Part 6 out of 7
As soon as Cecil left the room, the count's face assumed a knavishly
malicious expression. With a loud laugh he threw himself upon the
"Thus are all these so-called good men real blockheads, stupid fools,
who believe every word spoken to them with a friendly mien! This
honest man really believes that his highly-prized master is now saved,
because he bears in his bosom the fragments of the order for his
arrest. Worthy dunce; as if there were no duplicate, and as if every
promise were countersigned by the Divinity himself! Go home with your
count--my word shall be fulfilled. No hair of his head shall be
touched, but his proud back shall be curled, and in the mines of
Siberia he may learn to bow before a higher power!"
Thus speaking, the count pulled a bell whose silken cord hung over the
divan, and, as no one instantly appeared, he pulled it again, this
time more violently. But yet some minutes passed, and still the bell
was unanswered. The count gnashed his teeth with rage, and muttered
At length the door opened, and with an imploring face a servant
appeared upon the threshold.
"Miserable hound, where were you?" cried the count to him.
The servant fell upon his knees and crept like a dog to his master's
"Excellency, we had, as your grace commanded, so long as the gentleman
was with you, withdrawn from the anteroom and waited in the corridor,
where the bell could not be heard," stammered the servant.
"I will teach you wretches to keep me waiting," exclaimed the count,
and seizing the knout that lay upon the table before him, he laid it
with merciless rage upon the poor servant, until his own arm sank
powerless, and he felt himself exhausted with fatigue.
"Now, go, you hound!" said he, replacing the knout upon the table; and
the flagellated serf, rising respectfully, with his hand wiped away
the blood which ran in streams from his wounds.
"Now go and send my officers to me!" cried the count. The servant
staggered out to obey the command, and soon the persons thus ordered
made their appearance and remained standing in silence at the door.
The count lay stretched out upon the divan, playing with the knout,
whose leathern thongs were still dripping with his servant's blood.
"Let a courier take horse immediately, and give him the order
countersigned by her imperial majesty for the arrest of Count Paulo
Rasczinsky. The courier will follow him with it to the Russian
frontier, and then by virtue of this order arrest him at the next
station and send him to St. Petersburg in chains! This is the command
for the courier; he will answer with his head for its execution!"
One of the officers bowed, and went to dispatch the courier.
"Is our reconnoitrer returned?" asked the count of the two who
"What news brings he? Does he know the cause of the murderous attack
at the festival of the French cardinal? Yet why do I ask you? Make
yourselves scarce, and let him come to speak for himself!"
The officers were no sooner gone, than a wild-looking, bearded churl
made his appearance upon the threshold of the door and greeted the
count with a grinning laugh.
"What know you of the murderous attack?" asked the count, in Italian.
"A friend of mine was charged with the affair," said the bravo. "He is
in the pay of the most holy Cardinal Albani. We served long together
under the same chief, and I know him intimately. He carries the most
skilful dagger in all Rome, and it is the greatest wonder that he
missed on this occasion."
"Was it done by order of the cardinal?"
"No! The lord cardinal had lent this bravo to the celebrated
improvisatrice Corilla--the order came from her."
"It is well!" said the count. "Do you know all the /bravi/ in Rome?"
"All, your excellency. They are all my good friends."
"Well, now listen to what I have to say to you. You must hold the life
of the Princess Tartaroff as sacred as your own! Know that she is no
moment unwatched; that wherever she appears she is surrounded by
secret protectors. Whoever touches her is lost--my arm will reach him!
Say that to your friends, and tell them that the Russian count keeps
his word. Four thousand sequins are yours in four weeks, if until then
the princess meets with no accident. Away with you, and forget not my
"Ah, these words, your excellency, are worth four thousand sequins,
and these one does not so easily forget!" said the bandit, leaving the
Again the count rang, and ordered his private secretary, Stephano, to
"Stephano," said the count to him, "the first step is taken toward the
accomplishment of our object. The work must succeed; I have pledged my
word for it to the empress, and who can say that Alexis Orloff ever
failed to redeem his word? This princess is mine! Count Paulo
Rasczinsky is just now leaving Rome, and she has no one to protect
"But it is not yet to be said that she is already yours!" said
Stephano, shrugging his shoulders. "As you will not employ force, your
excellency, you must have recourse to stratagem. I have hit upon a
plan, of which I think you will approve. They describe this so-called
little princess as exceedingly innocent and confiding. Let us take
advantage of her confiding innocence--that will be best! Now hear my
Stephano inclined himself closer to the ear of the count, and
whispered long and earnestly; it seemed as if he feared that even the
walls might listen to him and betray his plans; he whispered so low
that even the count had some trouble in understanding him.
"You are right," said the count, when Stephano had ended; "your plan
must and will succeed. First of all, we must find some one who will
incline her in our favor, and render her confiding."
"Oh, for that we have our good Russian gold," said Stephano, laughing.
"And besides," continued the count, "our incognito is at an end. All
Rome may now learn that I am here! Ah, Stephano, what a happy time
awaits me! This Natalie is beautiful as an angel!"
"God grant that you may not fall in love with her!" sighed Stephano.
"You are always very generous when you are in love."
Two things principally occupied the Romans during the next weeks and
months, offering them rich material for conversation. In talking of
these they had forgotten all other events; they spoke no more of the
giant fish which had destroyed the friendship of France and Spain;
they no longer entertained each other with anecdotes in connection
with the festival of Cardinal Bernis, at which the /entree/ of that
fish upon his long silver platter was hailed with shouts and /vivats/
--yes, even that Russian princess, who had momentarily shown herself
on the horizon of society, all these were quickly forgotten, and
people now interested themselves only about the extirpation of the
order of the Jesuits, which Pope Clement had now really effected, and
of the arrival of the Russian ambassador-extraordinary, the famous
Alexis Orloff, whose visit to Rome seemed the more important and
significant as they well knew in what near and confidential relations
his brother, Count Gregory Orloff, stood with the Empress Catharine,
and what participation Alexis Orloff had in the sudden death of the
Emperor Peter III.
The order of the Jesuits, then, no longer existed; the pious fathers
of the order of Jesus were stricken out of the book of history; a word
of power had annihilated them! With loud complaints and lamentations
they filled the streets of the holy city, and if the prayer of
humility and resignation resounded from their lips, yet there were
very different prayers in their hearts, prayers of anger and rage, of
hatred and revenge! They were seen wringing their hands and loudly
lamenting, as they hastened to their friends and protectors, and
besieged the doors of the foreign embassies. With them wept the poor
and suffering people to whom the pious fathers had proved themselves
benefactors. For, since they knew that their existence was threatened,
they had assiduously devoted themselves to works of charity and mercy,
and to strengthening, especially in Rome, their reputation for piety,
benevolence, and generosity. Prodigious sums were by them distributed
among the poor; more than five hundred respectable impoverished
Romans, who had been accused of political offences, were secretly
supported by them. In this way the Jesuits, against whom the cry of
denunciation had been raised for years in all Europe, had nevertheless
succeeded, at least in the holy city, in gaining for themselves a very
considerable party, and thus securing protection and support in the
time of misfortune and persecution. But while the people wept with
them, and many cardinals and princes of the Church secretly pitied
them, the ambassadors of the great European powers alone remained
insensible to their lamentations. No one of them opened the doors of
their palaces to them, no one afforded them protection or consolation;
and although it was known that cardinal Bernis, in spite of the horror
which had for years been felt of this order in France, was personally
favorable to them, and had long delayed the consent of the court of
France to their abolition, yet even Bernis now avoided any
manifestation of kindness for them, lest his former friend, the
Spanish ambassador, might think he so far humiliated himself as to
favor the Jesuits for the sake of recovering the friendship and good
opinion of the Duke of Grimaldi. But Grimaldi himself now no longer
dared to protect the Jesuits, however friendly he might be to them,
and however much they were favored by Elizabeth Farnese, the Spanish
queen-mother. King Charles, her son, had finally ventured to defy her
authority, and in an autograph letter had commanded the Duke of
Grimaldi to receive no more Jesuits in his palace. And while, as we
have said, the whole diplomacy had declared against the order of the
holy fathers of Jesus, it must have been the more striking that this
Russian Count Orloff had compassion upon them, and lent a willing ear
to the complaints of the unfortunate members of the order.
This Russian count gave the good Romans much material for reflection
and head-shaking; the women were occupied with his herculean beauty,
and the men with his wild, daring, and reckless conduct. They called
him a barbarian, a Russian bear, but could not help being interested
in him, and eagerly repeating the little anecdotes freely circulated
They smilingly told that he had been the first who had had the courage
to defy the powerful republic of Venice, which, for recruiting sailors
for his fleet in their territories for the war against the Turks,
wished to banish him from proud and beautiful Venice. But Alexis
Orloff had laughed at the senate of the republic when they sent him
the order to leave. He had ordered the two hundred soldiers, who
formed his retinue, to arm themselves, and, if necessary, to repel
force with force; but to the senate he had answered that he would
leave the city as soon as he pleased, not before! But, as it seemed
that he was not pleased to leave the city, he remained there, and now
the angry and indignant senate sent him the peremptory command to
leave Venice with his soldiers in twenty-four hours. A deputation of
the senate came in solemn procession to communicate to the Russian
count this command of the Council of Three. Alexis Orloff received
them, lying upon his divan, and to their solemn address he laughingly
answered: "I receive commands from no one but my empress! It remains
as before, that I shall go when I please, and not earlier!"
The senators departed with bitter murmurs and severe threats. Count
Alexis Orloff remained, and the cowardly senate, trembling with fear
of this young Russian empire, had silently pocketed the humiliation of
seeing this over-bearing Russian within their walls for several weeks
longer. This evidence of the haughty insolence of Count Orloff was
related among the Romans with undisguised pleasure, and they thanked
him for having thus humiliated and insulted the proud and imperious
republic. But they suspiciously shook their heads when they learned
that he seemed disposed to display his pride and arrogance in Rome!
They told of a /soiree/ of the Marchesa di Paduli which Alexis Orloff
had attended. As they there begged of him to give some proof of the
very superior strength which had acquired for him the name of "the
Russian Hercules," he had taken one of the hardest apples from a
silver plateau that stood upon the table and playfully crushed it with
two fingers of his left hand. But a fragment of this hard apple had
hit the eye of the Duke of Gloucester, who was standing near, and
seriously injured it. The sympathies of the whole company were excited
for the English prince, and he was immediately surrounded by a pitying
and lamenting crowd. Count Orloff alone had nothing to say to him, and
not the slightest excuse to make. He smilingly rocked himself upon his
chair, and hummed a Russian popular song in praise of his empress.
