The papal cause seemed hopeless. There was a general feeling throughout the city and all classes, that this time it was to be an affair of Alaric or Genseric, or the Constable of Bourbon; no negotiations, no compromises, no conventions, but slaughter, havoc, a great judicial devastation, that was to extirpate all signs and memories of Mediaeval and Semitic Rome, and restore and renovate the inheritance of the true offspring of the she-wolf. The very aspect of the place itself was sinister. Whether it were the dulness of the dark sky, or the frown of Madre Natura herself, but the old Seven Hills seemed to look askance. The haughty capitol, impatient of its chapels, sighed once more for triumphs; and the proud Palatine, remembering the Caesars, glanced with imperial contempt on the palaces of the papal princelings that, in the course of ignominious ages, had been constructed out of the exhaustless womb of its still sovereign ruin. The Jews in their quarter spoke nothing, but exchanged a curious glance, as if to say, "Has it come at last? And will they indeed serve her as they served Sion?"
This dreadful day at last passed, followed by as dreadful a night, and then another day equally gloomy, equally silent, equally panic-stricken. Even insurrection would have been a relief amid the horrible and wearing suspense. On the third day the government made some wild arrests of the wrong persons, and then came out a fresh proclamation from the Revolutionary Committee, directing the Romans to make no move until the advanced guard of Garibaldi had appeared upon Monte Mario. About this time the routed troops of the pope arrived in confusion from Viterbo, and of course extenuated their discomfiture by exaggerating the strength of their opponents. According to them, they had encountered not less than ten thousand men, who now; having joined the still greater force of Garibaldi, were in full march on the city.
The members of the papal party who showed the greatest spirit and the highest courage at this trying conjuncture were the Roman ladies and their foreign friends. They scraped lint for the troops as incessantly as they offered prayers to the Virgin. Some of them were trained nurses, and they were training others to tend the sick and wounded. They organized a hospital service, and when the wounded arrived from Viterbo, notwithstanding the rumors of incendiarism and massacre, they came forth from their homes, and proceeded in companies, with no male attendants but armed men, to the discharge of their self-appointed public duties. There: were many foreigners in the papal ranks, and the sympathies and services of the female visitors to Rome were engaged for their countrymen. Princesses of France and Flanders might be seen by the tressel-beds of many a suffering soldier of Dauphin and Brabant; but there were numerous subjects of Queen Victoria in the papal ranks—some Englishmen, several Scotchmen, and many Irish. For them the English ladies had organized a special service. Lady St. Jerome, with unflagging zeal, presided over this department; and the superior of the sisterhood of mercy, that shrank from no toil and feared no danger in the fulfilment of those sacred duties of pious patriots, was Miss Arundel.
She was leaning over the bed of one who had been cut down in the olive-wood by a sabre of Campian's force, when a peal of artillery was heard. She thought that her hour had arrived, and the assault had commenced.
"Most holy Mary!" she exclaimed, "sustain me."
There was another peal, and it was repeated, and again and again at regular intervals.
"That is not a battle, it is a salute," murmured the wounded soldier.
And he was right; it was the voice of the great guns telling that the French had arrived.
The consternation of the Revolutionary Committee, no longer sustained by Colonna, absent in France, was complete. Had the advanced guard of Garibaldi been in sight, it might still have been the wisest course to rise; but Monte Mario was not yet peopled by them, and an insurrection against the papal troops, reanimated by the reported arrival of the French, and increased in numbers by the fugitives from Viterbo, would have been certainly a rash and probably a hopeless effort. And so, in the midst of confused and hesitating councils, the first division of the French force arrived at the gates of Rome, and marched into the gloomy and silent city.
Since the interference of St. Peter and St. Paul against Alaric, the papacy had never experienced a more miraculous interposition in its favor. Shortly after this the wind changed, and the sky became serene; a sunbeam played on the flashing cross of St. Peter's; the Pope left the Castle of Angelo, and returned to the Quirinal; the Noble Guard sheathed their puissant blades; the six-score of monsignori reappeared in all their busy haunts and stately offices; and the court of Rome, no longer despairing of the republic, and with a spirit worthy of the Senate after Cannae, ordered the whole of its forces into the field to combat its invaders, with the prudent addition, in order to insure a triumph, of a brigade of French infantry armed with chassepots.
Garibaldi, who was really at hand, hearing of these events, fell back on Monte Rotondo, about fifteen miles from the city, and took up a strong position. He was soon attacked by his opponents, and defeated with considerable slaughter, and forced to fly. The papal troops returned to Rome in triumph, but with many wounded. The Roman ladies and their friends resumed their noble duties with enthusiasm. The ambulances were apportioned to the different hospitals, and the services of all were required. Our own countrymen had suffered severely, but the skill and energy and gentle care of Clare Arundel and her companions only increased with the greater calls upon their beautiful and sublime virtue.
A woman came to Miss Arundel and told her that, in one of the ambulances, was a young man whom they could not make out. He was severely wounded, and had now swooned; but they had reason to believe he was an Englishman. Would she see him and speak to him? And she went.
The person who had summoned her was a woman of much beauty, not an uncommon quality in Rome, and of some majesty of mien, as little rare, in that city. She was said, at the time when some inquiry was made, to be Maria Serafina de Angelis, the wife of a tailor in the Ripetta.
The ambulance was in the court-yard of the hospital of the Santissima Trinita di Pellegrini. The woman pointed to it, and then went away. There was only one person in the ambulance; the rest had been taken to the hospital, but he had been left because he was in a swoon, and they were trying to restore him. Those around the ambulance made room for Miss Arundel as she approached, and she beheld a young man, covered with the stains of battle, and severely wounded; but his countenance was uninjured though insensible. His eyes were closed, and his auburn hair fell in clusters on his white forehead. The sister of mercy touched the pulse to ascertain whether there yet was life, but, in the very act, her own frame became agitated, and the color left her cheek as she recognized—Lothair.'
When Lothair in some degree regained consciousness, he found himself in bed. The chamber was lofty and dim, and had once been splendid. Thoughtfulness had invested it with an air of comfort rare under Italian roofs. The fagots sparkled on the hearth, the light from the windows was veiled with hangings, and the draughts from the tall doors guarded against by screens. And by his bedside there were beautiful flowers, and a crucifix, and a silver bell.
Where was he? He looked up at the velvet canopy above, and then at the pictures that covered the walls, but there was no familiar aspect. He remembered nothing since he was shot down in the field of Mentana, and even that incoherently.
And there had been another battle before that, followed by a catastrophe still more dreadful. When had all this happened, and where? He tried to move his bandaged form, but he had no strength, and his mind seemed weaker than his frame. But he was soon sensible that he was not alone. A veiled figure gently lifted him, and another one refreshed his pillows. He spoke, or tried to speak, but one of them pressed her finger to her shrouded lips, and he willingly relapsed into the silence which he had hardly strength enough to break.
And sometimes these veiled and gliding ministers brought him sustenance and sometimes remedies, and he complied with all their suggestions, but with absolute listlessness; and sometimes a coarser hand interposed, and sometimes he caught a countenance that was not concealed, but was ever strange. He had a vague impression that they examined and dressed his wounds, and arranged his bandages; but whether he really had wounds, and whether he were or were not bandaged, he hardly knew, and did not care to know. He was not capable of thought, and memory was an effort under which he always broke down. Day after day he remained silent and almost motionless alike in mind and body. He had a vague feeling that, after some great sorrows, and some great trials, he was in stillness and in safety; and he had an indefinite mysterious sentiment of gratitude to some unknown power, that had cherished him in his dark calamities, and poured balm and oil into his wounds.
It was in this mood of apathy that, one evening, there broke upon his ear low but beautiful voices performing the evening service of the Church. His eye glistened, his heart was touched by the vesper spell. He listened with rapt attention to the sweet and sacred strains, and when they died away he felt depressed. Would they ever sound again?
Sooner than he could have hoped, for, when he woke in the morning from his slumbers, which, strange to say, were always disturbed, for the mind and the memory seemed to work at night though in fearful and exhausting chaos, the same divine melodies that had soothed him in the eve, now sounded in the glad and grateful worship of matin praise.
"I have heard the voice of angels," he murmured to his veiled attendant.
The vesper and the matin hours became at once the epochs of his day. He was ever thinking of them, and soon was thinking of the feelings which their beautiful services celebrate and express. His mind seemed no longer altogether a blank, and the religious sentiment was the first that returned to his exhausted heart.
"There will be a requiem to-day," whispered one of his veiled attendants.
A requiem! a service for the dead; a prayer for their peace and rest! And who was dead? The bright, the matchless one, the spell and fascination of his life! Was it possible? Could she be dead, who seemed vitality in its consummate form? Was there ever such a being as Theodora? And if there were no Theodora on earth, why should one think of any thing but heaven?
