The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome, Volume 5

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 V

XIV

THAT evening, when Pierre emerged from the Borgo in front of the Vatican,
a sonorous stroke rang out from the clock amidst the deep silence of the
dark and sleepy district. It was only half-past eight, and being in
advance the young priest resolved to wait some twenty minutes in order to
reach the doors of the papal apartments precisely at nine, the hour fixed
for his audience.

This respite brought him some relief amidst the infinite emotion and
grief which gripped his heart. That tragic afternoon which he had spent
in the chamber of death, where Dario and Benedetta now slept the eternal
sleep in one another’s arms, had left him very weary. He was haunted by a
wild, dolorous vision of the two lovers, and involuntary sighs came from
his lips whilst tears continually moistened his eyes. He had been
altogether unable to eat that evening. Ah! how he would have liked to
hide himself and weep at his ease! His heart melted at each fresh
thought. The pitiful death of the lovers intensified the grievous feeling
with which his book was instinct, and impelled him to yet greater
compassion, a perfect anguish of charity for all who suffered in the
world. And he was so distracted by the thought of the many physical and
moral sores of Paris and of Rome, where he had beheld so much unjust and
abominable suffering, that at each step he took he feared lest he should
burst into sobs with arms upstretched towards the blackness of heaven.

In the hope of somewhat calming himself he began to walk slowly across
the Piazza of St. Peter’s, now all darkness and solitude. On arriving he
had fancied that he was losing himself in a murky sea, but by degrees his
eyes grew accustomed to the dimness. The vast expanse was only lighted by
the four candelabra at the corners of the obelisk and by infrequent lamps
skirting the buildings which run on either hand towards the Basilica.
Under the colonnade, too, other lamps threw yellow gleams across the
forest of pillars, showing up their stone trunks in fantastic fashion;
while on the piazza only the pale, ghostly obelisk was at all distinctly
visible. Pierre could scarcely perceive the dim, silent facade of St.
Peter’s; whilst of the dome he merely divined a gigantic, bluey roundness
faintly shadowed against the sky. In the obscurity he at first heard the
plashing of the fountains without being at all able to see them, but on
approaching he at last distinguished the slender phantoms of the ever
rising jets which fell again in spray. And above the vast square
stretched the vast and moonless sky of a deep velvety blue, where the
stars were large and radiant like carbuncles; Charles’s Wain, with golden
wheels and golden shaft tilted back as it were, over the roof of the
Vatican, and Orion, bedizened with the three bright stars of his belt,
showing magnificently above Rome, in the direction of the Via Giulia.

At last Pierre raised his eyes to the Vatican, but facing the piazza
there was here merely a confused jumble of walls, amidst which only two
gleams of light appeared on the floor of the papal apartments. The Court
of San Damaso was, however, lighted, for the conservatory-like glass-work
of two of its sides sparkled as with the reflection of gas lamps which
could not be seen. For a time there was not a sound or sign of movement,
but at last two persons crossed the expanse of the piazza, and then came
a third who in his turn disappeared, nothing remaining but a rhythmical
far-away echo of steps. The spot was indeed a perfect desert, there were
neither promenaders nor passers-by, nor was there even the shadow of a
prowler in the pillared forest of the colonnade, which was as empty as
the wild primeval forests of the world’s infancy. And what a solemn
desert it was, full of the silence of haughty desolation. Never had so
vast and black a presentment of slumber, so instinct with the sovereign
nobility of death, appeared to Pierre.

At ten minutes to nine he at last made up his mind and went towards the
bronze portal. Only one of the folding doors was now open at the end of
the right-hand porticus, where the increasing density of the gloom
steeped everything in night. Pierre remembered the instructions which
Monsignor Nani had given him; at each door that he reached he was to ask
for Signor Squadra without adding a word, and thereupon each door would
open and he would have nothing to do but to let himself be guided on. No
one but the prelate now knew that he was there, since Benedetta, the only
being to whom he had confided the secret, was dead. When he had crossed
the threshold of the bronze doors and found himself in presence of the
motionless, sleeping Swiss Guard, who was on duty there, he simply spoke
the words agreed upon: “Signor Squadra.” And as the Guard did not stir,
did not seek to bar his way, he passed on, turning into the vestibule of
the Scala Pia, the stone stairway which ascends to the Court of San
Damaso. And not a soul was to be seen: there was but the faint sound of
his own light footsteps and the sleepy glow of the gas jets whose light
was softly whitened by globes of frosted glass. Up above, on reaching the
courtyard he found it a solitude, whose slumber seemed sepulchral amidst
the mournful gleams of the gas lamps which cast a pallid reflection on
the lofty glass-work of the facades. And feeling somewhat nervous,
affected by the quiver which pervaded all that void and silence, Pierre
hastened on, turning to the right, towards the low flight of steps which
leads to the staircase of the Pope’s private apartments.

