"That gentleman looks like a Jew," said Caesar.
"He is," replied Marchmont, "that is Senor Pereyra, a rich Jew; of Portuguese origin, I think."
"How quickly you saw it!" exclaimed Susanna.
"He has that air of a sick goat, so frequent in Jews."
"His wife has nothing sickly about her, or thin either," remarked Laura.
"No," said Caesar; "his wife represents another Biblical type; one of the fat kine of somebody's dream, which foretold abundance and a good harvest."
The Englishman, Kennedy, had also little liking for Jews.
"I do not hate a Jew as anti-Christian," said Caesar; "but as super-Christian. Nor do I hate the race, but the tendency they have never to be producers, but always middlemen, and because they incarnate so well for our era the love of money, and of joy and pleasure."
The English author was a great partisan of Jews, and he asserted that they were more distinguished in science and the arts than any other race. The Jewish question was dropped in an instant, when they saw a smart lady come in accompanied by a pale man with a black shock of hair and an uneasy eye.
"That is the Hungarian violinist Kolozsvar," said Susanna.
"Kolozsvar, Kolozsvar!" they heard everybody saying.
"Is he a great virtuoso?" Caesar asked Kennedy.
"No, I think not," answered Kennedy. "It seems that this Hungarian's speciality is playing the waltzes and folk-songs of his own country, which is certainly not anything great; but his successes are not obtained with the violin, but among the women. The ladies in London fight for him. His game is to pass himself off as a fallen man, depraved, worn-out. There you have his phraseology.... They see a man to save, to raise up, and convert into a great artist, and almost all of them yield to this temptation."
"That is comical," said Caesar, looking curiously at the fiddler and his lady.
"To a Spaniard," replied Kennedy, "it is comical; and probably it would be to an Italian too; but in England there are many women that have a purely imaginative idealism, a romanticism fed on ridiculous novels, and they fall into traps like these, which seem clumsy and grotesque to you here in the South, where people are more clear-sighted and realistic."
Caesar watched the brave fiddler, who played the role of a man used up, to great perfection.
After tea, Susanna invited them to go up to her rooms, and Laura and her brother and Kennedy and Mr. Russell went.
The English author had met a colleague, with whom he stayed behind talking, and Marchmont remained in the "hall," as if it did not seem to him proper for him to go to his wife's rooms.
Susanna's rooms were very high, had balconies on the Via Veneto, and were almost opposite Queen Margherita's palace. One overlooked the garden and could see the Queen Mother taking her walks, which is not without its importance for persons who live in a republic.
Susanna was most amiable to Laura; repeated to all of them her invitation to come and see her again; and after they had all promised to see one another frequently, Caesar and Laura went down to their carriage, and took a turn on the Corso by twilight.
XIII. ESTHETICS AND DEMAGOGY
SUSANNA AND THE YOUNGSTERS
From this meeting on, Caesar noticed that Marchmont paid court to Laura with much persistence. A light-hearted, coquettish woman, it pleased Laura to be pursued by a person like this Englishman, young, distinguished, and rich; but she was not prepared to yield. Her bringing-up, her class-feelings impelled her to consider adultery a heinous thing. Nor was divorce a solution for her, since accepting it would oblige her to cease being a Catholic and to quarrel irrevocably with the Cardinal. Marchmont showed no discretion in the way he paid court to Laura; he cared nothing about his wife, and talked of her with profound contempt....
Laura found herself besieged by the Englishman; she couldn't decide to discourage him entirely, and at critical moments she would take the train, go off to Naples, and come back two or three days later, doubtless with more strength for withstanding the siege.
"As a matter of reciprocal justice, since he makes love to my sister, I ought to make love to his wife," thought Caesar, and he went several times to the Hotel Excelsior to call on Susanna.
The Yankee wife was full of complaints against her husband. Her father had advised her simply to get a divorce, but she didn't want to. She found such a solution lacking in distinction, and no doubt she considered the advice of an author in her own country very true, who had given this triple injunction to the students of a woman's college: "Do not drink, that is, do not drink too much; do not smoke, that is, do not smoke too much; and do not get married, that is, do not get married too much."
It did not seem quite right to Susanna to get married too much. Besides she had a desire to become a Catholic. One day she questioned Caesar about it:
"You want to change your religion!" exclaimed Caesar, "What for? I don't believe you are going to find your lost faith by becoming a Catholic."
"And what do you think about it, Kennedy?" Susanna asked the young Englishman, who was there too.
"To me a Catholic woman seems doubly enchanting."
"You would not marry a woman who wasn't a Catholic?"
"No, indeed," the Englishman proclaimed.
Caesar and Kennedy disagreed about everything.
Susanna discussed her plans, and constantly referred to Paul Bourget's novel Cosmopolis, which had obviously influenced her in her inclination for Catholicism.
"Are there many Jewish ladies who aspire to be baptized and become Catholics, as Bourget says?" asked Susanna.
"Bah!" exclaimed Caesar.
"You do not believe that either?"
"No, it strikes me as a piece of naivety in this good soul of a novelist. To become a Catholic, I don't believe requires more than some few pesetas."
"You are detestable, as a Cardinal's nephew."
"I mean that I don't perceive that there are any obstacles to prevent anybody from becoming a Catholic, as there are to prevent his becoming rich. What a high ambition, to aspire to be a Catholic! While nobody anywhere does anything but laugh at Catholics; and it has become an axiom: 'A Catholic country is a country bound for certain ruin.'"
Kennedy burst out laughing.
Susanna said that she had no real faith, but that she did have a great enthusiasm for churches and for choirs, for the smell of incense and religious music.
"Spain is the place for all that," said Kennedy. "Here in Italy the Church ceremonies are too gay. Not so in Spain; at Toledo, at Burgos, there is an austerity in the cathedrals, an unworldliness...."
"Yes," said Caesar; "unhappily we have nothing left there but ceremonies. At the same time, the people are dying of hunger."
They discussed whether it is better to live in a decorative, esthetic sphere, or in a more humble and practical one; and Susanna and Kennedy stood up for the superiority of an esthetic life.
As they left the hotel Caesar said to Kennedy:
"Allow me a question. Have you any intentions concerning Mrs. Marchmont?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Simply because I shouldn't go to see her often, so as not to be in the way."
"Thank you ever so much. But I have no intentions in relation to her. She is too beautiful and too rich a woman for a modest employee like me to fix his eyes on."
"Bah! A modest diplomat! That is absurd. It is merely that you don't take to her."
"No. It's because she is a queen. There ought to be some defect in her face to make her human."
"Yes; that's true. She is too much of a prize beauty."
"That is the defect in the Yankee women; they have no character. The weight of tradition might be fatal to industry and modern life, but it is the one thing that creates the spirituality of the old countries. Beyond contradiction American women have intelligence, beauty, energy, attractive flashes, but they lack that particular thing created by centuries: character. At times they have very charming impulses. Have you heard the story about Prince Torlonia's wife?"
"Well, Torlonia's present wife was an American girl worth millions, who came with letters to the prince. He took her about Rome, and at the end of some days he said to her, supposing that the beautiful American had the intention of marrying: 'I will introduce some young noblemen to you'; and she answered: 'Don't introduce anybody to me; because you please me more than anybody'; and she married him."
"It was a pretty impulse."
"Yes, Americans do things like that on the spur of the moment. But if you saw a Spanish woman behave that way, it would seem wrong to you."
Chattering amicably they came to the Piazza Esedra.
"Would you care to have lunch with me?" said Kennedy.
"Just what I was going to propose to you."
"I eat alone."
"I do not. I eat with my sister."
"The Marchesa di Vaccarone?"
"Then you must pardon me if I accept your invitation, for I am very anxious to meet her."
"Then come along."
RUSKIN AND THE PHILISTINES
They reached the hotel and Caesar introduced his friend to Laura.
"He is an admirer of yours."
"A respectful admirer... from a distance," explained Kennedy.
"But are there admirers of that sort?" asked Laura, laughing.
"Here you have one," said the Englishman. "I have known you by sight ever since I came to Rome, and have never had the pleasure of speaking to you until today."
"And have you been here a long time?"
"Nearly two years."
"And do you like Rome; eh?"
"I should say so! At first, I didn't, I must admit. It was a disappointment to me. I had dreamed so much about Rome!" and Kennedy talked of the books and guides he had read about the Eternal City.
"I must admit that I had never dreamed about Rome," said Caesar. "And you boast of that?" asked Laura.
"No, I don't boast of it, I merely state it. I understand how agreeable it is to know things. Caesar died here! Cicero made speeches here! Saint Peter stumbled over this stone! It is fine! But not knowing things is also very comfortable. I am rather like a barbarian walking indifferently among monuments he knows nothing about."
"Doesn't such an idea make you ashamed?"
"No, why? It would be a bother to me to know a lot of things offhand. To pass by a mountain and know how it was thrown up, what it is composed of, what its flora and fauna are; to get to a town and know its history in detail.... What things to be interested in! It's tiresome! I hate history too much. I far prefer to be ignorant of everything, and especially the past, and from time to time to offer myself a capricious, arbitrary explanation."
"But I think that knowing things not only is not tiresome," said Kennedy, "but is a great satisfaction."
"You think even learning things is a satisfaction?"
"Thousands of years ago one could know things almost without learning them; nowadays in order to know, one has to learn. That is natural and logical."
"Yes, certainly. And the effort to learn about useful things seems natural and logical to me too, but not to learn about merely agreeable things. To learn medicine and mechanics is logical; but to learn to look at a picture or to hear a symphony is an absurdity."
"At any rate the neophytes that go to see a Rafael picture or to hear a Bach sonata and have an exclamation all ready, give me the sad impression of a flock of lambs. As for your sublime pedagogues of the Ruskin type, they seem to me to be the fine flower of priggishness, of pedantry, of the most objectionable bourgeoisie."
