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The Daughter of an Empress
by Louise Muhlbach
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And, with a supercilious air, Don Bempo threw the money upon the table.

But just as proudly did the fisherman push back the money. "The fish is sold!" said he.

"Forward, march!" repeated Signor Gianettino his word of command. "Forward to the kitchen of his excellency Cardinal Bernis!"

And with solemn dignity the train began to move.

Don Bempo with a cry of rage rushed upon the fish.

"This fish is mine," he wildly cried, "I was the first to offer its price, I offered twenty ducats, and only went home to get the money!"

"And I," exclaimed Signor Gianettino, "I offered thirty-six ducats, and immediately paid the cash, as I always have money by me."

"It is Signor Gianettino, the cook of the French ambassador, and I am ruined!" groaned Don Bempo, staggering back.

"Yes, it is the cook of his excellency the cardinal!" cried the crowd.

"And the cardinal is an honorable man!"

"He is no Spanish niggard!"

"He does not haggle for a giant fish; he pays more than is demanded!"

"I hope," said Signor Gianettino to Don Bempo, who still convulsively grasped the fish, "that you will now take your hands from my property and leave me to go my way without further hindrance. It is not noble to lay hands on the goods of another, Don Bempo, and this fish is mine!"

"But this is contrary to all international law!" exclaimed the enraged Don Bempo. "You forget, signor, that you insult my master, that you insult Spain, by withholding from me by main force what I have purchased in the name of Spain."

"France will never stand second to Spain!" proudly responded Gianettino, "and where Spain offers twenty ducats, France pays six-and-thirty!—Forward, my youngsters! To the kitchen of the French ambassador!"

And urgently pushing back Don Bempo, Gianettino solemnly marched through the crowd with his retinue, the people readily making a path for him and cheering him as he went.

It was a brilliant triumph in the person of the chief cook of their ambassador, which the French celebrated to-day; it was a shameful defeat which Spain suffered to-day in the person of her ambassador's chief cook.

Proud and happy marched Signor Gianettino through the streets, accompanied by his gigantic fish, and followed by the shouts of a Roman mob.

Humiliated, with eyes cast down, with rage in his heart sneaked Don Bempo toward the Spanish ambassador's hotel, and long heard behind him the whistling, laughter, and catcalls of the Roman people.



THE FISH FEUD

Cardinal Bernis was in his boudoir. Before him lay the list of those persons whom he had invited to his entertainment of the next day, and he saw with proud satisfaction that all had accepted his invitation.

"I shall, then, have a brilliant and stately society to meet this Austrian archduke," said the well-contented cardinal to himself. "The elite of the nobility, all the cardinals and ambassadors, will make their appearance, and Austria will be compelled to acknowledge that France maintains the best understanding with all the European powers, and that she is not the less respected because the Marquise de Pompadour is in fact King of France."

"Ah, this good marquise," continued the cardinal, stretching himself comfortably upon his lounge and taking an open letter from the table, "this good marquise gives me in fact some cause for anxiety. She writes me here that France is in favor of the project of Portugal for the suppression of the order of the Jesuits, and I am so to inform the pope! This is a dangerous thing, marquise, and may possibly burn your tender fingers. The suppression of the Jesuits! Is not that to explode a powder-barrel in the midst of Europe, that may shatter all the states? No, no, it is foolhardiness, and I have not the courage to apply the match to this powder-barrel! I fear it may blow us all into the air."

And the cardinal began to read anew the letter of Madame de Pompadour which a French courier had brought him a few hours before.

"Ahem, that will be dangerous for the good father!" said he, shaking his head. "Austria also agrees to this magnificent plan of the Portuguese Minister Pombal, and I am inclined to think that this Austrian archduke has come to Rome only for the purpose of bringing to the pope the consent of the Empress Maria Theresa! Ha, ha! how singular! their chaste and virtuous Maria Theresa and our good Pompadour are both agreed in the matter, and in taking this course are both acting against their own will. The women love the Jesuits, these good fathers who furnish them with an excuse for every weakness, and hold a little back door open for every sin. That is very convenient for these good women! Yes, yes, the women—I think I know them."

And, smiling, the cardinal sank deeper into himself, dreaming of past, of charming times, when he had not yet counted sixty-five years. He dreamed of Venice, and of a beautiful nun he had loved there, and who for him had often left her cloister in the night-time, and, warm and glowing with passion, had come to him. He dreamed of these heavenly hours, where all pleasure and all happiness had been compressed into one blessed intoxication of bliss, where the chaste priestess of the Church had for him changed to a sparkling priestess of joy!

"Yes, that was long ago!" murmured the cardinal, as at length he awoke from his blissful dreams of the past.

"Those were beautiful times—I was then young and happy; I was then a man, and now—now am old; love has withered, and with it poesy! I am now nothing but a diplomatist."

There was a low knock at the door. The cardinal hastily but carefully returned the portrait of his beautiful nun to the secret drawer in his writing-table whence it had been taken, and bade the knocker to enter.

It was Brunelli, the major-domo of the cardinal, who came with a proud step, and face beaming with joy, to make a report of his plans and preparations for the morrow's entertainment.

"In the evening the park will be illuminated with many thousand lamps, which will outshine the sun, so that the guests will there wander in a sea of light," said he, in closing his report.

The cardinal smiled, and with a stolen glance at the small box that contained the portrait of this beautiful nun, he said: "Spare some of the walks in the alleys from your sea of light, and leave them in partial obscurity. A little duskiness is sometimes necessary for joy and happiness! But how is it with your carte du diner? What has Signor Gianettino to offer us? I hope he has something very choice, for you know the cardinals like a good table, and my friend Duke Grimaldi has a high opinion of our cuisine."

"Ah, the Spanish ambassador, your excellency?" exclaimed Brunelli, contemptuously. "The Spanish ambassador knows nothing of the art of cookery, or he would not possibly be satisfied with his cook! He is a niggard, a poor fellow, of whom all Rome is speaking to-day, and laughing at him and his master, while they are praising you to the skies!"

And Signor Brunelli related to his listening master the whole story of the gigantic fish, and of the humiliation of the Spanish cook.

The cardinal listened with attention, and a dark cloud gradually gathered upon his thoughtful brow.

"That is a very unfortunate occurrence," said he, shaking his head, as Brunelli ended.

"But at least it was an occurrence in which France triumphed, your excellency," responded Brunelli.

"I much fear the Duke of Grimaldi will do as you have done," said the cardinal; "he will confound my cook with France, and in his cook see all Spain insulted."

"Then your excellency is not satisfied?" asked Brunelli, with consternation. "The whole palace is full of jubilation; all the servants and lackeys and even the secretary of the legation are delighted with this divine affair!"

The cardinal paid no attention to these panegyrics of his major-domo, but thoughtfully paced the room with long strides.

"And you think Gianettino had the right of it?" at length he asked.

"He was entirely in the right, your excellency. Nothing had been paid for the fish, and Gianettino's right to purchase was perfect, and nobody could dispute it!"

"Well, when we are in the right, we must maintain our right," said the cardinal, after a pause, "and as the affair is known to all Rome, it must be fought through with eclat! The fish, in all its pride of greatness shall grace our table to-morrow!"

"We have no dish of sufficient size in which to serve it."

"Then let a new one be made," laughed the cardinal. "Take the measure of this Goliath, and hasten to the silversmith, that he may make a silver dish of the proper size. But see that it is completed by to-morrow morning, and that it is richly ornamented. If Rome has heard of the fish, so also must it hear of the dish. Hasten, therefore, Signor Brunelli, and see that all is done as I have ordered!"

"This is, in fact, a very diverting story," said the cardinal, laughing, when he was again alone. "We have here a monster fish which will probably swallow my friendship with the Duke of Grimaldi! Well, we shall see!"

The cardinal then rang for his body-servant, whom he ordered to dress him.

"Court toilet?" asked the servant, astonished at being called to this service at so unusual an hour.

"No, house toilet!" said the cardinal. "I shall soon receive visitors."

The shrewd cardinal had not deceived himself! In a few minutes an equipage rolled into the court and the footman announced his highness the Spanish ambassador, the Duke of Grimaldi.

"He is a thousand times welcome!" cried the cardinal, and as the door now opened and the Spanish duke entered, the cardinal advanced to receive him with open arms and a friendly smile.

"My dear, much-beloved friend, what a delightful surprise is this!" said the cardinal.

But the duke observed neither the open arms nor the pleasant smile, nor yet the friendly welcome of the cardinal. He strode forward with a serious, majestic grandezza, and placing himself directly before the cardinal, he solemnly asked: "Know you of the outrage which a servant of your house has inflicted on mine!"

"Of an outrage?" asked the cardinal, without embarrassment. "I have been told that your cook had a dispute with mine, because mine had bought a fish that was too dear for yours. That is all I know."

"Then they have not told you," thundered the duke, "that your servant, like an impudent street robber, has wrongfully seized my property. For that fish was mine, it belonged to the Spanish embassy, and therefore to Spain; and your servant has with outrageous insolence committed a trespass upon the property of a foreign power!"