Here stood a superb gendarme in full uniform. “Signor Squadra,” said

Pierre, and without a word the gendarme pointed to the stairs.

The young man went up. It was a broad stairway, with low steps,
balustrade of white marble, and walls covered with yellowish stucco. The
gas, burning in globes of round glass, seemed to have been already turned
down in a spirit of prudent economy. And in the glimmering light nothing
could have been more mournfully solemn than that cold and pallid
staircase. On each landing there was a Swiss Guard, halbard in hand, and
in the heavy slumber spreading through the palace one only heard the
regular monotonous footsteps of these men, ever marching up and down, in
order no doubt that they might not succumb to the benumbing influence of
their surroundings.

Amidst the invading dimness and the quivering silence the ascent of the
stairs seemed interminable to Pierre, who by the time he reached the
second-floor landing imagined that he had been climbing for ages. There,
outside the glass door of the Sala Clementina, only the right-hand half
of which was open, a last Swiss Guard stood watching.

“Signor Squadra,” Pierre said again, and the Guard drew back to let him
pass.

The Sala Clementina, spacious enough by daylight, seemed immense at that
nocturnal hour, in the twilight glimmer of its lamps. All the opulent
decorative-work, sculpture, painting, and gilding became blended, the
walls assuming a tawny vagueness amidst which appeared bright patches
like the sparkle of precious stones. There was not an article of
furniture, nothing but the endless pavement stretching away into the
semi-darkness. At last, however, near a door at the far end Pierre espied
some men dozing on a bench. They were three Swiss Guards. “Signor
Squadra,” he said to them.

One of the Guards thereupon slowly rose and left the hall, and Pierre
understood that he was to wait. He did not dare to move, disturbed as he
was by the sound of his own footsteps on the paved floor, so he contented
himself with gazing around and picturing the crowds which at times
peopled that vast apartment, the first of the many papal ante-chambers.
But before long the Guard returned, and behind him, on the threshold of
the adjoining room, appeared a man of forty or thereabouts, who was clad
in black from head to foot and suggested a cross between a butler and a
beadle. He had a good-looking, clean-shaven face, with somewhat
pronounced nose and large, clear, fixed eyes. “Signor Squadra,” said
Pierre for the last time.

The man bowed as if to say that he was Signor Squadra, and then, with a
fresh reverence, he invited the priest to follow him. Thereupon at a
leisurely step, one behind the other, they began to thread the
interminable suite of waiting-rooms. Pierre, who was acquainted with the
ceremonial, of which he had often spoken with Narcisse, recognised the
different apartments as he passed through them, recalling their names and
purpose, and peopling them in imagination with the various officials of
the papal retinue who have the right to occupy them. These according to
their rank cannot go beyond certain doors, so that the persons who are to
have audience of the Pope are passed on from the servants to the Noble
Guards, from the Noble Guards to the honorary /Camerieri/, and from the
latter to the /Camerieri segreti/, until they at last reach the presence
of the Holy Father. At eight o’clock, however, the ante-rooms empty and
become both deserted and dim, only a few lamps being left alight upon the
pier tables standing here and there against the walls.