And was it not also an insult for Alexis Orloff now to show himself a
friend to the Jesuits, whom the decree of God's vicegerent had
outlawed and proscribed? Was it not an insult that he loudly and
publicly promised to these persecuted Jesuits a kind reception and
efficient protection in Russia, and invited them to found new
communities and new cloisters there?
But Alexis Orloff cared little for the dissatisfaction of the Romans,
He said to his confidant Stephano: "There is no greater pleasure than
to set at defiance all the world, and to oppose all these things which
the stupid people would impose upon us as laws. The friend and
favorite of the Empress Catharine has no occasion for complying with
such miserable laws; wherever I set my foot, there the earth belongs
to me, and I will forcibly maintain my pretensions whenever they are
disputed! In Russia I am the serf of the empress, in revenge for which
I will, at least abroad, treat all the world as my serfs. This gives
me pleasure, and wherefore is the world here but to be enjoyed?"
"A little also for labor," said Stephano, with a sly smile.
"For that I have my slaves, for that I have also you!" responded
Orloff, laughing. "There is only one labor for me here in Rome, and
that is to create as much disturbance as possible in the city; to set
the people at odds with the government, so that they may have their
hands full, and find no time for observing our nice game with our
little princess, or to interfere with it. We must have freedom of
action, that is the most important. Hence we must protect these pious
Jesuits, and offer support to the enemies of this too-enterprising
pope, by which means we shall ultimately attain our own ends, and that
is enough for us!"
"We have not yet advanced a step with our Princess Natalie," said
Stephano, shrugging his shoulders; "that, it seems, is an impregnable
"It must, however, yield to us," laughingly responded Alexis Orloff,
"and she shall yet acknowledge us as conquerors. We are undermining,
Stephano, and when the building crushes her in its crashing fall, will
she first discover that she has long been in danger. And what said you
--that we have not yet advanced a step? And yet Rasczinsky is gone,
and we have known how to keep Cardinal Bernis, who would have
interested himself for the little one, so very much occupied with the
affair of the Jesuits, that he has yet had no time to think of the
princess. Ah, these Jesuits are very useful people. We strew them like
snuff in the faces of these diplomatists, and, while they are yet
rubbing their weak eyes and crying out with pain, we shall quietly
draw our little fish into our net, and take her home without
"And if the fish will not go into the net?"
"It must go in!" impatiently cried Orloff. "Bah! have I at the right
time succeeded in towing our emperor, God bless him! into eternity,
and shall I doubt in the fulness of time of enclosing this beautiful
child in my arms! Look at me, Stephano--what is wanting for it in me?
Are not all these beautiful women of Rome enraptured with the Russian
Hercules? How, then, can it be that a woman of my own country can
withstand me? The preliminaries are the main thing, and if we only had
some one to prepare her for my appearance, all would then go well. And
such a one we will find, thanks to our rubles! But enough of politics
for the present, Stephano. Call my valet. It is time for my toilet,
and that is a very important affair."
Corilla was alone. Uneasy, full of stormy thoughts, she impetuously
walked back and forth, occasionally uttering single passionate
exclamations, then again thoughtfully staring at vacancy before her.
She was a full-blooded, warm Italian woman, that will neither love nor
hate with the whole soul, and nourishes both feelings in her bosom
with equal strength and with equal warmth. But, in her, hatred exhaled
as quickly as love; it was to her only the champagne-foam of life,
which she sipped for the purpose of a slight intoxication--as in her
intoxication only did she feel herself a poetess, and in a condition
"I must at any rate be in love," said she, "else I should lose my
poetic fame. With cool blood and a tranquil mind there is no
improvising and poetizing. With me all must be stirring and flaming,
every nerve of my being must glow and tremble, the blood must flash
like fire through my veins, and the most glowing wishes and ardent
longings, be it love or be it hate, must be stirring within me in
order to poetize successfully. And this cannot be comprehended by
delicate and discreet people; this low Roman populace even venture to
call me a coquette, only because I constantly need a new glow, and
because I constantly seek new emotions and new inspirations for my
Love, then, for the improvisatrice Corilla, was nothing more than a
strong wine with which she refreshed and strengthened her fatigued
poetic powers for renewed exertions; it was in a manner the tow which
she threw upon the expiring fire of her fantasy, to make it flash up
in clear and bright flames.
It was only in this way that she loved Carlo, and wept for him, except
that in this case her love had been of a longer duration, because it
was /he/ who gave up and left /her/! That was what made her hatred so
glowing, that was what made her seek the life of the woman for whom
Carlo had deserted her.
"This is a new situation," said she, "which I am called to live
through and to feel. But a poetess must have experienced all feelings,
or she could not describe them. For my part, I do not believe in the
revelations of genius--I believe only in experiences. One can describe
only what one has felt and experienced. Whoever may attempt to
describe the flavor of an orange, must first have tasted it!"
That this attempt to murder Natalie had failed, was to her a matter of
little moment. She had experienced the emotion of it, and just the
same would it have been a matter of indifference to her had the dagger
pierced Natalie's breast--she was sufficiently a child of the South to
consider a murder as only a venial sin, for which the priest could
There was only one thing which exclusively occupied Corilla, following
and tormenting her day and night, and that was her poetic fame. She
desired that her name should stand high in the world, glorified by all
Europe, and for this purpose she desired above all things to be
crowned as a poetess in the capitol of the holy city; for this fame
she would willingly have given many years of her life.
That was the aim of all her efforts, and how much would she not have
borne, ventured, and suffered for its attainment! How many intrigues
were planned, how much cunning and dissimulation, flattery, and
hypocrisy, had been employed for that purpose, and all, all as yet in
Therefore it was that Corilla now wept, and with occasional outbreaks
of passionate exclamations violently paced her room. Her cheeks
glowed, her eyes flashed--she was very beautiful in this state of
excitement. That she must have acknowledged to herself as her glance
accidentally encountered her own face in the glass.
With a smile of satisfaction she remained standing before the mirror,
and almost angrily she said:
"Ah, why am I now alone, why does no one see me in my beautiful glow?
My face might now produce some effect, and gain me friends! Why, then,
am I now alone?"
But it seems that Corilla had only to express a wish in order to see
it suddenly fulfilled; for the door was at that moment opened, and a
servant announced Count Alexis Orloff.
Corilla smiled with delight, and let that smile remain upon her lips,
as she very well knew it was becoming to her, and that she had
conquered many hearts with it; but secretly her heart throbbed with
fear, and timidly she asked herself, "What can that Russian count want
But with a cheerful face she advanced to receive him; she seemed not
to remark that a dark cloud lay upon his brow, and that his features
bore an almost threatening expression.
"He is a barbarian," thought she, "and barbarians must be treated
differently from other men. I must flatter this lion, in order to
"It is a serious matter that brings me to you, signora," said Alexis,
"A serious matter?" she cheerfully asked. "Ah, then I pity you, count.
It is difficult to speak with me of serious matters!"
"You rather do them!" said Alexis, carelessly throwing himself upon a
divan. "You would not play with such serious things as, for instance,
a dagger, and therefore you hurl it from you, altogether indifferent
whether you thereby quite accidentally pierce the heart of another."
"I do not understand you, count," said Corilla, without embarrassment,
but at the same time she looked at him with such a charming and
enticing expression, that Alexis involuntarily smiled.
"I will make myself intelligible to you," said he, in a milder tone.
"You must understand, that I know you, Corilla. That assassin who
followed the Princess Tartaroff at the festival of Cardinal Bernis,
was employed by you, Signora Maddalena Morelli Fernandez, called
"And what if it were true, Signor Alexis Orloff, called the handsome
Northern Hercules?" asked she, roguishly imitating his grave
seriousness. "If it were really true, what further?"
Alexis looked in her face with an expression of astonishment. "You are
wonderfully bold!" said he.
"None but slaves are without courage!" responded she. "Freedom is the
mother of boldness!"
"You do not, then, deny the hiring of that bravo?"
"I only deny your right to inquire," said she.
"I have a right to it," he responded with vehemence. "This Princess
Tartaroff is a subject of the Empress of Russia, my mistress, who
watches over and protects all her subjects with maternal tenderness."
"That good, tender empress!" exclaimed Corilla, with an ambiguous
smile. "But in order properly to watch and preserve all her children
and subjects, she should keep them in her own country. Take this
Princess Tartaroff with you to Russia, and then she will be safe from
our Italian daggers. Take her with you; that will be the best way!"
"You, then, very heartily hate this poor little princess?" asked
"Yes," said she, after a short reflection, "I hate her. And would you
know why, signor? Not for her beauty, not for her youth, but for her
talents! And she has great talents! Ah, there was a time when I hated
her, although I knew her not. But now, now it is different. I now not
only hate, but fear her! For she can rival me, not only in love, but
in fame! Ah, you should have seen her on that evening! She was like a
swan to look at, and her song was like the dying strains of the swan.
And all shouted applause, and all the women wept; indeed, I myself
wept, not from emotion, but with rage, with bitterness, for they had
forgotten me--forgotten, for this new poetess; they overwhelmed her
with flatteries, leaving me alone and unnoticed! And yet you ask me if
I hate her!"
Quite involuntarily had she suffered herself to be carried away by her
own vehemence, her inward glowing rage. With secret pleasure Count
Orloff read in her features that this was no comedy which she thus
improvised, but was truth and reality.
"If you so think and feel," said he, "then we may soon understand each
other, signora. A real hatred is of as much value as a real love;
indeed, often of much greater. One can more safely confide in hatred,
as it is more enduring. I will therefore confide in you, signora, if
you will swear to me to betray no word of what I shall tell you."
"I swear it!" was Corilla's response.
"Listen, then! This Princess Tartaroff is an imposter; no princely
blood flows in her veins, and if she gives herself out to be a
princess, it is because she therewith connects plans of high-treason.
More I need not say to you, except that my illustrious empress has
charged me to bring this fraudulent princess to her at St. Petersburg,
that she may there receive her punishment! This I have sworn to do,
and must redeem my promise to transport her from here, without
exciting attention, and without subjecting her to any personal injury.
Do you now comprehend why I come?"
"I comprehend," said Corilla. "An empress would avenge herself, and
therefore a poor poetess must forego her own little private revenge!
But how, if I should not believe a word of this long story; if I
should consider it a fable invented by you to assure the safety of
"That you may be compelled to believe it, listen further to me."