"Did this fish, then, actually belong to the Spanish crown?" asked Bernis. "Was it already paid for, and legally yours?"

"It was not paid for, but was ordered, and my servant had gone home for the money."

"As long as it was not paid for, no one could have any claim upon it."

"You are, then, disposed to dispute the fish with me?" cried the duke.

"Should I dispute it," smilingly responded the cardinal, "that would be the equivalent to a recognition of your right to it, which I have no idea of making. Besides, my friend, what does this quarrel of our cooks concern us, and what has Spain and France to do with these disputes of our servants? They may fight out their own quarrels with each other; let us give them leave to do so, and if they give each other bloody heads, very well, we will bind them up, that is all!"

"You take the affair with your usual practical indifference," said the duke with bitterness, "and I can only regret being compelled to look at it in a different light. The question here is not of a difficulty between our servants, but of an insult which Spain has received from France in the face of all Rome. Yes, all Rome has witnessed this insult, and these miserable Romans have even dared to dishonor us with irony and satire, and to mock and deride Spain, while they overload you with their praises!"

"The good Romans, as you know, are like children. This contest of our cooks has delighted them, and they shouted a viva to the conqueror. But I beg you not to forget that I have nothing to do with the victories of my cook."

"But I have something to do with the defeats of mine! Whoever insults my servants insults me; and whoever insults me, insults the kingdom I represent—insults Spain! It is therefore in the name of Spain that I demand satisfaction. Spain has a right to this fish! I demand my right, I demand the surrender of the fish!"

"If you take this matter in earnest," said the cardinal, "then am I sorry to be compelled also to be serious! If Spain can find offence in the fact that France has bought a fish which is too dear for the Spanish cook, I cannot see how I can here make satisfaction, as we cannot be taxed with any fault."

"You refuse me the fish, then?" exclaimed the duke, bursting with rage.

"As you say that all Rome knows of this affair, and takes an interest in it, I cannot act otherwise. It must not have the appearance that France feels herself less great and powerful than Spain; that France pusillanimously yields when Spain makes an unjust demand!"

"That is to say, you wish to break off all friendly relations with us?"

"And can those relations be seriously endangered by this affair?" asked the cardinal with vivacity. "Is it possible that this trifling misunderstanding between two servants can exercise an influence upon a long-cherished friendship and harmony of two powers whose relations, whether friendly or otherwise, may uphold or destroy the peace of Europe?"

"Honor is the first law of the Spaniard," proudly responded the duke "and whoever wounds that can no longer be my friend! France has attached the honor of Spain, and all Rome has chimed in with the insulting acclamations of France—all Rome knows the story of this fish!"

"Then let us show these silly Romans that we both look upon the whole affair merely as a jest. When you to-morrow laughingly eat of this fish, the good Romans will feel ashamed of themselves and their childish conduct."

"You propose then, to-morrow, when the nobility of Rome, when all the diplomatists are assembled, to parade before them this fish, which to-day sets all tongues in motion?" asked the duke, turning pale.

"The fish was bought for this dinner, and must be eaten!" said the cardinal, laughing.

"Then I regret that I cannot be present at this festival!" cried the duke, rising. "You cannot desire that I should be a witness to my own shame and your triumph. You are no Roman emperor, and I am no conquered hero compelled to appear in your triumphal train! I recall my consent, and shall not appear at your to-morrow's festival!"

"Reflect and consider this well!" said the cardinal, almost sadly. "If you fail to appear to-morrow, when the whole diplomacy are assembled at my house for an official dinner, that will signify not only that the duke breaks with his old friend the cardinal, but also that Spain wishes to dissolve her friendly relations with France."

"Let it be so considered!" said the duke. "Better an open war than a clandestine defeat! Adieu, Sir Cardinal!"

And the duke made for the door. But the cardinal held him back.

"Have you reflected upon the consequences?" he asked. "You know what important negotiations at this moment occupy the Catholic courts. Of the abolition of the greatest and most powerful of orders, of the extirpation of the Jesuits, is the question. The pope is favorable to this idea of the Portuguese minister, Pombal, but he desires the co-operation of the other Catholic courts. Austria gives her consent, as do Sardinia and all the other Italian states; only the court of Spain has declared itself the friend and defender of the Jesuits, and for your sake has France hitherto remained passive on this most important question, and has affected not to hear the demands of her subjects; for your sake has France stifled her own convictions and joined in your support. Therefore, think well of what you are about to do! To break off your friendly relations with France, is to compel France to take sides against Spain; and if the powerful voice of France is heard against the Jesuits, the single voice of Spain will be powerless to uphold them."

"Well, then, let them go!" cried the duke. "What care I for the Jesuits when the defence of our honor is concerned? Sir Cardinal, farewell; however France may decide, Spain will never submit to her arrogance!"

The duke abruptly left the room, slamming the door after him.

Cardinal Bernis saw his departure with an expression of sadness.

"And such are the friendships of man," he murmured to himself; "the slightest offence is sufficient to destroy a friendship of many years. Well, we must reconcile ourselves to it," he continued after a pause, "and, at all events, it has its very diverting side. For many months I have taken pains to support Grimaldi with the pope in his defence of the Jesuits, and now that celebrated order will be abolished because a French cook has bought a fish that was too dear for the Spanish cook! By what small influences are the destinies of mankind decided!

"But now I have not a moment to lose," continued the cardinal, rousing himself from his troubled thoughts. "Grimaldi has rendered it impossible for me longer to oppose the views of the Marquise de Pompadour; I must now give effect to the commands of my feminine sovereign, and announce to the pope the assent of France to his policy. To the pope, then, the letter of the marquise may make known the will of Louis."

The cardinal hastily donned his official costume, and ordered his carriage for a visit to the Vatican.



POPE GANGANELLI (CLEMENT XIV)

Two men were walking up and down in the garden of the Quirinal, engaged in a lively discourse. One of them was an old man of more than sixty years. Long white locks waved about his forehead, falling like a halo on both sides of his cheeks. An infinite mildness and clearness looked out from his dreamy eyes, and a smile of infinite kindness played about his mouth, but so full of sorrow and resignation that it filled one's heart with sadness and his eyes with tears. His tall herculean form was bent and shrunken; age had broken it, but could not take away that noble and dignified expression which distinguished that old man and involuntarily impelled every one to reverence and a sort of adoration. To his friends and admirers this old man seemed a super-terrestrial being, and often in their enthusiasm they called him their Saviour, the again-visible Son of God! The old man would smile at this, and say: "You are right in one respect, I am indeed a son of God, as you all are, but when you compare me with our Saviour, it can only be to the crucified. I am, indeed, a crucified person like Him, and have suffered many torments. But I have also overcome many."

And, when so speaking, there lay in his face an almost celestial clearness and joyfulness, which would impel one involuntarily to bow down before him, had he not been, as he was, the vicegerent of God upon earth, the Pope Ganganelli.

The man who was now walking with him formed a singular contrast with the mild, reverence-commanding appearance of the pope. He was a man of forty, with a wild, glowing-red face, whose eyes flashed with malice and rage, whose mouth gave evidence of sensuality and barbarity, and whose form was more appropriate for a Vulcan than a prince of the Church. And yet he was such, as was manifested by his dress, by the great cardinal's hat over his shoulder, and by the flashing cross of brilliants upon his breast. This cardinal was very well known, and whenever his name was mentioned it was with secret curses, with a sign of the cross, and a prayer to God for aid in avoiding him, the terror of Rome, the Cardinal Albani.

Sighing and reluctantly had the pope finally resolved to have the cardinal near his person, that he might attempt by mild and gentle persuasion to soften his stubborn disposition; but the cardinal had replied to all his gentle words only with a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders, with low murmured words, with a darkly clouded brow.

"It is in no one's power to change and make a new being of himself," he finally said, in a harsh tone, as the pope continued his exhortations and representations. "You, my blessed father, cannot convert yourself into a monster such as you describe me; and I, Cardinal Albani, cannot attain to the sublime godliness which we all admire in your holiness. Every one must walk in his own path, taking especial care not to disturb others in theirs."

"But that is exactly what you do," gently replied Ganganelli. "All the streets of Rome bear witness to it. Did you not yesterday, in one of those streets, with force and arms rescue a bandit from the hands of justice, and with your murderous dagger take the life of the servant of the law?"

"They wanted to lead one of my servants to death, who had done nothing more than obey my commands," vehemently responded the cardinal. "I liberated him from their hands as was natural; and if some of the sbirri were killed in the encounter, that was their fault. Why did they not voluntarily give up their prisoner and then run away?"

"And was it really your command that this bandit fulfilled?" asked the pope, shuddering. "You know he killed a young nobleman, the pride and hope of his family, and was caught in the act, which he did not attempt to deny?"

"That young nobleman had mocked and made a laughing-stock of me in a public company," calmly replied the cardinal; "hence it was natural that he must die. Revenge is the first duty of man, and whoever neglects to take it is dishonored!"

