask” furnishes as consummate
an instance as any on record of the atrocious vengeance of one human
being upon another; if ever Louis XIV was unworthy of his title of
“the most Christian King” it was in his unmerciful cruelty towards the
man who had inflicted upon him the most crushing diplomatic defeat
of his whole reign, that same Count Mattioli. It was for making him
ridiculous in the eyes of all who had any knowledge of the affair, by
destroying his pet political scheme in regard to Italy, that King Louis
condemned Mattioli to life-long imprisonment and to total separation
from all that could make his existence endurable—the man’s religion
alone excepted. So that, for twenty-four years, from May 2, 1679, to
the hour of his death, which took place about ten o’clock in the night
of November 19, 1703, the unhappy Italian endured the living death of
a man deprived of all knowledge of those he had loved and left behind
him, and who on their side had long assumed him to be dead in very
fact. Neither his wife nor his father ever learned what became of
Mattioli after his disappearance on that fatal 2d of May.

The beginnings of Mattioli’s tragedy were simple enough. They had
their foundation, on the one hand, in the overweening ambition of
Louis XIV in regard to Italy, where France had possessed Pinerolo since
Cardinal Richelieu’s time; and, on the other hand, in the extravagance
and debauchery—and the consequent need of money—of one of the most
contemptible men who ever lived: Charles of Gonzaga, fourth Duke of
Mantua and the owner of the Marquisate of Montferrat, with its strong
place of Casale, that lay on the Po, between forty and fifty miles east
of Turin. Thus, if Casale could only be brought within his power, the
French King would be in a position to prevent any further advance of
the Piedmontese into Italy by his own domination in Lombardy. It was
his minister of war, the brilliant, if unscrupulous and personally
immoral Louvois, who suggested to Louis in 1676 the idea of possessing
himself of Casale, and so of making France the arbiter of Italian
development.

Nothing could have been more to the taste of the monarch whose appetite
for Italy at that time was being whetted by his naval triumph over
his Dutch and Spanish adversaries off Sicily, by which he enjoyed
for a space the sovereignty of the Mediterranean. The only possible
difficulty in the matter was that of inducing the owner of Casale,
the Duke of Mantua, to make over the control of it to King Louis—a
difficulty of which the astute Louvois undertook to dispose, without
fail, by means of pressure in the right place. Thus reassured, his
sovereign left the management of the affair entirely in the hands of
Louvois.

Louvois did not keep the King waiting long for further and most welcome
news upon the subject of Casale and the Duke of Mantua. He had placed
the matter, he reported, with the French representative in Venice,
the Abbé D’Estrades, for investigation; and D’Estrades, an ambitious,
intriguing man, only too anxious for an opportunity of distinguishing
himself in the eyes of his master, had replied that he felt perfect
confidence in his own ability to bring about the desired result. He was
thoroughly informed, he said, of the Duke of Mantua’s affairs; and,
so far as these were concerned, the success of the enterprise was a
foregone conclusion.

In point of fact, the Duke of Mantua was, as Mr. Tighe Hopkins puts it,
“up for sale”; his revenues, as D’Estrades reported to Louvois, were
spent in advance, and he was helplessly in the hands of the Jews; there
was nothing he owned that he would not be willing to sell for money
to spend on his pleasures in Venice, where he lived almost habitually
and whence he never returned to Mantua except upon expeditions of
rack-rent. He was also much under the influence of his favourites,
to whom he was accustomed to leave the governing of Mantua and the
administration of his affairs; all he asked for himself was that they
should leave him to his boon companions in Venice, “his gamesters, his
women, and his wine-parties.” And it was D’Estrades’ opinion that he
might best be approached in the matter of Casale through one of his
favourites.

The responsibility for Duke Charles’ way of life may not have lain
entirely with the young man himself, then in the springtime of life;
for it would seem that some of the blame should fall upon his widowed
mother, Archduchess Isabella Clara of Austria, the head of his council
and virtual ruler of his small domain; and Isabella Clara was as
notoriously opposed to the interests of the King of France as she was
favourable to those of the King of Spain, his sworn opponent in Italy.
And it may even be that, in order to keep the destinies of Mantua in
her own control, she rather encouraged than otherwise her son’s absence
from his territories in order the more easily to administer them in
union with the Spanish policy—Spain being then allied with Austria
against the encroachments of their rapacious Gallic neighbour.

Duke Charles, himself, according to D’Estrades in writing to Louis
XIV from Venice, was endowed with “more talent and ambition than he
is thought to have,” was eager to recover for himself the authority
he had let fall into his mother’s hands; and, supremely, was imbued
with profound suspicion of the Spaniards, who, as he believed, had
every intention of making themselves masters of Montferrat and the
fortress of Casale. Moreover, wrote D’Estrades, he was convinced that
the duke would be willing to accept King Louis “to some extent” as his
protector.

In this same letter there first occurs the name of Mattioli, whom,
as D’Estrades informs the King, he has approached through a mutual
acquaintance, a certain Giuliani, with the object of enlisting
Mattioli’s services on the French side.

For Mattioli had the ear of Duke Charles as being the one of the
favourites most especially admitted to his intimacy. Mattioli was
about thirty-six years old, a member of the Mantuan senate and an
ex-secretary of state; a successful lawyer, and, it would appear,
a boon companion of the duke’s. No one fitter then, considered
D’Estrades, than Mattioli to be entrusted, if possible, with the task
of persuading his master to let the French take care of Casale for him
against the Austrians and Spaniards, who designed to rob him of it. But
Mattioli himself must first be sounded, in order that D’Estrades might
be as sure of his sentiments towards France as he was of his influence
over Duke Charles; hence Giuliani’s mission to Verona, where Mattioli
was staying, in October, 1677.

Now from this same despatch of D’Estrades’ to Louis XIV it is evident
that he knew Mattioli to have been already engaged in negotiations with
the Spaniards in Milan—which was still, for some years, to remain their
capital in Upper Italy—and to have been disappointed by them in regard
to certain hopes they had led him to entertain.

What those hopes were I do not know, because D’Estrades’ despatch
does not go into the details of them; but one can only suppose they
must have had to do in some way with Mattioli’s personal advancement
or profit—which consideration seems to have weighed, at first, more
with him than did that of patriotism. And, if indeed Mattioli’s later
conduct can be held to have been inspired by a desire to benefit
his country, that conduct is at all events open by its deceitful
tortuousness to the worst possible of interpretations.

And so D’Estrades’s agent, Giuliani, came to seek out Mattioli at
Verona, under pretence of private business, but in reality that
he might win him over to the side of King Louis and so obtain his
coöperation in bringing Duke Charles to the same view of his own
interests. To this end Giuliani represented to Mattioli “that the
friends of the duke desired greatly to see him in a position of
independence; that all his territories and all his revenues were
under the absolute control of his mother and the monk, Bulgarini, her
confessor, and that Casale and the Montferrat were threatened by all
manner of Spanish and other intrigues.”[26]

To this Mattioli answered glibly “that he had long seen the truth” of
what Giuliani had laid before him, but “there was still a remedy for so
great an evil”; adding that he would speak with the duke on the subject
and “discover his real sentiments.”

Once thus launched, the intrigue went merrily forward. The duke was
sounded in his turn by Mattioli, and answer was made through the
latter to Giuliani and through D’Estrades to Louis XIV that: “The duke
approved very much of the proposition that was made him, to free him
from the perpetual uneasiness he felt on the score of the Spaniards,
and that, for this purpose, Casale should be placed in your Majesty’s
hands, upon the understanding that I should try to obtain from you in
his favour all that he could reasonably ask for.”

Charles of Mantua’s requirements were as follows:

One hundred thousand pistoles—some forty thousand pounds of English
money—in cash, and that Louis should send into Italy a sufficiently
strong army “to be able to undertake something considerable”; also,
that he, the Duke of Mantua, should have the command of this army “in
order to be considered in Italy like the late Duke of Modena, and the
late Duke of Mantua, who at his age commanded in chief the Emperor’s
army, with the title of Vicar-General of the Empire.”

With this despatch of D’Estrades’ was enclosed a letter from Mattioli
to Louis XIV, in which he wrote: “I bless the destiny which procures
me the honour of serving so great a monarch, whom I regard and revere
as a demigod.” To which the King replied that he thanked the writer,
and was greatly obliged to him and would have much pleasure in giving
him proofs of his satisfaction upon every occasion. But King Louis did
not vouchsafe any answer in the matter of terms until the reception
of a further and pressing letter from D’Estrades, to the effect that
the Austrians and Spaniards were making ready to seize Casale and all
the Montferrat; and that Mantua even was to be occupied by them. This,
wrote D’Estrades, he had learned by letter from the Duke of Mantua
himself, who, as D’Estrades explained, was so closely watched by
Isabella Clara and Father Bulgarini as to make it impossible for him
either to declare himself openly for France or to deliver Casale to the
French unless King Louis would send into Italy an army strong enough to
hold that fortress.

At last, however, after much haggling over the sum to be paid to the
duke as the price of Casale (he was finally beaten down to take about
twelve thousand pounds, by instalments), everything was agreed to; all
that remained to do was to put the agreement into writing and to sign
it.

But here the first real difficulty entered into the matter; for, as
D’Estrades well knew, it would be utterly impossible, during many
months to come, for Louis XIV to send into Italy the soldiers upon whom
the duke was relying, to enable him to hold the fortress of Casale
for King Louis against his mother and her friends, the Austrians
and Spaniards; because all the King’s troops were too badly needed
elsewhere.

The Duke of Mantua, however, who was impatient to finish the business,
insisted upon sending the faithful Mattioli to Paris at this juncture,
to negotiate with the King in person so as to save further delay;
to this D’Estrades consented, but at the same time he cast about him
for a means of retarding Mattioli’s departure, lest the latter might
have none but disappointing news to bring back with him from Paris to
Mantua—and so the duke, impetuous and unstable, might be caught on his
rebound in the hands of Spain and Austria.

Luckily for D’Estrades, one delay now succeeded to another; the
necessity under which Mattioli felt himself of protecting his master
against the Spanish blandishments kept him in close attendance on the
duke for months; then there followed an illness of the duchess-mother,
Isabella Clara, of whose probable demise D’Estrades wrote home with the
most beautiful expressions of resignation to the Divine Will: “If God
should call her to Himself, the affair would be more easy to conclude.”
But it was fated otherwise; the honest, patriotic Austrian woman got
well again. Next, it was Mattioli’s own turn to fall ill; and so, from
one cause and another, it resulted that he did not reach Paris until
the end of November, 1678, when in a private audience with Louis XIV
the matter was concluded—twelve thousand pounds were to be paid to the
Duke of Mantua, to admit the French into Casale, and he was then to be
appointed their commander-in-chief. Mattioli himself was given a ring
and a sum of money by way of “pourboire,” together with promises of
the royal patronage for his son and of preferment in the Church for his
brother, who was a priest. French troops under Boufflers were mobilised
at Briançon on the frontier of France and Piedmont, and the great
Catinat, at that time a simple brigadier, was despatched in all secrecy
to Pinerolo, to await their coming.

Simultaneously, Colonel Baron D’Asfeld was sent to Venice, where
the Duke of Mantua was spending the winter, there to exchange the
ratification of the treaty; he arrived in the January of 1679, and at
once informed Pinchesne, the French representative, of his mission. But
the duke refused to ratify the treaty until Mattioli, who was still on
the way from Paris, should have arrived to give him the benefit of his
opinion concerning it; and here, be it noticed, is the first sign of
Mattioli’s double-dealing as shown in the extraordinary slowness of his
journey home from Paris.

What was the reason of that slowness?—but let us wait and see.

The parts were now reversed; whereas, the French had been formerly
anxious for delays, they were now all afire with eagerness to put the
business through; whilst the Duke of Mantua and his Mattioli, once
so impatient of any hitch in the negotiations, now seemed scarcely
interested any longer in the question of Casale. Pressed by D’Asfeld
and Pinchesne to promise that he would be at that place by the 20th
of February at latest, the duke declined to commit himself; and when
he answered them at last through Mattioli (who, on his arrival in
Italy, was once more prevented for a time from attending to business
by another of his inopportune attacks of illness) Duke Charles sent
word to say that he could not possibly get to Casale before the 10th
of March, urging three separate reasons for his inability to do so.
These were: That he had not sufficient funds for such a journey; that
he was unwilling to leave his heir-presumptive, Don Vincenzo Gonzaga,
behind at Mantua at such a crisis; and “the obligation he found himself
under of holding a sort of carousal with several Venetian gentlemen.”
Could anything be more frankly careless than this last; more plainly
indicative of the fact that Duke Charles, disappointed by the smallness
of the monetary advantage proffered him in return for the control of
Casale, was either desirous of obtaining more by giving an impression
of indifference in the matter, or else, that he was genuinely
indifferent, by reason of the knowledge that Mattioli was even at that
moment (and by preconcerted arrangement with himself) displaying the
political wares so undervalued by Louis XIV to other and more generous
purchasers along the road from Paris to Venice?

And yet the French agents, at this stage of things, still reported
their unshaken belief that the duke had every intention of remaining
true to their master in Paris!

Meanwhile, the massing of the French troops over against the
Piedmontese frontier was causing consternation throughout Northern
Italy. Duke Charles even received “representations” from the Spanish
and Austrian ministers at Mantua, protesting violently against
the news they had heard from Turin—“that he wished to give Casale
and the Montferrat to the King of France.” To which the ingenuous
Charles returned a flat denial, expressing some mild wonder at their
excellencies’ credulousness! All was now suspicion and anger, and
veiled threats for Duke Charles from both sides; couriers were being
sent off at top-speed to Vienna and Madrid, and even to Venice, with
the news of Charles’ projected “deal” with the French; whilst Pinchesne
and D’Asfeld pressed him, without mercy or intermission, to betake
himself to Casale, there to wait for the French troops and to hand
over the keys of the place to them on their arrival. At last he agreed
to do this; at the same time, D’Asfeld and Mattioli were to meet at
Incréa, not far from Casale, and to exchange the ratifications of
the treaty—this, I fancy, by the duke’s stipulation, seeing that both
Mattioli and D’Asfeld were in Venice with the treaty in their pockets.
This eccentric provision seems to prove all the more clearly, in the
light of subsequent events, that Duke Charles was perfectly aware of
those events, and that he had no intention whatever of binding himself
to Louis XIV by any signed instrument that might afterwards be held
against him by that person.

The duke then was to be at Casale by the 15th of March; and Mattioli
was to meet D’Asfeld at Incréa on the 9th of the same month.

And then, all at once, it was learned that D’Asfeld, marching to
keep his appointment with Mattioli, had been arrested by the Spanish
Government in the Duchy of Milan, which he was obliged to cross to
reach the rendezvous at Incréa; on the other hand, neither Duke Charles
nor Mattioli had as yet left Mantua for Casale or for Incréa—although
the latter was the first to send the news of D’Asfeld’s arrest to the
French agents, D’Estrades at Turin and Pinchesne at Venice. It was
now the end of the month of March, and those same French agents were
beginning to entertain the strongest suspicions of Mattioli himself.

April passed away and still the business remained stationary, while
those suspicions increased to a straining-point—and then on May Day,
1679, the storm broke.

The whole of the proposed cession of Casale was made known,
simultaneously at Turin, Madrid, Vienna, Milan, and Venice; at one and
the same time, the representative of each state announced his perfect
knowledge of the entire transaction to Monsieur de Pomponne, the French
minister for foreign affairs!



CHAPTER XIV

TRUTH OF THE IRON MASK

  Mattioli’s Betrayal of Louis XIV—Participation of Duke
  Charles—Louis’ True Character Exhibited to World—Abduction of
  Mattioli—Imprisoned for Fifteen Years—Insanity—Story of the
  Mask—Mattioli’s Disappearance No Mystery—Explanation of the
  Riddle—Mattioli’s Hardships—His End.


And so the truth came to light.

The Duchess-Regent of Savoy wrote, herself, to Louis XIV, to tell him
that Mattioli had shown her the documents relating to the negotiations
for Casale, and that she had in her possession copies of them. Her
minister, Signor Trucci, had had an interview with Mattioli on the
subject at Turin. It afterwards transpired, through Mattioli’s own
admission to Catinat, that he had betrayed the whole affair to the
Conde de Melgar, the Spanish Governor of Milan, and that Melgar had
provided him with a cipher for their communications on the subject; and
that he, Mattioli, had had secret interviews in regard to it with one
of the Inquisitors of State at Venice.

Personally, I find it hard to believe with Mr. Hopkins that Mattioli
acted throughout without the knowledge and consent of the Duke of
Mantua. In the first place, he had no certainty of any commensurate
gain to be derived from his betrayal of Louis XIV to that monarch’s
adversaries—for responsible ministers of state do not generally pay
largely for information before that information has been shown to be
not merely negatively, but positively valuable. And Mattioli would
naturally have required a very large sum in each instance to compensate
him for the inevitable loss of Duke Charles’ favour when Duke Charles
(always supposing the two men to have been working at cross purposes,
and that the duke was in ignorance of Mattioli’s subterranean
intrigues) should discover that Mattioli had disloyally wrecked his
pet project of military glory, and had kept him as well out of the
enjoyment of twelve thousand pounds or so.

Again, consider the duke’s own behaviour throughout—his first keenness
and then his amazing apathy just at the moment when his cherished
desire and a large sum of money to boot were within his reach—the “sort
of carousal” put forward by him as an excuse for not going to Casale to
meet the troops of which he was to have been the _generalissimo_—was
such the conduct of any but a man anxious to evade the fulfilment of
his bargain?

The fury of Louis XIV at being thus exhibited to the world in his true
character of intriguer and brigand—and a feeble one at that—together
with the explanations and personal untruths in which he now found
himself involved (neither explanations nor personal untruths being at
all to his proud taste) may be more easily imagined than described.
Also his wrath with D’Estrades and Pinchesne for letting themselves be
made fools of by Mattioli. The former of these, however, instantly took
steps to assuage his master’s anger by submitting a plan of revenge; he
proposed that Mattioli should be kidnapped and imprisoned for so long
or so short a time as the King might please.

To this Louis consented, insisting only that the thing should be
done with the utmost secrecy; Mattioli was to be lured on to French
soil beyond the frontier of Piedmont and incarcerated in a dungeon
at Pinerolo. Except his gaoler there—one Saint-Mars, baptised
Benignant—and Catinat, no one was to know the prisoner’s name. As the
offended Louis put it to D’Estrades, “Look to it that no one knows what
becomes of this man.” So that it was now, as Americans say, “up to”
D’Estrades to carry out the abduction of Mattioli.

Oddly enough, Mattioli had not the least inkling of his peril; he
had no idea that the Duchess of Savoy had made known his transaction
with her to Louis XIV, and so he was all unsuspecting of the advances
with which D’Estrades continued to ply him. Indeed, he was now in
Turin, trying to get more money out of the French representatives, on
the ground of the expenses incurred by him in promoting King Louis’
interests in Italy. To that, on D’Estrades’ telling him that Catinat
was at Pinerolo with funds for the express purpose of reimbursing him,
Mattioli agreed to meet D’Estrades early in the morning of May 2, 1679,
at a spot outside the city, whence they were to drive together to a
place on the frontier near Pinerolo.


Mattioli kept the appointment; D’Estrades was waiting for him at the
place set, and away the carriage rolled with its burden of revenge, and
treachery, and greed, along the country roads to where, at the end of
some seventeen miles, Catinat was waiting for them.

And so the meeting took place and, all unwittingly, Mattioli stepped
in between the very teeth of the trap set for him by D’Estrades; and at
once the teeth snapped to, never again to open for the unhappy man. At
two o’clock that same afternoon, in Mr. Hopkins’ words, “Saint-Mars had
him under lock in the dungeon of Pignerol—the French name for Pinerolo.
There, for fifteen years, Mattioli was confined under circumstances
of every severity; his name was changed, officially, to Lestang, in
order that none might know his identity saving only that same Benignant
Saint-Mars—as timorous and heartless a creature as ever passed for a
man.

In less than a year Mattioli went out of his mind, thanks to
Saint-Mars’ treatment of him; at that time three of the prisoners
under the amiable Benignant’s charge in the hell of Pinerolo were
insane—Mattioli, Dubreuil, and a nameless Jacobin monk. After a while
Mattioli and the Jacobin were put in the same cell—and there they lived
and had their miserable being together until 1694, when, in consequence
of the French reverses, preparations were set on foot to abandon
Pinerolo to the Savoyards. It now became necessary to remove the only
three prisoners left there to safer keeping in France itself, in order
that the King’s secret might be kept—the secret of his having “spirited
away,” by means of his agents, the Minister of a friendly Prince.

And so Mattioli was taken off, along with Dubreuil and another—the
monk was dead—in a closed litter to another fortress, that of
Sainte-Marguerite, on an island off the coast of Nice; his former
gaoler, Saint-Mars, had, for some years already, been the governor
of Sainte-Marguerite, and to him Mattioli was brought under a strong
escort of soldiers by the then governor of Pinerolo, the Marquis
D’Herleville, in person.

It is to be presumed that on this journey between the two prisons
Mattioli was masked, as he was similarly masked some years later, on
his transference, under charge of Saint-Mars, from Sainte-Marguerite
to Paris and to the Bastile itself; the mask, though, was not the
traditional monstrosity of iron, but the ordinary velvet “vizard” worn
to this day at masked balls.

And this brings us to one of the strangest features of the whole
case—namely, that from beginning to end this secrecy on the part of
Louis XIV and his henchmen was completely unnecessary, for the simple
reason that the secret was no secret at all and never had been.

This is abundantly proved by the fact that, as early as 1682, little
more than two years after Mattioli’s abduction by D’Estrades, there
was published at Cologne a pamphlet in Italian called “La prudenza
trionfante di Casale.” In this a complete, detailed account was given
of the whole affair of the intrigue for Casale, with the full parts
played in it by D’Estrades, Mattioli, the Duke of Mantua, Catinat,
D’Asfeld, and Pinchesne; and in 1687 there was published at Leyden
the “Histoire abrégée de l’Europe,” containing a letter translated
from Italian into French, denouncing the abduction of Mattioli as the
outrage that it was.

How the thing came thus to light and through whom, I have no means
of ascertaining, and so I must leave it to the reader to decide the
question for himself. But, as the “Prudenza trionfante” contains a
minute description of Mattioli’s arrest, in the words, “The secretary
(Mattioli) was surrounded by ten or twelve horsemen, who seized him,
disguised him, _masked_ him, and conducted him to Pinerolo,” we can
only conclude either that it must have been written by an eyewitness,
or else from the description given by one of the scene in question.
Moreover, there were alive, until the Eighteenth Century, many persons
of the parts about Pinerolo who continued to bear witness both to
Mattioli’s arrest as well as to the manner of it, especially in regard
to his masking by Catinat’s men.

After all, what explanation more natural than that (for the day was
a Sunday) some small boys or other idlers should have followed the
march of Catinat and his few soldiers, at a respectful distance, along
the three miles of road from Pinerolo to the place of the arrest and,
concealing themselves among the dense trees nearby, should have seen
everything?

Thus, the mystery of Mattioli’s disappearance from the world of the
living was in no way a mystery, except in the fond imagination of his
gaolers, seeing that the facts of it were public property over a great
part of Europe, after the appearance of the publications mentioned in
1682 and 1687.

There arises then the question—whence the mystery of the “Man in the
Iron Mask”?

From the early spring of 1694 until the summer of 1698, when Saint-Mars
was promoted to be the governor of the Bastile in Paris, Mattioli
remained under his care at the Island of Sainte-Marguerite. At the end
of those four years Saint-Mars is told to come to Paris and to bring
with him his “ancient prisoner” in such a manner that he shall be seen
by no one.

And so Saint-Mars set out for his new post in the capital, taking with
him his “ancient prisoner,” masked as ever, in a litter, with an escort
of horse-soldiers. On their way they passed by Saint-Mars’ estate
of Palteau, near Villeneuve in the Department of the Yonne, where
Saint-Mars rested for a day or two, never letting his prisoner out of
his sight; together they ate their meals, and at night Saint-Mars slept
in a bed close to that of the man in the mask.

In a letter upon the subject published in the “Année Littéraire” for
June 30, 1768, and quoted in his admirable book by Mr. Tighe Hopkins,
the grand-nephew of Saint-Mars, M. de Formanoir de Palteau, writes:

   “In 1698, M. de Saint-Mars passed from the charge of the Isles
   of Sainte-Marguerite to that of the Bastile. On his way he
   stayed with his prisoner at Palteau. The Man in the Mask came
   in a litter which preceded that of M. de Saint-Mars; they were
   accompanied by several men on horseback. The peasants went
   to greet their lord; M. de Saint-Mars took his meals with his
   prisoner, who was placed with his back to the windows of the
   dining-room, which overlooked the courtyard. The peasants whom I
   questioned could not see whether he wore his mask while eating,
   but they took note of the fact that M. de Saint-Mars, who sat
   opposite to him, kept a pair of pistols beside his plate. They
   were waited on by one manservant, who fetched the dishes from the
   ante-room, where they were brought to him, taking care to close
   behind him the door of the dining-room. When the prisoner crossed
   the courtyard, he always wore the black mask; the peasants
   noticed that his teeth and lips showed through it; also that he
   was tall and had white hair.”