"What things your brother is saying!" exclaimed Kennedy.
"You shouldn't notice him," said Laura.
"Those artistic pedagogues enrage me; they remind me of Protestant pastors and of the friars that go around dressed like peasants, and who I think are called Brothers of the Christian Doctrine. The pedagogues are Brothers of the Esthetic Doctrine, one of the stupidest inventions that ever occurred to the English. I don't know which I find more ridiculous, the Salvation Army or Ruskin's books."
"Why have you this hatred for Ruskin?"
"I find him an idiot. I only skimmed through a book of his called The Seven Lamps of Architecture, and the first thing I read was a paragraph in which he said that to use an imitation diamond or any other imitation stone was a lie, an imposition, and a sin. I immediately said: 'This man who thinks a diamond is the truth and paste a lie, is a stupid fool who doesn't deserve to be read.'"
"Yes, all right: you take one point of view and he takes another. I understand why Ruskin wouldn't please you. What I do not understand is why you find it absurd that if a person has a desire to penetrate into the beauties of a symphony or a picture, he should do so. What is there strange in that?"
"You are right," said Caesar; "whoever wants to learn, should. I have done so about financial questions."
"Is it true that your brother knows all about questions of money?" Kennedy asked Laura.
"He says so."
"I haven't much belief in his financial knowledge."
"No, I have not. You are a sort of dilettante, half nihilist, half financier. You would like to pass for a tranquil, well-balanced man, for what is called a philistine, but you cannot compass it."
"I will compass it. It is true that I want to be a philistine, but a philistine out in the real world. All those great artists you people admire, Goethe, Ruskin, were really philistines, who were in the business of being interested in poetry and statues and pictures."
"Moncada, you are a sophist," said Kennedy. "Possibly I am wrong in this discussion," retorted Caesar, "but the feeling I have is right. Artists irritate me; they seem to me like old ladies with a flatulency that prevents their breathing freely."
Kennedy laughed at the definition.
CHIC AND THE REVOLUTION
"I understand hating bad kings and conquerors; but artists! What harm do they do?" said Laura.
"Artists are always doing harm to the whole of humanity. They have invented an esthetic system for the use of the rich, and they have killed the Revolution. The chic put an end to the Revolution. And now everything is coming back; enthusiasm for the aristocracy, for the Church; the cult of kings. People look backward and the Revolutionary movement is paralysed. The people that irritate me most are those esthetes of the Ruskin school, for whom everything is religious: having money, buying jewels, blowing one's nose... everything is religious. Vulgar creatures, lackeys that they are!"
"My brother is a demagogue," said Laura ironically.
"Yes," added Kennedy; "he doesn't like categories."
"But each thing has its value whether he likes it or not."
"I do not deny different values, or even categories. There are things of great value in life; some natural, like youth, beauty, strength; others more artificial, like money, social position; but this idea of distinction, of aristocratic fineness, is a farce. It is a literary legend in the same style as the one current in novels, which tells us that the aristocrats of old families close their doors to rich Americans, or like that other story Mrs. Marchmont was talking to us of, about the Jewish ladies who were crazy to become Catholics."
"I don't see what you are trying to prove by all this," said Laura.
"I am trying to prove that all there is underneath distinguished society is money, for which reason it doesn't matter if it is destroyed. The cleverest and finest man, if he has no money, will die of hunger in a corner. Smart society, which thinks itself superior, will never receive him, because being really superior and intelligent is of no value on the market. On the other hand, when it is a question of some very rich brute, he will succeed in being accepted and feted by the aristocrats, because money has a real value, a quotable value, or I'd better say, it is the only thing that has a quotable value."
"What you are saying isn't true. A man doesn't go with the best people merely because he is rich."
"No, certainly; not immediately. There is a preparatory process. He begins by robbing people in some miserable little shop, and feels himself democratic. Then he robs in a bank, and at that period he feels that he is a Liberal and begins to experience vaguely aristocratic ideas. If business goes splendidly, the aristocratic ideas get crystallized. Then he can come to Rome and go into ecstasies over all the humbugs of Catholicism; and after that, one is authorized to acknowledge that the religion of our fathers is a beautiful religion, and one finishes by giving a tip to the Pope, and another to Cardinal Verry, so that they will make him Prince of the Ecumenical Council or Marquis of the Holy Crusade."
"What very stupid and false ideas," exclaimed Laura. "Really I appreciate having a brother who talks in such a vulgar way."
"You are an aristocrat and the truth doesn't please you. But such are the facts. I can see the chief of the bureau of Papal titles. What fun he must have thinking up the most appropriate title for a magnate of Yankee tinned beef or for an illustrious Andean general! How magnificent it would be to gather all the Bishops in partibus infidelium and all the people with Papal titles in one drawing-room! The Bishop of Nicaea discussing with the Marquis of the Holy Roman Empire; the Marchioness of Easter Sunday flirting with the Bishop of Sion, while the Patriarchs of Thebes, Damascus, and Trebizond played bridge with the sausage manufacturer, Mr. Smiles, the pork king, or with the illustrious General Perez, the hero of Guachinanguito. What a moving spectacle it would be!"
"You are a clown!" said Laura.
"He is a finished satirist," added Kennedy.
After lunch, Laura, Kennedy, and Caesar went into the salon, and Laura introduced the Englishman to the San Martino girls and the Countess Brenda. They stayed there chatting until four o'clock, at which time the San Martinos got ready to go out in a motor car, and Laura, with the Countess and her daughter, in a carriage.
Caesar and Kennedy went into the street together.
"You are awfully well fixed here," said Kennedy, "with no Americans, no Germans, or any other barbarians."
"Yes, this hotel is a hive of petty aristocrats."
"Your sister was telling me that you might pick out a very rich wife here, among the girls."
"Yes, my sister would like me to live here, in a foreign country, in cowlike tranquillity, looking at pictures and statues, and travelling pointlessly. That wouldn't be living for me; I am not a society man. I require excitement, danger.... Though I warn you that I am not in the least courageous."
"Not at all. Not now. At moments I believe I could control myself and take a trench without wavering."
"But you have some fixed plan, haven't you?"
"Yes, I expect to go back to Spain, and work there."
"Are you patriotic?"
"Yes, up to a certain point. I have no transcendental idea of patriotism at all. Patriotism, as I interpret it, is a matter of curiosity. I believe that there is strength in Spain. If this strength could be led in a given direction, where would it get to? That is my form of patriotism; as I say, it is an experimental form."
Kennedy looked at Caesar with curiosity.
"And how can it help you with your plans to stay here in Rome?" he asked.
"It can help me. In Spain nobody knows me. This is the only place where I have a certain position, through being the nephew of a Cardinal. I am trying to build on that. How am I going to arrange it? I don't know. I am feeling out my future course, taking soundings."
"But the support you could find here would be all of a clerical nature," said Kennedy.
"But you are not Clerical!"
"No; but it is necessary for me to climb. Afterwards there will be time to change."
"You are not taking it into account, my dear Caesar, that the Church is still powerful and that it doesn't pardon people who impose upon it."
"Bah! I am not afraid of it."
"And you were just saying you are not courageous! You are courageous, my dear man.... After this, I don't doubt of your success."
"I need data."
"If I can furnish you with any...."
"Wouldn't it be disagreeable for you to help a man who is your enemy, so far as ideas go?"
"No; because I am beginning to have some curiosity too, as to whether you will succeed in doing something. If I can be of any use, let me know."
"I will let you know."
Caesar and Kennedy took a walk about the streets, and at twilight they took leave of each other affectionately.
XIV. NEW ATTEMPTS, NEW RAMBLES
"I have arranged two interesting conferences for you," said Kennedy, a few days later.
"My dear man!"
"Yes; one with Cardinal Spada, the other with the Abbe Tardieu. I have spoken to them both about you."
"Splendid! What kind of people are they?"
"Cardinal Spada is a very intelligent man and a very amiable one. At heart he is a Liberal and fond of the French. As to the Abbe Tardieu, he is a very influential priest at the church of San Luigi."
After lunch they went direct to a solitary street in the old part of Rome. At the door of the big, sad palace where Cardinal Spada lived, a porter with a cocked hat, a grey greatcoat, and a staff with a silver knob, was watching the few passers-by.
They went in by the broad entry-way, as far as a dark colonnaded court, paved with big flags which had grass between them.
In the middle of the court a fountain shot up a little way and fell into a stone basin covered with moss.
Kennedy and Caesar mounted the wide monumental stairway; on the first floor a handsome glassed-in gallery ran around the court. The whole house had an air of solemnity and sadness. They entered the Cardinal's office, which was a large, sad, severe room.
Monsignor Spada was a vigorous man, despite his age. He looked frank and intelligent, but one guessed that there was a hidden bitterness and desolation in him. He wore a black cassock with red edges and buttons.
Kennedy went close and was about to kneel to the Cardinal, but he prevented him.
Caesar explained his ideas to the Cardinal with modesty. He felt that this man was worthy of all his respect.
Monsignor Spada listened attentively, and then said that he understood nothing about financial matters, but that on principle he was in favour of having the administration of all the Church's property kept entirely at home, as in the time of Pius IX. Leo XIII had preferred to replace this paternal method by a trained bureaucracy, but the Church had not gained anything by it, and they had lost credit through unfortunate negotiations, buying land and taking mortgages.
Caesar realized that it was useless to attempt to convince a man of the intelligence and austerity of the Cardinal, and he listened to him respectfully.
Monsignor Spada conversed amiably, he escorted them as far as the door, and shook hands when they said good-bye.
