Part 5 out of 7
of his brow. "You again speak of her--"
"Of Corilla," interposed the cardinal--"yes of Corilla I speak, of
that heavenly woman whom all the world admires; to whose beautiful
verses philosophers and poets listen with breathless delight, and who
well deserves that you should reward her as a queen by bestowing upon
her the poetic crown!"
"I crown a Corilla!" mockingly exclaimed the pope. "Shall a Corilla
desecrate the spot hallowed by the feet of Tasso and Petrarch? No, I
say, no; when art becomes the plaything of a courtesan, then may the
sacred Muses veil their heads and mourn in silence, but they must not
degrade themselves by throwing away the crown which the best and
noblest would give their heart's blood to obtain. This Corilla may
bribe you poor earthly fools with her smiles and amorous verses, but
she will not be able to deceive the Muses!"
"You refuse me, then, the crowning of the renowned improvisatrice
Corilla?" asked the cardinal, with painfully suppressed rage.
"I refuse it!"
"And why, then, did you send for me?" exclaimed the cardinal with
vehemence. "Was it merely to mock me?"
"It was for the purpose of warning you, my son!" mildly responded the
pope. "For even the greatest forbearance must at length come to an
end; and when I am compelled to forget that you are Alessandro
Albani's nephew, I shall then only have to remember that you are the
criminal Francesco Albani, whom all the world condemns, and whom I
must judge! Repent and reform, my son, while there is yet time; and,
above all things, renounce this love, which heaps new disgrace upon
your family and overwhelms your relatives with sorrow and anxiety!"
"Renounce Corilla!" cried the cardinal. "I tell you I love her, I
adore her, this heavenly, beautiful woman! How can you ask me to
"Nevertheless I do demand it," said the pope with solemnity, "demand
it in the name of your father, in the name of God, against whose holy
laws you have sinned--you, His consecrated priest."
"But that is an impossibility!" passionately exclaimed Francesco. "One
must bear a heart of stone in his bosom to require it; and that you
can do so only proves that you have never known what it is to love!"
"And that I can do so should prove to you that I have indeed known it,
my son!" sadly responded the pope.
"Whoever has known love knows that there can be no renunciation!"
"And whoever has known love can renounce!" exclaimed the pope, with
animation. "Listen to me, my son, and may the sad story of a short
happiness and long expiation serve you as a warning example! You think
I cannot have known love? Ah, I tell you I have experienced all its
joys and all its sorrows--that in the intoxication of rapture I once
forgot my vows, my duties, my holy resolutions, and, doubly criminal,
I also taught her whom I loved to forget her own sacred duties and to
sin! Ah, you call me a saint, and yet I have been the most abject of
sinners! Under this Franciscan vesture beat a tempestuous, fiery heart
that derided God and His laws; a heart that would have given my soul
to the evil one, had he promised to give me in exchange the possession
of my beloved! She was beautiful, and of a heavenly disposition; and
hence, when she passed through the aisles of the church, with her
slight fairy form, her angelic face veiled by her long dark locks, her
eyes beaming with love and pleasure, a heavenly smile playing about
her lips--ah, when she thus passed through the church, her feet
scarcely touching the floor, then I, who awaited her in the
confessional, felt myself nearly frantic with ecstasy, my brain
turned, my eyes darkened, there was a buzzing in my ears, and I
attempted to implore the aid and support of God."
"You should have appealed to Cupid!" said the cardinal, laughing. "In
such a case aid could come only from the god of ancient Rome, not of
The old man noticed not his words. Wholly absorbed in his
reminiscences, he listened only to the voice of his own breast, saw
only the form of the beautiful woman he had once so dearly loved!
"God listened not to my fervent prayers," he continued, with a sigh,
"or perhaps my stormily beating heart heard not the voice of God,
because I listened only to her; because with intoxicated senses I was
listening to the modest, childishly pure confession which she,
kneeling in the confessional, was whispering in my ears; because I
felt her breath upon my cheeks and in every trembling nerve of my
being. And one day, overcome by his glowing passion, the monk so far
forgot his sworn duty as to confess his immodest and insane love for
the wife of another man!"
"Ah, she was, then, married?" remarked the cardinal.
"Yes, she was married; sold by her own parents, sacrificed at the
shrine of mammon, married to a man whom she did not and could not
love, and who pursued her with an insane jealousy. Ah, she suffered
and suffered with the uncomplaining calmness of an angel. And I, did I
not also suffer? We wept together, we complained together, until our
hearts at length forgot complaining, and an unspeakable, a terrible
happiness, made us forget our troubles. I had forgotten all--my God,
my clerical vows; she also had forgotten all--her husband, her vow of
fidelity; and if a thought of these things sometimes intruded upon our
moments of happiness, it only caused us to plunge into new delights,
and to lull ourselves anew into a blessed forgetfulness!"
"And the good, jealous husband remarked nothing?" asked the cardinal.
"He remarked nothing! He loved me, he confided in me, he called me his
friend; and when he was compelled to take a long journey, he confided
to me his house and his wife, establishing me as the guard of her
The cardinal broke out into loud laughter. "These good husbands," said
he, "they are all alike to a hair. Every one has a friend in whom he
confides, and it is that very friend who betrays him. They must all
fulfil their destinies, these good husbands! Relate further, holy
father! Your story is very entertaining. I am curious to hear the
"The end was terrible, replete with horror and shame," said the pope.
"We lived blessed days, heavenly nights. Oh, we were so happy that we
hardly had a thought for our criminality, but only for our love. One
night there was a knocking at the closed door of the house, and we
shudderingly recognized the voice of the husband demanding admission."
"And you were not at all in a situation to grant it to him,"
laughingly interposed the cardinal. "He might, perhaps, have been not
a little astonished, this good husband, that you watched by night as
well as by day the temple of his wedded happiness."
"With tears of anguish and terror she conjured me to fly, to save her
from the derision of the world and the anger of her husband. She led
me to a secret stairway, and I, like a madman pursued by the furies,
was hastening to descend, when my foot slipped and I fell down the
stairs with a loud clattering noise. I felt the blood oozing from my
breast and pouring from my mouth in a warm stream--my limbs pained me
frightfully--but I picked myself up and with extremest suffering fled
to my cloister, when, having reached my cell, I fell senseless. A long
illness now confined me to my bed and tortured my body with frightful
pains; but far more frightful were the tortures of my soul, more
frightful the voices that day and night whispered to me of my crime
and guiltiness! My conscience was fully awakened; it spoke to me in a
voice of thunder, and like a worm I turned upon my bed of pain,
imploring of God a little mercy for the torments that burned my brain!
This time God permitted Himself to be found by me; I heard his voice,
saying: 'Go and repent, and thy sins shall be forgiven thee! Shake off
the sinfulness that weighs upon thy head, and peace will return to thy
bosom.' I heard this voice of God, and wept with repentant sorrow. I
vowed to obey and reconcile myself to God by renouncing my love and
never again seeing its object! It was a great sacrifice, but God
demanded it, and I obeyed!"
"That is, this sickness had restored you from intoxication to
sobriety; you were tired of your mistress!"
"I had, perhaps, never loved her more warmly, more intensely, than in
those dreadful hours when I was struggling with my poor tortured heart
and imploring God for strength to renounce her and separate myself
from her forever. But God was merciful and aided my weakness with His
own strength. Letters came from her, and I had the cruel courage to
read them; I had condemned myself to do it as an expiation, and while
I read her soft complainings, her love-sorrows, I felt in my heart the
same sorrows, the same disconsolate wretchedness; tears streamed from
my eyes, and I flayed my breast with my nails in utter despair! Ah, at
such moments how often did I forget God and my repentance; how often
did I press those letters to my lips and call my beloved by the
tenderest names; my whole soul, my whole being flew to her, and,
forgetting all, all, I wanted to rush to her presence, fall down at
her feet, and be blessed only through her, even if my eternal
salvation was thereby lost! But what was it, what then restrained my
feet, what suddenly arrested those words of insane passion upon my
lips and irresistibly drew me down upon my knees to pray? It was God,
who then announced Himself to me--God, who called me to Himself--God,
who finally gave me strength to understand my love and always leave
her letters unanswered until they finally ceased to come--until her
complaints, which, however, had consoled me, were no longer heard! The
sacrifice was made, God accepted it, my sin was expiated, and I was
glad, for my heart was forever broken, and never, since then, has a
smile of happiness played upon my lips. But in my soul has it become
tranquil and serene, God dwells there, and within me is a peace known
only to those who have struggled and overcome, who have expiated their
sins with a free will and flayed breast."
"And your beloved, what became of her?" asked the cardinal. "Did she
pardon your treason, and console herself in the arms of another?"
"In the arms of death!" said Ganganelli, with a low voice. "My silence
and my apparent forgetfulness of her broke her heart; she died of
grief, but she died like a saint, and her last words were: 'May God
forgive him, as I do! I curse him not, but bless him, rather; for
through him am I released from the burden of this life, and all sorrow
is overcome!' She therefore died in the belief of my unfaithfulness;
she did, indeed, pardon me, but yet she believed me a faithless
betrayer! And the consciousness of this was to me a new torment and a
penance which I shall suffer forever and ever! This is the story of my
love," continued Ganganelli, after a short silence. "I have truly
related it to you as it is. May you, my son, learn from it that, when
we wish to do right, we can always succeed, in spite of our own hearts
and sinful natures, and that with God's help we can overcome all and
suffer all. You see that I have loved, and nevertheless had strength
to renounce. But it was God who gave me this strength, God alone! Turn
you, also, to God; pray to Him to destroy in you your sinful love;
and, if you implore Him with the right words, and with the right
fervor, then will God be near you with His strength, and in the pains
of renunciation will He purify your soul, preparing it for virtue and
all that is good!"
"And do you call that virtue?" asked the cardinal. "May Heaven
preserve me from so cruel a virtue! Do you call it serving God when
this virtue makes you the murderer of your beloved, and, more savage
than a wild beast, deaf to the amorous complaints of a woman whom you
had led into love and sin, whose virtue you sacrificed to your lust,
and whom you afterward deserted because, as you say, God called to
yourself, but really only, because satiated, you no longer desired
her. Your faithfulness cunningly clothes itself in the mantle of
godliness, nothing further. No, no, holy father of Christendom, I envy
you not this virtue which has made you the murderer of God's noblest
work. That is a sacrilege committed in the holy temple of nature. Go
your way, and think yourself great in your bloodthirsty, murderous
virtue! You will not convert me to it. Let me still remain a sinner--
it at least will not lead me to murder the woman I love, and provide
for her torment and suffering, instead of the promised pleasure.
