The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome, Volume 4

Produced by Dagny []
and David Widger []








IN his anxiety to bring things to a finish, Pierre wished to begin his
campaign on the very next day. But on whom should he first call if he
were to steer clear of blunders in that intricate and conceited
ecclesiastical world? The question greatly perplexed him; however, on
opening his door that morning he luckily perceived Don Vigilio in the
passage, and with a sudden inspiration asked him to step inside. He
realised that this thin little man with the saffron face, who always
trembled with fever and displayed such exaggerated, timorous discretion,
was in reality well informed, mixed up in everything. At one period it
had seemed to Pierre that the secretary purposely avoided him, doubtless
for fear of compromising himself; but recently Don Vigilio had proved
less unsociable, as though he were not far from sharing the impatience
which must be consuming the young Frenchman amidst his long enforced
inactivity. And so, on this occasion, he did not seek to avoid the chat
on which Pierre was bent.

“I must apologise,” said the latter, “for asking you in here when things
are in such disorder. But I have just received some more linen and some
winter clothing from Paris. I came, you know, with just a little valise,
meaning to stay for a fortnight, and yet I’ve now been here for nearly
three months, and am no more advanced than I was on the morning of my

Don Vigilio nodded. “Yes, yes, I know,” said he.

Thereupon Pierre explained to him that Monsignor Nani had informed him,
through the Contessina, that he now ought to act and see everybody for
the defence of his book. But he was much embarrassed, as he did not know
in what order to make his visits so that they might benefit him. For
instance, ought he to call in the first place on Monsignor Fornaro, the
/consultore/ selected to report on his book, and whose name had been
given him?

“Ah!” exclaimed Don Vigilio, quivering; “has Monsignor Nani gone as far
as that—given you the reporter’s name? That’s even more than I
expected.” Then, forgetting his prudence, yielding to his secret interest
in the affair, he resumed: “No, no; don’t begin with Monsignor Fornaro.
Your first visit should be a very humble one to the Prefect of the
Congregation of the Index—his Eminence Cardinal Sanguinetti; for he
would never forgive you for having offered your first homage to another
should he some day hear of it.” And, after a pause, Don Vigilio added, in
a low voice, amidst a faint, feverish shiver: “And he /would/ hear of it;
everything becomes known.”

Again he hesitated, and then, as if yielding to sudden, sympathetic
courage, he took hold of the young Frenchman’s hands. “I swear to you, my
dear Monsieur Froment,” he said, “that I should be very happy to help
you, for you are a man of simple soul, and I really begin to feel worried
for you. But you must not ask me for impossibilities. Ah! if you only
knew—if I could only tell you of all the perils which surround us!
However, I think I can repeat to you that you must in no wise rely on my
patron, his Eminence Cardinal Boccanera. He has expressed absolute
disapproval of your book in my presence on several occasions. Only he is
a saint, a most worthy, honourable man; and, though he won’t defend you,
he won’t attack you—he will remain neutral out of regard for his niece,
whom he loves so dearly, and who protects you. So, when you see him,
don’t plead your cause; it would be of no avail, and might even irritate

Pierre was not particularly distressed by this news, for at his first
interview with the Cardinal, and on the few subsequent occasions when he
had respectfully visited him, he had fully understood that his Eminence
would never be other than an adversary. “Well,” said he, “I will wait on
him to thank him for his neutrality.”

But at this all Don Vigilio’s terrors returned. “No, no, don’t do that;
he would perhaps realise that I have spoken to you, and then what a
disaster—my position would be compromised. I’ve said nothing, nothing!
See the cardinals to begin with, see all the cardinals. Let it be
understood between us that I’ve said nothing more.” And, on that occasion
at any rate, Don Vigilio would speak no further, but left the room
shuddering and darting fiery, suspicious glances on either side of the