The sounds came floating down the chamber till they seemed to cluster round his brain; sometimes solemn, sometimes thrilling, sometimes the divine pathos melting the human heart with celestial sympathy and heavenly solace. The tears fell fast from his agitated vision, and he sank back exhausted, almost insensible, on his pillow.
"The Church has a heart for all our joys and all our sorrows, and for all our hopes, and all our fears," whispered a veiled attendant, as she bathed his temples with fragrant waters.
Though the condition of Lothair had at first seemed desperate, his youthful and vigorous frame had enabled him to rally, and, with time and the infinite solicitude which he received, his case was not without hope. But, though his physical cure was somewhat advanced, the prostration of his mind seemed susceptible of no relief. The services of the Church accorded with his depressed condition; they were the only events of his life, and he cherished them. His attendants now permitted and even encouraged him to speak; but he seemed entirely incurious and indifferent. Sometimes they read to him, and he listened, but he never made remarks. The works which they selected had a religious or ecclesiastical bias, even while they were imaginative; and it seemed difficult not to be interested by the ingenious fancy by which it was worked out, that every thing that was true and sacred in heaven had its symbol and significance in the qualities and accidents of earth.
After a month passed in this manner, the surgeons having announced that Lothair might now prepare to rise from his bed, a veiled attendant said to him one day, "There is a gentleman here who is a friend of yours, and who would like to see you. And perhaps you would like to see him also for other reasons, for you must have much to say to God after all that you have suffered. And he is a most holy man."
"I have no wish to see any one. Are you sure he is not a stranger?" asked Lothair.
"He is in the next room," said the attendant. "He has been here throughout your illness, conducting our services; often by your bedside when you were asleep, and always praying for you."
The veiled attendant drew back and waved her hand, and some one glided forward, and said in a low, soft voice, "You have not forgotten me?"
And Lothair beheld Monsignore Catesby.
"It is a long time since we met," said Lothair, looking at him with some scrutiny, and then all interest died away, and he turned away his vague and wandering eyes.
"But you know me?"
"I know not where I am, and I but faintly comprehend what has happened," murmured Lothair.
"You are among friends," said the monsignore, in tones of sympathy. "What has happened," he added, with an air of mystery, not unmixed with a certain expression of ecstasy in his glance, "must be reserved for other times, when you are stronger, and can grapple with such high themes."
"How long have I been here?" inquired Lothair, dreamily.
"It is a month since the Annunciation."
"Hush!" said the monsignore, and he raised his finger to his lip. "We must not talk of these things—at least at present. No doubt, the game blessed person that saved you from the jaws of death is at this moment guarding over your recovery and guiding it; but we do not deserve, nor does the Church expect, perpetual miracles. We must avail ourselves, under Divine sanction, of the beneficent tendencies of Nature; and in your case her operations must not be disturbed at this moment by any excitement, except, indeed, the glow of gratitude for celestial aid, and the inward joy which must permeate the being of any one who feels that he is among the most favored of men."
From this time Monsignore Catesby scarcely ever quitted Lothair. He hailed Lothair in the morn, and parted from him at night with a blessing; and in the interval Catesby devoted his whole life, and the inexhaustible resources of his fine and skilled intelligence, to alleviate or amuse the existence of his companion. Sometimes he conversed with Lothair, adroitly taking the chief burden of the talk; and yet, whether it were bright narrative or lively dissertation, never seeming to lecture or hold forth, but relieving the monologue, when expedient, by an interesting inquiry, which he was always ready in due time to answer himself, or softening the instruction by the playfulness of his mind and manner. Sometimes he read to Lothair, and attuned the mind of his charge to the true spiritual note by melting passages from Kempis or Chrysostom. Then he would bring a portfolio of wondrous drawings by the mediaeval masters, of saints and seraphs, and accustom the eye and thought of Lothair to the forms and fancies of the court of heaven.
One day, Lothair, having risen from his bed for the first time, and lying on a sofa in an adjoining chamber to that in which he had been so long confined, the monsignore seated himself by the side of Lothair, and, opening a portfolio, took out a drawing and held it before Lothair, observing his countenance with a glance of peculiar scrutiny.
"Well!" said Catesby, after some little pause, as if awaiting a remark from his companion.
"'Tis beautiful!" said Lothair. "Is it by Raffaelle?"
"No; by Fra Bartolomeo. But the countenance, do you remember ever having met such a one?"
Lothair shook his head. Catesby took out another drawing, the same subject, the Blessed Virgin. "By Giulio," said the monsignore, and he watched the face of Lothair, but it was listless.
Then he showed Lothair another, and another, and another. At last he held before him one which was really by Raffaelle, and by which Lothair was evidently much moved. His eye lit up, a blush suffused his pale cheek, he took the drawing himself, and held it before his gaze with a trembling hand.
"Yes I remember this," he murmured, for it was one of those faces of Greek beauty which the great painter not infrequently caught up at Rome. The monsignore looked gently round and waved his hand, and immediately arose the hymn to the Virgin in subdued strains of exquisite melody.
On the next morning, when Lothair woke, he found on the table, by his side, the drawing of the Virgin in a sliding frame.
About this time the monsignore began to accustom Lothair to leave his apartment, and, as he was not yet permitted to walk, Catesby introduced what he called an English chair, in which Lothair was enabled to survey a little the place which had been to him a refuge and a home. It seemed a building of vast size, raised round an inner court with arcades and windows, and, in the higher story where he resided, an apparently endless number of chambers and galleries. One morning, in their perambulations, the monsignore unlocked the door of a covered way which had no light but from a lamp which guided their passage. The opposite door at the end of this covered way opened into a church, but one of a character different from any which Lothair had yet entered.
It had been raised during the latter of the sixteenth century by Vignola, when, under the influence of the great Pagan revival, the Christian church began to assume the character of an Olympian temple. A central painted cupola of large but exquisite proportions, supported by pilasters with gilded capitals, and angels of white marble springing from golden brackets; walls incrusted with rare materials of every tint, and altars supported by serpentine columns of agate and alabaster; a blaze of pictures, and statues, and precious stones, and precious metals, denoted one of the chief temples of the sacred brotherhood of Jesus, raised when the great order had recognized that the views of primitive and mediaeval Christianity, founded on the humility of man, were not in accordance with the age of confidence in human energy, in which they were destined to rise, and which they were determined to direct.
Guided by Catesby, and leaning on a staff, Lothair gained a gorgeous side chapel in which mass was celebrating; the air was rich with incense, and all heaven seemed to open in the ministrations of a seraphic choir. Crushed by his great calamities, both physical and moral, Lothair sometimes felt that he could now be content if the rest of his life could flow away amid this celestial fragrance and these gushing sounds of heavenly melody. And absorbed in these feelings it was not immediately observed by him that on the altar, behind the dazzling blaze of tapers, was a picture of the Virgin, and identically the same countenance as that he had recognized with emotion in the drawing of Raffaelle.
It revived perplexing memories which agitated him, thoughts on which it seemed his brain had not now strength enough to dwell, and yet with which it now seemed inevitable for him to grapple. The congregation was not very numerous, and, when it broke up, several of them lingered behind and whispered to the monsignore, and then, after a little time, Catesby approached Lothair and said: "There are some here who would wish to kiss your hand, or even touch the hem of your garments. It is troublesome, but natural, considering all that has occurred and that this is the first time, perhaps, that they have met any one who has been so favored."
"Favored!" said Lothair; "Am I favored? It seems to me I am the most forlorn of men—if even I am that."
"Hush!" said the monsignore, "we must not talk of these things at present;" and he motioned to some, who approached and contemplated Lothair with blended curiosity and reverence.
These visits of Lothair to the beautiful church of the Jesuits became of daily occurrence, and often happened several times on the same day; indeed they formed the only incident which seemed to break his listlessness. He became interested in the change and variety of the services, in the persons and characters of the officiating priests. The soft manners of these fathers, their intelligence in the performance of their offices, their obliging carriage, and the unaffected concern with which all he said or did seemed to inspire the won upon him unconsciously. The church had become his world; and his sympathies, if he still had sympathies, seemed confined to those within its walls.
In the mean time his physical advancement though slow was gradual and had hitherto never been arrested. He could even walk a little alone, though artificially supported, and ramble about the halls and galleries full of a prodigious quantity of pictures, from the days of Raffael Sanzio to those of Raffael Mengs.
"The doctors think now we might try a little drive," said the monsignore one morning. "The rains have ceased and refreshed every thing. To-day is like the burst of spring;" and, when Lothair seemed to shudder at the idea of facing any thing like the external world, the monsignore suggested immediately that they should go out in a close carriage, which they finally entered in the huge quadrangle of the building. Lothair was so nervous that he pulled down even the blind of his window; and the monsignore, who always humored him, half pulled down his own.