These things the writer had from the few remaining actual witnesses of
them, seventy years before.

On the arrival of Saint-Mars at the Bastile in the later days of
September, 1698, he was met by Du Junca, the King’s lieutenant of the
prison, who noted the fact with all its circumstances in the register
now in the library of the Arsenal in Paris. It is this entry of Du
Junca’s (according to M. Funck-Brentano, as quoted by Mr. Hopkins)
that is “the origin and foundation of all that has been printed on the
question of the Iron Mask.”

The entry goes thus:

   “On Thursday, 18th of September, at three in the afternoon, M.
   de Saint-Mars, governor of the château of the Bastile, presented
   himself for the first time, coming from the government of the
   Isles of Sainte-Marguerite—Honorat, having with him in his
   litter a prisoner who was formerly in his keeping at Pignerol
   (Pinerolo), whom he caused to be always masked, whose name is not
   mentioned; on descending from the litter, he had him placed in
   the first chamber of the Basinière tower, waiting until night for
   me to take him at nine o’clock, and put him with M. de Rosarges,
   one of the sergeants brought by the Governor, alone in the third
   chamber of the Bertandière tower, which I had had furnished
   some days before his arrival by order of M. de Saint-Mars. The
   said prisoner will be served and tended by M. de Rosarges, and
   maintained by the Governor.”

By degrees, though, poor Mattioli’s importance began to decrease with
years and the world’s forgetfulness of the events that had so stirred
France and Italy all those years before 1679; by 1701, twenty-two
dreadful years after his arrest by Catinat at Pinerolo, he had fallen
from his high estate of mystery, and we find him torn out of his
seclusion from the common herd of malefactors, and put to share a cell
with a miserable rascal imprisoned for various offences against the
common law—one Tirmont, who died insane, seven years later, in the
Bicêtre. And on April 30, 1701, there was added to these two yet a
third prisoner, Maranville by name; the three remained together thus
until the December of that year, when Tirmont was removed to Bicêtre.

The two remaining years of Mattioli’s life were spent with Maranville;
one can only hope the latter was able to console him a little and to
soften his last moments on earth with some particle of companionship.

And now comes the last of him; as noted in Du Junca’s handwriting in
the prison register on November 19, 1703:

   “The same day, Monday, 19th of November, 1703, the prisoner
   unknown, masked always with a mask of black velvet, whom M. de
   Saint-Mars, the governor, brought with him from the Isles of
   Sainte-Marguerite, and whom he had had for a long time, happening
   to be rather unwell yesterday on coming from Mass, died this
   day at about ten o’clock in the evening, without having had
   any serious illness; indeed, it could not have been slighter.
   M. Giraut, our chaplain, confessed him yesterday. Surprised
   by death, he did not receive the Sacraments, and our chaplain
   exhorted him for a moment before he died. And this unknown
   prisoner, confined for so long a time, was buried on Tuesday at
   four in the afternoon, in the cemetery of Saint Paul, our parish;
   on the register of burial he was given a name also unknown. M. de
   Rosarges, major, and Arreil, surgeon, signed the register.”

At the lower left-hand side of this entry in Du Junca’s prison-registry
there is a note to the effect that:

   “I have since learned that he was named on the register M. de
   Marchiel, and that the burial cost forty livres.”

As a matter of fact, the entry in the registry of Saint Paul’s runs as
follows:

   “On the 19th (November, 1703) Marchioly, aged forty-five or
   thereabouts, died in the Bastile, whose body was buried in the
   cemetery of Saint Paul, his parish, the 20th of this month in the
   presence of M. Rosage (_sic_), major of the Bastile, and of M.
   Reglhe (_sic_), surgeon-major of the Bastile, who signed:

        “Signed: Rosarges, Reilhe.”

After seeing how Du Junca makes “Marcheil” where the sacristan of Saint
Paul makes the name “Marchioly,” it is presumable that Du Junca learned
it by word of mouth from some one or other; also that the name itself
had been communicated to Du Junca’s informant in the same manner by
Rosarges or Reilhe or the sacristan—in short, that, all along, the
name was an unintentional corruption of “Mattioli.” And so good-bye
to his competitors, in the popular imagination, to the title of “Man
in the Iron Mask,” Vermandois, Monmouth, Vendôme, Fouquet, an unknown
twin brother of Louis XIV, Avedick, the Armenian patriarch, General de
Bulonde, and the rest. I would once more recommend to all interested
in the subject Mr. Tighe Hopkins’ altogether admirable publication in
which he traces and destroys the claims of each and every one of these
candidates to be what he so aptly terms “The Sphinx of French History.”



CHAPTER XV

A “CAUSE CÉLÈBRE”

  The Defrêne Case, a Drama of Crime and of Justice—The Marquis
  Defrêne—Marie-Elizabeth du Tillay—Elopement—Bogus Marriage—Flight
  to England—Marriage Made Legal—The Marquis Tires of the Marriage
  State—Evil Plans—Marie-Elizabeth Forewarned—Adventures of Her
  Flight—The “Penitent” Defrêne—Compromising Letters—The Vindication
  of Marie-Elizabeth—A Judicial Separation.


The name of that same Duchess-Regent of Savoy, Maria Baptista of
Nemours, the cause of Mattioli’s downfall in 1679, had figured in
connection with another and now long forgotten “cause célèbre” some few
years earlier, in 1672—the drama of crime and of justice known to legal
annalists as the “Defrêne Case.”

Towards the year 1670 there was living in Paris a young man of the
name of Pierre Hennequin, Marquis Defrêne. Of his antecedents I have
no knowledge, but, by all accounts, he was related to many noble and
influential families; a personable young man of considerable address,
and entirely given over to the fashionable life of his day as he found
it—that life of license, bridled only by the fear of a death upon
the scaffold; that orgy of dissipation and debt by the encouragement
of which Louis XIV, as history tells us, was bent upon sapping the
resources of his powerful nobles in order that he might cut their claws
and impair their ability ever again to dispute the absolute authority
of the throne.

As many another young man of that period, so was the Marquis Defrêne.
Resolutely reckless in the gratification of every passing inclination,
and the slave of his pleasures, he was nearly at the end of his
resources when, as Fate would have it, he was thrown in the path of a
young and lovely girl, Marie-Elizabeth Girard du Tillay, the daughter
of the President of the Chamber of Accounts. M. du Tillay, having, as
a careful father, satisfied himself as to the complete undesirability
of the Marquis in the character of a son-in-law, sternly repelled
every attempt of the young man to gain possession of Marie-Elizabeth’s
affections. All M. du Tillay’s efforts notwithstanding, however,
Defrêne succeeded in establishing the tenderest of relations with the
girl and, ultimately, in persuading her to elope with him.

But it was necessary for the Marquis to make sure of his prey as
quickly as possible, lest Marie-Elizabeth’s scruples and her love for
the father upon whom and whose house she was now turning her back,
at his invitation, should gain the upper hand of her and so make her
return to her home in order to obtain the parental blessing and consent
to her union with him. No priest, as Defrêne well knew, would join them
in marriage without the consent of the girl’s father. Marie-Elizabeth,
however, was in ignorance of this fact; so that she was in no way
surprised when her swain informed her that he had a priest in readiness
to make them man and wife.

This priest, indeed, was no other than Defrêne’s body-servant, who was
to assume the sacerdotal character for the occasion; and thus between
the two scoundrels, master and man, Marie-Elizabeth was deceived
into going through a bogus ceremony of marriage with the blessing of
the rascally valet. Having carried out this piece of villainy to the
complete deception of Marie-Elizabeth, who now believed herself a
marchioness for better or for worse, Defrêne hastened to put himself
beyond the reach of French law by crossing the channel into England,
together with his victim, since, in those days, the protection of
foreign criminals—poisoners and coiners only excepted—was considered an
especial attribute of the majesty of every Sovereign.

Ere long, however, M. du Tillay contrived to trace the fugitive
pair to their hiding-place. It is more than likely that he learned
of it through the valet, although upon this point I cannot come at
any certainty—for, at the same time, he appears to have learned the
atrocious particulars of the sham marriage and to have done all in
his power to bring the Marquis to justice for it. In this M. du Tillay
had the powerful aid of his brother-in-law, M. Baillieu, a “Président
à Mortier.” But their labours were opposed by those of Defrêne’s
relatives, who were in terror lest the King should be persuaded, by
the two eminent officials, to ask his Brother of England to make him
a present of the Marquis, that he might inflict condign punishment
upon him for his villainy. It ended in the issuing of a royal decree
designed to satisfy both parties; by this decree the marriage was
recognised as legal and binding upon both parties—in deference to
the sincerity of Mademoiselle du Tillay’s participation in it, its
fraudulent character notwithstanding—on condition of the marriage
contract’s being duly signed and exchanged between the families of the
bride and bridegroom. To this compromise the kindly Du Tillay gave his
adhesion, and thus the evil deed of the Marquis Defrêne was righted for
the time being.

But not for long; soon Defrêne, now accepted as his lawful son-in-law
by Du Tillay, began to weary of the bonds of matrimony, and,
disappointed in the amount of cash he had hoped to extort from
his father-in-law, he decided to try his luck afresh in some more
lucrative quarter; to this end he made up his mind to get rid of poor
Marie-Elizabeth, that he might be free to take another partner.

It should not have been difficult for him, one would think, in the
Paris of the later Seventeenth Century, to carry out his iniquitous
design, without overmuch caution or expense; there were to be found
there means notoriously at the disposal of gentlemen in Defrêne’s
predicament, provided only they were able to pay the price of a
“succession powder” or of a philtre indistinguishable from the purest
water save in its deadly results. And yet Defrêne could not screw
up his courage, all at once, to murdering his wife out of hand or of
procuring her assassination. Truth to tell, he was deterred from such
a course by the salutary severity of the sentence pronounced a few
years earlier, in 1667, upon the murderers of the unfortunate Marquise
de Gange, who had been poisoned by her brothers-in-law with the tacit
approval of her unworthy husband, the latter having been condemned to
perpetual banishment with the loss of his estates and to be degraded
from the nobility; while the actual assassins were sentenced to be
broken alive on the wheel.

This wholesome fear, then, so acted upon the mind of the Marquis
Defrêne as to compel him to devise a more subtle method of doing away
with Marie-Elizabeth; a method as diabolical as any in all the dark
records of criminal achievement.

His plan was, apparently, simplicity itself; he would voyage abroad
with Marie-Elizabeth to Constantinople and would there sell her into
slavery or the harem of some wealthy Turk; her beauty would command a
substantial price that would reimburse her betrayer for the expenses
of his undertaking, and besides he could return in safety to give out
that she was dead, and to claim her entire property as her disconsolate
widower, her father having recently died.

Having arrived at this decision, he informed his wife that she was
to accompany him on a journey that he was obliged to make to some
far-distant baths for the sake of his health; and Marie-Elizabeth, ever
trustful of his designs, and of his surpassing love for her, consented
at once, albeit her husband did not enlighten her as to their actual
destination.

From Paris they travelled to Lyons and thence to Beauvoisin. From
the latter place they went over into Savoy, which they crossed in
the direction of Genoa, Marie-Elizabeth being compelled to traverse
the Alps, as the archives tell us, “on a vicious mule with an old
pack-saddle.” But from the moment of their departure from Paris
a change had come over the spirit of the doomed woman; ever since
then, when Defrêne had forbidden her to bid farewell to her beloved
mother and her relatives, Marie-Elizabeth had been weighed down with
forebodings of evil. And on reaching the seaport of Genoa these
forebodings seemed to acquire the most sinister confirmation in a
hint of danger conveyed to her by a good and compassionate man, Pierre
Pilette, a wagoner who had acted as their guide over the passes into
Italy.

This man told Marie-Elizabeth that, having gone with the Marquis (to
interpret for him, presumably) to visit certain merchants of Genoa,
Defrêne had made anxious inquiries for some vessel that should take him
to Constantinople; further, that Defrêne had tried to obtain from them
letters of credit on some merchant in that city, but that it had not
been possible for them to accommodate him, although they had cashed all
such letters upon themselves as he had brought with him from France.

This information, imparted to her by Pilette, was the first
Marie-Elizabeth had heard of any intention of her husband’s to go to
Constantinople; and, at the news, her suspicions of his conduct turned
to terror that was all the more agonising by reason of the need for
dissembling it in Defrêne’s presence. From Genoa he now set out, with
his unhappy wife and the half-dozen or so of his retainers whom he
brought with him—Pilette still accompanying them to look after the
horses—for Savona, where, as he had been led to expect, he might find
a vessel sailing for Constantinople. Be it noted, by the way, that
never since leaving Paris had any reference to the “baths,” of which
he had declared his health to be in need, passed Defrêne’s lips; and
never—save on the occasion of her interview with Pilette—had any one
not a member of the Marquis’ household been allowed to exchange a
single word in private with his wife.

On the journey, however, to Savona, Marie-Elizabeth contrived to
whisper her fears to Pilette (who, I take it, was leading her mule
by the bridle along the then dangerous coast-road), imploring him to
save her from her husband and to bring her into a place of safety,
whence she might communicate with her relatives; and Pilette, moved by
her tears and entreaties, promised that he would do his best at all
costs to deliver her from her enemies. He had friends, he told her,
at Savona, an inn-keeper and his wife, to whose hostel he would bring
her, who would take care of her. And from their hands Pilette promised,
moreover, that he would take her, afterwards, to Turin, there to place
her under the protection of the Duchess of Savoy.

Arrived at Savona, Defrêne lodged himself and his party in this inn,
to which Pilette had led them; here he found a ship preparing to sail
for Constantinople and so made his arrangements with her owner for
the transport of himself and his wife to the Turkish capital. The day
before that appointed for sailing, however, he had to go down to the
wharf in order to pay over their passage money, leaving Marie-Elizabeth
locked up in her bedroom. This was Pilette’s opportunity; no sooner
had the Marquis left the premises than he went up to Marie-Elizabeth’s
room, armed with a key furnished him by his friend the host, unlocked
the door, and released the prisoner for whose flight he had everything
in readiness.

Going down to the street with her deliverer, Marie-Elizabeth found
a closed sedan-chair waiting for her, into which she stepped, and
was then quickly borne away out of town into the hills, followed by
the faithful Pilette. For nearly thirty miles they pursued their way
northwards until, on striking the village of Cortemiglia, Pilette
left his charge in the inn of the place, whilst he himself went to
seek out Count Scarampo, the lord of that district, and to entrust
Marie-Elizabeth to that gentleman’s safekeeping.

But, just as he was leaving the inn for that purpose, what was
Pilette’s consternation on beholding a party of men come tearing up the
road, headed by none other than Defrêne in person, to an accompaniment
of shouts and the waving of swords and firearms! Taking to his heels,
the defenceless Pilette fled incontinently down the village street
pursued by the Marquis and his gang with musket-shots and imprecations.
Fortunately, he continued to elude them and to make his way to the
castle of Count Scarampo, to whom he gave warning of what was going
forward in the village. The Count, nothing loath, at once called out
his own men and rushed down to the village to do battle for the lady
with her husband and his retainers; in this he was joined by the local
magistrate, and so the two with their supporters reached the little
inn, whence a piteous din of shrieks and blows came out into the
roadway.

Having abandoned the pursuit of Pilette, Defrêne had returned hot-foot
to the inn, which he had invaded in search of his wife; in spite of
the host’s protests, he had forced his way to where Marie-Elizabeth
was cowering in a back room and had set upon her with a cudgel as well
as with his fists and feet; had it not been for the timely arrival of
Scarampo and the judge, moreover, there can be small doubt but that the
tiger-hearted Marquis would have made an end, then and there, of the
miserable woman. Providentially, though, their coming prevented this,
when, seeing that resistance was useless, Defrêne submitted to their
arrest of him.

For the time being, Marie-Elizabeth was safe from her husband’s
cruelty. Taken by Count Scarampo to his castle, she was there received
by the Countess, as the chronicle relates, “with much compassion and
with a distinguished politeness.” Here she was rejoined by Pilette,
under whose escort she set out before dawn of the next day on the road
to Turin.

Such was her condition, however, as the result of the ill-treatment she
had suffered, that, by evening, she had gone no further than Alba, a
town on the Tanaro, where she sought out the governor and threw herself
upon his protection against any further attempts on the part of her
detestable husband. The official kindly took her into his own house;
but scarcely had he done so than her pursuer, having escaped from his
gaolers at Cortemiglia, turned up, on foot and alone, at Alba, in his
latest character—that of a penitent and broken-hearted suppliant for
his wife’s forgiveness. In this new rôle he presented himself before
the governor, begging for an interview with Marie-Elizabeth, that he
might soften her heart with the sight and the sighs of him.

To these entreaties the governor demurred for a time, but at last
suffered himself to be persuaded to consent to an interview between the
husband and wife on the stipulation that it should take place under
his own eyes; he even went to the length of inducing Marie-Elizabeth
to see Defrêne, although she herself was strongly opposed to such a
concession.

When Defrêne found himself once more in her presence, he cast himself
grovelling at his wife’s feet, refusing to rise, with a thousand
protestations, a thousand vows, of his undying love for her. He had
not, he swore, the least ill-design against her in the journey he had
undertaken; handing her his sword, he begged that she would either
pardon him or else put him out of his sufferings. By all that was holy,
he promised he would take her back to France without fail if she would
but have faith in him—in short, he would be her slave in all things.

After several repetitions of this comedy, “que Baron[27] n’aurait si
bien jouée que lui”—again I quote from the accounts of the time—the
Marquis succeeded in winning over the governor to his side, and got
him, in spite of Marie-Elizabeth’s protests, to write to the Duke
of Savoy for permission to deliver her into Defrêne’s keeping, on
condition of his taking her back to France without doing her any
further injury, and of his solemnly pledging himself to answer for his
good behaviour to the Duke and to the King of France.

At the same time Marie-Elizabeth wrote to the Duke and Duchess of
Savoy, telling them the whole story of her husband’s ill-treatment of
her, and imploring their protection; this letter was intercepted by the
Marquis and destroyed. Soon an answer was returned to the governor’s
communication, giving him the requisite permission to deliver
Marie-Elizabeth into her husband’s keeping on the conditions already
stated, of his answering to his own Sovereign and the Duke of Savoy for
his conduct towards her on the journey home. Thus the luckless woman
was once more delivered into the hands of her crafty and relentless
foe.

For a space all went well with her, so long as they were accompanied
by an officer of the Duke of Savoy charged with seeing that Defrêne
behaved himself; but no sooner were they once more by themselves than
his evil designs came again to light. Having reached the village of
Lanslebourg at the northern foot of the Mont Cenis, where the Savoyard
officer took his leave of them, Defrêne placed his wife under lock and
key in a room in the village inn and applied himself to the problem
confronting him—that of how to accomplish the destruction of his wife
without rendering himself liable to the law.

And at this point it occurred to him to fall back on a stratagem
of which he had already, months earlier, made a beginning, but had
abandoned it through impatience and failure.

This stratagem consisted in accusing Marie-Elizabeth of attempting to
murder him by means of poison—a crime punishable with death. As he now
saw clearly, the main thing needful to the success of such a method
was that he should be able to produce some incontrovertible evidence,
and that so atrocious, of Marie-Elizabeth’s depravity as to bring her
within distance of the scaffold; failing which, it must be at least
such as to serve him as an excuse for his attempt to sell her into
slavery.

With this amiable purpose Defrêne applied all his talents to the
composing of a series of no less than twenty-four letters purporting
to be written by his wife to her various lovers and couched in the
most abandoned of terms. Having done this, he came with them to
Marie-Elizabeth, and ordered her to copy out the vile effusions so that
he might have them in her own handwriting as an irrefutable proof of
her guilt against him.

For long she refused to obey his commands; until, at length, Defrêne
drew a knife and threatened her with it; but even this made no
impression upon her resolve to defend her honour.

“Kill me if you will—I would prefer to die rather than to write those
horrible letters,” she said. “All I ask is that you will let me have a
priest to whom I may first confess myself—let me, at least, die like a
Christian!”

To this request, it need hardly be said, Defrêne turned a deaf ear.

“Write as I tell you—or die as you are, in your sins!” he cried. “Come,
be quick about it——”

At the prospect of going into eternity in that fashion, so frightful to
one of her upbringing, Marie-Elizabeth’s courage broke down. Taking the
pen that Defrêne held out to her, she began to copy the abominations
set before her, the tears rolling down her cheeks, her heart sick and
appalled at the thing she was doing.

As she finished copying each letter, Defrêne took his own original
draft of it and burned it in the fire—so that all hope seemed gone for
Marie-Elizabeth of ever being able to prove her innocence of them. And,
all the while, she never ceased from praying Heaven to come to her aid.

Suddenly there was a knock on the locked door of the room in which they
were sitting; rising hastily, Defrêne went to the door and let himself
out into the corridor, taking care to close and lock the door again
behind him. Instantly Marie-Elizabeth saw her chance and took it.

It so happened that, at the moment of Defrêne’s being called away, she
had all but come to an end of copying one of the letters; finishing
quickly she seized the draft of it in Defrêne’s handwriting and slipped
it between the lining of her bodice, that chanced to be torn, and the
bodice itself. Then, snatching up a needle and thread, she sewed up
the rent over the letter and, resuming her pen, wrote on again for
dear life. Providentially, her husband was kept in conversation a
considerable time. When he returned to her, she had written out yet
another of the unspeakable letters, and Defrêne had lost count of the
originals; so that he did not miss the one she had secreted on her
person.

Finally, having completed her task, she threw down the pen and covered
her face in her hands—as Defrêne triumphantly imagined in consternation
at the weapon of which he was now in possession against her; in
reality, for fear lest he might see the relief in her expression. For
now, indeed, thanks to the letter concealed in her clothing, he was
taken in his own snare!

And so it proved when, a few weeks later, the Marquis went the rounds
of his acquaintance armed with Marie-Elizabeth’s pretended letters to
her lovers; to which she, now safe once more in her mother’s house,
replied by making known the circumstances under which they had been
written, and by showing to all the world Defrêne’s draft in his own
handwriting that she had so fortunately been enabled to secrete in her
dress.

The matter ended in her obtaining a judicial separation from
the Marquis, who soon became involved in another and even darker
iniquity—the case of Madame de Brinvilliers—through his intimacy with
the truly diabolical Sainte-Croix; an intimacy that all but obtained
him the public services of the executioner.



CHAPTER XVI

EUSTOCHIA

  A Child of Sin—Born 1444—Her Early Peculiarities—Physical
  Possession by Evil Spirits—Sent to a Convent—A Life
  of Devotion—Eustochia a Novitiate—A Supernatural
  Accident—Belief that She Was a Hypocrite—Resignation—The
  Evil Spirit in Possession-Frightful Torments—Evil Portents—A
  Sorceress?—Imprisonment—Persecutions by Invisible Powers—Regaining
  Good Esteem—A Nun—Her Sanctity and Constancy—Her Death and Burial.


The story of her, who was baptised by the name of Lucrezia Bellini and
is now revered by the Church under that of Eustochia, which she assumed
on becoming a Benedictine nun, in the year 1461, is one of the very
strangest that even the Italian Quattrocento has to show. For it is the
story of a child of sin who was tormented all her days by the Adversary
of mankind, and who was yet a saint.

In these, our own latter days, when the world at large is recovering
somewhat from the prolonged epidemic of materialism from which it had
been suffering during the greater part of the Nineteenth Century, the
fact of supernatural “possession” is coming to be recognised by many of
the strongest scientific intellects as the only possible and rational
explanation of certain among the numerous cases of mental perversity
that fill our modern prisons and asylums. Even—so I have been given
to understand—the “Salpêtrière” itself has been known to express
opinions favourable to the theory of possession in some instances.
So that the story of Eustochia may not be deemed to be unworthy of
attention—even by those persons who ordinarily find it difficult to
believe anything unless it has already received the endorsement of
their fellow-creatures’ belief.

