Part 9 out of 13
vague trouble he felt at the express injunction laid upon him
concerning Manuel, showed itself in the deep furrows of anxiety
marked upon his brow, and the pain in his thoughtful eyes. Prince
Pietro's own man-servant had assisted him to dress for the impending
ceremonial, and just as the last folds of his regal attire were
being set in place a knock was heard at the door of his apartment,
and Prince Pietro himself entered.
"A telegram for you, brother Felix," he said, "I have brought it
myself, thinking it may perhaps immediately concern your visit to
the Pope to-day."
The Cardinal, with a gentle word of thanks, opened the envelope
handed to him.
"Praise be to God!" he said simply, as he read its contents,
"Vergniaud has passed to the Higher tribunal!"
And he crossed himself reverently on brow and breast.
"Dead?" exclaimed Sovrani.
"To this world, yes!" answered Bonpre, "He died peacefully last
night. This message is from his son."
A faint ironical smile flickered over Sovrani's dark features.
"The ban of excommunication has not been declared!" he said, "It
will be a somewhat belated announcement!"
Cardinal Bonpre folded the telegram, ready to take with him to the
"The Church can excommunicate even the dead!" he said sorrowfully,
"If such an extreme measure is judged politic it will doubtless be
"Wonderful Christian charity," murmured Sovrani under his breath,
"to excommunicate a corpse! For that is all they can do. The Soul of
the man is God's affair!"
Cardinal Bonpre answered nothing, for just then the young Manuel
entered the room, in readiness to accompany his venerable protector
and friend to the Vatican, and the old man's eyes rested upon him
with a wistful, wondering trouble and anxiety which he could not
conceal. Manuel smiled up at him--that rare and beautiful smile
which was like sunshine in darkness--but the Cardinal's sad
expression did not alter.
"The Abbe Vergniaud is no more," he said gently, as the boy drew
near, "His sins and sufferings are ended!"
"And his joys have begun!" answered Manuel, "For he set his life
right with the world before he left it!"
"Child, you talk as a very wise man might!" said Prince Sovrani, his
rugged brows smoothing into a kindly smile. "But the unfortunate
Abbe is not likely to be judged in that way. It will be said of him
that he scandalized the world before he left it!"
"When truth is made scandal, and right is made wrong," said Manuel,
"It will surely be a God-forgotten world!"
"WILL be? I think it is already!" said Prince Pietro. "It is said
that the patience of the Almighty is unwearied,--but I do not feel
sure of that in my own mind. Science teaches us that many a world
has been destroyed before now,--and sometimes I feel as if our turn
were soon coming!"
Here the man-servant having completely finished arranging the
Cardinal's attire, made respectful obeisance and left the room, and
the Cardinal himself proceeded into the adjoining salon, where he
found his niece Angela waiting to see him.
"Dearest uncle," she said, making her pretty genuflection as he
approached her, "I must ask you to forgive me for coming to your
rooms just now when your time is so much taken up, and when I know
you have to go to the Vatican,--but I want to tell you one thing
that may perhaps please you,--my picture is finished!"
"Finished!" echoed the Cardinal--then tenderly taking her hands, he
added, "I congratulate you, dear child, with all my heart!--and I
pray that the reward of your long and patient toil may be worthy of
you. And when are we to see your work?"
"To-morrow!" answered Angela, and her cheeks flushed, and her eyes
sparkled, "I shall be busy all today arranging it for exhibition in
the best light. To-morrow morning Florian is to see it first,--then
my father will come, and you--and Manuel!" and she smiled as she met
the boy's gentle look,--"And Queen Margherita has promised to be
here at mid-day."
"Florian first! And then your father!" said Prince Pietro, with a
touch of melancholy in his tone, "Ah well, Angela mia!--I suppose it
must always be so! The lover's love--the stranger's love,--is
greater than the love of years, the love of home! Yet sometimes, I
fancy that the lover's love often turns out to be a passing impulse
more than a real truth, and that the home-love reasserts itself
afterwards with the best and the holiest power!"
And not trusting himself to say more, he abruptly left the room.
Angela looked after him, a little troubled. The Cardinal took her
"He is your father, dear girl!" he said gently, "And he cannot but
feel it hard--at first--to be relegated to a second place in your
"I cannot help it!" she said, "Florian is my very life! I should
have no ambition--no joy in anything if he did not love me!"
Over the Cardinal's fine open face there came an expression of great
"That is idolatry, Angela!" he said gravely, "We make a grievous
mistake when we love human beings too deeply,--for they are not the
gods we would make of them. Like ourselves, they are subject to sin,
and their sins often create more unhappiness for us than our own!"
"Ah! But we can save our beloved ones from sin!" answered Angela,
with a beautiful upward look of exaltation,--"That is love's
"It is a mission that cannot always be fulfilled"--said the Cardinal
sorrowfully,--then, after a pause he added--"The Abbe Vergniaud is
"Dead!" And Angela turned very pale. "His son--"
"His son sends the message--" and he handed her the telegram he had
received. She read it, and returned it to him,--then made the sign
of the cross.
"May he rest in peace!" He died true!"
"Yes, he died true. But remember, child, neither Truth nor Love are
spared their crown of thorns. Love cannot save--would that it could!
It may warn--it may pray--it may watch--it may hope,--but if despite
its tenderness, the sinner sins, what can love do then?"
"It can pardon!" said Angela softly.
Deeply moved, the good Felix took her hand and patted it gently.
"Dear child, God grant your powers of forgiveness may never be put
to the test!" he ejaculated fervently. "The one unforgivable sin
according to our Lord, is treachery;--may THAT never come your way!"
"It can never come my way through Florian!" answered Angela
smiling,--"and for the rest--I do not care!"
Manuel stood by silently, with thoughtful, downcast eyes--but at
these last words of hers he raised his head and looked full at her
with a touch of melancholy in his straight regard.
"Ah, that is wrong!" he said, "You SHOULD care!--you MUST care for
the rest of the world. We must all learn to care for others more
than ourselves. And if we will not learn, God sometimes takes a hard
way of teaching us!"
Angela's head drooped a little. Then she said,
"I DO care for others,--I think perhaps my picture will prove that
for me. But the tenderness I have for the sorrows of the world is
impersonal; and perhaps if I analysed myself honestly, I feel even
that through my love for Florian. If he were not in the world, I am
afraid I should not love the world so much!"
The Cardinal said no more, for just then a servant entered and
announced that His Eminence's carriage was in waiting. Angela
bending low once more before her uncle, kissed his apostolic ring,
and said softly--"To-morrow!"
And Manuel echoed the word, "To-morrow!" as she bade them both a
smiling "addio" and left the apartment. When she had gone, and he
was left alone with his foundling, the Cardinal stood for a few
minutes absorbed in silent meditation, mechanically gathering his
robes about him. After a pause of evident hesitancy and trouble, he
approached the boy and gently laid a hand upon his shoulder.
"Manuel," he said, "Do you understand whom it is that you are going
"Yes," replied Manuel quickly, "The Head of the Church. One who
holds an office constituted by man long after Christ. It was founded
upon the name and memory of the Apostle Peter, who publicly denied
all knowledge of His Master. That is how I understand the person I
am to see to-day!"
Cardinal Bonpre's face was a study of varying expressions as he
heard these words.
"My child, you must not say these things in the Pope's presence!"
Manuel lifted his radiant eyes with a look of calm confidence.
"Dear friend, you must trust me!" he said, "They have sent for me,
have they not, to this place you call the Vatican? They desire to
see me, and to question me. That being so, whatever God bids me say,
I will say; fearing nothing!"
A strong tremour shook the Cardinal's nerves,--he essayed to find
words of wisdom and instruction, but somehow language failed him,--
he felt blinded and strengthless, and warned by this impending sense
of feebleness, made an instant effort to brace himself up and master
the strange fainting that threatened to overwhelm him as it had
frequently done before. He succeeded, and without speaking again to
Manuel, but only bending one earnest look upon him, he quitted his
rooms and proceeded slowly down the great marble staircase of the
Palazzo Sovrani,--a staircase famous even in Rome for its
architectural beauty--Manuel stepping lightly at his side--and
reaching his carriage, entered it with his foundling, and was
rapidly driven away.
Arrived at the Vatican, the largest palace in the world, which
contains, so historians agree in saying, no less than eleven
thousand different apartments with their courts and halls and
corridors, they descended at the Portone di Bronzo,--the Swiss Guard
on duty saluting as the Cardinal passed in. On they went into the
vestibule, chilly and comfortless, of the Scala Pia;--and so up the
stone stairs to the Cortile do San Damaso, and thence towards the
steps which lead to the Pope's private apartments. Another Guard met
them here and likewise saluted,--in fact, almost at every step of
the way, and on every landing, guards were on duty, either standing
motionless, or marching wearily up and down, the clank, clank of
their footsteps waking dismal echoes from the high vaulted roofs and
uncarpeted stone corridors. At last they reached the Sala
Clementina, a vast unfurnished hall, rich only with mural
decorations and gilding, and here another Guard met them who,
without words, escorted the Cardinal and his young companion through
a number of waiting-rooms, made more or less magnificent by glorious
paintings, wonderful Gobelin tapestries, and unique sculptures, till
they reached at last what is called the anti-camera segreto, where
none but Cardinals are permitted to enter and wait for an audience
with the Supreme Pontiff. At the door of this "Holy of Holies" stood
a Guarda Nobile on sentry duty,--but he might have been a figure of
painted marble for all the notice he took of their approach. As they
passed into the room, which was exceedingly high and narrow,
Monsignor Gherardi rose from a table near the window, and received
the Cardinal with a kind of stately gravity which suitably agreed
with the coldness and silence of the general surroundings. A small
lean man, habited in black, also came forward, exchanging a few low
whispered words with Gherardi as he did so, and this individual,
after saluting the Cardinal, mysteriously disappeared through a
little door to the right. He was the Pope's confidential valet,--a
personage who was perhaps more in the secrets of everybody and
everything than even Gherardi himself.
"I am afraid we shall have to keep you waiting a little while," said
Gherardi, in his smooth rich voice, which despite its mellow ring
had something false about it, like the tone produced by an invisible
crack in a fine bell, "Your young friend," and here he swept a keen,
inquisitive glance over Manuel from face to feet, and from feet to
face again, "will perhaps be tired?"
"I am never tired!" answered Manuel.
"Nor impatient?" asked Gherardi with a patronising air.
"Wonderful boy! If you are never tired or impatient, you will be
eminently fitted for the priesthood," said Gherardi, his lip curling
with a faint touch of derision, "For even the best of us grow
sometimes weary in well-doing!"
And turning from him with a movement which implied both hauteur and
indifference, he addressed himself to Bonpre, whose face was
clouded, and whose eyes were troubled.
"The unfortunate affair of our friend Vergniaud will be settled to-
day," he began, when the Cardinal raised one hand with a gentle
"It is settled!" he returned, "Not even the Church can intervene
between Vergniaud and his Maker now!"
