THE rage of speculation was at its height in Rome. Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of persons were embarked in enterprises which soon afterwards ended in total ruin to themselves, and in very serious injury to many of the strongest financial bodies in the country. Yet it is a fact worth recording that the general principle upon which affairs were conducted was an honest one. The land was a fact, the buildings put up were facts, and there was actually a certain amount of capital, of genuine ready money, in use. The whole matter can be explained in a few words.
The population of Rome had increased considerably since the Italian occupation, and house-room was needed for the newcomers. Then the partial execution of the scheme for beautifying the city had destroyed great numbers of dwellings in the most thickly populated parts, and more house-room was needed to compensate the loss of habitations, while extensive lots of land were suddenly set free and offered for sale upon easy conditions in all parts of the town.
Those who availed themselves of these opportunities before the general rush began realized immense profits, especially when they had some capital of their own to begin with. But capital was not indispensable. A man could buy his lot on credit; the banks were ready to advance him money on notes of hand, in small amounts at high interest, wherewith to build his house or houses. When the building was finished, the bank took a first mortgage upon the property ; the owner let the house, paid the interest; on the mortgage out of the rent, and pocketed the difference as clear gain. In the majority of cases it was the bank itself which sold the lot of land to the speculator. ft is clear, therefore, that the only money which actually changed hands was that advanced in small sums by the bank itself.
As speculation increased, the banks could not afford to lock up all the small notes of hand they received from various quarters. This paper became a circulating medium as far as Vienna, Paris, and even London. The crash came when Vienna, Paris, and London lost faith in the paper, owing, in the first instance, to one or two small failures, and returned it upon Rome. The banks, unable to obtain cash for it at any price, and being short of ready money, could then no longer discount the speculator’s further notes of hand ; so that the speculator found himself with half-built houses upon his hands, which he could neither let, nor finish, nor sell, and owing money upon bills which he had expected to meet by giving the bank a mortgage on the now valueless property. That is what took place in the majority of cases, and it is not necessary to go into further details, though of course chance played all the usual variations upon the theme of ruin.
What distinguishes the period of speculation in Rome from most other manifestations of the kind in Europe is the prominent part played in it by the old landholding families, a number of which ruined themselves in wild schemes which no sensible man of business would have touched. This was more or less the result of recent changes in the laws regulating the power of persons making a will.
Previous to 1870 the law of primogeniture was as much respected in Rome as in England, and was carried out with considerably greater strictness. The heir got everything; the other children got practically nothing but the smallest pittance. The palace, the gallery of pictures and statues, the lands, the villages, and the castles descended in unbroken succession from eldest son to eldest son, indivisible in principle and undivided in fact.
The new law requires that one half of the total property shall be equally distributed by the testator amongst all his children. He may leave the other half to any one he pleases, and as a matter of practice he leaves it to his eldest son.
Another law, however, forbids the alienation of all collections of works of art, either wholly or in part, if they have existed as such for a certain length of time, and it the public has been admitted daily or on any fixed days to visit them. It is not in the power of the Borghese or the Colonna, for instance, to sell a picture or a statue out of their galleries, nor to raise money upon such an object by mortgage or otherwise.
Yet these works of art figure at a very high valuation in the total property of which the testator must divide one half amongst his children, though in point of fact they yield no income whatever. But it is of no use to divide them, since none of the heirs could be at liberty to take them away or realize their value in any manner.
The consequence is that the principal heir, after the division has taken place, finds himself the nominal master of certain enormously valuable possessions which in reality yield him nothing, or next to nothing. He also foresees that in the next generation the same state of things will exist in a far higher degree, and that the position of the head of the family will go from had to worse, until a crisis of some kind takes place.
Such a case has recently occurred. A certain Roman prince is bankrupt. The sale of his gallery would certainly relieve the pressure, and would possibly free him from debt altogether. But neither he nor his creditors can lay a finger upon the pictures, nor raise a centime upon them. This man, therefore, is permanently reduced to penury, and his creditors are large losers, while he is still, de jure and de facto, the owner of property probably sufficient to cover all his obligations. Fortunately, he chances to be childless, a fact consoling, perhaps, to the philanthropist, but not especially so to the sufferer himself.