The natural daughter of a dissolute citizen of Terra di Gemola in
the Veneto, Lucrezia was born in shame and secrecy in the year 1444,
at Padua, and was sent at once to her father, Bartolomeo Bellini, at
Gemola. Bartolomeo Bellini was, alas! a married man with a lawful wife
and family of his own; none the less, he received the child with some
show of gladness and immediately saw to her being properly baptised,
giving her the name of Lucrezia; after which he handed her over to a
nurse under whose care the little Lucrezia remained until she was four
years old, when Bellini sent for her to come and live with him and his
family in his own house. By this time she had become very pretty, as
well as being already endowed with considerable charm and brightness of
spirit.

On seeing her again, her father came to love Lucrezia with an especial
tenderness; but, to his wife, not unnaturally, the sight of the
little girl was gall and bitterness, in its reminder of her husband’s
infidelity to her; and the Signora Bellini soon grew to hate the
presence of Lucrezia.

Nor were Bellini’s own good sentiments towards his daughter suffered to
endure for long.

It seemed to those with whom she was in daily and hourly contact that
there was something odd about Lucrezia; for all her charm and goodness,
the child, in some indefinable way, was not as other children, but
rather as one mysteriously marked down by Providence for some especial
purpose of Its own.

And then, suddenly, Lucrezia’s peculiarities began to take definite
shape, and to manifest themselves in the most disconcerting manner by
a nervous inability to control the movements of her own limbs—as it
were a kind of Saint Vitus’ dance. Even against her express wish, she
would constantly find herself compelled to do this or that; she was
even, occasionally, raised bodily by some invisible force above the
ground. Her confessor declared himself of the opinion that she was
under some strong preternatural influence, but of what kind, precisely,
he was unable at once to determine. For, although she was frequently
moved to certain movements by some will other than her own, yet her
mind was entirely subject to her own control; consequently, one cannot
quite think her to have yet been actually in a state of possession, her
condition appearing to approximate rather to one of slight epilepsy.

But this was only the beginning of Lucrezia’s long trial. In spite of
her very real sufferings, her spirit maintained the calm of a constant
recollection in God, together with the unceasing interior practice
of the most meritorious acts of resignation and faith. As time went
on, however, the fact of her physical possession by evil spirits
became self-evident, and Lucrezia herself an object of the utmost
aversion—nay, of fury—to her father, who refused to recognise in his
child’s condition the anger of Heaven upon himself for the sin of her
birth.

So matters came to the point of Lucrezia’s being brought to the
Bishop—Monsignor Pietro Donato, I fancy—that he might exorcise
the spirit that tormented her; which, as it seemed at first, he
successfully did, for during some weeks after the exorcism Lucrezia was
able to pursue the practice of her religion without let or hindrance;
so that she was considered permanently healed.

But it was not fated to be so; her foe had only changed his tactics,
and now, although still capable of constant interior acts of devotion,
the hitherto gentle girl began, to the amazement of all who knew her,
to show herself undocile, rough of speech, and extremely resentful of
the Signora Bellini’s unkindness to her. This new development, which
was altogether contrary to her own inclinations, only brought upon
her the increased anger and dislike of her father, who, together with
his wife, proceeded to treat her so harshly as to bring her more than
once to the verge of the grave. Beaten, starved, and neglected, the
friendless child knew not where to find refuge from her misery save
only in God, to whom she had completely given herself.

She was now seven years old, timid and crushed by suffering, but with
her heart full of charity and faith; nevertheless, her father, being
tempted by the father of lies, fell into the belief that Lucrezia, in
revenge for his cruelty to her, was minded to poison him—and so he
resolved to murder her. From this intention, however, the tempter,
having no mind presumably that Lucrezia should be killed and pass
in all her innocence to a better world—dissuaded Bellini, so that he
changed his mind and sent her instead to the Convent of San Prosdocimo,
in the city of Padua, there to finish her education.

Now, during the latter half of the Fifteenth Century, in Italy it was
not unusual to find convents of religious orders in which the strict
practice of the rules laid down centuries earlier for their guidance
by the holy founders of those same orders had become in the course of
time somewhat relaxed. The Rule—the very backbone, so to speak, of
a religious community—had grown, through long, indulgent gentleness
on the part of Superiors, so mild as to be no longer suitable to
the special necessities of the enclosed life; there was too much
intercourse allowed with the outer world, the affairs and interests
of which had come in consequence to occupy too large a part in the
thoughts and natural sympathies of those called by their vocation
to lead the higher spiritual existence of the cloister. And so we
find that many bishops and abbots and abbesses devoted themselves
particularly to the task of bringing back their “houses” to the close
observance of their various original “Rules”—Franciscan, Dominican,
Benedictine, and others.

The convent of San Prosdocimo belonged to the Benedictines, but,
unhappily, it was one of those houses that had fallen into slackness,
and into which had crept the habit of worldly conversation and of
carelessness in regard to the strict observance of the regulations,
imposed by their most illustrious father and founder, for the guidance
of his spiritual children.

It was, then, to the care of the somewhat relaxed sisterhood of San
Prosdocimo that Lucrezia was committed by her father; and, within
a short time of her entry as a pupil into the convent, although the
youngest of its occupants in years, she showed herself far the ripest
in all goodness, the best balanced, and the most intelligent.

Of a cheerful temperament, a lively and captivating personality,
Lucrezia was never frivolous or superficial; but, preserving her
habitual state of recollection in calm and solitude, her life was one
continual prayer. For her patrons she chose three—the Mother of God,
Saint Jerome, and Saint Luke the evangelist.

Nine years the girl lived thus without being more than very slightly
troubled by the evil spirit who sought her destruction; until the
year 1460, when the death of the Abbess brought about great changes
in the convent. Upon that event Monsignor Zenoni, who had succeeded
Monsignor Donato as Bishop of Padua, considered that the time was come
to introduce a more strict administration in the convent and to revive
among its inmates the spirit of Saint Benedict. With this object he
forbade the nuns to elect their next Superior from among their number
until the reformations that he considered necessary should have been
brought about in their community. The nuns, though, dismayed by the
uncompromising words “reform” and “strict observance,” took fright at
Monsignor Zenoni’s salutary projects and transferred themselves in a
body with their pupils to another house of the order.

The only one of all the convent’s inmates to accept the Bishop’s
ordinance and to remain faithful to her post was the sixteen-year-old
Lucrezia; abandoned by her superiors and companions, Lucrezia kept
watch and ward alone in the deserted building until the Bishop sent
over to join her a body of sisters from the convent of Santa Maria
della Misericordia, appointing Donna Giustina Lazzara, a noble lady
of Padua, to be their Abbess. With the coming of Donna Giustina and
her companions, the primitive practice and regular observance of Saint
Benedict’s Rule became again the life of the house of San Prosdocimo.

Lucrezia’s whole being rejoiced exceedingly in the new order of things
in the convent and she determined to become, if possible, a nun and
a sister in religion of those about her. When she confided her desire
to them, however, she met with no encouragement; the truth was that,
although they had no fault to find with her personally, yet knowing her
history and that of her parents and seeing that she had been brought up
hitherto under the influence of more or less careless elders, the nuns
could not help feeling rather doubtful of Lucrezia’s fitness for the
religious life. Her very piety they were inclined to consider merely
superficial, and possibly a trifle simulated in one as yet untried by
discipline. At first even Donna Giustina was drawn to this opinion;
but, on reflection, she came to the conclusion that, after all, such
prejudices might well constitute a grave injustice, and, remembering
how Lucrezia had remained in the convent when the others had fled, she
at length consented to accept her as a postulant for the stupendous
honour of a bride of Christ. And so, to the dissatisfaction of her
companions, Lucrezia was invested with the habit of their order,
January 15, 1461; in honour of her patron, Saint Jerome, she took the
name of Eustochia, the daughter of Saint Paula and the pupil of Saint
Jerome. The ceremony, however, was marked for Lucrezia by an untoward
incident which served to create a further unfavourable impression
towards her on the part of the other nuns; for, as the priest was
giving her the Communion, the Sacred Host slipped from his fingers and
fell to the ground, an accident which they chose to regard as a mark of
the Divine displeasure towards her.

From the day of her thus taking the veil, the real martyrdom of
Eustochia began. Until then, since her entry into the convent, her
sufferings at the hands of the Adversary had been comparatively light
and she had been able to conceal his attacks upon her. But now his
possession of her became more malignantly active, manifesting itself
by controlling her movements so as to make her commit some slight
exterior fault of deportment against the Rule, so that her companions,
witnesses of Eustochia’s small breach of discipline, were more than
ever confirmed in the opinion that she was a hypocrite. By degrees this
feeling increased among them until it arrived at the point of her being
shunned by them as a moral leper.

And all the while Eustochia, in exquisite, faithful humbleness, gave
thanks to Heaven for Its just judgment upon her, as she deemed it,
accusing herself before God and the Abbess of having brought these
punishments upon herself by her sins—so that, while she lost the good
opinion of those about her, she gained incessant merit in the eyes of
her Creator. And now the hour of Eustochia’s long darkness sounded,
during which she was destined to drink to the dregs the cup of trial.

A month before the feast of Saint Jerome—that is, towards the end of
August—that same year of 1461, Eustochia felt herself much perturbed
and ill at ease in her heart; and her countenance, to the disquiet
of the whole house, took on an expression at once sombre and menacing
and quite unaccountable to the beholders, with the exception of Father
Peter Salicario, the chaplain of the convent, who alone grasped the
terrible meaning of it.

Father Salicario at once proceeded to prepare Eustochia for the coming
assault of her foe by counselling and exhorting her; moreover, the
good man straightway warned the Abbess and her nuns of the approaching
storm. What effect this had upon Donna Giustina’s relations with
Eustochia, I do not know precisely, but the nuns themselves were, as
may easily be imagined, greatly agitated by it; also, they were only
the more inclined to resent the presence in their midst of one in
whom the evil spirit had apparently taken up his abode. The horror
of Eustochia’s proximity seemed to them unbearable, and they joined
in protesting to Donna Giustina against any further continuance of
it. She, however, was of a more courageous nature than they, and had
perfect faith in the protection of the convent by Heaven.

The feast of Saint Jerome passed uneventfully enough (as though in
unwilling tribute to his splendour and the power of his patronage), but
on the next day the tempest broke loose.

We are told that it was as if a subterranean mine had been exploded
in the quiet convent; and as if the Devil had entered there as an
executioner with every circumstance of fear and horror. The agonised
contortions of Eustochia were frightful to see as she twisted herself
like a serpent in the extremity of her torments, the while her cries
filled all the place with their lamentation.

The greater number of the sisters fled from the vicinity of the poor
possessed, although a few attempted to watch over her at a little
distance lest she should harm herself; but suddenly Eustochia, whom
they had always known as the gentlest of beings, seized a knife and ran
upon them, so that they also ran from her. She even pursued them until
she fell over a bench, down on to which she sank, deprived for a time
of all further power of movement. Father Salicario, on being sent for,
summoned the evil spirit to speak; which it did as usual by the mouth
of its victim, saying that it had been checked in the midst of its fury
by the power of Saint Jerome and confined to the bench. Upon an attempt
to exorcise it, however, it became again so violent that Eustochia had
to be secured for some days lest she should do a hurt to herself or
to others. During that time her torments were indescribable, her enemy
doing all that he could to make an end of her, now by strangling, now
with heavy blows from an unseen hand that beat her to the ground in a
half-dying condition. Not a word of impatience escaped, however, from
the afflicted girl, and in the intervals of her sufferings she never
failed to give thanks for them to God. Eventually, her patience and
fortitude discouraged the demon, and for a space again he left her in
peace. But now the bad opinion already entertained of Eustochia by the
community seemed to receive the strongest confirmation from a series of
unfortunate occurrences. Be it said, frankly, that the rest of the nuns
were firmly convinced that Eustochia was a sorceress and that she was
feigning piety as a cloak to conceal her commerce with the Prince of
this world.

For all at once the Abbess fell ill of a strange malady, the nature of
which it was beyond all the science of the doctors to determine. It was
a kind of slow, wasting sickness without any definite features beyond
the ever increasing debility of the patient; so that, as rumour soon
had it in the convent, Donna Giustina was the victim of some malignant,
supernatural process emanating from Eustochia, upon whom the hostile
scrutiny of all about her was now directed. To make matters worse,
there were found in a corner of the convent some objects—but of what
nature I do not know—which in the common opinion seemed to set the seal
upon this supposition. For her adversary was now compelled to resort to
a new stratagem by which to encompass Eustochia’s destruction.

Without listening to her protestations of her innocence, the
community decided that Eustochia was guilty of the crimes that their
imaginations, stimulated by the tempter, imputed to her; she was
imprisoned in a dark cell far from those of her sisters, and there
began to be talk of her being hanged for sacrilege and magic and—should
the Abbess die—for murder as well! Soon the town of Padua was all agog
with the news that the seemingly pious Eustochia was imprisoned on
these charges and the people flocked about the gates of the convent
clamouring for her to be delivered to them that they might burn her at
the stake and purify their city of her being.

And, all the while, Eustochia sat alone in the dark and narrow cell
with only her enemy, as it seemed to her, for company, despised and
hated and abandoned of all living things; tortured in body and mind,
her days and nights were spent in unutterable desolation, while, as
she afterwards related, her soul was unceasingly attacked by the evil
spirit with every imaginable temptation to impurity and despair. And
yet, in spite of all, she could say with Abraham that she had hoped
against hope. The very solitude and silence of her prison provided her
with the opportunity she so needed of satisfying her supreme desire
for prayer. No books were allowed her, but she found consolation in
reciting over and over again such psalms as she knew by heart. She
had taught herself the five canticles of which the first letters form
the name of Mary—_Magnificat_, _Ad Dominum_, _Retribue servo tuo_,
_Judica me, Deus_, _Ad te levavi_—to each of which she added an anthem
formed from the same letters—_Missus est_, _Assumpta est_, _Rubum_, _In
odorem_, _Ave Maria_, ending with the _Interveniat_. Thus Eustochia
in her gloomy prison was as a lonely dove in its nest, weeping and
sighing, not with impatience, but with Divine love, unceasingly tempted
by the Devil and as unceasingly defeating him by her sweetness.

At long length her confessor obtained access to Eustochia; whereupon
the demon to whom power was permitted over her body spoke by her lips
and lyingly confessed that she had been guilty of the crimes attributed
to her. This took place in the presence of several of the nuns who
were present at Father Salicario’s interview with her; the priest was
thunderstruck and embarrassed by this admission on Eustochia’s part,
but, being persuaded of the diabolical influence at work in the matter,
he obtained leave to speak with her again on the next day. This time he
began the interview with an exorcism, as the result of which Eustochia
was enabled to speak of her own accord and to tell him what was truly
in her heart that was so filled with humility and charity as to flow
over with them.

So strengthened was Salicario in his championship of the girl that he
bent all his efforts to proving her innocence; moreover, the Abbess,
who was now recovering from her indisposition, was equally inclined to
a generous view of the case. Her desire was to get rid of Eustochia
from the convent, in the kindest manner possible, in order to spare
it all further disorder and scandalous notoriety by reason of having
the afflicted novice any longer beneath its roof. With this object,
Donna Giustina persuaded her brother, Don Francesco Lazzara, to see
Eustochia and to try to induce her to withdraw from the convent of San
Prosdocimo; with which request Don Francesco, a man of rare integrity
and uprightness, complied and sought out the possessed in her narrow
cell.

Here, alone with Eustochia, he put the case ably and kindly to her,
urging her to leave the convent—in which, as it appeared to him, it
was not the will of Heaven that she should remain—and to return to the
world outside it, where he promised he would undertake to provide for
her and even to find her a good husband. Since she was not yet tied
to the life of a religious by any vows, he concluded, she need have
no hesitation in adopting a course which was not only permitted by the
Church, but also, indeed, absolutely necessary.

Eustochia heard him out in silence. Then, having thanked him for his
kindness to her, she replied:

“Do not believe that I am as unhappy as the world seems to think”—for
in his argument Don Francesco had spoken of what must be her utter
misery, both from the demon that had her frame in thrall and from the
hostility towards her of the nuns themselves, for whom her presence
was an affliction. “My sufferings are for me only the caresses of my
Celestial Spouse, who permits the wicked spirit to chastise me, and
I am so happy in them that I would not exchange them against all the
delights of the world. Let them continue, or even increase, they do
not disturb me. In calling me to the life of the cloister, God did not
call me to an existence of tranquillity and ease. If I find my path
strewn with thorns, it is a sign that that is the path by which He
wishes to lead me to Him—for it is the same path that was trodden by
Jesus Christ. My sisters here in the convent look upon me, I know, as
an outcast; it hurts me, and I have no one but myself to blame for it,
for I am full of faults. Still, I hope to correct myself in time of
my faults, and so to merit a better opinion from my sisters. I know,
too, that I am a burden on the convent, and that the demon who has
possession of me is an object of horror to the whole community; but
as I am becoming accustomed to his persecution of me, so will they get
over their terror of him. For the rest, as my deliverance from him is
not in my own hands, I can only entreat them to have compassion upon
me.”

On hearing these words, Don Francesco was amazed by the courage and
patience of Eustochia; completely won over by them to the side of
the gentle speaker, he could find no words sufficient to praise her
constancy or to express his enthusiastic approval of her resolution to
cleave to her vocation. All he suggested was that she should change her
convent for another; but this she declined to do.

This interview with Don Francesco resulted, ultimately, in some little
amelioration of Eustochia’s existence; the Abbess now taking her part
against the rest of the community, she was permitted to leave the
cell (in which she had been confined some three months by order of the
higher authorities) for the infirmary, where she was to help in tending
the sick. She was forbidden, however, to appear either in choir or in
church during the hours of service, or to show herself in the parlour,
or to have any relations of any kind with the outside world—and,
most especially, she was not to speak to any one, whosoever, of her
sufferings from the demon. And when she met any of the sisters, they
showed their detestation of Eustochia by lowering their eyes or turning
their backs on her; nobody who could help it came near her, nobody
spoke to her; for to one and all—the chaplain and the Abbess only
excepted—she was an object of horror and of aversion.

Through all these trials nothing had been more painful to Eustochia
than the knowledge that the sisters sometimes believed her to be
only feigning possession in order to obtain their sympathy and
commiseration. But, at this point, it seemed as though the evil spirit
himself was determined to change their mind in respect to the reality
of his presence among them by redoubling the fury of his onslaught
upon Eustochia; thenceforth invisible hands daily inflicted upon her
the most barbarous violence, maltreating her in a thousand ways, so as
often to bring her within a short distance of expiring from the effects
of it. At times it was as if he had scourged her with whips of metal;
while, at others, it seemed as though her body had been slashed with
knives. At times, again, Eustochia was dragged along the ground to
the door of the convent as if her foe were bent upon casting her out
from it into the street; and then she would be lifted up by an unseen
power into the air, and let to fall, senseless and head downward, upon
the stone floor with a crash—so that all wondered how it was that she
escaped without a fractured skull. Again and again a deep puncture
was made by the same unseen agency in the side of her neck, causing an
extensive flow of blood; and once she was carried up on to the tiles of
the convent roof by the invisible power and held suspended in the abyss
over the street below, in the sight of the whole community, that cried
aloud upon Heaven to protect her. And not until the chaplain came, to
command the evil spirit that it should bring Eustochia down immediately
without hurting her, was she restored in safety to her sisters, who by
this time were completely cured of their former disbelief.

But of all these manifestations of unearthly violence towards
Eustochia, perhaps the most remarkable was one that occurred in the
presence of her confessor, that same Father Salicario, who afterwards
bore testimony of it. One day, as he was conversing with her, a large
kitchen knife, lying on a table nearby, rose up suddenly of itself and
struck Eustochia upon her breast, transfixing her habit over which the
blood ran out in streams, the while a voice cried:

“If you do not give yourself to me, I will enlarge the wound until your
heart is visible!”

“So much the better,” gasped Eustochia, as she staggered to the table
and leaned upon it for support. “For, if you do, you will first have to
write the holy name of Jesus upon my breast....”

Which thing Father Salicario laid it upon the evil spirit that it
should do according as Eustochia had said; and a few years later, when
they were preparing her dead body for its resting-place, the nuns, to
their delight and great wonder, found the Holy Name cut deep into the
flesh over the region of Eustochia’s loving heart.

After four years of her terrible novitiate, during which she had never
ceased, in spite of all their unconcealed antipathy with its constant
slights and affronts, to love her sister nuns and to venerate them as
her betters, Eustochia was now, at length, conquering their dislike
of her and acquiring even something of their esteem by the sublime
perfection of her bearing. Of this improvement in their feelings
towards her they gave proof in admitting Eustochia to the number of
professed nuns on March 25, 1465, for which favour she was more than
grateful. On that day, therefore, she made her first vows, kneeling
before Donna Giustina in the chapel and having in her hands the written
formula which, signed by Eustochia herself, is sacredly preserved among
the treasures of her order.

From that day forth Eustochia gave herself up entirely to prayer and
meditation, neither appearing in the parlour nor even speaking to any
of the sisters, except only when absolutely necessary. And the demon
never ceased from tormenting her daily and in many ways; but without
being able to disturb the heavenly serenity of her.

Thus Eustochia entered upon her twenty-third year, and the time was
come (in accordance with the custom in convents of those days) for her
to make her final vows and to take the veil. This she did at the hands
of the chaplain—being confined by her extreme, increasing weakness
to her bed—on September 14, 1467, the feast of the Exaltation of the
Cross. At this time the community, now so altered in its sentiments
towards Eustochia, was in fear of soon losing her from its midst, so
exhausted and emaciated was she in consequence of her persecution by
the spirit that possessed her; but, to the general astonishment, she
proceeded to recover rapidly and, a week after her reception of the
veil almost “in articulo mortis,” Eustochia was once more well enough
to go to church and there to repeat her vows in public.

From being despised and shunned by all as a sorceress and supposed
murderess, an object of horror and suspicion not only to the inmates of
the convent but to the townspeople of Padua as well, Eustochia was now
the glory of her convent and the model of her sisters in it; the whole
town joined them in extolling her constancy in affliction and in doing
honour to her sanctity.

So much for the judgments of this world!

As for Eustochia herself, she remained the same through good and evil
report. From her cell where she passed her time there floated out now
and again a burst of golden song in praise of God, so tender and sweet
as to ravish the hearts of those that heard her; on these occasions the
other nuns thought of her rather as an angel than a human being. It was
during this last phase of her life that there was celebrated at Venice
the marriage of Caterina Cornaro with James, the King of Cyprus. The
report of the splendours in connection with this wedding was brought
to Padua, where for many days there was talk of little else. But “I
would not exchange my pains and dolours against all the pomp of them,”
remarked Eustochia quietly. To such a point of virtue had she attained
that she was only afraid lest Heaven should order the Devil to leave
her in peace—and so she might be in danger of losing her humility.
At this time she ate only once a day, and on two days of each week
abstained altogether from food of any kind.

Towards the end the Demon, despairing almost of her, turned his
activities to Father Salicario, whom he contrived to inspire with the
strongest personal dislike for Eustochia. This design, however, of
separating her from the kind friend of whose services she felt herself
to be hourly more in need, Eustochia defeated by means of commending
her need to the Mother of God and of reciting a hundred times the
“Ave Maria,” the result of which was always to bring the chaplain to
her. As Father Salicario afterward testified to many, he felt himself
compelled by an irresistible force to go to her at such times, his own
disinclination notwithstanding.

It was not until eleven days before Eustochia’s death, at the feast of
the Purification, that the evil spirit seemed to have been commanded
to desist from doing bodily violence upon her; and now he redoubled
his efforts to gain possession of her soul. A week before she died
she received the last Sacraments, which were administered to her in
church—to the general astonishment—in view of her feeble condition.
Having returned to her bed of pain, Eustochia became absorbed in
heavenly contemplation; when, all at once, she was attacked by a legion
of hateful fancies, and there passed before her dying eyes a train
of spectral revellings—from dances, feastings, and wedding banquets
to other and darker things such as she had never given a thought to
in the days of her youth and health. All she told to her friend, a
certain Sister Euphrasia, remarking how the human soul is liable to
such sensual temptations even on the brink of the grave, adding her
conviction that God does not abandon His creatures in their supreme
struggle.

And so the hour of her death—which she had foretold—drew nigh for
Eustochia. On the day—a Sunday—before that appointed from the beginning
of all time for her departure out of this life, Eustochia made her
confession and received absolution for the last time; then, begging
Euphrasia to keep watch with her in the Valley of the Shadow, the
little servant of God waited patiently for the end.

The last night of Eustochia’s life, that of Sunday, February 12-13,
1469, drew on during some hours in utter stillness for Euphrasia,
as she sat beside the bed in the dimly lit cell. Suddenly, towards
morning, she became conscious of a disquieting, stealthy sound, as of
a man climbing up the outer wall of the convent towards the roof—an
altogether unbelievable sound to Euphrasia’s ears, considering the
physical impossibility of such a thing. Nevertheless, as she listened,
incredulous yet affrighted, the slow dragging of hands and feet over
the smooth surface of the wall was distinctly audible to her; until,
at last, the noises passed away into the silence overhead, and all was
quiet once more, save for the laboured breathing of the form on the
bed.