Their progress seemed through a silent land, and they could hardly be traversing streets. Then the ascent became a little precipitous, and then the carriage stopped, and the monsignore said: "Here is a solitary spot. We shall meet no one. The view is charming, and the air is soft." And he placed his hand gently on the arm of Lothair, and, as it were, drew him out of the carriage.
The sun was bright, and the sky was bland. There was something in the breath of Nature that was delightful. The scent of violets was worth all the incense in the world; all the splendid marbles and priestly vestments seemed hard and cold when compared with the glorious colors of the cactus and the wild forms of the golden and gigantic aloes. The Favonian breeze played on the brow of this beautiful hill, and the exquisite palm-trees, while they bowed their rustling heads, answered in responsive chorus to the antiphon of Nature.
The dreary look that had been so long imprinted on the face of Lothair melted away.
"'Tis well that we came, is it not?" said Catesby; "and now we will seat ourselves." Below and before them, on an undulating site, a city of palaces and churches spread out its august form, enclosing within its ample walls sometimes a wilderness of classic ruins—column, and arch, and theatre—sometimes the umbrageous spread of princely gardens. A winding and turbid river divided the city in unequal parts, in one of which there rose a vast and glorious temple, crowned with a dome of almost superhuman size and skill, on which the favorite sign of heaven flashed with triumphant truth.
The expression of relief which, for a moment, had reposed on the face of Lothair, left it when he said, in an agitated voice, "I at length behold Rome!"
This recognition of Rome by Lothair evinced not only a consciousness of locality, but an interest in it not before exhibited; and the monsignore soon after seized the opportunity of drawing the mind of his companion to the past, and feeling how far he now realized the occurrences that immediately preceded his arrival in the city. But Lothair would not dwell on them. "I wish to think of nothing," he said, "that happened before I entered this city: all I desire now is to know those to whom I am indebted for my preservation in a condition that seemed hopeless."
"There is nothing hopeless with Divine aid," said the monsignore; "but, humanly speaking, you are indebted for your preservation to English friends, long and intimately cherished. It is under their roof that you dwell, the Agostini palace, tenanted by Lord St. Jerome."
"Lord St. Jerome!" murmured Lothair to himself.
"And the ladies of his house are those who, only with some slight assistance from my poor self, tended you throughout your most desperate state, and when we sometimes almost feared that mind and body were alike wrecked."
"I have a dream of angels," said Lothair; "and sometimes I listened to heavenly voices that I seemed to have heard before."
"I am sure you have not forgotten the ladies of that house?" said Catesby, watching his countenance.
"No; one of them summoned me to meet her at Rome," murmured Lothair, "and I am here."
"That summons was divine," said Catesby, "and only the herald of the great event that was ordained and has since occurred. In this holy city, Miss Arundel must ever count as the most sanctified of her sex."
Lothair lapsed into silence, which subsequently appeared to be meditation, for, when the carriage stopped, and the monsignore assisted him to alight, he said, "I must see Lord St. Jerome."
And, in the afternoon, with due and preparatory announcement, Lord St. Jerome waited on Lothair. The monsignore ushered him into the chamber, and, though he left them as it were alone, never quitted it. He watched them conversing, while he seemed to be arranging books and flowers; he hovered over the conference, dropping down on them at a critical moment, when the words became either languid or embarrassing. Lord St. Jerome was a hearty man, simple and high-bred. He addressed Lothair with all his former kindness, but with some degree of reserve, and even a dash of ceremony. Lothair was not insensible to the alteration in his manner, but could ascribe it to many causes. He was himself resolved to make an effort, when Lord St. Jerome arose to depart, and expressed the intention of Lady St. Jerome to wait on him on the morrow. "No, my dear lord," said Lothair; "to-morrow I make my first visit, and it shall be to my best friends. I would try to come this evening, but they will not be alone; and I must see them alone if it be only once."
This visit of the morrow rather pressed on the nervous system of Lothair. It was no slight enterprise, and called up many recollections. He brooded over his engagement during the whole evening, and his night was disturbed. His memory, long in a state of apathy, or curbed and controlled into indifference, seemed endowed with unnatural vitality, reproducing the history of his past life in rapid and exhausting tumult. All its scenes rose before him—Brentham, and Vauxe, and, Muriel—and closing with one absorbing spot, which, for a long time, it avoided, and in which all merged and ended—Belmont. Then came that anguish of the heart, which none can feel but those who in the youth of life have lost some one infinitely fascinating and dear, and the wild query why he, too, had not fallen on the fatal plain which had entombed all the hope and inspiration of his existence.
The interview was not so trying an incident as Lothair anticipated, as often under such circumstances occurs. Miss Arundel was not present; and, in the second place, although Lothair could not at first be insensible to a change in the manner of Lady St. Jerome, as well as in that of her lord, exhibiting as it did a degree of deference and ceremony which with her toward him were quite unusual, still the genial, gushing nature of this lively and enthusiastic woman, full of sympathy, soon asserted itself, and her heart was overflowing with sorrow for all his sufferings and gratitude for his escape.
"And, after all," she said, "every thing must have been ordained; and, without these trials, and even calamities, that great event could not have been brought about which must make all hail you as the most favored of men."
Lothair stared with a look of perplexity, and then said: "If I be the most favored of men, it is only because two angelic beings have deigned to minister to me in my sorrow, with a sweet devotion I can never forget, and, alas! can never repay."
Lothair was not destined to meet Clare Arundel alone or only in the presence of her family. He had acceded, after a short time, to the wish of Lady St. Jerome, and the advice of Monsignore Catesby, to wait on her in the evening, when Lady St. Jerome was always at home and never alone. Her rooms were the privileged resort of the very cream of Roman society and of those English who, like herself, had returned to the Roman Church. An Italian palace supplied an excellent occasion for the display of the peculiar genius of our countrywomen to make a place habitable. Beautiful carpets, baskets of flowers and cases of ferns, and chairs which you could sit upon, tables covered with an infinity of toys—sparkling, useful, and fantastic—huge silken screens of rich color, and a profusion of light, produced a scene of combined comfort and brilliancy which made every one social who entered it, and seemed to give a bright and graceful turn even to the careless remarks of ordinary gossip.
Lady St. Jerome rose the moment her eye caught the entry of Lothair, and, advancing, received him with an air of ceremony, mixed, however, with an expression of personal devotion which was distressing to him, and singularly contrasted with the easy and genial receptions that he remembered at Vauxe. Then Lady St. Jerome led Lothair to her companion whom she had just quitted, and presented him to the Princess Tarpeia-Cinque Cento, a dame in whose veins, it was said, flowed both consular and pontifical blood of the rarest tint.
The Princess Tarpeia-Cinque Cento was the greatest lady in Rome; had still vast possessions—palaces and villas and vineyards and broad farms. Notwithstanding all that had occurred, she still looked upon the kings and emperors of the world as the mere servants of the pope, and on the old Roman nobility as still the conscript fathers of the world. Her other characteristic was superstition. So she was most distinguished by an irrepressible haughtiness and an illimitable credulity. The only softening circumstance was that, being in the hands of the Jesuits, her religion did not assume an ascetic or gloomy character. She was fond of society, and liked to show her wondrous jewels, which were still unrivalled, although she had presented his holiness in his troubles with a tiara of diamonds.
There were rumors that the Princess Tarpeia-Cinque Cento had on occasions treated even the highest nobility of England with a certain indifference; and all agreed that to laymen, however distinguished, her highness was not prone too easily to relax. But, in the present instance, it is difficult to convey a due conception of the graciousness of her demeanor when Lothair bent before her. She appeared even agitated, almost rose from her seat, and blushed through her rouge. Lady St. Jerome, guiding Lothair into her vacant seat, walked away.
"We shall never forget what you have done for us," said the princess to Lothair.
"I have done nothing," said Lothair, with a surprised air.
"Ali, that is so like gifted beings like you," said the princess. "They never will think they have done any thing, even were they to save the world."
"You are too gracious, princess," said Lothair; "I have no claims to esteem which all must so value."
"Who has, if you have not?" rejoined the princess. "Yes, it is to you, and to you alone, that we must look. I am very impartial in what I say, for, to be frank, I have not been of those who believed that the great champion would rise without the patrimony of St. Peter. I am ashamed to say that I have even looked with jealousy on the energy that has been shown by individuals in other countries; but I now confess that I was in error. I cannot resist this manifestation. It was a privilege to have lived when it happened. All that we can do now is to cherish your favored life."
"You are too kind, madam," murmured the perplexed Lothair.