THE ABBE TARDIEU
Then they went to see the Abbe Tardieu. The abbe lived in the Piazza. Navona. His office, furnished in modern style, produced the effect of a violent contrast with Cardinal Spada's sumptuous study, and yet brought it to mind. The Abbe Tardieu's work-room was small, worldly, full of books and photographs.
The abbe, a tall young man, thin, with a rosy face, a long nose, and a mouth almost from ear to ear, had the air of an astute but jolly person, and laughed at everything said to him. He was liveliness personified. When they entered his office he was writing and smoking.
Caesar explained about his financial knowledge, and how he had gone on acquiring it, until he got to the point where he could discern a law, a system, in things where others saw nothing more than chance. The Abbe Tardieu promised that if he knew a way to utilize Caesar's knowledge, he would send him word. In respect to giving him letters of introduction to influential persons in Spain, he had no objection.
They took leave of the abbe.
"All this has to go slowly," said Kennedy.
"Of course. One cannot insist that it should happen all at once."
"If you have nothing to do, let's take a walk," said the Englishman.
"If you like."
"Have you noticed the fountains in this square?"
"They are worth looking at."
Caesar contemplated the central obelisk. It is set on top of a rock hollowed out like a cavern, in the mouth of which a lion is seen. Afterwards they looked at the fountains at the ends of the square.
"The sculptures are by Bernini," explained Kennedy. "Bernini belonged to an epoch that has been very much abused by the critics, but nowadays he is much praised. He enchants me."
"It is rather a mixed style, don't you think?"
"The artist is not living?"
"For heaven's sake, man! No."
"Well, if he were alive today they would employ him to make those gewgaws some people present to leading ladies and to the deputies of their district. He would be the king of the manufacturers of ornate barometers."
"It is undeniable that Bernini had a baroque taste."
"He gives the impression of a rather pretentious and affected person."
"Yes, he does. He was an exuberant, luxuriant Neapolitan; but when he chose he could produce marvels. Haven't you seen his Saint Teresa?"
"Then you must see it. Let's take a carriage."
They drove to the Piazza San Bernardo, a little square containing three churches and a fountain, and went into Santa Maria della Vittoria.
Kennedy went straight toward the high altar, and stopped to the left of it.
In an altar of the transept is to be seen a group carved in marble, representing the ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Caesar gazed at it absorbed. The saint is an attractive young girl, falling backward in a sensual spasm; her eyes are closed, her mouth open, and her jaw a bit dislocated. In front of the swooning saint is a little angel who smilingly threatens her with an arrow.
"Well, what do you think of it?" said Kennedy.
"It is wonderful," exclaimed Caesar. "But it is a bedroom scene, only the lover has slipped away."
"Yes, that is true."
"It really is pretty; you seem to see the pallor of the saint's face, the circles under her eyes, the relaxation of all her muscles. Then the angel is a little joker who stands there smiling at the ecstasy of the saint."
"Yes, that's true," said Kennedy; "it is all the more admirable for the very reason that it is tender, sensual, and charming, all at once."
"However, this sort of thing is not healthy," murmured Caesar, "this kind of vision depletes your life-force. One wants to find the same things represented in works of art that one ought to look for in life, even if they are not to be found in life."
"Good! Here enters the moralist. You talk like an Englishman," exclaimed Kennedy. "Let us go along."
"I have to stop in at the French Embassy a moment; then we can go where you like."
CORNERS OF ROME
They went back to the carriage, and having crossed through the centre of Rome, got out in front of the Farnese Palace.
"I will be out inside of ten minutes," said Kennedy.
The Farnese Palace aroused great admiration in Caesar; he had never passed it before. By one of the fountains in the piazza, he stood gazing at the huge square edifice, which seemed to him like a die cut from an immense block of stone.
"This really gives me an impression of grandeur and force," he said to himself. "What a splendid palace! It looks like an ancient knight in full armour, looking indifferently at everything, sure of his own worth."
Caesar walked from one end of the piazza to the other, absorbed in the majestic pile of stone.
Kennedy surprised him in his contemplation.
"Now will you say that you are a good philistine?"
"Ah, well, this palace is magnificent. Here are grandeur, strength, overwhelming force."
"Yes, it is magnificent; but very uncomfortable, my French colleagues tell me."
Kennedy related the history of the Farnese Palace to Caesar. They went through the Via del Mascherone and came out into the Via Giulia.
"This Via Giulia is a street in a provincial capital," said Kennedy; "always sad and deserted; a Cardinal or two who like isolation are still living here."
At the entrance to the Via dei Farnesi, Caesar stopped to look at two marble tablets set into the wall at the two sides of a chapel door.
Cut on the tablets were skeletons painted black; on one, the words: "Alms for the poor dead bodies found in the fields," and on the other: "Alms for the perpetual lamp in the cemetery."
"What does this mean?" said Caesar.
"That is the Church of the Orison of the Confraternity of Death. The tablets are modern."
They passed by the "Mascherone" again, and went rambling on until they reached the Synagogue and the Theatre of Marcellus.
They went through narrow streets without sidewalks; they passed across tiny squares; and it seemed like a dead city, or like the outskirts of a village. In certain streets towered high dark palaces of blackish stone. These mysterious palaces looked uninhabited; the gratings were eaten with rust, all sorts of weeds grew on the roofs, and the balconies were covered with climbing plants. At corners, set into the wall, one saw niches with glass fronts. A painted madonna, black now, with silver jewels and a crown, could be guessed at inside, and in front a little lantern swung on a cord.
Suddenly a cart would come down one of these narrow streets without sidewalks, driving very quickly and scattering the women and children seated by the gutter.
In all these poor quarters there were lanes crossed by ropes loaded with torn washing; there were wretched black shops from which an odour of grease exhaled; there were narrow streets with mounds of garbage in the middle. In the very palaces, now shorn of their grandeur, appeared the same decoration of rags waving in the breeze. In the Theatre of Marcellus one's gaze got lost in the depths of black caves, where smiths stood out against flames.
This mixture of sumptuousness and squalor, of beauty and ugliness, was reflected in the people; young and most beautiful women were side by side with fat, filthy old ones covered with rags, their eyes gloomy, and of a type that recalled old African Jewesses.
WHAT CAN BE READ ON WALLS
Caesar and Kennedy went on toward the Temple of Vesta and followed the river bank until the Tiber Embankment ended.
Here the banks were green and the river clearer and more poetic. To the left rose the Aventine with its villas; in the harbour two or three tugs were tied up; and here and there along the pier stood a crane. Evening was falling and the sky was filling with pink clouds.
They sat down awhile on the side of the road, and Caesar entertained himself deciphering the inscriptions written in charcoal on a mud-wall.
"Do you go in for modern epigraphy?" asked Kennedy.
"Yes. It is one of the things I take pleasure in reading, in the towns I go to; the advertisements in the newspapers and the writings on the wall."
"It's a good kind of curiosity."
"Yes, I believe one learns more about the real life in a town from such inscriptions than from the guide- and text-books."
"That's possible. And what conclusions have you drawn from your observations?"
"They are not of much value. I haven't constructed a science of wall-inscriptions, as that fake Lambroso would have done."
"But you will construct it surely, when you have lighted on the underlying system."
"You think my epigraphical science is on the same level as my financial science. What a mistake!"
"All right. But tell me what you have discovered about different towns."
"London, for instance, I have found, is childish in its inscriptions and somewhat clownish. When some sentimental foolishness doesn't occur to a Londoner of the people, some brutality or rough joke occurs to him."
"You are very kind," said Kennedy, laughing.
"Paris has a vulgar, cruel taste; in the Frenchman of the people you find the tiger alternating with the monkey. There the dominant note on the walls is the patriotic note, insults to politicians, calling them assassins and thieves, and also sentiments of revenge expressed by an 'A mort Dupin!' or 'A mort Duval!' Moreover, there is a great enthusiasm for the guillotine."
"Madrid is at heart a rude, moral town with little imagination, and the epigraphs on the walls and benches are primitive."
"And in Rome what do you find?"
"Here one finds a mixture of pornography, romanticism, and politics. A heart pierced by an arrow and poetic phrases, alternate with some enormous piece of filthiness and with hurrahs for Anarchy or for the 'Papa-re.'"
"Well done!" said Kennedy; "I can see that the branch of epigraphy you practise amounts to something. It should be systematized and given a name."
"What do you think we should name it? Wallography?"
"And one of these fine days we can systematize it. Now we might go and get dinner."
They took a tram which was coming back from St. Paul's beyond the Walls, and returned to the heart of the city.
THE MONK WITH THE RED NOSE
The next day Caesar was finishing dressing when the servant told him that a gentleman was waiting for him.
"Who is it?" asked Caesar.
"It's a monk."
Caesar went to the salon and there found a tall monk with an evil face, a red nose, and a worn habit.
Caesar recalled having seen him, but didn't know where.
"What can I do for you?" asked Caesar.
"I come from His Eminence, Cardinal Fort. I must speak with you."
"Let's go into the dining-room. We shall be alone there."
"It would be better to talk in your room."
"No, there is no one here. Besides, I have to eat breakfast. Will you join me?"
"No, thanks," said the monk.
Caesar remembered having seen that face in the Altemps palace. He was doubtless one of the domestic monks who had been with the Abbe Preciozi.
The waiter came bringing Caesar's breakfast. "Will you tell me what it is?" said Caesar to the ecclesiastic, while he filled his cup.
The monk waited until the waiter was gone, and then said in a hard voice:
"His Eminence the Cardinal sent me to bid you not to present yourself anywhere again, giving his name."
"What? What does this mean?" asked Caesar, calmly.
"It means that His Eminence has found out about your intrigues and machinations."
"Intrigues? What intrigues were those?"
"You know perfectly well. And His Eminence forbids you to continue in that direction."
"His Eminence forbids me to pay calls? And for what reason?"
"Because you have used his name to introduce yourself into certain places."