"And such men dare to call themselves Christians!" exclaimed Ganganelli, with uplifted arms—"and such men call themselves priests of the religion of love!"

"I am a priest of love!" said Albani.

"But of what love?" responded the pope, with an appearance of agitation—"the priest of a wild, beastly passion, of a rough animal inclination. You know nothing of the soft and silent love that ennobles the heart and strengthens it for holy resolutions; which inculcates virtue and decency, and lifts up the eyes to heaven—of that love which is full of consolation and blessed hope, and desires nothing for itself."

"God save me from such a love!" said the cardinal, crossing himself. "When I love, I desire much, and of virtue and perfection there is, thank God, no question."

"Repent, amend, Francesco," said the pope. "I promised your uncle, the very worthy Cardinal Alessandro Albani, once more to attempt the course of mildness, and exhort you to return to the path of virtue. Ah, could you have seen the poor old man, with tears streaming from his blind eyes—tears of sorrow for you, whom he called his lost son!"

"My uncle did very wrong so to weep," said the cardinal. "Blind as he was he yet kept a mistress. How, then, can he wonder that I, who can see, kept several? Two eyes see more than none; that is natural!"

"But do you, then, so wholly forget your solemn oath of chastity and virtue?" excitedly exclaimed the pope. "Look upon the cross that covers your breast, and fall upon your knees to implore the pardon of God."

"This cross was laid upon my breast when I was yet a boy," gloomily responded the cardinal; "the fetters were attached to me before I had the strength to rend them; my will was not asked when this stone was laid upon my breast! Now I ask not about your will when I seek, under this weight, to breathe freely as a man! And, thank God, this weight has not crushed my heart—my heart, that yet glows with youthful freshness, and in which love has found a lurking-hole which your cross cannot fill up. And in this lurking-hole now dwells a charming, a wonderful woman, whom Rome calls the queen of song, and whom I call the queen of beauty and love! All the world adjudges her the crown of poesy, and only you refuse it to her."

"Again this old complaint!" said the pope, with a slight contraction of his brow. "You again speak of her—"

"Of Corilla," interposed the cardinal—"yes of Corilla I speak, of that heavenly woman whom all the world admires; to whose beautiful verses philosophers and poets listen with breathless delight, and who well deserves that you should reward her as a queen by bestowing upon her the poetic crown!"

"I crown a Corilla!" mockingly exclaimed the pope. "Shall a Corilla desecrate the spot hallowed by the feet of Tasso and Petrarch? No, I say, no; when art becomes the plaything of a courtesan, then may the sacred Muses veil their heads and mourn in silence, but they must not degrade themselves by throwing away the crown which the best and noblest would give their heart's blood to obtain. This Corilla may bribe you poor earthly fools with her smiles and amorous verses, but she will not be able to deceive the Muses!"

"You refuse me, then, the crowning of the renowned improvisatrice Corilla?" asked the cardinal, with painfully suppressed rage.

"I refuse it!"

"And why, then, did you send for me?" exclaimed the cardinal with vehemence. "Was it merely to mock me?"

"It was for the purpose of warning you, my son!" mildly responded the pope. "For even the greatest forbearance must at length come to an end; and when I am compelled to forget that you are Alessandro Albani's nephew, I shall then only have to remember that you are the criminal Francesco Albani, whom all the world condemns, and whom I must judge! Repent and reform, my son, while there is yet time; and, above all things, renounce this love, which heaps new disgrace upon your family and overwhelms your relatives with sorrow and anxiety!"

"Renounce Corilla!" cried the cardinal. "I tell you I love her, I adore her, this heavenly, beautiful woman! How can you ask me to renounce her?"

"Nevertheless I do demand it," said the pope with solemnity, "demand it in the name of your father, in the name of God, against whose holy laws you have sinned—you, His consecrated priest."

"But that is an impossibility!" passionately exclaimed Francesco. "One must bear a heart of stone in his bosom to require it; and that you can do so only proves that you have never known what it is to love!"

"And that I can do so should prove to you that I have indeed known it, my son!" sadly responded the pope.

"Whoever has known love knows that there can be no renunciation!"

"And whoever has known love can renounce!" exclaimed the pope, with animation. "Listen to me, my son, and may the sad story of a short happiness and long expiation serve you as a warning example! You think I cannot have known love? Ah, I tell you I have experienced all its joys and all its sorrows—that in the intoxication of rapture I once forgot my vows, my duties, my holy resolutions, and, doubly criminal, I also taught her whom I loved to forget her own sacred duties and to sin! Ah, you call me a saint, and yet I have been the most abject of sinners! Under this Franciscan vesture beat a tempestuous, fiery heart that derided God and His laws; a heart that would have given my soul to the evil one, had he promised to give me in exchange the possession of my beloved! She was beautiful, and of a heavenly disposition; and hence, when she passed through the aisles of the church, with her slight fairy form, her angelic face veiled by her long dark locks, her eyes beaming with love and pleasure, a heavenly smile playing about her lips—ah, when she thus passed through the church, her feet scarcely touching the floor, then I, who awaited her in the confessional, felt myself nearly frantic with ecstasy, my brain turned, my eyes darkened, there was a buzzing in my ears, and I attempted to implore the aid and support of God."

"You should have appealed to Cupid!" said the cardinal, laughing. "In such a case aid could come only from the god of ancient Rome, not of the modern!"

The old man noticed not his words. Wholly absorbed in his reminiscences, he listened only to the voice of his own breast, saw only the form of the beautiful woman he had once so dearly loved!

"God listened not to my fervent prayers," he continued, with a sigh, "or perhaps my stormily beating heart heard not the voice of God, because I listened only to her; because with intoxicated senses I was listening to the modest, childishly pure confession which she, kneeling in the confessional, was whispering in my ears; because I felt her breath upon my cheeks and in every trembling nerve of my being. And one day, overcome by his glowing passion, the monk so far forgot his sworn duty as to confess his immodest and insane love for the wife of another man!"

"Ah, she was, then, married?" remarked the cardinal.

"Yes, she was married; sold by her own parents, sacrificed at the shrine of mammon, married to a man whom she did not and could not love, and who pursued her with an insane jealousy. Ah, she suffered and suffered with the uncomplaining calmness of an angel. And I, did I not also suffer? We wept together, we complained together, until our hearts at length forgot complaining, and an unspeakable, a terrible happiness, made us forget our troubles. I had forgotten all—my God, my clerical vows; she also had forgotten all—her husband, her vow of fidelity; and if a thought of these things sometimes intruded upon our moments of happiness, it only caused us to plunge into new delights, and to lull ourselves anew into a blessed forgetfulness!"

"And the good, jealous husband remarked nothing?" asked the cardinal.

"He remarked nothing! He loved me, he confided in me, he called me his friend; and when he was compelled to take a long journey, he confided to me his house and his wife, establishing me as the guard of her virtue!"

The cardinal broke out into loud laughter. "These good husbands," said he, "they are all alike to a hair. Every one has a friend in whom he confides, and it is that very friend who betrays him. They must all fulfil their destinies, these good husbands! Relate further, holy father! Your story is very entertaining. I am curious to hear the end!"

"The end was terrible, replete with horror and shame," said the pope. "We lived blessed days, heavenly nights. Oh, we were so happy that we hardly had a thought for our criminality, but only for our love. One night there was a knocking at the closed door of the house, and we shudderingly recognized the voice of the husband demanding admission."

"And you were not at all in a situation to grant it to him," laughingly interposed the cardinal. "He might, perhaps, have been not a little astonished, this good husband, that you watched by night as well as by day the temple of his wedded happiness."

"With tears of anguish and terror she conjured me to fly, to save her from the derision of the world and the anger of her husband. She led me to a secret stairway, and I, like a madman pursued by the furies, was hastening to descend, when my foot slipped and I fell down the stairs with a loud clattering noise. I felt the blood oozing from my breast and pouring from my mouth in a warm stream—my limbs pained me frightfully—but I picked myself up and with extremest suffering fled to my cloister, when, having reached my cell, I fell senseless. A long illness now confined me to my bed and tortured my body with frightful pains; but far more frightful were the tortures of my soul, more frightful the voices that day and night whispered to me of my crime and guiltiness! My conscience was fully awakened; it spoke to me in a voice of thunder, and like a worm I turned upon my bed of pain, imploring of God a little mercy for the torments that burned my brain! This time God permitted Himself to be found by me; I heard his voice, saying: 'Go and repent, and thy sins shall be forgiven thee! Shake off the sinfulness that weighs upon thy head, and peace will return to thy bosom.' I heard this voice of God, and wept with repentant sorrow. I vowed to obey and reconcile myself to God by renouncing my love and never again seeing its object! It was a great sacrifice, but God demanded it, and I obeyed!"

"That is, this sickness had restored you from intoxication to sobriety; you were tired of your mistress!"