"I have done nothing," rejoined the princess, "and am ashamed that I have done nothing. But it is well for you, at this season, to be at Rome; and you cannot be better, I am sure, than under this roof. But, when the spring breaks, I hope you will honor me, by accepting for your use a villa which I have at Albano, and which, at that season, has many charms."
There were other Roman ladies in the room only inferior in rank and importance to the Princess Tarpeia-Cinque Cento; and in the course of the evening, at their earnest request, they were made acquainted with Lothair, for it cannot be said he was presented to them. These ladies, generally so calm, would not wait for the ordinary ceremony of life, but, as he approached to be introduced, sank to the ground with the obeisance offered only to royalty.
There were some cardinals in the apartment and several monsignori. Catesby was there in close attendance on a pretty English countess, who had just "gone over." Her husband had been at first very much distressed at the event, and tore himself from the severe duties of the House of Lords, in the hope that he might yet arrive in time at Rome to save her soul. But he was too late; and, strange to say, being of a domestic turn, and disliking family dissensions, he remained at Rome during the rest of the session, and finally "went over" himself.
Later in the evening arrived his eminence, Cardinal Berwick, for our friend had gained, and bravely gained, the great object of a churchman's ambition, and which even our Laud was thinking at one time of accepting, although he was to remain a firm Anglican. In the death-struggle between the Church and the secret societies, Berwick had been the victor, and no one in the Sacred College more truly deserved the scarlet hat.
His eminence had a reverence of radiant devotion for the Princess Tarpeia-Cinque Cento, a glance of friendship for Lady St. Jerome—for all, a courtly and benignant smile; but, when he recognized Lothair, he started forward, seized and retained his hand, and then seemed speechless with emotion. "Ah! my comrade in the great struggle!" he at length exclaimed; "this is, indeed, a pleasure—and to see you here!"
Early in the evening, while Lothair was sitting by the side of the princess, his eye had wandered round the room, not unsuccessfully, in search of Miss Arundel; and, when he was free, he would immediately have approached her, but she was in conversation with a Roman prince. Then, when she was for a moment free, he was himself engaged; and, at last, he had to quit abruptly a cardinal of taste, who was describing to him a statue just discovered in the baths of Diocletian, in order to seize the occasion that again offered itself.
Her manner was constrained when he addressed her, but she gave him her hand, which he pressed to his lips. Looking deeply into her violet eyes, he said: "You summoned me to meet you at Rome; I am here."
"And I summoned you to other things," she answered, at first with hesitation and a blush; but then, as if rallying herself to the performance of a duty too high to allow of personal embarrassment, she added: "all of which you will perform, as becomes one favored by Heaven."
"I have been favored by you," said Lothair, speaking low and hurriedly; "to whom I owe my life, and more than my life. Yes," he continued, "this is not the scene I would have chosen to express my gratitude to you for all that you have done for me, and my admiration of your sublime virtues; but I can no longer repress the feelings of my heart, though their utterance be as inadequate as your deeds have been transcendent."
"I was but the instrument of a higher power."
"We are all instruments of a higher power, but the instruments chosen are always choice."
"Ay, there it is!" said Miss Arundel; "and that is what I rejoice you feel. For it is impossible that such a selection could have been made, as in your case, without your being reserved for great results."
"I am but a shattered actor for great results," said Lothair, shaking his head.
"You have had trials," said Miss Arundel, "so had St. Ignatius, so had St. Francis, and great temptations; but these are the tests of character, of will, of spiritual power—the fine gold is searched. All things that have happened have tended and have been ordained to one end, and that was to make you the champion of the Church of which you are now more than the child."
"More than the child?"
"Indeed I think so. However, this is hardly the place and occasion to dwell on such matters; and, indeed, I know your friends—my friends equally—are desirous that your convalescence should not be unnecessarily disturbed by what must be, however delightful, still agitating thoughts; but you touched yourself unexpectedly on the theme, and, at any rate, you will pardon one who has the inconvenient quality of having only one thought."
"Whatever you say or think must always interest me."
"You are kind to say so. I suppose you know that our cardinal, Cardinal Grandison, will be here in a few days?"
Although the reception of Lothair by his old friends and by the leaders of the Roman world was in the highest degree flattering, there was something in its tone which was perplexing to him and ambiguous. Could they be ignorant of his Italian antecedents? Impossible. Miss Arundel had admitted, or rather declared, that he had experienced great trials, and, even temptations. She could only allude to what had occurred since their parting in England. But all this was now looked upon as satisfactory, because it was ordained, and tended to one end; and what was that end? His devotion to the Church of Rome, of which they admitted he was not formally a child.
It was true that his chief companion was a priest, and that he passed a great portion of his life within the walls of a church. But the priest was his familiar friend in England, who in a foreign land had nursed him with devotion in a desperate illness; and, although in the great calamities, physical and moral, that had overwhelmed him, he had found solace in the beautiful services of a religion which he respected, no one for a moment had taken advantage of this mood of his suffering and enfeebled mind to entrap him into controversy, or to betray him into admissions that he might afterward consider precipitate and immature. Indeed, nothing could be more delicate than the conduct of the Jesuit fathers throughout his communications with them. They seemed sincerely gratified that a suffering fellow creature should find even temporary consolation within their fair and consecrated structure; their voices modulated with sympathy; their glances gushed with fraternal affection; their affectionate politeness contrived, in a thousand slight instances, the selection of a mass, the arrangement of a picture, the loan of a book, to contribute to the interesting or elegant distraction of his forlorn and brooding being.
And yet Lothair began to feel uneasy, and his uneasiness increased proportionately as his health improved. He sometimes thought that he should like to make an effort and get about a little in the world, but he was very weak, and without any of the resources to which he had been accustomed throughout life. He had no servants of his own, no carriages, no man of business, no banker; and when at last he tried to bring himself to write to Mr. Putney Giles—a painful task—Monsignore Catesby offered to undertake his whole correspondence for him, and announced that his medical attendants had declared that he must under no circumstances whatever attempt at present to write a letter. Hitherto he had been without money, which was lavishly supplied for his physicians and other wants; and he would have been without clothes if the most fashionable tailor in Rome, a German, had not been in frequent attendance on him under the direction of Monsignore Catesby, who, in fact, had organized his wardrobe as he did every thing else.
Somehow or other Lothair never seemed alone. When he woke in the morning the monsignore was frequently kneeling before an oratory in his room, and if by any chance Lothair was wanting at Lady St. Jerome's reception, Father Coleman, who was now on a visit to the family, would look in and pass the evening with him, as men who keep a gaming-table find it discreet occasionally to change the dealer. It is a huge and even stupendous pile—that Palazzo Agostini, and yet Lothair never tried to thread his way through its vestibules and galleries, or attempt a reconnaissance of its endless chambers, without some monsignore or other gliding up quite propos and relieving him from the dulness of solitary existence during the rest of his promenade.
Lothair was relieved by hearing that big former guardian, Cardinal Grandison, was daily expected at Rome; and he revolved in his mind whether he should not speak to his eminence generally on the system of his life, which he felt now required some modification. In the interval, however, no change did occur. Lothair attended every day the services of the church, and every evening the receptions of Lady St. Jerome; and between the discharge of these two duties he took a drive with a priest—sometimes with more than one, but always most agreeable men—generally in the environs of the city, or visited a convent, or a villa, some beautiful gardens, or a gallery of works of art.
It was at Lady St. Jerome's that Lothair met his former guardian. The cardinal had only arrived in the morning. His manner to Lothair was affectionate. He retained Lothair's hand and pressed it with his pale, thin fingers; his attenuated countenance blazed for a moment with a divine light.
"I have long wished to see you, sir," said Lothair, "and much wish to talk with you."
"I can hear nothing from you nor of you but what must be most pleasing to me," said the cardinal.
"I wish I could believe that," said Lothair.
The cardinal caressed him; put his arm round Lothair's neck and said, "There is no time like the present. Let us walk together in this gallery," and they withdrew naturally from the immediate scene.
"You know all that has happened, I dare say," said Lothair with embarrassment and with a sigh, "since we parted in England, sir."
"All," said the cardinal. "It has been a most striking and merciful dispensation."
"Then I need not dwell upon it," said Lothair, "and naturally it would be most painful. What I wish particularly to speak to you about is my position under this roof. What I owe to those who dwell under it no language can describe, and no efforts on my part, and they shall be unceasing, can repay. But I think the time has come when I ought no longer to trespass on their affectionate devotion, though, when I allude to the topic, they seem to misinterpret the motives which influence me, and to be pained rather than relieved by my suggestions. I cannot bear being looked upon as ungrateful, when in fact I am devoted to them. I think, sir, you might help me in putting all this right."