"It is not true."
"You have told people you went to that you are Cardinal Fort's nephew."
"And I am not?" asked Caesar, after taking a swallow of coffee.
"You are trying to make use of the relationship, we don't know with what end in view."
"I am trying to make use of my relationship to Cardinal Fort? Why shouldn't I?"
"You admit it?"
"Yes, I admit it. People are such imbeciles that they think it is an honour to have a Cardinal in the family; I take advantage of this stupid idea, although I do not share it, because for me a Cardinal is merely an object of curiosity, an object for an archeological museum...."
Caesar paused, because the monk's countenance was growing dark. In the twilight of his pallid face, his nose looked like a comet portending some public calamity.
"Poor wretch!" murmured the monk. "You do not know what you are saying. You are blaspheming. You are offending God." "Do you really believe that God has any relation to my uncle?" asked Caesar, paying more attention to his toast than to his visitor.
And then he added:
"The truth is that it would be extravagant behaviour on the part of God."
The monk looked at Caesar with terrible eyes. Those grey eyes of his, under their long, black, thick brows, shot lightning.
"Poor wretch!" repeated the monk. "You ought to have more respect for things above you."
"You are bothering me and preventing me from drinking my coffee," he said, with exquisite politeness, and touched the bell.
"Be careful!" exclaimed the monk, seizing Caesar's arm with violence.
"Don't you touch me again," said Caesar, pulling away violently, his face pale and his eyes flashing. "If you do, I have a revolver here with five chambers, and I shall take pleasure in emptying them one by one, taking that lighthouse you carry about for a nose, as my target."
"Fire it if you dare."
Fortunately the waiter had come in on hearing the bell.
"Do you wish anything, sir?" he asked.
"Yes, please escort this clerical gentleman to the door, and tell him on the way not to come back here."
Days later Caesar found out that there had been a great disturbance at the Altemps palace in consequence of the calls he had made. Preciozi had been punished and sent away from Rome, and the various Spanish monasteries and colleges warned not to receive Caesar.
XV. GIOVANNI BATTISTA, PAGAN
"My dear Caesar," said Kennedy, "I believe it will be very difficult for you to find what you want by looking for it. You ought to leave it a little to chance."
"Abandon myself to events as they arrive? All right, it seems a good idea."
"Then if you find something practicable, utilize it."
Kennedy took his friend to a statue-shop where he used to pass some of his hours. The shop was in a lane near the Forum, and its stock was in antiques, majolicas, and plaster casts of pagan gods.
The shop was dark and rather gloomy, with a small court at the back covered with vines. The proprietor was an old man, with a moustache, an imperial, and a shock of white hair. His name was Giovanni Battista Lanza. He professed revolutionary ideas and had great enthusiasm about Mazzini. He expressed himself in an ironical and malicious manner.
Signora Vittoria, his wife, was a grumbling old woman, rather devoted to wine. She spoke like a Roman of the lowest class, was olive-coloured and wrinkled, and of her former beauty there remained only her very black eyes and hair that was still black.
The daughter, Simonetta, a girl who resembled her father, blond, with the build of a goddess, was the one that waited on customers and kept the accounts.
Simonetta, being the manager, divided up the profits; the elder son was head of the workshop and he made the most money; then came two workmen from outside; and then the father who still got his day's wages, out of consideration for his age; and finally the younger son, twelve or fourteen years old, who was an apprentice.
Simonetta gave her mother what was indispensable for household expenses and managed the rest herself.
Kennedy retailed this information the first day they went to Giovanni Battista Lanza's house. Caesar could see Simonetta keeping the books, while the small brother, in a white blouse that came to his heels, was chasing a dog, holding a pipe in his hand by the thick part, as if it were a pistol, the dog barking and hanging on to the blouse, the small boy shrieking and laughing, when Signora Vittoria came bawling out.
Kennedy presented Simonetta to his friend Caesar, and she smiled and gave her hand.
"Is Signore Giovanni Battista here?" Kennedy asked Signora Vittoria.
"Yes, he is in the court." she answered in her gloomy way.
"Is something wrong with your mamma?" said Kennedy to Simonetta.
They went into the court and Giovanni Battista arose, very dignified, and bowed to Caesar. The elder son and the two workmen in white blouses and paper caps were busy with water and wires, cleaning a plaster mould they had just emptied.
The mould was a big has-relief of the Way of the Cross. Giovanni Battista permitted himself various jocose remarks about the Way of the Cross, which his son and the other two workmen heard with great indifference; but while he was still emptying his store of anti-Christian irony, the voice of Signora Vittoria was heard, crying domineeringly:
"What is it?"
"That's enough, that's enough! I can hear you from here."
"That's my wife," said Giovanni Battista, "she doesn't like me to be lacking in respect for plaster saints." "You are a pagan!" screamed the old woman. "You shall see, you shall see what will happen to you."
"What do you expect to have happen to me, darling?"
"Leave her alone," exclaimed the elder son, ill at ease; "you always have to be making mother fly into a rage."
"No, my boy, no; she is the one who makes me fly into a rage."
"Giovanni Battista is used to living among gods," said Kennedy, "and he despises saints."
"No, no," replied the cast-maker; "some saints are all right. If all the churches had figures by Donatello or Robbia, I would go to church oftener; but to go and look at those statues in the Jesuit churches, those figures with their arms spread and their eyes rolling.... Oh, no! I cannot look at such things."
Caesar could see that Giovanni Battista expressed himself very well; but that he was not precisely a star when it came to working. After the mould for the bas-relief was cleaned and fixed, the cast-maker invited Caesar and Kennedy to have a glass of wine in a wine-shop near by.
"How's this, are you leaving already, father?" said Simonetta, as he went through the shop to get to the street.
"I'm coming back, I'm coming back right away."
The three of them went to a rather dirty tavern in the same lane, and settled themselves by the window. This post was a good point of observation for that narrow street, so crowded and so picturesque.
Workmen went by, and itinerant vendors, women with kerchiefs, half head-dress and half muffler, and with black eyes and expressive faces. Opposite was a booth of coloured candies, dried figs strung on a reed, and various kinds of sweets.
A wine-cart passed, and Kennedy made Caesar observe how decorative it was with its big arm-seat in the middle and its hood above, like a prompter's box.
Giovanni Battista ordered a flask of wine for the three of them. While he chatted and drank, friends of his came to greet them. They were men with beards, long hair, and soft hats, of the Garbaldi and Verdi type so abundant in Italy.
Among them were two serious old men; one was a model, a native of Frascati, with the face of a venerable apostle; the other, for contrast, looked like a buffoon and was the possessor of a grotesque nose, long, thin at the end and adorned with a red wart.
"My wife has a deadly hatred for all of them," said Giovanni Battista, laughing.
"And why so?" asked Caesar.
"Because we talk politics and sometimes they ask me for a few pennies...."
"Your wife must have a lively temper,..." said Caesar.
"Yes, an unhappy disposition; good, awfully good; but very superstitious. Christianity has produced nothing but superstitions."
"Giovanni Battista is a pagan, as his wife well says," asserted Kennedy.
"What superstitions has your wife?" asked Caesar.
"All of them. Romans are very superstitious and my wife is a Roman. If you see a hunchback, it is good luck; if you see three, then your luck is magnificent and you have to swallow your saliva three times; on the other hand, if you see a humpbacked woman it is a bad omen and you must spit on the ground to keep away the jettatura. Three priests together is a very good sign. We ought all to get along very well in Rome, because we see three and up to thirty priests together."
"A spider is also very significant," said Kennedy; "in the morning it is of bad augury, and in the evening good."
"And at noon?" asked Caesar.
"At noon," answered Lanza, laughing, "it means nothing to speak of. But if you wish to make sure whether it is a good auspice or a bad, you kill the spider and count its legs. If they are an even number, it is a good omen; if uneven, bad."
"But I believe spiders always have an even number of legs," said Caesar.
"Certainly," responded the old man; "but my wife swears they do not; that she has seen many with seven and nine legs. It is religious unreasonableness."
"Are there many people like that, so credulous?" asked Caesar.
"Oh, lots," replied Lanza; "in the shops you will find amulets, horns, hands made of coral or horseshoes, all to keep away bad luck. My wife and the neighbour women play the lottery, by combining the numbers of their birthdays, and the ages of their fathers, their mothers, and their children. When some relative dies, they make a magic combination of the dates of birth and death, the day and the month, and buy a lottery ticket. They never win; and instead of realizing that their systems are of no avail, they say that they omitted to count in the number of letters in the name or something of that sort. It is comical, so much religion and so much superstition."
"But you confuse religion and superstition, my friend," said Kennedy.
"It's all the same," answered the old man, smiling his suavely ironical smile. "There is nothing except Nature."
"You do not believe in miracles, Giovanni Battista?" asked the Englishman.
"Yes, I believe in the earth's miracles, making trees and flowers grow, and the miracle of children's being born from their mothers. The other miracles I do not believe in. What for? They are so insignificant beside the works of Nature!"
"He is a pagan," Kennedy again stated.
They were chatting, when three young lads came into the tavern, all three having the air of artists, black clothes, soft hats, flowing cravats, long hair, and pipes. "Two of them are fellow-countrymen of yours," Kennedy told Caesar.
"They are Spanish painters," the old man added. "The other is a sculptor who has been in the Argentine, and he talks Spanish too."
The three entered and sat down at the same table and were introduced to Caesar. Everybody chattered. Buonacossi, the Italian, was a real type. Of very low stature, he had a giant's torso and strong little legs. His head was like a woe-begone eagle, his nose hooked, thin, and reddish, eyes round, and hair black.
Buonacossi proved to be gay, exuberant, changeable, and full of vehemence.