And first Pierre came to the ante-room of the /bussolanti/, mere ushers
clad in red velvet broidered with the papal arms, who conduct visitors to
the door of the ante-room of honour. At that late hour only one of them
was left there, seated on a bench in such a dark corner that his purple
tunic looked quite black. Then the Hall of the Gendarmes was crossed,
where according to the regulations the secretaries of cardinals and other
high personages await their masters’ return; and this was now completely
empty, void both of the handsome blue uniforms with white shoulder belts
and the cassocks of fine black cloth which mingled in it during the
brilliant reception hours. Empty also was the following room, a smaller
one reserved to the Palatine Guards, who are recruited among the Roman
middle class and wear black tunics with gold epaulets and shakoes
surmounted by red plumes. Then Pierre and his guide turned into another
series of apartments, and again was the first one empty. This was the
Hall of the Arras, a superb waiting-room with lofty painted ceiling and
admirable Gobelins tapestry designed by Audran and representing the
miracles of Jesus. And empty also was the ante-chamber of the Noble
Guards which followed, with its wooden stools, its pier table on the
right-hand surmounted by a large crucifix standing between two lamps, and
its large door opening at the far end into another but smaller room, a
sort of alcove indeed, where there is an altar at which the Holy Father
says mass by himself whilst those privileged to be present remain
kneeling on the marble slabs of the outer apartment which is resplendent
with the dazzling uniforms of the Guards. And empty likewise was the
ensuing ante-room of honour, otherwise the grand throne-room, where the
Pope receives two or three hundred people at a time in public audience.
The throne, an arm-chair of elaborate pattern, gilded, and upholstered
with red velvet, stands under a velvet canopy of the same hue, in front
of the windows. Beside it is the cushion on which the Pope rests his foot
in order that it may be kissed. Then facing one another, right and left
of the room, there are two pier tables, on one of which is a clock and on
the other a crucifix between lofty candelabra with feet of gilded wood.
The wall hangings, of red silk damask with a Louis XIV palm pattern, are
topped by a pompous frieze, framing a ceiling decorated with allegorical
figures and attributes, and it is only just in front of the throne that a
Smyrna carpet covers the magnificent marble pavement. On the days of
private audience, when the Pope remains in the little throne-room or at
times in his bed-chamber, the grand throne-room becomes simply the
ante-room of honour, where high dignitaries of the Church, ambassadors,
and great civilian personages, wait their turns. Two /Camerieri/, one in
violet coat, the other of the Cape and the Sword, here do duty, receiving
from the /bussolanti/ the persons who are to be honoured with audiences
and conducting them to the door of the next room, the secret or private
ante-chamber, where they hand them over to the /Camerieri segreti/.

Signor Squadra who, walking on with slow and silent steps, had not yet
once turned round, paused for a moment on reaching the door of the
/anticamera segreta/ so as to give Pierre time to breathe and recover
himself somewhat before crossing the threshold of the sanctuary. The
/Camerieri segreti/ alone had the right to occupy that last ante-chamber,
and none but the cardinals might wait there till the Pope should
condescend to receive them. And so when Signor Squadra made up his mind
to admit Pierre, the latter could not restrain a slight nervous shiver as
if he were passing into some redoubtable mysterious sphere beyond the
limits of the lower world. In the daytime a Noble Guard stood on sentry
duty before the door, but the latter was now free of access, and the room
within proved as empty as all the others. It was rather narrow, almost
like a passage, with two windows overlooking the new district of the
castle fields and a third one facing the Piazza of St. Peter’s. Near the
last was a door conducting to the little throne-room, and between this
door and the window stood a small table at which a secretary, now absent,
usually sat. And here again, as in all the other rooms, one found a
gilded pier table surmounted by a crucifix flanked by a pair of lamps. In
a corner too there was a large clock, loudly ticking in its ebony case
incrusted with brass-work. Still there was nothing to awaken curiosity
under the panelled and gilded ceiling unless it were the wall-hangings of
red damask, on which yellow scutcheons displaying the Keys and the Tiara
alternated with armorial lions, each with a paw resting on a globe.

Signor Squadra, however, now noticed that Pierre still carried his hat in
his hand, whereas according to etiquette he should have left it in the
hall of the /bussolanti/, only cardinals being privileged to carry their
hats with them into the Pope’s presence. Accordingly he discreetly took
the young priest’s from him, and deposited it on the pier table to
indicate that it must at least remain there. Then, without a word, by a
simple bow he gave Pierre to understand that he was about to announce him
to his Holiness, and that he must be good enough to wait for a few
minutes in that room.

