Part 4 out of 7
loudly shriek with mortal anguish, and she was dismayed at being left
alone with her thoughts.
"I will have society around me," said she, "and will never be alone;
the people about me shall always laugh and jest, to cheer me and
distract my thoughts. Hasten, hasten--call my court; the most jovial
men shall be most welcome! And, do you hear, above all things, bring
me wine, the best and strongest wine. When I drink plenty of it, I
shall again become gay and happy; it drives away all cares, and
renders the heart light and free!"
And they came, the merriest gentlemen of the court; it also came, the
strong, fiery wine; and, after an hour, Elizabeth's brow beamed with
renewed pleasure, while her heavy tongue with difficulty stammered:
"How beautiful it yet is to be an empress--for an empress there is
only joy and delight, and endless pleasures!"
SCENES AND PORTRAITS
Years passed--famous and glorious years for Russia. Peace within her
borders, and splendid victories gained over foreign enemies,
particularly over the Prussians. In songs of jubilee the people
praised and blessed their empress, whose wisdom had brought all to
such a glorious conclusion, and had made her country great,
triumphant, and happy.
The good Elizabeth! What had she to do with the victories of her
soldiers, with the happiness of her realm? She knew nothing of it, and
if peace prevailed throughout the Russian empire, it was absolutely
unknown in the imperial palace, where there was eternal war, a never-
ending feud! There the young Catharine contended with her husband,
whom she hated and abhorred; with Elizabeth, who saw in her a
dangerous rival. But it was an unequal struggle in which these two
women were engaged, for Elizabeth had on her side the power and
dominion, while Catharine had only her youth, her beauty, and her
Elizabeth hated Catharine because she dared to remain young and
handsome, while she, the empress, saw that she was growing old, and
her charms were withering; and Catharine hated Elizabeth because the
latter denied her a right which the empress daily claimed for herself
--the right to choose a lover, and to love him as long as he pleased
her. She hated Elizabeth because the latter surrounded her with spies
and watchers, and required of her a strict virtue, a never-violated
matrimonial fidelity--fidelity to the husband who so far derided and
insulted his wife as to demand that she should receive into her circle
and treat with respect and kindness his own mistress, the Countess
Woronzow--fidelity to this husband, who had never shown her any thing
but contempt and neglect, and who had no other way of entertaining her
than teaching her to march in military fashion, and stand as a
sentinel at his door!
Wounded in her inmost being and her feminine honor, tired of the
eternal pin-prickings with which Elizabeth tormented her, Catharine
retreated into her most retired apartment, there in quiet to reflect
upon her dishonorable greatness, and yearningly to dream of a splendid
future. "For the future," said she, with sparkling eyes to her
confidante, Princess Daschkow, "the future is mine, they cannot
deprive me of it. For that I labor and think and study. Ah, when /my/
future shall have become the present, then will I encircle my brows
with a splendid imperial diadem, and astonish you with all my
greatness and magnificence."
"But you forget your husband!" smilingly interposed Princess Daschkow.
"He will a little obscure the splendor of your imperial crown, as he
will always be the first in the realm. He is the all-powerful emperor,
and you will be powerless, although an empress!"
Catharine proudly tossed her head, and her eyes flashed.
"I shall one day remember all the mortifications he has inflicted upon
me," said she, "and an hour will come when I shall have a reckoning
with him, and full retribution! Ah, talk not to me of my husband--
Russian emperors have never been immortal, and why should he be so?"
"Catharine!" exclaimed the Princess Daschkow, turning pale, "you
"I think," interposed Catharine, with an unnatural smile, "I think the
Russian emperors are not immortal, and that this good Empress
Elizabeth is very fortunate in having no emperor who presumes to stand
over her and have a will more potent than her own!"
"Ah, Elizabeth has no will at all!" laughingly responded the princess.
"But I shall have a will!" said Catharine, proudly.
The Princess Daschkow had spoken the truth. Elizabeth had no longer
any will; she let Bestuscheff govern, and was herself ruled by Alexis
Razumovsky, the field-marshal, her husband. She did whatever these two
required, willingly yielding to them in all cases demanding no
personal effort on her part. On this point only had she a will of her
own, which she carried through with an iron hand.
"I have not become empress that I might labor, but that I might amuse
myself," said she. "I have not set the crown upon my head for the
purpose of governing, but for the purpose of enjoying life. Spare me,
therefore, the labor of signing your documents. I will sign nothing
more, for my hand is not accustomed to holding the pen, and the ink
soils my fingers, which is unworthy of an empress!"
"It is only one signature that I implore of you to-day," said
Bestuscheff, handing her a letter. "Have the great kindness to make an
exception of this one single case, by signing this letter to King
Louis XV. of France."
"What have I to write to this King of France?" fretfully asked
Elizabeth. "Why should I do it? It is a long time since he has sent me
any new dresses, although he might well know that nothing is more
important for an empress than a splendid and varied wardrobe! Why,
then, should I write to this King of France?"
"You majesty, it is here question of a simple act of courtesy," said
Bestuscheff, pressingly; "an act the omission of which may be attended
with the most disagreeable consequences, perhaps indeed involve us in
a war. Think of the peace of your realm, the welfare of your people,
and sign this letter!"
"But what does it contain that is so important?" asked the empress,
with astonishment. "I now remember that for a year past you have been
importuning me about this!"
"Yes, your majesty, I have been for the last three years daily
imploring of you this signature, and you have refused it to me; and
yet the letter is so necessary! It is against all propriety not to
send it! For it is a letter of congratulation to the King of France,
who in an autograph letter announced to you the birth of his grandson.
Reflect, your majesty, that he wrote you with his own hand, and for
three years you have refused to give yourself the small trouble to
sign the answer I have prepared. This prince, for whose birth you are
to congratulate the king, is now old enough to express his own thanks
for the sympathy you manifest for him."
Elizabeth laughed. "Well," said she, "I shall finally be obliged to
comply with your wishes, that you may leave me in peace. For three
years I have patiently borne your importunities for this signature. My
patience is now at an end, and I will sign the letter, that I may be
freed from your solicitations. Give me, therefore, that intolerable
pen, but first pour out a glass of Malvoisie, and hold it ready, that
I may strengthen myself with it after the labor is accomplished."
Elizabeth, sighing, took the pen and slowly and anxiously subscribed
her name to this three-years-delayed letter of congratulation to the
King of France.
"So," said she, throwing down her pen after the completion of her task
--"so, but you must not for a long time again trouble me with any such
work, and to-day I have well earned the right to a very pleasant
evening. Nothing more of business--no, no, not a word more of it! I
will not have these delightful hours embittered by your absurdities!
Away with you, Bestuscheff, and let my field- marshal, Count
Razumovsky, be called!"
And when Alexis came, Elizabeth smilingly said to him: "Alexis, the
air is to-day so fine and fresh that we will take a ride. Quick,
quick! And know you where?"
Razumovsky nodded. "To the villa!" said he, with a smile.
"Yes, to the villa!" cried Elizabeth, "to see my daughter at the
She therefore now had a daughter, and this daughter had not died like
her two sons. She lived, she throve in the freshness of childhood, and
Elizabeth loved her with idolatrous tenderness!
But precisely on account of this tenderness did she carefully conceal
the existence of this daughter, keeping her far from the world,
ignorant of her high birth, unsuspicious of her mother's greatness!
The fatal words of the Countess Lapuschkin still resounded in the ears
of the empress: "Give this Elizabeth a daughter, and let that daughter
experience what I now suffer!"
Such had been the prayer of the bleeding countess, flayed by the
executioners of the empress, and the words were continually echoing in
Ah, she was indeed a lofty empress; she had the power to banish
thousands to Siberia, and was yet so powerless that she could not
banish those words from her mind which Eleonore Lapuschkin had planted
Eleonore was therefore avenged! And while the countess bore the
torments of her banishment with smiling fortitude, Elizabeth trembled
on her throne at the words of her banished rival--words that seemed to
hang, like the sword of Damocles, over the head of her daughter!