And then Euphrasia’s eyes fell to the face of Eustochia, who was
sleeping, and she saw that it was smiling, and all luminous with a kind
of unearthly brightness; so she understood that what she had heard was
the departure of the evil spirit from the body of her whom he had been
permitted for so long to torment. These sounds were audible to all in
the convent, by whom, and by Father Salicario, they were held to be
those of the demon’s reluctant flight.

In the morning, the Abbess with her nuns came, at her request, to
say farewell to Eustochia, kneeling about the bed in prayer for
her, the while she thanked them, as she expressed it, “for all your
long-suffering and patience with me.” After which she still found
strength to ask their “pardon for all the bad examples I have given you
and all the inconvenience and embarrassment of having me among you.”

Then, having bidden them “_Arrivederci in Cielo_,” so affectionately as
to wring the hearts of all who heard her, Eustochia, folding her hands
upon her breast, fell asleep with a smile. Nor was it until some time
had elapsed that they could bring themselves to believe that she was
really dead.

When Eustochia was laid out in the chapel, all the town flocked to
do honour to the body, which, as we are told, exhaled a very sweet
and noticeable fragrance. She was first buried in the cloister of the
convent, where her remains were disinterred on November 16, 1472, in
the presence of many witnesses, who testified to it that the body was
still precisely as it had been in the moment of her death, perfectly
incorrupt and supple and deliciously fragrant. In 1475, however, the
coffin was transferred to the church and a marble monument raised above
her resting-place; meanwhile, as though to mark the spot formerly
hallowed by being the depository of Eustochia’s body, a spring of
purest water burst up out of her first grave in the cloister; which
spring became a famous resort for the sick, of whom multitudes
recovered their health by drinking of it.



CHAPTER XVII

A SKETCH OF VERONA

  Personality of Italian Towns—Verona—Its History—Early
  Years—Ezzelino da Romano, Unique in Cruelty—Wholesale Execution
  and Imprisonment—Pope Alexander IV Assails the Monster—Ezzelino
  Wounded and Captured—Suicide—New Line of Despots—Cangrande della
  Scala—Dante and Petrarch—Further Lords of Verona—Later History—The
  Drei Kaiser Bund.


Almost every ancient Italian town possesses some distinctive attribute
of its own, whether of pure beauty or grandeur or sanctity; or, else,
of mere gentle charm, gladsome or melancholy, such as Sorrento or
Ravenna; but of them all perhaps the most richly endowed—Rome itself
alone excepted—with stirring memories of the men and their deeds, good
and bad, of bygone ages, is the city of Verona.

One of the earliest—and very possibly, too, one of the
best—representations of Verona is to my mind that visible in the
background of the painting of the deposition of our Saviour from the
cross, by Paolo Morando, better known as Cavazzola. In that picture the
artist gives us a wonderfully vivid impression of his native town, as
a pile of old masonry incasing a hill that rises up from the bank of
a river—the Adige—against the cold clear sky of an evening of spring.
This picture was painted about 1520, a few years after the restoration
of Verona to the Venetian Government by Francis I of France, after
wresting it from the Emperor of Germany, Maximilian of Hapsburg.
Thenceforth its history was comparatively uneventful, that of an
appanage of Venice, until the Napoleonic era, when the French took the
town, afterwards sharing it for a space with the Austrians, 1798-1800.
From then on the allegiance of Verona was claimed—and enacted—in turn
by France and Austria until it became part of the King of Sardinia’s
territories after the peace of Nikolsburg in 1866.

But it is in the history of Verona’s earlier days that we find her
greatest glories side by side with her greatest suffering, from the
nightmare of the attempt upon her sovereignty by Ezzelino da Romano to
the “Golden Age” of the Scaligeri.

Ezzelino, hereditary lord of Bassano, was one of the leaders of the
party of the Ghibellines against the Guelphs, and a supporter of the
Hohenstaufens in their unavailing contest for the supremacy in Italy.
Never has any human being earned so dark a character for cruelty as
Ezzelino; never, until our own day, in which (1906) the “Viedomosti”
of Moscow suggested the massacre of a million people as the means
of quieting the Russian revolution, has any one aspired to rival
Ezzelino’s record as a slayer of unarmed people. Beside this man,
such small fry as Cromwell, Gilles de Retz, and their kind sink into
insignificance. The Florentine historian, Villani, describes Ezzelino
as “the cruelest and most terrific tyrant that ever existed among
Christians. By his might and tyranny he lorded it for a long time
over the March of Treviso and the town of Padua and a great part of
Lombardy. He made away with a fearful part of the citizens of Padua,
and blinded a great number, even of the best and noblest among them,
taking away their possessions and sending them adrift to beg through
the world. And many others by divers torments and martyrdoms he put to
death, and in one hour caused eleven thousand Paduans to be burnt.”

Ezzelino’s principal opponent in the city of Verona and the surrounding
country was the family of San Bonifacio, who headed the party of the
Guelphs. In truth, Ezzelino himself would appear to have been simply
a madman, hæmatomaniac; although, at the same time, he showed energy,
resolution, and shrewdness altogether beyond the ordinary, so that the
Emperor Frederick made him his Vicar in the north of Italy. One city
after another found itself compelled to submit to Ezzelino; Verona,
Vicenza, Padua, Feltre, and Belluno, together with many other small
towns and strong places, succumbed to him. A small, wiry man and pale,
with hair, as we are told by a contemporary, “between the white and
the red,” Ezzelino’s very look is said to have struck terror into the
majority of those who beheld him. The only good deed recorded of him
was his interfering to put a stop to the sack of Vicenza in 1236, when,
in company with his master, the Emperor, he wrested the city from the
Guelphs. Ezzelino’s object in doing this seems to have been less one,
however, of humanity than that of acquiring for himself the gratitude
of the citizens whom he intended to make ultimately his own subjects.
As an instance of the discipline maintained by him, it is told that, on
this occasion, on finding his orders disobeyed by a captain of German
“Landsknechts,” he cut the man down on the spot, so that the rest of
the soldiery were awed into good behaviour. No sooner, however, had
they departed from it than Ezzelino, as the Imperial Commissary of the
town, proceeded to set up a special tribunal on his own account, by
means of which he speedily put to death some two thousand citizens of
Padua that he found there, in revenge for the action of their native
city in having declared against him a short while previously. Here,
too, as also at Verona, many nobles were burned in the public square,
after having been dragged for miles at a horse’s tail.

It was not until the following year—1237—that Ezzelino succeeded in
reducing Padua itself to submission. The Paduans he hated even more
venomously than he hated the rest of mankind, because of their long
resistance to him; for Padua, the City of Saint Anthony, had all along
been a stronghold of the Guelph party; that is to say, of the Church,
in her struggle for civilisation and humanity, against the Emperor and
his barons who were opposed to any lessening of their power by the
erection of popular institutions. The wars between the Guelphs and
their opponents, the Ghibellines, began in the Eleventh Century and
lasted for some four hundred years; during which period innumerable
despots ruled over various cities and districts in Italy, putting
to death countless thousands of their fellow-creatures and, very
frequently, meeting their own end at the hand of murderers either by
dagger or poison. And, of them all, Ezzelino was the most universally
execrated by reason of his monstrous cruelty.

On this occasion of his capturing Padua, therefore, Ezzelino
indulged his love of bloodshed without stint. It was on this occasion
that nearly eleven thousand—ten thousand and eight hundred, to be
exact—Paduan soldiers were burned by his orders. The chronicler says
that they were burned “in an hour”; but that is obviously impossible. I
doubt whether Ezzelino, in those earlier stages of his career, ever had
more than from twenty to twenty-eight thousand men under his command at
once; and so it is probable that the executions were continued during
a number of days or, even, of weeks. At the same time he built no less
than eight prisons in Padua, two of which held each three hundred
prisoners; and albeit the executioners were never idle, yet those
prisons were always kept full.

It is said that thousands perished in these and similar dungeons of
Ezzelino at Verona, Vicenza, and Cittadella. The prisoners included
young boys and girls, and also little children, with whom were huddled
grown men and women of all ages and conditions; many died from want
of air, and many went mad and attacked their miserable companions. And
whenever any one died in prison, his or her body was left there to rot
among the living until the next cleaning of the prison—which only took
place at regular intervals of three months.

One of Ezzelino’s most detestable exploits was achieved on his capture
of Friola, when he caused the entire population to have their eyes put
out, and their noses and legs cut off, and then to be thrown out beyond
the town in still living heaps of bodies.

And once he came nearly to a premature end, when one of the House of
Monticoli, whom he had insulted, sprang upon him and so tore his face
and neck with teeth and nails that Ezzelino bore the marks of them for
the rest of his days; so frightful, too, were the tortures inflicted by
Ezzelino upon his victims that one of them once—a certain man—fearing
lest his sufferings might make him betray his friends, bit out his
tongue and spat it into the face of Ezzelino, who was watching him
being fastened to the rack. His own father-in-law, the father of his
third wife, Beatrice Maltraversi—of the same house, I take it, as the
English family of Maltravers—he had thrown into prison and starved to
death.

In the year 1255, however, Pope Alexander IV issued Letters of Crusade
against the monster—Ezzelino had already long before been laid under
the ban of Major Excommunication—and gave the Papal Benediction to
all who joined themselves to the forces preparing to deal with that
enemy of the human race. The Archbishop of Ravenna was appointed to
the chief command and he was soon joined by the troops of Venice and
of Este. But the victory was not to be an easy one; for three whole
years the contending forces wrestled with each other in Lombardy and
Venetia, until Ezzelino was at last defeated and captured, on September
16, 1259, in a battle on the banks of the Adda. Thence he was taken,
desperately wounded, to the castle of Soncino for safekeeping, with
the intention of bringing him to trial for his enormities; a design
frustrated by Ezzelino himself, a few days later, when, in a fit of
rage and despair, he tore the bandages from his wounds and so bled to
death.

The downfall of Ezzelino it was that ushered in the advent of a nobler
race of despots—the Scaligeri—in the person of Mastino della Scala,
who was elected Chief Magistrate of Verona by the people on learning
the glad news of Ezzelino’s death; and, in 1262, they chose him to
be “Chief of the People.” Mastino was a Ghibelline, however, and his
popularity could not endure for ever among a populace that had already
suffered so much from its subjection to that party. On October 26,
1277, Mastino was stabbed, together with his friend Antonio Nogarola,
near his own house; and to him succeeded his brother Alberto, who was
the first of the Scaligeri to place the family on a semi-royal footing
by means of his conquests and the matrimonial alliances arranged by him
for his two eldest sons, Bartolomeo and Alboino. It was the youngest,
however, of the nephews of the murdered Mastino, Cangrande della Scala,
who was to prove himself the greatest of them all. On the death of
Bartolomeo, the eldest of the brothers, Alboino assumed the reins of
government in Verona, and called in Cangrande to assist him.

Cangrande—“The Great Dog”—was the very “beau-ideal” of a despot;
as splendid in his person and mind as in his disposition and his
victories, his is one of the most striking figures of the Middle Ages.
As Boccaccio says of him, he was “one of the most noted and magnificent
lords known in Italy since the time of Frederick II,” and the Guelph
historian Villani styles him “the greatest tyrant and the richest
and most powerful prince that has been in Lombardy since Ezzelino
da Romano”; whilst Petrarch styles Cangrande “the consoler of the
houseless and the afflicted,” in commemoration of Cangrande’s kindness
to Dante when the latter was exiled from Florence, as well as of the
hospitable treatment accorded to other unfortunates by the generosity
of “The Dog.” Among these guests of Cangrande were included many of
his prisoners of war, such as Giacomo da Carraraam and Albertino da
Mussato, whom he treated with all the courtesy and consideration shown
by him to his voluntary guests, such as Dante himself and Spinetta
Malaspina.

In spite, however, of Dante’s very real gratitude to Cangrande, there
grew up a coldness between them which seems to have been mainly brought
about by Dante’s unsociable and critical temperament. It was no less
experienced a judge of men and of the society of his time than Petrarch
who writes of Dante and his relations with Cangrande:

   “When banished from his country he (Dante) resided at the court
   of Cangrande, where the afflicted universally found consolation
   and an asylum. He was at first held in much honour by the Dog
   (dal Cane), but afterwards he by degrees fell out of favour, and
   day by day pleased less that lord. Actors and parasites of every
   description used to be collected together at the same banquet;
   one of these, most impudent in his words and in his obscene
   gestures, obtained much importance and favour with many. The Dog,
   suspecting that Dante disliked this, called the man before him,
   and, having greatly praised him to our poet, said: ‘I wonder how
   it is that this silly fellow should know how to please all, and
   that thou canst not, who art said to be so wise.’ Dante answered:
   ‘Thou wouldst not wonder if thou knewest that friendship is
   founded on similarity of habits and disposition.’ It is also
   related that at his table, which was indiscriminately hospitable,
   where buffoons sat down with Dante, and where jests passed which
   must have been repulsive to every person of refinement, but
   disgraceful when uttered by the superior in rank to his inferior,
   a boy was once concealed under the table, who, collecting the
   bones that were thrown there by the guests, according to the
   custom of those times, heaped them up at Dante’s feet. When the
   tables were removed, the great heap appearing, the Dog pretended
   to show great astonishment and said, ‘Certainly Dante is a great
   devourer of meat.’ To which Dante readily replied, ‘My Lord, if
   I were the Dog, you would not see so many bones’—‘Se fosse io
   il Can non si vedrebbe tante osse,’—meaning that, if he had been
   Cangrande, he would have had fewer and choicer companions at his
   table.

   “From the strength and glory of his position in Lombardy,
   Cangrande would appear to have been designated by Dante as the
   one man fitted to unite the entire peninsula of Italy under
   his own rule. This belief of Dante’s, according to many of
   his commentators, is expressed in what has become known as
   the ‘Veltro prophecy’ in the first Canto of the ‘Inferno,’
   the passage where the poet, finding his way barred by the
   leopard—‘quella fera alla gaietta pelle,’—is saved from it by the
   shade of Virgil, who explains to him the pure character of the
   heart which, as he says, ‘is but the hungrier after banqueting.’

   “And then the shade continues:

   “‘Many are the animals with which this beast doth mate, and
   there shall yet be others still, until the greyhound comes that
   is to make the beast die painfully. He (the greyhound) shall not
   feed on land or gold, but on wisdom and virtue and love. And his
   country shall lie between Feltro and Feltro; and he shall be the
   saviour of this lowly Italy.’

   “And again, at perhaps the most disputed passage of the entire
   ‘Divina Commedia’ (Purgatorio, Canto XXXIII, line 46), Dante
   speaks of a mysterious personage who is to do great things and
   of whom he speaks as ‘A five hundred and ten and five sent
   by God’—‘Un cinquecento diece e cinque, messo di Dio’—which
   numerals, as is held by many, have reference to no other than
   Cangrande himself, and that the DXV of these numerals and the
   ‘Veltro’ of the former prophecy are only meant to signify one and
   the same person—the lord of Verona.

   “And, in fact, Cangrande became in 1313, on the death of Emperor
   Henry of Luxembourg, the natural leader of the Ghibellines and
   the mainstay of their hopes in Italy—for his was an united and
   a single authority in his dominions, whereas the rule of the
   Visconti in Milan—the other great Ghibelline centre—was as yet
   but feeble by comparison and very uncertain. From then until his
   death Cangrande devoted himself to furthering his pet project
   of a federation of Italian States under his own leadership—but
   without success. He came to his end at the untimely age of
   thirty-eight, July 22, 1329, as the effect, according to Mr.
   Ruskin, of ‘eating apples when he was too hot.’ By then Cangrande
   had compelled nine other cities besides Verona to pay yearly
   tribute to him as their sovereign lord—Padua, Vicenza, Treviso,
   Brescia, Feltre, Belluno, Parma, Modena, and Lucca—their
   collected addition to his revenues being, as Villani said,
   ‘more than 70,000 florins of gold, which no other Christian King
   possesses, unless it be the King of France.’”

After Cangrande’s demise, however, the lordship of his dominions fell
into very different hands. He was succeeded by his two nephews, Mastino
and Alberto, of whom the elder was devoured by an insatiable ambition
to extend his lordship still further and to make of it an independent
kingdom and the arbiter of Italian destinies; whilst the younger,
Alberto, was merely a man of pleasure. Thus it came about that before
long Mastino had engaged his people in disputes with the republics
of Florence and Venice and the clans of Este, Visconti, and Gonzaga;
Alberto, as his subscription to the general ill-will, having at the
same time inflicted an outrageous wrong upon the great Paduan house of
Carrara in the person of one of its women. So that the Scaligeri had
to contend with external foes and with rebellion as well. By the end
of 1339, ten years after Cangrande’s death, their dominions had been
reduced to the two cities of Verona and Vicenza; moreover, Mastino had
been excommunicated for killing his uncle’s kinsman, Bishop Bartolomeo
della Scala, in anger at some remonstrance on the prelate’s part. His
repentance, though, was sincere and lasting; for it is said of him
that, after the crime, he never again suffered any living being to
look upon his face, not even allowing his wife, Taddea de Carrara, a
relative of the lady injured by Alberto, to behold it. Mrs. Wiel, in
her brilliant history of Verona, to which famous work I would fain
express my immense obligation, is of the opinion that this tradition
may well owe its origin to the fact that the armoured equestrian
statue of Mastino, over his tomb in Verona, is represented with the
vizor down, as indicating Mastino’s desire to conceal his features
permanently from sight.

But from now on, for more than forty years, murder plays almost the
chief part in the chronicle of the Scaligeri. After Mastino came
his son, Cangrande II, who was murdered by his younger brother,
Cansignorio, aged twenty, with his own hand on December 14, 1359.
Soon after, Cansignorio was proclaimed, together with his own younger
brother Alboino, lord of Verona, but soon Cansignorio exiled Alboino
to Peschiera, because he was afraid of the youth’s popularity with
the citizens. Years went by whilst Alboino lay in exile at Peschiera;
during which years two natural sons, Bartolomeo and Antonio, were
born to Cansignorio in Verona. Cansignorio, however, was not fated to
live long, for death came to seek him out in his thirty-sixth year,
but he knew of its certain coming some time beforehand, and faced it
resignedly. But, even while he was dying, the news was circulated in
the streets of Verona that his brother Alboino had suddenly died at
Peschiera—of poison, as the people declared, in order that he might
not succeed to the lordship that Cansignorio had destined for his own
illegitimate sons. But then every death of which the cause was not
quite plain was ascribed to poison in those days, so that it seems only
charitable to believe that public opinion may have been at fault in its
verdict upon the death of Alboino della Scala.

Cansignorio himself died on October 19, 1375, and his sons, Bartolomeo
and Antonio, reigned for a while together in his stead. But Antonio was
infected with ambition to be the sole ruler of Verona; moreover, he was
jealous of the love which all who knew him bore toward Bartolomeo.

Now it chanced that the latter, in the month of July, 1381, was
courting a beautiful daughter of the family of Nogarola, whose dwelling
stands in the street of “the two Moors,” not far from the palace of the
Scaligeri. Bartolomeo, though, was not her only suitor, for he had a
rival in the person of a cadet of the house of Malaspina. And Antonio,
seeing how the thing was, resolved to make use of this situation to rid
himself of Bartolomeo and to reign alone in Verona. Accordingly, on the
evening of July 12, 1381, he hired a number of “bravi,” or professional
assassins, and concealed them in Bartolomeo’s apartments in the Palazzo
Scaligeri. Later on, Bartolomeo, who had been hunting, came home
attended by a friend called Galvani, and they supped together, after
which the two lay down and fell asleep; thereupon the murderers came
out from their hiding-place and killed the sleepers with many blows
of their knives, Bartolomeo receiving as many as twenty-six stabs, all
in front. Then the “bravi,” having draped the bodies in black mantles
with hoods that they pulled over the faces of them, carried them
noiselessly down out of the palace and through the deserted streets to
the “piazzetta” of Santa Cecilia, where they left them at the door of
Palazzo Nogarola—so that all might believe the murder to have been the
work of that family. And there the dead Bartolomeo and his friend were
found in the morning by the indignant citizens of Verona, who had loved
Bartolomeo more than they loved his younger brother.

But when they came to Antonio with the dreadful news, he feigned
great sorrow and anger, and declared it to be his belief that the Lord
Nogarola, together with young Malaspina, had committed the crime in
order to be revenged upon Bartolomeo della Scala for having dishonoured
the girl to whom, as was well known, he had been paying court.

And then, that all men might accept his story for the truth, Antonio
had Nogarola arrested, with Malaspina and the girl herself, and
condemned them to be tortured in order to make them admit the truth
of his villainous accusation. But without success; for not one of the
three would consent to confirm the lie in spite of their torments,
and it is recorded that the girl even expired on the rack sooner
than satisfy the demands of her torturers. The fortitude of the
victims now began to have its influence upon public opinion, which
came round ultimately to the conviction that Antonio himself had
caused his brother to be assassinated for his own private ends, a
conviction that was soon voiced aloud wherever men met together in
Verona; so that Nogarola and Malaspina had to be released and declared
innocent, greatly to Antonio’s rage and confusion and to the joy
of all good men. Shortly afterwards, Antonio found an opportunity
of turning away the thoughts of his subjects from these events, so
unfavourable to himself and his popularity, by ordering a series of
feastings and entertainments on the occasion of his marriage to one
of the most beautiful and the most foolish women of that or any other
age—Samaritana de Polenta, the daughter of the neighbouring despot of
Ravenna. Of Samaritana it is recorded, as an instance of her folly,
that she would not put on even a pair of stockings unless they were
decorated with jewels.

The festivities were held in the great Arena and were a complete
success, so far as Antonio’s design of averting the popular reprobation
from himself was concerned. Nevertheless, they were destined—together
with the coming of Samaritana—to usher in a period altogether
disastrous to Antonio’s fortunes, by reason of the fatal extravagance
that now seized upon the administration and court of Verona, and the
consequent increase in the taxation of the people. Soon, Antonio found
himself compelled to engage in war with his neighbours of Padua, much
as did Napoleon III in 1870 and with almost exactly the same result.
For the Veronese troops, softened by disuse and led by incompetent
generals, suffered defeat after defeat at the hands of their opponents
under such experts as “Aucúa” (Sir John Hawkwood) and Giovanni d’Azzo;
until at length Antonio, deserted by all who had once fawned upon him,
fled from his capital under cover of a night of November, 1387. On the
next day the town declared for the Visconti, the lords of Milan. In
the meanwhile Antonio della Scala was making his way to Venice with
Samaritana and their one small son; and there he died in August of
the following year, leaving his wife and son to be cared for by the
Venetian Republic, which settled a small annual pension upon them, and
so ended the reign of the Scaligeri over Verona.

The Arena of Verona, above mentioned, is a very ancient and very
perfectly preserved amphitheatre in the centre of the town; so old
is it, indeed, that no man may say with certainty when it was first
erected, although there seems little doubt but that the Romans were
the builders of it. The Arena has been the theatre of every imaginable
kind of spectacle, savage and solemn and pathetic, from the martyrdoms
of early Christians and the gladiatorial combats of Trajan’s day, down
through the ages to the bull-fights of Napoleonic times and the last
scene of the Austrian domination in Venetia, when the Italian soldiers
captured during the battle of Custozza were brought into Verona in the
course of the afternoon of June 24, 1866, to be confined in the old
amphitheatre.

In the month of July, 1805, Napoleon, who was then returning to Paris
after his coronation as King of Italy at Milan, arrived at Verona
and expressed his wish to witness a bull-fight. Such a spectacle was
accordingly organised for his pleasure, and the great man came to
preside over the entertainment in the Arena on the afternoon of the
16th of the month—at the very moment when he was straining every nerve,
politically speaking, to prepare for an universal European war, and
while his fertile brain was completing the details of his projected
attack upon the English coast from Boulogne.

The account of this bull-fight says that a fine, courageous bull was
loosened, and overcame, one after another, the dogs that were set
on to it, until Napoleon, carried away by excitement, ordered that
two, and then three, dogs should be set on to the bull at once; this
number proving insufficient, moreover, the Emperor commanded that all
the dogs kept there for purposes of bull-baiting should be let in to
attack the bull simultaneously. Needless to add that the unlucky bull
was eventually overpowered by its numerous adversaries and that it
succumbed beneath their combined attack. It was at this point that one
of Napoleon’s general aides-de-camp turned to him, with the laughing
suggestion of a warning to be gathered from what had just passed
beneath their eyes: namely, the danger of a general hostile alliance of
the European Powers, the which it might well be possible for Napoleon
to defeat one by one, or even by two or three at a time, but which
must as certainly succeed in overcoming him when united by the bond of
their common danger. We are not told what answer Napoleon returned to
this; but it certainly did not influence him, seeing that he at once
set himself to defeating the most formidable of his opponents, Austria,
England, and Russia—an undertaking in which the disaster of Trafalgar
was well balanced for him by the triumphs of Ulm and Austerlitz.