And Alexis Orloff spoke long and zealously to her, affording her a
glance into his most secret intrigues, into his finely-matured plans,
while Corilla followed him with intense expectation and warmly-glowing
"I comprehend it all, all!" said she, when Alexis had finally ended;
"it is a deep and at the same time an infernal plan--a plan which must
excite the envy and respect of Satan himself!"
"And yourself?" laughingly asked Alexis.
"Oh, I," said she--"I belong, perhaps, to the family of devils, and
therefore take pleasure in aiding you! You need a negotiator who has a
wide conscience and an eloquent tongue! I can furnish you with such a
one. Ah, that will make a droll story. Said you not that the singer
Carlo watched this golden treasure like a dragon? Well, it shall be
his brother who shall contend with this dragon. His own brother--will
not that be pleasant, count?"
"And are you sure of him?" asked Count Orloff. "How if his brother
should win him from us?"
"Have no anxiety; this Carlo Ribas is so virtuous that he hates no one
so much as his brother Joseph, merely because he passed some years in
the galleys for forgery. He is now free, and has secretly come here.
As he was aware that I knew his brother, he came to beg me for my
countenance and support. I will send him to you."
"And you will also not forget my request, that you will in all
societies speak of the great love which the Empress Catharine
cherishes for her near relation, the Princess Tartaroff?"
"I will not forget it. In your hands, count, I lay my revenge--you
will free me from this rival?"
"That will I," said he, with an inhuman laugh. "And when the work is
completed, and you have faithfully stood by me, then, signora, you may
be sure of the gratitude of the empress. Catharine is the exalted
protectress of the muses, and in the fulness of her grace she will not
forget the poetess Corilla. You may expect an imperial reward."
"And I shall gratefully receive it," said Corilla, with a smile. "A
poetess is always poor and in want of assistance. The muses lavish
upon their votaries all joys but those of wealth."
"Ah!" exclaimed Corilla, when the count had left her, "I shall in the
end obtain all I desire. I shall not only be crowned with fame, but
blessed with wealth, which is a blessing almost equal to that of fame!
Money has already founded many a reputation, but not always has fame
attracted money to itself! I shall be rich as well as famous!"
"That you already are!" exclaimed the Cardinal Francesco Albani, who
unremarked had just entered the room.
"I am not," said she, with vehemence, "for they refuse me the prize of
fame! Have you been with the pope, your eminence, and what did he
"I come directly from him."
"Well, and what says he?"
"What he always says to me--no!"
Corilla stamped her feet violently, and her eyes flashed lightnings.
"How beautiful you are now!" tenderly remarked the cardinal, throwing
an arm around her.
She rudely thrust him back. "Touch me not," said she, "you do not
deserve my love. You are a weakling, as all men are. You can only coo
like a pigeon, but when it comes to action, then sinks your arm, and
you are powerless. Ah, the woman whom you profess to love begs of you
a trifling service, the performance of which is of the highest
importance to her, the greatest favor, and you will not fulfil her
request while yet swearing you love her! Go! you are a cold-hearted
man, and wholly undeserving of Corilla's love!"
"But," despairingly exclaimed the cardinal, "you require of me a
service that it is not in my power to perform. Ask something else,
Corilla--ask a human life, and you shall have it! But I cannot give
what is not mine. You demand a laurel-crown, which only the pope has
the power to bestow, and he has sworn that you shall not have it so
long as he lives!"
"Will he, then, live eternally?" cried Corilla, beside herself with
The cardinal gave her an astonished and interrogating glance. But his
features suddenly assumed a wild and malicious expression, and
violently grasping Corilla's hand, he murmured:
"You are right! 'Will he, then, live forever?' Bah! even popes are
mortal men. And if we should choose for his successor a man better
disposed toward you then--Corilla," said the cardinal, interrupting
himself, and in spite of her resistance pressing her to his bosom--
"Corilla, swear once more to me that you will be mine, and only mine,
as soon as I procure your coronation in the capitol! Swear it once
She gave him such a sweet, enticing, and voluptuous smile that the
cardinal trembled with desire and joy.
"When you in the capitol adorn Corilla with the laurel-crown, then
will she willingly lay her myrtle crown at your feet," said she, with
a charming expression of maiden modesty.
The cardinal again pressed her passionately to his bosom.
"You shall have the laurel-crown, and your myrtle crown is mine!" he
excitedly exclaimed. "You will soon see whether Francesco is a cold-
hearted man! Farewell, Corilla!"
And with a hasty salute he left the room. The astonished Corilla
dismissed him with a smile.
"If it is to succeed at all, it can be only through him," said she.
"Poor Francesco, he will bring me a full laurel-crown! And what can I
give him in return? An exfoliated myrtle crown, that is all! No heart
THE HOLY CHAFFERERS
Cardinal Francesco Albani, meantime, hastened through the streets with
the sprightliness of youth. He noticed neither the respectful
salutations and knee-bendings of those he passed, nor their visible
shuddering and alarm when under the cardinal's hat they recognized the
fierce and inhuman Francesco Albani.
He stopped before the palace of Cardinal Juan Angelo Braschi. The
equipage of the new cardinal was drawn up before his door.
"Ah," gleefully remarked Albani, "he is therefore yet at home, and I
shall meet with him!"
Hastily entering the palace, and pushing past the servant who would
have preceded him, he entered the cardinal's cabinet unannounced.
"Be not troubled, your eminence," said Albani, with a smile, "I will
not detain you long. I know your habits, and know that Signora Malveda
usually expects you at this hour, because Cardinal Rezzonico is not
then with her! But I have something important to say to you. You know
I am a man who, without forms and circumlocutions, always comes
directly to the point. I do so now. You desire to be the successor of
Braschi turned pale, and timidly cast down his eyes.
"Why are you shocked?" cried Albani. "Every cardinal hopes and wishes
to become the father of Christendom--that is natural; I should also
wish it for myself, but I know that that cannot be. I have permitted
these lord cardinals who, in the conclave, invoke the Holy Spirit, to
look too much into my cards. I was not so prudent as you, Braschi, and
therefore you are much the more likely to become God's vicegerent!
Would you not like to be pope, if Ganganelli should happen to die? And
how high would you hold my voice--how much would it be worth to you?"
"More than all I possess, infinitely more!" said the shrewd Braschi.
"Were I sure of your voice, I might then have a definite hope of
becoming pope; for your voice carries many others with it. How, then,
can you expect me to estimate what is inestimable?"
"Would you give me twenty thousand?" asked Albani.
"Threefold that sum if I possessed it, but I have nothing! I am a very
poor cardinal, as you well know. My whole property consists of six
thousand scudi, and that trifling sum I dare not offer you."
"Borrow, then, of Signora Malveda!" said Albani. "Cardinal Rezzonico
is rich and liberal. Let us speak directly to the point. You would be
pope, and I am willing to forward your views. How much will you pay?"
"If Signora Malveda will lend me four thousand scudi, I should then
have ten thousand to offer you!"
"Well, so be it. Ten thousand scudi will do, if you will add to it a
"Name it," said Braschi.
"You know that Ganganelli opposes the crowning of our famous
improvisatrice, Corilla, in the capitol. This is an injustice which
Ganganelli's successor will have to repair. Will you do it?"
Braschi gave the cardinal a sly glance. "Ah," said he, "Signora
Corilla seems to be less liberal than Signora Malveda? She will allow
you no discount of her future laurel-crown, is it not so? I know
nothing worse than an ambitious woman. Listen, Albani; it seems that
we must be mutually useful to each other; I need your voice to become
pope, and you need mine to become a favored lover. Very well, give me
your voice, and in return, I promise you a laurel-crown for Signora
Corilla, and eight thousand scudi for yourself!"
"Ah, you would haggle!" contemptuously exclaimed Albani. "You would be
a very niggardly vicegerent of God! But as Corilla is well worth two
thousand scudi, I am content. Give me eight thousand scudi and the
promise to crown Corilla!"
"As soon as I am pope, I will do both. My sacred word for it! Shall I
strengthen my promise by swearing upon the Bible?"
Cardinal Albani gave the questioner a glance of astonishment, and then
broke out with a loud and scornful laugh.
"You forget that you are speaking to one of your kind! Of what use
would such a holy farce be to us who have no faith in its binding
power? No, no, we priests know each other. Such buffoonery amounts to
nothing. One written word is worth a thousand sworn oaths! Let us have
a contract prepared--that is better. We will both sign it!"
"Just as you please!" said Braschi, with a smile, stepping to his
writing desk and rapidly throwing some lines upon paper, which he
signed after it had been carefully read by Albani.
"At length the business is finished," said Albani. "Now, Cardinal
Braschi, go to your signora, and surprise her with the news that she
holds in her arms a pope /in spe/. Pope Clement will soon need a
successor; he must be very ill, the poor pope!"
So speaking, he took leave of the future pope with a friendly nod, and
departed with as much haste as he had come.
"And now to these pious Jesuit fathers!" said he, stepping out upon
the grass. "It was very prudent in me that I went on foot to Corilla
to-day. Our cursed equipages betray every thing; they are the greatest
chatterboxes! How astonished these good Romans would be to see a
cardinal's carriage before these houses of the condemned! No, no,
strengthen yourselves for another effort, my reverend legs! Only yet
this walk, and then you will have rest."
And the cardinal trudged stoutly on until he reached the Jesuit
college. There he stopped and looked cautiously around him.
"This unfortunate saintly dress is also a hindrance," murmured he.
"Like the sign over the shop-door it proclaims to all the world: 'I am
a cardinal. Here indulgences, dispensations, and God's blessings are
to be sold! Who will buy, who will buy?' I dare not now enter this
scouted and repudiated sacred house. I might be remarked, suspected,
and betrayed. Corilla, dear, beautiful woman, it costs me much pains
and many efforts to conquer you; will your possession repay me?"
The cardinal patiently waited in the shadow of a taxus-bush until the
street become for a moment empty and solitary. Then he hastened to a
side-door of the building, and, sure of being unobserved, entered.