Perhaps it was precisely for the reason that she so much feared for
her daughter, that she loved her so very warmly. It was a passionate,
an adoring tenderness that she felt for the child, and nevertheless
she had the courage to keep her at a distance from herself, to see her
but seldom, that no one might suspect the secret of her birth.
Eleonore's words had brought reflection to Elizabeth. She comprehended
that her legitimate daughter would certainly be threatened with great
dangers after her death; she had shudderingly thought of poor Ivan in
Schlusselburg, and she said to herself: "As I have held him imprisoned
as a pretender, so may it happen to my daughter, one day, when I am no
more! Ivan had but a doubtful right to my throne, but Natalie is
indisputably the grand-daughter of Peter the Great--the blood of the
great Russian czar flows in her veins, and therefore Peter will fear
Natalie as I feared Ivan; therefore will he imprison and torment her
as I have imprisoned and tormented Ivan!"
By this affectionate anxiety was Elizabeth induced to make a secret of
the existence of her daughter, which was imparted to but a few
The little Natalie was raised in a solitary country-house not far from
the city, and her few servants and people were forbidden under pain of
death to admit any stranger into this constantly-closed and always-
watched house. No one was to enter it without a written order of the
empress, and but few such written orders were given.
Elizabeth, then, as it were to recompense herself for the trouble of
signing the letter to the King of France, resolved to visit her
daughter to-day with her husband.
"Rasczinsky may precede and announce us," said she. "We will take our
dinner there, and he may say to our major-domo that we are going to
Peterhoff. Then no one will be surprised that we make a short halt at
my little villa in passing, or, rather, they will know nothing of it.
Count Rasczinsky was one of the few who were acquainted with the
secret, and might accompany the empress in these visits. Elizabeth had
unlimited confidence in him; she knew him to be a silent nobleman, and
she estimated him the more highly from the fact that he seemed much
attached to the charming, beautiful, and delicate child, her daughter.
She remarked that he appeared to love her as a brother, that he
constantly and fondly watched over her, and that he was never better
pleased than when, as a child, he could jest and play with her.
"Rasczinsky, we are about to ride out to the villa on a visit to
Natalie!" she said, when the count entered.
The count's eyes beamed with pleasure. "And I may be permitted to
accompany your majesty?" he hastily asked.
The empress smiled. "How impetuous you are!" said she. "Would not one
think you were a dying lover, a sighing shepherd, and it was a
question of seeking your tender shepherdess, instead of announcing to
a child of eleven years the speedy arrival of her mother?"
"Your majesty," said Count Rasczinsky, laughing, "I am not in love,
but I adore this child as my good angel. I can never do or think any
thing bad in Natalie's presence. She is so pure and innocent that one
casts down his eyes with shame before her, and when she glances at me
with her large, deep, and yet so childish eyes, I could directly fall
upon my knees and confess to her all my sins!"
"You would not have many to confess," said Elizabeth, "for your sins
are few. You are the pride of my court, and, as I am told, a true
pattern of all knightly virtues. Remain so, and who knows, my fair
young count, what the future may bring you? Love my Natalie now only
as an angel of innocence; let her grow up as such, and then--"
"And then?" asked the count, as the empress stopped.
"Then we shall see!" smilingly responded Elizabeth. "But now hasten
forward to announce us."
"Your majesty forgets that, to enable one to penetrate into this
enchanted castle, your written command is required!"
"Ah, that is true!" said Elizabeth, stepping to her writing-table.
This time she was not too indolent to write; no representations nor
prayers were needed. It concerned the seeing of her daughter--how,
then, could she have thought writing painful or troublesome?
With the same pen with which, a short time before, she had so
unwillingly signed the congratulatory letter, she now wrote upon a
sheet of paper, provided with her seal these words:
"The Count Rasczinsky may be admitted.
She handed the paper to the count, who pressed it to his lips.
"You can retain this paper for all time," said the empress, as she
dismissed him. "I know that I can wholly confide in you. You will
never sell or betray my Natalie?"
"Never!" protested the count, taking his leave.
Hastily mounting his horse, he galloped through the streets, and when,
having left the city behind him, he found himself in the open country
where no one could observe him, he drew the paper Elizabeth had given
him from his bosom, and waving it high in the air, shouted:
"Good fortune, good fortune! This paper is my talisman and my future!
With this paper I will give Russia an empress, and make myself her
PRINCES ALSO MUST DIE
Yes, even princes must die, glorious and lofty as they are, proudly as
they stand over their trembling subjects! Even to them comes the dark
hour in which all the borrowed and artistically-combined tinsel of
their lives falls from them; a dark hour, in which they tremble and
repent, and pray to God for what they seldom granted to their fellow-
men--mercy! Mercy for those false tales which they have imposed upon
the people, for those false tales of the higher endowments of princes,
of inherited wisdom which raises them above the rest of mankind--mercy
for their arbitrariness, their pride, and their insolence--mercy for a
poor beggar, who, until then, had called himself a rich and powerful
And this hour came for Elizabeth. After twenty years of splendor, of
absolute, unlimited power, of infallibility, of likeness to the gods,
came the depressing hour in which Elizabeth ceased to be an empress,
and became only a trembling earth-worm, imploring mercy, aid,
amelioration of her sufferings from her Creator!
She suffered much, this poor empress, dethroned by death; she
suffered, although reposing upon silken cushions, with a gold-
embroidered covering for her shaking limbs.
And she was yet so young, hardly fifty, and she loved life so
intensely! Oh, she would have given half of her empire for a few more
years of life and enjoyment. But what cares Death for the wishes of an
empress? Here ends her earthly supremacy! Groaning and writhing, the
earth-worm tremblingly submits.
Where, now, were all her favorites--those high lords of the court,
those grand noblemen, created from soldiers, grooms, lackeys, and
serfs--where were they now? Why stood they not around the death-bed of
their empress? Why were they not there, that the remembrance of the
benefits conferred upon them might drive away those terrible
reminiscences of the torments she had inflicted upon others? Where
were they, her counts, barons, field-marshals, and privy councillors,
whom she had raised from nothing to the first positions in the realm?
None were with her! They had all hastened thence for the preservation
of their ill-gotten wealth, to crawl in the dust before Peter, to be
the first to pay him homage, that he might pardon their greatness and
their possessions! From the death-bed they had fled to Peter, and
kneeling before him, they praised God for at length bestowing upon the
happy realm the noblest and best ruler, Peter III.!
But where were Elizabeth's more particular friends, who had made her
Where was Lestocq?
Him the empress had banished to Siberia. Yielding to the prayers and
calumnies of his enemies, which she was too weak to withstand, she had
given him up; she had sacrificed him to procure peace and quiet for
herself, and in the same hour in which she had tenderly pressed his
hand, and called him her friend, had she signed his sentence of
banishment! Lestocq had for nine years languished in Siberia.
Where was Grunstein? Banished, cast off, like Lestocq.
Where was Alexis Razumovsky?
Ah, well for her! He stood at her bedside, he pressed her cold hand in
his; he yet, in the face of death, thanked her for all the benefits
she had heaped upon him. But alas! she was also surrounded by others--
by wild, pale, terrible forms, which were unseen by all except the
dying empress! She there saw the tortured face of Anna Leopoldowna,
whom she had let die in prison; there grinned at her the idiotic face
of Ivan, whose mind she had destroyed; there saw she the angry-
flashing eyes and bloody form of Eleonore Lapuschkin, and, springing
up from her bed, the empress screeched with terror, and folded her
trembling hands in prayer to God for grace and mercy for her daughter,
for Natalie, that He would turn away the horrible curse that Eleonore
had hurled at her child.
Alexis Razumovsky stood by her bedside, weeping. Overcome, as it
seemed, by his sorrow, another left the death-chamber of the empress,
and rushed to his horse, standing ready in the court below! This other
was Count Rasczinsky, the confidant of the empress.