Gherardi uttered an exclamation of undisguised annoyance.
"Dead!" he ejaculated, his forehead growing crimson with the anger
he inwardly repressed--"Since when?"
"Last night he passed away," replied the Cardinal. "according to the
telegram I have just received from--his son. But he has been dying
for some time, and what he told me in Paris was no lie. I explained
his exact position to you quite recently, on the day you visited my
niece at her studio. He had a serious valvular disease of the
heart,--he might, as the doctors said, have lived, at the utmost,
two years--but the excitement of recent events has evidently proved
too much for him. As I told you, he felt that his death might occur
at any moment, and he did not wish to leave the world under a false
impression of his character. I trust that now the Holy Father may be
inclined to pardon him, in death, if not in life!"
Gherardi walked up and down the narrow room impatiently.
"I doubt it!" he said at last, "I very much doubt it! The man may be
dead, but the scandal he caused remains. And his death has made the
whole position very much more difficult for you, my lord Cardinal!
For as Vergniaud is not alive to endure the penalty of his offence,
it is probable YOU may have to suffer for having condoned it!"
Felix Bonpre bent his head gently.
"I shall be ready and willing to suffer whatever God commands!" he
answered, "For I most faithfully believe that nothing can injure my
soul while it rests, as I humbly place it, in His Holy keeping!"
Gherardi paused in his pacing to and fro, and gazed at the frail
figure, and fine old face before him, with mingled compassion and
"You should have lived in the early days of the Faith," he said,
"You are too literal--too exact in your following of Christian
ethics. That sort of thing does not work nowadays. Dogma must be
"What is dogma?" asked Manuel suddenly.
Gherardi gave him a careless glance.
"Cardinal Bonpre must teach you that in extenso!" he replied, with a
little smile--"But briefly,--dogma is an opinion or theory derived
from the Gospels, and formulated as doctrine, by the Church."
"An opinion or theory of man, founded on the words of Christ?" said
"But if Christ was divine, should any man presume to formulate a
theory on what He Himself said?" asked Manuel. "Are not his own
plain words enough?"
Gherardi stared at the young speaker half angrily.
"His own plain words enough?" he repeated mechanically. "What do you
"I mean," answered Manuel simply, "that if He were truly a
Manifestation of God in Himself, as the Church declares Him to be,
_I_ WONDER THAT MAN CAN DARE TO FORMULATE MERE DOGMA ON GOD'S OWN
There was a dead pause. After a few minutes of chill silence
Gherardi addressed the Cardinal.
"Your young friend has a dangerous tongue!" he said sternly, "You
had best warn or command him that he set a guard upon it in the Holy
"There is no need to either warn or command me!" said Manuel, a
smile irradiating his fair face as he met the angry eyes of Gherardi
with the full calmness of his own--"I have been sent for, and I am
here. Had I not been sent for I should not have come. Now that I
have been called to answer for myself I will answer,--with truth and
without fear. For what can any man cause me to suffer if I am to
Another heavy pause ensued. An invisible something was in the air,--
a sense of that vast supernatural which is deeply centered at the
core of the natural universe,--a grave mystery which seemed to
envelop all visible things with a sudden shadow of premonitory fear.
The silence prevailing was painful--almost terrible. A great ormolu
clock in the room, one of the Holy Father's "Jubilee" gifts, ticked
the minutes slowly away with a jewel-studded pendulum, which in its
regular movements to and fro sounded insolently obtrusive in such a
stillness. Gherardi abstractedly raised his eyes to a great ivory
crucifix which was displayed upon the wall against a background of
rich purple velvet,--Manuel was standing immediately in front of it,
and the tortured head of the carven Christ drooped over him as
though in a sorrow-stricken benediction. A dull anger began to
irritate Gherardi's usually well-tempered nerves, and he was
searching in his mind for some scathing sentence wherewith to
overwhelm and reprove the confident ease of the boy, when the door
leading to the Pope's apartments was slowly pushed open to admit the
entrance of Monsignor Moretti. Cardinal Bonpre had not seen him
since the day of the Vergniaud scandal in Paris,--and a faint colour
came into his pale cheeks as he noted the air of overbearing
condescension and authority with which Moretti, here on his own
ground, as one of the favorites of the Pope, greeted him.
"The Holy Father is ready to receive you," he said, "But I regret to
inform your Eminence that His Holiness can see no way to excuse or
condone the grave offence of the Abbe Vergniaud,--moreover, the fact
of the sin-begotten son being known to the world as Gys Grandit,
makes it more than ever necessary that the ban of excommunication
should be passed upon him. Especially, as those uninstructed in the
Faith, are under the delusion that the penalty of excommunication
has become more or less obsolete, and we have now an opportunity for
making publicly known the truth that it still exists, and may be
used by the Church in extreme situations, when judged politic and
"Then in this case the Church must excommunicate the dead!" said the
Moretti's face turned livid.
"Dead?" he exclaimed, "I do not believe it!"
Silently Bonpre handed him the telegram received that morning.
Moretti read it, his eyes sparkling with rage.
"How do I know this is not a trick?" he said, "The accursed atheist
of a son may have telegraphed a lie!"
"I hardly think he would condescend to that!" returned the Cardinal
calmly, "It would not be worth his while. You must remember, that to
one of his particular views, Church excommunication, either for his
father or himself, would mean nothing. He makes himself responsible
for his conduct to God only. And whatever his faults he certainly
believes in God!"
Moretti read through the telegram again.
"We must place this before His Holiness," he said, "And it will very
seriously annoy him! I fear your Eminence," here he gave a quick
meaning look at Bonpre, "will be all the more severely censured for
having pardoned the Abbe's sins."
"Is it wrong to forgive sinners?" asked Manuel, his clear young
voice breaking through the air like a silver bell rung suddenly,--
"And when one cannot reach the guilty, should one punish the
Moretti scowled fiercely at the fair candid face turned enquiringly
near his own.
"You are too young to ask questions!" he said roughly--"Wait to be
questioned yourself--and think twice--aye three times before you
The bright expression of the boy's countenance seemed to become
intensified as he heard.
"'Take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given
you in that same hour what ye shall speak!'" he said softly--"'For
it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which
speaketh in you!'"
Moretti flushed angrily, and his hand involuntarily clenched.
"Those words were addressed by our Lord to His Apostles," he
retorted--"Apostles, of whom our Holy Father the Pope is the one
infallible representative. They were not spoken to an ignorant lad
who barely knows his catechism!"
"Yet were not the Apostles themselves told," went on Manuel
steadily, "to be humble as ignorant children if they would enter the
Kingdom of Heaven? And did not Christ say, 'Whoso offendeth one of
these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a
millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in
the depths of the sea!' I am sure there are many such little ones
who believe in Christ,--perhaps too, without knowing any catechism,-
-and even Apostles must beware of offending them!"
"Does this boy follow your teaching in the quoting of Scripture with
so glib a tongue?" asked Moretti, turning sharply round upon the
Bonpre returned his angry look with one of undisturbed serenity.
"My son, I have taught him nothing!" he replied, "I have no time as
yet--and I may add--no inclination, to become his instructor. He
speaks from his own nature."
"It is a nature that needs training!" said Gherardi, smiling
blandly, and silencing by a gesture Moretti's threatening outburst
of wrath, "To quote Scripture rashly, without due consideration for
the purpose to which it is to be applied, does not actually
constitute an offence, but it displays a reprehensible disregard and
ignorance of theology. However, theology," here he smiled still more
broadly, "is a hard word for the comprehension of the young! This
poor little lad cannot be expected to grasp its meaning."
Manuel raised his bright eyes and fixed them steadily on the
"Oh, yes!" he said quietly, "I understand it perfectly! Originally
it meant the Word or Discourse of God,--it has now come to mean the
words or discourses, or quarrels and differences of men on the
things of God! But God's Word remains God's Word--eternally,
invincibly! No man can alter it, and Christ preached it so plainly
that the most simple child cannot fail to understand it!"
Moretti was about to speak when again Gherardi interrupted him.
"Patience! Patience!" he said soothingly, "Perchance we must say"--
this with a flash of derision from his dark crafty eyes, "that a
prophet hath arisen in Israel! Listen to me, boy! If Christ spoke as
plainly as you say, and if all He preached could be understood by
the people, why should He have founded a Church to teach His
"He did not found a Church," answered Manuel, "He tried to make a
Human Brotherhood. He trusted twelve men. They all forsook Him in
His hour of need, and one betrayed Him! When He died and arose again
from the dead, they sought to give themselves a Divine standing on
His Divinity. They preached His Word to the world--true!--but they
preached their own as well! Hence the Church!"
Moretti's angry eyes rolled in his head with an excess of wrath and
"Surely some evil spirit possesses this boy!" he exclaimed irately,
"Retro me Sathanas! He is a rank heretic--a heathen! And yet he
lives in the companionship of Cardinal Felix Bonpre!"
Both priests looked at the Cardinal in angry astonishment, but he
stood silent, one wrinkled hand holding up the trailing folds of his
scarlet robe,--his head slightly bent, and his whole attitude
expressive of profound patience and resignation. Manuel turned his
eyes upon him and smiled tenderly.
"It is not the fault of Cardinal Bonpre that I think my own
thoughts," he said, "or that I speak as I have spoken from the
beginning. He found me lost and alone in the world,--and he
sheltered me, knowing not whom he sheltered! Let what blame there is
in me therefore be mine alone, and not his or another's!"
His young voice, so full of sweetness, seemed to melt the cold and
heavy silence into vibrations of warm feeling, and a sudden sense of
confusion and shame swept over the callous and calculating minds of
the two men, miscalled priests, as they listened. But before they
could determine or contrive an answer, the door was thrown open, and
the lean man in black entered, and pausing on the threshold bowed
slightly,--then raising his hand with a gesture which invited all to
follow him, turned again and walked on in front,--then crossing a
small antechamber, he drew aside a long curtain of purple damask
heavily fringed with gold, and opened a farther door. Here he stood
back, and allowed Cardinal Bonpre to pass in first, attended by
Manuel,--Monsignori Gherardi and Moretti followed. And then the
valet, closing the door behind them, and pulling the rich curtain
across, sat down himself close outside it to be within call when the
Holy Father should summon his attendance by means of a bell which
hung immediately over his head. And to while away the time he pulled
from his pocket that day's issue of a well-known Republican paper,--
one of the most anti-Papal tendency, thereby showing that his
constant humble attendance upon the Head of the Church had not made
him otherwise than purely human, or eradicated from his nature that
peculiar quality with which most of us are endowed, namely, the
perversity of spirit which leads us often to say and do things which
are least expected of us. The Pope's confidential valet was not
exempt from this failing. He like the Monsignori, enjoyed the
exciting rush and secret risk of money speculation,--he also had his
little schemes of self-advancement; and, as is natural to all who
are engaged in a certain kind of service, he took care to read
everything that could be said by outsiders against the person or
persons whom he served. Thus, despite the important capacity he
filled, he was not a grade higher than the ordinary butler, who
makes it his business to know all the peccadilloes and failings of
his master. "No man is a hero to his valet" is a very true axiom,--
and even the Head of the Church, the Manifestation of the Divine,
the "Infallible in Council," was a mere Nothing to the little man in
black who had the power to insist on His Holiness changing a soiled
cassock for a clean one.