Believe me, Corilla has never yet cursed me, nor have her fine eyes
ever shed a tear of sorrow on my account. You have made your beloved
an unwilling saint and martyr--possibly that may have been very
sublime, and the angels may have wept or rejoiced over it. I have
lavished upon my beloved ones nothing but earthly happiness. I have
not made them saints, but only happy children of this world; and even
when they have ceased to love me, they have always continued to call
me their friend, and blessed me for making them rich and happy. You
have set of crown of thorns upon the head of your beloved, I would
bind a laurel-crown upon the beautiful brow of my Corilla, which will
not wound her head, and will not cause her to die of grief. You are
not willing to aid me in this, my work? You refuse me this laurel-
wreath because you have only martyr-crowns to dispose of? Very well,
holy father of Christendom, I will nevertheless compel you to comply
with my wishes, and you shall have no peace in your holy city from my
mad tricks until you promise me to crown the great improvisatrice in
the capitol. Until then, /addio/, holy father of Christendom. You will
not see me again in the Vatican or Quirinal, but all Rome shall ring
with news of me!"
With a slight salutation, and without waiting for an answer from the
pope, the cardinal departed with hasty steps, and soon his herculean
form disappeared in the shadow of the pine and olive trees. But his
loud and scornful laugh long resounded in the distance.
THE POPE'S RECREATION HOUR
The pope followed his retreating form with a glance of sadness and a
shake of the head.
"He is past help," murmured he; "he runs to his ruin, and the voice of
warning is unheeded. But how, if he should happen to be right? How, if
he with his worldly wisdom and his theory of earthly happiness, should
be more conformable to the will of God than we with our virtue and our
doctrine of renunciation? Ah, yes, the world is so beautiful, it seems
made entirely for pleasure and enjoyment, and yet men wander through
it with tearful eyes, disregarding its beauty, and refusing to share
its pleasures. All, except man, is free on earth. He alone lies in
constraining bands, and his heart bleeds while all creation rejoices.
No, no, that cannot be; every individual does what he can to render
mankind free and happy, and I also will do my part. God has laid great
power in my hand, and I will use it so long as it is mine."
Thus speaking, the pope left the garden, and hastened up to his study.
"Signor Galiandro," said he, to his private secretary, "did you not
speak to me to-day of several petitions received, in which people
begged for dispensations from monk and cloister vows?"
Signor Galiandro smilingly rummaged among a mass of papers that
covered the pope's writing-table.
"In the last four weeks some fifty such petitions have been received.
Since your holiness has released several monks and nuns from their
vows, all these pious brides of Christ and these consecrated priests
seem to have tired of their cloister life, and long to be out in the
"Whoever does not freely and willingly remain in the house of the
Lord, we will not retain them," said Ganganelli. "Compelled service of
the Lord is no service, and the prayer of the lips without the
concurrence of the heart is null! Give me all these petitions that I
may grant them! The love of the world is awakened in these monks and
nuns, and we will give back to the world what belongs to the world.
With their resisting and struggling hearts they will make but bad
priests and nuns; perhaps it will be better for them to become
founders of families. And they who honestly do their duty, equally
serve God, whether they are in a cloister or in the bosoms of their
The pope seated himself at his writing-table, and after having
carefully examined all the petitions for dispensations, signed his
consent, and smilingly handed them back to his secretary.
"I hope we have here made some people happy," said he, rising, "and
therefore it may, perhaps, be allowed us also to be happy in our own
way for a quarter of an hour."
He lightly touched the silver bell suspended over his writing-table,
and at the immediately opened door appeared the pleasant and well-
nourished face of brother Lorenzo, the Franciscan monk, who performed
the whole service of the pope.
"Lorenzo," said Ganganelli, with a smile, "let us go down into the
poultry-yard. You must show me the young chickens of which you told me
yesterday. And hear, would it be asking too much to beg of you to
bring my dinner into the garden?"
"I would that you could ask too much," said brother Lorenzo, waddling
after his master, who was descending the stairs leading to the court-
yard. "I really wish, your holiness, that it were asking too much, for
then your dinner would be at least a little more desirable and heavier
to transport! Was such a thing ever heard of? the father of
Christianity keeps a table like that of the poorest begging monk, and
is satisfied with milk, fruit, bread, and vegetables, while the
fattest of capons and ducks are crammed in vain for him, and his
cellar is replete with the most generous wines."
"Well, well, scold not," said Ganganelli, smiling; "have we not for
years felt ourselves well in the Franciscan cloister, it never once
occurring to us to wish ourselves better off! Why should I now quit
the habits of years and accustom myself to other usages? When I was
yet a Franciscan monk, I always had, thanks to our simple manner of
living, a very healthy stomach, and would you have me spoil it now,
merely because I have become pope? It has always remained the same
human body, Lorenzo, and all the rest is only falsehood and fraud! How
few years is it since you and I were in the cloister, and you served
the poor Franciscan monk as a lay brother! You then called me brother
Clement, and they all did the same, and now you no longer call me
brother, but holy father! How can your brother of yesterday be your
father of to-day? We are here alone, Lorenzo; nobody sees or hears us.
We would for once cease to be holy father, and for a quarter of an
hour become again brother Clement."
"Ahem! it was not so bad there," simpered Lorenzo. "It was yet very
pleasant in our dear cloister, and I often think, brother, that you
were far happier then than now, when every one falls upon his knees to
kiss your slipper. It must be very dull to be always holy, always so
great and sublime, and always revered and adored!"
"Therefore let us go to our ducks and hens," said the pope. "The
people have made a bugbear of me, before which they fall upon the
earth. But the good animals, who understand nothing of these things,
they cackle and grunt, and gabble at me, as if I were nothing but a
common goose-herd and by no means the sainted father of Christendom!
Come, come to my dear brutes, who are so frank and sincere that they
cackle and gabble directly in my face as soon as their beaks and
snouts are grown. They are not so humble and devoted, so adoring and
cringing, as these men who prostrate themselves before me with humble
and hypocritical devotion, but who secretly curse me and wish my
death, that there may be a change in the papacy! Come, come, to our
Brother Lorenzo handed to the pope the willow basket filled with corn
and green leaves, and both, with hasty steps and laughing faces,
betook themselves to the poultry-yard; the ducks and geese fluttered
to them with a noisy gabbling as soon as they caught sight of the
provender-basket, and Ganganelli laughingly said: "It seems as if I
were here in the conclave, and listening to the contention of the
cardinals as they quarrel about the choice of a new pope. Lorenzo, I
should well like to know who will succeed me in the sacred chair and
hold the keys of St. Peter! That will be a stormy conclave!--Be quiet,
my dear ducks and geese! Indeed, you are in the right, I forgot my
duty! Well, well, I will give you your food now--here it is!"
And the pope with full hands strewed the corn among the impatiently
gabbling geese, and heartily laughed at the eagerness with which they
threw themselves upon it.
"And is it not with men as with these dear animals?" said he,
laughing; "When one satisfies them with food, they become silent,
mild, and gentle. Princes should always remember that, and before all
things satiate their subjects with food, if they would have a tranquil
and unopposed government! Ah, that reminds me of our own poor,
Lorenzo! Many petitions have been received, much misery has been
described, and many heart-rending complaints have been made to me!"
"That is because they know you are always giving and would rather
suffer want yourself than refuse gifts to others," growled Lorenzo.
"Hardly half the month is past, and we are already near the end of our
"Already?" exclaimed the pope, with alarm. "And I believe I yet need
much money. There is a father of fourteen children who has fallen from
a scaffolding and broken both legs. We must care for him, Lorenzo; the
children must not want for bread!"
"That is understood, that is Christian duty," said Lorenzo, eagerly.
"Give me the address, I will go to him yet to-day! And how much money
shall I take with me?"
"Well, I thought," timidly responded Ganganelli, "that five scudi
would not be too much!"
Lorenzo compassionately shrugged his shoulders. "You can never learn
the value of money," said he; "I am now to take /five/ scudi to these
"Is it not enough?" joyfully asked Ganganelli. "Well, I thank God that
you are so disposed! I only feared you would refuse me so much,
because my treasury, as you say, is already empty. But if we have
something left, give much, much more! At least a hundred scudi,
"That is always the way with you; from extreme to extreme!" grumbled
Lorenzo. "First too little, then too much! I shall take to them twenty
scudi, and that will be sufficient!"
"Give them thirty," begged Ganganelli, "do you hear, thirty, brother
Lorenzo. Thirty scudi is yet a very small sum!"
"Ah, what do you know about money?" answered Lorenzo, laughing; "these
geese here understand the matter better than you, brother Clement."
"Well, it is for that reason I have made you my cashier," laughed
Ganganelli. "A prince will always be well advised when he chooses a
sensible and well-instructed servant for that which he does not
understand himself. To acknowledge his ignorance on the proper
occasion does honor to a prince, and procures him more respect than if
he sought to give himself the appearance of knowing and understanding
everything. Come, Lorenzo, let us go into the garden; you see that
these fowls care nothing for us now; as they are satiated, they
despise our provender. Come, let us go farther!"
"Yes, into the garden!" exclaimed Lorenzo, with a mysterious smile.
"Come, brother Clement, I have prepared a little surprise for you
there! Come and see it!"
And the two old men turned their steps toward the garden.
"Follow me," said Lorenzo, preceding the pope, and leading him to a
more solitary and better screened part of the garden. "Now stoop a
little and creep through here, and then we are at the place."
The pope carefully followed the directions of his leader, and worked
his way through the obstruction of the myrtle-bushes until he arrived
at a small circular place, in the centre of which, shaded by tall
olive-trees, was a turf-seat surrounded by tendrils of ivy, and before
which was a small table of wood, yet retaining its natural covering of
"See, this is my surprise!" said Lorenzo.
Ganganelli stood silent and motionless, with folded hands. A deep
emotion was visible in his gentle mien, and tears rolled slowly down
over his cheeks.
"Well, is it not well copied, and true to nature?" asked Lorenzo,
whose eyes beamed with satisfaction.
"My favorite spot in the garden of the Franciscan convent!" said
Ganganelli in a tone trembling with emotion. "Yes, yes, Lorenzo, you
have represented it exactly, you know well enough what gives me
pleasure! Accept my thanks, my dear good brother."
And, while giving his hand to the monk, his eye wandered with gentle
delight over the place, with its beautiful trees and green reposing
bank, and thoughtfully rested upon each individual object.
"So was it," he murmured low, "precisely so; yes, yes, in this place
have I passed my fairest and most precious hours; what have I not
thought and dreamed as a youth and as a man, how many wishes, how many
hopes have there thrilled my bosom, and how few of them have been
"But one thing has been realized," said Lorenzo, "greater than all you
could have dreamed or hoped! Who would ever have thought it possible
that the poor, unknown Franciscan monk would become the greatest and
most sublime prince in the whole world, the father of all Christendom?