It is recorded, too, that he returned to Verona for a repetition of the
detestable entertainment in the Arena in the month of November, 1807;
but that on this occasion the bull-fight was spoiled for him by the
early on-drawing of the night—which is not surprising when we read that
the spectacle did not begin until half-past four in the afternoon! The
last of these loathsome affairs took place, it is grievous to think,
under good Archduke John of Austria, in the autumn after Waterloo, on
the occasion of his assuming the functions of Governor of Venetia—the
solitary instance of his sanctioning anything approaching cruelty. It
was in the Arena of Verona that my dear old Adelaide Ristori made her
first bow to the public of Northern Italy, although she was already
well known to that of Rome. I cannot say at this moment precisely
when she first acted in Verona; but I fancy it was at some time in the
forties of the last century, the “roaring forties,” when Venetia was
making ready for the eruption of ’48. Verona was the special darling of
“Father” Radetzky, of whose beloved Quadrilateral it formed the chief
fortress, and it was he who fortified it so well and lovingly as to
make it well-nigh impregnable. It was to Verona, moreover, that he fell
back with his small but well-disciplined army during those dark days of
May, 1848, when, as the poet Grillparzer wrote in a poem addressed to
the fearless old hero:

    “We others are but scattered ruins,
    And in thy camp alone is Austria.”

From Verona, too, it was that the Austrian troops took train in
the July of 1866, under Archduke Albrecht, to go up into Moravia to
the assistance of Benedek’s army; and from Verona it was that the
Archduke’s historic telegram was despatched, on receipt of the news of
Sadowa, to the Emperor at Vienna, bidding him take heart and have no
fear for the outcome of the struggle: “Nothing is lost yet so if only
both Army and People will spurn discouragement from them. After the
defeat at Regensburg came the glorious day of Aspern....”

But it was in vain that the lion-hearted Archduke tried to obtain the
prolongation of the struggle; the country was willing to do its best,
but the Emperor, by force of his responsibilities, was forced to view
the matter from a different standpoint. It went against his conscience
to lay a further burden of sacrifice and suffering upon his people, and
so he did not hesitate to take upon himself the heartbreaking decision
to suspend hostilities. The decision, too, however painful, was a wise
one; and from that hour Austria has never ceased to grow in health and
strength until to-day, when her position in the councils of Europe is
once more what it was under Maria Theresa. Let us hope soon to see the
time when, as her best friends have never ceased from urging her to
do, Austria will put aside all the petty difficulties that have come
between her and her mighty eastern sister, and so will join herself
to Russia, together with Germany, in a firm and lasting renewal of her
only natural policy—that of the Dreikaiserbund, the good old alliance
of the three Emperors. In regard to this question, I wonder if I may
be allowed to quote the dying injunction of the Emperor Nicholas to
his son, the Tsarevitch Alexander, in 1855—“And tell Fritz” (Frederick
William III of Prussia) “not to forget Papa’s words”—by which he
referred to the advice given by Frederick William II to his son, to the
effect that he ought never to let anything interfere with the natural
alliance of Prussia with Russia.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE BRAVI OF VENICE

  Fascination of Venice’s Criminal Administration—Lords of
  the Night—Secret Detectives—Degeneration of Republic—Hired
  Ruffians—Their Murderous Activities—An Escapade of Pesaro, Paragon
  of Bravi—Gambara, Last of the Despots—Open War Against Law and
  Order—Final Pardon.


Of all subjects connected with old Venice, in the popular mind, that of
her criminal administration is one of the most fascinating by reason of
the endless traditions of mystery and terror with which it is fraught,
and, of all historical executives, the Venetian “Signori di Notte”—the
Lords of the Night—appeal the most irresistibly to the normal curiosity
inherent in most people.

The very notion of the nocturnal jurisdiction implied by the title of
that famous Board carries with it a suggestion of secrecy and of an
unseen process of justice more or less summary, but invariably sharp
and decisive. The members composing the Board were frequently of noble
birth, and their official position was not unlike that of the Triumvirs
of ancient Rome. Their functions, at the time when the Board first came
into being, in the Twelfth Century, were those of police-chiefs and
commissioners of sewers. They were responsible thus for keeping watch
over the streets by night, and for seeing to the repairing of bridges
and highways. In this manner they soon came to acquire an expert
knowledge of those parts of the city that needed watching, either on
account of the questionable condition of their buildings or else by
reason of their being the favourite haunts of the criminal part of the
population.

Under them, less in the character of ordinary police than of a secret
detective force, were the “sbirri,” over whom they assumed special
control after the unhappy affair of the conspiracy of the Marquis of
Bedmar, the Spanish Ambassador, in 1618, when he plotted the overthrow
of the Republic; a design frustrated only on the very eve of its
accomplishment. The method employed by the “sbirro” in arresting his
man was to throw his cloak over the victim’s head and to lead him, thus
muffled and blindfolded, to prison. Occasionally, also, the “sbirro”
was the owner of a sponging-house, to which he would conduct his
prisoner and there detain him until certain demands were satisfied—much
as happened to Captain Rawdon Crawley in “Vanity Fair.” It was in this
manner—by muffling with a cloak—that the unfortunate Cavaliere Antonio
Foscarini was arrested in 1622, on a charge of conspiring against
Venice with the Spanish representatives at the Villa Dolo, the house
of Lady Arundel and Surrey, where, together with her husband, she
was living for the benefit of their children’s education. The charge
was a false one, but Foscarini was strangled for it and his body
was afterwards hung up between the Red Columns in the Piazza of St.
Mark—the usual place of executions—for the public to gaze upon.

But the chief quarry of the “sbirro” was that most romantic of figures,
the “bravo”! The “bravi,” originally merely the retainers of noble
houses, became, with the increasing degeneracy of the Republic in the
Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries, more and more mere murderers and
ruffians, who plied their trade quite frankly for hire. The system
ordinarily in favour among such members of Venetian society as had
a grudge against any one of their neighbours was to send out for a
“bravo”—they were always to be found at certain places and hours—and
to bargain with him for a price that depended upon the extent of the
hurt to be inflicted. I have seen one of the daggers used by such
professional “bravi” and very curious they were, being crucifixes, of
which the upper part of the cross and the transverse formed the hilt
and quillons of a murderous-looking knife, its long double-edged blade
having three lines engraved across it. The purpose of these lines
was to mark the exact depth of the wound, whether slight, or severe,
or mortal; if it were only desired that the lowest of the lines—that
nearest the point—should be the depth of the stab, then the price
was a small one; if the second line, then a larger sum of money would
be necessary; and for the third, the uppermost line, a proportionate
amount was demanded.

The alliance of the “bravi” with the upper class of Venice was from the
first a natural one; for the common people has never any need of the
services of hired men to settle its quarrels for pay. As a result of
the wars of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries there had sprung up
a large class of impoverished or ruined adventurers, who were willing
to lend their services to any cause, public or private, for hire; some
such, it is said, were generally to be found in the number of the
patricians privileged to sit on the benches of the Great Council as
the supreme national body was called. By degrees these impoverished
patricians, who were designated under the name of “Barnabotti,” drew to
themselves the lawless element of the population and yoked it, through
custom and mutual necessities, to their service, until the thing came
to such a point that no wealthy or noble family of Venice but counted
its dozen or its score of such retainers, thus establishing a return to
the feudal principle of a State—or, rather, States innumerable—within
the State; each of which was a law unto itself. The only modern
institution comparable to the “Bravi” is that of the so-called “gunmen”
of New York, with their system of hire and their deadly feuds between
gang and gang. For the records of the “bravi” show many such public
floutings of law in Venice. In the year 1539 a certain individual,
who would certainly seem to have been attached in some way to the
establishment of the French Ambassador, having committed some crime or
other, was chased by the “sbirri” to the French Embassy in the Calle
San Moisé, where he found refuge from his pursuers, all Embassies being
removed by international usage beyond the sphere of police activities.
The situation, then, was an extremely sensitive one; so much so,
indeed, that it was thought advisable by the “Capo della Sbiraglia,”
or chief of police, to send for an Advocate of the Commune, one Zorzi,
that he might request the delivery of the criminal with all possible
courtesy. Zorzi, on reaching the Embassy, met three of the members of
its staff in the courtyard, and begged that they would make known his
coming to the Ambassador. Instead of complying, however, they only ran
back into the house, shouting to those within to make ready to bar the
way; and Zorzi, on following them with some of the “sbirri,” found the
staircase held against his further advance by a crowd of ruffians,
while others were beginning to hurl down furniture and household
utensils out of the windows on to the heads of the “sbirri” below. So
that the prudent Advocate withdrew with his police and reported the
matter to the Council of Ten, which promptly sent a force of soldiers
to the Embassy to seize the original criminal, who had taken refuge
there and, with him, all the other resisters of Messer Zorzi and the
police. The Council had acted thus in spite of its all but certainty
that the King of France would declare war on Venice for her violation
of his Embassy; but, to its relief, no notice was taken of their
action. It was quite certain, though, that the French Ambassador was
in the habit of employing “bravi” about his person; and his colleague
of Spain appears to have been guilty of the same delinquency. In
1556 Edward Courtenay, Lord Devon, died at Padua, of low fever,
as was supposed, but in reality he was murdered by a “bravo” of
Dalmatia, Marco Risano, in the pay of Ruy Gomez, the Spanish Minister.
Courtenay’s papers were placed for safekeeping in the hands of the
Paduan authorities until the pleasure of Queen Mary should be known
concerning them. The Council of Ten, however, was enabled to obtain a
knowledge of their contents by means of its officer, the “Podestà” of
Padua; and certain documents which proved that Courtenay had been an
agent and spy of France were found among the papers and purloined by
the Council.

A typical “bravo” of a certain kind was a hardened blackguard of noble
family called Leonardo Pesaro. He is said to have combined in his
own person all the vices of the age in which he lived, the end of the
Sixteenth Century and the beginning of the Seventeenth. Again and again
this scoundrel was arrested and expelled from Venetian territory as
an undesirable citizen; and, as often, he would return either to the
capital or to one of the provincial cities, Padua or Vicenza or Verona.
At last, though, in 1601, Pesaro crowned all his other achievements by
one of the most shameless outrages ever perpetrated upon the laws of
any country.

The way of it was this: On the last day of February of that year,
Pesaro, happening to pass beneath the window of a woman called Lucrezia
Baglioni, who was leading a bad life under the protection of a nobleman
named Paoli Lioni, called out some indecent jest to her and asked her
to repeat it from him to Lioni. That same evening Pesaro returned to
Lucrezia Baglioni’s house, where she was giving a banquet to a newly
wedded pair, Lioni being of the company as a matter of course. It
seems that Pesaro must have seen them both together at the window, for
he repeated his jest of the afternoon loud enough to be overheard by
Lioni, to whom, I fancy, he was unknown.

“What are you saying there, fool?” asked Lioni, with a pleasant
condescension, smiling down at him from the iron balcony.

“What I please,” Pesaro retorted, “and if any one wishes to cross
swords with me, I am at his service!”

From this it seems evident that Pesaro was in the pay of some enemy to
Lioni and that he had thus sought an occasion of affronting him, and
so of drawing him into a duel; which motive of Pesaro’s is confirmed
beyond all doubt by what happened next.

On hearing this challenge, Lioni mildly withdrew from the balcony into
the room, drawing Lucrezia with him, unwilling to expose her or his
own dignity to the insolence of the unknown roysterer in the street:
whereupon, Pesaro, seeing himself baulked of his prey, went off to his
lodgings, put on his breastplate, mask, and morion, and then collecting
a few of his fellow-bravi went with them to find Camillo Trevisano, who
was his partner and the junior member of their firm of “bravi.” Having
found Camillo, he clapped him on the shoulder, saying, “Come! there is
a job waiting for us!”

And Camillo, nothing loath, put on his own armour and his mask and went
with Pesaro to the house where Paoli Lioni and Lucrezia Baglioni, all
unsuspecting of what was on its way to them, were feasting and making
merry with their friends. The “bravi,” on reaching the house, had
no difficulty in effecting an entrance, and, rushing up the stairs,
burst into the chamber where Lioni and Lucrezia were seated at table
with their guests. There followed a prolonged scuffle, in which Lioni
was slain and Lucrezia received a murderous beating from the small
shields carried by some of the bravi—from the effects of which she
was eventually so fortunate as to recover—whilst others fell upon the
assembled company, wounding several members of it, and extinguishing
all the lights save one, a torch held in one hand of the bridegroom the
while he defended his wife from her assailants with a chair.

This was the last of Messer Pesaro’s exploits, however, for the
“sbirri” were sent out to take him; and, although he contrived to
slip through their fingers, yet a decree of banishment was issued
against him, together with Camillo Trevisano and another of their gang,
Gabriele Morosini, and a price was set upon their heads. After which we
hear no more of him.

Mr. Hazlitt tells us[28] how the Sieur de la Haye, in writing of the
Venetian aristocracy in the year 1670, mentions that, “whether they
were in their coaches or on horseback, they were accompanied by a
rabble of Hectors they call Bravi, many times only in ostentation, but
too often for a worse end.”

In the greater number of crimes perpetrated by the “bravi” of the city
of Venice itself during the worst period, that of the Seventeenth
Century, they appear to have done less with sword and pistol than
with the arquebus and the stiletto; the employment of the latter is
comprehensible enough on grounds of stealth and convenience, that of
the arquebus I find less easy to understand, for it was an exceedingly
clumsy weapon and possessed, as were all firearms of those days, of a
tremendous “kick.” The only reason imaginable for its use is that it
had the advantage of killing at a longer and, consequently, a safer
distance for the murderer than a pistol, which could only be counted
upon at a very short range.

It was not, however, until the comparatively recent epoch of the last
half of the Eighteenth Century that the “bravo” as an institution
acquired his widest celebrity by the commission of what were
practically acts of open warfare against the then moribund Republic of
Venice. These acts were committed under the leadership of a man the
like of whom Italy had not known since the days of the Despots, one
Count Alamanno Gambara, a native of the parts about Brescia.

Gambara may well and reasonably be called the Last of the Despots, for
he was assuredly the last private person to terrorise a large district
of Upper Italy, with both comparative impunity and a certain measure
of hereditary authority. As one of Thackeray’s characters says of Lord
Mohun in “Esmond,” he could handle a foil—and a bloody one, too—before
ever he learned to use a razor. At an age when most boys are in the
Fourth Form of an English public school, Gambara was the terror of the
countryside in which his paternal castle of Pralboino was situated; so
that, when he was only about fifteen years old, the Venetian Government
found itself compelled to place him under restraint, his father being
dead and his mother unable to control him. Finally, he was confined as
a prisoner, first in Verona and then in the fortress of Palma, from
the latter of which he escaped; for a while he wandered about the
country, pursued by the police, who were unable to lay hands on him,
until at last he decided to surrender himself to the authorities, of
his own accord, which he did, and was exiled to Zara, the Governor of
Dalmatia being requested by the Venetian Government to treat him with
all possible consideration and to provide him with good company for the
benefit of his moral welfare!

Gambara, however, was soon allowed to return to his estates, and once
there lost no time in gathering about him a bodyguard of “bravi,” with
whose assistance he soon signalised himself in various encounters with
the representatives of law and order in the province. Having engaged
upon a kind of warfare with the Customs officials at Calvisano—a
village near Porella, some distance south and east from Brescia—a
detachment of Gambara’s bandits raided the Custom-house there and
killed one of them, beating the others and all but murdering their
captain as well. On being summoned to appear before the Council of Ten
at Venice, to render an account for his misdeeds, Gambara retorted by
fortifying his two castles and adding to his little army of “bravi,”
thus openly setting the law at defiance. And now a reign of terror was
inaugurated by him and by his henchman, Carlo Molinari, the head of his
band of assassins.

This period of Gambara’s career terminated with a peculiarly atrocious
episode. His protection having been sought by a smuggler, Gambara took
the man in as an additional member of his band. Shortly afterwards,
a party of police happening to enter his territory in search of the
smuggler, Gambara invited them to pass the night with him as his
guests. This invitation they foolishly accepted, and the next day their
dead bodies, hidden under a covering of green boughs, were brought into
Brescia in a cart, which was left opposite the house of the Venetian
Podestà or Governor of the city.

The result of this diabolical exploit was that Gambara was forced to
seek refuge in flight—what other consequences he could have expected
one cannot imagine—and he retreated into the neighbouring Duchy of
Parma. Before long, though, he petitioned the Venetian Government to
pardon him, which it was weak enough to do, and so he returned to his
estates, where he continued to live—spending a good part of his time in
Venice itself—much as he had done before. I do not know when he died,
but I fancy he must have attained to a ripe old age, dying somewhere
about the beginning of the Nineteenth Century. One can only hope that
the grace of a final repentance may have been granted to him!



CHAPTER XIX

LEGENDARY VENICE

  Venice, Bride of the Sea—Its Glorious Children—Pledge of the Crown
  of Thorns—The Miracle of Saint Saba’s Relics—Intellectual Humility
  and Faith—St. Mark, Patron of the Venetians—Theft of the Saint’s
  Remains from Alexandria—Reception in Venice—Early History—Tales of
  Hardships—The Gate of the Damsels—Legends of the Saint.


There is hardly a street or a building in Venice that cannot flower
with some whisper of legend, if the soil of its story be but cultivated
with determination; but a house-to-house search would involve the
labour of years; and, though the pursuit of legend is doubtless an
enthralling business, yet life is a small package, and it is difficult
enough to find a room in it for all that it has to contain.

Still, if I am fortunate enough to lead some, through the lure of the
legend, to the serious study of the history from which the legend is
culled, my labour will have been repaid many times over. In the rush
and scurry of to-day, when excitement is mistaken for labour and bustle
for speed, scholarship—that is to say, the real and serious study
of real and serious subjects—has become, except for the illustrious
few, a thing of the past; but those few have gathered together, for
our benefit, a precious mass of material, a rich harvest of romance
wherewith we can brighten many a heavy hour; so let us wander into the
garden, culling as we go, and acknowledging our heartfelt gratitude to
those who planted it at the cost of such infinite toil.

The Bride of the Sea, seen from the distance, seems to rise like
a softly coloured pearl from the misty embrace of the waters, and
the effect is one of such awesome charm that, for a while, the
mind can hardly carry the suggestions that crowd in upon it. What
Venice contains! Is there any city in the world, save only Rome
and Jerusalem—the cradle and the House—that can compare with that
jewel-case?

The home, in one way or another, of Titian, Tintoretto, Giorgione,
Veronese, and Barbari—the story of Venice is so illuminated with the
glory of her children that its tragedy is almost lost in it, as black
rocks emerge with their surroundings in the glint of the mid-day sun.
From its meagre beginnings—a few slivers of land, half covered by the
sea, where some hundreds of exiles took refuge and sheltered themselves
in huts of mud and osier, down through the ages, she comes like an
Easter “Gloria”—first a whisper, then a murmur, and then, from note to
note, onwards and upwards, to the crashing splendour of her triumph.

Venice has grown old now, and she is content to doze in the sun’s
warmth and to dream of the golden past. Her gates are open now to
inquisitive sightseers, and one can imagine her smile of amusement
when, every now and again, some impudent brat digs her in the ribs,
Ruskin-like, and bellows his fortnight-formed opinions of her in her
ear.

“Oh, you were beautiful!” they cry, “but what a shocking condition
of ignorance and idolatry you did live in! Of course you could not be
expected to be as wise as Manchester or as spiritually enlightened as
Piccadilly Circus—still!”

“Still?” she answers mildly. “I once held the Crown of Thorns in my
hand—did you know that? It was a very long time ago—seven hundred years
and more—but I did.”

It was soon after the death of John of Brienne, when the revenues of
France were so eaten up by wars—with Bulgaria among others (it seems
queer to think that that state which has been fighting the battle of
the Crown so gallantly should once have been the cause of the pawning
of the Crown!)—that the government of the Regency was compelled to
open subscriptions for a loan. The one movable thing of value which
they possessed was the Crown of Thorns, and this was given in pledge
to a certain Albert Nerosini, as representing the Venetian and Genoese
merchants who had taken up the loan (one wonders that some of them were
not struck dead for the impious sacrilege!). It was taken from its
resting-place in the chapel of the Bouillons, and, after the term of
the loan had run out and the payment of the note was not forthcoming,
by an arrangement with a rich Venetian banker, made in order to evade
a scandal (one cannot help thinking that it was a little late in the
day to be talking about a “scandal”), it was transferred for the sake
of safety to the Church of Pantocrates, in Constantinople, whence, in
the case of the Regency failing in the performance of its agreement,
the banker was at liberty to remove it to Venice and keep it there for
a further term of four months; also, it was agreed that if the money
was not paid by the 19th of June, 1238, the Crown should become the
property of the mortgagee.

We are not told what the Holy Louis IX of France said when he came
to hear of this transaction, but when we remember that in those rough
times even the most saintly of men were apt to “let fly” upon lesser
occasions and under far less temptation, one can imagine. He acted,
however, with commendable promptitude and sent off two Dominicans on
the spot to Constantinople to redeem the relic from pawn and bring it
back, if possible, to their own country—a congenial task, no doubt, to
the sons of St. Dominic.

It was a long journey that they had to make before they completed
their mission, for the Imperial government had not liquidated its
obligations, and the owner had already hired a ship to convey the
Cross, and had set sail some time before the two monks arrived
at the Golden Horn. But they tracked it to Venice, and there they
obtained an audience with the Doge, Tiepolo, who must have been in
an extraordinarily good temper, for him, for he seems to have made no
objections, either to the audience or to taking them in person to St.
Mark’s, where he showed them a golden casket, sealed with his own arms,
wherein lay the treasure they sought.

Louis IX had picked his men well, they paid the mortgagee instantly,
and as instantly claimed the restitution of the Crown. It is rather
difficult to see upon what they based their claim, but it was a pious
age and they seem to have had no great difficulty in obtaining the
surrender of it, for they were well on their way home before any
question arose upon the subject between the Imperial government of
Constantinople and the banker from whom they had redeemed the Crown.

Upon their return to Paris, Louis took the Crown in procession to
the Sainte Chapelle, which had been built especially to contain it,
carrying it in his own hands and walking barefoot and in his shirt
through the streets, and there it remained for many centuries, to
attest the devotion and piety of the Royal Saint.

The Venetians appear to have been ardent collectors of sacred objects
at all times, for it is related that, as early as 992, a certain
Pietro Barbolano, afterwards Doge, having been sent upon a diplomatic
mission to the Byzantine Court, came across the remains of Saint Saba
and conceived an ardent desire to transport the holy body to his own
country. In parenthesis, and without in the least impugning the moral
sense of either party to the transaction, the bargaining that followed
between Barbolano and the officials, for the purchase of the Saint’s
remains, makes queer reading. There seems to have been no hesitancy in
haggling for the relics, and no sense of any sordidness or sacrilege.

Even the storm that descended upon Barbolano on the night of his
embarkation does not seem to have carried any message to him, but the
priests were alarmed and begged him to reconsider his intention. But
he, being on the spot with his two sons and some servants, soon had
the casket on board, and set sail. The weather cleared up and equable
winds soon brought them to the Venetian shore, when Barbolano ordered
the chest to be transferred from the ship to his own house, which stood
next to the Church of Sant’ Antonino at Olivolo. But the casket would
not move. So heavy had it grown that no human agency could be found
to lift it an inch; and, while they were still struggling with it, the
bell of the Campanile began to peal so violently as to make the great
tower rock.

A crowd speedily assembled, and Barbolano, grasping the message of
the bell and the meaning of the casket’s weight, fell on his knees and
said: “We will carry it into the Church, for the will of the Saviour
has been declared that the body shall rest in the shrine dedicated to
his servant, St. Antoninus!”

Immediately the casket became as light as a feather, when it was
conducted with all pomp to Sant’ Antonino and laid upon the altar.
As the casket touched the stone, the bell of the Campanile ceased
its clamour; and then, over the remains, appeared a Dove of wonderful
whiteness of plumage, which only disappeared after the “Te Deum” had
been sung and the services concluded. An altar was built for St. Saba
behind the choir, and the casket was placed in the Treasury of the
Church.

It is told besides how, on that same evening when the “Piovano” of
Sant’ Antonino was strolling about his garden, among some rose trees
which he had recently planted there, he noticed a flower of such
unearthly beauty that he immediately ascribed it to the miracle which
he himself had just witnessed.