"I had, perhaps, never loved her more warmly, more intensely, than in those dreadful hours when I was struggling with my poor tortured heart and imploring God for strength to renounce her and separate myself from her forever. But God was merciful and aided my weakness with His own strength. Letters came from her, and I had the cruel courage to read them; I had condemned myself to do it as an expiation, and while I read her soft complainings, her love-sorrows, I felt in my heart the same sorrows, the same disconsolate wretchedness; tears streamed from my eyes, and I flayed my breast with my nails in utter despair! Ah, at such moments how often did I forget God and my repentance; how often did I press those letters to my lips and call my beloved by the tenderest names; my whole soul, my whole being flew to her, and, forgetting all, all, I wanted to rush to her presence, fall down at her feet, and be blessed only through her, even if my eternal salvation was thereby lost! But what was it, what then restrained my feet, what suddenly arrested those words of insane passion upon my lips and irresistibly drew me down upon my knees to pray? It was God, who then announced Himself to me—God, who called me to Himself—God, who finally gave me strength to understand my love and always leave her letters unanswered until they finally ceased to come—until her complaints, which, however, had consoled me, were no longer heard! The sacrifice was made, God accepted it, my sin was expiated, and I was glad, for my heart was forever broken, and never, since then, has a smile of happiness played upon my lips. But in my soul has it become tranquil and serene, God dwells there, and within me is a peace known only to those who have struggled and overcome, who have expiated their sins with a free will and flayed breast."

"And your beloved, what became of her?" asked the cardinal. "Did she pardon your treason, and console herself in the arms of another?"

"In the arms of death!" said Ganganelli, with a low voice. "My silence and my apparent forgetfulness of her broke her heart; she died of grief, but she died like a saint, and her last words were: 'May God forgive him, as I do! I curse him not, but bless him, rather; for through him am I released from the burden of this life, and all sorrow is overcome!' She therefore died in the belief of my unfaithfulness; she did, indeed, pardon me, but yet she believed me a faithless betrayer! And the consciousness of this was to me a new torment and a penance which I shall suffer forever and ever! This is the story of my love," continued Ganganelli, after a short silence. "I have truly related it to you as it is. May you, my son, learn from it that, when we wish to do right, we can always succeed, in spite of our own hearts and sinful natures, and that with God's help we can overcome all and suffer all. You see that I have loved, and nevertheless had strength to renounce. But it was God who gave me this strength, God alone! Turn you, also, to God; pray to Him to destroy in you your sinful love; and, if you implore Him with the right words, and with the right fervor, then will God be near you with His strength, and in the pains of renunciation will He purify your soul, preparing it for virtue and all that is good!"

"And do you call that virtue?" asked the cardinal. "May Heaven preserve me from so cruel a virtue! Do you call it serving God when this virtue makes you the murderer of your beloved, and, more savage than a wild beast, deaf to the amorous complaints of a woman whom you had led into love and sin, whose virtue you sacrificed to your lust, and whom you afterward deserted because, as you say, God called to yourself, but really only, because satiated, you no longer desired her. Your faithfulness cunningly clothes itself in the mantle of godliness, nothing further. No, no, holy father of Christendom, I envy you not this virtue which has made you the murderer of God's noblest work. That is a sacrilege committed in the holy temple of nature. Go your way, and think yourself great in your bloodthirsty, murderous virtue! You will not convert me to it. Let me still remain a sinner—it at least will not lead me to murder the woman I love, and provide for her torment and suffering, instead of the promised pleasure. Believe me, Corilla has never yet cursed me, nor have her fine eyes ever shed a tear of sorrow on my account. You have made your beloved an unwilling saint and martyr—possibly that may have been very sublime, and the angels may have wept or rejoiced over it. I have lavished upon my beloved ones nothing but earthly happiness. I have not made them saints, but only happy children of this world; and even when they have ceased to love me, they have always continued to call me their friend, and blessed me for making them rich and happy. You have set of crown of thorns upon the head of your beloved, I would bind a laurel-crown upon the beautiful brow of my Corilla, which will not wound her head, and will not cause her to die of grief. You are not willing to aid me in this, my work? You refuse me this laurel-wreath because you have only martyr-crowns to dispose of? Very well, holy father of Christendom, I will nevertheless compel you to comply with my wishes, and you shall have no peace in your holy city from my mad tricks until you promise me to crown the great improvisatrice in the capitol. Until then, addio, holy father of Christendom. You will not see me again in the Vatican or Quirinal, but all Rome shall ring with news of me!"

With a slight salutation, and without waiting for an answer from the pope, the cardinal departed with hasty steps, and soon his herculean form disappeared in the shadow of the pine and olive trees. But his loud and scornful laugh long resounded in the distance.



THE POPE'S RECREATION HOUR

The pope followed his retreating form with a glance of sadness and a shake of the head.

"He is past help," murmured he; "he runs to his ruin, and the voice of warning is unheeded. But how, if he should happen to be right? How, if he with his worldly wisdom and his theory of earthly happiness, should be more conformable to the will of God than we with our virtue and our doctrine of renunciation? Ah, yes, the world is so beautiful, it seems made entirely for pleasure and enjoyment, and yet men wander through it with tearful eyes, disregarding its beauty, and refusing to share its pleasures. All, except man, is free on earth. He alone lies in constraining bands, and his heart bleeds while all creation rejoices. No, no, that cannot be; every individual does what he can to render mankind free and happy, and I also will do my part. God has laid great power in my hand, and I will use it so long as it is mine."

Thus speaking, the pope left the garden, and hastened up to his study.

"Signor Galiandro," said he, to his private secretary, "did you not speak to me to-day of several petitions received, in which people begged for dispensations from monk and cloister vows?"

Signor Galiandro smilingly rummaged among a mass of papers that covered the pope's writing-table.

"In the last four weeks some fifty such petitions have been received. Since your holiness has released several monks and nuns from their vows, all these pious brides of Christ and these consecrated priests seem to have tired of their cloister life, and long to be out in the world again."

"Whoever does not freely and willingly remain in the house of the Lord, we will not retain them," said Ganganelli. "Compelled service of the Lord is no service, and the prayer of the lips without the concurrence of the heart is null! Give me all these petitions that I may grant them! The love of the world is awakened in these monks and nuns, and we will give back to the world what belongs to the world. With their resisting and struggling hearts they will make but bad priests and nuns; perhaps it will be better for them to become founders of families. And they who honestly do their duty, equally serve God, whether they are in a cloister or in the bosoms of their families."

The pope seated himself at his writing-table, and after having carefully examined all the petitions for dispensations, signed his consent, and smilingly handed them back to his secretary.

"I hope we have here made some people happy," said he, rising, "and therefore it may, perhaps, be allowed us also to be happy in our own way for a quarter of an hour."

He lightly touched the silver bell suspended over his writing-table, and at the immediately opened door appeared the pleasant and well-nourished face of brother Lorenzo, the Franciscan monk, who performed the whole service of the pope.

"Lorenzo," said Ganganelli, with a smile, "let us go down into the poultry-yard. You must show me the young chickens of which you told me yesterday. And hear, would it be asking too much to beg of you to bring my dinner into the garden?"

"I would that you could ask too much," said brother Lorenzo, waddling after his master, who was descending the stairs leading to the court-yard. "I really wish, your holiness, that it were asking too much, for then your dinner would be at least a little more desirable and heavier to transport! Was such a thing ever heard of? the father of Christianity keeps a table like that of the poorest begging monk, and is satisfied with milk, fruit, bread, and vegetables, while the fattest of capons and ducks are crammed in vain for him, and his cellar is replete with the most generous wines."

"Well, well, scold not," said Ganganelli, smiling; "have we not for years felt ourselves well in the Franciscan cloister, it never once occurring to us to wish ourselves better off! Why should I now quit the habits of years and accustom myself to other usages? When I was yet a Franciscan monk, I always had, thanks to our simple manner of living, a very healthy stomach, and would you have me spoil it now, merely because I have become pope? It has always remained the same human body, Lorenzo, and all the rest is only falsehood and fraud! How few years is it since you and I were in the cloister, and you served the poor Franciscan monk as a lay brother! You then called me brother Clement, and they all did the same, and now you no longer call me brother, but holy father! How can your brother of yesterday be your father of to-day? We are here alone, Lorenzo; nobody sees or hears us. We would for once cease to be holy father, and for a quarter of an hour become again brother Clement."

"Ahem! it was not so bad there," simpered Lorenzo. "It was yet very pleasant in our dear cloister, and I often think, brother, that you were far happier then than now, when every one falls upon his knees to kiss your slipper. It must be very dull to be always holy, always so great and sublime, and always revered and adored!"

"Therefore let us go to our ducks and hens," said the pope. "The people have made a bugbear of me, before which they fall upon the earth. But the good animals, who understand nothing of these things, they cackle and grunt, and gabble at me, as if I were nothing but a common goose-herd and by no means the sainted father of Christendom! Come, come to my dear brutes, who are so frank and sincere that they cackle and gabble directly in my face as soon as their beaks and snouts are grown. They are not so humble and devoted, so adoring and cringing, as these men who prostrate themselves before me with humble and hypocritical devotion, but who secretly curse me and wish my death, that there may be a change in the papacy! Come, come, to our honest geese!"