On being left to himself Pierre drew a long breath. He was stifling; his
heart was beating as though it would burst. Nevertheless his mind
remained clear, and in spite of the semi-obscurity he had been able to
form some idea of the famous and magnificent apartments of the Pope, a
suite of splendid /salons/ with tapestried or silken walls, gilded or
painted friezes, and frescoed ceilings. By way of furniture, however,
there were only pier table, stools,* and thrones. And the lamps and the
clocks, and the crucifixes, even the thrones, were all presents brought
from the four quarters of the world in the great fervent days of jubilee.
There was no sign of comfort, everything was pompous, stiff, cold, and
inconvenient. All olden Italy was there, with its perpetual display and
lack of intimate, cosy life. It had been necessary to lay a few carpets
over the superb marble slabs which froze one’s feet; and some
/caloriferes/ had even lately been installed, but it was not thought
prudent to light them lest the variations of temperature should give the
Pope a cold. However, that which more particularly struck Pierre now that
he stood there waiting was the extraordinary silence which prevailed all
around, silence so deep that it seemed as if all the dark quiescence of
that huge, somniferous Vatican were concentrated in that one suite of
lifeless, sumptuous rooms, which the motionless flamelets of the lamps as
dimly illumined.

* M. Zola seems to have fallen into error here. Many of the seats,
which are of peculiar antique design, do, in the lower part,
resemble stools, but they have backs, whereas a stool proper has
none. Briefly, these seats, which are entirely of wood, are not
unlike certain old-fashioned hall chairs.—Trans.

All at once the ebony clock struck nine and the young man felt
astonished. What! had only ten minutes elapsed since he had crossed the
threshold of the bronze doors below? He felt as if he had been walking on
for days and days. Then, desiring to overcome the nervous feeling which
oppressed him—for he ever feared lest his enforced calmness should
collapse amidst a flood of tears—he began to walk up and down, passing
in front of the clock, glancing at the crucifix on the pier table, and
the globe of the lamp on which had remained the mark of a servant’s
greasy fingers. And the light was so faint and yellow that he felt
inclined to turn the lamp up, but did not dare. Then he found himself
with his brow resting against one of the panes of the window facing the
Piazza of St. Peter’s, and for a moment he was thunderstruck, for between
the imperfectly closed shutters he could see all Rome, as he had seen it
one day from the /loggie/ of Raffaelle, and as he had pictured Leo XIII
contemplating it from the window of his bed-room. However, it was now
Rome by night, Rome spreading out into the depths of the gloom, as
limitless as the starry sky. And in that sea of black waves one could
only with certainty identify the larger thoroughfares which the white
brightness of electric lights turned, as it were, into Milky Ways. All
the rest showed but a swarming of little yellow sparks, the crumbs, as it
were, of a half-extinguished heaven swept down upon the earth. Occasional
constellations of bright stars, tracing mysterious figures, vainly
endeavoured to show forth distinctly, but they were submerged, blotted
out by the general chaos which suggested the dust of some old planet that
had crumbled there, losing its splendour and reduced to mere
phosphorescent sand. And how immense was the blackness thus sprinkled
with light, how huge the mass of obscurity and mystery into which the
Eternal City with its seven and twenty centuries, its ruins, its
monuments, its people, its history seemed to have been merged. You could
no longer tell where it began or where it ended, whether it spread to the
farthest recesses of the gloom, or whether it were so reduced that the
sun on rising would illumine but a little pile of ashes.