It is clear that the temptation to increase “ distributable " property, if one may coin such an expression, is very great, and accounts for the way in which many Roman gentlemen have rushed headlong into speculation, though possessing none of the qualities necessary for success, and only one of the requisites, namely, a certain amount of ready money, or free and convertible property. A few have been fortunate, while the majority of those who have tried the experiment have been heavy losers. It cannot be said that any one of them all has shown natural talent for finance.
Let the reader forgive these dry explanations, if he can. The facts explained have a direct bearing upon the story I am telling, but shall not, as mere facts, be referred to again.
I have already said that Ugo Del Ferice had returned to Rome soon after the change, had established himself with his wife, Donna Tullia, and at the time l am speaking about was deeply engaged in the speculations of the day. He had once been tolerably popular in society, having been looked upon as a harmless creature, useful in his way and very obliging. But the circumstances which had attended his flight some years earlier had become known, and most of his old acquaintances turned him the cold shoulder. He had expected this, and was neither disappointed nor humiliated. He had made new friends and acquaintances during his exile, and it was to his interest to stand by them. Like many of those who had played petty and dishonorable parts in the revolutionary times, he had succeeded in building up a reputation tor patriotism on a very slight foundation, and had found persons willing to believe him a sufferer who had escaped martyrdom for the cause, and had deserved the crown of election by a constituency as a just reward of his devotion. The Romans cared very little what became of him. The old Blacks confounded Victor Emmanuel with Garibaldi, Carron with Persiano, and Silvio Pellico with Del Ferice in one sweeping condemnation, desiring nothing so much as never to hear the hated names mentioned in their houses. The Gray party, being also Roman, disapproved of Ugo on general principles, and particularly because be had been a spy ; but the Whites, not being Romans at all, and entertaining an especial detestation for every distinctly Roman opinion, received him at his own estimation, as society receives most people who live in good houses, give good dinners, and observe the proprieties in the matter of visiting-cards. Those who knew anything definite of the man’s antecedents were mostly persons who had little histories of their own, and they told no tales out of school. The great personages who had once employed him would have been magnanimous enough to acknowledge him in any case, but were agreeably disappointed when they discovered that he was not amongst the common herd of pension hunters, and claimed no substantial reward save their politeness and a line in the visiting-lists of their wives. And as he grew in wealth and importance they found that he could be useful still, as bank directors and members of parliament can be, in a thousand ways. So it came to pass that the Count and Countess Del Ferice became prominent persons in the Roman world.
Ugo was a man of undoubted talent. By his own individual efforts, though with small scruple as to the means he employed, he had raised himself from obscurity to a very enviable position.
He had only once in his life been carried away by the weakness of a personal enmity, and he had been made to pay heavily for his caprice. If Donna Tullia had abandoned him when he was driven out of Rome by the influence of the Saracinesca, he might have disappeared altogether from the scene. But she was an odd compound of rashness and foresight, of belief and unbelief, and she had at that time felt herself bound by an oath she dared not break, besides being attached to him by a hatred of Giovanni Saracinesca almost as greatas his own. She had followed him and had married him without hesitation ; but she had kept the undivided possession of her fortune, while allowing him a liberal use of her income. In return, she claimed a certain liberty of action when she chose to avail herself of it. She would not be bound in the choice of her acquaintances, nor criticised in the measure of like or dislike she bestowed upon them, She was by no means wholly had, and if she had a harmless fancy now and then, she required her husband to treat her as above suspicion. On the whole, the arrangement worked very well. Del Ferice, on his part, was unswervingly faithful to her in word and deed, for he exhibited in a high degree that unfaltering constancy which is bred of a permanent, indispensable, financial interest. Bad men are often clever, but if their cleverness is of a superior order they rarely do anything bad. It is true that when they yield to the pressure of necessity their wickedness surpasses that of other men in the same degree as their intelligence. Not only honesty, but all virtue collectively, is the best possible policy, provided that the politician can handle such a tremendous engine of evil as goodness is in the hands of a thoroughly bad man.
Those who desired pecuniary accommodation of the bank in which Del Ferice had an interest had no better friend than he. His power with the directors seemed to be as boundless as his desire to assist the borrower. But he was helpless to prevent the foreclosure of a mortgage, and had been moved almost, to tears in the expression of his sympathy with the debtor and of his horror at the hard-heartedness shown by his partners. To prove his disinterested spirit, it need only be said that on many occasions he had actually come forward as a private individual and taken over the mortgage himself, distinctly stating that he could not hold it for more than a year, but expressing a hope that the debtor might in that time retrieve himself. If this really happened, he earned the man’s eternal gratitude ; if not, he foreclosed, indeed, but the loser never forgot that by Del Ferice’s kindness he had been offered a last chance at a desperate moment. It could not be said to be Del Felice’s fault that the second case was the more frequent one, nor that the result to himself was profit in either event.