Brother Lorenzo handed to the pope the willow basket filled with corn and green leaves, and both, with hasty steps and laughing faces, betook themselves to the poultry-yard; the ducks and geese fluttered to them with a noisy gabbling as soon as they caught sight of the provender-basket, and Ganganelli laughingly said: "It seems as if I were here in the conclave, and listening to the contention of the cardinals as they quarrel about the choice of a new pope. Lorenzo, I should well like to know who will succeed me in the sacred chair and hold the keys of St. Peter! That will be a stormy conclave!—Be quiet, my dear ducks and geese! Indeed, you are in the right, I forgot my duty! Well, well, I will give you your food now—here it is!"

And the pope with full hands strewed the corn among the impatiently gabbling geese, and heartily laughed at the eagerness with which they threw themselves upon it.

"And is it not with men as with these dear animals?" said he, laughing; "When one satisfies them with food, they become silent, mild, and gentle. Princes should always remember that, and before all things satiate their subjects with food, if they would have a tranquil and unopposed government! Ah, that reminds me of our own poor, Lorenzo! Many petitions have been received, much misery has been described, and many heart-rending complaints have been made to me!"

"That is because they know you are always giving and would rather suffer want yourself than refuse gifts to others," growled Lorenzo. "Hardly half the month is past, and we are already near the end of our means!"

"Already?" exclaimed the pope, with alarm. "And I believe I yet need much money. There is a father of fourteen children who has fallen from a scaffolding and broken both legs. We must care for him, Lorenzo; the children must not want for bread!"

"That is understood, that is Christian duty," said Lorenzo, eagerly. "Give me the address, I will go to him yet to-day! And how much money shall I take with me?"

"Well, I thought," timidly responded Ganganelli, "that five scudi would not be too much!"

Lorenzo compassionately shrugged his shoulders. "You can never learn the value of money," said he; "I am now to take five scudi to these fourteen children."

"Is it not enough?" joyfully asked Ganganelli. "Well, I thank God that you are so disposed! I only feared you would refuse me so much, because my treasury, as you say, is already empty. But if we have something left, give much, much more! At least a hundred scudi, Lorenzo!"

"That is always the way with you; from extreme to extreme!" grumbled Lorenzo. "First too little, then too much! I shall take to them twenty scudi, and that will be sufficient!"

"Give them thirty," begged Ganganelli, "do you hear, thirty, brother Lorenzo. Thirty scudi is yet a very small sum!"

"Ah, what do you know about money?" answered Lorenzo, laughing; "these geese here understand the matter better than you, brother Clement."

"Well, it is for that reason I have made you my cashier," laughed Ganganelli. "A prince will always be well advised when he chooses a sensible and well-instructed servant for that which he does not understand himself. To acknowledge his ignorance on the proper occasion does honor to a prince, and procures him more respect than if he sought to give himself the appearance of knowing and understanding everything. Come, Lorenzo, let us go into the garden; you see that these fowls care nothing for us now; as they are satiated, they despise our provender. Come, let us go farther!"

"Yes, into the garden!" exclaimed Lorenzo, with a mysterious smile. "Come, brother Clement, I have prepared a little surprise for you there! Come and see it!"

And the two old men turned their steps toward the garden.

"Follow me," said Lorenzo, preceding the pope, and leading him to a more solitary and better screened part of the garden. "Now stoop a little and creep through here, and then we are at the place."

The pope carefully followed the directions of his leader, and worked his way through the obstruction of the myrtle-bushes until he arrived at a small circular place, in the centre of which, shaded by tall olive-trees, was a turf-seat surrounded by tendrils of ivy, and before which was a small table of wood, yet retaining its natural covering of bark.

"See, this is my surprise!" said Lorenzo.

Ganganelli stood silent and motionless, with folded hands. A deep emotion was visible in his gentle mien, and tears rolled slowly down over his cheeks.

"Well, is it not well copied, and true to nature?" asked Lorenzo, whose eyes beamed with satisfaction.

"My favorite spot in the garden of the Franciscan convent!" said Ganganelli in a tone trembling with emotion. "Yes, yes, Lorenzo, you have represented it exactly, you know well enough what gives me pleasure! Accept my thanks, my dear good brother."

And, while giving his hand to the monk, his eye wandered with gentle delight over the place, with its beautiful trees and green reposing bank, and thoughtfully rested upon each individual object.

"So was it," he murmured low, "precisely so; yes, yes, in this place have I passed my fairest and most precious hours; what have I not thought and dreamed as a youth and as a man, how many wishes, how many hopes have there thrilled my bosom, and how few of them have been realized!"

"But one thing has been realized," said Lorenzo, "greater than all you could have dreamed or hoped! Who would ever have thought it possible that the poor, unknown Franciscan monk would become the greatest and most sublime prince in the whole world, the father of all Christendom? That is, indeed, a happiness that brother Clement, upon his grass-bank in the Franciscan convent, could never have expected!"

"You, then, consider it a happiness," said Ganganelli, slowly letting himself down upon the grass-bank. "Yes, yes, such are you good human beings! wherever there is a little bit of show, a little bit of outward splendor, you immediately conclude that there is great happiness. This proves that you see only the outward form, paying no regard to what is concealed under that form, and which is often very bitter. Believe me, Lorenzo, in these times there is no very great happiness in being pope and the so-called father of Christendom. The princes have become very troublesome and disobedient children; they are no longer willing to recognize our paternal authority, and if the holy father does not manifest a complaisant friendliness toward these refractory princely children, and wink at their independence, they will renounce the whole connection and quit the paternal mansion. We should then, indeed, be the holy father of Christendom, but no longer have any children under the paternal authority! For having so expressed myself, I shall never be pardoned by the cardinals and princes of the Church; it has made them my deadly enemies, and yet it is with these principles alone that I have succeeded in bringing the refractory Portuguese court again under my parental control!

"But here in this pleasant place let us dismiss such unpleasant thoughts," the pope more cheerfully continued, after a pause. "Here I will forget that I am pope; here I will never be anything more than brother Clement of the Franciscan convent, nor shall the cares and troubles of the pope, nor his holiness or infallibility, accompany him to this dear quiet place. Here I will only be a man, and forgetting my cramping highness and my forced splendor, will here right humanly enjoy the sun and this soft green grass, and in deep draughts inhale this sweet balsamic air. Ah, how happy one may yet be if he can for a moment escape from the envelope of dignity by which he is kept a chrysalis, and freely exercise the butterfly wings of manhood! And hear me for once, brother Lorenzo, so very human has your pope here become, that he feels a right fresh human appetite. If all here is as it used to be at the convent, then must you have something to appease my hunger."

Brother Lorenzo nodded with a sly smile. Stepping to the side of the grassy bank, and slipping aside a small door concealed by the grass, he disclosed a walled excavation, filled with fruits and pastry.

"I see you have forgotten nothing!" joyfully exclaimed Ganganelli, taking some of the fragrant fruit which Lorenzo tendered him. "Ah, you make me very happy, Lorenzo."

Saying this, he threw his arm around Lorenzo's neck, and silently pressed him to his bosom.

Brother Lorenzo was equally silent, but he no longer laughed; his usually cheerful face assumed a wonderfully clear and pleased expression, and two large tears rolled down over his cheek—but they were tears of joy.



A DEATH-SENTENCE

An approaching bustling, a vehement calling and screaming, disturbed the two old men. It was Lorenzo who was called, and he quickly glided through the bushes to look after the cause of this disturbance. But soon he returned with a melancholy face and depressed mien.

"Brother Clement," said he, "it is already all over with our enjoyment, which has been so great for me that I forgot to remind you that the pope cannot neglect the hour in which he gives audience. That hour has now come, and your anteroom is already filled with princes and prelates."

"And yet you speak of the great happiness of being pope," said Ganganelli, rising with a sigh from the grassy bank. "I am not allowed an hour for recreation, and yet people think—but no," said Ganganelli, interrupting himself and laughing, "we should not be ungrateful, and it would be ungrateful for me now to complain. If I have not had an hour for recreation, well, I have had half an hour, and even that is much!"

And, beckoning to brother Lorenzo to follow him, the pope crept through the bushes that separated the place from the more frequented part of the garden.

As he then walked up the grand alley, his face and his whole form assumed a very different appearance. The mild friendliness had vanished from his features, pride and dignity were now expressed by them, and his tall, erect form had in it something noble and imposing; it was no longer the stooping form of age, but only that of a somewhat elderly hero. The brother Clement had been transformed into the prince of the Church, who was about to receive his vassals.

They now saw a tall, manly form hastening down the alley directly toward the pope.

"Who is it?" asked Ganganelli, half turning toward Lorenzo, who was following him.