He explained his artistic ideas with picturesque warmth, mingling them with blasphemies and curses. Things struck him as the best or the worst in the world. For him there doubtless were no middle terms.
One of the two Spaniards was serious, grave, jaundiced, sour-visaged, and named Cortes; the other, large, ordinary, fleshy, and coarse, seemed rather a bully.
Giovanni Battista was not able to be long outside the workshop, no doubt because his conscience troubled him, and though with difficulty, he got up and left. Kennedy, Caesar, and the two Spaniards went toward the Piazza, del Campidoglio, and Buonacossi marched off in the opposite direction.
On reaching the Via Nazionale, Kennedy took his leave and Caesar remained with the two Spaniards. The red, fleshy one, who had the air of a bully, started in to make fun of the Italians, and to mimic their bows and salutes; then he said that he had an engagement with a woman and made haste to take his leave.
When he had gone, the grave Spaniard with the sour face, said to Caesar:
"That chap is like the dandies here; that's why he imitates them so well."
Afterwards Cortes talked about his studies in painting; he didn't get on well, he had no money, and anyway Rome didn't please him at all. Everything seemed wrong to him, absurd, ridiculous.
Caesar, after he had said good-bye to him, murmured: "The truth is that we Spaniards are impossible people."
XVI. THE PORTRAIT OF A POPE
Two or three days later Caesar met the Spaniard Cortes in the Piazza Colonna. They bowed. The thin, sour-looking painter was walking with a beardless young German, red and snub-nosed. This young man was a painter too, Cortes said; he wore a green hat with a cock's feather, a blue cape, thick eyeglasses, big boots, and had a certain air of being a blond Chinaman.
"Would you like to come to the Doria gallery with us?" asked Cortes.
"What is there to see there?"
"A stupendous portrait by Velazquez."
"I warn you that I know nothing about pictures."
"Nobody does," Cortes declared roundly. "Everybody says what he thinks."
"Is the gallery near here?"
"Yes, just a step."
In company with Cortes and the German with the green hat with the cock's feather, Caesar went to the Piazza del Collegio Romano, where the Doria palace is. They saw a lot of pictures which didn't seem any better to Caesar than those in the antique shops and the pawnbrokers', but which drew learned commentaries from the German. Then Cortes took them to a cabinet hung in green and lighted by a skylight. There was nothing to be seen in the cabinet except the portrait of the Pope. In order that people might look at it comfortably, a sofa had been installed facing it.
"Is this the Velazquez portrait?" asked Caesar.
"This is it."
Caesar looked at it carefully. "That man had eaten and drunk well before his portrait was painted," said Caesar; "his face is congested."
"It is extraordinary!" exclaimed Cortes. "It is something to see, the way this is done. What boldness! Everything is red, the cape, the cap, the curtains in the background.... What a man!"
The German aired his opinions in his own language, and took out a notebook and pencil and wrote some notes.
"What sort of man was this?" asked Caesar, whom the technical side of painting did not preoccupy, as it did Cortes.
"They say he was a dull man, who lived under a woman's domination."
"The great thing is," murmured Caesar, "how the painter has left him here alive. It seems as if we had come in here to salute him, and he was waiting for us to speak. Those clear eyes are questioning us. It is curious."
"Not curious," exclaimed Cortes, "but admirable."
"For me it is more curious than admirable. There is something brutal in this Pope; through his grey beard, which is so thin, you can see his projecting chin. The good gentleman was of a marked prognathism, a type of degeneration, indifference, intellectual torpor, and nevertheless, he reached the top. Perhaps in the Church it's the same as in water, only corks float."
LEGEND AND HISTORY
Caesar went out of the cabinet, leaving the German and Cortes seated on the sofa, absorbed in the picture; he looked at various paintings in the gallery, went back, and sat down, beside the artists.
"This portrait," he said presently, "is like history by the side of legend. All the other paintings in the gallery are legend, 'folk-lore,' as I believe one calls it. This one is history."
"That's what it is. It is truth," agreed Cortes.
"Yes, but there are people who do not like the truth, my friend. I tell you: this is a man of flesh, somewhat enigmatic, like nature herself, and with arteries in which blood flows; this is a man who breathes and digests, and not merely a pleasant abstraction; you, who understand such things, will tell me that the drawing is perfect, and the colour such as it was in reality; but how about the person who doesn't ask for reality?"
"Stendhal, the writer, was affected that way by this picture," said Cortes; "he was shocked at its being hung among masterpieces."
"He found it bad, no doubt."
"Was this Stendhal English?"
"Ah, then, you needn't be surprised. A Frenchman has no obligation to understand anything that's not French."
"Nevertheless he was an intelligent man."
"Did he perhaps have a good deal of veneration?"
"No, he boasted of not having any."
"Doubtless he did have without suspecting it. With a man who had no veneration, what difference would it make whether there was one bad thing among a lot of good ones?"
The German with the green hat, who understood something of the conversation, was indignant at Caesar's irreverent ideas. He asked him if he understood Latin, and Caesar told him no, and then, in a strange gibberish, half Latin and half Italian, he let loose a series of facts, dates, and numbers. Then he asserted that all artistic things of great merit were German: Greece. Rome, Gothic architecture, the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, Velazquez, all German.
The snub-nosed young person, with his cape and his green hat with its cock-feather, did not let a mouse escape from his German mouse-trap.
The data of the befeathered German were too much for Caesar, and he took his leave of the painters.
XVII. EVIL DAYS
Accompanied by Kennedy, Caesar called repeatedly on the most auspicious members of the French clerical element living in Rome, and found persons more cultivated than among the rough Spanish monks; but, as was natural, nobody gave him any useful information offering the possibility of his putting his financial talents to the proof.
"Something must turn up," he used to say to himself, "and at the least opening we will dive into the work."
Caesar kept gathering notes about people who had connections in Spain with the Black party in Rome; he called several times on Father Herreros, despite his uncle's prohibition, and succeeded in getting the monk to write to the Marquesa de Montsagro, asking if there were no means of making Caesar Moneada, Cardinal Fort's nephew, Conservative Deputy for her district.
The Marquesa wrote back that it was impossible; the Conservative Deputy for the district was very popular and a man with large properties there.
When Holy Week was over, Laura and the Countess Brenda and her daughter decided to spend a while at Florence, and invited Caesar to accompany them; but he was quite out of harmony with the Brenda lady, and said that he had to stay on in Rome.
A few days later Mme. Dawson and her daughters left, and the San Martinos and the Marchesa Sciacca; and an avalanche of English people and Germans, armed with their red Baedekers, took the hotel by storm. Susanna Marchmont had gone to spend some days at Corfu.
In less than a week Caesar remained alone, knowing nobody in the hotel, and despite his believing that he was going to be perfectly indifferent about this, he felt deserted and sad. The influence of the springtime also affected him. The deep blue sky, cloudless, dense, dark, made him languish. Instead of entertaining himself with something or other, he did scarcely anything all day long but walk.
TWO ABSURD MEN
"I have continually near me in the hotel," wrote Caesar to Alzugaray, "two absurd fellows: one is one of those stout red Germans with a square head; the other a fine slim Norwegian. The German, who is a captain in some service or other, is a restless man, always busy about what the devil I don't know. He is constantly carrying about trunks and boxes, with the aid of a sorrowful valet, dressed in black, who appears to detest his position. The captain must devote the morning to doing gymnastics, for I hear him from my room, which is next to his, jumping and dropping weights on the floor, each of which must weigh half a ton, to judge by the noise they make.
"He does all this to vocal commands, and when some feat doesn't go right he reprimands himself.
"This German isn't still a moment; he opens the salon door, crosses the room, stands at the window, takes up a paper, puts it down. He is a type that makes me nervous.
"The Norwegian at first appeared to be a reasonable man, somewhat sullen. He looked frowningly at me, and I watched him equally frowningly, and took him for a thinker, an Ibsenite whose imagination was lost among the ice of his own country. Now and then I would see him walking up and down the corridor, rubbing his hands together so continuously and so frantically that they made a noise like bones.
"Suddenly, this gentleman is transformed as if by magic; he begins to joke with the servants, he seizes a chair and dances with it, and the other day I saw him alone in the salon marching around with a paper hat on his head, like children playing soldiers, and blowing on a cornet, also made of paper." I stared at him in amazement, he smiled like a child, and asked if he was disturbing me.
"'No, no, not in the least,' I told him.
"I have asked in the hotel if this man is crazy, and they have told me that he is not, but is a professor, a man of science, who is known to have these strange fits of gaiety.
"Another of the Norwegian's doings has been to compose a serenade, with a vulgar melody that would disgust you, and which he has dedicated 'A la bella Italia.' He wrote the Italian words himself, but as he knows no music, he had a pianist come here and write out his serenade. What he especially wants is that it should be full of sentiment; and so the pianist arranged it with directions and many pauses, which satisfied the Norwegian. Almost every night the serenade 'A la bella Italia' is sung. Somebody who wants to amuse himself goes to the piano, the Norwegian strikes a languid attitude and chants his serenade. Sometimes he goes in front of the piano, sometimes behind, but invariably he hears the storm of applause when it ends, and he bows with great gusto.
"I don't know whether it's the other people who are laughing at him, or he who is laughing at the others.
"The other day he said to me in his macaronic Italian:
"'Mr. Spaniard, I have good eyesight, good hearing, a good sense of smell, and... lots of sentiment.'
"I didn't exactly understand what he meant me to think, and I didn't pay any attention to him.
"It seems that the Norwegian is going away soon, and as the day of his departure approaches, he grows funereal."