In his dealings with his constituency he showed a noble desire for the public welfare, for he was never known to refuse anything in reason to the electors who applied to him. It is true that in the case of certain applications he consumed so much time in preliminary inquiries and subsequent formalities that the applicants sometimes died, and sometimes emigrated to the Argentine Republic, before the matter could be settled ; but they bore with them to South America — or to the grave — the belief that the Onorevole Del Ferice was on their side, and the instances of his prompt, decisive, and successful action were many. He represented a small town in the Neapolitan province, and the benefits and advantages he had obtained for it were numberless. The provincial highroad had been made to pass through it: all express trains stopped at its station, though the passengers who made use of the inestimable privilege did not average twenty in the month; it possessed a Piazza Vittorio Emmanuela, a Corso Garibaldi, a Via Cavour, a public garden of at least a quarter of an acre, planted with no less than twenty-five acacias, and adorned by a fountain representing a desperatelooking character in the act of firing a finely executed revolver at an imaginary oppressor. Pigs were not allowed within the limits of the town, and the uniforms of the municipal brass band were perfectly new. Could civilization do more ? The bank of which Del Ferice was a director bought the octroi duties of the town at the periodical auction, and farmed them skillfully, together with those of many other towns in the same province.
So Del Ferice was a successful man; and it need scarcely be said that he was now not only independent of his wife’s help, but very much richer than she had ever been. They lived in a highly decorated, detached modern house in the new part of the city. The gilded gate before the little plot of garden bore their intertwined initials, surmounted by a modest count’s coronet. Donna Tullia would have preferred a coat of arms, or even a crest; but Ugo was sensitive to ridicule, and he was aware that a count’s coronet in Rome means nothing at all, whereas a coat of arms means vastly more than in most cities.
Within, the dwelling was somewhat unpleasantly gorgeous. Donna Tullia had always loved red, both for itself and because it made her own complexion seem less florid by contrast, and accordingly red satin predominated in the drawing-rooms, red velvet in the diningroom, red damask in the hall, and red carpets on the stairs. Some fine specimens of gilding were also to be seen, and Del Ferice had been one of the first to use electric light. Everything was new, expensive, and polished to its extreme capacity for reflection. The servants wore vivid liveries, and on formal occasions the butler appeared in shortclothes and black silk stockings. Donna Tullia’s equipage was visible at a great distance, but Del Ferice’s own coachman and groom wore dark green with black epaulets.
On the morning which Orsino and Madame d’Aragona had spent in Gouache’s studio, the Countess Del Ferice entered her husband’s study in order to consult him upon a rather delicate matter. He was alone, but busy, as usual. His attention was divided between an important bank operation and a petition for his help in obtaining a decoration for the mayor of the town hie represented. The claim to this distinction seemed to rest chiefly upon the petitioner’s marked evidence in regard to bis own moral rectitude, yet Del Ferice was really exercising all his ingenuity to discover some suitable reason for asking the favor. He laid the papers down with a sigh as Donna Tullia came in.
“ Good-morning, my angel,” he said suavely, as lie pointed to a chair at his side, the one usually occupied at this hour by seekers for financial support. " Have you rested well ? " He never failed to ask the question.
“Not badly, not badly, thank Heaven ! ” answered Donna Tullia. “ I have a dreadful cold, of course, and a headache; my head is really splitting.”
“ Rest is what you need, my dear.”
“Oh, it is nothing. This Durakoff is a great man. If he had not made me go to Carlsbad — I really do not know. But I have something to say to you. I want your help, Ugo. Please listen to me.”
Ugo’s fat white face already expressed anxious attention. To accentuate the expression of his readiness to listen, he now put all his papers into a drawer and turned towards his wife.
“ I must go to the Jubilee,” said Donna Tullia, coming to the point.
“ Of course you must go.”
“ And I must have my seat among the Roman ladies.”
“Of course you must,” repeated Del Ferice, with a little less alacrity.
“Ah! You see. It is not so easy. You know it is not. Yet I have as good a right to my seat as any one ; better, perhaps.”
“ Hardly that,” returned Ugo, with a smile. “When you married me, my angel, you relinquished your claims to a seat at the Vatican functions.”