"If it be necessary," said the cardinal; "but I apprehend you misconceive them. When I last left Rome you were very ill, but Lady St. Jerome and others have written to me almost daily about you, during my absence, so that I am familiar with all that has occurred, and quite cognizant of their feelings. Rest assured that, toward yourself, they are exactly what they ought to be and what you would desire."
"Well, I am glad," said Lothair, "that you are acquainted with every thing that has happened, for you can put them right if it be necessary; but I sometimes cannot help fancying that they are under some false impression both as to my conduct and my convictions."
"Not in the slightest," said the cardinal, "trust me, my dear friend, for that. They know everything and appreciate everything; and, great as, no doubt, have been your sufferings, feel that every thing has been ordained for the best; that the hand of the Almighty has been visible throughout all these strange events; that His Church was never more clearly built upon a rock than at this moment; that this great manifestation will revive, and even restore, the faith of Christendom; and that you yourself must be looked upon as one of the most favored of men."
"Everybody says that," said Lothair, rather peevishly.
"And everybody feels it," said the cardinal.
"Well, to revert to lesser points," said Lothair, "I do not say I want to return to England, for I dread returning to England, and do not know whether I shall ever go back there; and at any rate I doubt not my health at present is unequal to the effort; but I should like some change in my mode of life. I will not say it is too much controlled, for nothing seems ever done without first consulting me; but, somehow or other, we are always in the same groove. I wish to see more of the world; I wish to see Rome, and the people of Rome. I wish to see and do many things which, if I mention, it would seem to hurt the feelings of others, and my own are misconceived, but, if mentioned by you, all would probably be different."
"I understand you, my dear young friend, my child, I will still say," said the cardinal. "Nothing can be more reasonable than what you suggest. No doubt our friends may be a little too anxious about you, but they are the best people in the world. You appear to me to be quite well enough now to make more exertion than hitherto they have thought you capable of. They see you every day, and cannot judge so well of you as I who have been absent. I will charge myself to effect all your wishes. And we will begin by my taking you out to-morrow and your driving with me about the city. I will show you Rome and the Roman people."
Accordingly, on the morrow, Cardinal Grandison and his late pupil visited together Rome and the Romans. And first of all Lothair was presented to the cardinal-prefect of the Propaganda, who presides over the ecclesiastical affairs of every country in which the Roman Church has a mission, and that includes every land between the Arctic and the Southern Pole. This glimpse of the organized correspondence with both the Americas, all Asia, all Africa, all Australia, and many European countries, carried on by a countless staff of clerks in one of the most capacious buildings in the world, was calculated to impress the visitor with a due idea of the extensive authority of the Roman Pontiff. This institution, greater, according to the cardinal, than any which existed in ancient Rome, was to propagate the faith, the purity of which the next establishment they visited was to maintain. According to Cardinal Grandison, there never was a body the character of which had been so wilfully and so malignantly misrepresented as that of the Roman Inquisition. Its true object is reformation not punishment and therefore pardon was sure to follow the admission of error. True it was there were revolting stories afloat, for which there was undoubtedly some foundation, though their exaggeration and malice were evident, of the ruthless conduct of the Inquisition; but these details were entirely confined to Spain, and were the consequences not of the principles of the Holy Office, but of the Spanish race, poisoned by Moorish and Jewish blood, or by long contact with those inhuman infidels. Had it not been for the Inquisition organizing and directing the mitigating influences of the Church, Spain would have been a land of wild beasts; and even in quite modern times it was the Holy Office at Rome which always stepped forward to protect the persecuted, and, by the power of appeal from Madrid to Rome, saved the lives of those who were unjustly or extravagantly accused.
"The real business, however, of the Holy Office now," continued the cardinal, "is in reality only doctrinal; and there is something truly sublime—essentially divine, I would say—in this idea of an old man, like the Holy Father, himself the object of ceaseless persecution by all the children of Satan, never for a moment relaxing his heaven-inspired efforts to maintain the purity of the faith once delivered to the saints, and at the same time to propagate it throughout the whole world, so that there should be no land on which the sun shines that should not afford means of salvation to suffering man. Yes, the Propaganda and the Inquisition alone are sufficient to vindicate the sacred claims of Rome. Compared with them, mere secular and human institutions, however exalted, sink into insignificance."
These excursions with the cardinal were not only repeated, but became almost of daily occurrence. The cardinal took Lothair with him in his visits of business, and introduced him to the eminent characters of the city. Some of these priests were illustrious scholars or votaries of science, whose names were quoted with respect and as authority in the circles of cosmopolitan philosophy. Then there were other institutions at Rome, which the cardinal snatched occasions to visit, and which, if not so awfully venerable as the Propaganda and the Inquisition, nevertheless testified to the advanced civilization of Rome and the Romans, and the enlightened administration of the Holy Father. According to Cardinal Grandison, all the great modern improvements in the administration of hospitals and prisons originated in the eternal city; scientific ventilation, popular lavatories, the cellular or silent system, the reformatory. And yet these were nothing compared with the achievements of the Pontifical Government in education. In short, complete popular education only existed at Rome. Its schools were more numerous even than its fountains. Gratuitous instruction originated with the ecclesiastics; and from the night-school to the university here might be found the perfect type.
"I really believe," said the cardinal, "that a more virtuous, a more religious, a more happy and contented people than the Romans never existed. They could all be kept in order with the police of one of your counties. True it is, the Holy Father is obliged to garrison the city with twelve thousand men of arms, but not against the Romans, not against his own subjects. It is the secret societies of atheism who have established their lodges in this city, entirely consisting of foreigners, that render these lamentable precautions necessary. They will not rest until they have extirpated the religious principle from the soul of man, and until they have reduced him to the condition of wild beasts. But they will fail, as they failed the other day, as Sennacherib failed. These men may conquer zouaves and cuirassiers, but they cannot fight against Saint Michael and all the angels. They may do mischief, they may aggravate and prolong the misery of man, but they are doomed to entire and eternal failure."
Lady St. Jerome was much interested in the accounts which the cardinal and Lothair gave her of their excursions in the city and their visits.
"It is very true," she said, "I never knew such good people; and they ought to be; so favored by Heaven, and leading a life which, if any thing earthly can, must give them, however faint, some foretaste of our joys hereafter. Did your eminence visit the Pellegrini?" This was the hospital, where Miss Arundel had found Lothair.
The cardinal looked grave. "No," he replied. "My object was to secure for our young friend some interesting but not agitating distraction from certain ideas which, however admirable and transcendently important, are nevertheless too high and profound to permit their constant contemplation with impunity to our infirm natures. Besides," he added, in a lower, but still distinct tone, "I was myself unwilling to visit in a mere casual manner the scene of what I must consider the greatest event of this century."
"But you have been there?" inquired Lady St. Jerome.
His eminence crossed himself.
In the course of the evening Monsignore Catesby told Lothair that a grand service was about to be celebrated in the church of St. George: thanks were to be offered to the Blessed Virgin by Miss Arundel for the miraculous mercy vouchsafed to her in saving the life of a countryman, Lothair. "All her friends will make a point of being there," added the monsignore, "even the Protestants and some Russians. Miss Arundel was very unwilling at first to fulfil this office, but the Holy Father has commanded it. I know that nothing will induce her to ask you to attend; and yet, if I were you, I would turn it over in your mind. I know she said that she would sooner that you were present than all her English friends together. However, you can think about it. One likes to do what is proper."
One does; and yet it is difficult. Sometimes, in doing what we think proper, we get into irremediable scrapes; and often, what we hold to be proper, society in its caprice resolves to be highly improper.
Lady St. Jerome had wished Lothair to see Tivoli, and they were all consulting together when they might go there. Lord St. Jerome who, besides his hunters, had his drag at Rome, wanted to drive them to the place. Lothair sat opposite Miss Arundel, gazing on her beauty. It was like being at Vauxe again. And yet a great deal had happened since they were at Vauxe; and what? So far as they two were concerned, nothing but what should create or confirm relations of confidence and affection. Whatever may have been the influence of others on his existence, hers at least had been one of infinite benignity. She had saved his life; she had cherished it. She had raised him from the lowest depth of physical and moral prostration to health and comparative serenity. If at Vauxe he had beheld her with admiration, had listened with fascinated interest to the fervid expression of her saintly thoughts, and the large purposes of her heroic mind, all these feelings were naturally heightened now when he had witnessed her lofty and consecrated spirit in action, and when that action in his own case had only been exercised for his ineffable advantage.
"Your uncle cannot go to-morrow," continued Lady St. Jerome, "and on Thursday I am engaged."
"And on Friday—," said Miss Arundel, hesitating.
"We are all engaged," said Lady St. Jerome.
"I should hardly wish to go out before Friday anywhere," said Miss Arundel, speaking to her aunt, and in a lower tone.