The bells rang in St. Petersburg, the cannon roared; there were both
joy and sorrow in what the bells and cannon announced!
The Empress Elizabeth was dead; the Emperor Peter III. ascended the
throne of the czars as absolute ruler of the Russian realm. The first
to bow before him was his wife. With her son of five years old in her
arms, she had thrown herself upon her knees, and touching the floor
with her forehead, she had implored grace and love for herself and her
son; and Peter, raising her up, had presented her to the people as his
In St. Petersburg the bells rang, the cannon thundered--"The empress
is dead, long live the emperor!"
Before the villa stopped a foam-covered steed, from which dismounted a
horseman, who knocked at the closed door. To the porter who looked out
from a sliding window he showed the written order of Elizabeth for his
admission. The porter opened the door, and with the loud cry,
"Natalie, Natalie!" the Count Rasczinsky rushed into the hall of the
The bells continued to ring, the cannon to thunder. There was great
rejoicing in St. Petersburg.
Issuing from the villa, Count Rasczinsky again mounted his foaming
Like a storm-wind swept he over the plain--but not toward St.
Petersburg, not toward the city where the people were saluting their
Away, away, far and wide in the distance, his horse bounded and
panted, bleeding with the spurs of his rider. Excited constantly to
new speed, he as constantly bounds onward.
Like a nocturnal spectre flies he through the desert waste; the storm-
wind drives him forward, it lifts the mantle that enwraps him like a
cloud, and under that mantle is seen an angel-face, the smile of a
delicate little girl, two tender childish arms clasping the form of
the count, a slight elfish form tremblingly reposing upon the count's
"You weep not, my angel," whispered the count, while rushing forward
with restless haste.
"No, no, I neither weep nor tremble, for I am with you!" breathed a
sweet, childish voice.
"Cling closer to me, my sweet blossom, recline your head against my
breast. See, evening approaches!--Night will spread its protecting
veil over us, and God will be our conductor and safeguard! I shall
save you, my angel, my charming child!"
The steed continues his onward course.
The child smilingly reclines upon the bosom of the rider, over whom
the descending sun sheds its red parting beams.
Like a phantom flies he onward, like a phantom he disappears there on
the border of the forest. Was it only a delusive appearance, a /fata
morgana/ of the desert?
No, again and again the evening breeze raises the mantle of the rider,
and the charming angelic brow is still seen resting upon the bosom of
No, it is no dream, it is truth and reality!
Like a storm-wind flies the count over hill and heath, and on his
bosom reposes Natalie, /the daughter of the empress/!
THE CHARMED GARDEN
One must be very happy or very unhappy to love Solitude, to lean upon
her silent breast, and, fleeing mankind, to seek in its arms what is
so seldom found among men, repose for happiness or consolation for
sorrow! For the happy, solitude provides the most delightful festival,
as it allows one in the most enjoyable resignation to repose in
himself, to breathe out himself, to participate in himself! But it
also provides a festival for the unhappy--a festival of the memory, of
living in the past, of reflection upon those long-since vanished joys,
the loss of which has caused the sorrow! For the children of the
world, for the striving, for the seeker of inordinate enjoyments, for
the ambitious, for the sensual, solitude is but ill-adapted--only for
the happy, for the sorrow-laden, and also for the innocent, who yet
know nothing of the world, of neither its pleasures nor torments, of
neither its loves nor hatreds!
So thought and spoke the curious Romans when passing the high walls
surrounding the beautiful garden formerly belonging to the Count
Appiani. At an earlier period this garden had been well known to all
of them, as it had been a sort of public promenade, and under its
shady walks had many a tender couple exchanged their first vows and
experienced the rapture of the first kiss of love. But for the four
last years all this had been changed; a rich stranger had come and
offered to the impoverished old Count Appiani a large sum for this
garden with its decaying villa, and the count had, notwithstanding the
murmurs of the Romans, sold his last possession to the stranger. He
had said to the grumbling Romans: "You are dissatisfied that I part
with my garden for money. You were pleased to linger in the shady
avenues, to listen to these murmuring fountains and rustling
cypresses; you have walked here, you have here laughed and enjoyed
yourselves, while I, sitting in my dilapidated villa, have suffered
deprivation and hunger. I will make you a proposition. Collect this
sum, you Romans, which this stranger offers me; ye who love to
promenade in my garden, unite yourselves in a common work. Let each
one give what he can, until the necessary amount is collected, then
the garden will be your common property, where you can walk as much as
you please, and I shall be happy to be relieved from poverty by my own
countrymen, and not compelled to sell to a stranger the garden so
agreeable to the Romans!"
But the good Romans had no answer to make to Count Appiani. They,
indeed, would have the enjoyment, but it must cost them nothing--in
vain had they very much loved this garden, had taken great pleasure
under its shady trees; but when it became necessary to pay for these
pleasures, they found that they were not worth the cost, that they
could very well dispense with them.
The good Romans therefore turned away from this garden, which
threatened them with a tax, and sought other places of recreation;
while old Count Appiani sold his garden and the ruins of his villa to
the rich stranger who had offered him so considerable a sum for them.
From that day forward every thing in the garden had assumed a
different appearance. Masons, carpenters, and upholsterers had come
and so improved the villa, within and without, that it now made a
stately and beautiful appearance amid the dense foliage of the trees.
It had been expensively and splendidly furnished with every thing
desirable for a rich man's dwelling, and the upholsterers had enough
to relate to the listening Romans of the elegant magnificence now
displayed in this formerly pitiable villa. How gladly would the former
promenaders now have returned to this garden; how gladly would they
now have revisited this villa, which, with its deserted halls and its
ragged and dirty tapestry, had formerly seemed to them not worth
looking at! But their return to it was now rendered impossible; for on
the same day in which the new owner took possession of the garden, he
had brought with him more than fifty workmen, who had immediately
commenced surrounding it with a high wall.
Higher and higher rose the wall; nobody could see over it, as no giant
was sufficiently tall; no one could climb over it, as the smoothly-
hammered stones of which it was built offered not the least supporting
point. The garden with its villa had become a secret mystery to the
Romans! They yet heard the rustling of the trees, they saw the green
branches waving in the wind; but of what occurred under those branches
and in those shaded walks they could know nothing. At first, some
curious individuals had ventured to knock at the low, narrow door that
formed the only entrance into this walled garden. They had knocked at
that door and demanded entrance. Then would a small sliding window be
opened, and a gruff, bearded man with angry voice would ask what was
wanted, and at the same time inform the knocker that no one could be
admitted; that he and his two bulldogs would be able to keep the
garden clear of all intruders. And the two great hounds, as if they
understood the threats of their master, would show their teeth, and
their threatening growl would rise to a loud and angry bark.
They soon ceased to knock at that door, and, as they could not gain
admission, they took the next best course, of assuming the appearance
of not wishing it.
Four years had since passed; they had overcome the desire to enter the
premises or to look over the wall, but they told wondrous tales of the
garden and of a beautiful fairy who dwelt in it, and whose soft,
melodious voice was sometimes heard in the stillness of the night
singing sweet, transporting songs. No one had seen her, this fairy,
but she was certainly beautiful, and of course young; there were also
some bold individuals who asserted that when the moon shone brightly
and goldenly, the young fairy was then to be seen in the tops of the
trees or upon the edge of the wall. Light as an elf, transparent as a
moonbeam, she there swung to and fro, executing the singular dances
and singing songs that brought tears to the eyes and compassion to the
hearts of those who heard them. On hearing these tales, the Romans
would make the sign of the cross, and pass more quickly by the walls
of this garden, which thenceforth they called "/The Charmed Garden/."
It was indeed a charmed garden! It was an island of happiness, behind
these walls, concealed from the knavery of the world. Like an eternal
smile of the Divinity rested the heavens over this ever-blooming,
ever-fragrant garden, in whose myrtle-bushes the nightingales sang,
and in whose silver-clear basins the goldfishes splashed.