“ I did nothing of the kind. I never said so, I am sure.”
“ Perhaps if you could make that clear to the major-domo ” —
“ Absurd, Ugo. You know it is. Besides, I will not beg. You must get me the seat. You can do anything with your influence.”
“ You could easily get into one of the diplomatic tribunes,” observed Ugo.
“ I will not go there. I mean to assert myself. I am a Roman lady and I will have my seat, and you must get it for me.”
“ I will do my best. But I do not quite see where to begin. It will need time and consideration and much tact.”
“ It seems to me very simple. Go to one of the clerical deputies and say that you want the ticket for your wife "—
“ And then ? ”
“ Give him to understand that you will vote for his next measure. Nothing could be simpler, I am sure.”
Del Ferice smiled blandly at his wife’s ideas of parliamentary diplomacy.
“ There are no clerical deputies in the parliament of the nation. If there were the thing might be possible, and it would be very interesting to all the clericals to read an account of the transaction in the Osservatore Romano. In any case, I am not sure that it will be much to our advantage that the wife of the Onorevole Del Ferice should be seen seated in the midst of the Black ladies. It will produce an unfavorable impression.”
“ If you are going to talk of impressions ”— Donna Tullia shrugged her massive shoulders.
“ No, my dear. You mistake me. I am not going to talk of them, because, as I once told you, it is quite right that you should go to this affair. If you go, you must go in the proper way. No doubt there will be people who will have invitations, but will not use them. We can perhaps procure you the use of such a ticket.”
“ I do not care what name is on the paper, provided I can sit in the right place.”
“ Very well,” answered Del Ferice. " I will do my best.”
“ I expect it of you, Ugo. It is not often that I ask anything of you, is it ? It is the least you can do. The idea of getting a card that is not to be used is good ; of course they will all get them, and some of them are sure to be ill.”
Donna Tullia Went away satisfied that what she wanted would be forthcoming at the right moment. What she had said was true. She rarely asked anything of her husband. But when she did, she gave him to understand that she would have it at any price. It was her way of asserting herself from time to time. On the present occasion she had no especial interest at stake, and any other woman might have been satisfied with a seat in the diplomatic tribune, which could probably have been obtained without great difficulty. But she had heard that the seats there were to be very high, and she really did not wish to be placed in too prominent a position. The light might be unfavorable, and she knew that she was subject to growing very red in places where it was hot. She had once been a handsome woman and a very vain one, but even her vanity could not survive the daily shock of the looking-glass torture. To sit for four or five hours in a high light, facing fifty thousand people, was more than she could bear with equanimity.
Del Ferice, being left to himself, returned to the question of the mayor’s decoration, which was of vastly greater importance to him than his wife’s position at the approaching function. If he tailed to get the man what he wanted, the fellow would doubtless apply to some one of the opposite party, would receive the coveted honor, and would take the whole voting population of the town with him at the next general election, to the total discomfiture of Del Ferice. It was necessary to find some valid reason for proposing him for the distinction. Ugo could not decide what to do just then, but he ultimately hit upon a successful plan. He advised his correspondent to write a pamphlet upon the rapid improvement of agricultural interests in his district under the existing ministry, and he even went so far as to inclose with his letter some notes on the subject. These notes proved to be so voluminous and complete that when the mayor had copied them he could not find a pretext for adding a single word or correction. They were printed upon excellent paper, with ornamental margins, under the title Onward, Parthenope! Of course every one knows that Parthenope means Naples, the Neapolitans and the Neapolitan province, a siren of that name having come to final grief somewhere between the Chiatamone and Posilippo. The mayor got his decoration, and Del Ferice was reëlected ; but no one has inquired into the truth of the statements made in the pamphlet upon agriculture.
It is clear that a man who was capable of taking so much trouble for so small a matter would not disappoint his wife when she had set her heart upon such a trifle as a ticket for the Jubilee. Within three days he had the promise of what he wanted. A certain lonely lady of high position lay very ill just, then, and it need scarcely be explained that her confidential servant fell upon the invitation as soon as it arrived and sold it for a round sum to the first applicant, who happened to he Count Del Ferice’s valet. So the matter was arranged. privately and without scandal.