I can almost see the smiles with which many good people will read
this little story, but permit me to suggest, with all the most
kindly and friendly feelings possible, to such that, once the human
intelligence—and I care not whose it is—is permitted to grapple,
unaided, with the possibilities of an Infinite Power, spiritual
destruction is the invariable result. “Whosoever shall fall upon this
stone shall be broken—but on whomsoever it shall fall it shall grind
him to powder!”

Legend and fact, faith and inspiration are so intermingled that to
separate and classify them is impossible to any intelligence not
directly inspired. But it is not a bad thing to bear in mind, if only
for the sake of acquiring that intellectual humility without which
the production of good work is impossible, that the veriest fool can
disbelieve. It requires no brains or study whatever; but to grasp
and retain faith, based on conviction, and supported by reason, is an
extremely difficult task, even for the strongest mind. Indeed, were
it not for the grace of the Almighty aiding, I think very few, if any,
could accomplish it.

The devotion of the Venetian to St. Mark is as great as that of the
southern sailors to St. Antoninus. They were always a pious people
and had carried about with them many relics, so that some discussion
(probably tinged with acridness, since in these matters each had his
peculiar devotion for his own) took place as to the choice of a holy
patron, for the new settlement, when the descendants of the pioneers
found themselves in a position to honour one with a suitable edifice—an
insurance, so to speak, of the continued attention of the Almighty.

There was a legend, no doubt the smoke of some far-off fire of fact,
that St. Mark the Evangelist had been shipwrecked upon the shore of
Rialto and that, on landing there, he heard a voice from the emptiness
of the island that said, “Pax tibi, Marce, Evangeliste meus” (Peace be
with thee, oh, Mark, my evangelist!), words which afterward became the
motto of the Republic.

St. Mark thereupon grew in honour among the Venetians, until he had
assumed the position of Patron, and it was not long before the idea of
bringing back his body, which reposed at Alexandria, began to take hold
of the common mind. But, unfortunately, Alexandria was in the hands of
the Mussulman, and the Emperor had forbidden any intercourse with the
unbelievers, even for the purposes of commerce.

Now the Emperor’s interdictions were not to be lightly disobeyed, life
and fortune being the usual penalty; but the Emperor was far away and
St. Mark could hardly refuse to have any one going on such an errand in
his keeping. He was an Evangelist, too—a mighty man and one who stood
very near to the throne; so, commending themselves to his protection,
two Venetians, merchants and navigators—Burno da Malamoceo and Rustico
da Torcello—fitted out a very fast boat with merchandise for the East,
and set sail, leaving no address.

When they reached Alexandria, they stayed on board until the evening,
and one can imagine them sitting on the deck and watching the slow
setting of the sun over the blue waters, their eyes straying hungrily
to the city as it faded, shade by shade, into an amethystine obscurity.

They were running more risks than that of the Emperor’s wrath that
night, and they must have talked long ere they arrived at a plan of
action for getting the body of the Saint on board. It would not be
tamely surrendered, that was sure; in fact, as they knew, it would
not be surrendered at all. They would have to take it, and, besides,
transport it through the city afterwards.

When at last the night gathered the world into its mantle, they left
the ship and were rowed ashore, when, taking their courage in their
hands, they hurried through the soft eastern dusk towards the Basilica
where the body was kept. How they came to know their way to it, history
does not say, and that tangled maze of buildings which was Alexandria
must have been a business to thread, seeing that they spoke no language
which the common people in the streets understood. However, they
eventually arrived at the Basilica and opened communication with the
men in charge of the Church.

They seem to have gone straight to the point, for in a very short while
they succeeded in bribing these latter (one can only speculate on what
they must have been compelled to pay!) and in obtaining possession
of the treasure. That done, they placed it in the bottom of a cart
and filled the latter with as much salt-pork as the mules could draw,
knowing well that no Mohammedan, however casual, would touch the
unclean meat or even approach it, after which they retraced their way
through the sleeping city and smuggled their prize on board.

They slipped out to sea while it was still dark, and, the wind holding,
made the return journey swiftly. Coming near to their destination, they
sent on a light boat to carry the good news and to give the city and
its rulers time enough to arrange for the triumphal reception which
they were sure would not be grudged to the freight they were bringing.

Nor were they disappointed. The population came down to the shore of
the Lagoon _en masse_, and the four greatest nobles of Venice carried
the casket on their shoulders to the private chapel of the ducal
palace, where it was to lie in state until a church could be built for
it, amid cries of “Viva San Marco” that swept over the city and from
island to island.

And it was thanks to the Evangelist that the scattered factions
in Venice drew together again and became true Venetians, for their
allegiance to him bound them gradually to each other.

The early history of Venice is a succession of wars, foreign and
internecine, as has been the experience of every tribe and race that
has risen above the common herd. She came to greatness in battle, and
sank to littleness in peace. Without strife—without the continuous
necessity of keeping herself in readiness for self-defence—she
relapsed, like all the rest, and sank into insignificance. Muscles
unused will soon become useless, and this result will gradually affect
the whole system.

As early as 809, she was important enough to attract the enmity of
Charlemagne, who sent a fleet under his son Pepin to the skirts of the
Lagoon. Then it was that Venice awoke to find herself a cause, for, in
the face of the Franks, the partisan warfare ceased and under Badoer
the Venetians stood together, back to back, and succeeded in handling
Pepin hard enough to make him see the wisdom of leaving them in peace
in their islands afterwards.

Situated as they were, they were the natural prey of freebooters of
all sorts for centuries. It was an old custom with them that on the
eve of St. Mary’s twelve poor girls, endowed by the State, should
be married to their lovers in the Church of St. Peter the Apostle at
Olivolo. On the 31st of January, 939, some corsairs who happened to be
in the neighbourhood, resolved to abduct these Daughters of St. Mark,
knowing that the general festa would make a surprise easy and defence
difficult, if not impossible.

Now the parents and kinsfolk of the lucky virgins and their betrothed
used to assemble on these occasions on the island of Olivolo, where
stood the Church, and from the dawn the barks skimmed the canals, gaily
dressed with flowers and flags, bearing the happy couples to San Pietro
with their dowers and wedding presents; so the attackers, conducted by
their chief Gaiolo, a renowned ruffian of that period, hid themselves
the night before the festival in the thick woods of Olivolo, and the
next morning, so soon as the procession had passed through the doors,
they crossed the narrow canal and ran at the Church.

The rites had begun, and the brides were on the point of being handed
over to their future husbands, when the doors were flung open and
the Church was filled with armed and yelling men, who dragged the
girls from the altars, flung them into their boats, and sped away for
Trieste.

The Doge was the first to grapple with the situation and rushed out,
accompanied by the maddened bridegrooms, and called every one within
hearing distance to arms. Some boats belonging to the Trunk Makers of
Santa Maria Formosa being near by, the Doge and his companions jumped
in, seized the oars, and pulled with frenzied energy for the lagoon
of Caorla, where the rapers still were. Thanks to their knowledge of
their own waterways, they caught their enemies in a creek, now called
the Porto delle Donzelle (the gate of the damsels) and, with ferocious
delight, set upon them.

The fight was a prolonged and bloody affair, but the outraged lovers
avenged themselves very completely, by all accounts, for hardly a
corsair escaped, and the girls were carried back to Olivolo, when the
interrupted rites were completed and the tide of enjoyment allowed to
rise to unusual heights in the feasting that followed.

In later years, to commemorate the incident, twelve young girls used
to pay a visit in the company of the Doge to the Trunk Makers of Santa
Maria Formosa on that date. It is said that the custom was originated
by the Trunk Makers themselves, who requested the Doge to make the
visit and even went so far as to offer the latter a new hat, in case
of rain, which often resulted in another custom, that of supplying the
Prince on these occasions with two hats and two bottles of wine.

There are several legends of St. Mark extant, but perhaps the most
interesting of them is one dating from a flood to which Venice was
subjected, owing to a gigantic tidal disturbance in 1340.

It was on the 15th of February that the storm was at its worst, and by
nightfall the dry land was almost submerged beneath the raging waters.
A solitary sailor, hugging his cloak to himself, was standing in the
windy downpour, as evening fell, on the Piazzetta of St. Mark’s, when
he heard himself addressed by name and, turning, saw beside him a tall
and venerable person, who spake in a tone of calm authority: “I am St.
Mark the Evangelist. Take me over to San Giorgio!” The man hardly dared
to move, but awe getting the better of fear, he obeyed, and ferried the
saint to San Giorgio, where, waiting for them apparently, stood a stout
looking personage, whom the terrified ferryman presently learnt to be
St. George. As soon as the latter was on board, the Evangelist directed
the sailor to proceed to the Lido, where a third traveller was added to
the party, in the person of St. Nicholas.

The sailor, his fears calmed by the presence of three such holy ones,
proceeded to carry out the Evangelist’s further instructions without
hesitation, and rowed out into the tempest that was lashing the seas
into a screaming fury. On they went, the waves, though mountain high,
doing them no harm, until they seemed to be enclosed in caverns of
water; and then, in an instant, they were surrounded by legions of
devils, howling and whooping and leaping about in the air.

But these latter were not left long to triumph in the success of their
wickedness. Any one of the three saints would, probably, have been
strong enough to disperse them, but the combination was irresistible
and, after a brief resistance, they were exorcised and sent packing.
Then St. Mark held out a ring to the sailor, telling him to take it to
the “Procuratori,” who would give him five ducats; and, before the man
had time to recover his breath and voice his gratitude at the splendid
reward, he found himself alone in the boat.



CHAPTER XX

A DOGE’S LIFE

  A Wicked Son—Becomes Doge—His Marriage—Ambitions—Venice a Huge
  Conspiracy—The Palace Surrounded—His Fate—Venetian Ideals—Story of
  a Feud of the Tenth Century—Opened with an Assassination—Murderer
  Upheld by the Emperor—Venice Attacked—A Civil War in
  Venice—Uprising of the Citizens—Another Doge—Building of St.
  Mark’s—The Doge and the French Abbot—The Doge Become a Monk—A Story
  of Marion Crawford’s.


The son of that Doge who rowed after the corsairs and helped to
recover the brides, wrote a fiery and bloody chapter in the history of
Venice—and died in the writing. He began early in life to plot against
his father, who, feeling the weight of age and responsibility pressing
hard upon him, allowed his son to sit beside him and help him in the
business of ruling the State.

No sooner did the former feel the sceptre in his hands than he began
to plot against the parent who had permitted him to handle it, until he
was caught in the act, and only rescued from the mob who sought to kill
him in the nick of time. His father then sent him into exile.

Human nature is a bundle of contradictions bound together with cords
of training and pushed along by an intermittent moral energy, which we
call conscience. An individual under given circumstances will attempt,
at least, to guide his actions by some sort of reasoning; but place
that individual in a crowd that is fired with excitement, in the same
circumstances, and five times out of seven that individual will cease
to reason at all. He will be caught up in the whirlwind of the mob’s
emotions and do things that will make him blush ever after to think
about.

Which, perhaps, accounts for the fact that, though Pietro Orosino
ravaged the coast line and plundered the Venetians for years, yet in
the end they presented him with the throne, and deposed his old father
who had ruled them wisely and well during those years, to do so.

Then Pietro, having at last got his opportunity, proceeded to show the
world what kind of a man he was. Feeling the need of the Emperor’s
friendship, he drove the unfortunate woman who had married him into
a convent and sent her son into a monastery, after which he married
the sister of the Marquis of Tuscany (who must have been a person of
singularly plastic morals), and being now a connection by marriage
with the Emperor he proceeded to further fortify his position
by establishing his kinsfolk in half a dozen other States, where
they became people of the first rank and of considerable power and
influence.

Now Pietro’s wife was a German Princess (even in those far-off times
most of the disposable royalties seem to have been Germans) and he
placed German troops in the fortresses of Ferrara, which she had
brought to him. Then, as a final buttress to his strength, he organised
a small army of professional soldiers as a bodyguard. As soon as he had
accomplished that, he began a systematic cutting of all the ties that
bound him to his duty towards the Venetians and attempted to dismiss
his counsellors.

That was as far as he was allowed to go. The first families—who had
ambitions of their own—quietly armed the people, and presently Venice
became one huge conspiracy, and one night, at a given signal, the
palace was surrounded and every avenue of escape cut off. Then Pietro,
sitting in the upper part of the Palace, heard the roar of the mob,
rising and falling and rising again like the bellowing of a pack of
wolves, and knew that his fate had leapt upon him out of the silent
night, as fate has a habit of doing.

His terrified men informed him that every exit was blocked and, having
given him the information, separated and scurried away into corners
and hiding-places like rats, all save a faithful few, who stood by
him; and with them and his wife and child he ran for a private passage
which connected the Palace with St. Mark’s, hoping to take sanctuary
there. But the conspirators knew of the passage, too, and there they
were waiting for him, when he stumbled through the dark, and there they
killed him and his child and every man that was with him; but they let
the woman go—fortunately as it proved for them—for Pietro’s wife was
kin to the Emperor.

In view of the fact that the story of Venice is so stormy a one, it is
interesting to note that all the early ideals of the Venetians ran in
the direction of peace and mutual equality, and so determined were they
that discord should not be permitted to raise its head that they made
their very dress conform to their desires and adopted a long, loose
dress, which would be most inconvenient for hot-blooded people who
might be apt to quarrel upon small pretexts.

They left these ideals behind them, however, as the State grew and
flourished. It is not in the Latin temperament to tread too narrow a
road, so far as the passions are concerned, and, even to-day in the
south, if one man has the misfortune to slay another one, he has always
two pleas to make, either of which will, as a rule, find a sympathetic
hearing in court. “La passione” is the first—and any moderately
good reason for rage is generally all that is asked for, by way of
explanation. “Scirocco” is the second, and that covers everything from
a broken dish to a slit gullet. No one is supposed to be quite in his
or her right mind while the close, hot, dry African wind is blowing.

A certain Doge of the name of Ziani, who lived in the beginning of the
Thirteenth Century, happened to hear that his son, while bathing near
the Abbey of San Giorgio, had been attacked by some dogs belonging to
the monks, and had been very badly bitten, so badly indeed that, at the
time, he was not expected to recover. Flying into a rage of truly ducal
proportions, the ruler instantly ordered the monks, the monastery, and
the hounds to be burnt—all together. The monks appear to have escaped,
but the house and the dogs were destroyed before the Doge had time to
rescind the order. In true Latin fashion, of course, he repented of his
decree, just too late to prevent its execution; and, in his repentance
for the sacrilege, he undertook to rebuild the monastery at his own
expense and take upon himself, besides, an annual pilgrimage, as an
additional penance. He was a man of the most kindly nature and of a
most pious disposition!

To illustrate the combination of romance, tragedy, loyalty and
treachery, piety and brutality that characterised the time and the
place, few better examples can be found than the story of the feud
between the Caloprini and Morosini in the Tenth Century.

It arose over the hoary question of whether the friendship and support
of the Eastern or the Western Empire was most to be desired for the
good of the State. This, to be sure, was only a peg on which a private
feud was hung, and neither one house nor the other, as far as can
be ascertained, had the slightest personal leanings either in the
direction of Otto or of the Byzantines. It was enough that a certain
amount of popular feeling could be roused and a certain number of the
common citizens could be induced to quarrel on the subject, while the
great Houses were always to be depended upon when either loot or power
was dangled before them.

The Caloprini opened their political campaign by the assassination of
the most prominent member of the opposing faction, Domenigo Morosini,
who is said to have been a person of the most exemplary piety—and his
naked body was discovered in a boat near one of the water gates. It was
asserted, and with some show of truth, that he had been set upon, while
coming out of church—he had made a tactical error in going to worship
in the district over which the Caloprini held sway—and had been beaten
to death by some ruffians in the pay of Stefano of that ilk. The boat
being handy, they had pitched the body into it and had allowed it to
drift whither it would.

To Stefano’s surprise, the citizens of Venice seemed to regard the
affair with real anger and disgust; but, knowing the form which their
resentment would probably take, he forestalled their intention, by
slipping out of the city one cold, wet evening with several of his
followers and arrived, after a long journey, at the Court of the
Emperor.

Here Stefano flung himself at the feet of authority and, in terms
almost abject, begged the Emperor to look with pity upon his,
Stefano’s, beloved State, torn with the dissensions of wicked men, who
had driven him and his companions into exile for no reason except that,
being people of some position and of grave and pious character, they
had attempted to reason with the belligerents and had refrained from
mixing in the ungodly business. How much of this Otto believed it is
hard to say, for he appears to have withheld any definite statements
until the preamble was over. Continuing, Stefano, on his own account,
offered Venice to the Emperor, with all its contents, adding that, in
the case of the former’s acceptance, he would be more than pleased
to act as the Emperor’s Viceroy and would guarantee a solid yearly
tribute. History asserts that Stefano was believed to be honest, but by
what process of reasoning the belief was arrived at we are not told.
At any rate, it did not take the Emperor very long to decide upon the
annexation of the province, the governorship of which was at the same
time offered to that sterling patriot, Stefano.

The first step the Imperial Court took was to declare a blockade and a
cessation of all commercial intercourse between Venice and the Empire.
The former was then declared to be in a state of siege. The blockade
was cheerfully undertaken by Stefano in person, whereupon the Bishop
of Belluna descended upon Città Nuova, which was now defenceless, and
sacked it thoroughly.

The government of Venice fulminated against the traitors, but, beyond
soothing their own outraged pride, the verbal thunders accomplished
little or nothing. It is difficult to make any pretence of serious
protest upon an empty stomach, and Stefano must have laughed consumedly
when he heard about it.

But, just as Venice was about to surrender to the inevitable,
Providence came to its aid and removed Otto by means of an ague, when
the Imperial policy was promptly reversed by the two Regents, and
Stefano was out in the cold once more. As Napoleon once observed, “La
fortune de la guerre est bien capricieuse!”

It was an awkward situation that he was in, to put it mildly.
Forgiveness and charity were not salient features of State policy in
those downright times, and everything that he owned on earth was in the
State which he had been so active in attempting to starve, and of whose
recent inconveniences and humiliations he had been the direct cause.

He contrived, however, to wheedle one of the Regents, Adelbert by name,
into interceding with the Venetian Government for him, and they, partly
out of gratitude to her and partly out of a desire to remain in the
good graces of the Imperial Government, consented to the Caloprini’s
return. But Stefano never saw Venice again, for he died before the
negotiations were concluded, so that his sons had to return alone and
face their fellow-citizens as best they could without him.

On their return, they discovered that the Morosini had not been
standing still in their absence, for they had brought the Doge and his
family into an alliance with them, and the feelings of the two brothers
were not improved by the more or less open detestation of every soul
in Venice. Not that they would have ever owned that the affection
or hatred of the common people was a matter of any interest to them
whatever, but such things make themselves felt constantly, through any
armour of indifference, however strong.

The position became more strained with every passing day, and it was
not long before the embers, fanned by such inspiring winds, burst into
flame, and civil war broke out again as merrily as ever. This time it
ran its course, and for three or four years Venice was in its grip
until at last, one morning as the two brothers were entering their
gondola to return home, they were set upon by some of the Morosini and
stabbed.

Then at last Venice rose in its wrath and demanded satisfaction, vowing
that a term should be set to the horrible state of things, when the
city was at the mercy of a single family, who did what they pleased
with whom they pleased, and of a Doge who was their ally. The latter
vehemently disclaimed any connection with the affair, but they paid no
attention to his protestations and he, realising that the supporters of
the Caloprini were strong enough, with the public fury at their backs,
to overthrow him, stepped down from the ducal throne and retired into a
monastery, where, soon after, he died.

He was not the only Doge to leave the world and fly to the spiritual
life.

One Oneolo, the successor of that Candiano, of whose tragic end I have
already written, was elevated to the Dogeship in spite of himself,
while the aftermath of the hurricane that had destroyed Candiano was
threatening to destroy Venice; outside influences, too, were adding
their quota to his heavy responsibility, for the dower of Candiano’s
wife had to be repaid and the Emperor was behind her. The Ducal Palace
and St. Mark’s had to be rebuilt, and he was a poor man, but, despite
his poverty, he surrendered a very large part of his personal property
to the building of St. Mark’s, and sent far and wide for workmen
worthy of the task. He did not do anything by halves, for he gave to
the Church some of its most beautiful possessions, and raised a great
hospital opposite the ducal palace, besides.

He did not have much political peace during the time that he was
striving so hard and sacrificing so much for Venice and the Venetians,
for the Candianos, recovering their balance, plotted against him
ceaselessly; but he seems to have borne his trials with a strength and
a constancy hardly of this world, consoling himself with daily visits
to the poor and afflicted and the joy of giving to them everything that
he could spare—and, very often, a good deal that he could not.

He met with small encouragement from any one. The people were not
enthusiastic over his diligence in repairing the damage which they
had done, and only the very poor ever really loved him, while the
great Houses were monuments of silly wickedness and selfishness from
whom nothing useful could be hoped or expected; so that it can be
easily understood that the advent into his life of a really good and
intelligent person must have come near to unsettling his mind for the
time being.

It happened that among the crowds of pious visitors to the shrine of
St. Mark, during the second year of his reign, there was a certain
Frenchman, Abbot of a monastery in Aquitania, and, the instant
attraction of kindred souls drawing them to one another, the Abbot
became the Doge’s confessor, counsellor, and friend.

When, at the end of the day, his last visitor dismissed, his last
piece of business despatched, Oneolo could close the doors of his
palace upon the world, one can imagine the relief and joy with which
he would draw up his chair beside the Abbot, and lighten his heart
of all the accumulated resentments, fears, and worries of the day,
immersing himself in the priest’s description of the holy sweetness
and sanctified calm of a monk’s life. Oneolo was a born monk, and he
must have felt, as he sat and listened, much as a soul in the purifying
fires of purgatory may feel when the gates, far above him, are opened
for a moment to allow some fortunate soul to creep in, and it catches
between the opening and the closing a sight of the Heavenly City and
obtains a breath of the perfumes of the Celestial Rose Garden.

But, ardently as Oneolo desired the cool shades of the cloister, he
could not leave the hot sands of public life yet. There was too much to
be done, and well he knew that only his possession of the high office
kept it safe from the fiery, blood-spotted hands of his enemies and the
State’s.

He thought over it a long time, and at last came to the conclusion—a
quite unfounded one—that twelve months of hard work, of hand and brain,
would suffice to put the affairs of the Republic into such shape that
he might safely leave them to her to attend to. So, redoubling his
efforts, he slaved on, always with the shining vision before his eyes.

I suppose, as the months went by, that the desire fed his imagination
and that the possible through sheer longing became gradually
probable, and, as happens with so many people, that the mind thrown
forward constantly to realisation at last staid there, far ahead of
accomplishment.

At the end of the year, he had barely begun the long process of putting
the business of the Republic into a condition in which a successor
could handle it, but when, with the autumn, the Abbot came back to
Venice, Oneolo was ready to leave. So, in the dusk of the morn, a
cloak thrown over his shoulders and wrapped around his face, he stepped
into a boat, and the two were pulled silently and swiftly through the
sleeping city to the mainland, where they got into their saddles and
galloped away into the night.

He had a hard time at first, for his healthy appetite needed stronger
fare than the rule of the order which he entered prescribed; but he
persisted, and when, years afterwards, he passed away, his canonisation
followed, so that he became, as he would have wished to become, a
permanent glory to his State and an example for future ages to follow.

There is one pretty story connected with a Candiano—a flower in that
waste of thorns—which I have taken from my brother’s “Salve Venetia.”

It has to do with a certain Elena of that name, who fell in love with
a man who was her social inferior in every possible way. He was poor
and a plebeian, either of which was to be the mud in the canal of the
Princely House that held the Dukedom so many times. Elena’s father was
even more prejudiced than the rest of his kin at that time, if such a
thing is possible, and had been looking around him covetously, even
since Elena had been a small girl, for some youth whose wealth and
blood might make him a possible match for a Candiano.

In the meanwhile, as has been said, Elena had also cast about her,
unconsciously as a creeper winds itself about its supports, and, having
no worldly judgment to handicap her choice, selected the man who could
fructify her soul, rather than one whose worldly prospects she would be
expected to enrich.

Very secret she must have kept it, for, innocent though she was and
untouched by the coarsening finger of the world, she knew perfectly
well what would happen to young Gheravdo Guvro if word of her spiritual
escapade should come to the ears of her gentle men folks, and, of all
the world, only her old nurse was in the secret. The old woman was
devoted to her and, being a plebeian herself, her class sympathy went
out towards the young man, so that she helped the lovers to meet again
and again and whenever the chance offered itself.

This sort of thing could not last for long, even with the most virtuous
disposition and the best of intentions, and it was not very long before
the natural consummation of the affair came, and they were secretly
married.