THE SADNESS OF LIFE
"I don't know why I don't go away," Caesar wrote to his friend another time. "When I go out in the evening and see the ochre-coloured houses on both sides and the blue sky above, a horrible sadness takes me. These spring days oppress me, make me want to weep; it seems to me it would be better to be dead, leaving no tomb or name or other ridiculous and disagreeable thing, but disappearing into the air or the sea. It doesn't seem natural; but I have never been so happy as one time when I was in Paris sick, alone and with a fever. I was in an hotel room and my window looked into the garden of a fine house, where I could see the tops of the trees; and I transformed them into a virgin forest, wherein marvellous adventures happened to me.
"Since then I have often thought that things are probably neither good nor bad, neither sad nor happy, in themselves; he who has sound, normal nerves, and a brain equally sound, reflects the things around him like a good mirror, and feels with comfort the impression of his conformity to nature; nowadays we who have nerves all upset and brains probably upset too, form deceptive reflections. And so, that time in Paris, sick and shut in, I was happy; and here, sound and strong, when toward nightfall, I look at the splendid skies, the palaces, the yellow walls that take an extraordinary tone, I feel that I am one of the most miserable men on the planet...."
ONE SUNDAY AFTERNOON
His lack of tranquillity led Caesar to make absurd resolutions which he didn't carry out.
One Sunday in the beginning of April, he went out into the street, disposed to take a walk outside of Rome, following the road anywhere it led. A hard, fine rain was falling, the sky was grey, the air mild, the streets were full of puddles, the shops closed; a few flower merchants were offering branches of almond in blossom.
Caesar was very depressed. He went into a church to get out of the rain. The church was full; there were many people in the centre of it; he didn't know what they were doing. Doubtless they were gathered there for some reason, although Caesar didn't understand what. Caesar sat down on a bench, worn out; he would have liked to listen to organ music, to a boy choir. No ideas occurred to him but sentimental ones. Some time passed, and a priest began to preach. Caesar got up and went into the street.
"I must get rid of these miserable impressions, get back to noble ideas. I must fight this sentimental leprosy."
He started to walk with long strides through the sad, empty streets.
He went toward the river and met Kennedy, who was coming back, he told him, from the studio of a sculptor friend of his.
"You look like desolation. What has happened to you?"
"Nothing, but I am in a perfectly hellish humour."
"I am melancholy too. It must be the weather. Let's take a walk."
They went along the bank of the Tiber. Full of clay, more turbid than ever, and very high between the white embankments hemming it in, the river looked like a big sewer.
"This is not the 'coeruleus Tibris' that Virgil speaks of in the Aeneld, which presented itself to Aeneas in the form of an ancient man with his head crowned with roses," said Kennedy.
"No. This is a horrible river," Caesar opined.
They followed the shore, passed the Castel Sant' Angelo and the bridge with the statues.
From the embankment, to the right, they could now see narrow lanes, sunk almost below the level of the river. On the other bank a new, white edifice towered in the rain.
They went as far as the Piazza d'Armi, and then came back at nightfall to Rome. The rain was gradually ceasing and the sky looked less threatening. A file of greenish gaslights followed the river-wall and then crossed over the bridge.
They walked to the Piazza del Popolo and through the Via Babuino to the Piazza di Spagna.
"Would you like to go to a Benedictine abbey tomorrow?" asked Kennedy.
"And if you are still melancholy, we will leave you there."
The next day, after lunch, Kennedy and Caesar went to visit the abbey of Sant' Anselmo on the Aventine. The abbot, Hildebrand, was a friend of Kennedy's, and like him an Englishman.
They took a carriage and Kennedy told it to stop at the church of Santa Sabina.
"It is still too early to go to the abbey. Let us look at this church, which is the best preserved of all the old Roman ones."
They entered the church; but it was so cold there that Caesar went out again directly and waited in the porch. There was a man there selling rosaries and photographs who spoke scarcely any Italian or French, but did speak Spanish. Probably he was a Jew.
Caesar asked him where they manufactured those religious toys, and the pedlar told him in Westphalia.
Kennedy went to look at a picture by Sassoferrato, which is in one of the chapels, and meanwhile the rosary-seller showed the church door to Caesar and explained the different bas-reliefs, cut in cypress wood by Greek artists of the V Century, and representing scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
Kennedy came back, they got into the carriage again, and they drove to the Benedictine abbey.
"Is the abbot Hildebrandus here?" asked Kennedy.
Out came the abbot, a man of about fifty, with a gold cross on his breast. They exchanged a few friendly words, and the superior showed them the convent.
The refectory was clean and very spacious; the long table of shining wood; the floor made of mosaic. The crypt held a statue, which Caesar assumed must be of Sant' Anselmo. The church was severe, without ornaments, without pictures; it had a primitive air, with its columns of fine granite that looked like marble. A monk was playing the harmonium, and in the opaque veiled light, the thin music gave a strange impression of something quite outside this life.
Afterwards they crossed a large court with palm-trees. They went up to the second story, and down a corridor with cells, each of which had on the lintel the name of the patron saint of the respective monk. Each door had a card with the name of the occupant of the room.
It looked more like a bath-house than a monastery. The cells were comfortable inside, without any air of sadness; each held a bed, a divan, and a small bookcase.
By a window at the end of the passage, one could see, far away, the Alban Hills, looking like a blue mountain-range, half hidden in white haze, and nearby one could see the trees in the Protestant cemetery and the pyramid of Caius Cestius close to them.
Caesar felt a sort of deep repugnance for the people shut up here, remote from life and protected from it by a lot of things.
"The man who is playing the harmonium in this church with its opaque light, is a coward," he said to himself. "One must live and struggle in the open air, among men, in the midst of their passions and hatreds, even though one's miserable nerves quiver and tremble."
After showing them the monastery, the abbot Hildebrand took them to his study, where he worked at revising ancient translations of the Bible. He had photographic copies of all the Latin texts and he was collating them with the original.
They talked of the progress of the Church, and the abbot commented with some contempt on the worldly success of the Jesuit churches, with their saints who serve as well to get husbands and rich wives as to bring winning numbers in the lottery.
Before going out, they went to a window, at the other end of the corridor from where they had looked out before. Below them they could see the Tiber as far as the Ripa harbour; opposite, the heights of the Janiculum, and further, Saint Peter's.
When they went out, Kennedy said to Caesar:
"What devilish effect has the abbey produced in you, that you are so much gayer than when we went in?"
"It has confirmed me in my idea, which I had lost for a few days."
"What idea is that?"
"That we must not defend ourselves in this life, but attack, always attack."
"And now you are contented at having found it again?"
"I am glad, because you have such a pitiable air when you are sad. Would you like to go to the Priory of Malta, which is only a step from here?"
They went down in the carriage to the Priory of Malta. They knocked at the gate and a woman came out who knew Kennedy, and who told them to wait a moment and she would open the church.
"Here," said Kennedy, "you have all that remains of the famous Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. That anti-historic man Bonaparte rooted it out of Malta. The Order attempted to establish itself in Catania, and afterwards at Ferrara, and finally took refuge here. Now it has no property left, and all that remains are its memories and its archives."
"That is how our descendants will see our Holy Mother the Church. In Chicago or Boston some traveller will find an abandoned chapel, and will ask: 'What is this? 'And they will tell him: 'This is what remains of the Catholic Church.'"
"Don't talk like an Homais," said Kennedy.
"I don't know who Homais is," retorted Caesar.
"An atheistical druggist in Flaubert's novel, Madame Bovary. Haven't you read it?"
"Yes; I have a vague idea that I have read it. A very heavy thing; yes, ... I think I have read it."
The woman opened the door and they went into the church. It was small, overcharged with ornaments. They saw the tomb of Bishop Spinelli and Giotto's Virgin, and then went into a hall gay with red flags with a white cross, on whose walls they could read the names of the Grand Masters of the Order of Malta. The majority of the names were French and Polish. Two or three were Spanish, and among them that of Caesar Borgia.
"Your countryman and namesake was also a Grand Master of Malta," said Kennedy.
"So it seems," replied Caesar with indifference. "I see that you speak with contempt of that extraordinary man. Is he not congenial to you?"
"The fact is I don't know his history."
"How strange! We must go tomorrow to the Borgia Apartment in the Vatican."
They saw the model of an ancient galley which was in the same hall, and went out through the church into the garden planned by Piranesi. The woman showed them a very old palm, with a hole in it made by a hand-grenade in the year '49. It had remained that way more than half a century, and it was only a few days since the trunk of the palm had broken.
From the garden they went, by a path between trees, to the bastion of Paul III, a little terrace, from which they could see the Tiber at their feet, and opposite the panorama of Rome and its environs, in the light of a beautiful spring sunshine....
XVIII. CAESAR BORGIA'S MOTTO, "AUT CAESAR, AUT NIHIL"
The next day was one of the days for visiting the Borgia Apartment. Caesar and Kennedy met in the Piazza di San Pietro, went into the Vatican museum, and walked by a series of stairs and passageways to the Gallery of Inscriptions.
Then they went down to a hall, at whose door there were guards dressed in slashed clothes, which were parti-coloured, red, yellow, and black. Some of them carried lances and others swords.
"Why are the guards here dressed differently?" asked Caesar.
"Because this belongs to the Dominions of the Pope."
"And what kind of guards are these?"
"These are pontifical Swiss guards."
"They look comic-opera enough," said Caesar.
"My dear man, don't say that. This costume was designed by no one less than Michelangelo."
"All right. At that time they probably looked very well, but now they have a theatrical effect."
"It is because you have no veneration. If you were reverential, they would look wonderful to you."
"Very well, let us wait and see whether reverence will not spring up in me. Now, you go on and explain what there is here."
"This first room, the Hall of Audience, or of the Popes, does not contain anything notable, as you see," said Kennedy; "the five we are coming to later, have been restored, but are still the same as at the time when your countryman Alexander VI was Pope. All five were decorated by Pinturicchio and his pupils, and all with reference to the Borgias. The Borgias have their history, not well known in all its details, and their legend, which is more extensive and more picturesque. Really, it is not easy to distinguish one from the other."