A deep and quiet silence pervaded these long and deserted cloister-
passages. It seemed as if a death-veil lay upon the whole building--as
if it were depopulated, desolated. Nowhere the least trace of that
busy, stirring life, usually prevailing in these corridors--no longer
those bands of scholars that formerly peopled these passages--the
doors of the great school-room open, the benches unoccupied, the
lecturer's chair, from which the pious fathers formerly with such
subtle wisdom explained and defended their dangerous doctrines, these
also are desolate. The reign of the Jesuits was over; Ganganelli had
thrust them from the throne, and they cursed him as their murderer! He
had suppressed their sacred order, he had commanded them to lay aside
their peculiar costume and adopt that of other monkish orders, or the
usual dress of abbes. But from their property he had not been able to
expel them in this college /Il Jesu/--within their cloisters his power
had not been able to penetrate. There they remained, what they had
been, the holy fathers of Jesus, the pious defenders of craft and
Christian deception, the cunning advocates of regicide, the proud
servants of the only salvation-dispensing Church!--there, with rage in
their hearts, they meditated plans of vengeance against this criminal
pope who had condemned them to a living death; who, like a wicked
magician, had changed their sacred college into an open grave! He had
killed them, and he, should he nevertheless live?
With these fatal questions did the holy fathers occupy themselves,
reflecting upon them in their gloomy leisure, and in low whisperings
consulting with their prior. And in such secret consultation did
Cardinal Francesco Albani find the prior with his confidant in the
"Do not let me disturb you," he said laughing; "I see by your faces
you are engaged in conversation upon the subject in which I yesterday
took a part. That is very well--we can resume it where we yesterday
broke off, and again knot the threads which I yesterday so violently
rent. With which knot shall we begin?"
The eyes of the pious Jesuit father flashed with joy. Francesco Albani
was inclined to favor their plans and wishes; they saw that in his
cunning smile, in his return to them.
"We were speaking of the sacred and important duty you will have to
perform to-morrow, your eminence," said the prior, with a winning
"Ah, yes, I remember," said the cardinal, with apparent indifference.
"We spoke of the to-morrow's communion of his holiness the pope."
"And of the fact that you, your eminence, would to-morrow have to
discharge the important duty of pouring the sacred wine into the
golden chalice of the vicegerent of God," said the prior.
"Yes, yes, I now remember it all," said Albani, with a smile. "You
spoke to me of a wonderful flask of wine, which, by means of the
golden tube, you would gladly help to the honor of being drunk by his
holiness from the communion chalice."
"It is so precious a wine that only the vicegerent of God is worthy of
wetting his lips with it. It must touch the lips of no other mortal!"
"I know such a wine," said Albani; "it thrives best in the region of
Naples,[*] and whoever drinks of it becomes a partaker of eternal
[*] The celebrated poison, /Acqua Tofana/, is prepared only in Naples.
"Yes, you are right, it is a wonderfully strengthening wine!" said the
prior, folding his hands and directing his eyes toward the heavens.
"We thank God that He has left us in possession of so precious an
essence! The pope, they say, is suffering and needs strengthening. See
how closely we follow the teaching of Him whose name we bear, and who
has commanded, 'Love your enemies, bless those who curse you!' Instead
of avenging ourselves, we would be his benefactors, and refresh him
with the most precious of what we possess!"
"And you would be so unselfish as to keep from him all knowledge of
your benevolence, you would bless him quite secretly! But how if I
should betray you, and communicate your precious secret to his
holiness the pope? Yes, yes, I shall open my mouth and speak, unless I
am prevented by a golden lock put upon my lips."
"We shall willingly apply such a lock!" said the pleased prior.
"But, that it may entirely close my mouth, the lock will need to be
very heavy!" responded Albani, with a laugh.
"It is so--it weighs six thousand scudi!" said the prior.
"That is much too light!" exclaimed Albani, laughing; "it will hardly
cover my mouth. It still remains that I am to undertake a very
hazardous affair. Reflect, if any one should discover my possession of
this strange wine; if Ganganelli should perceive that it is not wine
from his own cellar that I have poured into the cup for him! It is
dangerous work that you would assign to me, a work for which I might
lose my head, and you venture to offer me a poor six thousand scudi
for it! Adieu, then, pious fathers, keep you your golden lock, and I
my unclosed lips. I shall know when and where to speak!"
And the cardinal moved toward the door. Hastening after him, the prior
handed him a small flask, the contents of which were clear and pure as
crystal water, timidly and anxiously whispering, "Ten drops of this in
Ganganelli's communion wine, and ten thousand scudi are yours!"
"Give the ten thousand scudi at once!" said Albani, with decision.
"And the drops?"
"The pope's wine is too strong: I will reduce it a little with this
[*] The poison, /Acqua Tofana/, is pure and clear as water, without
taste or smell. It is prepared from opium and Spanish flies,
combined with some other ingredients, which, however, are only
known to the makers of it. That the /Acqua Tofana/ is made from
the foam sometimes found upon the lips of the dying, is an idle
tale. Allessandro Borgia was the first to bring it into use.
SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI
On the following day there was a solemn high office in St. Peter's.
All Rome flocked there, to see this great and touching spectacle. A
dense crowd thronged the streets, and all shouted and cried when the
pope, surrounded by his Swiss guard, appeared in their midst in his
gilded armchair, and received the greetings of the people with a bland
Toward St. Peter's waved the human throng, and to St. Peter's the pope
was borne. The features of Ganganelli had an expression of sadness,
and as he now glanced down upon the thousands of his subjects who,
shouting, followed him, he asked in his heart, "Who among you will be
my murderers? And how long will you yet allow me to live? Ah, were I
yet the poor Franciscan monk I was, then no one would take the pains
to assassinate me. Why, then, does the world, precisely now, seem so
fair to me, now, when I know that I must leave it so soon?" And the
pope shed a secret tear while, surrounded by royal splendor, he
imparted his blessing to the thousands who reverently knelt at his
The bells rang, the organ resounded, the wide halls of St. Peter's
were penetrated by the marvellous singing of the Sistine chapel.
Thousands and thousands of wax tapers lighted the noble space of the
church, thousands and thousands of people pressed into the sacred
halls. Under his canopy, opposite the high altar, sat the vicegerent
of God upon his golden throne, surrounded by the consecrated cardinals
and bishops, protected by the Swiss guard! Who could have ventured to
attack the holy father--who would have been so foolhardy as to attempt
to penetrate that thick wall of Swiss guards and princes of the Church
--who could have been successful in such an attempt? No human being!
But where the people could not penetrate, where there was no room for
the swinging of a dagger, there the malignant poison lurked unseen!
Ganganelli sat upon his golden throne, intoxicated by the clang of the
organ and charmed by the singing of the high choir, and the pope,
looking down upon the human crowd, again asked himself: "Who among you
are my murderers?"
The singing ceased, the organ was silent, and only the solemn tones of
all the bells of St. Peter's resounded through the church. A death-
like stillness else; the people lay upon their knees and crossed
themselves; before the altar kneeling priests murmured prayers.
It was a solemn, a sublime moment, for the pope must now receive the
communion--the vicegerent of God must drink the blood of the Lamb. But
still the pope remains sacred; he cannot, like other mortals, make use
of his earthly feet; he must not, like them, approach the altar.
Sitting upon his throne, he has partaken of the holy wafer, and, as it
was unbecoming his dignity to descend to the altar in order to come to
Christ, the latter must decide to come to him!
The golden chalice at the high altar contains the blood of the Lamb;
the Cardinal Francesco Albani performs the holy office. He has the
blessed host, and under his consecrated hand will now be effected the
miracle of turning the wine into the blood of Christ!
And Cardinal Albani lays the golden tube in the cup, and another
cardinal passes the other end of the tube to the pope.
Through this sacred tube will he sip the consecrated wine, the blood
of the Redeemer!
Rushing and thundering recommences the high office, the trumpets renew
their blasts, the drums roll, the bells ring, the organ rattles its
song of jubilee, the trombones crash in unison. It is the greatest,
most sublime moment of the whole ceremony. The pope, having put the
golden tube to his lips, sips the wine changed into blood.
While the pope drinks the two cardinals who to-day are on service
approach the sacred throne. They hold a torch in the right hand and a
small bundle of tow in the left, and according to the custom, set the
tow on fire.
It flashes up in a bright flame, is soon extinguished, and a small,
almost imperceptible quantity of ashes floats from it to the feet of
"/Sic transit gloria mundi!/" (So passes the glory of the world!)
exclaimed Francesco Albani, with proud presumptuousness and with
maliciously scornful glances, while with an expression of savage
triumph he stares in the paling face of the pope. "/Sic transit gloria
mundi!/" repeated Albani, in a yet louder and more thundering voice.
The bells ring, the hymn resounds, the trombone and organ clang; the
audience are on their knees in prayer. A bustle arises, a suppressed
murmur--the holy father of Christendom has fainted upon his throne
like any common mortal man.
Since Paulo had left her, and she found herself alone, Natalie felt
sad, solitary, in the paradise that surrounded her. No longer did she
sing in emulation of the birds, no longer did she hop with youthful
delight and the impetuosity of a young roe through the charming
alleys. Sadly, and with downcast eyes, sat she under the myrtle bush
by the murmuring fountains, and frequent heavy sighs heaved her
"All is changed, all!" she often thoughtfully said to herself. "A
great and terrible secret has been unveiled within me--the secret of
my utter abandonment! I have no one on earth to whom I belong! Once I
never thought of that. Paulo was all to me, my friend, my father, my
brother; but Paulo has abandoned me, I belong not to him, and hence I
could not go with him. And who is left to me? Carlo!" she answered
herself in a low tone, and with a melancholy smile. "But Carlo has not
filled the void that Paulo's absence has left in my heart. At first I
thought he could, but that was only a short deception. Carlo is good
and kind, always devoted, always ready to serve me. He always conforms
himself to my will, is all subjection, all obedience. But that is
terrible, unbearable!" exclaimed the almost weeping young maiden.
"Who, then, shall I obey, before whom shall I tremble, when all obey
me and tremble before me? And yet Carlo is a man. No," said she, quite
low; "were he so I should then obey him, and not he me; then would he
give me commands, and not I him! No, Carlo is no man--Paulo was so!
Where art thou, my friend, my father?"
And the young maiden yearningly spread her arms in the air, calling
upon her distant friend with tender, low-whispered words and heartfelt
But the days slowly passed, and still no news came from him. Natalie
dreamily and sadly sank deeper into herself; her cheeks paled, her
step became less light and elastic. In vain did her true friends,
Marianne and Carlo, exhaust themselves in projects and propositions
for her distraction and amusement.
"You should go into the world and amuse yourself in society,
princess," said Carlo.
"I hate the world and society," said Natalie. "People are all bad, and
I abominate them. What had I done to these people, how had I offended
them even in thought, and yet they would have murdered me the very
first time I appeared among them? No, no, leave me here in my
solitude, where I at least have not to tremble for my life, where I
have Carlo to guard and protect me."
The singer pressed the proffered hand to his lips.