There are certain moments in life which seem weighted with the
history of ages--when all the past, present and future merge into
the one omnipresent Now,--moments, which if we are able to live
through them with courage, may decide a very eternity of after-
glory--but which, if we fail to comprehend their mission, pass,
taking with them the last opportunity of all good that shall ever be
granted to us in this life. Such a moment appeared, to the
reflective mind of Cardinal Bonpre, to have presented itself to him,
as for the second time in ten days, he found himself face to face
with the Sovereign Pontiff, the pale and aged man with the deep dark
eyes set in such cavernous sockets, that as they looked out on the
world through that depth of shadow, seemed more like great jewels in
the head of a galvanised skeleton than the eyes of a living human
being. On this occasion the Pope was enthroned in a kind of semi-
state, on a gilded chair covered with crimson velvet; and a rich
canopy of the same material, embroidered and fringed with gold,
drooped in heavy folds above him. Attired in the usual white,--white
cassock, white skull cap, and white sash ornamented with the
emblematic keys of St. Peter, embroidered in gold thread at the
ends,--his unhandsome features, pallid as marble, and seemingly as
cold,--bloodless everywhere, even to the lips,--suggested with
dreadful exactitude a corpse in burial clothes just lifted from its
coffin and placed stiffly upright in a sitting position.
Involuntarily Cardinal Bonpre, as he made the usual necessary
genuflections, thought, with a shrinking interior sense of horror at
the profanity of his own idea, that the Holy Father as he then
appeared, might have posed to a painter of allegories, as the frail
ghost of a dead Faith. For he looked so white and slender and
fragile and transparent,--he sat so rigidly, so coldly, without a
movement or a gesture, that it seemed as if the touch of a hand
might break him into atoms, so brittle and delicate a figure of clay
was he. When he spoke, his harsh voice, issuing from the long thin
lips which scarcely moved, even in utterance, was startling in its
unmelodious loudness, the more so when its intonation was querulous,
"It is regrettable, my lord Cardinal," he said slowly, keeping his
dark eyes immovably fixed on the venerable Felix,--"that I should be
compelled to send for you so soon again on the same matters which,
since your arrival in Rome, have caused me so much anxiety. This
miracle,--of which you are declared to be the worker,--though for
some inscrutable reason, you persist in denying your own act,--is
not yet properly authenticated. And, to make the case worse, it
seems that the unfortunate man, Claude Cazeau, whom we entrusted
with our instructions to the Archbishop of Rouen, has suddenly
disappeared, leaving no trace. Naturally there are strong suspicions
that he has met with a violent death,--perhaps at the hands of the
Freemasons, who are ever at work conspiring against the Faith,--or
else through the intrigues of the so-called 'Christian Democrats,'
of whom 'Gys Grandit' is a leader. In any case, it is most
reprehensible that you, a Cardinal-prince of the Church, should have
permitted yourself to become involved in such a doubtful business.
The miracle may have taken place,--but if so, you should have no
cause to deny your share in it; and however much you may be gifted
with the power of healing, I cannot reconcile your duty to us with
the Vergniaud scandal! Since you were here last, I have investigated
that matter thoroughly,--I have read a full report of the
blasphemous address the Abbe preached from his pulpit in Paris, and
I cannot, no I cannot"--here the Pope raised his thin white hand
with a gesture of menace that was curiously powerful for one so
seemingly frail--"I cannot forgive or forget the part you have taken
in this deplorable affair!"
The Cardinal looked up with a touch of pain and protest.
"Holy Father, I strove to obey the command of Christ--'Forgive that
ye may be forgiven'!--I cannot be sorry that I did so obey it;--for
now the offender is beyond the reach of either punishment or
absolution. He must answer for his deeds to God alone!"
The Pope turned his eyes slowly round in his waxenlike head to
Gherardi--then to Moretti--and seeing confirmation of the news in
their looks, fixed them again as immovably as before upon the
Cardinal. The faint shadow of a cold smile flickered on his long
"Dead!" he murmured, and he nodded slowly, and beat with one finger
on the back of the other hand, as though keeping time mechanically
to some funeral march in his brain. "Dead! A fortunate thing for
him! An escape from worse than death, so far as this life is
concerned! But what of the next?--'where the worm dieth not and the
fire is not quenched!'" And here the representative of St. Peter
smiled pallidly. "Dead!--but his works live after him; and his sin-
begotten son also lives, to spread his pernicious writings through
the world, and incite the already disobedient to further license.
Therefore the Church must still publicly condemn his memory, as a
warning to the faithful. And you, Cardinal Bonpre, must receive from
us a necessary measure of correction, for having pardoned one who in
his last discourse to humanity attacked the Church and slandered it.
To one of your eminence and reputation, the lesson may seem hard,
but a chastening reproof can but purify the spirit, and free it from
that pride which apes humility!"
The Cardinal bent his head patiently and remained silent.
Monsignor Moretti advanced a step towards the Papal throne.
"The boy"--he began.
A slight animation warmed the chill lifelessness of the Pope's
features. "True! I had almost forgotten!" he said. Then to the
Cardinal, "Where is the boy you rescued from the streets, who lives
with you, and who witnessed the miracle at Rouen?"
Manuel had till now stood aside, half hidden in the shadow of the
crimson damask which, falling from ceiling to floor in rich
luxurious folds, draped the corners of the room, but at these words
he advanced at once.
"I am here!" he said.
Fronting the Pope, with his fair head thrown back, and his blue eyes
flashing with all the soul-light of a swift, unwarped intelligence,
he stood,--and the white shrunken figure of the old man in the
gilded chair raised itself as if by some interior electric force,
slowly, slowly--higher and higher--the deep-set old eyes staring
into the brilliant youthful ones--staring--staring till they seemed
to protrude and tremble under their shelving brows, like the last
sparks of a flame about to fall into extinction. Gherardi made a
quick step forward.
"My lord Cardinal!" he said significantly, "Should not your waif and
stray have been taught how to comport himself before he came here?
He does not kneel to the Holy Father!"
The Cardinal opened his lips to speak, but Manuel stayed him by a
"I may not kneel to any man!" he said, "But to God only! For it is
written,' Call no man your Father upon the earth, for One is your
Father which is in Heaven. Neither be ye called Masters, for One is
your Master, even Christ.' How then," and he came nearer to the
Pope's foot-stool, "can you be called 'Father'? or 'Holy'? For there
is none Holy but God!"
The deep silence which had fallen like a spell upon them all in the
antechamber, fell now with redoubled impressiveness. The Pope,
gripping the arms of his gilded chair, forced himself fully upright,
and his lips trembled.
"Whence came you, and of what parentage are you?" he asked slowly,
enunciating his words with even more than his usual harsh
"That is my own secret!" answered the boy--"The Cardinal accepted me
"Which is but a fresh proof of the Cardinal's unwisdom," said the
Pope severely, "And we shall not follow his example in this or in
any other matter!" And turning to Moretti he enquired, "Does this
boy understand he is here as a witness to the miracle effected at
"As a witness to the Truth--yes! I understand!" said Manuel quickly,
before Moretti could answer. "The miracle was no miracle!"
"No miracle!" exclaimed the Pope, moved at last from his usual
inflexibility, "Do you hear that, Domenico?" turning excitedly to
Gherardi, "No miracle!"
"No miracle!" repeated Manuel, steadily--"Nothing but the law of
Nature working in response to the law of God, which is Love! The
child was healed of his infirmity by the power of unselfish prayer.
Are we not told 'Ask and ye shall receive'? But the asking must be
pure! The prayer must be untainted by self-interest! God does not
answer prayer that is paid for in this world's coin! No miracle was
ever wrought for a fee! Only when perfect love and perfect faith
exist between the creature and the Creator, are all things
A nervous twitching of the Pope's features showed his suppressed
irritation at this reply.
"The boy jests with us!" he said angrily, "He defends his
benefactor, but he either does not understand, or else is regardless
of our authority!"
"What, do you not also believe?" asked Manuel, placing one foot on
the first step of the Pope's throne, and looking him straightly in
the face, "Do you not even affirm that God answers prayers? Do YOU
not pray? Do you not assert that you yourself are benefited and
helped--nay, even kept alive by the prayers of the faithful? Then
why should you doubt that Cardinal Bonpre has, by his prayer,
rescued one life--the life of a little child? Is not your Church
built up for prayer? Do you not command it? Do you not even insist
upon the 'vain repetitions' which Christ forbade? Do you not summon
the people to pray in public?--though Christ bade all who truly
sought to follow Him to pray in secret? And amid all the false
prayers, the unthinking, selfish petitions, the blasphemous demands
for curses and confusion to fall upon enemies and contradictors, the
cowardly cryings for pardon from sinners who do not repent, that are
sent up to the throne of the Most High,--is it marvellous that one
prayer, pure of all self and sophistry, ascending to God, simply to
ask for the life of a child should be heard and granted?"
His voice rang through the silence with a pure intonation, unlike
any human voice in the world--and as he spoke, the Pope slowly drew
back in his chair, further and further away from the young,
beautiful face that confronted his own so steadily. The dumb sense
of stupefaction that had before possessed Gherardi and Moretti in
the presence of this child, seized them again now,--and slow tears
welled up into the Cardinal's eyes, as, clasping his withered hands,
he waited in fear and awe, listening and wondering,--overwhelmed by
the strangeness of the scene. Like a shrunken white mummy set in a
gilded sarcophagus, the representative of St. Peter huddled himself
together, reflections of the daylight on the crimson hangings around
him casting occasional gleams of crimson athwart his bony hands and
cadaverous features;--while on the first step of his throne the
aerial form of the beautiful boy, with his fair face, full flashing
eyes, and radiant hair, stood like an Angel suddenly descended at
the portal of the mummy's tomb.
"Faith must surely be weaker in these days than in the days of
Christ," continued Manuel, "The disciples were not always wise or
brave; but they believed in the power of their Master! You,--with so
many centuries of prayer behind you,--will surely not say as John
did--'Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and he
followeth not us!' Because this miracle is unexpected and
exceptional, do you say of your good Cardinal, 'He followeth not
us'? Remember how Christ answered,--'Forbid him not, for there is no
man which shall do a miracle in my name that can speak evil of me!'"
Still the same silence reigned. A shaft of sunlight falling through
the high oriel window, touched the boy's hair with a Pentecostal
flame of glory.