That is, indeed, a happiness that brother Clement, upon his grass-bank
in the Franciscan convent, could never have expected!"
"You, then, consider it a happiness," said Ganganelli, slowly letting
himself down upon the grass-bank. "Yes, yes, such are you good human
beings! wherever there is a little bit of show, a little bit of
outward splendor, you immediately conclude that there is great
happiness. This proves that you see only the outward form, paying no
regard to what is concealed under that form, and which is often very
bitter. Believe me, Lorenzo, in these times there is no very great
happiness in being pope and the so-called father of Christendom. The
princes have become very troublesome and disobedient children; they
are no longer willing to recognize our paternal authority, and if the
holy father does not manifest a complaisant friendliness toward these
refractory princely children, and wink at their independence, they
will renounce the whole connection and quit the paternal mansion. We
should then, indeed, be the holy father of Christendom, but no longer
have any children under the paternal authority! For having so
expressed myself, I shall never be pardoned by the cardinals and
princes of the Church; it has made them my deadly enemies, and yet it
is with these principles alone that I have succeeded in bringing the
refractory Portuguese court again under my parental control!
"But here in this pleasant place let us dismiss such unpleasant
thoughts," the pope more cheerfully continued, after a pause. "Here I
will forget that I am pope; here I will never be anything more than
brother Clement of the Franciscan convent, nor shall the cares and
troubles of the pope, nor his holiness or infallibility, accompany him
to this dear quiet place. Here I will only be a man, and forgetting my
cramping highness and my forced splendor, will here right humanly
enjoy the sun and this soft green grass, and in deep draughts inhale
this sweet balsamic air. Ah, how happy one may yet be if he can for a
moment escape from the envelope of dignity by which he is kept a
chrysalis, and freely exercise the butterfly wings of manhood! And
hear me for once, brother Lorenzo, so very human has your pope here
become, that he feels a right fresh human appetite. If all here is as
it used to be at the convent, then must you have something to appease
Brother Lorenzo nodded with a sly smile. Stepping to the side of the
grassy bank, and slipping aside a small door concealed by the grass,
he disclosed a walled excavation, filled with fruits and pastry.
"I see you have forgotten nothing!" joyfully exclaimed Ganganelli,
taking some of the fragrant fruit which Lorenzo tendered him. "Ah, you
make me very happy, Lorenzo."
Saying this, he threw his arm around Lorenzo's neck, and silently
pressed him to his bosom.
Brother Lorenzo was equally silent, but he no longer laughed; his
usually cheerful face assumed a wonderfully clear and pleased
expression, and two large tears rolled down over his cheek--but they
were tears of joy.
An approaching bustling, a vehement calling and screaming, disturbed
the two old men. It was Lorenzo who was called, and he quickly glided
through the bushes to look after the cause of this disturbance. But
soon he returned with a melancholy face and depressed mien.
"Brother Clement," said he, "it is already all over with our
enjoyment, which has been so great for me that I forgot to remind you
that the pope cannot neglect the hour in which he gives audience. That
hour has now come, and your anteroom is already filled with princes
"And yet you speak of the great happiness of being pope," said
Ganganelli, rising with a sigh from the grassy bank. "I am not allowed
an hour for recreation, and yet people think--but no," said
Ganganelli, interrupting himself and laughing, "we should not be
ungrateful, and it would be ungrateful for me now to complain. If I
have not had an hour for recreation, well, I have had half an hour,
and even that is much!"
And, beckoning to brother Lorenzo to follow him, the pope crept
through the bushes that separated the place from the more frequented
part of the garden.
As he then walked up the grand alley, his face and his whole form
assumed a very different appearance. The mild friendliness had
vanished from his features, pride and dignity were now expressed by
them, and his tall, erect form had in it something noble and imposing;
it was no longer the stooping form of age, but only that of a somewhat
elderly hero. The brother Clement had been transformed into the prince
of the Church, who was about to receive his vassals.
They now saw a tall, manly form hastening down the alley directly
toward the pope.
"Who is it?" asked Ganganelli, half turning toward Lorenzo, who was
"It is Juan Angelo Braschi, the former treasurer, to whom you
yesterday sent the cardinal's hat."
"Ah, the beautiful Braschi," sadly murmured Ganganelli. "The beloved
of the favorite of my nephew, of the Cardinal Rezzonico. Ah, how bad
the world is!"
In fact, he whom Ganganelli called the "beautiful" Braschi, well
deserved that epithet. No nobler or more plastic beauty was to be
seen; no face that more reminded one of the divine beauty of ancient
sculpture, no form that could be called a better counterfeit of the
Belvedere Apollo. And it was this beauty which liberal Nature had
imparted to him as its noblest gift, which helped Juan Angelo Braschi,
the son of a poor nobleman of Cesara, to his good fortune, his highest
offices and dignities. Not for his merits, but solely for his beauty,
did the women bestow upon him their love; and as among these women
there were some who exercised an important influence upon powerful
cardinals, Braschi had quickly mounted from step to step, crowding
aside those who had nothing but their merits and services to speak for
With a free and noble demeanor, Braschi now approached the pope, who
remained standing at some distance awaiting him, with a calm and proud
self-possession. Braschi dropped upon one knee, and pressing the hem
of the pope's garment in his lips, said:
"Pardon me, most holy father, that I have ventured to seek you here.
But my lively gratitude would not be longer restrained. It impelled me
toward you with the wings of the wind. I must be the first to fall at
your feet to stammer out to you my inexpressible thanks."
Proudly nodding his head the pope motioned him to rise.
"It is well," said he, "and you have lent your gratitude an abundance
of words. It is true you were only treasurer, and I have permitted you
to take a great step in making you a cardinal. But remember, my lord
cardinal, that I have promoted you only because I wished to take from
you the office of treasurer, as I need a man for that post whose
honesty no one could call in question!"
Thus speaking he passed on with a ceremonious salutation, leaving the
new cardinal rooted to the earth with terror, his beautiful brow
distorted with rage.
"He shall expiate that," muttered Braschi, gnashing his teeth, as the
pope slowly pursued his way. "By the Eternal, the proud Franciscan
shall expiate that! Ah, the day will come when he will fully remember
Meantime, Ganganelli wandered calmly on, followed by his faithful
Lorenzo, with a smile of joy at this dismissal and humiliation of the
proud and handsome Cardinal Braschi.
The pope suddenly stopped, and turning to Lorenzo said:
"What a strange thought has passed through my head! I have made this
miserable coxcomb Braschi a cardinal because he was not honest enough
for a treasurer, but in doing so I have paved the way for him to the
papal throne! Would it not be strange, Lorenzo, if I have thus myself
provided my successor? His dishonesty and intriguing disposition has
made him a cardinal. Why can it not also make him a pope? The world is
indeed so strange!"[*]
[*] Juan Angelo Braschi, whom Pope Clement XIV. made a cardinal, was
in fact Ganganelli's successor, and took possession of the papal
chair as Pius VI. He was chosen after a very stormy conclave and
indeed the different parties voted for him on the ground that he
belonged to no party, and because they thought he was so very much
occupied with his own beauty that he would think of nothing else,
and, while occupied with the care of his face, would leave the
cares of state to others.
"What dreams those are," murmured Lorenzo, shrugging his shoulders;
"the idea that a Braschi could be the successor of the noble
Many cardinals and princes of the Church, many noblemen and foreign
ambassadors, were assembled in the pope's audience-room, and as
Ganganelli entered, they all received him with joyful acclamations,
and humbly fell upon their knees before the head of the church, the
vicegerent of God, who, with solemn majesty, bestowed upon them his
blessing, and then condescendingly conversed with them. That was a
ceremony to which the pope was obliged to subject himself once a week,
and which he reckoned as not one of the least of the troubles
attendant upon his exalted position. Hence he was well pleased when
this hour was over, and he at length was relieved of the presence of
all these eulogistic and flattering gentlemen.
Only Cardinal Bernis had remained behind, and to him Ganganelli,
giving him his hand, and drawing a deep breath, said:
"What a mass of false and hypocritical phrases we have again been
obliged to swallow! These cardinals have the impudence to speak to me
of their love and veneration; they do not hesitate so to lie with the
same lips which to-day have already pronounced blessings and pious
words of edification! But let us forget these hypocrites. Business is
over, and it is kind of you to come and chat with me for one little
hour. You know I love you very much, my good friend Bernis, although
you do pay homage to the heathen divinities, and, as a real renegade,
have constituted yourself a priest of the muses."
"Ah, you speak of my youthful sins," said the cardinal, smiling. "They
are long since past, and sleep with my youthful happiness."
"That must be a wide bed which enables them all to find place side by
side," responded Ganganelli, laughing, and holding up his forefinger
threateningly to the cardinal.
"But what is that you are drawing from your breast-pocket with such an
"A letter from the Marquise de Pompadour, holy father," seriously
replied the cardinal--"a letter in which I am commanded to communicate
to you, the father of Christendom, the acquiescence of France in your
proposed abolition of the order of the Jesuits. Here is a private
letter addressed to me by the marquise, and here the official letter
signed by King Louis, which is destined for your holiness."
The pope took the papers, and while he was reading them his face
turned deadly pale, and a dark cloud gathered upon his brow.
"France also acquiesces," said he, when he had finished the reading.
"How is it, then--were you not yourself against the abolition of the
order, and were you not in accordance with the Spanish ambassador,
your friend of many years?"
"This friendship of many years is to-day destroyed by a fish, and
drives us a helpless wreck upon the wildly-rolling waves," said the
cardinal, shrugging his shoulders.
Ganganelli paid no attention to him. Serious and thoughtful, he walked
up and down the room, while his heavenward-directed eye seemed to
address a great and all-important question to the Being there above,
which received no answer.
"I clearly see how it will be," finally murmured the pope, as if
talking to himself. "I shall complete the work I have begun--it is God
Himself who has opened the way for it, but this way will at the same
time lead me to my grave."
"What dark thoughts are these?" said Bernis, approaching him. "This
bold and high-hearted resolution will not bring you death, but fame
"It will at least lead me to immortality," said the pope, with a faint
smile. "The dead are all immortal. but think not so little of me as to
suppose I would now timidly shrink from doing that which I have once
recognized as right and necessary. Only there are necessities of a
very painful and dreadful kind. Such a necessity is war. And is it not
a war that I commence, and does it not involve the destruction of all
those thousands who call themselves the followers of Loyola, and
belong to the Society of Jesus? Ah, believe me, this Society of Jesus
is a hydra, and we shall never succeed in entirely extirpating it. I
may now separate my own head from my body; but a day will come when
the head of this hydra will have grown again, and when it will rise
from the dead with renewed vitality, while I shall be mouldering in my
grave. Say not, therefore, that I know not how to destroy them, and if
you do say it, at least add that I lacked not the will, but that I
gave for it my own life."