Friday was the day on which the thanksgiving service was to be celebrated in the Jesuit church of St. George of Cappadocia. Lothair knew this well enough and was embarrassed: a thanksgiving for the mercy vouchsafed to Miss Arundel in saving the life of a fellow-countryman, an that fellow-countryman not present! All her Protestant friends would be there, and some Russians. And he not there! It seemed, on his part, the most ungracious and intolerable conduct. And he knew that she would prefer his presence to that of all her acquaintances together. It was more than ungracious on his part; it was ungrateful, almost inhuman.
Lothair sat silent, and stupid, and stiff, and dissatisfied with himself. Once or twice he tried to speak, but his tongue would not move, or his throat was not clear. And, if he had spoken, he would only have made some trifling and awkward remark. In his mind's eye he saw, gliding about him, the veiled figure of his sick-room, and he recalled with clearness the unceasing and angelic tenderness of which at the time he seemed hardly conscious.
Miss Arundel had risen and had proceeded some way down the room to a cabinet where she was accustomed to place her work. Suddenly Lothair rose and followed her. "Miss Arundel!" he said, and she looked round, hardly stopping when he had reached her. "Miss Arundel, I hope you will permit me to be present at the celebration on Friday?"
She turned round quickly, extending, even eagerly, her hand with mantling cheek. Her eyes glittered with celestial fire. The words hurried from her palpitating lips: "And support me," she said, "for I need support."
In the evening reception, Monsignore Catesby approached Father Coleman. "It is done," he said, with a look of saintly triumph. "It is done at last. He will not only be present, but he will support her. There are yet eight-and-forty hours to elapse. Can any thing happen to defeat us? It would seem not; yet, when so much is at stake, one is fearful. He must never be out of our sight; not a human being must approach him."
"I think we can manage that," said Father Coleman.
The Jesuit church of St. George of Cappadocia was situate in one of the finest piazzas of Rome. It was surrounded with arcades, and in its centre the most beautiful fountain of the city spouted forth its streams to an amazing height, and in forms of graceful fancy. On Friday morning the arcades were festooned with tapestry and hangings of crimson velvet and gold. Every part was crowded, and all the rank and fashion and power of Rome seemed to be there assembling. There had been once some intention on the part of the Holy Father to be present, but a slight indisposition had rendered that not desirable. His holiness, however, had ordered a company of his halberdiers to attend, and the ground was kept by those wonderful guards in the dress of the middle ages—halberds and ruffs, and white plumes, and party-colored coats, a match for our beef-eaters. Carriages with scarlet umbrellas on the box, and each with three serving-men behind, denoted the presence of the cardinals in force. They were usually brilliant equipages, being sufficiently new, or sufficiently new purchases, Garibaldi and the late commanding officer of Lothair having burnt most of the ancient coaches in the time of the Roman republics twenty years before. From each carriage an eminence descended with his scarlet cap and his purple train borne by two attendants. The Princess Tarpeia-Cinque Cento was there, and most of the Roman princes and princesses, and dukes, and duchesses. It seemed that the whole court of Rome was there—monsignori and prelates without end. Some of their dresses, and those of the generals of the orders, appropriately varied the general effect, for the ladies were all in black, their heads covered only with black veils.
Monsignore Catesby had arranged with Lothair that they should enter the church by their usual private way, and Lothair therefore was not in any degree prepared for the sight which awaited him on his entrance into it. The church was crowded; not a chair nor a tribune vacant. There was a suppressed gossip going on as in a public place before a performance begins, much fluttering of fans, some snuff taken, and many sugar-plums.
"Where shall we find a place?" said Lothair.
"They expect us in the sacristy," said the monsignore.
The sacristy of the Jesuit church of St. George of Cappadocia might have served for the ballroom of a palace. It was lofty, and proportionately spacious, with a grooved ceiling painted with all the court of heaven. Above the broad and richly-gilt cornice floated a company of seraphim that might have figured as the Cupids of Albano. The apartment was crowded, for there and in some adjoining chambers were assembled the cardinals and prelates, and all the distinguished or official characters, who, in a few minutes, were about to form a procession of almost unequal splendor and sanctity, and which was to parade the whole body of the church.
Lothair felt nervous; an indefinable depression came over him, as on the morning of a contest when a candidate enters his crowded committee-room. Considerable personages, bowing, approached to address him—the Cardinal Prefect of the Propaganda, the Cardinal Assessor of the Holy Office, the Cardinal Pro-Datario, and the Cardinal Vicar of Rome. Monsignori the Secretary of Briefs to Princes and the Master of the Apostolic Palace were presented to him. Had this been a conclave, and Lothair the future pope, it would have been impossible to have treated him with more consideration than he experienced. They assured him that they looked upon this day as one of the most interesting in their lives, and the importance of which to the Church could not be overrated. All this somewhat encouraged him, and he was more himself when a certain general stir, and the entrance of individuals from adjoining apartments, intimated that the proceedings were about to commence. It seemed difficult to marshal so considerable and so stately an assemblage, but those who had the management of affairs were experienced in such matters. The acolytes and the thurifers fell into their places; there seemed no end of banners and large golden crosses; great was the company of the prelates—a long purple line, some only in cassocks, some in robes, and mitred; then came a new banner of the Blessed Virgin, which excited intense interest, and every eye was strained to catch the pictured scene. After this banner, amid frequent incense, walked two of the most beautiful children in Rome, dressed as angels with golden wings; the boy bearing a rose of Jericho, the girl a lily. After these, as was understood, dressed in black and veiled, walked six ladies, who were said to be daughters of the noblest houses of England, and then a single form with a veil touching the ground.
"Here we must go," said Monsignore Catesby to Lothair, and he gently but irresistibly pushed him into his place. "You know you promised to support her. You had better take this," he said, thrusting a lighted taper into his hand; "it is usual, and one should never be singular."
So they walked on, followed by the Roman princes, bearing a splendid baldachin. And then came the pomp of the cardinals, each with his train-bearers, exhibiting with the skill of artists the splendor of their violet robes.
As the head of the procession emerged from the sacristy into the church, three organs and a choir, to which all the Roman churches had lent their choicest voices, burst into the Te Deum. Round the church and to all the chapels, and then up the noble nave, the majestic procession moved, and then, the gates of the holy place opening, the cardinals entered and seated themselves, their train-bearers crouching at their knees, the prelates grouped themselves, and the banners and crosses were ranged in the distance, except the new banner of the Virgin, which seemed to hang over the altar. The Holy One seemed to be in what was recently a field of battle, and was addressing a beautiful maiden in the dress of a Sister of Mercy.
"This is your place," said Monsignore Catesby, and he pushed Lothair into a prominent position.
The service was long, but, sustained by exquisite music, celestial perfumes, and the graceful movements of priests in resplendent dresses continually changing, it could not be said to be wearisome. When all was over, Monsignore Catesby said to Lothair, "I think we had better return by the public way; it seems expected."
It was not easy to leave the church. Lothair was detained, and received the congratulations of the Princess Tarpeia-Cinque Cento and many others. The crowd, much excited by the carriages of the cardinals, had not diminished when they came forth, and they were obliged to linger some little time upon the steps, the monsignore making difficulties when Lothair more than once proposed to advance.
"I think we may go now," said Catesby, and they descended into the piazza. Immediately many persons in this immediate neighborhood fell upon their knees, many asked a blessing from Lothair, and some rushed forward to kiss the hem of his garment.
The Princess Tarpeia-Cinque Cento gave an entertainment in the evening in honor of "the great event." Italian palaces are so vast, are so ill-adapted to the moderate establishments of modern tones, that their grand style in general only impresses those who visit them with a feeling of disappointment and even mortification. The meagre retinue are almost invisible as they creep about the corridors and galleries, and linger in the sequence of lofty chambers. These should be filled with crowds of serving-men and groups of splendid retainers. They were built for the days when a great man was obliged to have a great following; and when the safety of his person, as well as the success of his career, depended on the number and the lustre of his train.
The palace of the Princess Tarpeia was the most celebrated in Rome, one of the most ancient, and certainly the most beautiful. She dwelt in it in a manner not unworthy of her consular blood and her modern income. To-night her guests were received by a long line of foot-servants in showy liveries, and bearing the badge of her house, while in every convenient spot pages and gentlemen-ushers, in courtly dress, guided the guests to their place of destination. The palace blazed with light, and showed to advantage the thousand pictures which, it is said, were there enshrined, and the long galleries full of the pale statues of Grecian gods and goddesses, and the busts of the former rulers of Rome and the Romans. The atmosphere was fragrant with rare odors, and music was heard, amid the fall of fountains, in the dim but fancifully-illumined gardens.