"You sent for me," he went on, "and I have come! They say I must be
taught. Will you teach me? I would know many things! Tell me for
one, why are You here, shut away from the cities, and the people?
Should you not be among them? Why do you stay here all alone? You
must be very unhappy!"
A sudden quivering light illumined the jewel-like dark eyes of the
seeming mummy in the chair--its lips moved--but no sound came from
"To be here all alone!" went on Manuel, "And a whole world outside
waiting to be comforted! To have vast wealth lying about you unused-
-with millions and millions of poor, starving, struggling, dying
creatures, near at hand, cursing the God whom they have never been
taught to know or to bless! To be safely sheltered while others are
in danger! To know that even kings and emperors are trembling on
their thrones because of the evil days that are drawing near in
punishment for evil deeds!--to feel the great pulsating ache of the
world's heart beating through every hour of time, and never to
stretch forth a hand of consolation! Surely this must make you very
sad! WILL YOU NOT COME OUT WITH ME?"
With a strong effort the Pope raised himself and looked into the
pleading Angel-face. With his sudden movement, Gherardi and Moretti
also stirred from their frozen attitudes of speechless amazement,
and would have approached, but that the Pope signed them away with
so fierce and impatient a gesture that they shrank back appalled.
And still he gazed at Manuel as if his very soul were passing
through his eyes.
"Come out with you!" he said, in a hoarse, faint whisper--"Come out
"Yes!--come out with me!" repeated Manuel, his accents vibrating
with a strange compelling sweetness, "Come out and see the poor
lying at the great gates of St. Peter's--the lame, the halt, the
blind--come and heal them by a touch, a prayer! You can, you must,
you shall heal them!--if you WILL! Pour money into the thin hands of
the starving!--come with me into the miserable places of the world,-
-come and give comfort! Come freely into the courts of kings, and
see how the brows ache under the crowns!--and the hearts break
beneath the folds of velvet and ermine! Why stand in the way of
happiness, or deny even emperors peace when they crave it? Your
mission is to comfort, not to condemn! You need no throne! You want
no kingdom!--no settled place--no temporal power! Enough for you to
work and live as the poorest of all Christ's ministers,--without
pomp, without ostentation or public ceremonial, but simply clothed
in pure holiness! So shall God love you more! So shall you pass
unscathed through the thick of battle, and command Brotherhood in
place of Murder! Go out and welcome Progress!--take Science by the
hand!--encourage Intellect!--for all these things are of God, and
are God's gifts divine! Live as Christ lived, teaching the people
personally and openly;--loving them, pitying them, sharing their
joys and sorrows, blessing their little children! Deny yourself to
no man;--and make of this cold temple in which you now dwell
selfimprisoned, a home and refuge for the friendless and the poor!
COME OUT WITH ME!"
As he thus spoke, with a living, breathing enthusiasm of entreaty,
which might have moved even the dry bones in the valley of the
prophet's vision to rise up and become a great standing army, the
Pope's figure seemed to grow more and more attenuated,--his worn
white hands grasping the gilt arms of his chair, looked like the
claws of a dead bird--and his face, shrunken and withered, like a
Chinese ivory carving of some forgotten idol.
"Come out with me and minister with your own hands to the aged and
dying!" pursued Manuel, "And so shall you grow young! Command that
the great pictures, the tapestries, the jewels, the world's trash of
St. Peter's, be sold to the rich, who can afford to set them in free
and open places where all the poorest may possess them! But do not
You retain them! You do not need them--your treasure must be
sympathy for all the world! Not ONE section of the world,--not ONE
form of creed,--but for all!--if you are truly the Dispenser of
Christ's Message to the earth! Come--unprotected, save by the Cross!
Come with no weapon of defence--'heal the sick, cleanse the lepers,
raise the dead, cast out devils! Freely ye have received, freely
give! Provide neither gold nor silver nor brass in your purse,'--
come, and by your patience--your gentleness--your pardon--your love
to all men, show that 'the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!' Walk
fearless in the thick of battles, and your very presence shall
engender peace! For the Holy Spirit shall surround and encompass
you; the fiercest warriors shall bend before you, as they never
would if you assumed a world's throne or a world's sovereignty!
Come, uncrowned, defenceless;--but strong in the Spirit of God!
Think of all the evil which has served as the foundation for this
palace in which you dwell! Can you not hear in the silence of the
night, the shrieks of the tortured and dying of the Inquisition? Do
you never think of those dark days, ten and twelve hundred years
after Christ, when no virtue seemed left upon the earth?--when the
way to this very throne was paved by poison and cold steel?--when
those who then reigned here, and occupied Your place, led such
infamous lives that the very dogs might have been ashamed to follow
in their footsteps!--when they professed to be able to sell the
Power of the Holy Ghost for so much gold and silver? Remember the
words, 'Whoso shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost it shall not be
forgiven him, either in this world or in the world to come.' Look
back upon the Past--and look out upon the Present! Try to understand
the sufferings of the forsaken people!--the pain--the bewilderment--
the groping for life in death!--and come out with me! Come and
preach Christ as He lived and died, and WAS, and IS! COME OUT WITH
The dreadful, dumb spell remained unbroken. The loom seemed invested
with a strange solemnity--the figures of the human beings in it were
like images frozen into rigidity--even Cardinal Bonpre appeared
stricken by this mental paralysis, and not a fold of his rich attire
stirred with so much as a pulsation of natural breath. Only Manuel
seemed truly alive--his slight boyish figure was instinct with
ardour--his face was radiant, and his eyes brilliant as stars. And
now, withdrawing himself a little from the motionless creature
seated stiffly on the Papal throne, with its deep, dark eyes alone
giving sign of life by their unwearied stare and feverish glitter,
he raised his head with a royal gesture of mingled appeal and
"Come out with me!" he exclaimed, "For there are wonderful things in
the world to-day!--wonderful, beautiful, and terrible! Take your
share in them, and find God in every glory! For with all the wisdom
and the splendour,--with all the flashing light of Heaven poured out
upon the darkness of the Sorrowful Star, its people are weary,--they
are lost in the confusion and clamour of their own desires--they
would fain serve God, but know not where to find Him, because a
thousand, aye a million churches stand in the way!--churches, which
are like a forest of dark trees, blocking out the radiance of the
Sun! God, who manifests His power and tenderness in the making of
the simplest leaf, the smallest bird, is lost to the understanding
and affection of humanity in the multitude of Creeds! Come out with
me,--simple and pure, gentle and strong! Tell all the lost and the
wandering that there never was, and never will be but one God
supreme and perfect, whose name is Love, whose work is Love!--and
whose Messenger, Christ, pronounced the New Commandment Love instead
of Hate! Come out with me while it is yet day, for the night cometh
when no man can work! Come and lift up the world by your very
coming! Stretch out your hands in benediction over kings and beggars
alike!--there are other roses to give than Golden ones to Queens!
There are poor women who share half they earn with those still
poorer--there are obscure lives which in their very obscurity, are
forming the angel-nature, and weaving the angel's crown!--look for
these in the world--give THEM your Golden Roses! Leave rulers and
governments alone, for you should be above and beyond all rulers and
governments! You should be the Herald of peace,--the Pardoner of
sin, the Rescuer of the fallen, and the Refuge of the distressed!
Come out with me, and be all this to the world, so that when the
Master comes He may truly find you working in His vineyard!"
Another dead pause ensued. Not a sound, not a breath disturbed the
heavy silence which seemed to have grown deeper than before. And
Manuel, looking eagerly again and closely into the Pope's face, went
on with increasing ardour and passion.
"Come out with me!" he said, "Or if you will not come,--then beware
of the evil days which are at hand! The people are wandering to and
fro, crossing all lands, struggling one against the other, hoarding
up useless gold, and fighting for supremacy!--but 'the day of the
Lord shall come like a thief in the night, and blessed is he who
shall be found watching!' Watch! The hour is growing dark and full
of menace!--the nations are as frightened children, losing faith,
losing hope, losing strength! Put away,--put away from you the toys
of time!--quench in your soul the thirst for gold, for of this shall
come nothing but corruption! Why trifle with the Spirit of holy
things? Why let your servants use the Name of the Most High to cover
hypocrisy? Why crave for the power of temporal things which passes
away in the dust of destroyed kingdoms? For the Power of the Spirit
is greater than all! And so it shall be proved! The Spirit shall
work in ways where it has never been found before!--it shall depart
from the Churches which are unworthy of its Divine inspiration!--it
shall invest the oaths of Science!--it shall open the doors of the
locked stars! It shall display the worlds invisible;--the secrets of
men's hearts, and of closed graves!--there will be terror and loss
and confusion and shame to mankind,--and this world shall keep
nothing of all its treasures but the Cross of Christ! Rome, like
Babylon, shall fall!--and the Powers of the Church shall be judged
as the Powers of Darkness rather than of Light, because they have
rejected the Word of their Master, and 'teach for doctrine the
commandments of men!' Disaster shall follow swift upon disaster, and
the cup of trembling shall be drained again to its last dregs, as in
the olden days, unless,--unless perchance--you will come out with
With the last words a sort of galvanic shock seemed to be imparted
to the rigid figure in the chair. Springing upright suddenly, his
voice rang out like a clarion, discordantly yet clearly.
"In the name of God," he cried, "Who and what is this boy! How came
he with Cardinal Bonpre? And you, Domenico!--do you stand by and
permit this affront to me!--the living Head of the Church! From a
child!--a tramp of the streets!--who dares to speak to me!--who
dares to reproach, to prophesy--aye, to blaspheme! and teach Me,--"
"As One having authority,--and not as the Scribes!" said Manuel,
with one swift flashing glance, which like a shaft of lightning
seemed to pierce through flesh and bone,--for, as he met that
radiant and commanding look, the jewel-like eyes of the Pope lost
their lustre and became fixed and glassy,--he put his hand to his
throat with a choking gasp for breath,--and like a dead body which
had only been kept in place by some secret mechanical action, he
fell back in his chair senseless, his limbs stretching themselves
out with a convulsive shudder into stark immovability.
Gherardi started from his stupor, and rushed to his assistance,
ringing the bell violently which summoned the valet from the
antechamber,--and Moretti, with a fierce oath, pushing Manuel aside,
rushed to the chair in which the Pope's fainting figure lay,--all
was confusion;--and in the excitement and terror which had
overwhelmed Cardinal Bonpre at the unprecedented scene, Manuel
suddenly touched him on the arm.
"Follow me!" he said, "We are no longer needed here! Come!--let us
Hardly knowing what he did the old man obeyed, trembling in every
limb as Manuel, grasping him firmly by the hand, led him from the
apartment, and on through the winding corridors of the huge
building, out into the open air. No one questioned them,--no one
interfered with their progress. Benediction was being sung in one of
the many chapels of St. Peter's, and the solemn sound of the organ
reached them, softened and mellowed by distance, as they stood on
the steps of the Vatican, where the Cardinal, pausing to recover
breath and equanimity, gazed at his strange foundling in alarm and
"Manuel!" he murmured feebly, "Child!--what have you done!"