Thus speaking, the pope slightly nodded an adieu to the cardinal, and
withdrew into his study, the door of which he carefully closed after
There was he long heard to walk the room with measured steps. Then all
was still. No one ventured to disturb him. Hours passed. Lorenzo, with
a fearful presentiment, knelt before the door. He laid his ear to the
keyhole and tried to listen. All was still within, nothing stirred. At
length he ventured to call the pope's name--at first low and
tremulously, then louder and more anxiously, and as no answer was
received, he at last ventured to open the door.
At his writing-table sat the pope; his face deadly pale, with staring
eyes and great drops of perspiration on his forehead. Immovable sat he
there, his right hand, which held a pen, resting on a parchment lying
upon the table before him.
Like an image of wax, so stiff, so motionless was he, that Lorenzo,
shuddering, made the sign of the cross upon his brow. Then,
noiselessly advancing, he timidly and anxiously touched the pope's
shoulder. Ganganelli shuddered, and a slight trembling pervaded his
members; he then drew a long breath, and, casting a dull glance at his
faithful friend, said:
"Lorenzo, let my coffin be ordered, and pray for my soul. I have just
now signed my own death-sentence. See, there it lies. I have signed
the decree abolishing the order of the Jesuits! I must therefore die,
Lorenzo. It is all over and past with our shady place and our
recreations. My murderers are already prowling around me, for I tell
you I have myself signed my death-sentence!"
THE FESTIVAL OF CARDINAL BERNIS
And this day of the festival had finally come. With what joyful
impatience, with what anxious desire, had Natalie looked forward to it
--how had she importuned her friend, Count Paulo, with questions about
Cardinal Bernis, about the people she would meet there, about the
manners and usages with which she would have to conform!
"I am anxious and fearful," said she, with amiable modesty; "they will
find occasion to laugh at me, and you will be compelled to blush for
me, Paulo. But you must tell these wise men and great ladies that it
is my very first appearance in society, and that they must have
consideration for the awkwardness and ineptitude of a poor child who
knows nothing of the world, its forms, or its laws."
"For you no excuse will be necessary," responded Paulo, pressing the
delicate tips of her fingers to his lips. "Only be quite yourself,
perfectly true and open, inoffensive and cheerful! Forget that you are
in an assemblage; imagine yourself to be in our garden, under the
trees and among the flowers, and speak to people as you speak to your
trees and flowers."
"But will the people give me as true and cordial answers as my trees
and flowers?" asked Natalie, thoughtfully.
"They will say to you more beautiful and more flattering things," said
Paulo, smiling. "But now, Natalie, it is time to be thinking of your
toilet. See, the sun is already sinking behind the pines, and the sky
begins to redden! The time to go will soon arrive, and your first
triumph awaits you!"
"Oh, it will not have long to wait," said Natalie, laughing, and,
light and graceful as a gazelle, she tripped to the house.
Count Paulo gazed after her with a melancholy rapture. "And I am to
leave this angel," thought he, "to lose the brightest and noblest
jewel of my life, and drive myself out of paradise. And wherefore all
this? Perhaps to chase a phantom that will never become a reality, to
follow a chimera which may be only a meteor that dances before me and
dissolves into mist when I think to reach it? No, no, the world is not
worth so much that one should sell himself and his soul's happiness
for its splendor and its greatness. Natalie herself shall decide.
Loves she me, and is she satisfied with the quiet circumscribed
existence that I can henceforth only offer her, then away, ye vain
dreams and ye proud desires for greatness; then shall I be, if not the
greatest, certainly the happiest of human beings!"
It was a wonderfully brilliant festival that Cardinal Bernis had
to-day prepared for his guests--a festival hitherto unequalled in
Rome. The walls were decorated with garlands and festoons of flowers,
the flaming candelabras among which found their reflection in the tall
Venetian mirrors that rose in their golden frames from the floor to
the ceilings; and in the corners of the rooms were niches, here
furnished with orange-trees, and there with heavy silk curtains,
behind which were grottoes adorned with shells, in the midst of which
were fountains where splashed waters rendered fragrant by oil of roses
and other essences. And ever-new surprises, new grottoes and groves in
those rich halls offered themselves to the eyes of the beholders. Now
one suddenly found himself in a quiet boudoir lighted only by a
solitary lamp, where the most artistic engravings and the rarest
drawings were spread out upon a table; then again one entered a hall
sparkling with a thousand lights and resounding with music, where the
gayly-dressed crowd undulated in mazy waves; then again grottoes
opened here and there, or one stepped out through the open doors into
the garden where one could enjoy the balsamic coolness of the evening
in walks brilliantly lighted with colored lamps, or listen to the
music of performers concealed in the shrubbery, or, again, fleeing
from the throng and the lights, seek a resting-place upon some grassy
bank or under some myrtle-bush, whether for solitary musing or for
encircling in sweet and silent familiarity the waist of some chosen
fair one who understanding the stolen glance, had strayed here
But the central point of the festival was the monstrous gigantic hall
which the cardinal had caused to be erected in the centre of the
garden expressly for this occasion. The walls of muslin and flowers
were held together by more than a hundred gilded pillars, the
girandoles attached to each of which diffused a sea of light. Silken
carpets covered the floor, and the /plafond/ of this gigantic hall was
formed by the thousand-starred arch of heaven. Here, also, niches and
grottoes were everywhere to be found; in them one could, in the midst
of the constantly moving and noisy crowd, enjoy quiet and repose.
Only one of these niches was inaccessible, as it appears, to the
company, and yet it was precisely this which excited the curiosity of
all, and which all, whispering, approached, anxious to get a peep
behind the closed thick silken curtains, before which two richly
gallooned servants of the cardinal walked back and forth with solemn
earnestness, but respectfully requesting every one to comply with the
cardinal's wishes and not approach the mysterious drapery, but await
his own time for the solution of the enigma! A few steps led up to
this closed and covered niche; these steps were strewed with roses,
that was plainly seen; but, to what did these steps lead, and what was
thus carefully concealed?
A precious surprise, certainly, for it was the forte of the cardinal
to prepare surprises for the agreeable entertainment of his guests.
The ladies and gentlemen, the cardinals and princes of the Church,
crowded around him begging for an explanation of the mystery, a
disclosure of the secret.
"I am myself uninitiated," said Cardinal Bernis, laughing; "some
divinity may have taken a seat there, or perhaps it is a sphinx which
will from thence give us the solution of her enigma. But let us see
what belated guests are now coming to us."
And the cardinal with zealous precipitation approached the principal
entrance to the hall, the /portieres/ of which had just been drawn
aside, and behind was seen Natalie at the hand of Paulo.
As if blinded by the sudden flood of light, she stood for a moment
still, a purple glow flushing her delicate cheeks, and clinging to
Paulo's arms, she whispered: "Protect me, Paulo, I am so frightened by
Just at that moment the doorkeeper cried with a loud voice: "Princess
Natalie Tartaroff and Count Paulo!"
At the sound of these strange names all glanced toward the door, and
all flaming, curious, prying eyes were fixed with astonishment and
admiration upon the young maiden.
But Natalie did not remark it. She glanced at Paulo with a glad smile,
and a proud happiness beamed from her features. She had, then, a name;
she was no longer an abandoned, nameless orphan. At length the enigma
of her birth was solved, and what she had so often prayed for, Count
Paulo had vouchsafed her as a surprise to-day.
He had at the same time announced her name to herself and the world,
and she not only had a name, but she was a princess; she took a rank
in the company, and Count Paulo and Carlo had no reason to be ashamed
of her. But where was Carlo? At the thought of him this feeling of
effervescing pride vanished from the young maiden's heart; she even
forgot that she was a princess, to remember only that Carlo, her
music-teacher, had promised her to be present at this festival, and to
wonder that she could not discover him in this gay and confused
She did not remark that, since her appearance, a deep stillness had
supervened in the hall, that all eyes were upon her, that people
secretly whispered to each other, and gave utterance to murmured
expressions of astonishment and delight; she saw not how the beauties
here and there turned pale and indignantly bit their proud lips; she
saw not how the eyes of the men glowed and flashed, and what eagerly
lusting glances the cardinals and princes of the Church cast upon her.
She was so unconstrained, this charming child, she knew not how
handsome she was. But she was to-day of a wonderfully touching beauty.
Like a white and delicate lily stood she there in the heavy white
satin robe that enveloped her graceful form, and the brilliants that
adorned her hair, neck, and arms, shone and sparkled like sun-lighted
dew-drops in the calyx of the flower. So beautiful was she that even
Cardinal Bernis stood speechless and as if blinded before her, finding
no expression for his joyful surprise and astonishment.
"Oh," at length he smilingly said, with a low bow, "I shall have to
quarrel with Count Paulo! He promised us the presence of a mortal
woman, and now he leads into our circle a divinity who must look down
upon us poor human beings with a smile of contempt."
Natalie smiled. "I know," said she, with her clear, sweet, childish
voice--"I know that Cardinal Bernis is a poet, and therefore it will
not be very difficult for him to change a young maiden into a
divinity. Nor is this the first time he has done so! I remember a
lovely poem of his, the complaint of a shepherd, who considers the
object of his love a divinity because she is so beautiful, and at last
she proves to be no divinity, but on the contrary a regular little
quarrelsome wrangler, who has nothing beautiful about her but her
hands and face. Take care, cardinal, that it does not prove with you
and me as with the shepherd in your charming poem!"
She said that with such childish ingenuousness, and in so cheerful and
jesting a tone, that the cardinal listened to her as if intoxicated,
and with unconcealed admiration he looked into that delicate,
childishly pure face, over which no trace of sorrow nor any sign of
care had ever yet passed.
Without answering, he took her arm, and, beckoning Count Paulo to his
side, led the princess to the circle of ladies.
Behind those closed curtains that still concealed the mysterious niche
it had meanwhile become stirring. Busy servants hastened hither and
thither, lighting the lamps and arranging the festoons and draperies.
It seems they had here erected a little stage, and the large wall-
picture that formed the background of this stage bore the appearance
of a decoration. A side curtain, serving as a partition, formed a
second room, which seemed destined for a sort of greenroom, in the
centre of which was a large and well-lighted mirror, and before it
stood a young woman regarding herself with the greatest attention,
here plucking at her dress and there arranging her train or an
ornament. She was evidently the one who was to appear upon the stage;
her costume betrayed it. It was not the fashionable costume of the
day, such as was worn by the distinguished ladies of Roman society; it
was an ideal Greek dress that seemed to have been made for the purpose
of displaying and rendering yet more voluptuous and enticing the great
beauty of the wearer.