"It is Juan Angelo Braschi, the former treasurer, to whom you yesterday sent the cardinal's hat."

"Ah, the beautiful Braschi," sadly murmured Ganganelli. "The beloved of the favorite of my nephew, of the Cardinal Rezzonico. Ah, how bad the world is!"

In fact, he whom Ganganelli called the "beautiful" Braschi, well deserved that epithet. No nobler or more plastic beauty was to be seen; no face that more reminded one of the divine beauty of ancient sculpture, no form that could be called a better counterfeit of the Belvedere Apollo. And it was this beauty which liberal Nature had imparted to him as its noblest gift, which helped Juan Angelo Braschi, the son of a poor nobleman of Cesara, to his good fortune, his highest offices and dignities. Not for his merits, but solely for his beauty, did the women bestow upon him their love; and as among these women there were some who exercised an important influence upon powerful cardinals, Braschi had quickly mounted from step to step, crowding aside those who had nothing but their merits and services to speak for them.

With a free and noble demeanor, Braschi now approached the pope, who remained standing at some distance awaiting him, with a calm and proud self-possession. Braschi dropped upon one knee, and pressing the hem of the pope's garment in his lips, said:

"Pardon me, most holy father, that I have ventured to seek you here. But my lively gratitude would not be longer restrained. It impelled me toward you with the wings of the wind. I must be the first to fall at your feet to stammer out to you my inexpressible thanks."

Proudly nodding his head the pope motioned him to rise.

"It is well," said he, "and you have lent your gratitude an abundance of words. It is true you were only treasurer, and I have permitted you to take a great step in making you a cardinal. But remember, my lord cardinal, that I have promoted you only because I wished to take from you the office of treasurer, as I need a man for that post whose honesty no one could call in question!"

Thus speaking he passed on with a ceremonious salutation, leaving the new cardinal rooted to the earth with terror, his beautiful brow distorted with rage.

"He shall expiate that," muttered Braschi, gnashing his teeth, as the pope slowly pursued his way. "By the Eternal, the proud Franciscan shall expiate that! Ah, the day will come when he will fully remember these words!"

Meantime, Ganganelli wandered calmly on, followed by his faithful Lorenzo, with a smile of joy at this dismissal and humiliation of the proud and handsome Cardinal Braschi.

The pope suddenly stopped, and turning to Lorenzo said:

"What a strange thought has passed through my head! I have made this miserable coxcomb Braschi a cardinal because he was not honest enough for a treasurer, but in doing so I have paved the way for him to the papal throne! Would it not be strange, Lorenzo, if I have thus myself provided my successor? His dishonesty and intriguing disposition has made him a cardinal. Why can it not also make him a pope? The world is indeed so strange!"(*)

(*) Juan Angelo Braschi, whom Pope Clement XIV. made a cardinal, was in fact Ganganelli's successor, and took possession of the papal chair as Pius VI. He was chosen after a very stormy conclave and indeed the different parties voted for him on the ground that he belonged to no party, and because they thought he was so very much occupied with his own beauty that he would think of nothing else, and, while occupied with the care of his face, would leave the cares of state to others.

"What dreams those are," murmured Lorenzo, shrugging his shoulders; "the idea that a Braschi could be the successor of the noble Ganganelli!"

Many cardinals and princes of the Church, many noblemen and foreign ambassadors, were assembled in the pope's audience-room, and as Ganganelli entered, they all received him with joyful acclamations, and humbly fell upon their knees before the head of the church, the vicegerent of God, who, with solemn majesty, bestowed upon them his blessing, and then condescendingly conversed with them. That was a ceremony to which the pope was obliged to subject himself once a week, and which he reckoned as not one of the least of the troubles attendant upon his exalted position. Hence he was well pleased when this hour was over, and he at length was relieved of the presence of all these eulogistic and flattering gentlemen.

Only Cardinal Bernis had remained behind, and to him Ganganelli, giving him his hand, and drawing a deep breath, said:

"What a mass of false and hypocritical phrases we have again been obliged to swallow! These cardinals have the impudence to speak to me of their love and veneration; they do not hesitate so to lie with the same lips which to-day have already pronounced blessings and pious words of edification! But let us forget these hypocrites. Business is over, and it is kind of you to come and chat with me for one little hour. You know I love you very much, my good friend Bernis, although you do pay homage to the heathen divinities, and, as a real renegade, have constituted yourself a priest of the muses."

"Ah, you speak of my youthful sins," said the cardinal, smiling. "They are long since past, and sleep with my youthful happiness."

"That must be a wide bed which enables them all to find place side by side," responded Ganganelli, laughing, and holding up his forefinger threateningly to the cardinal.

"But what is that you are drawing from your breast-pocket with such an important air?"

"A letter from the Marquise de Pompadour, holy father," seriously replied the cardinal—"a letter in which I am commanded to communicate to you, the father of Christendom, the acquiescence of France in your proposed abolition of the order of the Jesuits. Here is a private letter addressed to me by the marquise, and here the official letter signed by King Louis, which is destined for your holiness."

The pope took the papers, and while he was reading them his face turned deadly pale, and a dark cloud gathered upon his brow.

"France also acquiesces," said he, when he had finished the reading. "How is it, then—were you not yourself against the abolition of the order, and were you not in accordance with the Spanish ambassador, your friend of many years?"

"This friendship of many years is to-day destroyed by a fish, and drives us a helpless wreck upon the wildly-rolling waves," said the cardinal, shrugging his shoulders.

Ganganelli paid no attention to him. Serious and thoughtful, he walked up and down the room, while his heavenward-directed eye seemed to address a great and all-important question to the Being there above, which received no answer.

"I clearly see how it will be," finally murmured the pope, as if talking to himself. "I shall complete the work I have begun—it is God Himself who has opened the way for it, but this way will at the same time lead me to my grave."

"What dark thoughts are these?" said Bernis, approaching him. "This bold and high-hearted resolution will not bring you death, but fame and immortality."

"It will at least lead me to immortality," said the pope, with a faint smile. "The dead are all immortal. But think not so little of me as to suppose I would now timidly shrink from doing that which I have once recognized as right and necessary. Only there are necessities of a very painful and dreadful kind. Such a necessity is war. And is it not a war that I commence, and does it not involve the destruction of all those thousands who call themselves the followers of Loyola, and belong to the Society of Jesus? Ah, believe me, this Society of Jesus is a hydra, and we shall never succeed in entirely extirpating it. I may now separate my own head from my body; but a day will come when the head of this hydra will have grown again, and when it will rise from the dead with renewed vitality, while I shall be mouldering in my grave. Say not, therefore, that I know not how to destroy them, and if you do say it, at least add that I lacked not the will, but that I gave for it my own life."

Thus speaking, the pope slightly nodded an adieu to the cardinal, and withdrew into his study, the door of which he carefully closed after him.

There was he long heard to walk the room with measured steps. Then all was still. No one ventured to disturb him. Hours passed. Lorenzo, with a fearful presentiment, knelt before the door. He laid his ear to the keyhole and tried to listen. All was still within, nothing stirred. At length he ventured to call the pope's name—at first low and tremulously, then louder and more anxiously, and as no answer was received, he at last ventured to open the door.

At his writing-table sat the pope; his face deadly pale, with staring eyes and great drops of perspiration on his forehead. Immovable sat he there, his right hand, which held a pen, resting on a parchment lying upon the table before him.

Like an image of wax, so stiff, so motionless was he, that Lorenzo, shuddering, made the sign of the cross upon his brow. Then, noiselessly advancing, he timidly and anxiously touched the pope's shoulder. Ganganelli shuddered, and a slight trembling pervaded his members; he then drew a long breath, and, casting a dull glance at his faithful friend, said:

"Lorenzo, let my coffin be ordered, and pray for my soul. I have just now signed my own death-sentence. See, there it lies. I have signed the decree abolishing the order of the Jesuits! I must therefore die, Lorenzo. It is all over and past with our shady place and our recreations. My murderers are already prowling around me, for I tell you I have myself signed my death-sentence!"



THE FESTIVAL OF CARDINAL BERNIS

And this day of the festival had finally come. With what joyful impatience, with what anxious desire, had Natalie looked forward to it—how had she importuned her friend, Count Paulo, with questions about Cardinal Bernis, about the people she would meet there, about the manners and usages with which she would have to conform!

"I am anxious and fearful," said she, with amiable modesty; "they will find occasion to laugh at me, and you will be compelled to blush for me, Paulo. But you must tell these wise men and great ladies that it is my very first appearance in society, and that they must have consideration for the awkwardness and ineptitude of a poor child who knows nothing of the world, its forms, or its laws."

"For you no excuse will be necessary," responded Paulo, pressing the delicate tips of her fingers to his lips. "Only be quite yourself, perfectly true and open, inoffensive and cheerful! Forget that you are in an assemblage; imagine yourself to be in our garden, under the trees and among the flowers, and speak to people as you speak to your trees and flowers."