"Then let us at least make some excursions in the environs of Rome,"
"No," said she, "I should everywhere long to be back in my garden.
Nowhere is it so beautiful as here. Leave me my paradise--why would
you drive me from it?"
"Alas!" despairingly exclaimed Carlo, "you call yourself happy and
satisfied; why, then, are you so sad?"
"Am I sad?" she asked, with surprise. "No, Carlo, I am not sad! I
sometimes dream, nothing more! Let me yet dream!"
"You will die," thought Carlo, and with an effort he forced back the
cry of despair that pressed to his lips; but his cheeks paled, and his
whole form trembled.
Seeing it, Natalie shook off her apathy, and with a lively sympathy
and tender friendship she inquired the cause of his disquiet. She was
so near him that her breath fanned his cheek, and her locks touched
"Ah, you would kill me, you would craze me!" murmured he, sorrowfully,
sinking down, powerless, at her feet.
She looked wonderingly at him. "Why are you angry with me?" she
innocently said, "and what have I done, that you so wrongfully accuse
"What have you done?" cried he, beside himself,--the moment had
overcome him, this moment had burst the bands with which he had bound
his heart, and in unfettered freedom, in glowing passion, his long-
concealed secret forced its way to his lips. He must at length for
once speak of his sorrows, even if death should follow; he must give
expression to his torment and his love, even should Natalie banish him
forever from her presence!
"What have you done?" repeated he. "Ah, she does not even know that
she is slowly murdering me, she does not even know that I love her!"
"Am I not to know?" she reproachfully asked. "Would you, indeed, have
saved my life had you not loved me? Carlo I am indebted to you for my
life, and you say I murder you!"
"Yes," he frowardly exclaimed, "you murder me! Slowly, day by day,
hour by hour, am I consumed by this frightful internal fire that is
destroying me. Ah, you know not that you are killing me. And have you
not destroyed my youthful strength, and from a man converted me into
an old, trembling, and complaining woman? Is it not for your sake that
I have fled the world, leaving behind me all it offered of fame and
wealth and honor? Is it not your fault that I have ceased to be a free
man, to have a will of my own, and have become a slave crawling at
your feet? Ah, woe is me, that I ever came to know you! You are an
enchantress, you have made me your hound, and, whining, I lie in the
dust before you, satisfied when you touch me with your foot."
At first, Natalie had listened to him with terror and astonishment;
then an expression of noble pride was to be read upon her features, a
glowing flush flitted over her delicate cheeks, and with flashing eyes
and a heaving bosom she sprang up from her seat. Proud as a queen she
rose erect, the blood of her ancestors awoke in her; she at this
moment felt herself free as an empress, as proud, as secure--and,
stretching her arm toward the outlet of the garden, she said in a
determined tone: "Go, Signor Carlo! Leave me, I tell you! We have no
longer any thing in common with each other!"
Carlo seemed as if awakened from a delirium. Breathless, with widely-
opened eyes, trembling and anxious, he stared at the angry maiden. He
knew nothing of what he had said; he comprehended not her anger, only
his infinite suffering; he was conscious only of his long-suppressed,
long-concealed secret love. And, grasping Natalie's hands with an
imploring expression, he constrained the young maiden, almost against
her will, to remain and reseat herself upon the grassy bank before
which he knelt.
As he looked up to her with those glowing, passionate glances, a
maiden fear and trembling for the first time came over her, an anxiety
and timidity inexplicable to herself! Her delicate, transparent cheeks
paled, tears filled her eyes, and, folding her hands with a childishly
supplicating expression, she said in a low, tremulous tone: "My God,
my God! Have mercy upon me! I am a wholly abandoned, solitary orphan!
Rescue me yet from this trouble and distress, from this terrible
"Fear nothing, my charming angel," whispered Carlo, "I will be gentle
as a lamb, and patient, very patient in my sorrow; I have sworn it and
will keep my oath! But you must hear me! You must, only this one time,
allow me to express in words my love and my sorrow, my misery and my
ecstasy. Will you allow me this, my lily, my beautiful swan?"
He would have again grasped her hand, but she withdrew it with a
proud, angry glance.
"Speak on," said she, wearily leaning her hand against the myrtle-
bush. "Speak on, I will listen to you!"
And he spoke to her of his love; he informed her of his former life,
his poverty, his want, his connection with Corilla, whom he had
quitted in order to devote himself wholly to her, to obey, serve, and
worship her all his life, and, if necessary, to die for her! "But
you," he despairingly said, "you know not love! Your heart is cold for
earthly love; like the angels in heaven, you love only the good and
the sublime, you love mankind collectively, but not the individual.
Ah, Natalie, you have the heart of an angel, but not the heart of a
The young maiden had half dreamingly listened to him, her hand leaned
back and her glance directed toward the heavens. She now smiled, and,
with an inimitable grace, laying her hand upon her bosom, said in a
very low tone: "And yet I feel that a woman's heart is beating there.
But it sleeps! Who will one day come to awaken it?"
Carlo did not understand these low whispered words; he understood only
his own passion, his own consuming glow. And anew he commenced his
love-plainings, described to her the torments and fierce joys of an
unreturned love, which is yet too strong and overpowering to be
suppressed. And Natalie listened to him with a dreamy thoughtfulness.
His words sounded in her ears like a wonderful song from a strange,
distant world which she knew not, but the description of which filled
her heart with a sweet longing, and she could have wept, without
knowing whether it was for sorrow or joy.
"Thus, Natalie," at length said Carlo, entirely exhausted and pale
with emotion--"thus I love you. You must sometime have learned it, and
have known that even angels cannot mingle with mortals unloved and
unpunished. I should finally have been compelled to tell you that you
might torture no longer, in cruel ignorance; that you, learning to
understand your own heart, might tell me whether I have to hope, or
only to fear!"
"Poor Carlo!" murmured Natalie. "You love me, but I do not love you!
This has even now become clear to me; and while you have so glowingly
described the passion, I have for the first time comprehended that I
yet know nothing of that love, and that I can never learn it of you!
This is a misfortune, Carlo, but as we cannot change, we must submit
Carlo drooped his head and sighed. He had no answer to make, and only
murmuringly repeated her words: "Yes, we must submit to it!"
"And why can we not?" she almost cheerfully asked, with that childlike
innocence which never once comprehended the sorrow she was preparing
for Carlo--"why can we not joyfully submit? We both love, only in a
different manner. Let each preserve and persevere in his own manner,
and then all may yet be well!"
"And it shall be well!" exclaimed Carlo, with animation. "You cannot
love me as I love you, but I can devote my whole life to you, and that
will I do! At home, in my charming Naples, a beautiful custom is
prevalent. When one loves, he is adopted as a /vapo/, a protector, who
follows the steps of the one he loves, who watches before her door
when she sleeps, who secretly lurks at a distance behind her when she
leaves her house, who observes every passer-by in order to preserve
her from every murderous or other inimical attack, or in case of need
to hasten to her assistance. Such a /vapo/ protects her against the
jealousy of her husband or the vengeance of a dismissed lover.
Natalie, as I cannot be your lover, I will be your /vapo/. Will you
accept my services?"
Giving him her hand, she smilingly said, "I will."
Carlo pressed that hand to his lips, and bedewed it with a warm tear.
"Well, then, I swear myself your /vapo/," said he, with deep emotion.
"Wherever you may be, I shall be near you, I shall always follow to
warn and to protect you; should you be in danger, call me and you will
find me at your side, whether by night or by day; I shall always watch
over you and sleep at the threshold of your door, and should a dream
alarm you, I shall be there to tranquillize you. So long as I live,
Natalie, so long as your /vapo/ has a dagger and a sure hand, so long
shall misfortune fail to penetrate into your dwelling. You cannot be
mine, or return my love, but I can care for you and watch over you. In
accepting me for your /vapo/, you have given me the right to die for
you if necessary, and that of itself is a happiness!"
Thus speaking Carlo rose, and, no longer able to conceal his deep
emotion and suppress his tears, he left Natalie, and hastened into the
obscurest alleys of the garden.
The young maiden watched his retreat with a sad smile.
"Poor Carlo!" murmured she, "and ah! yet much poorer Natalie! He loves
at least. But I, am I not much more to be pitied? I have no one whom I
love. I am entirely isolated, and of what use is a solitary paradise?"
Corilla had kept her word. She had sent to Alexis Orloff, Carlo's
brother, Joseph Ribas, the galley-slave, and with a malicious smile
she had said to the latter, "You will avenge me on your treacherous
Count Orloff warmly welcomed Corilla's /protege/.
"If you give me satisfaction, said he, "you may expect a royal
recompense, and the favor of the exalted Empress of Russia. First of
all, tell me what you can do?"
"Not much," said Joseph Ribas, laughing, "and the little I can will
yet be condemned as too much. I can very dexterously wield the dagger,
and reach the heart through the back! Because I did that to a
successful rival at Palermo, I was compelled by the police to flee to
Naples. There a good friend taught me how to make counterfeit money,
an art which I brought to some perfection, and which I successfully
practised for some years. But the police, thinking my skill too great,
finally relieved me from my employment, and gave me free board and
lodging for ten years in the galley. Ah, that was a happy time, your
excellency. I learned much in the galleys, and something which I can
now turn to account in your service. I learned to speak the Russian
language like a native of Moscow. Such a one was for seven years my
inseparable friend and chain-companion, and as he was too stupid or
too lazy to learn my language, I was forced to learn his, that I might
be able to converse with him a little. That, your excellency, is about
all I know; to wield the dagger, make counterfeit money, speak the
Russian language, and some other trifling tricks, which, however, may
be of service to your excellency."
"Who knows?" said Orloff, laughing. "Do you understand, for example,
how to break into a house and steal gold and diamonds, without being
caught in the act?"
"That," said Joseph, thoughtfully, "I should hope to be able to
accomplish. I have, indeed, as yet, had no experience in that line,
but in the galleys I have listened to the soundest instructions, and
heard the experiences of the greatest master of that art, with the
curiosity of an emulous student!"
Orloff laughed. "You are a sly fellow," said he, "and please me much.
If you act as well as you talk, we shall soon be good friends! Well,
to-morrow night you make your first essay. The business is an
"And that shall be my masterpiece!" responded Joseph Ribas.
"If you succeed, I will, in the name of my illustrious empress,
immediately take you into her service, and you become an officer of
the Russian marine."
Joseph Ribas stared at him with astonishment. "That is certainly an
immense honor and a great good fortune," said he, "only I should like
to know if the Russian marine engages in sea-fights, and if the
officers are obliged to stand under fire?"