However, in spite of all Pierre’s efforts, his nervous anguish increased
each moment, even in presence of that ocean of darkness which displayed
such sovereign quiescence. He drew away from the window and quivered from
head to foot on hearing a faint footfall and thinking it was that of
Signor Squadra approaching to fetch him. The sound came from an adjacent
apartment, the little throne-room, whose door, he now perceived, had
remained ajar. And at last, as he heard nothing further, he yielded to
his feverish impatience and peeped into this room which he found to be
fairly spacious, again hung with red damask, and containing a gilded
arm-chair, covered with red velvet under a canopy of the same material.
And again there was the inevitable pier table, with a tall ivory
crucifix, a clock, a pair of lamps, a pair of candelabra, a pair of large
vases on pedestals, and two smaller ones of Sevres manufacture decorated
with the Holy Father’s portrait. At the same time, however, the room
displayed rather more comfort, for a Smyrna carpet covered the whole of
the marble floor, while a few arm-chairs stood against the walls, and an
imitation chimney-piece, draped with damask, served as counterpart to the
pier table. As a rule the Pope, whose bed-chamber communicated with this
little throne-room, received in the latter such persons as he desired to
honour. And Pierre’s shiver became more pronounced at the idea that in
all likelihood he would merely have the throne-room to cross and that Leo
XIII was yonder behind its farther door. Why was he kept waiting, he
wondered? He had been told of mysterious audiences granted at a similar
hour to personages who had been received in similar silent fashion, great
personages whose names were only mentioned in the lowest whispers. With
regard to himself no doubt, it was because he was considered compromising
that there was a desire to receive him in this manner unknown to the
personages of the Court, and so as to speak with him at ease. Then, all
at once, he understood the cause of the noise he had recently heard, for
beside the lamp on the pier table of the little throne-room he saw a kind
of butler’s tray containing some soiled plates, knives, forks, and
spoons, with a bottle and a glass, which had evidently just been removed
from a supper table. And he realised that Signor Squadra, having seen
these things in the Pope’s room, had brought them there, and had then
gone in again, perhaps to tidy up. He knew also of the Pope’s frugality,
how he took his meals all alone at a little round table, everything being
brought to him in that tray, a plate of meat, a plate of vegetables, a
little Bordeaux claret as prescribed by his doctor, and a large allowance
of beef broth of which he was very fond. In the same way as others might
offer a cup of tea, he was wont to offer cups of broth to the old
cardinals his friends and favourites, quite an invigorating little treat
which these old bachelors much enjoyed. And, O ye orgies of Alexander VI,
ye banquets and /galas/ of Julius II and Leo X, only eight /lire/ a
day—six shillings and fourpence—were allowed to defray the cost of Leo
XIII’s table! However, just as that recollection occurred to Pierre, he
again heard a slight noise, this time in his Holiness’s bed-chamber, and
thereupon, terrified by his indiscretion, he hastened to withdraw from
the entrance of the throne-room which, lifeless and quiescent though it
was, seemed in his agitation to flare as with sudden fire.

Then, quivering too violently to be able to remain still, he began to
walk up and down the ante-chamber. He remembered that Narcisse had spoken
to him of that Signor Squadra, his Holiness’s cherished valet, whose
importance and influence were so great. He alone, on reception days, was
able to prevail on the Pope to don a clean cassock if the one he was
wearing happened to be soiled by snuff. And though his Holiness
stubbornly shut himself up alone in his bed-room every night from a
spirit of independence, which some called the anxiety of a miser
determined to sleep alone with his treasure, Signor Squadra at all events
occupied an adjoining chamber, and was ever on the watch, ready to
respond to the faintest call. Again, it was he who respectfully
intervened whenever his Holiness sat up too late or worked too long. But
on this point it was difficult to induce the Pope to listen to reason.
During his hours of insomnia he would often rise and send Squadra to
fetch a secretary in order that he might detail some memoranda or sketch
out an encyclical letter. When the drafting of one of the latter
impassioned him he would have spent days and nights over it, just as
formerly, when claiming proficiency in Latin verse, he had often let the
dawn surprise him whilst he was polishing a line. But, indeed, he slept
very little, his brain ever being at work, ever scheming out the
realisation of some former ideas. His memory alone seemed to have
slightly weakened during recent times.