All Rome was alive with expectation. The date fixed was the 1st of January, and as the day approached the curious foreigner mustered in his thousands and tens of thousands, and took the city by storm. The hotels were thronged. The billiard tables were hired as furnished rooms ; people slept in the lifts, on the landings, in the porters’ lodges. The thrifty Romans retreated to roofs and cellars, and let their small dwellings. People reaching the city on the last night slept in the cabs they had hired to take them to St. Peter’s before dawn. Even the supplies of food ran low, and the hungry fed on what they could get, while the delicate of taste very often did not feed at all. There was of course the usual scare about a revolutionary demonstration, to which the natives paid very little attention, but which delighted the foreigners.
Not more than half of those who hoped to witness the ceremony saw anything of it, though the basilica will hold some eighty thousand people at a pinch, and the crowd on that occasion was far greater than at the opening of the Œcumenical Council in 1869.
Madame d’Aragona had also determined to be present, and she expressed her desire to Gouache. She had spoken the strict truth when she had said that she knew no one in Rome, and so far as general accuracy is concerned it was equally true that she had not fixed the length of her stay. She had not come with any settled purpose beyond a vague idea of having her portrait painted by the French artist, and unless she took the trouble to make acquaintances there was nothing attractive enough about the capital to keep her. She allowed herself to be driven about the town, on pretense of seeing churches and galleries, but in reality she saw very little of either. She was preoccupied with her own thoughts, and subject to fits of abstraction. Most things seemed to her intensely dull, and the unhappy guide who had been selected to accompany her on her excursions wasted his learning upon her on the first morning, and subsequently exhausted the magnificent, catalogue of impossibilities, which he had fabricated for the especial benefit of the uncultivated foreigner, without eliciting so much as a look of interest or an expression of surprise. He was a young and fascinating guide, wearing a white satin tie, and on the third day he recited some verses of Specchetti, and was about to risk a declaration of worship in ornate prose, when he was suddenly rather badly scared by the lady’s yellow eyes, and ran on nervously with a string of deceased popes and their dates.
“ Get me a card for the Jubilee,” she said abruptly.
“An entrance is very easily procured,” answered the guide. “ In fact, I have one in my pocket, as it happens. I bought it for twenty francs this morning, thinking that one of my foreigners would perhaps take it of me. I do not even gain a franc, — my word of honor.”
Madame d’Aragona glanced at the slip of paper.
“ Not that,” she answered. “ Do you imagine that I will stand ? I want a seat in one of the tribunes.”
The guide lost himself in apologies, but explained that he could not get what she desired.
“ What are you for ? ” she inquired. She was an indolent woman, but when by any chance she wanted anything Donna Tullia herself was not more restless. She drove at once to Gouache’s studio. He was alone, and she told him what she needed.
“ The Jubilee, madame ? Is it possible that you have been forgotten ? ”
“ Since they have never heard of me! I have not the slightest claim to a place.”
“ It is you who say that. But your place is already secured. Fear nothing. You will be with the Roman ladies.”
“ I do not understand.”
舠 It is simple. I was thinking of it yesterday. Young Saracinesca comes in and begins to talk about you. There is Madame d’Aragona who has no seat, he says. One must arrange that. So it is arranged.”
By Don Orsino ? ”
“You would not accept? No. A young man, and you have met only once. But tell me what you think of him. Do you like him ? ”
“ One does not like people so easily as that,” replied Madame d’Aragona. “ How have you arranged about the seat ? ”
“ It is very simple. There are to be two days, you know. My wife has her cards for both, of course. She will go once only. If you will accept the one for the first day, she will be very happy.”
“ You are angelic, my dear friend ! Then I go as your wife ? ” She laughed.
“ Precisely. You will be Faustina Gouache instead of Madame d’Aragona.”
“ How delightful ! By the bye, do not call me Madame d’Aragona. It is not my name. I might as well call you Monsieur de Paris, because you are a Parisian.”
“ I do not put Anastase Gouache de Paris on my cards,” answered Gouache, with a laugh. “ What may I call you ? Donna Maria ? ”
“ My name is Maria Consuelo d’Aranjuez.”
“ An ancient Spanish name,” said Gouache.
“ My husband was an Italian.”
“ Ah ! Of Spanish descent, originally of Aragona. Of course.”
“ Exactly. Since I am here, shall I sit for you ? You might almost finish to-day.”
“ Not so soon as that. It is Don Orsino’s hour, but as he has not come, and since you are so kind, by all means.”