"Yes, indeed," cried Orloff, laughing, "but in such cases you can
conceal yourself behind the cannon until the fight is over!"
"I shall remember your wise suggestion in time of need!" seriously
responded Joseph Ribas, bowing to the count.[*] "And where, your
excellency, is to be the scene of my present activity? Where am I to
gain my epaulets?"
[*] And, in fact, Ribas did remember it! At a later period, having
become a Russian admiral, he was intrusted with the command of the
flotilla which was to descend the Danube to aid in the capture of
Kilia and Ismail. But during the investment of Ismail (December
21, 1790), Ribas concealed himself among the reeds on the bank of
the Danube, and did not reappear until the danger was over and he
could in safety share in the booty taken by his sailors. But this
cowardice and avarice of their admiral very nearly caused a mutiny
among the sailors. It was not suppressed without the greatest
"I will myself conduct you to the spot and show you the house where a
rich set of diamonds and some thousands of scudi are lying in company
with your epaulets!"
"And as I have rather long fingers, I shall be able to grasp both the
epaulets and the treasure," laughingly responded Ribas.
It was in the evening after this conversation of Orloff with Joseph
Ribas, a wonderfully brilliant evening, such as is known only under
Natalie inhaled the soft air with delight, and drank in the
intoxicating odor of the flowers which poured out their sweetest
fragrance in the cool of the evening. She was on this evening
unusually cheerful; with the smiling brow and childish gayety, as in
happier days, she skipped down the alleys, or, with her guitar upon
her arm, reposed upon her favorite seat under the myrtle-bush near the
"I am to-day so happy, ah, so happy," said she, "in consequence of
having dreamed of Paulo--in my dream he was near me, spoke to me, and
that is a sure sign of his speedy return! Oh, certainly, certainly! In
my dream he announced it to me, and I distinctly heard him say: 'We
shall meet again, Natalie. I shall soon be with you!'"
"Ah, may this dream but prove true!" sighed Marianne, Natalie's
faithful companion. She was standing, not far from her mistress, with
Carlo, and both were tenderly observing the young maiden, who now
smilingly grasped her guitar and commenced a song of joy for Paulo's
"I have no faith in our count's return!" whispered Marianne while
Natalie was singing. "It is a bad sign that no news, not a line, nor
even the shortest message, had yet come from him. Something unusual,
some great and uncontrollable misfortune, must have prevented his
"You do not think they have imprisoned him?" asked Carlo.
"I fear it," sighed Marianne. "And if so, what fate then awaits our
poor princess? Helpless, alone, without means! For if the count is
imprisoned, he will no longer be in a condition to send money as he
promised. And we now possess only a thousand scudi, with double that
amount in diamonds!"
"Then we are still rich enough to keep off deprivations for a time!"
"But when at length these last resources are exhausted?" asked
Marianne--"when we no longer have either money or diamonds--how then?"
"Oh, then," exclaimed Carlo, with a beaming face, "then will we labor
for her! That, also, will be a pleasure, Marianne!"
While the two were thus conversing, Natalie, with a happy smile and
cheerful face, was still singing her hymn of joy for Paulo's
approaching return to the accompaniment of the rustling trees, the
murmuring fountains, and the chirping birds in the myrtle-bush. It was
a beautiful night, and as the bright full moon now advanced between
the pines, illuminating Natalie's face and form, the partially
intoxicated and perfectly happy Carlo whispered: "Only look, Marianne!
does she not resemble a blessed angel ready to spread her wings, and
with the moonlight to mount up to the stars? Only look, seems it not
as if the moonbeams tenderly embraced her for the purpose of leading
an angel back to its home?"
"May she, at least, one day, with such a happy smile, take her
departure for the skies!" sighed Marianne, piously folding her hands.
At this moment a shrill, cutting wail interrupted Natalie's song. A
string of her guitar had suddenly snapped asunder; frightened, almost
angry, Natalie let the instrument fall to the earth, and again the
strings resounded like lamentations and sighs.
"That is a bad omen," sighed Natalie. "How, if that should be true,
and not my dream?"
And trembling with anxiety, the young maiden stretched forth her hands
toward her friends.
"Carlo--Marianne," she anxiously said, "come here to me, protect me
with your love from this mortal fear and anguish which has suddenly
come over me. See, the moon is hiding behind the clouds. Ah, the whole
world grows dark and casts a mourning veil over its bright face!"
And the timid child, clinging to Marianne's arm, concealed her face in
the bosom of her motherly friend.
"And you call that an omen!" said Carlo, with forced cheerfulness.
"This time, princess, I am the /fatum/ which has alarmed you! It is my
own fault that this string broke. It was already injured and half
broken this evening when I tuned the guitar, but I hoped it would
suffice for the low, sad melodies you now always play. Yes, could I
have known that you would have so exulted and shouted, I should have
replaced it with another string, and this great misfortune would not
While speaking, he had again attached the string and drawn it tight.
"The defective string is quickly repaired, and you can recommence your
hymn of joy," he said, handing back the guitar to Natalie.
She sadly shook her head. "It is passed," said she, "I can exult and
sing no more to-day, and have an aversion to this garden. See how
black and threatening these pines rise up, and do not these myrtle-
bushes resemble large dark graves? No, no; it frightens me here--I can
no longer remain among these graves and these watchers of the dead!
Come, let us go to our rooms! It is night--we will sleep and dream!
Come, let us immediately go into the house."
And like a frightened roe she fled toward the house, the others
In an hour all was silent in the villa. The lights were successively
extinguished in Natalie's and Marianne's chambers; only in Carlo's
little chamber yet burned a dull, solitary lamp, and occasionally the
shadow of the uneasy singer passed the window as he restlessly walked
his room. At length, however, this lamp also was distinguished, and
all was dark and still.
About this time a dark shadow was seen creeping slowly and cautiously
through the garden. Soon it stood still, and then one might have
supposed it to be a deception, and that only the wind shaking the
pines had caused that moving shadow. But suddenly it again appeared in
a moonlighted place, where no bush or tree threw its shade, and, as if
alarmed by the brightness, it then again moved aside into the bushes.
This shadow came constantly nearer and nearer to the house, and as the
walks were here broader and lighter, one might distinctly discern that
it was a human being, the form of a tall, stately man, that so
cautiously and stealthily approached the house. And what is that,
sparkling and flashing in his girdle--is it not a dagger, together
with a pistol and a long knife? Ah, a threatening, armed man is
approaching this silent, solitary house, and no one sees, no one hears
him! Even the two large hounds which with remarkable watchfulness
patrol the garden during the night, even they are silent! Ah, where,
then, are they? Carlo had himself unchained them that they might
wander freely--where, then, can they be?
They lie in the bushes far from the house, cold, stiff, and lifeless.
Before them lies a piece of seductively smelling meat. That was what
had enticed them to forget their duty, and, instead of growling and
barking, they had with snuffling noses been licking this tempting
flesh. Their instinct had not told them it was poisoned, and therefore
they now lay stiff and cold near the food that had destroyed them.
No, from those hounds he had nothing more to fear, this bold,
audacious man; the hounds will no more betray him, nor warningly
announce that Joseph Ribas, the venturesome thief and galley-slave, is
lurking about the house to steal or murder, as the case may be.
He has now reached the house. He listens for a moment, and as all
remains still, no suspicious noise making itself heard, with pitch-
covered paper, brought with him for the purpose, he presses in one of
the window panes. Then, passing his hand through the vacancy caused by
the absent pane of glass, he opens one wing of the French window, and,
by a bold leap springing upon the parapet, he lets himself glide
slowly down into the room.
Again all is still, and silent lies the solitary, peaceful villa.
Suddenly appears a small but bright light behind one of these dark
That is the thief's lantern, which Joseph Ribas has lighted to
illuminate his dark, criminal way.
He cautiously ascends the stairs leading to the second story, and not
a step jars under his feet, not one, nor does the slightest noise
He is now above, in the long corridor. Approaching the first door, he
listens long. He hears a loud breathing--some one sleeps within. With
one sole quick movement he turns the key remaining in the lock. The
door is now locked, and the sleeper within remains undisturbed. Joseph
creeps along to the next door, and again he listens to ascertain if
there be anything stirring within. But no, he hears nothing! All is
still behind the door.
He draws a pistol from his girdle, cocks it, and, thus prepared to
resist every attack, he suddenly opens the door. No one is in the
room, no one but Joseph Ribas the thief, who, with flashing eyes,
suspiciously and carefully examines every hole and corner.
But no, no one is there. Calm and sure, Joseph Ribas, steps into the
room, drawing and bolting the door behind him. No one can now surprise
him, no one can fall upon him from behind. But yes, there is also a
door on each side, right and left. He listens at the first, he thinks
he hears a light breathing; here also he quickly shoves a bolt and
passes over to the other door, which stands ajar. Cautiously he pushes
it open and looks in. A small, dull lamp is burning there, lighting
the lovely face of the sleeping Princess Natalie.
"That is she!" low murmured Ribas, as with eager glances he observes
the young and charming maiden. He is drawn forward as if with
invisible bands--he penetrates into this sacred asylum of the
slumbering maiden. But he forcibly checks his advance. "I have sworn
not to touch her, and I will keep my word, that I may secure my
epaulets!" he muttered to himself, and, retreating into the first
chamber, he bolts the door, to make all sure, that leads into
"Now to the work!" said he, with decision. "Here stands the bureau,
the treasure must be here."
And, placing his dark lantern upon a table, he draws forth his
picklock and chisels, and commences breaking open the bureau. Right--
this thievish instinct has not deceived him, he has found all, all.
Here is the little box of sparkling diamonds, and here the full purses
With a knavish smile, Joseph Ribas conceals the brilliants in his
bosom, and deposits the money in his capacious pockets.
"It is a pity that this is not mine," he muttered with a grin, "but
toward this count I must act as an honorable thief, and I have
promised to bring it all truly to him."
The work is completed, the malicious criminal act is performed. He can
now go, can again creep away from the house his feet have soiled.
Why does he not? Why does he linger in these rooms? Why directs he
such wild and eager glances to the door behind which Natalie sleeps?
He cannot withstand the temptation, and even at the risk of awaking
Natalie, he must see her once more! And, moreover, what had he to fear
from an isolated young girl? He will only have one more look at her.
He noiselessly pushes back the bolt; noiselessly, upon tiptoe, with
closed lantern, he creeps into the room and to Natalie's bedside.