The princess herself wore all those famous jewels which had been spared by all the Goths from the days of Brennus to those of Garibaldi, and on her bosom reposed the celebrated transparent cameo of Augustus, which Caesar himself is said to have presented to Livia, and which Benvenuto Cellini had set in a framework of Cupids and rubies. If the weight of her magnificence were sometimes distressing, she had the consolation of being supported by the arm of Lothair.
Two young Roman princes, members of the Guarda Nobile, discussed the situation.
"The English here say," said one, "that he is their richest man."
"And very noble, too," said the other.
"Certainly, truly noble—a kind of cousin of the queen."
"This great event must have an effect upon all their nobility. I cannot doubt they will all return to the Holy Father."
"They would if they were not afraid of having to restore their church lands. But they would be much more happy if Rome were again the capital of the world."
"No shadow of doubt. I wonder if this young prince will hunt in the Campagna?"
"All Englishmen hunt."
"I make no doubt he rides well, and has famous horses, and will sometimes lend us one. I am glad his soul is saved."
"Yes; it is well, when the Blessed Virgin interferes, it should be in favor of princes. When princes become good Christians, it is an example. It does good. And this man will give an impulse to our opera, which wants it, and, as you say, he will have many horses."
In the course of the evening, Miss Arundel, with a beaming face, but of deep expression, said to Lothair: "I could tell you some good news, had I not promised the cardinal that he should communicate it to you himself. He will see you to-morrow. Although it does not affect me personally, it will be to me the happiest event that ever occurred, except, of course, one."
"What can she mean?" thought Lothair. But at that moment Cardinal Berwick approached him, and Miss Arundel glided away.
Father Coleman attended Lothair home to the Agostini Palace, and when they parted said, with much emphasis, "I must congratulate you once more on the great event."
On the following morning, Lothair found on his table a number of the Roman journal published that day. It was customary to place it there, but in general he only glanced at it, and scarcely that. On the present occasion his own name caught immediately his eye. It figured in a long account of the celebration of the preceding day. It was with a continually changing countenance, now scarlet, now pallid as death; with a palpitating heart, a trembling hand, a cold perspiration, and, at length, a disordered vision, that Lothair read the whole of an article, of which we now give a summary:
"Rome was congratulated on the service of yesterday, which celebrated the greatest event of this century. And it came to pass in this wise. It seems that a young English noble of the highest rank, family, and for tune" (and here the name and titles of Lothair were accurately given), "like many of the scions of the illustrious and influential families of Britain, was impelled by an irresistible motive to enlist as a volunteer in the service of the pope, when the Holy Father was recently-attacked by the secret societies of atheism. This gallant and gifted youth, after prodigies of valor and devotion, had fallen at Mentana in the sacred cause, and was given up for lost. The day after the battle, when the ambulances laden with the wounded were hourly arriving at Rome from the field, an English lady, daughter of an illustrious house, celebrated throughout centuries for its devotion to the Holy See, and who during the present awful trial had never ceased in her efforts to support the cause of Christianity, was employed, as was her wont, in offices of charity, and was tending, with her companion sisters, her wounded countrymen at the Hospital La Consolazione, in the new ward which has been recently added to that establishment by the Holy Father.
"While she was leaning over one of the beds, she felt a gentle and peculiar pressure on her shoulder, and, looking round, beheld a most beautiful woman, with a countenance of singular sweetness and yet majesty. And the visitor said: 'You are attending to those English who believe in the Virgin Mary. Now at the Hospital Santissima Trinita di Pellegrini there is in an ambulance a young Englishman apparently dead, but who will not die if you go to him immediately and say you came in the name of the Virgin.'
"The influence of the stranger was so irresistible that the young English lady, attended by a nurse and one of the porters of La Consolazione, repaired instantly to the Di Pellegrini, and there they found in the court-yard, as they had been told, an ambulance, in form and color and equipment unlike any ambulance used by the papal troops, and in the ambulance the senseless body of a youth, who was recognized by the English lady as her young and gallant countryman. She claimed him in the name of the Blessed Virgin, and, after due remedies, was permitted to take him at once to his noble relatives, who lived in the Palazzo Agostini.
"After a short time much conversation began to circulate about this incident. The family wished to testify their gratitude to the individual whose information had led to the recovery of the body, and subsequently of the life of their relation; but all that they could at first learn at La Consolazione was, that the porter believed the woman was Maria Serafina di Angelis, the handsome wife of a tailor in the Strada di Ripetta. But it was soon shown that this could not be true, for it was proved that, on the day in question, Maria Serafina di Angelis was on a visit to a friend at La Riccia; and, in the second place, that she did not bear the slightest resemblance to the stranger who had given the news. Moreover, the porter of the gate being required to state why he had admitted any stranger without the accustomed order, denied that he had so done; that he was in his lodge and the gates were locked, and the stranger had passed through without his knowledge.
"Two priests were descending the stairs when the stranger came upon them, and they were so struck by the peculiarity of her carriage, that they turned round and looked at her, and clearly observed at the back of her head a sort of halo. She was out of their sight when they made this observation, but in consequence of it they made inquiries of the porter of the gate, and remained in the court-yard till she returned.
"This she did a few minutes before the English lady and her attendants came down, as they had been detained by the preparation of some bandages and other remedies, without which they never moved. The porter of the gate having his attention called to the circumstance by the priests, was most careful in his observations as to the halo, and described it as most distinct. The priests then followed the stranger, who proceeded down a long and solitary street, made up in a great degree of garden and convent walls, and without a turning. They observed her stop and speak to two or three children, and then, though there was no house to enter and no street to turn into, she vanished.
"When they had reached the children they found each of them holding in its hand a beautiful flower. It seems the lady had given the boy a rose of Jericho, and to his sister a white and golden lily. Inquiring whether she had spoken to them, they answered that she had said, 'Let these flowers be kept in remembrance of me; they will never fade.' And truly, though months had elapsed, these flowers had never failed, and, after the procession of yesterday, they were placed under crystal in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin in the Jesuit Church of St. George of Cappadocia, and may be seen every day, and will be seen forever in primeval freshness.
"This is the truthful account of what really occurred with respect to this memorable event, and as it was ascertained by a consulta of the Holy Office, presided over by the cardinal prefect himself. The Holy Office is most severe in its inquisition of the truth, and, though it well knows that the Divine presence never leaves His Church, it is most scrupulous in its investigations whenever any miraculous interposition is alleged. It was entirely by its exertions that the somewhat inconsistent and unsatisfactory evidence of the porter of the gate, in the first instance, was explained, cleared, and established; the whole chain of evidence worked out; all idle gossip and mere rumors rejected; and the evidence obtained of above twenty witnesses of all ranks of life, some of them members of the learned profession, and others military officers of undoubted honor and veracity, who witnessed the first appearance of the stranger at the Pellegrini and the undoubted fact of the halo playing round her temples.
"The consulta of the Holy Office could only draw one inference, sanctioned by the Holy Father himself, as to the character of the personage who thus deigned to appear; and interpose; and no wonder that, in the great function of yesterday, the eyes of all Rome were fixed upon Lothair as the most favored of living men."
He himself now felt as one sinking into an unfathomable abyss. The despair came over him that involves a man engaged in a hopeless contest with a remorseless power. All his life during the last year passed rushingly across his mind. He recalled the wiles that had been employed to induce him to attend a function in a Jesuits' chapel, in an obscure nook of London; the same agencies had been employed there; then, as now, the influence of Clare Arundel had been introduced to sway him when all others had failed. Belmont had saved him then. There was no Belmont now. The last words of Theodora murmured in his ear like the awful voice of a distant sea. They were the diapason of all the thought and feeling of that profound and passionate spirit.
That seemed only a petty plot in London, and he had since sometimes smiled when he remembered how it had been baffled. Shallow apprehension! The petty plot was only part of a great and unceasing and triumphant conspiracy, and the obscure and inferior agencies which he had been rash enough to deride had consummated their commanded purpose in the eyes of all Europe, and with the aid of the great powers of the world.
He felt all the indignation natural to a sincere and high-spirited man, who finds that he has been befooled by those whom he has trustee; but, summoning all his powers to extricate himself from his desolate dilemma, he found himself without resource. What public declaration on his part could alter the undeniable fact, now circulating throughout the world, that in the supernatural scene of yesterday he was the willing and the principal actor? Unquestionably he had been very imprudent, not only in that instance, but in his habitual visits to the church; he felt all that now. But he was tom and shattered, infinitely distressed, both in body and in mind; weak and miserable; and he thought he was leaning on angelic hearts, when he found himself in the embrace of spirits of another sphere.
In what a position of unexampled pain did he not now find himself! To feel it your duty to quit the faith in which you have been bred must involve an awful pang; but to be a renegade without the consolation of conscience, against your sense, against your will, alike for no celestial hope and no earthly object—this was agony mixed with self-contempt.
