The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome, Volume 2

Produced by Dagny [dagnypg@yahoo.com]
and David Widger [widger@cecomet.net]

THE THREE CITIES

ROME

BY

EMILE ZOLA

TRANSLATED BY ERNEST A. VIZETELLY

PART II

IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Count Prada, if you please.”

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

“The father, Count Orlando Prada.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He began to laugh, and took the book from off the table near him; then,

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