"Only what I am bound to do!" replied Manuel simply, "I have said no
more than it is right to say, if Christ's words are true! Dear
friend, be at peace! You will not suffer misjudgment long!"
The music stealing out from the distant chapel, floated round them
in large circles of solemn melody,--and the glow of sunset lit the
clear sky with a warm red radiance, flecked with golden clouds of
"He would not come with me!" said Manuel, with a slight gesture
backward to the sombre portals they had just passed, "And he will
never come! But YOU will!"
And smiling,--with his fair face turned to the radiant sky,--he
rested his hand lightly on the Cardinal's arm as they descended the
broad marble steps, and left the great Palace of the Popes together.
While the foregoing scene was taking place at the Vatican, Angela
Sovrani, left to herself for some hours, took the opportunity to set
her great picture "on view" for the coming morrow. Locking both
doors of her studio, she began to arrange the room; her huge canvas
was already on a movable easel supplied with wheels, which ran
lightly and easily over the polished floor without making any sound.
At its summit a brass rod was attached, and on this a curtain of
golden-coloured silk was hung, the folds of which at present
concealed the painting from view. The top-light of the studio was
particularly good on this special afternoon, as the weather was
clear, and the Roman sky translucent and bright as an opal, and
Angela, as she wheeled her "great work" into position, sang for pure
lightness of heart and thankfulness that all was done. In her soul
she had the consciousness that what she had produced from her brain
and hand was not altogether unworthy. For, though to the true
artist, no actual result can ever attain to the beauty of the first
thought or ideal of the thing to be performed, there is always the
consolation that if one's best and truest feeling has been earnestly
put into the work, some touch, however slight, of that ideal beauty
must remain. The poet's poem is never so fine as the poet's thought.
The thought is from the immortal and invincible soul,--the poem has
to be conveyed through the grosser body, clothed in language which
must always be narrow and inadequate. Hence the artist's many and
grievous limitations. To the eyes of the spirit all things appear
transfigured, because lifted out of the sphere of material vision.
But when we try to put these "beautiful things made new, for the
delight of the sky-children" on paper or canvas, in motionless
marble or flexible rhyme,--we are weighted by grosser air and the
density of bodily feeling. So it was with Angela Sovrani, iwhose
compact little head were folded the splendid dreams of genius like
sleeping fairies in a magic cave;--and thoughtful and brilliant
though she was, she could not, in her great tenderness for her
affianced lover Florian Varillo, foresee that daily contact with his
weaker and smaller nature, would kill those dreams as surely as a
frost-wind kills the buds of the rose,--and that gradually, very
gradually, the coarser fibre of his intelligence mingling with hers,
would make a paltry and rough weaving of the web of life, instead of
a free and gracious pattern. She never thought of such
possibilities--she would have rejected the very idea of them with
scorn and indignation. She would have declared that her love for
Florian was the very root and source of her art,--that for him she
worked--for him she lived. So indeed she believed, in her finely-
fervent self-delusion,--but it was not ordained that this glamour
should last,--for hers was a nature too rare and valuable to be
sacrificed, and the Higher destinies had begun to approve her as
precious. Therefore, as is the case with all precious things, the
furnace was preparing for the shaping of the gold,--the appointed
Angel of her Fate was already hovering near, holding ready the cup
of bitterness which all must drain to the dregs, before knowing what
it is to drink of "the new wine in the Kingdom of God."
"I wonder," thought the girl now, as she stepped lightly from one
corner of her studio to the other, rearranging a vase here--a bust
there--and imparting to the whole room that indefinable air of grace
and luxury which can only be bestowed by the trained hand of a
practised artist,--"I wonder if Florian will be proud? People will
certainly talk of my picture,--some will praise and some will
condemn; and this mixture of praise and condemnation is what is
called Fame. But will my beloved love me more? Will he be glad that
I am found worthy in the world's sight?--or will he think I am
usurping his place? Ah!" and she paused in her work, looking vaguely
before her with thoughtful, wondering eyes, "That is where we women
workers have to suffer! Men grudge us the laurel, but they forget
that we are trying to win it only that we may wear the rose more
fittingly! A woman tries to do a great and a noble thing, not that
she may vex of humiliate a man by superiority,--but that she may be
more worthy to be his mate and helper in the world,--and also, that
her children may reverence her for something more than the mere
animal duties of nursing and tenderness. How proud to-day would be
any man or woman who could point to Rosa Bonheur and say, 'She was
my mother!' And yet perhaps this idea of mine is too fantastic,--the
Brownings left a son--and he has nothing of their genius or their
She moved to the grand piano and set it open; as she did so a
thought of Sylvie came across her mind, and she smiled.
"Dear little rose-bud of a woman!" she mused, "How glad I am that
she is happy! And how delightful it is to see the pride she takes in
Aubrey Leigh!--how she studies his books, and pores over his
statistics and theories! I really believe she knows them all by
heart! And what wonderful schemes she is building up in her mind for
the people in whom he is so interested! What a sensation she will
make if she intends to work with her husband as thoroughly and
devotedly as her ideas imply! Her marriage will be an immense
disappointment to certain persons I could name!" and she smiled,
"Dear Sylvie! With all her goodness, and grace and beauty, her name
will sound more obnoxious at the Vatican than even the name of Gys
She had lifted a cluster of lilies from a vase to regroup them, and
as her thoughts turned in this direction she bent her eyes upon
their large white blooms meditatively, and a faint rose flush warmed
"Ce sont des fleurs etranges, Et traitresses, avec leurs airs de
sceptres d'anges, De thyrses lumineux pour doigts de seraphins,
Leurs parfums sont trop forts, tout ensemble, et trop fins."
"It is strange," she thought, "that I should have corresponded so
many months with 'Gys Grandit' through my admiration for his books--
and that he should turn out to be the son of poor Abbe Vergniaud!
Cyrillon! It is a pretty name! And since we met--since that terrible
scene in the church in Paris,--since he knew who I was, he has not
written. And, and for his poor father's death . . . I suppose he
thought it was sufficient to telegraph the news of the death to my
uncle. But I am sorry he does not write to me any more!--I valued
his letters--they were such brilliant essays on all the movements
and politics of the time. It was just a little secret of mine;--it
was pleasant to think I was in correspondence with such a genius.
However, he has had so much to think of since then . . ." She set the
lilies in their vase again, inhaling their delicious odour as she
"The flowers of the saints and martyrs!" she said, "I do not wonder
that the artists chose them for that purpose; they are so white-and
pure-and passionless . . ."
A slight crash disturbed her self-communion, and she hastened to see
what had fallen. It was a small clay figure of "Eros",--a copy of a
statuette found in the ruins of Pompeii. The nail supporting its
bracket had given way. Angela had been rather fond of this little
work of art, and as she knelt to pick up the fragments she was more
vexed at the accident than she cared to own. She looked wistfully at
the pretty moulded broken limbs of the little god as she put them
all in a heap together.
"What a pity!" she murmured, "I am not at all superstitious, yet I
wish anything in the room had come to grief rather than this! It is
not a good omen!"
She moved across the floor again and stood for a moment inert, one
hand resting lightly on the amber silk draperies which veiled her
"There was no truth at all in that rumour about Florian's
'Phillida';--'Pon-Pon,' as they call her," she thought, "She serves
as a model to half the artists in Rome. Unfortunate creature. She is
one of the most depraved and reckless of her class, so I hear--and
Florian is far too refined and fastidious to even recognise such a
woman, outside his studio. The Marquis Fontenelle only wished to
defend himself by trying to include another man in the charge of
libertinage, when he himself was meditating the most perfidious
designs on Sylvie. Poor Fontenelle! One must try and think as kindly
as possible of him now--he is dead. But I cannot think it was right
of him to accuse my Florian!"
Just then she heard a soft knocking. It came from the door at the
furthest end of the studio, one which communicated with a small
stone courtyard, which in its turn opened out to a narrow street
leading down to the Tiber. It was the entrance at which models
presented themselves whenever Angela needed them.
"Angela!" called a melodious voice, which she recognised at once as
the dearest to her in the world. "Angela!"
She hurried to the door but did not open it.
"Florian!" she said softly, putting her lips close to the panel,
"Florian, caro mio! Why are you here?"
"I want to come in," said Florian, "I have news, Angela! I must see
She hesitated a moment longer, and then she undid the bolt, and
admitted him. He entered with a smiling and victorious air.
"I am all alone here," she said at once, before he could speak,
"Father is at Frascati on some business--and my uncle the Cardinal
is at the Vatican. Will you not come back later?"
For all answer, Florian took her in his arms with quite a reverent
tenderness, and kissed her softly on brow and lips.
"No, I will stay!" he said, "I want to have you all to myself for a
few minutes. I came to tell you, sweetest, that if I am to be the
first to see your picture and pass judgment on it, I had better see
it now, for I am going away to-morrow!"
"Going away!" echoed Angela, "Where?"
"To Naples," he answered, "Only for a little while. They have
purchased my picture 'Phillida et les Roses' for one of the museums
there, and they want me to see if I approve of the position in which
it is to be placed. They also wish to honour me by a banquet or
something of the kind--an absurdly unnecessary affair, but still I
think it is perhaps advisable that I should go."
He spoke with an affectation of indifference, but any observer of
him whose eyes were not blinded by affection, could have seen that
he exhaled from himself an atmosphere of self-congratulation at the
banquet proposition. Little honours impress little minds;--and a
faint thrill of pain moved Angela as she saw him thus delighted with
so poor and ordinary a compliment. In any other man it would have
moved her to contempt, but in Florian--well!--she was only just a
"Yes, perhaps it might look churlish of you not to accept," she
said, putting away from her the insidious suggestion that perhaps if
Florian loved her as much as he professed, an invitation to a
banquet at Naples would have had no attraction for him as compared
with being present at the first view of her picture on the morning
she had herself appointed--"I think under the circumstances you had
better not see the picture till you come back!"
"Now, Angela!" he exclaimed vexedly, "You know I will not consent to
that! You have promised me that I shall be the first to see it--and
here I am!"
"It should be seen by the morning light," said Angela, a touch of
nervousness beginning to affect her equanimity,--"This light is pale
and waning, though the afternoon is so clear. You cannot see the
coloring to the best advantage!"
"Am I not a painter also?" asked Varillo playfully, putting his arm
round her waist,--"And can I not guess the effect in the morning
light as well as if I saw it? Come, Angela mia! Unveil the great
prodigy!" and he laughed,--"You began it before we were affianced;--
think what patience I have had for nearly two years!"