Pierre at once went out to call on Cardinal Sanguinetti. It was ten
o’clock, and there was a chance that he might find him at home. This
cardinal resided on the first floor of a little palazzo in a dark, narrow
street near San Luigi dei Francesi.* There was here none of the giant
ruin full of princely and melancholy grandeur amidst which Cardinal
Boccanera so stubbornly remained. The old regulation gala suite of rooms
had been cut down just like the number of servants. There was no
throne-room, no red hat hanging under a /baldacchino/, no arm-chair
turned to the wall pending a visit from the Pope. A couple of apartments
served as ante-rooms, and then came a /salon/ where the Cardinal
received; and there was no luxury, indeed scarcely any comfort; the
furniture was of mahogany, dating from the empire period, and the
hangings and carpets were dusty and faded by long use. Moreover, Pierre
had to wait a long time for admittance, and when a servant, leisurely
putting on his jacket, at last set the door ajar, it was only to say that
his Eminence had been away at Frascati since the previous day.

* This is the French church of Rome, and is under the protection
of the French Government.—Trans.

Pierre then remembered that Cardinal Sanguinetti was one of the suburban
bishops. At his see of Frascati he had a villa where he occasionally
spent a few days whenever a desire for rest or some political motive
impelled him to do so.

“And will his Eminence soon return?” Pierre inquired.

“Ah! we don’t know. His Eminence is poorly, and expressly desired us to
send nobody to worry him.”

When Pierre reached the street again he felt quite bewildered by this
disappointment. At first he wondered whether he had not better call on
Monsignor Fornaro without more ado, but he recollected Don Vigilio’s
advice to see the cardinals first of all, and, an inspiration coming to
him, he resolved that his next visit should be for Cardinal Sarno, whose
acquaintance he had eventually made at Donna Serafina’s Mondays. In spite
of Cardinal Sarno’s voluntary self-effacement, people looked upon him as
one of the most powerful and redoubtable members of the Sacred College,
albeit his nephew Narcisse Habert declared that he knew no man who showed
more obtuseness in matters which did not pertain to his habitual
occupations. At all events, Pierre thought that the Cardinal, although
not a member of the Congregation of the Index, might well give him some
good advice, and possibly bring his great influence to bear on his

The young man straightway betook himself to the Palace of the Propaganda,
where he knew he would find the Cardinal. This palace, which is seen from
the Piazza di Spagna, is a bare, massive corner pile between two streets.
And Pierre, hampered by his faulty Italian, quite lost himself in it,
climbing to floors whence he had to descend again, and finding himself in
a perfect labyrinth of stairs, passages, and halls. At last he luckily
came across the Cardinal’s secretary, an amiable young priest, whom he
had already seen at the Boccanera mansion. “Why, yes,” said the
secretary, “I think that his Eminence will receive you. You did well to
come at this hour, for he is always here of a morning. Kindly follow me,
if you please.”

Then came a fresh journey. Cardinal Sarno, long a Secretary of the
Propaganda, now presided over the commission which controlled the
organisation of worship in those countries of Europe, Africa, America,
and Oceanica where Catholicism had lately gained a footing; and he thus
had a private room of his own with special officers and assistants,
reigning there with the ultra-methodical habits of a functionary who had
grown old in his arm-chair, closely surrounded by nests of drawers, and
knowing nothing of the world save the usual sights of the street below
his window.

The secretary left Pierre on a bench at the end of a dark passage, which
was lighted by gas even in full daylight. And quite a quarter of an hour
went by before he returned with his eager, affable air. “His Eminence is
conferring with some missionaries who are about to leave Rome,” he said;
“but it will soon be over, and he told me to take you to his room, where
you can wait for him.”

As soon as Pierre was alone in the Cardinal’s sanctum he examined it with
curiosity. Fairly spacious, but in no wise luxurious, it had green paper
on its walls, and its furniture was of black wood and green damask. From
two windows overlooking a narrow side street a mournful light reached the
dark wall-paper and faded carpets. There were a couple of pier tables and
a plain black writing-table, which stood near one window, its worn
mole-skin covering littered with all sorts of papers. Pierre drew near to
it for a moment, and glanced at the arm-chair with damaged, sunken seat,
the screen which sheltered it from draughts, and the old inkstand
splotched with ink. And then, in the lifeless and oppressive atmosphere,
the disquieting silence, which only the low rumbles from the street
disturbed, he began to grow impatient.