Yes, it was indeed a charmed garden, and also had its fairy, who, if
she did not compete with the moonbeams in rocking herself on the tops
of the trees and the edges of the wall, was nevertheless as delicate
as an elf, and who tripped from flower to brook and from brook to hill
as lightly and gracefully as the gazelle. The whole spring, the whole
youth of nature, flashed and beamed from this beautiful maiden-face,
so full of childlike innocence, purity, and peace. No storm had as yet
passed over these smiling features, not the smallest leaf of this rose
had been touched by an ungentle hand; freely and freshly had she
blossomed in luxuriant natural beauty; she had drunk the dews of
heaven, but not the dew of tears, for those deeply-dark beaming eyes
had wept only such tears as where called forth by emotions of joy and
She sat under a myrtle, whose blossoming branches bent down to her as
if they would entwine that pure and tender brow with a bridal wreath.
With her head thrown back upon these branches, she reposed with an
inimitable grace her reclining form. A white transparent robe, held by
a golden clasp, fell in waves to her feet, which were encased in gold-
embroidered slippers of dark-red leather. A blushing rose was fastened
by a diamond pin in the folds of her dress upon her budding bosom,
finely contrasting with the delicate flush upon her cheeks. A guitar
rested upon her full round arm. She had been singing, this beautiful
fairy child, but her song was now silenced, and she was glancing up to
the clouds, following their movements with her dreamy, thoughtful
eyes. A smile hovered about her fresh, youthful lips--the smile
peculiar to innocence and happiness.
She dreamed; precious, ecstatic images passed before her mental eyes;
she dreamed of a distant land in which she had once been, of a distant
house in which she had once dwelt. It was even more beautiful and
splendid than this which she now occupied, but it had lacked this blue
sky and fragrant atmosphere; it lacked these trees and flowers, these
myrtle bushes, and these songs of the nightingale, and upon a few
summer days had followed long, dull winter months with their cold
winding-sheet of snow, with their benumbing masses of ice, and the
fantastic flowers painted on the windows by the frost. And yet, and
yet, there had been a sun which shone into her heart warmer than this
bright sun of Italy, and the thought of which spread a purple glow
upon her cheeks. This sun had shone upon her from the tender glances
of a lady whom she had loved as a tutelar genius, as a divinity, as
the bright star of her existence! Whenever that lady had come to her
in the solitary house in which she then dwelt, then had all appeared
to her as in a transfiguration; then had even her peevish old servant
learned to smile and become humble and friendly; then all was joy and
happiness, and whoever saw that beautiful and brilliant lady, had
thought himself blessed, and had fallen down to adore her.
Of that lady was the young maiden now thinking, of that memorable
woman with the flashing eyes whose tender glance had always penetrated
the heart of the child with delight, whose tender words yet resounded
like music in her ears.
Where was she now, this lady of her love, her longings? why had she
been brought away from that house with its snowy winding-sheet and the
ice drapery upon its windows? Where lay that house, and where had she
to seek it with her thoughts? What was the language she had there
spoken, and which she now secretly spoke in her heart, although nobody
else addressed her in it, no one about her understood it; and
wherefore had her friend and protector, he who had brought her here,
who had always been with her, wherefore had he suddenly given himself
the appearance of no longer understanding it?
And even as she was thinking of him, of this dear friend and
protector, he came along down the alley; his tall form appeared at the
end of the walk; she recognized his noble features, with the proud
eagle glance and the bold arched brow.
The young maiden arose from her seat and hastened to meet him.
"How charming that you have come, Paulo," she gayly said, stretching
forth her little hands toward him. "I must ask you something, and that
directly, Paulo. Tell me quickly what is that language called in which
we formerly conversed together, and why have we ceased to speak it
since we came here to Rome?"
Paulo's brow became slightly clouded, but when he looked into her
beautiful face, animated by expectant curiosity, this expression of
displeasure quickly vanished from his features, and, threatening her
with his finger, he said:
"Always this same question, Natalie; and yet I have so often begged of
you to forget the past, and live only in the present, my dear, sweet
child! The past is sunken in an immeasurable gulf behind you, which
you can never pass, and if it stretches out its arms to you, it will
only be for the purpose of dragging you down into the abyss with it.
Forget it, therefore, my Natalie, and yield thyself to this beautiful
and delightful present, to increase for you the attractions of which
will ever be the dearest task of my life."
"It is true," said the young maiden, sighing, "I am wrong to be always
recurring to those long-past times; you must pardon me, Paulo, but you
will also acknowledge that my enigmatical past justifies me in feeling
some curiosity. Only think how it began! You one day came rushing to
my room, you pressed me all trembling to your heart, and silently bore
me away. 'Natalie,' said you, 'danger threatens you; I will save, or
perish with you!' You mounted your horse with me in your arms. Behind
us screamed and moaned the servants of my house, but you regarded them
not, and I trustingly clung to your heart, for I knew that if danger
threatened me, you would surely save me! Oh, do you yet remember that
fabulous ride? How we rested in out-of-the-way houses, or with poor
peasant people, and then proceeded on farther and farther! And how the
sun constantly grew warmer, melting the snow, and you constantly
became more cheerful and happy, until, one day, you impetuously
pressed me to your bosom, and said: 'Natalie, we are saved! Life and
the future are now yours! Look around you, we are in Italy. Here you
can be free and happy!' "
"And was not that a good prophecy?" asked Paulo. "Has it not been
fulfilled? Are you not happy?"
"I should be so," sighed Natalie, "could I avoid thinking so often of
that past! Those words which you then spoke to me were the last I ever
heard in that language, which I had always spoken until then, but of
which I know not the name! From that hour you spoke to me in an
unknown tongue, and I felt like a poor deserted orphan, from whom was
taken her last possession, her language!"
"And yet whole peoples have been robbed of that last and dearest
possession!" said Paulo, his brow suddenly darkening, "and not, as in
your case, to save life and liberty, but for the purpose of enslaving
and oppressing them."
Natalie, perceiving the sudden sadness of her friend, attempted to
smile, and, grasping his hand, she said:
"Come, Paulo, we are naughty children, and vex ourselves with
vagaries, while all nature is so cheerful and so replete with divine
beauty. Only see with what glowing splendor the departing sun rests
upon the tops of the cypresses! Ah, it is nowhere so beautiful as here
in my dear garden. This is my world and my happiness! Sometimes,
Paulo, it makes me shudder to think that the walls surrounding us
might suddenly tumble down, and all the tall houses standing behind
them, and all the curious people lounging in the streets, could then
look in upon my paradise! That must be terrible, and yet Marianne
tells me that other people live differently from us, that their houses
are not surrounded by walls, and that no watchman with dogs drives
away troublesome visitors from them. And yet, she says, they smilingly
welcome such inconvenient people, receiving them with friendly words,
while they only thank God when they finally go and leave the occupants
in peace. Is it then true, Paulo, that people can be so false to each
other, and that those who live in the world never dare to speak as
"It is, alas! but too true, Natalie," said Paulo, with a sad smile.
"Then never let me become acquainted with such a world," said the
young maiden, clinging to Paulo's arm. "Let me always remain here in
our solitude, which none but good people can share with us. For
Marianne is good, as also Cecil, your servant; and Carlo--oh, Carlo
would give his life for me. He is not false, like other people; I can
confide in him."
"Think you so!" asked Paulo, looking deep into her eyes with a
She bore his glances with a cheerful and unembarrassed smile, and a
roguish nod of her little head.
"You must certainly wish to paint me again, that you look at me so
earnestly. No, Paulo, I will not sit to you again, you paint me much
too handsome; you make an angel of me, while I am yet only a poor
little thing, who lives but by your mercy, and does not even know her
"Angels never have a name, they are only known as angels, and need no
further designation. As there is an Angel Gabriel, so there is an
"Mocker," said she, laughing, "there are no feminine angels! But now
come, be seated. Here is my guitar, and I will sing you a song for
which Carlo yesterday brought me the melody."