"But will the people give me as true and cordial answers as my trees and flowers?" asked Natalie, thoughtfully.

"They will say to you more beautiful and more flattering things," said Paulo, smiling. "But now, Natalie, it is time to be thinking of your toilet. See, the sun is already sinking behind the pines, and the sky begins to redden! The time to go will soon arrive, and your first triumph awaits you!"

"Oh, it will not have long to wait," said Natalie, laughing, and, light and graceful as a gazelle, she tripped to the house.

Count Paulo gazed after her with a melancholy rapture. "And I am to leave this angel," thought he, "to lose the brightest and noblest jewel of my life, and drive myself out of paradise. And wherefore all this? Perhaps to chase a phantom that will never become a reality, to follow a chimera which may be only a meteor that dances before me and dissolves into mist when I think to reach it? No, no, the world is not worth so much that one should sell himself and his soul's happiness for its splendor and its greatness. Natalie herself shall decide. Loves she me, and is she satisfied with the quiet circumscribed existence that I can henceforth only offer her, then away, ye vain dreams and ye proud desires for greatness; then shall I be, if not the greatest, certainly the happiest of human beings!"

It was a wonderfully brilliant festival that Cardinal Bernis had to-day prepared for his guests—a festival hitherto unequalled in Rome. The walls were decorated with garlands and festoons of flowers, the flaming candelabras among which found their reflection in the tall Venetian mirrors that rose in their golden frames from the floor to the ceilings; and in the corners of the rooms were niches, here furnished with orange-trees, and there with heavy silk curtains, behind which were grottoes adorned with shells, in the midst of which were fountains where splashed waters rendered fragrant by oil of roses and other essences. And ever-new surprises, new grottoes and groves in those rich halls offered themselves to the eyes of the beholders. Now one suddenly found himself in a quiet boudoir lighted only by a solitary lamp, where the most artistic engravings and the rarest drawings were spread out upon a table; then again one entered a hall sparkling with a thousand lights and resounding with music, where the gayly-dressed crowd undulated in mazy waves; then again grottoes opened here and there, or one stepped out through the open doors into the garden where one could enjoy the balsamic coolness of the evening in walks brilliantly lighted with colored lamps, or listen to the music of performers concealed in the shrubbery, or, again, fleeing from the throng and the lights, seek a resting-place upon some grassy bank or under some myrtle-bush, whether for solitary musing or for encircling in sweet and silent familiarity the waist of some chosen fair one who understanding the stolen glance, had strayed here unnoticed.

But the central point of the festival was the monstrous gigantic hall which the cardinal had caused to be erected in the centre of the garden expressly for this occasion. The walls of muslin and flowers were held together by more than a hundred gilded pillars, the girandoles attached to each of which diffused a sea of light. Silken carpets covered the floor, and the plafond of this gigantic hall was formed by the thousand-starred arch of heaven. Here, also, niches and grottoes were everywhere to be found; in them one could, in the midst of the constantly moving and noisy crowd, enjoy quiet and repose.

Only one of these niches was inaccessible, as it appears, to the company, and yet it was precisely this which excited the curiosity of all, and which all, whispering, approached, anxious to get a peep behind the closed thick silken curtains, before which two richly gallooned servants of the cardinal walked back and forth with solemn earnestness, but respectfully requesting every one to comply with the cardinal's wishes and not approach the mysterious drapery, but await his own time for the solution of the enigma! A few steps led up to this closed and covered niche; these steps were strewed with roses, that was plainly seen; but, to what did these steps lead, and what was thus carefully concealed?

A precious surprise, certainly, for it was the forte of the cardinal to prepare surprises for the agreeable entertainment of his guests. The ladies and gentlemen, the cardinals and princes of the Church, crowded around him begging for an explanation of the mystery, a disclosure of the secret.

"I am myself uninitiated," said Cardinal Bernis, laughing; "some divinity may have taken a seat there, or perhaps it is a sphinx which will from thence give us the solution of her enigma. But let us see what belated guests are now coming to us."

And the cardinal with zealous precipitation approached the principal entrance to the hall, the portieres of which had just been drawn aside, and behind was seen Natalie at the hand of Paulo.

As if blinded by the sudden flood of light, she stood for a moment still, a purple glow flushing her delicate cheeks, and clinging to Paulo's arms, she whispered: "Protect me, Paulo, I am so frightened by this crowd!"

Just at that moment the doorkeeper cried with a loud voice: "Princess Natalie Tartaroff and Count Paulo!"

At the sound of these strange names all glanced toward the door, and all flaming, curious, prying eyes were fixed with astonishment and admiration upon the young maiden.

But Natalie did not remark it. She glanced at Paulo with a glad smile, and a proud happiness beamed from her features. She had, then, a name; she was no longer an abandoned, nameless orphan. At length the enigma of her birth was solved, and what she had so often prayed for, Count Paulo had vouchsafed her as a surprise to-day.

He had at the same time announced her name to herself and the world, and she not only had a name, but she was a princess; she took a rank in the company, and Count Paulo and Carlo had no reason to be ashamed of her. But where was Carlo? At the thought of him this feeling of effervescing pride vanished from the young maiden's heart; she even forgot that she was a princess, to remember only that Carlo, her music-teacher, had promised her to be present at this festival, and to wonder that she could not discover him in this gay and confused assemblage.

She did not remark that, since her appearance, a deep stillness had supervened in the hall, that all eyes were upon her, that people secretly whispered to each other, and gave utterance to murmured expressions of astonishment and delight; she saw not how the beauties here and there turned pale and indignantly bit their proud lips; she saw not how the eyes of the men glowed and flashed, and what eagerly lusting glances the cardinals and princes of the Church cast upon her.

She was so unconstrained, this charming child, she knew not how handsome she was. But she was to-day of a wonderfully touching beauty. Like a white and delicate lily stood she there in the heavy white satin robe that enveloped her graceful form, and the brilliants that adorned her hair, neck, and arms, shone and sparkled like sun-lighted dew-drops in the calyx of the flower. So beautiful was she that even Cardinal Bernis stood speechless and as if blinded before her, finding no expression for his joyful surprise and astonishment.

"Oh," at length he smilingly said, with a low bow, "I shall have to quarrel with Count Paulo! He promised us the presence of a mortal woman, and now he leads into our circle a divinity who must look down upon us poor human beings with a smile of contempt."

Natalie smiled. "I know," said she, with her clear, sweet, childish voice—"I know that Cardinal Bernis is a poet, and therefore it will not be very difficult for him to change a young maiden into a divinity. Nor is this the first time he has done so! I remember a lovely poem of his, the complaint of a shepherd, who considers the object of his love a divinity because she is so beautiful, and at last she proves to be no divinity, but on the contrary a regular little quarrelsome wrangler, who has nothing beautiful about her but her hands and face. Take care, cardinal, that it does not prove with you and me as with the shepherd in your charming poem!"

She said that with such childish ingenuousness, and in so cheerful and jesting a tone, that the cardinal listened to her as if intoxicated, and with unconcealed admiration he looked into that delicate, childishly pure face, over which no trace of sorrow nor any sign of care had ever yet passed.

Without answering, he took her arm, and, beckoning Count Paulo to his side, led the princess to the circle of ladies.

Behind those closed curtains that still concealed the mysterious niche it had meanwhile become stirring. Busy servants hastened hither and thither, lighting the lamps and arranging the festoons and draperies. It seems they had here erected a little stage, and the large wall-picture that formed the background of this stage bore the appearance of a decoration. A side curtain, serving as a partition, formed a second room, which seemed destined for a sort of greenroom, in the centre of which was a large and well-lighted mirror, and before it stood a young woman regarding herself with the greatest attention, here plucking at her dress and there arranging her train or an ornament. She was evidently the one who was to appear upon the stage; her costume betrayed it. It was not the fashionable costume of the day, such as was worn by the distinguished ladies of Roman society; it was an ideal Greek dress that seemed to have been made for the purpose of displaying and rendering yet more voluptuous and enticing the great beauty of the wearer.

She was very beautiful, this woman, with her sparkling black eyes and dark shining hair, which had been gathered into a Grecian knot behind—beautiful, with the laurel-wreath resting upon her high forehead—beautiful, in the transparent Grecian robe which only so far concealed the luxuriant forms of her full figure as to allow them to be divined—beautiful, with those full, round, and entirely uncovered arms, with their jewelled bracelets—beautiful, with her graceful neck, her fully exposed, naked shoulders, and her voluptuously swelling bosom.

She was, in her appearance, a Greek, only her face was not Grecian. It was wanting in the noble forms, the still cheerfulness and repose of Grecian beauty, modest even in its voluptuousness. It was only the face of a sensual and passionate Roman woman, and no Lais would have ventured such a smile as played upon the dark-red lips of this Roman woman, or such glowing glances as she shot like arrows from her dark eyes.

Standing before the glass, she viewed herself, her lips murmuring low words, occasionally turning her eyes from the mirror to the little table standing near it, upon which lay several open books.