She was very beautiful, this woman, with her sparkling black eyes and
dark shining hair, which had been gathered into a Grecian knot behind
--beautiful, with the laurel-wreath resting upon her high forehead--
beautiful, in the transparent Grecian robe which only so far concealed
the luxuriant forms of her full figure as to allow them to be divined
--beautiful, with those full, round, and entirely uncovered arms, with
their jewelled bracelets--beautiful, with her graceful neck, her fully
exposed, naked shoulders, and her voluptuously swelling bosom.
She was, in her appearance, a Greek, only her face was not Grecian. It
was wanting in the noble forms, the still cheerfulness and repose of
Grecian beauty, modest even in its voluptuousness. It was only the
face of a sensual and passionate Roman woman, and no Lais would have
ventured such a smile as played upon the dark-red lips of this Roman
woman, or such glowing glances as she shot like arrows from her dark
Standing before the glass, she viewed herself, her lips murmuring low
words, occasionally turning her eyes from the mirror to the little
table standing near it, upon which lay several open books.
What murmured she, and what read she in those books? Singular! she was
uttering single, isolated, unconnected words, which had nothing in
common with each other but the sound of melody; they were rhymes, but
without connection or sense, without inward mental correlation.
"So," she now said to herself, with a satisfied smile, "I am now
perfectly armed and prepared. All these rhymes ready for use, and I
have not to fear embarrassment in repeating any of them. Ah, they
shall admire me, these good Romans. I will animate and inflame them,
and excite all my enamored cardinals to such an ecstasy that they must
finally prevail upon the silly, obstinate old pope against his own
will to fulfil my only desire. I will attain my end, even if I am
compelled to pawn my honor and my salvation for it! Bah! honor; what
can honor be to a woman? Beauty is our honor, further nothing! And
fair, it seems to me, I yet am! And if I am fair," she more glowingly
continued, after a pause, "how comes it that Carlo has ceased to love
me? Ah, the false one, to betray and desert me when I love him most!"
A dark flush of anger now overspread her cheeks, and threateningly
raising her hands, with compressed lips she continued: "And to desert
me for another woman--me, the pride and delight of all Rome; me, whom
all the princes and cardinals worship! Ah, while thousands lie at my
feet, imploring for a glance or a smile, this little, unknown singer
dares to scorn me and deride my love!"
"And why should he not dare it?" asked a voice behind her, and the
face of a young man became visible.
"Carlo!" she cried, hastening to meet him with outspread arms.
He almost ungently checked her. "You forget," said he, "that this
little, insignificant, and unknown singer loves you no longer,
Corilla! Grant, then, henceforth to the thousands who languish at your
feet a few of your enticing smiles and glowing glances--I have nothing
against it, and am not at all jealous!"
"But you should be!" cried she, stamping her feet with rage. "I tell
you I will not suffer you to leave me; I will be loved by you, and no
one shall you dare to look at, and no one shall you dare to love, but
Carlo broke out into a scornful laugh, and then seriously and proudly
said: "I am a Neapolitan, and with us men do not allow themselves to
be constrained to love, and no woman there dares utter the command,
'Thou shalt love me!'--I will not, Signora Corilla!"
"You will not!" screamed she, gnashing her teeth. "Then woe to you and
"I fear no serpents!" said Carlo, laughing, "and if an adder attempts
to sting me, I tread it under foot!"
"But fear at least for her you love!" she threateningly said. "Oh, you
think I shall not be able to discover this secret love of yours, and
not spy out this new divinity to whom you have consecrated your heart?
Tremble therefore now, for I know her! I know the garden in which she
lives, and there is a place in the wall just opposite her favorite
seat; whoever knows that place and possesses a steady hand and a sharp
dagger will know how to hurl it so as to pierce her bosom."
Carlo felt a deadly terror, he felt his heart stand still, but he
collected himself and said, with a contemptuous smile: "Cardinal
Francesco Albani indeed possesses among his /bravi/ many such skilful
hands, and surely it will not require many of your highly-prized
glances to induce him to favor you with the loan of one of them."
The signora slightly bit her lips. "You mock me," she almost sadly
said, "and yet you should remember that it is only love that makes me
so savage and fills my heart with a thirst for vengeance! Carlo, I so
warmly love you!"
And the beautiful, glowing woman humbly and imploringly bent before
The latter laughingly said: "How well you know how to say that--with
what variations and modulations! I yesterday heard you say the same to
Cardinal Albani; to be sure, it sounded a little different, but not
less warm and glowing!"
"You know why I do that!" said she. "He is an enamored fool, whom I
would win with tender words that I may make him my instrument. You
know the object for which I strive, and which I must attain at any
price! Ah, Carlo, when once they have crowned me in the capitol, then,
I am sure, you will be compelled to love me again!"
"Never again!" he harshly and roughly said.
"Is that your last word?" shrieked she, with flashing eyes and the
wild rage of a tigress.
"It is my last word!"
She flew to him like a mad person, seized his hands and fixedly stared
him in the face.
"Ungrateful!" said she, gnashing her teeth. "Is it thus you reward my
love, is this your return for all I have done for you? Can you forget
that it was I who withdrew you from poverty and baseness? What were
you but a poor, unnoticed singer in the streets, on whom people
bestowed scanty alms? Was it not I who rescued you from that shame,
and clothed you and gave you a home? Was it not I who gave you a name
and procured you consideration and respect by making you my singer and
companion, and allowing you to play upon the harp at my
improvisations? How has not all Rome admired you when you sang the
canzones I wrote for you, thereby procuring you honor and
respectability, and making you a popular man from a low beggar? Go,
you cannot leave me, for you are my creature, my property!"
He wildly thrust her aside, and his eyes flashed with indignation.
"Signora," said he, his lips tremulous with rage, "you have rent the
last band that bound me to you, and in twitting me of your benefits
you have annihilated them! We now have nothing in common with each
other, except perhaps mutual hatred, and that, I hope, will have a
longer duration than our love!"
And Carlo turned toward the door. Corilla rushed after him with an
exclamation of terror.
"You will leave me now!" cried she, with anguish, "now, in this hour
when you are so indispensable to me? now, when I am to celebrate a new
triumph before this notable assembly? when all eyes are expectantly
turned to the curtain behind which I am to appear? No, no, Carlo, from
compassion remain with me only one hour, only this evening!"
Carlo smiled contemptuously. "I will remain," said he, "for I have
promised /her/ that she shall hear you!"
"She has therefore come?" cried Corilla, with an outburst of joy.
"She is now here," he laconically said.
Corilla no longer listened to him, she walked back and forth with a
triumphant mien, a cruel, malicious smile playing upon her lips.
At this moment there was a slight knock at the door, which was opened,
and a man who appeared upon the threshold glanced into the room with a
Corilla gave him a sign, and at the same time pointed at Carlo, who,
having his back toward her, seemed to have no suspicion of what was
occurring behind him. But he saw it, nevertheless, in the tall mirror
that stood in the middle of the room; he saw Corilla make signs of
intelligence with that man who was in the livery of Cardinal Francesco
Albani; he saw the man make answer with his fingers, and then draw
forth a dagger, which he threateningly swung over his head.
Oh, Carlo had very well understood what that man said, as he also did
that language of the fingers, this much-used language of the Romans
The man had said: "She is here, that beautiful lady! She can no longer
"You will strike her?" had Corilla asked.
The man had swung the dagger over his head and held up two fingers of
his right hand. That signified: "In two hours she will be dead."
"Good! you shall be satisfied with me," had been Corilla's answer.
The door was again closed. Corilla turned smiling to Carlo, her former
rancor seemed to have vanished; she was in high spirits.
"Carlo," said she, "how good you are not to leave me! Let us now
begin. I feel myself glowing with inspiration. Ah, I shall enrapture
these good Romans, I think!"
"How long will this improvisation last?" Carlo gruffly asked.
"Well, one or two hours, according to the delight we give our public."
"If this farce continues longer than an hour and a half, I shall throw
down my harp and go away," said Carlo, in a tone of severity. "I swear
it to you by the spirit of my mother! Remember it; I shall show you
the time every quarter of an hour."
"You are a tyrant," said she, laughing. "But I suppose I must submit.
Give, therefore, the signal that we are ready."
All the guests of the cardinal were assembled in the gigantic hall,
and all eyes were anxiously bent upon the mysterious curtain, which
still remained closed.
Now resounded a little bell, and Cardinal Bernis smilingly turned to
Natalie, who sat by his side.
"I think this mystery is about to be unveiled," said he.
"And I am quite anxious about it," said the young maiden, gracefully
laying her hand upon her heart. My heart beats as violently as if a
mystery were about to be unveiled in my own breast. Do you believe in
presentiments, Sir Cardinal?"
Bernis had not time to answer her. Just at that moment the curtain
drew up, a general "Ah!" of admiration was heard, and, suddenly
carried away by their feelings, the whole audience broke into
extravagant and long-enduring applause, crying and shouting, "/Evviva
Corilla! l'improvisatrice Corilla!/"
And in fact it was an admirable picture which was there presented to
the audience. Those flower-strewed steps led up to an altar, upon the
centre of which, between wreaths of flowers, shot up two dark-red
flames. Against that altar leaned, exalted and august as a Grecian
priestess, the improvisatrice Corilla. Her eyes raised to the heavens,
her features lighted up with a rosy glow by the red flames, her half-
raised right arm resting upon an urn, while her left arm was stretched
upward toward heaven, she thus resembled an inspired priestess, just
receiving a message from on high, listening with ecstasy, with
suppressed breath and parted lips, to the voice of the Deity, and
forgetting the world in a blissful intoxication, she seemed about to
take her flight to the empyrean!
And while Corilla, as if absorbed in spiritual contemplation,
continued to stand immovable there, began the low notes of a harp,
which, gradually becoming fuller and stronger, at length resounded in
powerfully rushing and exultant tones. From Corilla all eyes were now
turned upon Carlo, who, in the light dress of a Greek youth, his harp
upon his arm, was leaning against a pomegranate tree placed in the
background of the stage, and with his pale, serious face, with his
noble, manly features, formed a beautiful contrast to the inspired and
love-beaming priestess Corilla.
Natalie, feeling something like a slight puncture in her heart,
involuntarily carried her hand to her bosom. It was a strange, a
wonderful feeling, which stirred within her, partly partaking of joy
at seeing and hearing her friend Carlo, as people were murmuring
praises of his beauty, and of his great skill upon the harp, and
partly a feeling of painful emotion. She knew not why, but as her
glance met his, it quickly turned toward Corilla, and quite sadly she
said to herself: "She is much handsomer than I!"
Carlo now opened his lips, and to a beautifully simple melody he
sweetly sang an introductory song, as it were to prepare the audience
for the coming solemnity. Having finished this, two lovely
/amourettes/ came forward, with silver vases in their hands, and
hastened down the steps to the audience, politely requesting them to
furnish themes for the great improvisatrice Corilla.