"And the words?" asked Paulo.
"Well, as to the words, they must come in the singing--to-day one set
of words, to-morrow another. Who can know what glows in your heart at
any given hour, and what you may feel in the next, and which will
escape you in words unknown to yourself, and which unconsciously and
involuntarily stream from your lips."
"You are my charming poetess, my Sappho!" exclaimed Paulo, kissing her
"Ah, would that you spoke true!" said she, with sparkling eyes and a
deeper flush upon her cheeks. "Let me be a poetess like Sappho, and I
would, like her, joyfully leap from the rocks into the sea. Oh, there
are yet poetesses--Carlo has told me of them. All Rome now worships
the great improvisatrice, Corilla. I should like to know her, Paulo,
only to adore her, only to see her in her splendor and her beauty!"
"If you wish it, you shall see her," said Paulo.
"Ah, I shall see her then!" shouted Natalie, and, as if to give
expression to her inward joy, she touched the strings of her guitar,
and in clear tones resounded a jubilant melody. Then she began to
sing, at first in single isolated words and exclamations, which
constantly swelled into more powerful, animated and blissful tones,
and finally flowed into a regular dithyramb. It was a song of jubilee,
a sigh of innocence and happiness; she sang of God and the stars, of
happy love, and of reuniting; of blossom, fragrance, and fanning
zephyrs; and in unconscious, foreboding pain, she sang of the sorrows
of love, and the pangs of renunciation.
All Nature seemed listening to her charming song; no leaflet stirred,
in low murmurs splashed the waves of the fountain by which she sat,
and occasionally a nightingale wailed in unison with her hymn of
rejoicing. The sun had descended to a point nearer the horizon, and
bordered it with moving purple clouds. Natalie, suddenly interrupting
her song, pointed with her rosy fingers to the heavens.
"How beautiful it is, Paulo!" said she.
He, however, saw nothing but her face, illuminated by the evening
"How beautiful art thou!" he whispered low, pressing her head to his
Then both were silent, looking, lost in sweetest dreams, upon the
surrounding landscape, which, as if in a silence of adoration, seemed
to listen for the parting salutation of the god of day. A nightingale
suddenly came and perched upon the myrtle-bush under which Natalie and
her friend were reposing. Soon she began to sing, now in complaining,
now in exulting tones, now tenderly soft, now in joyful trumpet-
blasts; and the night-wind that now arose rustled in organ-tones among
the cypress and olive trees.
Natalie clung closer to her friend's side.
"I would now gladly die," said she.
"Already die!" whispered he. "Die before you have lived, Natalie?"
Then they were again silent, the wind rustled in the trees, the
fountains murmured, the birds sang, and in golden light lay the moon
over this paradise of two happy beings.
But what is that which is rustling in the pines close to the wall--
what is that looking out with flashing eyes and a poisonous glance? Is
it the serpent already come to expel these happy beings from their
They see nothing, they hear nothing, they are both dreaming, so sure
do they feel of their happiness.
But there is a continued rustling. It is unnatural! It resembles not
the rustling of the evening wind! It is not the rustling of a bird,
balancing itself upon the branch of the tree! What, then, is it?
An opening is made in the foliage, and it is the arm of a man that
makes it. Upon the wall is to be seen the form of a man, and near him
slowly rises a second form. Cautiously he glances around, and then
makes a scornful grimace, while his eyes shine like those of a hyena.
He has discovered the two sitting together in happy security, and
enjoying the tranquil beauty of the evening in silent beatitude. He
has seen them, and points toward them with his finger, while, at the
same time, he lightly touches the arm of the other man, who has boldly
swung himself up on the wall. The glance of the latter follows the
direction in which the other points; he also now sees the reposing
pair, and over his features also flits an unnatural smile. He suddenly
fumbles in his bosom, and when his hand is withdrawn a small dagger
glistens in it. With a bold leap, the man is already on the point of
springing from the wall into the garden. The other holds him back, and
makes a threatening counter-movement. He, it seems, is the commander,
and uses his power with an indignant negative shake of the head; his
commanding glance seems to say: "Be silent, and observe!"
Staring and immovably their eyes were now fixed upon the silent pair
sitting in the bright moonlight which surrounded them as with a glory.
One of the men still holds the dagger in his hand, and with a powerful
arm the other holds him in check. Then they whisper low together--they
seem to be consulting as to what is to be done. The man with the
dagger seems to yield to the arguments or persuasions of the other. He
nods his consent. The first disappears behind the wall, and the armed
one slowly follows him. Yet once again, he glances over the wall,
raising his arm and shaking his dagger toward Natalie and her friend.
Then he disappeared, and all was again peaceful and still in this
Was it, perhaps, only an illusive dream that bantered us, only a /fata
morgana/ formed by the moonbeams? Or does the serpent of evil really
lurk about this paradise? Will destruction find its way into this
charmed garden? Ah, no solitude and no wall can afford protection
against misfortune! It creeps through the strongest lock, and over the
highest wall; and while we think ourselves safe, it is already there,
close to us, and nearly ready to swallow us up.
It was suddenly lively in the garden. Cecil, Paulo's old servant,
approached from the house, with a lantern in his hand.
He comes down the alley with hasty steps, and with an anxious
countenance approaches his master.
"What is it, Cecil?"
"Two letters, sir, that have just arrived. One comes from the hotel of
the Russian legation, and the other from that of the Lord-Cardinal
Paulo shuddered slightly, and his hand involuntarily grasped after the
first letter, but he suddenly constrained himself, and his glance fell
upon Natalie, whose eyes were fixed with curiosity upon the two
"We will first see what the good Cardinal Bernis writes us!" said
Count Paulo, placing the Russian letter in his pocket with apparent
"Bernis?" asked Natalie. "Is not that the French Cardinal, who is at
the same time a poet, and whom the pope, the great Ganganelli, so
"The same," said Paulo, "and besides, the same Cardinal Bernis whom I
had months ago promised to allow the pleasure of making your
acquaintance! He already knows you, Natalie, although he has never yet
seen your fair face; he knows you from what I have told him."
"Oh, let us quickly see what the good cardinal writes!" exclaimed
Natalie, clapping her hands with the impatience of a child.
Count Paulo smilingly broke the seal and read the letter.
"You are in truth a witch," said he; "you must have some genius n your
service, who listens to every wish you express, in order to fulfil it
without delay! This letter contains an invitation from the cardinal.
He gives a great entertainment to-morrow, and begs of me that I will
bring you to it. The improvisatrice Corilla will also be there!"
"Oh, then I shall see her!" exclaimed the delighted young maiden. "At
length I shall see a poetess! For we shall go to this entertainment,
shall we not, Paulo?"
The count thoughtfully cast down his eyes, and his hand involuntarily
sought the letter in his pocket. An expression of deep care and
anxiety was visible on his features, and Cecil seemed to divine the
thoughts of his master, for he also looked anxious, and a deep sigh
escaped from his breast.--Natalie perceived nothing of all this! She
was wholly occupied by the thought of seeing Corilla, the great
improvisatrice, of whom Carlo, Natalie's music-teacher, had told her
so much, and whose fame was sounded by children and adults in all the
streets of Rome.
"We go to this festival, do we not, Paulo?" repeated she, as the count
still continued silent.
Recovering from his abstraction, he said: "Yes, we will go! It is time
that my Natalie was introduced into this circle of influential Romans,
that she may gain friends among people of importance, who may watch
over and protect her when I no longer can!"
"You will, then, leave me?" cried the young maiden, turning pale and
anxiously grasping the count's arm. "No, Paulo, you cannot do that!
Would you leave me because I, a foolish child, desired to go to this
festival, and was no longer contented with our dear and beautiful
solitude? That was wrong in me, Paulo, as I now plainly see, and I
desire it no longer! Oh, we will prepare other pleasures for ourselves
here in our delightful paradise. You have often called me a poetess,
and I will now believe I am, and no longer wish to see another. I will
suffice for myself! Come, I will immediately sing you a song, a
festival song, my friend!"