However, whilst he was softly walking up and down he suddenly espied a
map affixed to one wall, and the sight of it filled him with such
absorbing thoughts that he soon forgot everything else. It was a coloured
map of the world, the different tints indicating whether the territories
belonged to victorious Catholicism or whether Catholicism was still
warring there against unbelief; these last countries being classified as
vicariates or prefectures, according to the general principles of
organisation. And the whole was a graphic presentment of the long efforts
of Catholicism in striving for the universal dominion which it has sought
so unremittingly since its earliest hour. God has given the world to His
Church, but it is needful that she should secure possession of it since
error so stubbornly abides. From this has sprung the eternal battle, the
fight which is carried on, even in our days, to win nations over from
other religions, as it was in the days when the Apostles quitted Judaea
to spread abroad the tidings of the Gospel. During the middle ages the
great task was to organise conquered Europe, and this was too absorbing
an enterprise to allow of any attempt at reconciliation with the
dissident churches of the East. Then the Reformation burst forth, schism
was added to schism, and the Protestant half of Europe had to be
reconquered as well as all the orthodox East.

War-like ardour, however, awoke at the discovery of the New World. Rome
was ambitious of securing that other side of the earth, and missions were
organised for the subjection of races of which nobody had known anything
the day before, but which God had, nevertheless, given to His Church,
like all the others. And by degrees the two great divisions of
Christianity were formed, on one hand the Catholic nations, those where
the faith simply had to be kept up, and which the Secretariate of State
installed at the Vatican guided with sovereign authority, and on the
other the schismatical or pagan nations which were to be brought back to
the fold or converted, and over which the Congregation of the Propaganda
sought to reign. Then this Congregation had been obliged to divide itself
into two branches in order to facilitate its work—the Oriental branch,
which dealt with the dissident sects of the East, and the Latin branch,
whose authority extended over all the other lands of mission: the two
forming a vast organisation—a huge, strong, closely meshed net cast over
the whole world in order that not a single soul might escape.

It was in presence of that map that Pierre for the first time became
clearly conscious of the mechanism which for centuries had been working
to bring about the absorption of humanity. The Propaganda, richly dowered
by the popes, and disposing of a considerable revenue, appeared to him
like a separate force, a papacy within the papacy, and he well understood
that the Prefect of the Congregation should be called the “Red Pope,” for
how limitless were the powers of that man of conquest and domination,
whose hands stretched from one to the other end of the earth. Allowing
that the Cardinal Secretary held Europe, that diminutive portion of the
globe, did not he, the Prefect, hold all the rest—the infinity of space,
the distant countries as yet almost unknown? Besides, statistics showed
that Rome’s uncontested dominion was limited to 200 millions of Apostolic
and Roman Catholics; whereas the schismatics of the East and the
Reformation, if added together, already exceeded that number, and how
small became the minority of the true believers when, besides the
schismatics, one brought into line the 1000 millions of infidels who yet
remained to be converted. The figures struck Pierre with a force which
made him shudder. What! there were 5 million Jews, nearly 200 million
Mahommedans, more than 700 million Brahmanists and Buddhists, without
counting another 100 million pagans of divers creeds, the whole making
1000 millions, and against these the Christians could marshal barely more
than 400 millions, who were divided among themselves, ever in conflict,
one half with Rome and the other half against her?* Was it possible that
in 1800 years Christianity had not proved victorious over even one-third
of mankind, and that Rome, the eternal and all-powerful, only counted a
sixth part of the nations among her subjects? Only one soul saved out of
every six—how fearful was the disproportion! However, the map spoke with
brutal eloquence: the red-tinted empire of Rome was but a speck when
compared with the yellow-hued empire of the other gods—the endless
countries which the Propaganda still had to conquer. And the question
arose: How many centuries must elapse before the promises of the Christ
were realised, before the whole world were gained to Christianity, before
religious society spread over secular society, and there remained but one
kingdom and one belief? And in presence of this question, in presence of
the prodigious labour yet to be accomplished, how great was one’s
astonishment when one thought of Rome’s tranquil serenity, her patient
stubbornness, which has never known doubt or weariness, her bishops and
ministers toiling without cessation in the conviction that she alone will
some day be the mistress of the world!