Then, returning to the altar, they threw into the urn the small scraps
of paper on which the guests has proposed themes. The harp again
resounded, and with a solemn earnestness, her face and glance still
directed upward, Corilla drew one of the little strips of paper from
the urn. Accident, or perhaps her own dexterity, had favored her.
"Sappho's lament before throwing herself from the rocks"--that was the
Corilla's face immediately took an expression of sadness; her eyes
flashed with an unnatural fire; her previously raised arm fell
powerless by her side; her head, like a broken rose, sank upon her
breast; her other hand convulsively grasped the urn, and in this
position she in fact resembled an abandoned mourner, weeping over the
ashes of her lost happiness. She was now the repudiated and forsaken
one who, ready to resign her life, was brooding upon thoughts of
death. And while her face took this expression, and she, staring upon
the earth before her, seemed to be meditating upon irremediable fate,
thought Corilla: "This is a charming theme which the good Cardinal
Albani has thrown into the urn for me. I found it directly by the
small pin which, according to his promise, he inserted in the paper.
This cardinal is an agreeable imp, and I must give him a kiss for his
complaisance. Besides, the Tasso rhyme will here be the most
Again she directed her gaze, with a gloomy expression, toward the
heavens, and with a violently heaving bosom, with feverishly flitting
breath, she began the lament of Sappho. Now like rattling thunder, now
like the gentle breathings of the flute, rolled this sweet and
picturesque language of Italy from her lips--like music sounded those
full, artistic rhymes, of which but few of the hearers had the least
suspicion that they came from Tasso. To improvise in the Italian
language is an easy and a grateful task! What wonder, then, that
Corilla acquitted herself so charmingly? The audience paid no
attention to the thoughts expressed; they asked not after the
quintessence; they were satisfied with the agreeable sound, without
inquiring into the sense of her words; it was their melody which was
admired. They listened not for the thought, but only for the rhyme,
and with ecstatic smiles and admiring glances they nodded to each
other when, thanks to the studies which Corilla had made in Tasso,
Marino, and Ariosto, she seemed of herself to find rhymes for the most
An immense storm of applause resounded when she ended; and as if
awakening from an intoxicating ecstasy, Corilla glanced around with an
expression of astonishment on her features; she looked around as if
she knew not whence she came, and in what strange surroundings she now
After a short pause, which Carlo filled out with his harp, she again
put her hand into the urn and drew out a new theme; again the
inspiration seemed to pass over her, and the holy Whitsuntide of her
muse to be renewed. Constantly more and more stormily resounded the
plaudits of her hearers; it was like a continued thunder of
enthusiasm, a real salvo of joy. It animated Corilla to new
improvisations; she again and again recurred to the urn, drawing forth
new themes, and seemed to be absolutely inexhaustible.
"It is now enough," whispered Carlo, just as she had drawn forth a new
theme. "You have but a quarter of an hour left!"
"Only this theme yet," she begged in a low tone. "It is a very happy
one, it will win for me the hearts of all these cardinals and
"Yet a quarter of an hour, and then your time is up," said he.
"Remember my oath, I shall keep my word!"
An inexplicable anxiety, a tormenting uneasiness, came over him; he
had hardly strength and recollection sufficient to enable him to
accompany Corilla, who was discussing in verse the question, "Which
Rome was the happiest, ancient or modern?"
Carlo's eyes, fixed and motionless, rested upon Natalie; it fearfully
alarmed him not to be near her, not to be able to watch every one of
her steps, every one of her motions; it seemed to him as if he saw
that savage man with his naked dagger lurking near her! And she, was
she not pale as a lily; seemed she not, in that white robe, to be
already the bride of death?
"I must hasten to her, I must protect her or die!" thought he, and,
with a threatening glance at Corilla, he showed her the hour. Corilla
read in the expression of his face that he was in earnest with his
threat, and as if her inspiration lent wings to her words, she spoke
on as in a storm of inward agitation, and with words of fire she
decided that modern Rome was the happiest, as she had the holy father
of Christendom, her pope, and his cardinals!
The applause, the general delight, was now unbounded; cardinals were
to be seen weeping with enthusiasm and joy; others with heartfelt
emotion were showering words of blessing upon the improvisatrice, and
all pressed toward the tribune in order to accompany her down the
steps and in among the company.
A sudden thought of rescue had like a flash of lightning arisen in
"Natalie must first be completely separated from this society, and
then I will seek this man and render him incapable of mischief!"
By main strength he made himself a path through the crowd surrounding
Corilla, and now stood near Cardinal Bernis, at whose side still
remained Natalie and Count Paulo.
"You have struck the lyre like an Apollo," exclaimed the cardinal to
Carlo bowed with a smile, and hastily said: "And are you ignorant,
your eminence, that a much greater poetess and improvisatrice than our
Corilla is in your society?"
The cardinal smilingly threatened him with his finger. "Poor Carlo,
has it already come to this?" said he. "You are jealous of our delight
in Corilla, and would lessen her fame, that you may make her more your
"I speak the truth," said Carlo; "a poetess is among us whom the muses
themselves have consecrated, an improvisatrice, not of human
composition, but by the grace of God, to whom the angels whisper the
rhymes, and the muses the ideas!"
"And who, then, is this divinely-gifted artist, this consecrated
daughter of the muses?" wonderingly asked the cardinal.
Carlo indicated Natalie, and bowed to the ground before her.
"Princess Tartaroff?" asked the cardinal, with astonishment.
"That she is a princess, I know not," said Carlo, "but I am quite
certain she is a poetess!"
What was it that at this moment stirred the soul of the young maiden?
She now felt a pride, a blessed joy, and yet she had previously felt
so sad at Corilla's triumph! It seemed as if enthusiasm raised its
wings in her, as if the word, the right word, pressed to her lips, as
if she must utter in song her rejoicings and lamentings for her
simultaneously felt pleasures and pains! A pure and genuine child of
Nature, she felt herself the natural impulse to pour out in words,
tones, and even in tears, what agitated her soul, and to which she was
unable to give a name.
Cardinal Bernis had first turned imploringly to Count Paulo, praying
for his permission to invite the young princess to surprise and
delight the company with some of her improvisations. Others,
overhearing this, mingled in the conversation, and added their
requests to those of the cardinal; and, the feeling becoming general,
the requests for an improvisation became universal and pressing;
people, momentarily forgetting the great and celebrated improvisatrice
Corilla, with a feverish curiosity turned to the new and unknown star.
Corilla stood almost alone--only Cardinal Albani remaining by her
side; but his tender words were not competent to appease the violent
storm of jealousy that raged in her soul.
The solicitations of the curious Romans became constantly more urgent,
and Count Paulo, unable longer to resist them, finally consented to
leave the decision to his ward, the young princess herself.
And Natalie? She was so real and ingenuous a child of Nature that she
felt no timidity in the presence of this crowd; she was so full of
faith and confidence, so full of trust and human love. She thought:
"Why should I not give a little pleasure to these good people who
approach me with such warm sympathies? And why should I tremble before
them? Did not Paulo tell me that I should feel as if I were in my
garden, and it was only my trees and flowers that were looking at me
with human faces? Well, then, I will so think and feel, and speak only
to my dear trees and flowers!"
Beckoning Carlo with a charming smile, guided by his hand, she hastily
ascended the steps. And as they saw her there upon the stage, this
delicate, lovely maiden--as they looked upon her spiritual maiden
beauty, with the childlike expression of her noble features, with eyes
that beamed with pleasure and inspiration--there arose such a storm of
applause that Natalie slightly trembled, and with a sweet smile she
said to Carlo: "The people here are much more boisterous than the
zephyrs in our garden, but they are not so melodious, and it almost
saddens the heart!"
Cardinal Bernis now approached with the silver vase. On this occasion
he had taken it upon himself to collect the themes, and with a
respectful bow he handed them to the princess. With a gracious smile
she took one of the papers and unfolded it. The subject was, "Longing
That was a theme well calculated to inspire Natalie, and to reawaken
in her all her longings, sorrows, loves, and remembrances. She
suddenly felt something like a cold shudder in her heart, and glancing
around with a feeling of solitude and desertion, she saw nothing but
curious faces and strange, staring eyes! She, also, was repudiated and
homeless, and an excessive longing for the distant unknown home of her
childhood now took possession of her.
Perhaps Carlo had read her thoughts upon her brow; low and plaintive
melodies poured from his harp, as it were the rustling murmurs of far-
off remembrances, the sighing and sobbing of a yearning heart. And
Natalie, carried away by these tones, forgetful of all around her,
mindful only of the happiness of her childhood and of the lady she had
so dearly loved, began to sing.
Of what she said and what she sang she was unconscious. She stood
there as if elevated by inward inspiration; her eyes flashed as she
stared into the far distance, and the images she saw there caused her
to smile and weep at the same time; all the glow, all the childlike
purity of her soul, came in words from her lips in a stream of
inspiration, of painful ecstasy!
She saw nothing, heard nothing! She saw not the ladies weeping with
emotion, not the rapturous glances of the men; she had entirely
forgotten all those strange, unknown people; and when the constantly
increasing storm of applause finally reminded her of them, it was all
over with her inspiration--the words died upon her lips, and with a
sad smile she hastened to the conclusion.
And now arose a shout and an outbreak of rapture which caused Natalie
to tremble with anxious timidity. She cast a searching glance around
her; it seemed to her that Paulo must come to her relief, that he must
rescue and redeem her from the enthusiastic and flattering men who
surrounded her. She saw him not! Where was Paulo, where was Carlo?
These inquisitive lord cardinals had formed a circle around her, she
seemed to herself a prisoner; it alarmed her to thus find herself the
central point of all these attractions.
Not far from her stood Corilla, with glowing cheeks and anger-flashing
"I will avenge this affront or die!" thought she, as, grasping
Albani's hand with convulsive violence, she whispered to him: "Free me
from this woman, and I will realize all your wishes."
Francesco Albani smiled. "Then you are mine, Corilla, and no power on
earth shall take you from me. That child is dead. See, see how she
makes herself a path through the crowd--ah, it is too sultry for her
here in the hall, she approaches the garden door, she slips out. Ah,
give me your hand, Corilla. Yet a few moments and the fairest woman on
earth is mine!"
Light as a gazelle, timid and trembling, Natalie had fled the crowd,
and now, stepping out into the garden, she breathed easier, it seeming
to her that she had escaped a danger.
"This night air will cool and refresh me, and I shall soon succeed in
finding Paulo," thought she, constantly wandering farther and farther
into the garden. But the brightness of the illuminated alleys annoyed
her. A more obscure and secluded path opening, Natalie entered it. Ah,
she needed solitude and stillness, and what knew she, this simple,
harmless child of Nature--what knew she whether it was proper and
seemly for a young woman thus alone to venture into these dark walks?