And taking her guitar, Natalie struck some joyous accords; but Count
Paulo lightly laid his hands upon the strings so as to silence them,
and drawing the tips of her fingers to his lips, with a slight shaking
of his head, he said: "Not now, my charming poetess, I am not worthy
of hearing you."
"And it is late," added Cecil, coming as it were to the aid of his
The count rose. "Yes, you are right--it is late," said he, "and I must
not longer keep Natalie from her slumber. Come, my sweet child, you
must retire; you must sleep, that your brow may beam with blooming
Natalie made no answer; with a light sigh she mechanically took the
count's offered arm.
Cecil preceded them with the lantern in his hand. Thus they proceeded
up the alley leading to the villa, all three silent and thoughtful.
The sky had become obscured, a black cloud intercepted the light of
the moon, and Natalie's charmed garden was suddenly wrapped in gloom.
A cold shudder ran through her delicate frame.
"A feeling of anxiety has come over me!" she whispered, clinging close
to the count's side.
"Poor child!" said the count. "Are you already oppressed with fear?"
"What if the wall should give way, and bad people should intrude into
our garden! Ah, Marianne says that misfortune lurks everywhere in the
world, lying in ambush for those who think themselves safe, destroying
their happiness, and making them wholly miserable; and people only
laugh and rejoice that another man's hopes have been wrecked! Ah, and
I have felt so secure in my happiness! If misfortune should now
actually come--if these walls should prove not high enough to keep it
off! Ah, Paulo, protect me from lurking misfortune!"
They had now arrived at the door of the villa. Paulo pressed the
trembling young maiden with paternal tenderness to his breast, and,
lightly touching her forehead with his lips, he said: "Good- night, my
love! Sleep gently, and be not anxious! So long as I live, misfortune
shall never approach you! Rest assured of that!"
Thus speaking, he led her into the house, where Marianne was waiting
to accompany her to her chamber.
Natalie silently followed her, but before entering her room she once
more turned, and, pressing her fingers to her lips, wafted kisses in
the air toward her friend.
The door closed behind her, and the smile instantly vanished from
Paulo's lips. With impetuous haste, beckoning Cecil to follow him, he
strode through the corridor leading to his own apartments.
When he had arrived there, and Cecil had closed the door behind him,
the count with a deep sigh threw himself upon a chair, whilst Cecil
silently busied himself in lighting the wax-candles and placing them
upon the table beside his master.
"Will not your grace now read the other letter?" he timidly asked, as
Count Paulo still remained buried in his silent reflections.
"Oh, this unblessed letter!" exclaimed the count, with a shudder. "I
tell you, Cecil, I feel that it contains misfortune. It has lain with
a heavy weight like a nightmare upon my breast and I yet felt not the
strength in me to draw it forth and read it in Natalie's presence!"
"That was well!" said Cecil, "and it was for that reason that I told
you in advance that the letter was from Russia, that you might be on
your guard. But now, Sir Count, we are alone, and now you can read
"Yes, away with this childish fear!" cried the count, with resolution.
"I will be a man, Cecil, and whatever this letter may contain, I will
bear it like a man!"
Drawing forth the letter, he broke the seal with a trembling hand, and
threw the cover across the room. Then unfolding the letter, he read.
Behind him stood Cecil, involuntarily trembling with anxious
The letter fell from the count's hands, and a deadly paleness spread
over his face, which bore the expression of utter despair.
"Oh, my prophetic soul!" he sighed.
"Your presentiment is then fulfilled!" anxiously asked Cecil.
"Yes, it is fulfilled! My property is sequestrated; they refuse to
send me the money I required; they command my immediate return to
Russia, as my /conge/ has expired and my respite is at an end!"
"And you are lost, my lord, if you do not obey this command!" said
"And Natalie?" reproachfully asked the count. "Can I, dare I leave
"She is much safer without than with you! They may not yet suspect who
she is! It is very possible that it in reality only is because your
leave of absence has expired, as the laws of Russia require that every
absentee should return to his country once in every four years.
Fulfil, therefore, this hard duty. Pretend to suppose that your recall
is for no other reason than the renewal of your passport, and the
giving you an opportunity to pay your homage to the empress. Appear
innocent and unconcerned, and all may yet go well!"
"No," gloomily replied the count, "nothing will go well any more! The
whole future stands before me in clear and distinct traits--a future
full of shame and horror! Oh, would it not be better to flee from that
future and seek in some remote and hidden valley a place where,
perhaps, misfortune cannot reach, nor destruction overtake us!"
"How?" reproachfully asked Cecil. "Is it Count Paulo who speaks thus?
Is it the pupil whom I taught to defy misfortune and rise superior to
disaster with courageous self-confidence? Is it the son of my heart
for whom I have left all, sacrificed all, for whom I have offered up
my fatherland, my freedom, and my independence; whom I shall love
until my last breath? Paulo, pluck up a good heart, my son! You have
proposed to yourself a great end, which was only to be reached by
thorny and dangerous paths; will you now stop at the first cross-road
and return upon your steps, instead of pressing forward sword in hand!
No, no, I know you better, my son; this momentary hesitation will pass
away, and you will again be great and strong for the struggle and the
With a faint smile Count Paulo gave him his hand. "You know not, my
friend, how great is the sacrifice you demand of me!" said he, in a
subdued tone. "I must leave Natalie. I must never see her more, never
more draw consolation from her glance, nor hope from her charming
smile! Oh, Cecil, you have not idea of what Natalie is to me; you know
not that I--"
"I know," interposed Cecil, solemnly, "I know that you have sworn upon
the holy book to protect her with your life from every injury; I know
that you have sworn never to give rest to yourself until you have
reinstated her in her inherited rights, and that, until then, she
shall be sacred to you, sacred as a sister, sacred as a daughter whose
honor you will protect and defend against every outrage, against even
every sinful thought. That have you sworn, and I know you will hold
your word sacred and keep your oath!"
Count Paulo dropped his head upon his breast and sighed deeply.
"I must therefore leave her!" said he.
"Your own welfare demands it."
"But how is she to live during our absence? Our money will not suffice
to the end. Alas! we had so surely calculated on this remittance from
my estates, and now it fails us!"
"We will sell that costly ornament of brilliants which you had
destined as a present for Natalie on her seventeenth birthday."
"Ah," sighed the count, "you have a means for the removal of every
obstacle. I must therefore go!"
"And I go with you," said Cecil. "I would, if it must be so, be able
to die for you!"
"They will destroy all three of us!" said the count. "Believe me, the
knife is already sharpened for our throats! Believe also, Cecil, that
I tremble not from fear of death. But I fear for Natalie! Ah, I
already seem to see the approach of her murderers, to see them seize
her with their bloody hands, and I shall not be there to protect her!"
While Count Paulo thus spoke, with a sad, foreboding soul, those two
mysterious men, who had so threateningly watched and listened to
Natalie and her friend, still remained under the wall.
The one still held the dagger in his hand, and was unquietly walking
back and forth near his companion, who had calmly thrown himself upon
"You did wrong to hinder me, Beppo," he angrily said. "It would have
been best to have finished them at once. The occasion could not have
been more favorable--the solitary garden, the nightly stillness and
obscurity. Ah, one blow would have done the business!"
"Well, and what if the gentleman who sat near her had seized you
before the blow was struck? How then?" asked the other. "You are yet
but a novice and a bungler, friend Giuseppo. You yet lack discretion,
the tranquil glance, the sure hand! You always suffer yourself to
become excited, which is unartistic and even dangerous. We went out
today only to obtain information; we were only to discover and observe
the signora, and perhaps to watch for an opportunity. But to fall upon
her in this garden would have been the extreme of stupidity, for we
had all the servants and the hounds against us, and it is one of the
first principles of our profession to put others in danger, but never
to incur it themselves."
"Wherefore, then, have we come here?" cried Giuseppo, with vehemence.