Angela did not reply at once. Somehow, his light laugh jarred upon
"Florian," she said at last, raising her truthful, beautiful eyes
fully to his, "I do not think you quite understand! This picture has
absorbed a great deal of my heart and soul--I have as it were,
painted my own life blood into it--for I mean it to declare a truth
and convey a lesson. It will either cover me with obloquy, or crown
me with lasting fame. You speak jestingly, as if it were some toy
with which I had amused myself these three years. Do you not believe
that a woman's work may be as serious, as earnest, and strongly
purposeful as a man's?"
Still clasping her round the waist, Florian drew her closer, and
pressing her head against his breast, he looked down on her smiling.
"What sweet eyes you have!" he said, "The sweetest, the most
trusting, the most childlike eyes I have ever seen! It would be
impossible to paint such eyes, unless one's brushes were
Raffaelle's, dipped in holy water. Not that I believe very much in
holy water as a painter's medium! "He laughed,--he had a well-shaped
mouth and was fond of smiling, in order that he might show his even
pearly teeth, which contrasted becomingly with his dark moustache.
"Yes, my Angela has beautiful eyes,--and such soft, pretty hair!"
and he caressed it gently, "like little golden tendrils with a beam
of the sunlight caught in it! Is not that a pretty compliment? I
think I ought to have been a poet instead of a painter!"
"You are both," said Angela fondly, with a little sigh of rest and
pleasure as she nestled in his arms--"You will be the greatest
artist of your time when you paint large subjects instead of small
His tender hold of her relaxed a little.
"You think 'Phillida et les Roses' a small subject?" he asked, with
a touch of petulance in his tone, "Surely if a small study is
perfect, it is better than a large one which is imperfect?"
"Of course it is!" replied the girl quickly--"By smallness I did not
mean the size of the canvas,--I meant the character of the subject."
"There is nothing small in the beauty of woman!" declared Varillo,
with an enthusiastic air--"Her form is divine! Her delicious flesh
tints--her delicate curves--her amorous dimples--her exquisite
seductiveness--combined with her touching weakness--these qualities
make of woman the one,--the only subject for a painter's brush, when
the painter is a man!"
Involuntarily Angela thought of "Pon-Pon," who had posed for the
"Phillida," and a little shiver ran over her nerves like a sudden
wind playing on the chords of an AEolian harp. Gently she withdrew
herself from her lover's embrace.
"And when the painter is a woman, should the only subject for her
brush be the physical beauty of man?" she asked.
Varillo gave an airy gesture of remonstrance.
"Carissima mia! You shock me! How can you suggest such a thing! The
two sexes differ in tastes and aspirations as absolutely as in form.
Man is an unfettered creature,--he must have his liberty, even if it
reaches license; woman is his dependent. That is Nature's law. Man
is the conqueror--woman is his conquest! We cannot alter these
things. That is one reason for the prejudice existing against
woman's work--if it excels that of man, we consider it a kind of
morbid growth--an unnatural protuberance on the face of the
universe. In fact, it is a wrong balance of the intellectual forces,
which in their action, should always remain on the side of man."
"But if man abuses his power, may it not be taken from him
altogether?" suggested Angela tranquilly, "If man, knowing that a
life of self-indulgence destroys his intellectual capacity, still
persists in that career, and woman, studying patiently to perfect
herself, refuses to follow his example of vice, may it not happen
that the intellectual forces may range themselves on the side of
right rather than wrong, and invest woman with a certain supremacy
in the end? It is a problem worth thinking of!"
Varillo looked sharply at her. Had she heard anything of his private
life in Rome?--a life he kept carefully concealed from everyone who
might be likely to report his little amusements at the Palazzo
Sovrani? A slight, very slight touch of shame pricked him, as he
noted the grace of her figure, the dainty poise of her head on her
slim white throat--the almost royal air of dignity and sweetness
which seemed to surround her,--there was no doubt whatever of her
superiority to the women he generally consorted with, and for a
moment he felt remorseful,--but he soon dismissed his brief
compunction with a laugh.
"No, sweet Angela," he said gaily, "it is not worth thinking of!
Believe me! I will not enter into any such profound discussions with
you. My present time is too short, and your attractions too many!
Why did you slip out of my arms so unkindly just now? Surely you
were not offended? Comeback! Come, and we will go up to the great
picture as lovers should, together--entwined in each other's arms!--
and you shall then draw the mysterious curtain,--or shall I?"
She still hesitated. Then after a pause, she came towards him once
more, the soft colour alternately flushing and paling her cheeks, as
she laid her hand on his arm.
"You did not answer me," she said, "when I asked you just now if you
believed that a woman's work could be as purposeful as a man's--
sometimes indeed more so. You evaded the question. Why?"
"Did I evade it?" and Varillo took her hand in his own and kissed
it,--"Dolcesza mia, I would not pain you for the world!"
A slight shadow clouded her face.
"You will not pain me," she answered, "except by not being true to
yourself and to me. You know how I have worked,--you know how high I
have set my ambition for your sake--to make myself more worthy of
you; but if you do honestly think that a woman's work in art must
always be inferior to a man's, no matter how ardently she studies--
no matter even if she has so perfected herself in drawing, anatomy,
and colouring as to be admitted the equal of men in these studies--
if the result must, in your mind, be nevertheless beneath that of
the masculine attainment, why say so,--because then--then--"
"Then what, my sweet philosopher?" asked Florian lightly, again
kissing the hand he held.
She fixed her eyes fully on him. "Then," she replied slowly, "I
should know you better--I should understand you more!"
An unpleasant twinge affected his nerves, and his eyelids quivered
and blinked as though struck by a sudden shaft of the sun. This was
the only facial sign he ever gave of the difficulty he at times
experienced in meeting the straight, clear glance of his betrothed.
"You would know me more, and love me less? Is that it?" he said
carelessly. "My dear girl, why do you press the point? If you will
have it, I tell you frankly, I think women are growing very clever,
much too clever in fact,--and that the encouragement and impetus
given to them in the Arts is a very great mistake. Because they are
not all geniuses like my Angela! You are one in a thousand--or
rather one in a million,--and for one Angela Sovrani we shall have a
world of female daubers calling themselves artists and entering into
competition with us, as if we had not already quite enough
competition among our own sex! I honestly believe that with very
rare exceptions woman's work is decidedly inferior and mediocre as
compared to man's."
Quickly Angela disengaged herself from his hold, her lips trembling-
-her eyes were full of a strange fire and brilliancy,--her slight
figure seemed to grow taller as she stood for a moment like a queen,
regarding him steadfastly from under her fair, level brows.
"Then come and see!" she said, "I am not proud--I make no boast at
all of what I have done--and no one perceives or deplores the faults
of my work more than I do--but I know I have not altogether failed!"
She moved away from him and stood opposite her veiled canvas,--then
as Florian followed and joined her, with a swift action which had
something of defiance as well as grace in it, she swept aside the
concealing curtain. Florian recoiled with an involuntary cry,--and
then remained motionless and silent,--stricken dumb and stupid by
the magnificent creation which confronted him. This Angela's
masterpiece! A woman's work! This stupendous conception! This
perfect drawing! This wondrous colouring! Fully facing him, the
central glory of the whole picture, was a figure of Christ--unlike
any other Christ ever imagined by poet or painter--an etherealised
Form through which the very light of Heaven itself seemed to shine,-
-supreme, majestic, and austerely God-like;--the face was more
beautiful than any ever dreamed of by the hewers of the classic
marbles--it was the face of a great Archangel,--beardless and
youthful, yet kingly and commanding. Round the broad brows a Crown
of Thorns shone like a diadem, every prickly point tipped with pale
fire,--and from the light floating folds of intense white which,
cloud-like, clung about the divine Form, faint flashes of the
lightning gleamed. Above this grand Christ, the heavens were opened,
pouring out a rain of such translucent purity of colour and radiance
as never had been seen in any painted canvas before--but beneath,
the clouds were black as midnight--confused, chaotic, and drifting
darkly on a strong wind as it seemed into weird and witch-like
shapes, wherein there were seen the sun and moon revolving pallidly,
like globes of fire lost from their orbits and about to become
extinct. And among those shifting black films were a crowd of human
creatures, floating and falling into unknown depths of darkness, and
striking out wild arms of appeal and entreaty and despair,--the
faces of these were all familiar, and were the life-like portraits
of many of those pre-eminent in the history of the time. Chief
among them was the Sovereign Pontiff, waxen and wan and dark-eyed,--
he was depicted as fastening fetters of iron round the body of a
beautiful youth, laurel-crowned, the leaves of the laurel bearing
faint gold letters which spelt the word "Science." Huddled beside
him was a well-known leader of the Jesuits, busily counting up heaps
of gold,--another remarkable figure was that of a well-known magnate
of the Church of England, who, leaning forward eagerly, sought to
grasp and hold the garment of the Pope, but was dragged back by the
hand of a woman crowned with an Imperial diadem. After these and
other principal personages came a confusion of faces--all
recognisable, yet needing study to discern;--creatures drifting
downwardly into the darkness,--one was the vivisectionist whose name
was celebrated through France, clutching at his bleeding victim and
borne relentlessly onwards by the whirlwind,--and forms and faces
belong to men of every description of Church-doctrine were seen
trampling underneath them other human creatures scarcely
discernible. And over all this blackness and chaos the supernal
figure of the Christ was aerially poised,--one hand was extended and
to this a woman clung--a woman with a beautiful face made piteous in
its beauty by long grief and patient endurance. In her other arm she
held a sleeping child--and mother and child were linked together by
a garland of flowers partially broken and faded. Her entreating
attitude,--the sleeping child's helplessness--her worn face,--the
perishing roses of earth's hope and joy,--all expressed their
meaning simply yet tragically, and as the Divine Hand supported and
drew her up out of the universal chaos below, the hope of a new
world, a better world, a wiser world, a holier world, seemed to be
distantly conveyed. But the eyes of the Christ were full of
reproach, and were bent on the Representative of St. Peter binding
the laurel-crowned youth, and dragging him into darkness,--and the
words written across the golden mount of the picture, in clear black
letters, seemed to be actually spoken aloud from the vivid color and
movement of the painting. "Many in that day will call upon Me and
say, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name
cast out devils, and done many wonderful works?"
"Then will I say to them, I never knew you! Depart from me all ye
that work iniquity!"
As an Allegory the picture was a daring yet sublime reproach to the
hypocrisy of the religious world,--as a picture it was consummate in
every detail, and would have been freely admitted as a masterpiece
of Raffaelle had Raffaelle been fortunate enough to paint it. Still
Varillo kept silence. Angela's heart beat so loudly that she could
almost hear it in the deep silence of the room. Every fine little
nerve in her body was strained--to the utmost height of suspense,--
she was afraid to look at her lover, or disturb the poise of his
mental judgment by the lightest movement. And he? Thoughts, black as
the chaos of cloud she had so powerfully portrayed, were stirring in
his soul,--thoughts, base and mean and cowardly, which, gradually
gathering force as he dwelt upon them, began to grow and spring up
to a devilish height worked into life and being by a burning spark
of jealousy, which, long smouldering in his nature, now leaped into
a flame. No trace of the wicked inner workings of his mind, however,
darkened the equanimity of his features, or clouded the serene, soft
candour of his eyes, as he at last turned towards the loving,
shrinking woman, who stood waiting for his approval, as simply and
sweetly as a rose might wait for the touch of the morning sun.