She knew not that she incurred any risk, or that one needed protection
Even farther resounded the noise of the festival--the clang of the
music sounded fainter and fainter. Natalie wandered farther and
farther, happy because alone!
Alone? What, then, was it that noiselessly and cautiously haunted her
steps, following every movement she made, constantly nearing her the
farther she found herself, as she supposed, from all other living
beings? What was it inaudibly creeping through the bushes, even its
dark shadow imperceptible, that followed her like a ghost?
It became stiller and stiller, and nearer crept the gloomy form that
lurked in her steps. Now with a sudden spring he rushes upon the
maiden. What gleams in his hand? It is a dagger. He swings it high,
that he may sink it deep. Then some one rushes from the bushes, seizes
the murderer's arm, wrests the dagger from his hand, hurls him to the
earth, and a dear, well-known voice cries: "Fly, Natalie, fly quickly
to Count Paulo! This serpent will no longer follow you! I have him
fast, the assassin!"
And Carlo broke out into a happy and triumphant laugh.
Natalie made no answer, she was paralyzed with terror; there was a
roaring in her ears, it darkened before her eyes, and she fell
senseless to the earth!
But her disarmed murderer sought to free himself from Carlo's grasp.
Struggling with his captor, he finally succeeded in half rising. Carlo
thought not of his own danger, but only of Natalie's, and it was only
on her account that he now loudly called for help, at the same time
exerting a superhuman strength to hold on upon his prisoner.
Voices were heard, lights approached, and Paulo's cry of anguish
"Here, here!" anxiously cried Carlo, his strength already beginning to
fail him. And his call being recognized, people soon came with lights.
Count Paulo was already distinguishable, already Cardinal Bernis, with
a light in his hand, was hastening on in advance of the rest.
With a last powerful effort the prisoner succeeded in freeing himself.
"She is saved for this time, but my dagger will yet make her
acquaintance!" said he, with a scornful laugh, and like a serpent he
glided away among the bushes.
"She is saved!" cried Carlo, sinking back toward Count Paulo, and
pointing with a happy smile to Natalie, who, awaking from her
momentary stupefaction, stretched forth her arms toward the count.
"Paulo," she whispered low, "let us hasten from here! I dread these
people! I fear them! Let us go! But take him with us, that they may
not kill him, my saviour, my friend Carlo!"
The morning dawned. Count Paulo rose from the arm-chair in which he
had passed the night. He had occupied the whole fearfully anxious
night in writing; he now laid the pen aside and stood up.
His face had an expression of firmness and decision; he had formed a
firm resolution, had come to an irrevocable determination.
With a firm step advancing to the door opening into the adjoining
chamber, he called to his friend Cecil.
The latter immediately made his appearance, and, entering the count's
chamber, laconically said: "All is ready."
Count Paulo smiled sadly. "You are then sure there are no other means
of saving her and ourselves?" he asked.
"None whatever," said Cecil. "Every moment's delay increases her and
your danger. The occurrence of last night is a proof of it. They
sought the death of Natalie--without Carlo's help she would have been
murdered, and all our plans would have come to an end."
"Her life is threatened, and yet you can urge me to go and leave her
alone and unprotected?"
"Was it you who saved her from the danger of last night?" asked Cecil.
"Believe me, it is your presence that threatens her with the most
danger. Precisely because you are at her side, they suspect her and
watch her every step; the circumstance that she is with you creates
distrust, and in Natalie they will think they see her whose mysterious
flight has long been known in Russia. And Catharine will have her
tracked in all countries and upon all routes. Therefore, save Natalie,
by seeming to give her up. Return home and relate to them a fable of a
false princess by whom you had been deceived, and whom you abandoned
as soon as you discovered the deception. They will everywhere lend you
a believing ear, as people gladly believe what they wish, and by this
means only can you assure the future of Natalie and yourself."
"That is all just and true. I myself have so seen and recognized it,"
said the count; "and yet, my friend, I nevertheless still waver, and
it seems to me that an internal voice warns me against that which I am
about to do!"
Cecil smilingly shook his head. "Trust not such voices," said he; "it
is the whispering of demons who envelop themselves in our own wishes,
who entice us to what we would, by seeming to warn us against what we
fear. Nothing but your departure can give you safety. Leave Natalie
here in quiet solitude, and without you she will be well concealed in
the solitude of this garden, and you, in the mean time, will pursue
your affairs in Russia, and deceive the enemy, while you yourself seem
to be the deceived party. They threaten you with the confiscation of
your property, and they will fulfil those threats if you do not obey
the call of the government. Go, therefore, go! We will secretly sell
your property; and when this is accomplished, then, laden with
treasure, let us return to Natalie, no longer fearing their threats."
"And when all this is done," exclaimed Count Paulo, glowing, "it shall
be our task to conduct Natalie back in triumph to the country to which
she belongs, there to place the diadem upon her fair brows, and to
raise her above all other mortal beings!"
"God grant us the attainment of our ends!" sighed Cecil.
"We must and shall attain them!" responded Paulo, with enthusiasm. I
must fulfil this great task of my life, or die! Away, now, with all
wavering or hesitation! What must be, shall be! They shall not say of
the man who took compassion upon the deserted and threatened orphan
and raised her for his own egotistical wishes, and pusillanimously
failed to finish the work he began! No, no, history shall not so speak
of me. It shall at least represent me as a brave man capable of
sacrificing his heart and his life for the attainment of his higher
ends! Seal these letters, Cecil. They contain my last will, and my
bequest to Natalie, which I wish to place in her own hands. Ah, Cecil,
I have been an enthusiastic fool until this hour! I thought--alas,
what did I not think and dream!--I thought that all these plans and
objects were not worth so much as one sole smile of her lips and that
if she would say to me 'I love thee,' this sweet word would not be too
dearly purchased with an imperial crown. Perhaps, ah, perhaps, I think
so yet, but I will never more suffer myself to be swayed by such
thoughts. We must go--Natalie's happiness demands it. And besides, she
will not lack friends and protectors. It was not without an object
that I last evening presented her to the most notable people of Rome;
not without an object that I consented to her allowing herself as a
poetess. They now know her name, which is repeated with highest praise
in every quarter of the city; all Rome is to-day enthusiastic in her
praise, and all Rome will protect and defend her. Add to which, I
shall yet recommend her to the special protection of Cardinal Bernis!"
"And it was exactly in his house where she was almost murdered!" said
Cecil. "Without that singer, Carlo, she would have been forever lost!
If, then, you would choose a protector for her, let it be Carlo."
Count Paulo's brow darkened. "This singer loves her!" said he.
"Precisely for that reason," smilingly responded Cecil. "One who loves
will best know how to protect her."
Count Paulo made no answer; he continued thoughtfully walking back and
forth. Then he said with decision: "Seal these letters, Cecil. I will
take them to Natalie myself."
"You will, then, see her again?" asked Cecil while folding the
letters. "You will render the parting more painful!"
"I will it!" said Paulo, with decision, and, taking the letters, he
left the room with a firm and resolute step.
He found Natalie in her room. She did not hear him coming, and thus
did not turn to receive him. She was sitting motionless at the window
and dejectedly looking out into the garden, her head supported by her
The events of the previous evening had made a great change in her. She
now felt older, more experienced, more earnest. A dark shadow had
passed over her sun-bright happiness, a dark power had threateningly
approached her; the seriousness of life had been suddenly unfolded to
her and had brushed off the ether-dust of harmless and joyful peace
from her childish soul. The happy child had become a conscious maiden,
and new thoughts, new feelings had sprung up within her. The first
tears of sorrow had, with a mighty creative power, called all these
slumbering blossoms of her heart into existence and activity, and her
unconscious feelings had become conscious thoughts.
But what had not happened, what had she not experienced and felt since
last evening? First, had not a new happiness broken in upon her, had
she not now a name, was she not a princess? Then, had she not achieved
a triumph--a triumph in the presence of Corilla? But then, also, how
many /desillusions/ had she not experienced in a few hours? How had
her heart been cooled by the rich flow of words in Corilla's poesy!
Her whole soul had languished for the acquaintance of a poetess, and
she had heard only a rhymed work of art. And then the last terrible
event! Why had they wished to murder her? Who were her unknown
enemies, and why had she enemies?
"I should have been dead had he not rescued me!" murmured she, and her
lovely face was illuminated by a sunny smile. "Yes, without Carlo I
should have been lost--I have to thank him for my life! Oh," said she
then aloud, "to him therefore belongs my existence, and for every joy
I am yet capable of feeling I am indebted to him, my friend Carlo! Ah,
how shall I ever be able to reward him for all this happiness?"
And while she was thus speaking, Count Paulo, pale and silent, stood
behind her; she saw him not, and after a pause she continued: "How
strange it is! To-day, when I think of him, my heart beats as never
before, and I feel in it something like heavenly bliss, and yet at the
same time like profound sorrow. Ah, what can it be, and why do I,
to-day, think only of him? I could weep because he does not yet come!
How strange it all is, and at the same time how sad! Seems it not that
I love Carlo more than any one else, more even than Paulo, who
formerly was the dearest to me? How is it now, and am I, then, truly
so ungrateful to Paulo?"
Count Paulo still stood behind her, pale and silent. A painfully
ironic smile flitted over his face, and he thought: "I came to ask a
question, and Natalie has already given me the answer before I had
time to ask it. Perhaps it is better thus. I have now nothing to ask!"
The young maiden became more and more deeply absorbed in her thoughts.
Count Paulo laid his hand lightly upon her shoulder. She was startled,
and involuntarily cried, "Carlo!"
"No, Paulo!" said he, with a melancholy smile, "but at all events a
friend, Natalie, though a friend who is about to leave you!"
"You leave me?" she anxiously exclaimed.
"That means only outwardly, only with my body, never with my soul,"
said he, deeply moved. "That, Natalie, will remain with you eternally,
that will never leave you--do you hear, never! Always remember this,
my charming child, my sweet blossom! Never entertain a doubt of me;
and if my voice does not reach you, if you receive no news of me, then
think not, 'Paulo has abandoned me!' no; then think only, 'Paulo is
dead, but my name was the last to linger upon his lips, and his last
sigh was for me!' "
"You desert me?" said she, wringing her hands. "What am I, what shall
I do, without you? You have been my protector and my reliance, my
teacher and my friend! Alas, you were all to me, and I have ever
looked up to you as my lord and father."
Count Paulo sadly smiled. "Love me always as your father," said he;
"while I live you shall never be an orphan, that I swear to you!"
"And must you go," cried she, clinging to him; "well, then let me go
with you! You will be my father--well, I demand my right as your
daughter; to accompany her father is a daughter's right."