"To see her and know her, that we may surely recognize her again when
the right hour comes. And that hour will come--I will answer for it.
Did not the signora tell us that this lady would probably attend the
festival of Cardinal Bernis?"
"She said so."
"Well, and we have come here that we might see and know her in
advance. She is very beautiful, and a truly respectable person,
Giuseppo. I am pleased with the idea of this festival of the French
cardinal. I think it will afford much business in our line."
In the palace of the French ambassador at Rome, Cardinal Bernis, there
was an unusually busy movement to-day. From the kitchen-boys to the
major-domo, all were in a most lively motion, in the most passionate
activity. For this morning, while taking his chocolate, the cardinal
had sent for his major-domo, and, quite contrary to the usual
joviality of his manner, had very seriously and solemnly said to him:
"Signor Brunelli, I to-day intrust you with a very important and
responsible duty, that of making as splendid as possible the grand
festival we are three days hence to give in honor of the Archduke
Ferdinand. No pains must be spared, nothing must be wanting; the most
luxurious richness, the most tasteful decoration, the most extravagant
splendor must be exhibited. For this entertainment must excite the
attention not only of Rome, but of all Europe; it must become the
subject of conversation at all the courts, and, above all, it must
cause the despair of all present ambassadorial housekeeping. I have
very important diplomatic reasons for this. All Europe shall see how
devoted France is to the empire of Austria, and what a good
understanding subsists between the two courts. Therefore, Signor
Brunelli, strain your inventive head, that it may on this occasion hit
upon whatever is most distinguished and pre-eminent, for this must be
an entertainment never before equalled. That is what I expect, what I
demand of you; and if you satisfy my demands, it will give me pleasure
to reward your zeal by a present of a hundred ducats."
Thus with solemn dignity spoke the cardinal, while sipping his
chocolate; and Signor Brunelli had pledged himself by a solemn oath
punctually to fulfil his master's commands, and to astonish Rome with
an entertainment such as had never been recorded in the annals of
With a proud step had Brunelli gone to his own private cabinet, where,
having shut himself up, he had devoted several hours to serious
meditation upon the deep plans presenting themselves to his mind. But
Signor Brunelli had, in fact, a very experienced and inventive head,
and the cardinal acted wisely in confiding in his major-domo and
leaving to him the ordering of the entertainment.
He had now, with the sharp glance of a military commander, arranged
his plan of battle, and felt perfectly sure of victory. He therefore
rang for a servant, and commanded the attendance of the chief cook in
the cabinet of the major-domo. Then with a gentlemanlike listlessness
he threw himself upon the divan and began to sip his coffee with the
exact dignified deportment that had been displayed by his excellency
"Signor Gianettino," said he, to the entering cook, "I propose
honoring you to-day with a very important and significant affair. I
wish, on the day after to-morrow, to prepare an entertainment which in
splendor and magnificence shall surpass anything hitherto seen. You
know that the major-domos of the other diplomatists have become my
irreconcilable enemies through envy; they cannot forgive me for having
more inventive faculties and better taste than any of them! We must
bring these major-domos to despair, and with a gnashing of teeth they
shall acknowledge that in all things I am their master. You, however,
must aid me in this great work; in your hands, Signor Gianettino, lies
a considerable part of my triumph and my laurels. For what does it
help me, if the arrangements and decorations, if the whole
establishment, are excellent, should there be a failure in the highest
and most sublime part of the entertainment--in the food. The food, my
dear sir, and a well-ordered table, is the gist of a festival, and
should there be the least failure in that, the whole is profaned and
desecrated, and must be covered with a mourning-veil. Take my words to
heart, signor; let us have a table covered with food the mere odor of
which shall set our first gourmets in ecstatic astonishment, while its
judicious arrangement will give pleasure to the poetic mind! This is
what I expect of you, and if you succeed in satisfying my
requirements, I am ready to reward your exertions with fifty bottles
of our best French wines."
Signor Gianettino returned his thanks with a pleasant, thoughtful
smile, and with a majestic step repaired to his boudoir, where he was
seen for a long time, walking back and forth in deep thought and with
a wrinkled brow. Then, stepping to his writing-table, he sketched the
plan of this inordinately great dinner, at first slowly and
thoughtfully, and then with constantly more and more fire and
enthusiasm, carried away by the greatness of the occasion, and
animated by the importance of his mission and his calling.
Then, throwing aside the pen, and exhausted by so great an effort, he
gently glided down upon the divan, at the same time ringing for a
servant whom he directed to bring his breakfast and afterward to
summon all the cooks and scullions to his cabinet. He then stretched
himself with eminent grace upon the divan, as he had seen the major-
domo do; with a serious thoughtfulness he sipped the glass of
Malvoisie the servant had brought him, with sundry /pates/ and rare
And they came, the cooks and scullions, they came in their white
jackets, with their white aprons and snow-white caps; they came in
solemn silence, fully impressed with the importance of the moment.
"Signors," said the chief cook, "it is on a beautiful and sublime
affair that I have assembled you here to-day. It concerns an increase
of the fame and triumphs we have so many times gained over our
diplomatic rivals, and an increase of the laurels we have won in the
sacred realms of our art! I propose to prepare a banquet for
to-morrow, and for that I require your support and aid, gentlemen. For
what is the use of ever so good a plan of battle of a commander-in-
chief, if his troops fail in courage and skill to carry out the plan
of their general? Gentlemen, I doubt not your courage or skill! You
will contend for the sake of the fame we have acquired and hitherto
enjoyed without dispute, for the sake of the fame which the French
/cuisine/ has enjoyed for centuries, and which must be preserved until
the end of all things! You will stand by me, gentlemen, in the
praiseworthy effort to acquire new glory for France, by showing these
little Austrian princes and these gentlemen diplomatists what
wonderful things the French art of cookery can bring to pass. The plan
is devised and sketched, and all that is now required is its
execution. If this great work succeeds, then, gentlemen, you may feel
assured of my eternal gratitude--a gratitude which I will prove to you
by leaving all the remains of the dinner to your free use and sole
benefit! Here is the plan, hasten to the work; I have assigned to each
one the part he is to take in its accomplishment. Hasten, therefore!
I, however, by way of exception, will myself go to the market to-day
and make the necessary purchases. On such an important occasion, no
one, however highly placed, must decline labor and the faithful
performance of duty. I go, therefore, and six of the kitchen-boys may
follow me with their baskets."
Thus speaking, the chief cook, Signor Gianettino, took his hat and
gold-headed cane to go to the market. Six kitchen-boys, armed with
large baskets, followed him at a respectful distance.
At the great vegetable and fish-market of Rome there was to-day a very
unusual and extraordinary life and movement. There was a crowd and
tumult, a roaring and screaming, a shouting and laughing, such as had
not been heard for a long time. It was partly in consequence of the
fact that the whole diplomatic corps had been for some days agitated
with preparations for entertainments in honor of the Archduke
Ferdinand, who had come to Rome to see the wonders of the holy city,
and who could hardly find time and leisure for the festivities offered
him. But for the tradesmen and dealers, for the country people in the
vicinity of Rome, this presence of the Austrian prince was a happy
circumstance; for these banquets and festivals scattered money among
the people, and the dealers and honest country people could fearlessly
raise their prices, as they were sure of a sale for their commodities.
The cooks and servants of the diplomatists and cardinals were seen
running hither and thither in busy haste, everywhere selecting the
best, everywhere buying and cheapening.
But in one place in the market there was to-day an especial liveliness
and activity among the crowd, and to that spot Signor Gianettino bent
his steps. He had seen the cook of the Spanish ambassador, the Duke of
Grimaldi, among those collected there, and as this cook was one of his
bitterest enemies and opponents, Signor Gianettino resolved to watch
him, and, if possible, to play him a trick. He therefore cautiously
mingled with the crowd, and made a sign to his followers to keep at a
distance from him.