Pierre, as he slowly paced to and fro, gradually became absorbed in his
thoughts of that lofty and sovereign personality. From the petty details
of the Pope’s daily existence, he passed to his intellectual life, to the
/role/ which he was certainly bent on playing as a great pontiff. And
Pierre asked himself which of his two hundred and fifty-seven
predecessors, the long line of saints and criminals, men of mediocrity
and men of genius, he most desired to resemble. Was it one of the first
humble popes, those who followed on during the first three centuries,
mere heads of burial guilds, fraternal pastors of the Christian
community? Was it Pope Damasus, the first great builder, the man of
letters who took delight in intellectual matters, the ardent believer who
is said to have opened the Catacombs to the piety of the faithful? Was it
Leo III, who by crowning Charlemagne boldly consummated the rupture with
the schismatic East and conveyed the Empire to the West by the
all-powerful will of God and His Church, which thenceforth disposed of
the crowns of monarchs? Was it the terrible Gregory VII, the purifier of
the temple, the sovereign of kings; was it Innocent III or Boniface VIII,
those masters of souls, nations, and thrones, who, armed with the fierce
weapon of excommunication, reigned with such despotism over the terrified
middle ages that Catholicism was never nearer the attainment of its dream
of universal dominion? Was it Urban II or Gregory IX or another of those
popes in whom flared the red Crusading passion which urged the nations on
to the conquest of the unknown and the divine? Was it Alexander III, who
defended the Holy See against the Empire, and at last conquered and set
his foot on the neck of Frederick Barbarossa? Was it, long after the
sorrows of Avignon, Julius II, who wore the cuirass and once more
strengthened the political power of the papacy? Was it Leo X, the
pompous, glorious patron of the Renascence, of a whole great century of
art, whose mind, however, was possessed of so little penetration and
foresight that he looked on Luther as a mere rebellious monk? Was it Pius
V, who personified dark and avenging reaction, the fire of the stakes
that punished the heretic world? Was it some other of the popes who
reigned after the Council of Trent with faith absolute, belief
re-established in its full integrity, the Church saved by pride and the
stubborn upholding of every dogma? Or was it a pope of the decline, such
as Benedict XIV, the man of vast intelligence, the learned theologian
who, as his hands were tied, and he could not dispose of the kingdoms of
the world, spent a worthy life in regulating the affairs of heaven?

In this wise, in Pierre’s mind there spread out the whole history of the
popes, the most prodigious of all histories, showing fortune in every
guise, the lowest, the most wretched, as well as the loftiest and most
dazzling; whilst an obstinate determination to live enabled the papacy to
survive everything—conflagrations, massacres, and the downfall of many
nations, for always did it remain militant and erect in the persons of
its popes, that most extraordinary of all lines of absolute, conquering,
and domineering sovereigns, every one of them—even the puny and
humble—masters of the world, every one of them glorious with the
imperishable glory of heaven when they were thus evoked in that ancient
Vatican, where their spirits assuredly awoke at night and prowled about
the endless galleries and spreading halls in that tomb-like silence whose
quiver came no doubt from the light touch of their gliding steps over the
marble slabs.

However, Pierre was now thinking that he indeed knew which of the great
popes Leo XIII most desired to resemble. It was first Gregory the Great,
the conqueror and organiser of the early days of Catholic power. He had
come of ancient Roman stock, and in his heart there was a little of the
blood of the emperors. He administered Rome after it had been saved from
the Goths, cultivated the ecclesiastical domains, and divided earthly
wealth into thirds, one for the poor, one for the clergy, and one for the
Church. Then too he was the first to establish the Propaganda, sending
his priests forth to civilise and pacify the nations, and carrying his
conquests so far as to win Great Britain over to the divine law of
Christ. And the second pope whom Leo XIII took as model was one who had
arisen after a long lapse of centuries, Sixtus V, the pope financier and
politician, the vine-dresser’s son, who, when he had donned the tiara,
revealed one of the most extensive and supple minds of a period fertile
in great diplomatists. He heaped up treasure and displayed stern avarice,
in order that he might ever have in his coffers all the money needful for
war or for peace. He spent years and years in negotiations with kings,
never despairing of his own triumph; and never did he display open
hostility for his times, but took them as they were and then sought to
modify them in accordance with the interests of the Holy See, showing
himself conciliatory in all things and with every one, already dreaming
of an European balance of power which he hoped to control. And withal a
very saintly pope, a fervent mystic, yet a pope of the most absolute and
domineering mind blended with a politician ready for whatever courses
might most conduce to the rule of God’s Church on earth.