"No," he firmly said, "you must remain while I go; but I go for you,
to assure your future power and splendor. Remember this, Princess
Natalie, forget it not; and when one day they brand me as a traitor,
then say: 'No, he was no traitor, for he loved me!' And now hear what
I have yet to say," continued the count, after a pause, while the
still weeping Natalie looked up to him through her tears. "But look at
me, Natalie--no, not that sad glance, I cannot bear it! Leave me my
self-possession and my courage, for I need them! Weep not!"
And Natalie, drying her eyes with her long locks, sought to smile.
"I no longer weep," said she, "I listen to you."
Paulo placed two sealed letters in her hand.
"Swear to me," said he, "to hold these letters sacred as your most
"I swear it!" said she.
"Swear to me to discover them to no human eye, to betray their
possession to no human ear! Swear it to me by the memory of your
mother, who now looks down from heaven upon you and receives your
"Then she is dead?" said the young maiden, sadly drooping her head
upon her breast.
"You have not yet sworn!" said he.
The young maiden raised her head, and, turning her eyes toward heaven
as if in the hope of encountering the tender maternal glance, she
solemnly said: "By the sacred memory of my mother I swear to discover
these papers to no human eye, to betray their existence to no human
ear, but to hold them sacred as my most precious and mysterious
"Swear, further," said Count Paulo, "that whenever a danger may
threaten you, you will sooner forget all other things than these
papers, that they should be the first which you will endeavor to save.
Yes, swear to me that you will ever bear them upon your heart and
never permit them to be separated from you!"
"I swear it!" said Natalie. "I will defend the possession of these
papers, if necessary, with my life!"
"And thereby will you defend your honor," said Paulo, "for your honor
rests in these papers. Yet ask me not what they contain. You must not
yet know; there is danger in knowing their contents! But when a whole
year has passed without my return or your hearing from me, and if in
this whole year no messenger comes to you from me, then, Natalie, then
open these letters; you will then possess my testament, and you will
consider it a sacred duty to execute it!"
Natalie, sobbing, said: "Ah, why did not that dagger pierce my heart
yesterday? I should then have died while I was yet happy?"
"You will yet do so!" said Count Paulo, with a slight tincture of
bitterness; "Carlo and your future yet remain to you!"
She looked at him with a clear, bright glance, but without answering.
She had again become an enigma to herself. Now, when her friend, when
Paulo, was about to leave her, it seemed to her she had done wrong to
love another, even for a moment, better than him, her benefactor and
protector; indeed, as if she in fact loved no one so well as him, as
if she could resign and leave all others to insure Paulo's permanent
But she was suddenly startled, and a glowing flush overspread her
cheeks. She had, quite accidentally, glanced through the window into
the garden, and had there discovered Carlo, as with slow and
hesitating steps he descended the alley leading to the villa.
Count Paulo had followed her glance, and, as he now observed the
singer, he said: "He shall henceforth be your protector! Promise me to
love him as a brother. Will you?"
He looked at her with a fixed and searching gaze, and she cast not
down her eyes before that penetrating and interrogating glance, but
met it directly with clear and innocent eyes.
"Yes, I will love him as a brother!" she said.
"One more thing, and then let us part!" said Paulo. "Marianne is
honest and true--let her never leave you. I have amply provided her
with funds for the necessary expenses for the next six months, and I
hope long before the expiration of that time to send a further supply.
If I do not, then conclude that I am dead, for only with my life can I
be robbed of the sweet duty of caring for you! And now let me go to
Slightly nodding to her, he hastily left the room.
At that moment Carlo mounted the steps leading to the door of the
villa. Paulo met him with a hearty greeting.
"Let us go down into the garden," said he, "I have many things to say
The two men remained a long time in the garden. Natalie, standing at
the window, occasionally saw them, arm in arm, at some turning of the
walks, and then they would again disappear as they pursued their way
in earnest conversation. Strange thoughts flitted through the soul of
the young maiden, and when she saw the two thus wandering, arm in arm,
she thoughtfully asked herself: "Which is it, then, that I most love?
Is it Carlo, is it Paulo?"
"I now understand you perfectly," said Count Paulo, as they again
approached the house after a long and earnest conversation. "Yes, it
seems to me I know you as myself, and know I can confide in you. You
have perfectly tranquillized me, and I thank you for your confidence.
It was then Corilla, that vain improvisatrice, who would have
destroyed her? That is consoling, and I can now depart with a lighter
heart. Against such attacks you will be able to protect her."
"I will protect her against every attack," responded Carlo. "You have
my oath that the secret you have confided to me shall be held sacred,
and you have thereby secured her from every outbreak of my passion.
She stands so high above me that I can only adore her as my saint, can
love her only as one loves the unattainable stars!"
AN HONEST BETRAYER
At about the same time Cecil was hastening through the streets of
Rome, often looking back to see if any one was following him, and
viewing with suspicious eyes every one he met. He finally stopped
before the backdoor of a palace, and, after having satisfied himself
that he had not been followed, he lightly knocked three times at the
door. Upon its being opened, a grim, bearded Russian face presented
Cecil drew a ring from his bosom and showed it to the porter.
"Quick! conduct me to his excellency," said he.
The Russian nodded his recognition of the token, and beckoned Cecil to
follow him. After a short reflection, Cecil entered and the door was
Guided by his conductor through a labyrinth of rooms and corridors,
Cecil finally succeeded in reaching a little boudoir, whose heavily-
curtained windows hardly admitted a ray of dim twilight.
The conductor, bidding Cecil to wait here, left him alone.
In a few moments a concealed door was opened, and a man of a tall,
proud form entered.
"At length!" he said, on perceiving Cecil. "I had begun to doubt your
"I waited until I could bring you decisive intelligence, your
excellency," said Cecil.
"And you bring it today?" quickly asked the unknown.
"In an hour we leave Rome for St. Petersburg!"
Uttering a loud cry of joy, the stranger walked the room in visible
commotion. Cecil followed him with timid, anxious glances, and, as he
still kept silence, Cecil said:
"Your excellency, I have truly performed what you required of me. I
have persuaded the count to make the journey, notwithstanding his
opposition to it, and, as you commanded, his ward remains behind in
Rome, alone and unprotected."
"Ah, you praise your acts because you desire your reward," said his
excellency, contemptuously opening his writing-desk, and drawing forth
a well-filled purse. "You there have your pay, good man!"
Cecil indignantly rejected the money. "I am no Judas, who betrays his
master for money," said he. "Please remember, your excellency, for
what I promised to fulfil your excellency's commands, and what reward
you promised me!"
"Ah, I now remember! You required my promise that no harm should
befall the count!"
"Only on that condition did I promise my assistance," said Cecil.
"When your emissary sought me and called me to you, I only followed
him, as you well know, most noble count, because you gave me to
understand that my master's life and safety were concerned. I came to
you. Allow me, your excellency to repeat your own words. You said:
'Cecil, you have been represented to me as a true friend of your
master. Fidelity is so rare a virtue, that it deserves reward. I will
reward you by saving your life. Quickly leave this traitorous count,
and break off all connection with him, else you are lost. I am
secretly sent here in order to capture the count and his criminal
ward, and take them to St. Petersburg. What there awaits the count may
easily be imagined.' Thus speaking, your excellency then showed me the
command for the count's arrest, signed by the empress. Upon which I
asked: 'Is there no means of saving the count?' 'There is one,' said
you. 'Persuade the count to return immediately to St. Petersburg,
leaving his ward behind him here, and I swear to you, in the name of
the empress, that no harm shall come to him.' "
"Well," impatiently cried the count, "what is the use of repeating all
that, as I know it already?"
"Only because your excellency seems to forget that what I did was not
done for your miserable gold, but for a totally different reward--the
safety of a man whom I love as my own son."
"You have my word--no harm shall come to him."
"I doubt not your excellency's word," firmly and decidedly responded
Cecil, "your word is all-powerful, and when you let your commanding
voice be heard, all Russia trembles and bows before you. But here your
voice resounds only between these walls, and nobody hears it but I
alone. Give me an evidence of your word--a safety-pass, signed by your
own hand, for my master, and then destroy the order for his arrest
which you now hold!"
"Ah, it seems you would prescribe conditions?" said the count,
"Certainly I will," said Cecil. "I have complied with your conditions,
and now it is your turn, Sir Count, to comply with mine, for you knew
A dark glow of anger showed itself in the count's face, and,
passionately starting up, he approached Cecil, raising his arm
threateningly against him.
"Sir Count," said Cecil, stepping back, "you mistake! I am no Russian
serf, I am a free man, and no one has a right so to threaten me!"
The count had already let his arm fall, seeming suddenly to have
changed his mind, and in a more friendly manner he said:
"You are right, Cecil, and what you desire shall be done."
Taking a large sealed paper from a drawer in his writing-desk, he
handed it to Cecil.
"That is the order for the arrest; destroy it yourself!" said he.
Taking the paper, Cecil read it with attention. "It is, as you say,
the order for the arrest. It is destroyed!"
With a satisfied smile, he tore the paper into a thousand pieces, and
placed these in his bosom.
The count had stepped to the table and hastily written a few lines
upon another piece of paper. This he handed to Cecil. "I hope you are
now satisfied," said he.
Cecil took the paper and read it.
"This is a safety-pass in due form," said he--"a valid instruction to
all boundary guards and officials to let us pass without molestation.
Your excellency, we are quits. I complied with your wish, as you now
have with mine, and my dear master is saved!"
"It being understood that you start immediately," said the count.
"The post-horses are already ordered, and we shall set out as soon as
I return home. Farewell, therefore, Sir Count; I thank you for
enabling me to save the man whom I most loved. I thank you!"
Cecil was approaching the door, when he suddenly stopped, and his face
took a sad expression. "I have deceived my dear master, in order to
save him," said he, "and in order to redeem the promise I made to his
father on his death-bed, swearing that I would watch over and protect
the son at the risk of my heart's blood. But if the son knew what I
have done, he would call me a betrayer and curse me, for he holds his
ward dearer than his own life! He leaves the princess in the belief
that it is necessary for her safety, and repairs to Russia, to return
with increased wealth. Sir Count, what is to become of Natalie?"
"That," low and mysteriously replied the count, "that can be decided
only by the will of her who has sent me. Until that decision no hair
of her head can be touched, and the princess will follow me to Russia,
only with her own free will! But you must know that the empress hates
no one more than her own son. How, then, if she should be disposed to
pass him over, and select another as her successor?"
"Oh, would to God that I rightly understand you!" exclaimed Cecil.
"We shall, one day, perfectly understand each other," said the count,
with a significant smile. "Now, hasten to redeem your word, and leave
Rome with your master!"