"Let's have the history and the legend mixed."
"I will give you a resume in a few words. Alfonso Borja was a Valencian, born at Jatiba; he was secretary to the King or Aragon; then Bishop of Valencia, later Cardinal, and lastly Pope, by the name of Calixtus III. While Calixtus lives, the Spaniards are all-powerful in Rome. Calixtus protects his nephews, sons of his sister Isabel and a Valencian named Lanzol or Lenzol. These nephews drop their original name and take their mother's, Italianizing its spelling to Borgia. Their uncle, the Pope, appoints the elder, Don Pedro Luis, Captain of the Church; the second, Don Rodriguez...."
"Don Rodriguez?" said Caesar. "In Spanish you can't say Don Rodriguez."
"Gregorovius calls him that."
"Then Gregorovius, no doubt, knew no Spanish."
"In Latin he is called Rodericus."
"Then it should be Don Rodrigo."
"All right, Rodrigo. Well, this Don Rodrigo, also from Jatiba, his uncle makes a Cardinal, and at the death of Pedro Luis, he calls him to Rome. Rodrigo has had several children before becoming a Cardinal, and apparently he feels no great enthusiasm for ecclesiastical dignities; but when he finds himself in Rome, the ambition to be Pope assails him, and at the death of Innocent VIII, he buys the tiara? Is it legend or history that he bought the tiara? That is not clear. Now we will go in and see the portrait of Rodrigo Borgia, who in the series of Popes, bears the name Alexander VI."
ALEXANDER VI AND HIS BROTHER
Kennedy and Caesar entered the first room, the Hall of the Mysteries, and the Englishman stopped in front of a picture of the Resurrection. "Here you have Alexander VI, on his knees, adoring Christ who is leaving the tomb. He is the type of a Southerner; he has a hooked nose, a long head, tonsured, a narrow forehead, thick lips, a heavy beard, a strong neck, and small chubby hands. He wears a papal robe of gold, covered with jewels; the tiara is on the ground beside him. Of the soldiers, it is supposed that the one asleep by the sepulchre and the one who is waking and rising up, pulling himself to his knees by the aid of his lance, are two of the Pope's sons, Caesar and the Duke of Gandia. I rather believe that the little soldier with the lance is a woman, perhaps Lucrezia. How does your countryman strike you, my friend?"
"He is of Mediterranean race, a dolichocephalic Iberian; he has the small melon-shaped head, the sensual features. He is leptorrhine. He comes of an intriguing, commercial, lying, and charlatan race."
"To which you have the honour to belong," said Kennedy, laughing.
"They say this man was a great enthusiast about his countrymen and the customs of his country. These tiles, which are remains of the original floor, and the plates you see here, are Valencian. A Spanish painter told me that several letters of Alexander VI's are preserved in the archives of the cathedral at Valencia, one among them asking to have tiles sent."
Kennedy walked forward a little and planted himself before an Assumption of the Virgin, and said:
"It is supposed that this gloomy man dressed in red, with a little fringe of hair on his brow, is a brother of the Pope's."
"A bad type to encounter in the Tribunal of the Inquisition," said Caesar; "imagine what this red-robed fellow would have done with that Jew at the Excelsior, Senor Pereira, if he had happened to have him in his power."
"In the soffits," Kennedy went on, "as you see, are repetitions of the symbols of Iris, Osiris, and the bull Apis, doubtless because of their resemblance to the Christian symbols, and also because the bull Apis recalls the bull in the Borgia arms." "Their arms were a bull?"
"Yes; it was a 'scutcheon invented by some king-at-arms or other, a symbol of ferocity and strength."
"Were they of a noble family, these Borgias?"
"No, probably not. Though I believe some people suppose that they were descended from the Aragonese family of Atares. Now that we know Alexander VI, let us take a glance at his court. It has often been said, and is no doubt taken from Vasari's book, that in the Borgia Apartment Pinturicchio painted Pope Alexander VI adoring the Virgin represented under the likeness of his beloved, Julia Farnese. The critic must have been confused, because none of these madonnas recalls the face of Giulia la bella, whom people used to call the Bride of Christ. The picture that Vasari refers to must be one in the museum at Valencia."
THE HALL OF THE SAINTS
They went into another room, the Hall of the Saints, and Kennedy took Caesar in front of the fresco called, The Dispute of Saint Catherine with the Emperor Maximian.
"The place of this scene," said Kennedy, "Pinturicchio has set in front of the Arch of Constantine. The artist has added the inscription Pacis Cultori, and below he has embossed the Borgia bull. The subject is the discussion between the Emperor and the saint. Maximian, seated on a throne under a canopy, is listening to Saint Catherine, who counts on her fingers the arguments she has been using in the dispute. Who was it served as model for the figure of Maximian? At first they imagined it was Caesar Borgia; but as you may observe, the appearance of the Emperor is that of a man of twenty odd years, and when Pinturicchio painted this, Caesar was about seventeen. So it is more logical to suppose that the model must have been the Pope's eldest son, the Duke of Gandia. A chronicler of the period says that this Duke of Gandia was good among the great, as his brother Caesar was great among the wicked. Also, legend or history, whichever it be, says that Caesar procured his elder brother's murder in a corner of the Ghetto, and that the Pope on learning of it, became as if crazy, and went into the full Consistory with his garments torn and ashes on his head."
"What love for traditional symbolism!" said Caesar.
"Everybody is not so anti-traditional as you. I will go on with my explanation," added Kennedy. "Saint Catherine has Lucrezia's features. She is small and slender. She wears her hair down, a little cap with a pearl cross which hangs on her forehead, and a collar also of pearls. She has large eyes, a candid expression. Cagnolo da Parma will say of her, when she goes to Ferrara, that she has 'il naso profilato e bello, li capelli aurei, gli occhi bianchi, la bocea alquanto grande con li denti candiaissimi.' Literature will portray this sweet-faced little blond girl as a Messalina, a poisoner, and incestuous with her brothers and her father. At this time Lucrezia had just married Giovanni Sforza, although as a matter of fact the two never lived together. Giovanni Sforza is the little young man who appears there in the back of the picture riding a spirited horse. Sforza wears his hair like a woman, and has a broad-brimmed hat and a red mantle. A little later Caesar Borgia will try several times to assassinate him."
"What for?" asked Caesar.
"No doubt he found him in the way. The man who is in the foreground, next to the Emperor's throne, is Andrew Paleologos," Kennedy continued. "He is the one wearing a pale purple cloak and looking so melancholy. It used to be supposed that he was Giovanni Borgia. Now they say that it is Paleologos, whom the death of the Emperor Constantine XIII, about this time, had caused to lose the crown of Byzance.
"Here at the right, riding a Barbary horse, is Prince Djem, second son of Muhammad II, whom Alexander VI kept as a hostage. Djem, as you see, has an expressive face, a prominent nose, lively eyes, a long pointed beard, a shock of hair, and a big turban. He rides Moorish fashion, with his stirrups very short, and wears a curved cutlass in his belt. He is a great friend of Caesar Borgia's, which does not prevent Caesar and his father, according to public rumour, from poisoning him at a farewell banquet in Capua. And here is Giovanni Sforza again, on foot. Are those two children the younger sons of Alexander VI? Or are they Lucrezia and Caesar again? I don't know. Behind Paleologos are the Pope's domestic retainers, and among them Pinturicchio himself."
THE LIFE OF CAESAR BORGIA
After explaining the picture in detail, Kennedy went into the next room, followed by Caesar. This is called the Hall of the Liberal Arts, and is adorned with a large marble mantel.
"Is there no portrait here of Caesar Borgia?" asked Caesar.
"No. Here I have a photograph of the one by Giorgione," said Kennedy, showing a postal card.
"What sort of man was he? What did he do?"
Kennedy seated himself on a bench near the window and Caesar sat beside him.
"Caesar Borgia," said Kennedy, "came to Rome from the university of Pisa, approximately at the time when they made his father Pope. He must then have been about twenty, and was strong and active. He broke in horses, was an expert fencer and shot, and killed bulls in the ring."
"He was a good Spaniard. In a court that cannot be seen from here, on account of those thick panes, but on which these windows look, Caesar Borgia fought bulls, and the Pope stood here to watch his son's dexterity with the sword."
"What ruffians!" exclaimed Caesar, smiling.
The Englishman continued with the history of Borgia, his intrigues with the King of France, the death of Lucrezia's husband, the assassinations attributed to the Pope's son, the mysterious execution of Ramiro del Orco, which made Machiavelli say that Caesar Borgia was the prince who best knew how to make and unmake men, according to their merits; finally the coup d'etat at Sinigaglia with the condottieri.
By this time Caesar Moncada was very anxious to know more. These Borgias interested him. His sympathies went out toward those great bandits who dominated Rome and tried to get all Italy into their power, leaf by leaf, like an artichoke. Their purpose struck him as a good one, almost a moral one. The device, Aut Caesar, aut nihil, was worthy of a man of energy and courage.
Kennedy seeing Caesar's interest, then recounted the scene at Cardinal Adrian Corneto's country-house; Alexander's intention to give a supper there to various Cardinals and poison them all with a wine that had been put into three bottles, so as to inherit from them, the superstitiousness of the Pope, who sent Cardinal Caraffa to the Vatican for a golden box in which he kept his consecrated Host, from which he was never separated; and the mistake of the chamberlain, who served the poisoned wine to Caesar and his father.
"Here, to this very room, they brought the dying Pope," said Kennedy, and pointed to a door, on whose marble lintel one may read: Alexander Borgia Valentin P. P. "They say he passed eight days here between life and death, before he did die, and that when his corpse was exposed, it decomposed horribly."