It was certainly a very important affair with which the Spanish cook
Don Bempo was occupied, as it concerned the purchase of a fish that a
countryman had brought to the city, of such a monstrous size and
weight that the like had never been seen there. It was the most
remarkable specimen with which the Roman fish-market had ever been
honored. But the lucky fisherman was fully aware of the extraordinary
beauty of his fish, and in his arrogant pride demanded twenty ducats
That was what troubled Don Bempo. Twenty ducats for one single fish,
and the major-domo of the Spanish ambassador had urged upon him the
most stringent economy; but he had, indeed, at the same time urged
upon him to provide everything as splendid as possible for the banquet
which the Duke of Grimaldi was to give in honor of the Archduke
Ferdinand; indeed, he had with an anxious sigh commanded him to outdo
if possible the next day's feast of Cardinal Bernis, and to provide
yet rarer and more costly viands than the French cook.
That was what Don Bempo was now considering, and what made him waver
in his first determination not to buy the fish.
There was only this one gigantic fish in the market; and, if he bought
it, Signor Gianettino, his enemy, of course, could not possess it; the
triumph of the day would then inure to the Spanish embassy, and Don
Bempo would come off conqueror. That was indeed a very desirable
object, but--twenty ducats was still an enormous price, and was not at
all reconcilable with the recommended economy.
At any rate he dared not buy the fish without first consulting the
major-domo of the duke.
"You will not, then, sell this fish for twelve ducats?" asked Don
Bempo, just as Gianettino had unnoticedly approached. "Reflect, man,
twelve ducats are a fortune--it is a princely payment!"
The fisherman contemptuously shook his head. "Rather than sell it for
twelve ducats I would eat it myself," said he, "and invite my friends,
these good Romans, as guests! Go, go, sublime Spanish Don, and buy
gudgeons for your pair of miserable ducats! Such a fish as this is too
dear for you; you Spanish gentlemen should buy gudgeons!"
"Bravo! bravo!" cried the laughing spectators. "Gudgeons for the
Spanish gentlemen with high-nosed faces and empty pockets!"
Don Bempo blushed with anger and wounded pride. "I shall
unquestionably buy this fish," said he, "for nothing is too dear for
my master when the honor of our nation is to be upheld. But you must
allow me time to go home and get the money from the major-domo. Keep
the fish, therefore, so long, and I will return with the twenty ducats
And majestically Don Bempo made himself a path through the crowd,
which laughingly stepped aside for him, shouting: "Gudgeons for the
Spanish gentleman! /Viva/ Don Bempo, who pays twenty ducats for a
"He will certainly not come back," said the fisherman, shaking his
"He goes to buy gudgeons!" cried another.
"What will you bet that he returns to buy the fish?" said a third.
"He will not buy it!" interposed a fourth. "These Spaniards have no
money; they are poor devils!"
"Who dares say that?" shrieked another, and now suddenly followed one
of those quarrels which are so quickly excited on the least occasion
among the passionate people of the south. There was much rage, abuse,
and noise. How flashed the eyes, how shook the fists, what threats
"Peace, my dear friends, be quiet, I tell you!" cried the fisherman,
with his stentorian voice. "See, there comes a new purchaser for my
fish. Be quiet, and let us see how much France is disposed to offer
The disturbance subsided as suddenly as it had arisen, and all pressed
nearer; all directed interrogating, curious, expectant glances at
Signor Gianettino, who just at that moment approached with a proud and
grave step, followed by the solemn train of six scullions with their
No one had before remarked him in the crowd, for they had been all
eyes and ears for Don Bempo, and hence every one supposed that he had
only just then arrived.
The shrewd chief cook also assumed the appearance of having only
accidentally passed that way without the intention of buying any
But he suddenly stopped before the great fish as if astonished at its
enormous size, and seemed to view it with admiration and delight.
"What a rare and splendid animal is this!" he finally exclaimed with
animation. "Really, one must come to Rome to see such a wonder!"
"That is understood!" exultingly cried the bystanders, who had a
reverence for the fishes of Rome.
"This is no niggard! /He/ will not be so mean as to offer twelve
ducats for such a miracle as this!"
"Twelve ducats!" cried Gianettino, folding his hands. "How can you
think me so pitiful as to offer such a miserable sum for so noble a
fish. No, truly, he must have a bold forehead who would offer so
little money for this splendid animal!"
"Hear him! hear!" cried the people. "This is a learned man. He knows
something of the value of rarities!"
"/Viva!/ Long life to the French cook, /il grande ministre della
Gianettino bowed politely in response to the compliment, and then
civilly asked the price of the fish.
The fisherman stood there with an expression of regretful sadness upon
his face. "I fear it will be of little use to name the price!" said
he, "the fish is as good as sold!"
"Nevertheless, name the price!"
"Twenty ducats!" exclaimed Gianettino, with an expression of the
liveliest astonishment. "You jest, my friend! How can such a splendid
animal be possibly sold for twenty ducats?"
"Here! hear!" shouted the crowd. "He finds the price too low!"
"He is a real gentleman!"
"He will not buy gudgeons like the Spaniard!"
"In earnest, friend, tell me the price of this fish!" said Gianettino.
"I have demanded twenty ducats for it," sadly responded the fisherman,
"and it is sold for that sum."
"Impossible! In that case it would not be lying here!" replied
Gianettino. "Or had the man paid you the money, and now gone for a
cart for the conveyance of the giant?"
"I have not yet been paid."
"The purchaser, then, has given you earnest money?"
"No, not even that. I have yet received nothing upon it."
"And you can pretend that you have sold this fish," cried Gianettino,
"and that, too, for the ridiculously small sum of twenty ducats! Ah,
you are a joker, my good man; you wish to excite in me a desire for
this rare specimen, and therefore you say it is sold. But how can a
fish that yet lies exposed for sale, and for which no one had made you
a suitable offer, be already sold?"
And gravely approaching the giant of the waters, Gianettino laid his
hand upon his head and solemnly said: "The fish is mine. I purchase
it; you demand twenty ducats! But I shall give you what you ought to
have, and what the creature is worth! I shall pay you six-and-thirty
ducats for him!"
The crowd, which had maintained an anxious and breathless silence
during this negotiation, now broke out with a loud and exulting shout.
"That is a real nobleman!"
"/Evviva il ministro della cucina! Il grande Gianettino!/"
"That is no parsimonious Spaniard! He is a French cavalier. He will
buy no gudgeons, but will have the right Roman fish."
"Gentlemen," said Gianettino, modestly casting down his eyes, "I do
not understand your praises, and it seems to me I only deal like a man
of honor, as every one of you would do! This honest man taxes his
wares too low; I give him what they are worth! That is all. If I acted
otherwise I should not long remain in the service of the lofty and
generous Cardinal Bernis! Justice and generosity, that is the first
command of his excellency!"
"/Evviva/ the French ambassador!"
"Praise and honor to Cardinal Bernis!"
And while the people were thus shouting, Gianettino from his well-
filled purse paid down the six-and-thirty ducats upon the fisherman's
board. He then commanded his six attendant scullions to bear off the
It was, indeed, a heavy work to place the enormous animal upon their
baskets, but the active Romans cheerfully lent a hand, and when they
had succeeded in the difficult task, and the six youngsters bent under
their heavy load, Signor Gianettino gravely put himself at the head of
the train, and proudly gave the order: "Forward to the kitchen of his
excellency Cardinal Bernis!"
At this moment a man was seen making his way through the crowd;
thrusting right and left with his elbows, he incessantly pushed on,
and, just as Signor Gianettino had fairly got his troop in motion, the
man, who was no other than Don Bempo, succeeded in reaching the
"Here, I bring you the twenty ducats," he proudly called out. "They
will no longer say that the Spaniards buy gudgeons. The fish is mine!
There are your twenty ducats!"
And, with a supercilious air, Don Bempo threw the money upon the
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
"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
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
Proud and happy marched Signor Gianettino through the streets,
accompanied by his gigantic fish, and followed by the shouts of a
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 is 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
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
"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