Slowly, and like little pellets of ice, his first words fell from
"Did you do it all yourself?"
The spell was disturbed--the charm broken. Angela turned very white-
-she drew a deep breath--and the tension on her nerves relaxed,--her
heart gave one indignant bound--and then resumed its usual quiet
beating, as with a strong effort she gathered all her dignity and
force together, and replied simply,
"Can you ask?"
He looked at her. What an embodied insult to the arrogance of man
she was! She!--a mere woman!--and the painter of the finest picture
ever seen since Raffaelle and Michael Angelo left the world to work
elsewhere. "Chaste as ice, pure as snow, thou shalt not escape
calumny!" In his imagination he saw the world crowning her with
imperishable bays--he heard the denunciation of the Vatican and the
condemnation of the Churches, thunder uselessly against the grand
lesson of her work, while crowds gathered adoringly before the most
perfect Christ ever painted!--and he saw her name written up in
letters of gold on the scroll of those whom history numbers as
immortal! It should not be! It should never be! And again he spoke,
enunciating his words with difficulty, for his lips were dry.
"It is very fine! Quite marvellous, in fact!--almost unprecedented!
That is why I ask, 'did you do it all yourself?' You must not be
offended, Angela! I mean so well! You see the conception--the
breadth of treatment--the gradation and tone of colour--are all
absolutely masculine. Who first suggested the idea to you?"
Still very pale, breathing quickly yet lightly, and maintaining an
air of calm which was almost matter of fact, she answered,--
"No one! Though perhaps, if it is traced to its source, it arose in
my mind from seeing the universal dissatisfaction which most
intelligent people feel with religion, as administered to them by
the Churches. That, and a constant close study of the New Testament,
set the thought in my brain,--a thought which gradually expressed
itself in this form. So far as any work belongs to the worker, it is
entirely my own creation. I am sorry you should have implied any
doubt of it!"
Here her voice trembled a little, but she quickly steadied it. He
smiled--a little difficult smile--and slipping his right hand
between his coat and vest, felt for something he always carried
there. It should never be!
"My dear Angela!" he said, with a gracious tranquillity that was
almost dignity, "I do not doubt you in the least!--I merely SUGGEST
what all the world will SAY! There is not an art-critic alive who
will accept this--this extraordinary production--as the work of a
woman! It is the kind of thing which might have been produced
hundreds of years ago by a great master setting his pupils to work
at different sections of the canvas,--but that one woman, painting
all alone for three years, should have designed and executed such a
masterpiece--yes!--I will admit it is a masterpiece!--is an unheard
of and altogether an extraordinary thing, and you must not wonder if
competent judges reject the statement with incredulity!"
"It does not matter to me," said Angela, "what they reject or
accept. You admit it is a masterpiece--that is enough for me. It is
my own work, and you know it is!"
"Dear little one!" he said, laughing forcedly, "How do I know? You
have never admitted me into the studio once while you were at work!"
The exclamation broke from her lips like a cry of physical pain.
"That was a mistake of yours!" he went on recklessly, his eyes
beginning to glitter with the fever raging in his mind, "You should
not have shut the doors against your lover, my beloved! Nor would
you admit your father either! That looks very strange!"
White as a snowflake, yet with blazing eyes, Angela turned upon him.
"Florian!" she said, "Do you--you of all people in the world--you to
whom I have given all my love and confidence--mean to suggest that
my work is not my own?"
He looked at her, smiling easily.
"Sweet Angela, not I! I know your genius--I worship it! See!" and
with a light grace he dropped on one knee, and snatching her hand,
kissed it--then springing up again, he said, "You are a great
creature, my Angela!--the greatest artist in the world,--IF WE CAN
ONLY MAKE THE WORLD BELIEVE IT!"
Something in his voice, his manner, moved her to a vague touch of
dread. Earnestly she looked at him,--wonderingly, and with a
passionate reproach in her pure, true eyes. And still he smiled,
while the fiends of envy and malice made havoc in his soul.
"My glorious Angela!" he said, "My bride, my beautiful one! A
veritable queen, to whom nations shall pay homage!" He threw one arm
round her waist and drew her somewhat roughly to him. "You must not
be vexed with me, sweetheart!--the world is a cruel world, and
always doubts great ability in woman! I only prepare you for what
most people will say. But _I_ do not doubt!--I know your power, and
triumph in it!" He paused a moment, breathing quickly,--his eyes
were fixed on the picture,--then he said, "If I may venture to
criticise--there is a shadow--there, at the left hand side of the
canvas--do you not see?"
She disengaged herself from his clasp.
"Where?" she asked, in a voice from which all spirit and hopefulness
"You are sad? My Angela, have I discouraged you? Forgive me! I do
not find fault,--this is a mere nothing,--you may not agree with
me,--but does not that dark cloud make somewhat too deep a line near
the faded roses? It may be only an effect of this waning light,--but
I do think that line is heavy and might be improved. Be patient with
me!--I only criticise to make perfection still more perfect!"
Listlessly she moved closer to the picture, turning away from him as
she did so.
"Just the slightest softening of the tone--the finishing touch!" he
murmured in caressing accents; while to himself he muttered--"It
shall not be! It shall never be!" Then with a swift movement his
hand snatched at the thing he always carried concealed near his
breast--a flash of pointed steel glittered in the light,--and with
one stealthy spring and pitiless blow, he stabbed her full and
furiously in the back as she stood looking at the fault he had
pretended to discover in her picture! One choking cry escaped her
"Florian--you! YOU--Florian!" Then reeling, she threw up her arms
and fell, face forwards on the floor, insensible.
He stood above her, dagger in hand,--and studied the weapon with
strange curiosity. It was crimson and wet with blood. Then he stared
at the picture. A faint horror began to creep over him. The great
Christ in the centre of the painting seemed to live and move, and
float towards him on clouds of blinding glory. His breath came and
went in uneasy gasps.
"Angela!" he muttered thickly,--"Angela!" She lay prone and horribly
still. He was afraid to touch her. What had he done? Murdered her?
Oh no!--he had done nothing--nothing at all,--she had merely
fainted--she would be well presently! He smiled foolishly at this,
still gazing straight at the picture, and holding the sharp blood-
stained blade in his hand.
"My love!" he said aloud,--then listened--as though waiting for an
answer. And still he stared persistently at the glorious figure of
the Christ, till the Divine eyes seemed to flash the fire of an
everlasting wrath upon his treacherous soul.
"To destroy the work? Or claim it?" he mused, "Either would be easy!
That is, if she were dead!--." he paused,--amazed at his own
thought. "If she were dead, it would be easy to swear _I_ had
painted the picture! If she were dead!" Again he listened. "Angela!"
A door banging in the house startled him from his semi-stupor. His
eyes wandered from the picture to the inanimate form lying at his
"Sweet Angela!" he said, a cold smile flickering on his lips, "You
were always unselfish! You wished me to be the greatest artist of my
time!--and perhaps I shall be!--now YOU are dead! My love!"
A sudden clatter of horses' hoofs and rolling wheels wakened hollow
echoes from the great stone courtyard below. It was the Cardinal
returning from the Vatican. A panic seized him--his teeth chattered
as with icy cold. He sprang swiftly to the door by which Angela had
admitted him, and opened it cautiously,--then slinking out, locked
it carefully behind him, took the key,--and fled. Once in the
street, he never paused till he reached the corner of a dark
projecting wall over-looking the Tiber, and here, glancing nervously
round lest he should be observed, he flung his murderer's dagger and
the key of the studio both into the water. Again he paused and
listened--looking up at the frowning windows of the Palazzo Sovrani
which could be dimly seen from where he stood. He had not meant to
kill Angela. Oh no! He had come to the studio, full of love,
prepared to chide her tenderly for the faults in her work,--till he
saw that it was faultless; to make a jest of her ambition,--till he
realized her triumph! And then,--then the devil had seized him--
then--! A scarlet slit in the western horizon showed where the sun
had sunk,--a soft and beautiful after-glow trembled over the sky in
token of its farewell. A boy came strolling lazily down the street
eating a slice of melon, and paused to fling the rind over the wall.
The innocent, unconscious glance of the stripling's eyes was
sufficient to set up a cowardly trembling in his body,--and turning
round abruptly so that even this stray youth might not observe him
too closely, he hurried away. And the boy, never regarding him at
all, strolled on with the mellow taste of the fruit he had just
enjoyed in his mouth, and presently, as if inspired thereby, awoke
the slumbering echoes of the street with his high, fluting young
treble, singing, "Che faro senza Eurydice!"
Meanwhile Cardinal Bonpre had once more reached his own apartments,
thankful enough to be there after his difficult experience at the
Vatican. But he was neither fatigued nor depressed by what had
occurred,--on the contrary he was conscious of an extraordinary
vigour and lightness of heart, as though he had suddenly grown young
again. Changing his scarlet robes of office for his every-day
cassock, he seated himself restfully, and with a deep sigh of
relief, in his easy chair near the writing-table, and first of all
closing his eyes for a moment, while he silently prayed for guidance
to the Supreme Judge of all secret intentions, he called Manuel to
"My child," he said gently, "I want you to listen to me very
attentively. I do not think you quite understand what you have done
to-day, do you?"
Manuel raised his eyes with a clear look of confidence.
"Yes. I have spoken to the Head of the Church of Rome," he
answered,--"That is all. I have said to him, as Christ once said to
the very Peter whom he represents, 'Thou savourest not the things
that be of God, but those that be of men.'"
The Cardinal regarded him straightly.
"True! But for you, a mere child, to say to the Head of the Church
what Christ said to St. Peter, will be judged as blasphemy. I have
never urged you, as you know, to tell me who you are, or where you
came from. I do not urge you now. For I feel that you have been sent
to me for some special purpose--that young as you are, you have been
entrusted by a Higher Power with some mission to me--for you possess
the spirit of inspiration, prophecy and truth. I dare not question
that spirit! Wherever I find it, in the young, in the old, in the
wise or the ignorant I give it welcome. For you have uttered not
only what I have myself thought, but what half the world is
thinking, though you are only one of those 'babes and sucklings out
of whose mouth the Lord hath ordained wisdom.' But what you have
said at the Vatican will be judged as heresy--and I shall be counted
heretic for having permitted you to speak thus boldly."
"Your permission was not asked," said Manuel simply, "I was summoned
to the Vatican, but I was not told what to say to the Pope. I spoke
as I felt. No one interrupted me. The Pope listened to all my words.
And I said no more than is true."