He remembered what Lady Corisande had once said to him about those who quitted their native church for the Roman communion. What would she say now? He marked in imagination the cloud of sorrow on her imperial brow and the scorn of her curled lip.
Whatever happened, he could never return to England—at least for many years, when all the things and persons he cared for would have disappeared or changed, which is worse; and then what would be the use of returning? He would go to America, or Australia, or the Indian Ocean, or the interior of Africa; but even in all these places, according to the correspondence of the Propaganda, he would find Roman priests, and active priests. He felt himself a lost man; not free from faults in this matter, but punished beyond his errors. But this is the fate of men who think they can struggle successfully with a supernatural power.
A servant opened a door and said, in a loud voice, that, with his permission, his eminence, the English cardinal, would wait on him.
It is proverbial to what drowning men will cling. Lothair, in his utter hopelessness, made a distinction between the cardinal and the conspirators. The cardinal had been absent from Rome during the greater portion of the residence of Lothair in that city. The cardinal was his father's friend, an English gentleman, with an English education, once an Anglican, a man of the world, a man of honor, a good, kind-hearted man. Lothair explained the apparent and occasional cooperation of his eminence with the others, by their making use of him without a due consciousness of their purpose on his part. Lothair remembered how delicately his former guardian had always treated the subject of religion in their conversations. The announcement of his visit, instead of aggravating the distresses of Lothair, seemed, as all these considerations rapidly occurred to him, almost to impart a ray of hope.
"I see," said the cardinal, as he entered serene and graceful as usual, and glancing at the table, "that you have been reading the account of our great act of yesterday."
"Yes; and I have been reading it," said Lothair, reddening, "with indignation; with alarm; I should add, with disgust."
"How is this?" said the cardinal, feeling or affecting surprise.
"It is a tissue of falsehood and imposture," continued Lothair; "and I will take care that my opinion is known of it."
"Do nothing rashly," said the cardinal. "This is an official journal, and I have reason to believe that nothing appears in it which is not drawn up, or well considered, by truly pious men."
"You yourself, sir, must know," continued Lothair, "that the whole of this statement is founded on falsehood."
"Indeed, I should be sorry to believe," said the cardinal, "that there was a particle of misstatement, or even exaggeration, either in the base or the superstructure of the narrative."
"Good God!" exclaimed Lothair. "Why, take the very first allegation, that I fell at Mentana, fighting in the ranks of the Holy Father. Everyone knows that I fell fighting against him, and that I was almost slain by one of his chassepots. It is notorious; and though, as a matter of taste, I have not obtruded the fact in the society in which I have been recently living, I have never attempted to conceal it, and have not the slightest doubt that it must be as familiar to every member of that society as to your eminence."
"I know there are two narratives of your relations with the battle of Mentana," observed the cardinal, quietly. "The one accepted as authentic is that which appears in this journal; the other account, which can only be traced to yourself, bears no doubt a somewhat different character; but considering that it is in the highest degree improbable, and that there is not a tittle of confirmatory or collateral evidence to extenuate its absolute unlikelihood, I hardly think you are justified in using, with reference to the statement in this article, the harsh expression, which I am persuaded, on reflection, you will feel you have hastily used."
"I think," said Lothair, with a kindling eye and a burning cheek, "that I am the best judge of what I did at Mentana."
"Well, well," said the cardinal, with dulcet calmness, "you naturally think so; but you must remember you have been very ill, my dear young friend, and laboring under much excitement. If I were you—and I speak as your friend, I hope your best one—I would not dwell too much on this fancy of yours about the battle of Mentana. I would myself always deal tenderly with a fixed idea: harsh attempts to terminate hallucination are seldom successful. Nevertheless, in the case of a public event, a matter of fact, if a man finds that he is of one opinion, and all orders of society of another, he should not be encouraged to dwell on a perverted view; he should be gradually weaned from it."
"You amaze me!" said Lothair.
"Not at all," said the cardinal. "I am sure you will benefit by my advice. And you must already perceive that, assuming the interpretation which the world without exception places on your conduct in the field to be the just one, there really is not a single circumstance in the whole of this interesting and important statement, the accuracy of which you yourself would for a moment dispute."
"What is there said about me at Mentana makes me doubt of all the rest," said Lothair.
"Well, we will not dwell on Mentana," said the cardinal, with a sweet smile; "I have treated of that point. Your case is by no means an uncommon one. It will wear off with returning health. King George IV believed that he was at the battle of Waterloo, and indeed commanded there; and his friends were at one time a little alarmed; but Knighton, who was a sensible man, said, 'His majesty has only to leave off Curacao, and rest assured he will gain no more victories.' The rest of this statement, which is to-day officially communicated to the whole world, and which in its results will probably be not less important even than the celebration of the centenary of St. Peter, is established by evidence so incontestable—by witnesses so numerous, so various—in all the circumstances and accidents of testimony so satisfactory—I may say so irresistible, that controversy on this head would be a mere impertinence and waste of time."
"I am not convinced," said Lothair.
"Hush!" said the cardinal; "the freaks of your own mind about personal incidents, however lamentable, may be viewed with indulgence—at least for a time. But you cannot be permitted to doubt of the rest. You must be convinced, and on reflection you will be convinced. Remember, sir, where you are. You are in the centre of Christendom, where truth, and where alone truth resides. Divine authority has perused this paper and approved it. It is published for the joy and satisfaction of two hundred millions of Christians, and for the salvation of all those who, unhappily for themselves, are not yet converted to the faith. It records the most memorable event of this century. Our Blessed Lady has personally appeared to her votaries before during that period, but never at Rome. Wisely and well she has worked in villages and among the illiterate as at the beginning did her Divine Son. But the time is now ripe for terminating the infidelity of the world. In the eternal city, amid all its matchless learning and profound theology, in the sight of thousands, this great act has been accomplished, in a manner which can admit of no doubt, and which can lead to no controversy. Some of the most notorious atheists of Rome have already solicited to be admitted to the offices of the Church; the secret societies have received their deathblow; I look to the alienation of England as virtually over. I am panting to see you return to the home of your fathers, and re-conquer it for the Church in the name of the Lord God of Sabaoth. Never was a man in a greater position since Godfrey or Ignatius. The eyes of all Christendom are upon you as the most favored of men, and you stand there like Saint Thomas."
"Perhaps he was as bewildered as I am," said Lothair.
"Well, his bewilderment ended in his becoming an apostle, as yours will. I am glad we have had this conversation, and that we agree; I knew we should. But now I wish to speak to you on business, and very grave. The world assumes that, being the favored of Heaven, you are naturally and necessarily a member of the Church. I, your late guardian, know that is not the case, and sometimes I blame myself that it is not so. But I have ever scrupulously refrained from attempting to control your convictions; and the result has justified me. Heaven has directed your life, and I have now to impart to you the most gratifying intelligence that can be communicated by man, and that the Holy Father will to-morrow himself receive you into the bosom of that Church of which he is the divine head. Christendom will then hail you as its champion and regenerator, and thus will be realized the divine dream with which you were inspired in our morning walk in the park at Vauxe."
It was the darkest hour in Lothair's life. He had become acquainted with sorrow; he had experienced calamities physical and moral. The death of Theodora had shaken him to the centre. It was that first great grief which makes a man acquainted with his deepest feelings, which detracts something from the buoyancy of the youngest life, and dims, to a certain degree, the lustre of existence. But even that bereavement was mitigated by distractions alike inevitable and ennobling. The sternest and highest of all obligations, military duty, claimed him with an unfaltering grasp, and the clarion sounded almost as he closed her eyes. Then he went forth to struggle for a cause which at least she believed to be just and sublime; and if his own convictions on that head might be less assured or precise, still there was doubtless much that was inspiring in the contest, and much dependent on the success of himself and his comrades that tended to the elevation of man.
But, now, there was not a single circumstance to sustain his involved and sinking life. A renegade—a renegade without conviction, without necessity, in absolute violation of the pledge he had given to the person he most honored and most loved, as he received her parting spirit. And why was all this? and bow was all this? What system of sorcery had encompassed his existence? For he was spell-bound—as much as any knight in fairy-tale whom malignant influences had robbed of his valor and will and virtue. No sane person could credit, even comprehend, his position. Had he the opportunity of stating it in a court of justice to-morrow, he could only enter into a narrative which would decide his lot as an insane being. The magical rites had been so gradual, so subtle, so multifarious, all in appearance independent of each other, though in reality scientifically combined, that, while the conspirators had probably effected his ruin both in body and in soul, the only charges he could make against them would be acts of exquisite charity, tenderness, self-sacrifice, personal devotion, refined piety, and religious sentiment of the most exalted character.