* Some readers may question certain of the figures given by M.
Zola, but it must be remembered that all such calculations
(even those of the best “authorities”) are largely guesswork.
I myself think that there are more than 5 million Jews, and
more than 200 millions of Mahommedans, but I regard the alleged
number of Brahmanists and Buddhists as exaggerated. On the
other hand, some statistical tables specify 80 millions of
Confucianists, of whom M. Zola makes no separate mention.
However, as regards the number of Christians in the world, the
figures given above are, within a few millions, probably

Narcisse had told Pierre how carefully the embassies at Rome watched the
doings of the Propaganda, for the missions were often the instruments of
one or another nation, and exercised decisive influence in far-away
lands. And so there was a continual struggle, in which the Congregation
did all it could to favour the missionaries of Italy and her allies. It
had always been jealous of its French rival, “L’Oeuvre de la Propagation
de la Foi,” installed at Lyons, which is as wealthy in money as itself,
and richer in men of energy and courage. However, not content with
levelling tribute on this French association, the Propaganda thwarted it,
sacrificed it on every occasion when it had reason to think it might
achieve a victory. Not once or twice, but over and over again had the
French missionaries, the French orders, been driven from the scenes of
their labours to make way for Italians or Germans. And Pierre, standing
in that mournful, dusty room, which the sunlight never brightened,
pictured the secret hot-bed of political intrigue masked by the
civilising ardour of faith. Again he shuddered as one shudders when
monstrous, terrifying things are brought home to one. And might not the
most sensible be overcome? Might not the bravest be dismayed by the
thought of that universal engine of conquest and domination, which worked
with the stubbornness of eternity, not merely content with the gain of
souls, but ever seeking to ensure its future sovereignty over the whole
of corporeal humanity, and—pending the time when it might rule the
nations itself—disposing of them, handing them over to the charge of
this or that temporary master, in accordance with its good pleasure. And
then, too, what a prodigious dream! Rome smiling and tranquilly awaiting
the day when she will have united Christians, Mahommedans, Brahmanists,
and Buddhists into one sole nation, of whom she will be both the
spiritual and the temporal queen!

However, a sound of coughing made Pierre turn, and he started on
perceiving Cardinal Sarno, whom he had not heard enter. Standing in front
of that map, he felt like one caught in the act of prying into a secret,
and a deep flush overspread his face. The Cardinal, however, after
looking at him fixedly with his dim eyes, went to his writing-table, and
let himself drop into the arm-chair without saying a word. With a gesture
he dispensed Pierre of the duty of kissing his ring.

“I desired to offer my homage to your Eminence,” said the young man. “Is
your Eminence unwell?”

“No, no, it’s nothing but a dreadful cold which I can’t get rid of. And
then, too, I have so many things to attend to just now.”

Pierre looked at the Cardinal as he appeared in the livid light from the
window, puny, lopsided, with the left shoulder higher than the right, and
not a sign of life on his worn and ashen countenance. The young priest
was reminded of one of his uncles, who, after thirty years spent in the
offices of a French public department, displayed the same lifeless
glance, parchment-like skin, and weary hebetation. Was it possible that
this withered old man, so lost in his black cassock with red edging, was
really one of the masters of the world, with the map of Christendom so
deeply stamped on his mind, albeit he had never left Rome, that the
Prefect of the Propaganda did not take a decision without asking his

“Sit down, Monsieur l’Abbe,” said the Cardinal. “So you have come to see
me—you have something to ask of me!” And, whilst disposing himself to
listen, he stretched out his thin bony hands to finger the documents
heaped up before him, glancing at each of them like some general, some
strategist, profoundly versed in the science of his profession, who,
although his army is far away, nevertheless directs it to victory from
his private room, never for a moment allowing it to escape his mind.

Pierre was somewhat embarrassed by such a plain enunciation of the

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