Then, safe in the irrevocable nature of the bond, Gheravdo sailed away
to make his fortune, as do the Calabrian youths of to-day, leaving
his wife behind him—and, considering the moral characteristics of her
kinsfolk, he seems to have taken some considerable risks.

Before he was fairly off, Pietro Candiano informed his daughter that he
had found that for which he had been searching and that he was going
to marry her without any possible delay to a gentleman of the name
of Vittor Belegno. Upon learning this, the girl’s heart stopped and
she fell into a trance, which resembled death so closely that she was
placed in a coffin and put away in the Cathedral before the evening.

Then luck stepped in, and Gheravdo, for some reason or another
returned, only to hear upon arriving of her sudden death. Frenzied, he
ran to the Cathedral and, with the aid of the sacristan—obtained in the
usual fashion—opened the tomb and wrenched the lid from the coffin.
Taking the beloved head in his hands, he smothered it with kisses,
crying and sobbing over it until, to his amazement and joy, a tinge of
colour appeared in the silk-white cheeks, and, under his rapturous,
half-incredulous caresses, the body lost its rigidity and the blood
stole back into the cold limbs, and he lifted her out, babbling his
gratitude to the Almighty, and carried her away.

It is said that when her father set eyes on her his joy overcame
everything else in him, and that he gave her to Gheravdo, gladly and
without reserve, but upon that I, personally, have my doubts. Still it
may have been, and one can only hope that it was!



CHAPTER XXI

“THE WEDDING OF THE SEA”

  Origin—Venice’s Growth—Treaties with the Emperor—Pietro Orseolo
  Annihilates the Pirates—Welcome on His Return—Story of Marco Polo—A
  Trader with the East—A Strange Journey—Bokhara—Capital of Kublai
  Khan—Impressed with Christian Ideals—Return Journey—At Home in
  Venice—Failure of Plans to Convert the Tartars—Again in the Far
  East—Lost for Twenty-five Years—Return to Venice with Vast Wealth—A
  Gorgeous Banquet—Marco’s Rehabilitation—Ruskin and the Church.


The origin of the ceremony known as the wedding of the sea dates from
the reign of Pietro Orseolo, the son of that Pietro who left the world
for the cloister, after two years of, to him, extremely unsympathetic
labour. The old gentleman had prophesied the boy’s rise to his father’s
plane, during one of the former’s very few visits to him, in these
words: “I know that they will make you Doge, and I know that you will
prosper.” The prophecy was more than fulfilled, for young Pietro proved
to be a good man and a strong ruler, and he raised Venice from the
position of a small state, torn to pieces by internal warfare, and
constantly at the mercy of her stronger neighbours, to an eminence
from which, looking back at her immediate past, and down upon the
development of those same neighbours, she could call herself the “Queen
of the Seas,” and that without fear that any would attempt to challenge
her self-assumed title.

He began his work by trying to lay that fruitful cause of so many
quarrels, the question of allegiance to the Empire of the East or
to that of the West, by making treaties with both, and that done—his
decks, so to speak, cleared for action—he turned his attention to the
freebooters, who for a long time past had been exacting a heavy annual
tribute from the weakness of the distracted State.

In the first combat that followed he defeated them handsomely, and
they, in revenge, not daring to jeopardise themselves in the lagoons
and canals, turned upon the coast towns of Dalmatia, sacking and
looting them one after another.

These latter, in despair, appealed to Venice for help, and Pietro
jumped at the chance, and gathered together a fleet as quickly as
he could arm it. From the ecclesiastical authorities he received St.
Mark’s banner, and set sail, as we are told, in the early spring.

Contrary winds, or rather fortunate ones, drove them over to Grado,
whose Patriarch was the son of the murdered Candiano, the predecessor
of Pietro’s father, and Pietro was somewhat nervous of approaching the
former in the midst of his own people. But the Patriarch had buried the
old feud, perhaps with the aid of the thought that Pietro’s cause, at
the moment, was his own, and sailed out to meet them, and brought with
him the Standard of St. Heonagora, which he left with them.

Sailing away, Pietro received the submission of all the defenceless
ports and islands from Grado clear to the pirates’ stronghold, the
rock-enclosed city of Lagorta, the sight of which might have given
pause to a much stronger force than that which he had brought with
him; but, as Napier so truly says, moral force is the greatest thing
in war, from wherever or whatever it may be derived, and, strong in
the righteousness of his cause, his belief in himself, and, it may be,
fortified by the homage of the ports and islands, he attacked, seized,
and destroyed it utterly.

The welcome which Venice gave him on his return was no half-hearted
affair, as one may imagine, since he had sailed away from a State—and
returned with a small empire in his lap. The Clergy, all in the most
sumptuous vestments, were pulled across from the historic olive woods
of Castello and met Pietro in his own magnificent barge, at the Lido,
where the Bishop prayed and the priests sang and the incense rose, and
the Bishop sprinkled Pietro with holy water, and poured what was left
into the lagoon, imploring the Almighty to make the sea safe both for
them and for all others who should sail upon it.

In this search for flowers, one cannot stay in one part of the garden,
methodically extracting the choice of its beds, and then move, as
methodically, on to the next; so I must be excused if, seeing a bloom,
I pick it, and look around me afterwards for another, instead of
keeping my eyes on those on either side of me, when I might be tempted
to smaller and weaker blossoms, and so, my basket filled, find no room
for the best, when I come upon them afterwards.

Marco Polo was one of a family of merchants, quiet and law-abiding
people, and who traded successfully, in spite of the almost continuous
state of war in which their world was plunged, with the near East, and
particularly with Constantinople, where for many years they had been
in perfect safety, thanks to the chests full of treaties which the
Venetians had made with the rulers of the Eastern Capital.

But now, as Marco came into his manhood, his affairs were no longer
quite so secure, for a change of dynasty seemed to be approaching the
near East, and the Venetians, being allies of the old House, were by
consequence the enemies of the new, and of their friends—a state of
things not at all to the taste of those steady, somewhat pompous men
of affairs who, until that time, had had this extremely satisfactory
market to themselves.

Foreseeing, probably, that their State would presently be involved in a
war for the commercial supremacy of the East, the outcome of which was,
to say the least of it, doubtful, Marco and his brother resolved to
take time by the forelock and establish a new trading base before the
old one was lost to them for ever; so, after a great deal of prolonged
discussion, and one may imagine how much adding and subtracting and
multiplying and dividing of figures, the two men started, sailed for
the Crimea, where a foothold at least had already been obtained, and a
base of supplies partially established.

They left Constantinople while the struggle between Paleologus and the
Latins was at its worst, and took with them a stock of goods, as being
the most portable and convenient agent of exchange in the mysterious
and practically unknown countries for which they were bound. They seem
to have had some idea of the products of the East, however, and no
doubt expected to make a most profitable journey among the barbarians.

A stranger journey has never, perhaps, been taken. The East, the huge,
ponderous, top-heavy old East, was only known of at all through the
emissaries of Innocent IV and, as an occasional assistance against the
Saracens, by the Crusaders.

Their wanderings from Soldadina to Bokhara must have been eventful
enough, for that part of the world was quite as much at war with itself
as was Europe, but Bokhara itself must have been a weary memory to
them afterwards, for they were kept there for the better part of three
years, being unable either to advance or to retire—the unknown in front
and the over-risky deserts behind.

Here they were picked up by some envoys journeying to the court of
Kublai Khan—who offered to take them with them, assuring them that the
great Prince would be overjoyed to receive them, since he had never
seen a European in his life.

They spoke no more than the truth, for when, after months of hard
travel over the steppes and through the hot, arid, pungent dust—the
days as hot as fire itself, the nights, as often as not, bitterly
chill—the two hardy brothers arrived at the Khan’s Capital, he received
them with great honour and placed everything of his at their service,
as though they were brother Princes. A gentle-mannered, polite, very
imaginative person they found him, with an unlit fire of religious
feeling, to which their devout Catholicism very soon put a match. A
wise man—one may well say a great one—the empty idolatry of his own
people could have no attraction for him, and when the two brothers,
at his earnest request, expounded to him some of the leading tenets of
Christianity, he was so struck with its ideals that he begged them to
take a petition to the Pope, that His Holiness would send him a hundred
men—wise men—versed in the uses of argument and capable of converting
his Tartars by convincing their reason in the matter; a task for
wise men, indeed, when the reason of the average Tartar is taken into
consideration, unless the Khan intended to supplement their efforts by
making an appeal of his own to other of their senses.

The two brothers started on their return journey by themselves,
carrying with them a passport in the shape of a golden tablet on which
the Prince’s injunctions to whomsoever it might be shown were carved.
Three years it took the adventurous pair to arrive at Acre, one of the
last outposts of civilisation, when they were told that the Pope was
dead.

Having been informed by the legate that there was little chance of a
Pope’s being elected for a long time to come, and, seeing that only
to a Pope could the petition be delivered, they cast about for some
way to fill in the time, and bethought them of Venice. Neither of them
had paid their native state a visit in fifteen years, and Marco, it
appears, had a child there. His wife was probably dead, though it is
impossible to be sure of it, and Marco’s heart was naturally moved at
the prospect of an entirely new experience, that of holding his own
child in his arms.

So to Venice they repaired, and in the pleasures of renewing their
acquaintance with old-time friends, and bathing in the comforts and
delights of civilisation, the Khan and his business gradually faded
from their minds. The election of a new Pope seemed to be as far away
as ever, too, and the whole world of the church was divided into camps,
with no prospect that any one could see of a solution of the trouble.

It must be explained that the Emperor had taken it into his autocratic
heart, at that time, to elect a Pope of his own, and force recognition
from the rule of Christianity in the usual fashion if his presumption
were resented.

As time went by the explorers’ hearts began to get restless again,
for that fever never leaves its victims alone for long, and their
imaginations turned to the East, where the Khan was still waiting for
them; with that, it appears, their religious instincts awoke again, and
the business of converting the Tartars became the most important thing
in the world to them.

In a very short while they were once more in Acre, where they had
another interview with the Legate Tibaldo di Piacenza, who was soon
to move from Acre to the throne of Peter (as Gregory), from whom
they obtained a document which should explain to Kublai Khan the
impossibility of satisfying his wishes in the absence of a supreme
authority.

They had got no further than Armenia when they were overtaken by
messengers from Tibaldo, announcing his election and bidding them come
to Acre, where he would do what he could in the matter of the desired
mission.

So to Acre they returned; but Gregory could not find anything like a
hundred wise men who were willing to undertake such an errand, and,
since he needed all of such that he could find near him just then, the
Emperor having by no means relinquished his ambitions, he compromised
by despatching a couple of Dominicans.

These pious men, however, while they had been willing enough to risk
themselves in an ordinary venture, shrank—and quite reasonably—from
the prospect which the brothers unfolded to them on the way; it must
be confessed that the chances they were asked to take were rather
appalling, and, at the last point from which they could return safely,
they left the brothers and made back whence they had come.

So the three (for Marco’s son accompanied them) struck out into
the hinterland alone, and for three long years they journeyed on
ceaselessly, now in peace, now fighting, now fed, now half starved,
until at last they came to the rising ground, from whose sandy height
they had looked their last on the city of Kublai Khan eight years
before.

With the descent of the farther slope, they vanished from the world,
as completely as though they had been swallowed up in a “dust-devil,”
and a quarter of a century passed before they reappeared, by which time
every memory of them had grown dim in Venice.

It was, as I have said, only after twenty-five years that they managed
to make their way across Asia, slowly and, it must be supposed,
anxiously, for they carried with them a burden of wealth, the like of
which had never before been heard of in prosaic Europe. As they had
vanished in the twilight, so they returned in the dusk, three figures,
crouching in the long boat, looking about them at the dim bulk of
house, church, and palace with eager eyes, and whispering to each
other, as old, long-forgotten landmarks rose up from the water to greet
them. They must have chuckled to themselves, too, at the thought of the
amazement of their relations at the joke which they were going to play
upon them presently. For a sorry appearance they must have presented,
yet beneath the rough Tartar clothing was hidden that which would have
bought a street of those shadowy buildings that loomed up on either
side of them.

The Casa Polo happened that night to be full of their relations,
brought together for a “festa” of some sort, and when they arrived
in the courtyard the sounds and the lights must have warmed the
travellers’ hearts. Nothing could have been more to their taste, or at
least to that of Marco, who was decidedly fond of the “lime-light,”
than the prospect of being thus precipitated into a crowd of strange
relations. That the present owners might not be enthusiastic about
giving up the “Casa” to its rightful owners does not seem to have
occurred to them, for they advanced boldly and knocked, announcing
themselves loudly when the windows filled with heads, and the
gate—which may be seen to this day in the Corte della Sabbinera—with
bodies, and the air with voices, demanding to know who these
evil-looking strangers were and by what right they came thundering at
the doors of a noble House.

A difficult business it proved for the three to so much as make
themselves understood, for their Venetian was rusty and their faces
were those of absolute strangers. They were dirty and brown and
altogether foreign, but they seem to have made some impression, for
they were allowed to make a serious attempt at establishing their
identity, by asking every one present to a great banquet on the
following day—when, as the story goes, they astonished the company
vastly by changing their dress no less than three times during the
meal, each time for a more gorgeous one, until the climax came upon
young Marco’s leaving the table and bringing into the room the three
coarse Tartar coats in which they had returned, and ripping them open,
when such a rain of jewels fell upon the table that the company sprang
to its feet with cries, for nothing like it had been heard of in the
memory of man. At the sight of such prodigious wealth, it seems the
relations recognised them instantly, as is the habit of relations to
this day, and fell upon their necks, and all the young plants of grace
came to the house from all over the town and also fell upon their necks
and made much of them, and the night must have slid into the day in a
blaze of glory and wine.

So the adventurers came home again, and for years afterwards Marco
continued to relate the amazing tales of their adventures, not ceasing
even when he was in prison in Genoa, after the battle of Cuozla.


I must, with permission, take this opportunity of warning all and
sundry against a too serious consideration of the late Mr. Ruskin
in any other capacity than as a student of the beautiful. In that
he is alone. As a philosopher—or as a theologian—he is also alone,
and I would very strongly recommend my readers to leave him in his
loneliness. I would not take the space to notice the calumnies on the
Church and her history with which his immortal work is interlarded,
save that she and her teachings are, as far as can be judged from
contemporary writings, utterly unknown to any one outside of her own
Communion. Again and again I have picked up articles, written by men
of known learning, professors, clergymen, men of letters, whose names
are almost household words, that set forth, with all complacency
and assurance—not as statements about which there might be some
reasonable doubt, but as facts, so well known as to admit of no further
question—such appalling lies—there is no other word for it—that one is
driven, at times, to the point of wondering if it is an epidemic from
which they are suffering—a disease which they have caught unconsciously
and in spite of themselves. On most other subjects they are sane—on
other questions which they undertake to discuss they are informed—they
must be, or else how could they have arrived at their present eminence?
Yet, for the discussion of this, admittedly the most intricate of
studies and one for the understanding of which a lifetime of labour is
hardly sufficient, they never appear to feel the need of any sort of
serious preparation. In the same way, while they will vigorously adhere
to facts, elsewhere, refraining manfully from entangling comment, here
they seem to lose all sense of moral obligations in the direction of
effectual research, and, naturally kindly, as many of them are, they
become simply venomous. Naturally accurate and conscientious, they
develop a spirit of vicious speculation, which amounts to a possession.

I will not enlarge upon this topic, nor would I have embarked upon
it at all were it not that the spirit of Ruskin—narrow, self-centred,
self-contented, utterly uninformed, making a religion of ill-will, and
ill-will into a religion—has as much sway in our day as it had in his,
and its expression in his works is the reflection of the real feelings
of many, many people to-day. Let none doubt that; and the fact that
the calumniators are, some of them, men of blameless private life, or
of unquestionable mental integrity in their own work, makes them all
the more difficult to reach, for the pride which those private virtues
engender is a horribly thick armour to penetrate.



CHAPTER XXII

WAR WITH GENOA

  Supernatural Recovery of the Apostle’s Body—Ruskin’s Account—Origin
  of the War—Early Life of Carlo Zeno—His Conquests—Governor
  of a Province in Greece—Return to Venice—Adventures at
  Constantinople—Escape of Zeno—Tenedos Becomes Venetian—Attack of
  the Genoese—Their Repulse—Carlo’s Popularity in Venice—Pisani’s
  Career—Carlo Routs the Genoese—Peace—Carlo’s Fame—His Visit to
  Jerusalem—Last Scuffle with the Genoese—Life in Venice.


It has been told how, after the assassination of the Doge Saundo IV,
the mob, in a state of ungovernable fury, set fire to the ducal palace,
and how this fire, spreading, injured many noble buildings including
St. Mark’s itself. Orseolo, it may be remembered, left the world within
two years of his election, and the repairs were finished under Vital
Falier.

Then, to the dismay of the Doge and everybody else, it was discovered
that the original resting-place of the Holy Apostle had been forgotten;
and the pious Doge, having exhausted all the possibilities, resolved
to leave the matter to the Almighty, who, by the intercession of the
Evangelist, might enlighten them if He saw fit.

So a general fast was proclaimed, for how long we are not told, and
prayers were offered up in all the Churches and in every home; a
procession was arranged for the 25th of June, when the people—or as
many of them as could—assembled in the Church and all prayed together
with their whole hearts.

As they were doing so, to their wonder and delight the marbles of one
of the pillars began to shake a little, which, as they watched, fell
down completely, disclosing beneath it the bronze chest in which the
body had formerly been laid.

Ruskin, of course, stigmatises this “as one of the best arranged and
most successful impostures ever attempted by the clergy of the Romish
Church”—how he does love that expression! He goes on to say that the
body of St. Mark had, doubtless, perished in the conflagration of 976,
but since St. Mark’s was not burned to the ground in 976, but merely
damaged, it is not difficult to see upon what he bases the suggestion.
Because the site was forgotten? There is not the slightest doubt that
it was. Even if they had wished to, the clergy could not have deceived
any one then, for all had had access to the spot formerly. It was not a
secret at all.

Besides, the stone pillar was solid. It had been in place for a long
time. To insert a bronze coffin into solid stone is no light task,
while to do it unobserved and to replace the marble afterwards well
enough to escape detection, in a church whose doors are open from the
early hours of the morning until late into the night, savours of the
impossible. The story is perfectly true, for the record of it is to be
found, as Ruskin tells us, in a mosaic of the North Transept.

In the histories of all states and countries there are names that
stand, as it were, as the very pillars upon which those histories are
built; and, of these, some are solid and practical, some light and
ornamental. Venice has had her share—Carmagnola, Pisani, Carlo Zeno,
Marco Polo, Andrea Contarini, and many others.

Two, at least, of these served together—namely, Vittor Pisani and Carlo
Zeno—during that incident in the almost ceaseless state of war between
Venice and her maritime and business rival, Genoa, which is known as
the War of Chioggia. So like the accounts which we read in our time
of quarrels between great corporations, is that of the origin of this
particular war, that it is worth explaining, if only to illustrate the
unchanging quality of our human nature.

The long, long struggle that culminated in the War of Chioggia had
its origin in an alliance—what is known in our day as a “gentlemen’s
agreement”—between the two States, to boycott the Crimean Peninsula, in
revenge for the murder of some Venetian and Genoese traders there by a
certain Chief of the name of Zani Bey.

To be sure, very little incitement was needed on either side, at that
juncture, for affairs at Constantinople had been spurring Genoese
ill-feeling for some time past, and Venice, not to be taken by
surprise, had been pushing her preparations—just as the great monetary
powers are doing to-day—to a point where they were a threat and a
menace to every state in her neighbourhood.

Each was hiring bravi and condottieri in every direction, each was hard
at work forming alliances—the story of our own time all over again—and
when Venetians discovered that the Genoese were flirting with the
trade of the Crimea, in spite of their pledged word, and vice versa,
the trouble came to a head, and both Carlo Zeno and Pisani were set to
work.

Carlo Zeno came to the sword by devious ways. He was destined for the
Church, and was sent at an early age to Avignon, in order to bring him
under the eye of the Holy Father and into the circles where sinecures
and promotions were most easily obtainable.

Nor were the hopes of his relations disappointed, for it was not long
before he was appointed to a canonicate at Patras, that carried with it
a very comfortable income; soon after which, being still a boy, he was
sent back to his uncle’s people and thence, for his studies, to Padua.
Here the spirit of the future Terror of the Seas began to appear in the
boy, for he refused to study with any seriousness and spent most of his
time and all of his substance in gambling and riotous living.

At last, having sold his books, and lost the proceeds, he escaped, by
night, from the pack of creditors who had been dogging his footsteps,
and took service, though with whom it is difficult to discover.

For some time he wandered over Italy, learning, as he went, the trade
which was afterwards to make him famous, until, when five years had
passed, he began to feel the need of “ranging” himself, and returned
to his uncle, who had been mourning him for dead, and who received him
with open arms.

The German custom of the “Wanderjahr” is an old one, and, as far as can
be judged, a very good one, the idea being to harden the young man’s
mind with travel before he settles down definitely to the pursuit of
his business. In many trades it is demanded by the apprentice, and
in almost all, it is at least expected. No one enquires too closely,
upon his return, as to the sort of life he has been leading, for it
is assumed that he must have been busy, since it is a _sine qua non_
of his twelve months of freedom that he support himself by his trade.
Carlo’s uncle and brothers did not enquire either, but packed him
off, as soon as they could, to Patras, to take his Canon’s stall and
become a prosperous, comfortable, easy-going Prelate, just sufficiently
distinguished from the rank and file to be somebody, and far enough
from any chance of real responsibility to allow of his leading a serene
and unruffled existence.

The godson of the Emperor, he was a person of some considerable
influence, too, and the knowledge of war that he had acquired
during his service with the Condottieri was not at all amiss in an
ecclesiastic of the Fourteenth Century, when Bishops had as often
as not to guard their own marches with their own good swords. His
education in ecclesiastical subjects was sketchy, of course, but amply
sufficient for any need that he was likely to have of it; so he set
out for Patras, half a priest, half a soldier, a canon unordained, a
soldier unattached.

Now the Governor of Patras, just then, was engaged with the common
enemy of Christendom, the Turk, and since the soldier in Carlo was
always on the surface, the Governor, who had learned from some source
or another of the young gentleman’s temperamental proclivities,
and no doubt from Carlo himself of the various notable captains
under whom he had served, pushed him into the fight. Carlo was only
twenty-two, but he worked so well, and flung himself into the campaign
with such whole-hearted enthusiasm, that before long he was wounded
so desperately that for one night he was deemed to be dead and
preparations were made to bury him, a fate which was only averted in
the nick of time by his return to consciousness.

It was not for many months that he recovered of his grievous hurt, for
the better healing of which he was sent back to Venice. In Italy he was
fortunate enough to meet his godfather, the Emperor, and to make a good
lodgment in the great man’s favour, the result of which was to send him
on Imperial business to England, France, and Germany; so that, when he
returned to Patras, he was better equipped than ever for either of the
two causes, ecclesiastic or military, which he might choose to espouse.

At Patras, he found the choice made for him, since the place was once
more imperilled, this time by Frenchmen and Cypriotes, and the good
Bishop, handing over to him the tiny force which was available, bade
him do the best he could, as speedily as possible.

Carlo’s best—the best of “Zeno the Unconquerable”—was very good indeed.
So good, in fact, that it reads like a fable, but the authority is,
or ought to be, unimpeachable, so it must be accepted that during six
months of hard fighting he kept ten or twelve thousand enemies at bay
with seven hundred men, and ultimately persuaded them to draw off,
without the loss of a single man on his own side.

It must be borne in mind, though, that in those delectable days
fighting was less dangerous for the combatants than at any time before
or since. The accounts of the wars are very nearly bloodless—for
the combatants, _bien entendu_—not for the inoffensive and helpless
non-combatants, the sacking and looting of whom was the agreed
consideration for which the mercenaries gave their services.

It was shortly after this affair that the direction of Zeno’s life was
settled for ever; jealous of his success and his growing fame, a Greek
knight, in a moment of spleen, accused him, after all he had done, of
treachery!

There is a touch of to-day about the form which Sir Simon’s venom took
that brings that distant past very close to us. “Tradito!” “Nous sommes
trahis!” These are still the first cries to be heard when the gold of
the spendthrift years has run out and the horrible creditors crowd into
a nation’s House.

One would hardly have thought that a reasoning man in Zeno’s position
would have worried his head with such foolishness. The insult might
well have been the occasion of a righteous wrath and contempt, but that
is all. Carlo, however, did not see it in that light, and, despite
the protests of his more sensible friends and the pleadings of his
Bishop, he challenged his traducer, and, by so doing, threw up his
ecclesiastical ambitions and took the sword in perpetuity.