"Truth is judged as libel nowadays in the world," answered the
Cardinal, "And we have to confront the fact that we have incurred
the displeasure, and have also invited the vengeance of the
Sovereign Pontiff. Thus we must expect to suffer."
"Then he who is called the visible Head of Christianity objects to
the truth, and is capable of vengeance!" said Manuel, "That is a
strange contradiction! But I will suffer whatever he pleases to
inflict upon me. You shall suffer nothing!"
The Cardinal smiled gravely.
"My child, I am old, and whatever trouble is in store for me cannot
last long. But I must guard you from harm with all the remaining
powers of my life. Having constituted myself your protector and
defender, I must continue to protect and defend. And so, Manuel,
tomorrow or the next day I shall take you away to England. So far,
at least, I will defy the powers of Rome!"
His eyes flashed, and his whole person seemed to be invested with
sudden strength, dignity and command. He pointed to the crucifix on
the table before him.
"He, the Holy One of the Heavens, was crucified for speaking the
truth,--I can do no better than follow His divine example! If my
soul is stretched on the crossbeams of injustice--if every tender
emotion of my heart is tortured and slain--if I am stripped of
honour and exposed to contempt, what matter! My glorious Master
Manuel was silent. He stood near the great chimney where the wood
fire burned and crackled, casting a ruddy glow through the room.
After a few minutes he turned his fair head towards the Cardinal
with an earnest, scrutinising gaze in his expressive eyes.
"Then, dear friend, you are not angry? You do not reproach me for
what I have done?"
"Reproach you? I reproach no one!" said Bonpre,--"Least of all, a
child! For you speak unconsciously--as genius speaks;--you cannot
weigh the meaning of your words, or the effect of what you say on
the worldly or callous minds which have learned to balance motives
and meanings before coining them into more or less ambiguous
language. No!--I have nothing to reproach you with, Manuel,--I am
thankful to have you by my side!"
His eyes rested again upon the crucifix for a moment, and he went
on, more to himself than to the boy,--
"In the early days of our Lord, He spoke to the wise men in the
Temple, and they were 'astonished at his understanding and answers.'
But they did not reprove Him,--not then,--on the contrary, they
listened. How often in our own days do young children ask us
questions to which we cannot reply, and which they themselves
perchance could easily answer if they but knew how to clothe their
thoughts with speech! For the Spirit of God is made manifest in many
ways, and through many methods;--sometimes it whispers a hint or a
warning to us in the petals of the rose, sometimes in the radiance
of the sunset on the sea, sometimes in the simple talk of a child
younger even than you are,--'Except ye become as little children--!"
He paused in his dreamy utterance, and turned in his chair
listening. "What is that?" There was a noise of hurrying footsteps
and murmuring voices,--that sort of half-muffled confusion in a
household which bodes something wrong,--and all at once Prince
Sovrani threw open the door of the Cardinal's apartments without
ceremony, crying out as he entered,--
"Where is Angela?"
The Cardinal rose out of his chair, startled and alarmed.
"Angela?" he echoed, "She is not here!"
"Not here!" Prince Sovrani drew a sharp breath, and his face visibly
paled,--"It is very strange! Her studio is locked at both entrances-
-yet the servants swear she has not passed out of the house! Besides
she never goes out without leaving word as to where she has gone and
when she is coming back!"
"Her studio is locked on both sides!" repeated the Cardinal, "But
that is quite easy to understand--her picture is unveiled, and no
one is to be permitted to see it until to-morrow."
"Yes--yes--" said the Prince Pietro impatiently, "I know all that,--
but where is Angela herself? There is no sign of her anywhere! She
cannot have gone out. Her maid tells me she was not dressed to go
out. She was in her white working gown when last seen. Santissima
Madonna!"--and old Sovrani gave a wild gesture of despair--"If any
harm has happened to the child . . ."
"Harm? Why what harm could happen? What harm could happen?" said the
Cardinal soothingly,--"My dear brother, do not alarm yourself
"Let us go to the studio," interposed Manuel suddenly--"She may not
have heard you call her."
He moved in his gentle light way out of the room, and without
another word they followed. Outside the studio door they paused, and
Prince Sovrani tried again and again to open it, calling "Angela!"
now loudly, now softly, now entreatingly, now commandingly, all to
no purpose. The servants had gathered on the landing, afraid of they
knew not what, and one old man, the Prince's valet, shook his head
dolefully at the continued silence.
"Why not break open the door, Eccellenza?" he asked anxiously, "I
know the trick of those old locks--if the Eccellenza will permit I
can push back the catch with a strong chisel."
"Do so then," replied his master, "I cannot wait--there is something
horrible in the atmosphere!--something that chokes me! Quick! This
suspense will kill me!"
The old valet hurried away, and in two or three minutes, during
which time both Prince Sovrani and the Cardinal knocked and called
again outside the door quite uselessly, he returned with a strong
iron chisel which he forced against the lock. For some time it
resisted all efforts--then with appalling suddenness gave way and
flew back, the door bursting wide open with the shock. For one
instant the falling shadows of evening made the interior of the room
too dim to see distinctly--there was a confused blur of objects,--
the carved summit of a great easel,--a gold picture-frame shining
round a wonderful mass of colouring on canvas--then gradually they
discerned the outline of a small figure lying prone at the foot of
the easel, stiff and motionless. With a dreadful cry of despair
Sovrani dashed into the room.
Falling on his knees he raised the delicate figure in his arms,--the
little head drooped inanimate on his shoulder, and with the movement
a coil of golden hair became unbound, and fell in soft waves over
his trembling hands--the fair face was calm and tranquil--the eyes
were closed,--but as the distracted man clasped that inert, beloved
form closer, he saw what caused him to spring erect with a terrible
oath, and cry for vengeance.
"Murdered!" he exclaimed hoarsely--"Murdered! Brother, come close!--
see here! Will you talk to me of God NOW! My last comfort in life--
the last gift of my Gita, murdered!"
The affrighted Cardinal tottered forward, and looking, saw that a
deep stain of blood oozed over the soft white garments of the
lifeless girl, and he wrung his hands in despair.
"My God! My God!" he moaned, "In what have we offended Thee that
Thou shouldst visit us with such heavy affliction? Angela, my
child!--my little girl!--Angela!"
The servants had by this time clustered round, a pale and terrified
group, sobbing and crying loudly,--only the old valet retained
sufficient presence of mind to light two or three of the lamps in
the studio. As this was done, and the sudden luminance dispersed
some of the darker shadows in the room, the grand picture on the
easel was thrown into full prominence,--and the magnificent Christ,
descending in clouds of glory, seemed to start from the painted
canvas and move towards them all. And even while he wrung his hands
and wept, the Cardinal's glance was suddenly caught and transfixed
by this splendour,--he staggered back amazed, and murmured feebly--
"Angela! THIS is her work!--this her great picture, and she--she is
Sovrani suddenly clutched him by the arm, and drew him close to the
couch where he had just laid the body of his daughter down.
"Now, where was this God you serve, think you, when this happened?"
he demanded, in a hoarse whisper, while his aged eyes glittered
feverishly, and his stern dark face under the tossed white hair was
as a frowning mask of vengeance,--"Is the world so rich in sweet
women that SHE should be slain?"
Half paralysed with grief, the unhappy Cardinal sank on his knees
beside the murdered girl,--taking the passive hand he kissed it, the
tears flowing down his furrowed cheeks. Her magnificent picture
shone forth, a living presence in the room, but the thoughts of all
were for the dead only, and the distracted Sovrani saw nothing but
his child's pale, set face, closed eyes, and delicate figure, lying
still with the red stain of blood spreading through the whiteness of
her garments. None of them thought of Manuel--and it was with a
shock of surprise that the Cardinal became aware of him, and saw him
approaching the couch, raising his hand as he came, warningly.
"Hush, hush!" he said, very gently, "It may be that she is not dead!
She will be frightened when she wakes if she sees you weeping!"
Prince Sovrani caught the words.
"When she wakes!" he cried, "Poor boy, you do not know what you say!
She will never wake! She is dead!"
But Manuel was bending closely over the couch, and looking earnestly
into Angela's quiet face. Cardinal Bonpre watched him wonderingly.
And the old Prince stood, arrested as it were in the very midst of
his wrath and sorrow by some force more potent than even the spirit
of vengeance. The sobbing servants held their breath--and all stared
as if fascinated at the young boy, as after a pause, he took
Angela's hand that hung so inertly down, in one of his own, and with
the other felt her heart. Then he spoke.
"She is not dead!" he said simply,--"She has only swooned. Let
someone fetch a physician to attend her--see!--she breathes!"
With a wild, half-smothered cry Prince Sovrani sprang forward to see
for himself if this blessed news was true. He and the Cardinal both,
seized with a passionate anxiety, gazed and gazed at the fair
beloved face in hope, in fear and longing,--and still Manuel stood
beside the couch, stroking the small hand he held with thoughtful
care and tenderness. All at once a faint sigh parted the sweet
lips,--the bosom heaved with a struggle for breath. Her father fell
on his knees, overcome, and hiding his face in his hands sobbed
aloud in the intensity of his relief and joy, while the Cardinal
murmured a devout 'Thank God!' A few minutes passed, and still the
fluttering uncertain breathings came and went, and still Manuel
stood by the couch, quietly watchful. Presently the closed eyelids
quivered and lifted,--and the beautiful true eyes shone star-like
out upon the world again! She stirred, and tried to raise herself,
but sank back exhausted in the effort. Then seeing the Cardinal, she
smiled,--and her gaze wandered slowly to the bent, white-haired
figure crouching beside her, whose whole frame was shaken by sobs.
"Father!" she murmured--"Dearest father! What is it?"
He lifted his tear-stained, agonised face, and seeing that the
tender eyes regarding him were full of fear and wonder as well as
love, he instantly controlled himself, and rising from his knees,
kissed her gently.
"I thought you were dead, my darling!" he said softly--"Hush now--do
not speak! Lie quite still! You are hurt a little,--you must rest!--
you will be better,--much better presently!"
But Angela's looks had again wandered, and now they were fixed on
Manuel. Over her whole face there came a sudden life and radiance.
"Manuel!" she said eagerly--"Manuel, stay with me! Do not leave me!"
Manuel smiled in answer to her appealing eyes, and came nearer.
"Do not fear!" he said--"I will stay!"
She closed her eyes again restfully, and her breathing grew lighter
and easier. Just then one of the servants entered with the physician
who was accustomed to attend the Sovrani household. His arrival
roused Angela completely,--she became quite conscious, and evidently
began to remember something of what had happened. The doctor raised
her to see where she was injured, and quickly cutting away her
blood-stained vesture, tenderly and carefully examined the wound.
"I cannot understand how it is that she is not dead!" he said at
last--"It is a miracle! This is a stab inflicted with some sharply
pointed instrument,--probably a dagger--and was no doubt intended to
be mortal. As it is, it is dangerous--but there is a chance of
life." Then he addressed himself to Angela, who was looking at him