Then Kennedy related the story of Caesar's trying to cure himself by the strange method of being put inside of a mule just dead; his flight from Rome, sick on a litter, with his soldiers, as far as the Romagna; his imprisonment in the Castel Sant' Angelo; his capture by the Great Captain; his efforts to escape from his prison at Medina del Campo; and his obscure death on the Mendavia road, near Viana in Navarre, through one of the Count of Lerin's soldiers, named Garces, a native of Agreda, who gave Borgia such a blow with a lance that it broke his armour and passed all the way through his body.
Caesar was stirred up. Hearing the story of the people who had lived there, in those very rooms, gave him an impression of complete reality.
When they went out again by the Gallery of Inscriptions, they looked from a window.
"It must have been here that he fought bulls?" said Caesar.
The court was large, with a fountain of four streams in the middle. "Life then must have been more intense than now," said Caesar.
"Who knows? Perhaps it was the same as now," replied Kennedy.
"And what does history, exact history, say of these Borgias?"
"Of Pope Alexander VI it says that he had his children in wedlock; that he was a good administrator; that the people were content with him; that the influence of Spain was justifiable, because he was Spanish; that the story of the poisonings does not seem certain; and that he himself could hardly have died of poison, but rather of a malarial fever."
"And about Lucrezia?"
"Of Lucrezia it says that she was a woman like those of her period; that there are no proofs for belief in her incests and her poisonings; and that her first marriages, which were never really consummated, were nothing more than political moves of her father and her brother's."
"And about Caesar?"
"Caesar is the one member of the family who appears really terrible. His device, Aut Caesar, aut nihil, was not a chance phrase, but the irrevocable decision to be a king or to be nothing."
"That, at least, is not a mystification," murmured Caesar.
IN FRONT OF THE CASTEL SANT' ANGELO
They left the Vatican, crossed the Piazza di San Pietro, and drew near the river.
As they passed in front of the Castel Sant' Angelo, Kennedy said:
"Alexander VI shut himself up in this castle to weep for the Duke of Gandia. From one of those windows he watched the funeral procession of his son, whom they were carrying to Santa Maria del Popolo. According to old Italian custom they bore the corpse in an open casket. The funeral was at night, and two hundred men with torches lighted the way. When the cortege set foot on this bridge, the Pope's retinue saw him draw back with horror, and cover his face, crying out sharply."
XIX. CAESAR'S REFLECTIONS
"I have had the curiosity," Caesar wrote to his friend Alzugaray, "to inform myself about the life of the Borgias, and going on from one to another, I reached Saint Francis Borgia; and from Saint Francis I have gone backwards to Saint Ignatius Loyola.
"The parallelism between the doings of Caesar Borgia and of Inigo de Loyola surprised me; what one tried to do in the sphere of action, the other did in the sphere of thought. These twin Spanish figures, both odious to the masses, have given its direction to the Church; one, Loyola, through the impulse to spiritual power; the other, Caesar Borgia, through the impulse to temporal power.
"One may say that Spain gave Papal Rome its thought and activity, as it gave the Rome of the Caesars also its thought and activity, through Seneca and Trajan.
"Really it is curious to see the traces that remain in Rome of that Basque, Inigo. That half farceur, half ruffian, who had the characteristics of a modern anarchist, was a genius for organization. Bakunin and Mazzini are poor devils beside him. The Church still lives through Loyola. He was her last reformer.
"The Society of Jesus is the knot of the whole Catholic scaffolding; the Jesuits know that on the day when this knot, which their Society forms, is cut or pulled open, the whole frame-work of out-of-date ideas and lies, which defends the Vatican, will come down with a terrible noise.
"Rome lives on Jesuitism. Indubitably, without Loyola, Catholicism would have rotted away much sooner. It is obvious that this would have been better, but we are not talking about that. A good general is not one who defends just causes, but one who wins battles.
"The Borgias, Luther, and Saint Ignatius, between them, killed the predominance of the Latin race.
"The Borgias threw discredit on the free Renaissance life, before the face of all nations; Luther removed the centre of spiritual life and philosophy to Germany and England; Saint Ignatius prevented Roman Catholicism from rotting away; he put iron braces on the body that was doubling over with weakness, and inside his braces the body has gone on decomposing and has poisoned the Latin countries.
"On hearing this opinion here, they asked me:
"'Then you think Catholicism is dead?'
"'No, no; as to having any civilizing effect, it is dead; but as to having a sentimental effect, it is very much alive... and it will still unfortunately keep on being alive. All this business of the Virgin del Pilar and the Virgin del Carmen, and saints, and processions, and magnificent churches, is a terrible strength.... If there were an emancipated bourgeoisie and a sensible working class, Catholicism would not be a peril; but there are not, and Catholicism will have, not perhaps an overpowering expansion, but at least moments of new growth. While we have a lazy rich class and a brutalized poor class, Catholicism will be strong.'
"Leaving the utilitarian and moral questions aside, and considering merely the amount of influence and the traces left by this influence, one can see that Rome is living on Loyola's work and still dreaming of Borgia's. Those pilgrims in the Piazza di San Pietro who enthusiastically yell, Viva il Papa-re! are acclaiming the memory of Caesar Borgia. Thus you have the absurd result, people who speak with horror of an historic figure and still hold his work in admiration.
"This Spanish influence that our country gave to the Church in two ways, spiritual and material,—to the Church which now is an institution not merely foreign but contrary to our nature,—Spain ought today to try to use in her own behalf. Spain's work ought to be to organize extra-religious individualism.
"We are individualists; therefore what we need is an iron discipline, like soldiers.
"This discipline established, we ought to spread it through the contiguous countries, especially through Africa. Democracy, the Republic, Socialism, have not, essentially, any root in our land. Families, cities, classes, can be united in a pact; isolated men, like us, can be united only by discipline.
"Moreover, as for us, we do not recognize prestige, nor do we cheerfully accept either kings or presidents or high priests or grand magi.
"The only thing that would suit us would be to have a chief... for the pleasure of eating him alive.
"A Loyola of the extra-religious individualism is what Spain needs. Deeds, always deeds, and a cold philosophy, realistic, based on deeds, and a morality based on action. Don't you agree?
"I think, and I am becoming more confirmed in my opinion, that the only people who can give a direction, found a new civilization with its own proper characteristics, for that old Iberian race, which probably sprang from the shores of the Mediterranean... is we Spaniards.
"'Why only you Spaniards?' my friend Kennedy asked me; and I told him:
"'To me it seems indubitable. France is leaning constantly more towards the North. In Italy the same is true; Milan and Turin, where the Saxon and the Gaul predominate, are the real capitals of Italy. In Spain, however, this does not happen. We are separated from the rest of Europe by the Pyrenees, and joined to Africa by the sea and climate. Our plan ought to be to construct a great European Empire, to impose our ideas on the peninsula, and then to spread them everywhere.'"
XX. DON CALIXTO AT SAINT PETER'S
DON CALIXTO UNDERSTANDS
Kennedy was anxious that Caesar should turn into the good road. The good road, for him, was art.
"At heart," the Englishman informed him, "I am one of those Brothers of the Esthetic Doctrine who irritate you, and I must instruct you in the faith."
"I am not opposed to your trying to instruct me."
The two went several times to see museums, especially the Vatican museum.
One day, on leaving the Sistine Chapel, where they had had a long discussion on the merits of Michelangelo, Caesar met the painter Cortes, who came to speak to him.
"I am here with a gentleman from my town, who is a Senator," said Cortes. "A boresome old boy. Shall I introduce him?"
"He is an old fool who knows nothing about anything and talks about everything."
Cortes presented Caesar to Don Calixto Garcia Guerrero, a man of some fifty-odd, Senator and boss of the province of Zamora.
Don Calixto invited Caesar and Kennedy to dine with him. The Englishman expressed regrets, and Caesar said he would go. They took leave of Cortes and Don Calixto, and went out to the Piazza di San Pietro.
"I imagine you are going to be bored tomorrow dining with that old countryman of yours," said Kennedy. "Oh, surely. He has all the signs of a soporific person; but who knows? a type like that sometimes has influence."
"So you are dining with him with a more or less practical object?"
"Why, of course."
The next evening, Caesar, in his evening clothes, betook himself to an hotel in the Piazza di Spagna, where Don Calixto Garcia Guerrero was staying. Don Calixto received him very cordially. He doubtless knew that Caesar was nephew to Cardinal Fort and brother to a marchioness, and doubtless that flattered Don Calixto.
Don Calixto honoured Caesar with an excellent dinner, and during dessert became candid with him. He had come to Rome to put through his obtaining a Papal title. He was a friend of the Spanish Ambassador to the Vatican, and it wouldn't have cost him any more to be made a prince, a duke, or a marquis; but he preferred the title of count. He had a magnificent estate called La Sauceda, and he wanted to be the Count de la Sauceda.
Caesar comprehended that this gentleman might be fortune coming in the guise of chance, and he set himself to making good with him, to telling him stories of aristocratic life in Rome, some of which he had read in books, and some of which he had heard somewhere or other.
"What vices must exist here!" Don Calixto kept exclaiming. "That is why they say: 'Roma veduta, fede perduta.'"
Caesar noted that Don Calixto had a great enthusiasm for the aristocracy; and so he took pains, every time he talked with him, to mix the names of a few princes and marquises into the conversation; he also gave him to understand that he lived among them, and went so far as to hint the possibility of being of service to him in Rome, but in a manner ambiguous enough to permit of withdrawing the offer in case of necessity. Fortunately for Caesar, Don Calixto had his affairs all completely arranged; the one thing he desired was that Caesar, whom he supposed to be an expert on archeological questions, should go about with him the three or four days he expected to remain in Rome. He had spent a whole week making calls, and as yet had seen nothing.