Free now, and without friends, he lost no time in marrying a rich and
noble lady who had fallen in love with him, at Chiavenna; her he left,
after a short honeymoon, in order to meet Sir Simon, according to
arrangement, at Naples.

That kingdom being in its usual condition, it was no easy task to
penetrate to its Capital or arrive there, even by sea, in anything
like safety. But Carlo was not a person lightly to be deterred when the
prospect of a fight was in question, and in due time he arrived in the
presence of Queen Joanna, who had been selected as an umpire.

But she, in the meanwhile, had come to the decision that it was a case
for damages rather than for a duel, and, a court having sat upon it,
the Greek was ordered to refund Carlo for his expenses. There being
nothing else to keep him, he returned to his wife in Greece, where he
was soon made governor of a province. Soon after his wife died, and
he, being unable to retain her dowry, reëmbarked for Venice, where he
struck out anew as a bachelor.

It was not long, though, before he married again, and his second wife,
the daughter of the Admiral, Marco Giustiniani, had a sufficiently
large fortune to permit of his establishing himself as a merchant in
the East.

Either he must have left his wife behind on undertaking this expedition
or else he sent her home later, for the adventures through which he
passed at Constantinople would have been too risky, even for him, had
he had any “incumbrances” with him.

Constantinople, at that time, was in the hands of a usurper,
Andronicus, who had deposed his father, Carlo Yhomuas. Now Carlo
Yhomuas was a friend to Venice and had gone out of his way, while he
was on the throne, to show favour to Zeno’s father.

When it came to his ears that Zeno was in the city, it seemed to him
that here was a chance to escape from his fortress and retake the
crown, and that since the wife of his gaoler was an old “friend” of
his, and still devoted to him, she would make an excellent go-between.

It was no very desirable undertaking for a woman, since Andronicus had
filled the court with spies, and discovery would mean certain torture
and death; but she accomplished her mission, and Zeno, to whom such
adventures were the salt of life, fell in with the idea instantly and
joyfully.

Having obtained the promise of support from some Greek soldiers, by
ways known only to himself, he strolled out one evening along the
shore, until he arrived at a point where, across the water and rising
straight up from it, stood a high tower; being assured that no one was
about, Carlo studied a window at the top of it speculatively.

It was not grilled, but it was small and it was a hundred and fifty
feet up. From the land side he could do nothing; it was too well
guarded, and all that he and the surprised captive up there had to rely
upon was a small woman.

He would have to wait for the dark of the moon, he saw, and, besides,
he must find some means of getting a long, stout rope into the
Emperor’s bedroom. This was accomplished, I think, by winding it around
the lady’s body, and since she had the privilege, while her husband’s
back was turned, of ingress to the ex-Emperor’s apartments, she waited
until the former was making his rounds in the evening and slipped past
the unsuspecting sentry in the dark.

Then she dropped the rope from the window and left Carlo Yhomuas to
himself. Carlo, who was as much a sailor as he was a soldier, speedily
climbed up and, having hauled himself through the window, begged the
Emperor to descend.

But, at this critical moment, Carlo Yhomuas’ nerve failed him. As
he told Zeno, he had two other sons who were both at the mercy of
Andronicus, and Andronicus was a desperate and bloodstained scoundrel
who would probably cut both their throats if their father ran away.

Zeno argued and pleaded and stormed, but all to no purpose, and,
finally, he was compelled to climb down again alone and make his way
home.

No sooner was Carlo Yhomuas alone again, however, than his courage
came back to him, and the gaoler’s wife was entrusted with another
communication for the young Venetian, to which the latter replied
instantly, spurred by the proposal which Carlo Yhomuas made to present
Venice with the island of Tenedos, in his will.

This time, though, Fate was against them. It is very rarely that
the hussy smiles upon a second attempt, if her favour has been too
lightly treated during the first one, and now she turned her face away
spitefully. The gaoler’s wife had hidden Carlo’s note in her shoe and,
just as she was reaching Carlo Yhomuas’ room, the shoe slipped off and
the sentry pounced upon the paper.

In an hour she was in the torture room and in an hour and a half she
had given up her secret, while Zeno (upon whom, as soon as the accident
occurred, Fate smiled again, as upon a well-loved child, who has caused
his parent a momentary displeasure by the company he has been keeping,
but who, once rescued from his friends, immediately becomes the adored
offspring again) escaped to sea and got on board a Venetian warship,
which happened to be visiting the port, and showed the will of Carlo
Yhomuas to the officer commanding.

It did not take this latter worthy long to come to the conclusion that,
since Carlo Yhomuas was the rightful Emperor, and, also, since he was
not likely ever to reach his youngest son, that the Venetians might
as well take possession at Tenedos before Andronicus could exercise
his illegally obtained power and make a present of the island to his
friend, the Genoese.

Fortune still smiled upon her son, for, when the fleet came to
Tenedos, they found it to be held by an officer of Carlo Yhomuas,
well fortified, and stocked with provisions; and he, having heard
everything and seen his Emperor’s will in his own handwriting, was
easily persuaded to place the island under the protection of Venice.
That done, and the seeds of a pleasant and profitable war with Genoa
sown, they garrisoned the island as heavily as they could, and sailed
for Venice.

The Senate, as it was to be expected, disapproved gravely and openly
of the whole affair—and promptly sent a fleet to Tenedos to hold it
against all comers! With this fleet sailed Carlo Zeno. After a brisk
but useless ruffle under the walls of Constantinople, Carlo returned
to Tenedos with three ships, just in time to get his men ashore and
his defences arranged before the Genoese swooped down upon him with
twenty-two ships. I cannot be quite sure if, on this occasion, he had
Michel Steno with him, though it is certain that the latter was, at one
time, his assistant in the island; but, if he had, the subsequent rout
of the Genoese becomes more understandable. Two such minds as Carlo’s
and Michel’s were worth a good many hundred men. Be that as it may, the
Genoese were repulsed, twice running in two successive days, and that
so fiercely and with such loss that they left the island in a hurry.
Nor did they come back, and Carlo, as soon as his wounds, of which
he had received three in the two days’ fighting, would permit of it,
returned to Venice in a blaze of glory.

Venice, at the time of his return, had a half-finished quarrel with
the Carrara upon her hands, and Carlo was immediately despatched to the
scene of hostilities.

In 1378, he was made military governor of Negroponti, but the sea
called him again, soon after, and from that time until the Genoese
siege of Chioggia he spent his time upon his favourite element and at
his favourite business—to wit, fighting the Genoese.

During the interminable wars that occupied the next thirty years, Carlo
became the one shining star in the State’s skies that no cloud or storm
could dim or hide. Vittor Pisani, his nominal superior, had his ups and
downs, and proved himself to be almost if not entirely Zeno’s equal,
but Zeno was the popular idol.

He raided the Genoese coast in such a fashion that his name was a
terror to the city of Genoa for a hundred years afterwards, and, by
closing the Mediterranean to his enemies, he struck a vital blow at
their prosperity. By keeping continuously on the move and darting
from point to point with his light ships, he contrived to keep a
considerable part of the Genoese fleet constantly employed, and a good
part of the Genoese troops on the coast; but his peripatetic methods
were not always to the advantage of Venice, for they made it extremely
difficult to reach him, either with news or orders, so that, although
the Senate despatched boat after boat and messenger after messenger
to acquaint him with the defeat of Vittor Pisani at Pola, by the
Genoese Admiral Luciano Doria, with instructions to return, it was by
accident that the story reached him, six months after the battle, as
he was standing out of Candia, where the Doge’s messenger arrived soon
afterwards.

He left Candia on the 2d of December, 1379, and sailed for Paranzo,
where he arrived upon the 14th. Although he knew of the defeat at Pola,
he had not as yet any real idea of the desperate condition of Venice
until he arrived at the Lido, where a government agent gave him a view
of the condition of affairs and begged him to hasten to Chioggia, then
closely blockaded by Vittor Pisani.

Chioggia had fallen to the Genoese on the 6th of August, but on the
21st of December, Pisani, who had only been released from the prison,
where he was incarcerated after Pola, because the people flatly refused
to follow or serve under any one else, had succeeded in bottling up
the Genoese fleet, much as the Japanese bottled up the Russians at
Port Arthur, with the difference that his operation was successful
and theirs was not. To bottle up a strong enemy is sensible; to pay
a broken one the distinguished compliment of sinking good ships, and
sacrificing life to prevent him from getting at you, is something else.

Unfortunately, his troops were amateur soldiers, and, though their
patriotism, helped by their acquired and inherited hatred of the
Genoese, had held them to their task for a while, yet a winter campaign
uses up the reserves of such passing enthusiasms quickly, and poor
Pisani found himself, as have others who have attempted to carry out
long and arduous operations with irregular troops, between the devil of
abandoning his enterprise altogether and the deep sea of the revenge
that the well-armed, well-disciplined, and half-starved enemy would
exact by land, the instant that the necessity for guarding the harbour
was over.

His men clamoured ceaselessly to be allowed to return home and attend
to their affairs, disregarding the probability that, if they did relax
their grip upon Doria’s throat, they would have no affairs to attend
to, save that of paying the heaviest indemnity that he could exact. But
the reasoning powers of human beings in the mass are not great, and,
at last, Pisani was compelled to promise that, should Carlo Zeno not
arrive within two days, he would sail for the Lido.

Heavy days they must have been for Pisani, with the very existence of
the Republic depending upon whether or no a person who had not been
heard from for many months past would, accidentally, arrive in time to
redeem the promise and save it.

As it has been already suggested, Carlo’s popularity was due in a
very large measure to his astounding luck; nor did it desert him now.
For forty-eight hours was Pisani compelled to endure his agony, in
order that Carlo might arrive exactly at the right moment—not an hour
too soon to spoil the splendid effect of his seemingly miraculous
appearance upon the scene, not an hour too late to save Pisani and
Venice.

It was at daybreak that Pisani, despair in his heart, climbed out of
his cabin and mechanically swept the horizon with his eyes. For some
minutes he staid there, unwilling to turn away from the clean, open sea
to the sight of the prize which he was being forced to give up when it
was already in his grasp. How his heart must have ached, as he recalled
the gathering of the citizens, the prayers, the shouting and boasting,
the speeches of the Doge, the “do or die” ranting of the weak-backed
people, who, having seen war (for they had, up till then, been a highly
respectable community and had hired their fighting men by the month or
year, as they needed them), were, of course, perfectly ready to plunge
in it, and still more ready, once they began to feel the weight of it,
to crawl out again.

His dreary meditations were suddenly disturbed by a cry from aloft, and
he came to himself with a start as the cry was repeated.

It was a sail, and, in answer to his furiously anxious questions, the
lookout presently reported that it was that of a fighting-vessel, and
that there were more of them coming up behind her.

At last he shouted down that he had counted eighteen of them—and then
Pisani, frantic to know the worst or the best as speedily as possible,
despatched a light boat to reconnoitre and see if this were light or
darkness that was descending upon him.

The little boat shot away into the morning haze and, when almost within
hailing distance of the leading vessel, her crew straining their eyes
to catch any hint which might tell them who and what these new arrivals
were, they saw a flag broken out from the peak.

It was the banner of St. Mark, and, with a yell of delight, they went
about and raced for Pisani’s flagship. Their demigod had arrived!

It was a long story that he had to tell when the Doge met him, and it
must have been balm to the wounded heart of the former when he heard
how Carlo had ravaged the Genoese coast, captured Genoese convoys,
dislocated Genoese trade with the East, and, to crown his triumphs,
had captured a Genoese galley off Rhodes, with half a million pieces of
gold in it.

Although he had been twice wounded, and, Pisani’s promise redeemed,
there was no need of haste, he insisted upon being allowed to
place himself opposite Buondolo. One night a storm sprang up of the
Mediterranean sort, and the Genoese attempted to take advantage of it
and break through the blockade to open sea; but Carlo drove them back
again. It was during this action that his ship dragged her anchor and
was driven in under the Genoese forts, and Carlo received an arrow
through the throat, which all but killed him. He did not leave the
deck, however, nor did he seem to pay the least attention to his wound,
until his ship was clear again, when he had the misfortune to stumble
over an open hatch and fall into the hold of the ship. Even then he had
sufficient presence of mind to turn over on his face and let the blood
run freely, thereby saving his life.

It does not seem to have taken him long to recover from a wound which
would have been the death of most men, for he was almost immediately
made General-in-Chief of the land forces of the Republic—to be exact,
on February 15—and he had received the wound some time either at the
end of January or the beginning of February!

Then it was that Zeno the leader appeared, as distinct from Zeno the
fighter and tactician.

By the capture of Lorado, Carlo had cut the Genoese off from their
remaining base of supplies at Icomea, and all that remained to
accomplish was the recapture of Chioggia itself, either by storm or
siege.

The former course having been decided upon, the famous Sir John
Hawkwood was sent for—he whose name is a household word in Italy to
this day, and his men were assembled at Palestina, an island in the
near neighbourhood of Chioggia.

But Sir John did not appear, and the unmilitary Venetians were faced
with the necessity of finding a man who could first reduce the wild
free-lances to some sort of order, and induce them afterwards to trust
him as their leader. Fortunately these gentlemen were shut up on an
island, which must have been a sweet place for any unfortunate natives
who might have been there in those days, for Hawkwood’s men were
drafted from half a dozen separate nationalities, most of whom were
fighting each other in France and Germany at the time.

The business of disciplining them was laid upon Carlo, as the only man
who had had any experience of condottieri; brave as he was, he might
well have shrunk from the task, as from entering a den of wild beasts,
but he accepted it instantly, put on his armour, and had himself rowed
over to the island.

When he got there he found the men, as he probably expected to do,
at each other’s throats, but he was not daunted by their savagery. We
are told that many of them had served under him before, so that when
he announced his arrival with a blare of trumpets, and called upon
them to listen to what he had to say, they did as they were told, and
surrounded him, pouring out their complaints as to a man who was a
soldier himself and who could understand them.

To be sure, he had known what was at the bottom of their grievances
before he started. They were mercenaries. They fought for pay and
for loot. The Senate, being extremely hard up, had not paid them,
nor had it shown any honest intention of doing so. Carlo himself had
already been told, and with all gravity, that the Senators were of the
unanimous opinion that it was his duty personally to serve without pay.

But, having temporarily calmed the storm, Carlo immediately
communicated with the Senate and informed that august body that, unless
the mercenaries’ pay were forthcoming, he must give up any idea of
storming Chioggia. It was an affair for regular troops, and, even in
the unlikely event of his being able to bring the Venetian amateurs
up to the defence, there was not the least chance of his being able to
induce them to attack with any seriousness. He even went so far as to
offer to subscribe five hundred ducats himself if the Senate would come
forward with a similar amount.

This they did, very unwillingly, and Carlo was enabled to give his
whole attention to the frustrating of the Genoese commander’s scheme
for saving his fleet by digging a canal through the island and bringing
his ships out to open sea, whence they could once more threaten Venice
effectively.

This captain’s name was Grimaldi, and he was, by all accounts, a
daring and resourceful man, but he had not reckoned with Carlo Zeno.
He could outnumber the Venetians by five thousand and more, but,
unless he contrived to cut or manœuvre his way out, he would be driven
to surrender by famine—one hope, albeit a very doubtful one, he had
besides, and that was the arrival of the Genoese fleet under Matteo
Maruffo, who, emboldened by an easy victory over Giustiniani, near
Naples, appeared off Chioggia on the 14th of May, when he immediately
challenged Pisani to an encounter.

Being a serious person, Pisani naturally refused to accommodate him and
run the risk of losing men and ships, when the ends of the campaign
could be attained without any further trouble than that of remaining
where he was; and, a short while afterwards, Matteo withdrew, and
the garrison of Chioggia were compelled to watch their last chance
disappear seawards.

Before this, it must be said, Carlo had succeeded in capturing
Brondolo, and the Genoese were running short of food and water.
The garrison tried to foment disorder in Carlo’s command, and even
attempted to assassinate Carlo, without success. At last, on the 22d of
June, the Genoese struck their colours, and on the morning of the 24th
Carlo made his entry.

Afterwards, Carlo captured the Castle of Marano, and finally drove
the Genoese into their own harbour of Genoa and kept them there,
which brought the war to an end. When peace was once more upon Venice,
Carlo, now about forty-seven years old, was made Captain-General of the
forces, and later was very nearly elected to the Dogeship, only being
defeated by the fact that, if Venice should again find herself at war,
there would be nobody to lead her troops, since the Doge’s place was
in Venice. For another thing, the Patricians disliked him intensely, he
having always and resolutely refused to follow their advice during the
war.

There being nothing more to be gained at the moment in Venice, Carlo
went a-visiting once more, and the receptions which he received at the
various courts of Italy must have been a source of great gratification
to him after the dark days he had been through.

Like a true soldier—one who has no personal ill-feeling for the
accidental enemy of the moment and who, the question in hand once
settled, is ready to do anything in his power for the man he has been
fighting—Carlo, on meeting a former adversary in the person of the
son of the Count of Padua, at Asti, and finding him in exceedingly
straitened and uncomfortable circumstances, took him to his arms
and lent him four hundred ducats. It is pleasant to know that his
generosity was not imposed upon, for the money was paid back later,
when the exile was restored to his possessions.

Later, too, Carlo again defeated the Genoese, led this time by a French
general, and, after that, hung up his good sword and turned to civil
affairs; though he once accompanied the troops against the Carrara, as
a “provveditore,” and, on Padua being taken, was made Governor of that
city.

Now, the real rulers of Venice were the dreaded and terrible Ten. From
any decision of theirs there was no appeal, and, since these decisions
were guided only by their own passions, it can be understood that the
civil affairs of Venice were in a precarious condition. On the taking
of Padua, Carlo’s old beneficiary, Francesco de Carrara and his son
were taken to Venice and there, by order of the Ten, strangled in their
prison. Carlo’s successor in the governorship of Padua, having nothing
better to do, took upon himself to go through the old city accounts,
and, among them, discovered the entry of the four hundred ducats which
Francesco repaid to Carlo Zeno. The account made no mention of any
loan, though, and the governor, anxious to get himself into the good
graces of the Ten, immediately sent them the document.

It seems hardly credible that even that vitiated council could have
refused to accept Carlo’s word for it, but, in spite of all his
glorious services, they insisted upon believing this was a bribe that
he had received and sentenced him to the loss of all his places and
titles and to five years of imprisonment besides! And yet Venice was
called a Republic!

By the lifting of his finger Carlo could have raised such a storm as
would have swallowed up the civil government of Venice in a week, but
he seems to have accepted the horrid injustice—as did Pisani before
him—with philosophy. It is not likely that the sentence was executed,
though—even the Ten were not powerful enough for that, one imagines—and
Carlo was soon off on a journey to Jerusalem, where he was knighted—he,
Carlo, the scourge of Genoa, the terror of the Turks!—by a Prince,
it is said, of Scotland, though of that, in view of the character and
occupations of such of the Scottish Princes of the times as our history
tells of, one cannot but have the gravest doubts.

An old man now, Zeno had one last scuffle with the Genoese, in the
service of the King of Cyprus, and after beating them soundly returned
home, at the age of seventy-four or seventy-five, and settled down. He
lived for several years afterwards, gathering around himself the best
of the city—artists, literati, scholars of all sorts. And when he died
he was carried to his grave on the shoulders of the seamen, as a sailor
should be.



FOOTNOTES:


[1] “Pagus” signified “village.” The term “pagan” was first applied
to the dwellers in rural districts, who, from the remoteness of their
surroundings, were tardier in hearing of and embracing Christianity
than the inhabitants of the cities.

[2] “A Diplomatist’s Wife in Many Lands.”

[3] Constantinople and Jerusalem were added in after times to the list,
but only attained this honour by the consent of the reigning Pontiff.

[4] St. Ambrose, Sermo contra Auxentium, No. 13; Hegesipp., lib. III;
S. Greg. Magn. in Psalm IV, Penitentiæ.

[5] Cardinal Pole, after much research, came to the conclusion that
the site chosen for the Church of “Domine Quo Vadis” was a mistaken
one, and erected a tiny circular chapel at another crossroad which
he believed had witnessed the mysterious encounter. This chapel is
a humble little building, only a few feet in diameter. St. Peter’s
question is inscribed over the door.

[6] St. Clement was soon exiled to the Chersonesus, where he remained
for several years before his martyrdom there, and St. Linus during
his absence filled his place in Rome till the death of St. Clement
and his own succession to the Pontificate. Hence, many historians call
Linus the immediate successor of St. Peter. St. Clement occupied the
Papal Chair for 9 years, 6 months and 6 days, and, whereas modern lay
historians give the length of St. Linus’ reign as one year, he reigned
in reality for 11 years, 2 months and 23 days. The confusion of the
various Roman calendars at the time of the birth of our Lord gave rise
to the errors in the calculation of that event and others following it.
Our own accepted date is on that account some years removed from the
true one.

[7] Taken from the epistle of St. Denis the Areopagite to Timothy, in
which he narrates the incident and records the Apostles’ words.

[8] Dom Guéranger.

[9] See “A Diplomatist’s Wife in Many Lands.”

[10] Until the year 844 the Popes had continued to bear their own names
after being elected to the Throne, but when the choice fell on a holy
and humble man called Peter, he refused to keep the name of the Prince
of the Apostles and chose for himself that of Sergivs—a renunciation
which instituted the custom, followed ever since, of the Pope’s
selecting a new name on his accession.

[11] St. Novatus—apparently a brother or cousin of Pudens.

[12] This translation of Pastor’s narrative is the one used by Augustus
J. Hare in his “Walks in Rome.”

[13] She is often called “Eudoscia,” by historians, and was also named
“Athenaïs,” being the daughter of a famous rhetorician of Athens.

[14] See “A Diplomatist’s Wife in Many Lands.”

[15] “Argumentosa”—that which is proven.

[16] This hypothesis appears to me more reasonable than the one
usually put forward, viz: That Cecilia’s inscription was destroyed
by the Goths. They destroyed many such inscriptions, with the tombs
that bore them, but the resting-place of St. Cecilia when discovered
showed no marks of violence and answered precisely to the contemporary
description of it.

[17] It is amusing to note in this connection the statement
in Baedeker’s guidebook for Rome, p. 422: “St. Cecilia in
Trastevere—originally a dwelling house, which was converted into a
Church by Urban I., _who was misled by the erroneous tradition that St.
Cecilia had once occupied it_.” The italics are my own. Such ignorance
of history requires no comment.

[18] The coffin is four feet, three inches long, thirteen inches broad,
and seventeen inches high.

[19] Augustus Hare.

[20] Every Cardinal takes his title from one or other of the ancient
Churches—hence the term “Titular Cardinal of St. Cecilia,” “of St.
Clement,” etc., etc.

[21] The Acts of St. Cecilia have always been considered among the
most absolutely authentic of those preserved by the Church, and
every circumstance connected with the finding of her body, both by
Paschal and Sfondrato, bears them out. Tillesnaut, the lying Jansenist
historian so dear to heretic students, and who seems to have had a
particularly malevolent hatred for St. Cecilia, has made a ludicrous
attempt to prove—if such arguments could be called by that name—that
St. Cecilia was not a Roman, and as we know her never existed. He
supports this amazing theory on one line many times re-copied by
ignorant scribes, of the poet Fortunatus, who speaks of “St. Cecilia”
as having suffered in “Sicilia.” The Church knows of no Sicilian
martyr of that name, but there was one in Sardinia, a name which one of
Fortunatus’ copyists apparently mistook for “Sicilia.”

[22] Galerius, on his deathbed, by the so-called “Edict of Sardis,”
disavowed his errors and proclaimed liberty for the Christians, but
the war against them was still carried on both by the usurping Emperors
who were Constantine’s rivals, and by the hatred of the still powerful
pagan Governors.

[23] These words are always quoted in Latin and so I transcribe them,
but in reality they appeared in the Greek tongue.

[24] There is a mediæval legend that Constantine had been advised by
the pagan priests to cure his leprosy by bathing in the blood of three
thousand children, and that he was about to immolate that number for
the purpose, when, his pity being aroused by the despair of their
mothers, he forbade the sacrifice. That this is a pure invention is
patent, for Constantine was a just and merciful man, even before his
conversion, and, when he came to Rome, was familiar with the tenets of
Christianity and well disposed to embrace them.

[25] Tighe Hopkins: “The Man in the Iron Mask.” Hurst & Blackett,
Publishers, London, 1901.

[26] Hopkins, p. 196 _et seq._

[27] Baron: The celebrated French playwright and actor (1653-1729).

[28] “The Venetian Republic,” Vol. 4, p. 525.



Transcriber's Notes

Original spelling and punctuation have been preserved as much as
possible. Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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