What murmured she, and what read she in those books? Singular! she was uttering single, isolated, unconnected words, which had nothing in common with each other but the sound of melody; they were rhymes, but without connection or sense, without inward mental correlation.

"So," she now said to herself, with a satisfied smile, "I am now perfectly armed and prepared. All these rhymes ready for use, and I have not to fear embarrassment in repeating any of them. Ah, they shall admire me, these good Romans. I will animate and inflame them, and excite all my enamored cardinals to such an ecstasy that they must finally prevail upon the silly, obstinate old pope against his own will to fulfil my only desire. I will attain my end, even if I am compelled to pawn my honor and my salvation for it! Bah! honor; what can honor be to a woman? Beauty is our honor, further nothing! And fair, it seems to me, I yet am! And if I am fair," she more glowingly continued, after a pause, "how comes it that Carlo has ceased to love me? Ah, the false one, to betray and desert me when I love him most!"

A dark flush of anger now overspread her cheeks, and threateningly raising her hands, with compressed lips she continued: "And to desert me for another woman—me, the pride and delight of all Rome; me, whom all the princes and cardinals worship! Ah, while thousands lie at my feet, imploring for a glance or a smile, this little, unknown singer dares to scorn me and deride my love!"

"And why should he not dare it?" asked a voice behind her, and the face of a young man became visible.

"Carlo!" she cried, hastening to meet him with outspread arms.

He almost ungently checked her. "You forget," said he, "that this little, insignificant, and unknown singer loves you no longer, Corilla! Grant, then, henceforth to the thousands who languish at your feet a few of your enticing smiles and glowing glances—I have nothing against it, and am not at all jealous!"

"But you should be!" cried she, stamping her feet with rage. "I tell you I will not suffer you to leave me; I will be loved by you, and no one shall you dare to look at, and no one shall you dare to love, but me alone."

Carlo broke out into a scornful laugh, and then seriously and proudly said: "I am a Neapolitan, and with us men do not allow themselves to be constrained to love, and no woman there dares utter the command, 'Thou shalt love me!'—I will not, Signora Corilla!"

"You will not!" screamed she, gnashing her teeth. "Then woe to you and to her!"

"I fear no serpents!" said Carlo, laughing, "and if an adder attempts to sting me, I tread it under foot!"

"But fear at least for her you love!" she threateningly said. "Oh, you think I shall not be able to discover this secret love of yours, and not spy out this new divinity to whom you have consecrated your heart? Tremble therefore now, for I know her! I know the garden in which she lives, and there is a place in the wall just opposite her favorite seat; whoever knows that place and possesses a steady hand and a sharp dagger will know how to hurl it so as to pierce her bosom."

Carlo felt a deadly terror, he felt his heart stand still, but he collected himself and said, with a contemptuous smile: "Cardinal Francesco Albani indeed possesses among his bravi many such skilful hands, and surely it will not require many of your highly-prized glances to induce him to favor you with the loan of one of them."

The signora slightly bit her lips. "You mock me," she almost sadly said, "and yet you should remember that it is only love that makes me so savage and fills my heart with a thirst for vengeance! Carlo, I so warmly love you!"

And the beautiful, glowing woman humbly and imploringly bent before her beloved.

The latter laughingly said: "How well you know how to say that—with what variations and modulations! I yesterday heard you say the same to Cardinal Albani; to be sure, it sounded a little different, but not less warm and glowing!"

"You know why I do that!" said she. "He is an enamored fool, whom I would win with tender words that I may make him my instrument. You know the object for which I strive, and which I must attain at any price! Ah, Carlo, when once they have crowned me in the capitol, then, I am sure, you will be compelled to love me again!"

"Never again!" he harshly and roughly said.

"Is that your last word?" shrieked she, with flashing eyes and the wild rage of a tigress.

"It is my last word!"

She flew to him like a mad person, seized his hands and fixedly stared him in the face.

"Ungrateful!" said she, gnashing her teeth. "Is it thus you reward my love, is this your return for all I have done for you? Can you forget that it was I who withdrew you from poverty and baseness? What were you but a poor, unnoticed singer in the streets, on whom people bestowed scanty alms? Was it not I who rescued you from that shame, and clothed you and gave you a home? Was it not I who gave you a name and procured you consideration and respect by making you my singer and companion, and allowing you to play upon the harp at my improvisations? How has not all Rome admired you when you sang the canzones I wrote for you, thereby procuring you honor and respectability, and making you a popular man from a low beggar? Go, you cannot leave me, for you are my creature, my property!"

He wildly thrust her aside, and his eyes flashed with indignation. "Signora," said he, his lips tremulous with rage, "you have rent the last band that bound me to you, and in twitting me of your benefits you have annihilated them! We now have nothing in common with each other, except perhaps mutual hatred, and that, I hope, will have a longer duration than our love!"

And Carlo turned toward the door. Corilla rushed after him with an exclamation of terror.

"You will leave me now!" cried she, with anguish, "now, in this hour when you are so indispensable to me? now, when I am to celebrate a new triumph before this notable assembly? when all eyes are expectantly turned to the curtain behind which I am to appear? No, no, Carlo, from compassion remain with me only one hour, only this evening!"

Carlo smiled contemptuously. "I will remain," said he, "for I have promised her that she shall hear you!"

"She has therefore come?" cried Corilla, with an outburst of joy.

"She is now here," he laconically said.

Corilla no longer listened to him, she walked back and forth with a triumphant mien, a cruel, malicious smile playing upon her lips.

At this moment there was a slight knock at the door, which was opened, and a man who appeared upon the threshold glanced into the room with a grinning laugh.

Corilla gave him a sign, and at the same time pointed at Carlo, who, having his back toward her, seemed to have no suspicion of what was occurring behind him. But he saw it, nevertheless, in the tall mirror that stood in the middle of the room; he saw Corilla make signs of intelligence with that man who was in the livery of Cardinal Francesco Albani; he saw the man make answer with his fingers, and then draw forth a dagger, which he threateningly swung over his head.

Oh, Carlo had very well understood what that man said, as he also did that language of the fingers, this much-used language of the Romans and Neapolitans.

The man had said: "She is here, that beautiful lady! She can no longer escape us!"

"You will strike her?" had Corilla asked.

The man had swung the dagger over his head and held up two fingers of his right hand. That signified: "In two hours she will be dead."

"Good! you shall be satisfied with me," had been Corilla's answer.

The door was again closed. Corilla turned smiling to Carlo, her former rancor seemed to have vanished; she was in high spirits.

"Carlo," said she, "how good you are not to leave me! Let us now begin. I feel myself glowing with inspiration. Ah, I shall enrapture these good Romans, I think!"

"How long will this improvisation last?" Carlo gruffly asked.

"Well, one or two hours, according to the delight we give our public."

"If this farce continues longer than an hour and a half, I shall throw down my harp and go away," said Carlo, in a tone of severity. "I swear it to you by the spirit of my mother! Remember it; I shall show you the time every quarter of an hour."

"You are a tyrant," said she, laughing. "But I suppose I must submit. Give, therefore, the signal that we are ready."



THE IMPROVISATRICE

All the guests of the cardinal were assembled in the gigantic hall, and all eyes were anxiously bent upon the mysterious curtain, which still remained closed.

Now resounded a little bell, and Cardinal Bernis smilingly turned to Natalie, who sat by his side.

"I think this mystery is about to be unveiled," said he.

"And I am quite anxious about it," said the young maiden, gracefully laying her hand upon her heart. "My heart beats as violently as if a mystery were about to be unveiled in my own breast. Do you believe in presentiments, Sir Cardinal?"

Bernis had not time to answer her. Just at that moment the curtain drew up, a general "Ah!" of admiration was heard, and, suddenly carried away by their feelings, the whole audience broke into extravagant and long-enduring applause, crying and shouting, "Evviva Corilla! l'improvisatrice Corilla!"

And in fact it was an admirable picture which was there presented to the audience. Those flower-strewed steps led up to an altar, upon the centre of which, between wreaths of flowers, shot up two dark-red flames. Against that altar leaned, exalted and august as a Grecian priestess, the improvisatrice Corilla. Her eyes raised to the heavens, her features lighted up with a rosy glow by the red flames, her half-raised right arm resting upon an urn, while her left arm was stretched upward toward heaven, she thus resembled an inspired priestess, just receiving a message from on high, listening with ecstasy, with suppressed breath and parted lips, to the voice of the Deity, and forgetting the world in a blissful intoxication, she seemed about to take her flight to the empyrean!

And while Corilla, as if absorbed in spiritual contemplation, continued to stand immovable there, began the low notes of a harp, which, gradually becoming fuller and stronger, at length resounded in powerfully rushing and exultant tones. From Corilla all eyes were now turned upon Carlo, who, in the light dress of a Greek youth, his harp upon his arm, was leaning against a pomegranate tree placed in the background of the stage, and with his pale, serious face, with his noble, manly features, formed a beautiful contrast to the inspired and love-beaming priestess Corilla.

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