And, after all, Pierre amidst his rising enthusiasm, which despite his
efforts at calmness was sweeping away all prudence and doubt, Pierre
asked himself why he need question the past. Was not Leo XIII the pope
whom he had depicted in his book, the great pontiff, who was desired and
expected? No doubt the portrait which he had sketched was not accurate in
every detail, but surely its main lines must be correct if mankind were
to retain a hope of salvation. Whole pages of that book of his arose
before him, and he again beheld the Leo XIII that he had portrayed, the
wise and conciliatory politician, labouring for the unity of the Church
and so anxious to make it strong and invincible against the day of the
inevitable great struggle. He again beheld him freed from the cares of
the temporal power, elevated, radiant with moral splendour, the only
authority left erect above the nations; he beheld him realising what
mortal danger would be incurred if the solution of the social question
were left to the enemies of Christianity, and therefore resolving to
intervene in contemporary quarrels for the defence of the poor and the
lowly, even as Jesus had intervened once before. And he again beheld him
putting himself on the side of the democracies, accepting the Republic in
France, leaving the dethroned kings in exile, and verifying the
prediction which promised the empire of the world to Rome once more when
the papacy should have unified belief and have placed itself at the head
of the people. The times indeed were near accomplishment, Caesar was
struck down, the Pope alone remained, and would not the people, the great
silent multitude, for whom the two powers had so long contended, give
itself to its Father now that it knew him to be both just and charitable,
with heart aglow and hand outstretched to welcome all the penniless
toilers and beggars of the roads! Given the catastrophe which threatened
our rotten modern societies, the frightful misery which ravaged every
city, there was surely no other solution possible: Leo XIII, the
predestined, necessary redeemer, the pastor sent to save the flock from
coming disaster by re-establishing the true Christian community, the
forgotten golden age of primitive Christianity. The reign of justice
would at last begin, all men would be reconciled, there would be but one
nation living in peace and obeying the equalising law of work, under the
high patronage of the Pope, sole bond of charity and love on earth!

And at this thought Pierre was upbuoyed by fiery enthusiasm. At last he
was about to see the Holy Father, empty his heart and open his soul to
him! He had so long and so passionately looked for the advent of that
moment! To secure it he had fought with all his courage through ever
recurring obstacles, and the length and difficulty of the struggle and
the success now at last achieved, increased his feverishness, his desire
for final victory. Yes, yes, he would conquer, he would confound his
enemies. As he had said to Monsignor Fornaro, could the Pope disavow him?
Had he not expressed the Holy Father’s secret ideas? Perhaps he might
have done so somewhat prematurely, but was not that a fault to be
forgiven? And then too, he remembered his declaration to Monsignor Nani,
that he himself would never withdraw and suppress his book, for he
neither regretted nor disowned anything that was in it. At this very
moment he again questioned himself, and felt that all his valour and
determination to defend his book, all his desire to work the triumph of
his belief, remained intact. Yet his mental perturbation was becoming
great, he had to seek for ideas, wondering how he should enter the Pope’s
presence, what he should say, what precise terms he should employ.
Something heavy and mysterious which he could hardly account for seemed
to weigh him down. At bottom he was weary, already exhausted, only held
up by his dream, his compassion for human misery. However, he would enter
in all haste, he would fall upon his knees and speak as he best could,
letting his heart flow forth. And assuredly the Holy Father would smile
on him, and dismiss him with a promise that he would not sign the
condemnation of a work in which he had found the expression of his own
most cherished thoughts.

Then, again, such an acute sensation as of fainting came over Pierre that
he went up to the window to press his burning brow against the cold
glass. His ears were buzzing, his legs staggering, whilst his brain
throbbed violently. And he was striving to forget his thoughts by gazing
upon the black immensity of Rome, longing to be steeped in night himself,
total, healing night, the night in which one sleeps on for ever, knowing
neither pain nor wretchedness, when all at once he became conscious that
somebody was standing behind him; and thereupon, with a start, he turned
round.

And there, indeed, stood Signor Squadra in his black livery. Again he
made one of his customary bows to invite the visitor to follow him, and
again he walked on in front, crossing the little throne-room, and slowly
opening the farther door. Then he drew aside, allowed Pierre to enter,
and noiselessly closed the door behind him.

Pierre was in his Holiness’s bed-room. He had feared one of those

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