She is wonderfully beautiful, and she smiles in her slumber. How
charming is that placid face, that half-uncovered shoulder, that arm
thrown up over her head, where it is half concealed under her
luxuriant locks! Wonderfully beautiful is she. Dares he to touch that
arm and breathe a kiss, a very light kiss, upon those fragrant lips?
Why not? No one sees him, nor will Count Alexis Orloff ever know that
his commands have been disobeyed.
But as he bent down, as his breath comes only in light contact with
her cheek, she stirs! Maiden modesty never slumbers; it watches over
the sleeping girl, it protects her. It is her good genius who never
Drawing herself up, Natalie opens her eyes and starts up from her
couch. Then she sees a large, threatening masculine form close before
her, close before her that wildly-laughing face.
A shriek of terror and anguish bursts from her lips, and in a tone of
alarm she calls: "Carlo, Carlo! Help! help! Carlo! Save--"
More she did not say. With a wild rage, angry, and ashamed of his own
folly, Joseph Ribas rushes upon her.
"One more cry!" he threateningly said--"one more call for help, and I
will murder you!"
But at this moment a small curtained door which Ribas had not remarked
and hence not fastened, was suddenly opened, and Carlo rushed in.
"I am here, Natalie!--I am here!"
Rushing upon the stranger, and grasping him with gigantic strength, he
thrust him down from the bed.
Joseph Ribas turned toward his new and unexpected enemy. The lamp
lighted his face, and falling back Carlo shrieked, "My brother!"
Joseph Ribas broke out into a loud, savage laugh. "At length we meet,
my brother," said he. "But this time you shall not hinder me in my
work. This time I am the conqueror!"
"No, no, that you are not!" cried Carlo, beside himself with pain and
rage. "Confess what you want in this house--confess, or you are a dead
And with a drawn dagger he rushed upon his opponent!
A frightful struggle ensued. Natalie, in her night-dress, pale as a
lily, knelt upon her bed and prayed. She had folded her hands over her
breast, directly over the place where the papers confided to her by
Paulo, in a little silken bag, always hung suspended by a golden
"Grant, O my God," prayed she--"grant that I may keep my promise to
Paulo, and that I may defend these papers with my life!"
And the two brothers were still struggling and contending; like two
serpents they had coiled around each other, and held each other in
"Flee, flee, Natalie!" groaned Carlo, with a weakened voice--"flee
away from here! I yet hold him, you are yet safe! Flee!"
But in this moment the maiden thought not of her own danger. She
thought only of Carlo. Springing from her bed, with flashing eyes she
boldly threw herself between the contending men.
"No, no," said she, courageously, "I will not flee--I shall at least
know how to die!"
A shriek resounded from Carlo's lips, his arms relaxed and fell from
his enemy, leaving his brother free.
"Ah, finally, finally!" gasped the panting Joseph. "That was an
amusing carnival farce, my virtuous brother! Farewell! I am this time
With a wild leap he sprang to the door; brandishing his bloody dagger
in his right hand, he ran through the corridor, down the stairs, and
out into the garden.
"Saved!" said he, breathing more freely. "I think this Russian will be
satisfied with me! I bring the money and the diamonds, and at the same
time have effectually opened a vein for this troublesome protector!
Ah, it seems to me I have very successfully put in practice my studies
in the high-school of the galleys!"
And, humming a jovial song, Joseph Ribas swung himself into a tree
close to the wall, and let himself down on the other side.
Above, in Natalie's chamber, Carlo long lay stretched on the floor,
pale, with the death-rattle in his throat. In a bright stream flowed
the blood from the wound made by his brother's dagger. Natalie knelt
by him. No tear was in her eye, no lamentation escaped her lips. She
seemed perfectly calm and collected in her excess of sorrow; she only
sought with her robe and her hair to cover Carlo's wound and stop the
flow of blood.
A happy smile played upon Carlo's blue lips.
"I die," he murmured, "but I die for thee! Thy /vapo/ has kept his
word, he has defended thee until his last breath! How good is God! He
lets me die in thy service!"
"No, no, you must not die!" cried Natalie, her calmness giving way to
the wildest sorrow. "No, Carlo, you must live! Oh, say not that you
die! Ah, you love me, and yet you would leave me alone! Only live, and
I also will love you, Carlo, as warmly and as glowingly as you love
me! Do but remain with me, and my heart, my life shall be yours!"
"Too late! too late!" murmured Carlo, with dying lips. Remember me,
Natalie--I have dearly loved you. I die happy, for I die in your
"No, no, you shall live in my arms!" sobbed she. "I will be yours--
"Kiss me, my bride," he falteringly stammered.
She bent over him, and with hers she touched his lips, already
stiffening in death. She laid her warm, glowing cheek to his cold and
marble-pale face; that full, fresh life pressed that which was cold
and expiring to her bosom in an ardent struggle with death! In vain!
Death is inexorable. What he has once touched with his hand, that is
past recovery, it is his.
The blood no longer flowed from Carlo's wound, the breath no longer
rattled in his throat--it was silent; but a blessed smile still lay
upon his lips. With this smile had he died, happy, blessed in the
embrace of her he had so truly loved.
When Marianne, after long and vain efforts to open the door, had
finally managed, by tying her bed-clothes together, to let herself
down into the garden, and had thence hastened into the house, and up
into Natalie's chamber, she found there all silent and still. Nothing
stirred. Natalie lay in a deathlike swoon.
He, Carlo, already stiffened in death, and she, the senseless Natalie,
with her head reclining against the marble face of her friend!
Poor Natalie! Why must Marianne succeed in awakening thee from thy
swoon? Why did you not let her continue in her insensibility,
Marianne? In sleep, she at least would not have realized that she was
now left entirely alone, entirely abandoned, with no one to defend her
against her cruel and artful enemies, of whose existence she never
Count Orloff lay in a comfortable, careless position upon his divan,
leisurely smoking his long Turkish pipe. Before him stood Joseph
Ribas, laughingly relating in his own comic manner the occurrences of
the preceding night.
"You are a wonderful man," said Orloff, when Joseph had finished. "You
have honestly earned your epaulets, and to-day you will for the first
time appear at my dinner-table as a Russian officer. Ah, I prophesy a
great future for you. You have the requisite skill and address to make
your fortune. You are shrewd, daring, and you recoil from no means,
finding them all good and useful when they forward your aims. With
such principles one may go far in this world, and Russia in fact
offers you the best opportunity for bringing all these fine talents
"And, moreover, I commenced my Russian career with a good omen," said
Joseph. "I have placed a murder at the head of my Russian deeds! That
is a promising commencement, is it not, Sir Count? You must know that
better than any one."
"Indeed yes, I must best know that," said the count, laughing, and
continually stroking his long black beard. "By a fair and well-timed
murder one can always make his fortune in Russia. A well-timed and
well-executed murder is with us often rewarded with a barony and the
title of count. Indeed, sometimes with the highest and tenderest
imperial favor and grace. Ah, a murder at the right moment is an
excellent thing, only one must be quite sure of himself, and not fail
of hitting the right man. An unsuccessful murder is a very bad, and,
indeed, a very dangerous thing. I would have nothing to do with one,
and never have had any thing to do with one. Whatever I have
undertaken I have always boldly and successfully accomplished. The
good Emperor Peter III. knew that, and consequently trembled when I,
with Passeb and Bariatinsky, entered his chamber. The good emperor! He
did not tremble long, it was soon finished. Yes, yes, that was a deed
done at the right time, and therefore has the great Catharine been so
grateful to us, and honoured us above all the illustrious grandees of
[*] Of the tragic and horrible events connected with Catharine's
accession to the throne, and of the strangulation of Peter, in
which he took so active a part, Orloff spoke in Rome with the
greatest freedom and evident pleasure.
"My little opening murder has, indeed, less significance," sighed
Joseph Ribas. "What was it but to help a humble musician to the
blessedness and harmony of the spheres!"
"But that musician was your brother!"
Ribas shrugged his shoulders. "That is, he was so considered; but in
reality I believe he was only a half-brother. My mother, of blessed
memory, had many little adventures, and I think Carlo's birth was
somewhat connected with them. Nor am I sure that it was not a
necessary work to kill him, as it was surely my duty to avenge my
father's injured honor, which is all I have done! Upon these grounds
has a good, honest priest this day given me absolution, and I now
stand before you pure and sinless as a maiden! We can therefore begin
anew, your excellency. Have you still any commands for me?"
"You now have a very noble and sublime part to play," said Orloff,
laughing. "You must now appear as the benefactor of our Russian
princess, and as the mediating forerunner of my own person!"
"That will be indeed a charming role," said Ribas, rubbing his hands
with delight. "I shall admirably acquit myself as benefactor and
mediator. But give me some details, Sir Count!"
"You shall have them," said Orloff, "from the mouth of Stephano.--
The person called immediately appeared at the door of a side-room.
"Stephano," said Orloff, "now to work, friend. The courier who arrived
to-day has brought us good news and full powers. Count Paul Rasczinsky
is sent to Siberia for high-treason--his property is confiscated and
falls to the state. I have an unlimited power, signed by the empress
herself, to seize and sell his possessions here in the name of the
empress. Take with you some attorney and officers and go to his villa.
But, first of all, help our little Joseph Ribas to his uniform and
epaulets, that he may be properly costumed for a rescuer and
benefactor. And now, away with you! Instruct him well, Stephano. Ah, I
should like to be present at this delightful comedy!"
And Count Orloff broke out into a hearty laugh.
"This whole affair is very entertaining and romantic," he said to
himself, as soon as he was alone. "I am truly very thankful to
Catharine for intrusting it to me. I love the adventurous and
romantic. Indeed, whom else could she have chosen for this business? I
should like to know who would dare to enter the lists with me, the
Russian Hercules, and who would be so bold as to contend with me for
Thus speaking, he rose from the divan and stepped to the great
Venetian mirror, before which he long remained attentively viewing
"Ahem! this tender Empress Catharine knows how to judge of manly
beauty," murmured he, with a self-satisfied smile, "and I cannot blame
her for so often giving me the preference over my brother Gregory.
Besides, I shall first appear before this little Princess Natalie in
my antique dress. Catharine has often told me I was enchanting in my
antique costume. Well, we will also let this enchantment work a little
here. But first we must think of what is nearest to us. This Corilla
has rendered us a service, and we must be grateful. They say she loves
diamonds. I shall therefore send her these diamonds which her /eleve/
Joseph Ribas last night made the property of the Russian crown. And
with them I will send a little billet, written with my own hand. Who
knows but that this will give her more pleasure than the sparkling
In that, however, the handsome Count Orloff was mistaken. The poetess
Corilla therein resembled to a hair the prima-donnas and heroines of
the stage of the present day. She attached a great value to diamonds,
and knowing that Russia was very rich in gold and diamonds, she always
had an especially bewitching smile for Russian grandees. Had Count
Orloff come in person to bring the diamonds, she would undoubtedly
have more admired him, apparently been more pleased with his presence
than with his costly gift; but, as he was not there, there was no
necessity for dissimulation.
She read Count Orloff's billet with a satisfied smile; but soon laid
it aside for the delight of examining the jewels.
"How that shines, and how that sparkles," said the exhilarated
poetess; "not even a lover's eyes flash so brightly, nor is his smile
so proud, so full of rich certainty, as the sparkling of these gems!
They are enchanters, and a word from me can change these /solitaires/
and rosettes into a beautiful villa, or into a fragrant park with
silent arbors, intoxicating odors, and sweetly-singing birds. All that
is promised me by these stones--a lover's promises do not express half
so much. And only to think that it is Carlo, my former lover, to whom
I am indebted for these diamonds! From love to him I wished to destroy
Natalie, and that wish procured me the favor of the Russian count, and
consequently these brilliants. Poor Carlo! these diamonds outlast you.
How bright and beautiful were your glances that are now extinguished
by death--but this cruel, inexorable death has no power over diamonds!
It cannot strangle these as thou wert strangled, poor Carlo! I shall
remember thee this evening, Carlo, and hope the thought of thee may
inspire me for a right beautiful improvisation on death! I shall take
pains to bring to mind thy beautiful form overflowed with blood. Yes,
it will inspire in me a very effective improvisation, and I will at
the same time make a selection from my dear poets of some striking
rhymes upon death and the grave. And when I have the rhymes, the
thoughts and words will come of themselves. Rhymes, rhymes, these are
the main things with poets!"
And while the improvisatrice was thus speaking to herself, she had
mechanically adorned her person with the brilliants, attaching the
beautiful collar to her neck, the long pendants to her ears, and
placing the splendid diadem upon her brow.
She looked exceedingly beautiful in these ornaments, and consequently
rejoiced that her friend Cardinal Francesco Albani came at this
"He will be ravished?" said she, with a smile, advancing to meet him
with the proud and imposing dignity of a queen.
"You are beautiful as a goddess!" exclaimed the cardinal, "and whoever
sees you thus has seen the protecting divinity of ancient Rome, the
sublime Juno, queen of heaven!"
"Were I Juno, would you consent to be my Vulcan?" roguishly asked
"No," said Albani, laughing; "the noble Juno was not exactly true to
her Vulcan, and I require a faithful love! Would you be that,
"We shall see," said she, changing the arrangement of the diadem
before the glass--"we shall see, my worthy friend. But forget not the
conditions--first the laurel-crown!"
"You shall have it!" triumphantly responded the cardinal.
"Are you certain of that?" asked Corilla, with flashing eyes and
Cardinal Francesco Albani smiled mysteriously.
"Pope Ganganelli is ill," said he, "and it is thought he will die!"
THE DOOMING LETTER
Groaning, supported by his faithful Lorenzo's arm, Pope Ganganelli
slowly moved through the walks of his garden. Some months had passed
since the suppression of the order of the Jesuits--how had these few
months changed poor Clement! Where was the peace and cheerfulness of
his face, where was the sublime expression of his features, the firm
and noble carriage of his body--where was it all?
Trembling, shattered, with distorted features, and with dull, half-
closed eyes, crawled he about with groans, his brow wrinkled, his lips
compressed by pain and inward sorrow.
No one dared to remain with him; he spoke to no one. But Lorenzo was
yet sometimes able to drive away the clouds from his brow, and to
recall a faint smile to his thin pale lips.
He had also to-day succeeded in this, and for the first time in
several weeks had Ganganelli, yielding to his prayers, consented to a
walk in the garden of the Quirinal.
"This air refreshes me," said the pope, breathing more freely; "it
seems as if it communicated to my lungs a renewed vital power and
caused the blood to flow more rapidly in my veins. Lorenzo, this is a
singularly fortunate day for me, and I will make the most of it. Come,
we will repair to our Franciscan Place!"
"That is an admirable idea," said Lorenzo, delighted. "If your
holiness can reach it, you will recover your health, and all will
again be well."
Ganganelli sighed, and glanced toward heaven with a sad smile.
"Health!" said he. "Ah, Lorenzo, that word reminds me of a lost
paradise. The avenging angel has driven me from it, and I shall never
see it again."
"Say not so!" begged Lorenzo, secretly wiping a tear from his cheek.
"No, say not so, you will certainly recover!"
"Yes, recover!" replied the pope. "For death is a recovery, and in the
end perhaps the most real."
They silently walked on, and making a path through the bushes, they at
length arrived at the place, with the construction of which Lorenzo
had some months before surprised the pope, and which Ganganelli had
since named the "Franciscan Place."
"So," joyfully exclaimed Lorenzo, while the exhausted pope glided down
upon the grass-bank--"so, brother Clement, now let us be cheerful! You
know that here we have nothing more to do with the pope. You have
yourself declared that here you would be brother Clement, and nothing
more; now brother Clement was always a healthy man, full of juvenile
spirits and strength."
"Ah, my friend," responded Ganganelli, "I fear the pope has secretly
followed brother Clement even to this place, and even here no longer
leaves him free! No, no, it is no longer brother Clement who sits
groaning here, it is the vicegerent of God, the father of Christendom,
the holy and blessed pope! And if you knew, Lorenzo, what this
vicegerent of God has to suffer and bear, how his blood like streams
of fire runs through his veins, carbonizing his entrails and parching
the roof of his mouth, so that the tongue fast cleaves to it, and he
has no longer the power to complain of his misery! And such a crushed
earth-worm this miserable, infatuated people call the vicegerent of
God, before whom they bow in the dust! Ah, foolish children, are you
not yourselves disgusted with your masquerade, and do you not blush
for this jest?"
"See you not," said Lorenzo, with forced cheerfulness, "that since you
are here you have, against your will, again become brother Clement,
and inveigh against God's vicegerent who holds his splendid court in
the Vatican and Quirinal! Yes, yes that was what brother Clement used
to do in the Franciscan convent; he was always scolding about the
"And yet he let men befool him and make a pope of him," said
Ganganelli. "Ah, Lorenzo, they were indeed good purposes that decided
me, and good and holy resolutions were in me when I bore this crown of
St. Peter for the first time. Ah, I was then so young, not in years,
but in hopes and illusions. I was so enthusiastic for the good and
noble, and I wished to serve it, to honor and glorify it in the name
"And in the end you have done so!" solemnly responded Lorenzo.
"I have wished to do so!" sighed Ganganelli, "but there it has ended.
I have been hemmed in everywhere; wherever I wished to press through,
I have always found a wall before me--a wall of prejudices, of ancient
customs, once received as indifferent, and at this wall my cardinals
and officials held watch, taking care that my will should be broken
against it, and not be able to speak through, in order to let in a
little freedom, a little fresh air, into our walled realm! They have
curbed and weakened my will, until nothing more of it subsists, and of
my holiest resolutions they have made a scarecrow before which foreign
kings and princes cry murder, and prophesy the downfall of their
kingdoms if I adhere to my innovations. Ah, the princes, the princes!
I tell you, Lorenzo, it is the princes who have undermined the
happiness of the world with their ideas of absolute power; they are
the robbers of all mankind; for freedom, which is the common property
of all men, that have they, like regular lawless highwaymen,
appropriated for themselves alone. They plundered the luck-pennies of
all mankind, and coined them into money adorned with their likenesses,
and now all mankind run after this money, thinking: 'If I gain that,
then shall I have recovered my part of human happiness which once
belonged to all in common!' It has come to this, Lorenzo, through the
rapacity of princes, and yet they still tremble upon their thrones,
and fear that the people may one day awake from their stupid slumber,
all rising as one man, and cry in the paling faces of their robbers:
'Give back what you have taken from us--we will have what is ours; we
require freedom and human right; we will no longer remain slaves to
tremble before a bugbear; we will be free children of God, and have no
one to fear but the God above us and the consciences within our own
breasts!' Come down, therefore, from your usurped thrones, become once
more human--labor, enjoy, complain, and rejoice, as other men do; live
not upon the sweat of your subjects, but nourish yourselves by your
own efforts, that justice may prevail in the world, and humanity
regain its rights!"
And Ganganelli's eyes flashed, his sunken cheeks were feverishly
flushed, while he was thus speaking. Lorenzo observed it with anxious
eyes; and when the pope made a momentary pause, he said: "You are
again altogether the good and brave brother Clement, but even he
should think about sparing himself!"
"And to what end should he spare himself?" excitedly exclaimed
Ganganelli; "Death sits within me and laughs to scorn all my efforts,
burying himself deeper and deeper in my inward life. You must know,
Lorenzo, that my cause of sorrow is precisely this, that I now live in
vain, and that I cannot finish what I began! I wished to make my
people happy and free; that was what alarmed all these princes, that
was an unheard-of innovation, and they have all put their heads
together and whispered to each other, 'He will betray to mankind that
they have rights of which we have robbed them. He wishes to give back
to mankind his inherited portion of the booty! But what will then
become of us? Will not our slaves rise up against us, demanding their
human rights? We cannot suffer such innovations, for they involve our
destruction!' Thus have they cried, and in their anxiety they have
decided upon my death! Then they threw me in a crumb exactly suited to
my dreams of improving the happiness of the people; they all consented
that I should relieve mankind from that dangerous tapeworm, Jesuitism,
and with secret laughter thought, 'It will be the death of him!' And
they were right, these sly princes, it will be the death of me! I have
abolished the order of Jesuits--in consequence of which I shall die--
but the Jesuits will live, and live forever!"
The echo of approaching footsteps was now heard, and, sinking with
fatigue, he directed Lorenzo to go and meet the intruder, and by no
means to let any one penetrate to him.
Returning alone, Lorenzo handed the pope a letter.
"The courier whom you sent out some days since has returned," said he.
"This is his dispatch."
Taking the letter, with a sad smile, the pope weighed it in his hand.
"How light is this little sheet," said he, "and yet how heavy are its
contents! Do you know what this letter contains, Lorenzo?"
"How can I? A poor cloister brother is not all-knowing!"
"This letter," said the pope, with solemnity, "Brings me life or
death. It is the answer of the learned physician, Professor Brunelli,