“ Ah ! Is he unpunctual ? ”
舠 He is probably running after those abominable dogs, in pursuit, of the feeble fox, — what they call the noble sport.” Gouache’s face expressed considerable disgust.
“ Poor fellow ! ” said Maria Consuelo. “He has nothing else to do. ”
“ He will get used to it. They all do. Besides, it really is the natural condition of man. Total idleness is his element. If Providence meant man to work, it should have given him two heads, one for his profession and one for himself. A man needs one entire and undivided intelligence for the study of his own individuality.”
“ What an idea ! ”
“ Do not men of great genius notoriously forget themselves, — forget to eat and drink and dress themselves like Christians ? That is because they have not two heads. Providence expects a man to do two things at once, — sing an air from an opera and invent the steam engine at the same moment. Nature rebels. Then Providence and Nature do not agree. What becomes of religion? It is all a mystery. Believe me, madame, art is easier than nature, and painting is simpler than theology.”
Maria Consuelo listened to Gouache’s extraordinary remarks with a smile.
“ You are either paradoxical or irreligious, or both,” she said.
Irreligious? I, who carried a rifle at Mentana? No, madame, I am a good Catholic.”
“ What does that mean ? ”
“ I believe in God, and I love my wife. I leave it to the Church to define my other articles of belief. I have only one head, as you see.” Gouache smiled, but there was a note of sincerity in the odd statement which did not escape his hearer.
“ You are not of the type which belongs to the end of the century,” she said.
“ That type was not invented when I was forming myself.”
“ Perhaps you belong rather to the coming age, the age of simplification.”
舠As distinguished from the age of mystification, religious, political, scientific, and artistic,” suggested Gouache.
舠The people of that day will guess the Sphinx’s riddle.”
“ Mine ? You were comparing me to a sphinx the other day.”
“ Yours, perhaps, madame. Who knows ? Are you the typical woman of the ending century ? ”
“ Why not ? ” asked Maria Consuelo, with a sleepy look.
There is something grand in any great assembly of animals belonging to the same race. The very idea of an immense number of living creatures conveys an impression not suggested by anything else. A compact herd of fifty or sixty thousand lions would be an appalling vision, beside which a like multitude of human beings would sink into insignificance. A drove of wild cattle is, I think, a finer sight than a regiment of cavalry in motion ; for the cavalry is composite, half man and half horse, whereas the cattle have the advantage of unity. But we can never see so many animals of any species driven together into one limited space as to be equal to a vast throng of men and women, and we conclude, naturally enough, that a crowd consisting solely of our own kind is the most imposing one conceivable.
It was scarcely light, on the morning of New Year’s Day, when the Princess Sant’ Ilario found herself seated in one of the low tribunes on the north side of the high altar in St. Peter’s. Her husband and her eldest son had accompanied her, and having placed her in a position from which they judged she could easily escape at the end of the ceremony, they remained standing in the narrow, winding passage between improvised barriers which led from the tribune to the door of the sacristy, and which had been so arranged as to prevent confusion. Here they waited, greeting their acquaintances when they could recognize them in the dim twilight of the church, and watching the ever-increasing crowd that surged slowly backward and forward outside the barrier. The old prince was entitled by an hereditary office to a place in the great procession of the day, and was not now with them.
Qrsino felt as though the whole world were assembled about him within the huge cathedral, as though its heart were beating audibly and its muffled breathing rising and falling in his hearing. The unceasing sound that went up from the compact, mass of living beings was soft in quality, but enormous in volume and sustained in tone, — a great whispering which might have been heard a mile away. One hears in mammoth musical festivals the extraordinary effect of four or five thousand voices singing very softly ; it is not to be compared with the unceasing whisper of fifty thousand men.
The young fellow was conscious of a strange, irregular thrill of enthusiasm which ran through him from time to time and startled his imagination into life. It was only the instinct of a strong vitality unconsciously longing to be the central point of the vitalities around it. But he could not understand that. It seemed to him like a great opportunity brought within reach, but slipping by untaken, not to return again. He felt a strange, almost uncontrollable longing to spring upon one of the tribunes, to raise his voice, to speak to the great multitude, to fire all those men to break out and carry everything before them. He laughed audibly at himself. Sant’Ilario looked at his son with some curiosity.
舠What amuses you ? ” he asked.
“ A dream.” answered Orsino, still smiling. “ Who knows? ” he exclaimed, after a pause. “ What would happen if, at the right moment, the right man could stir such a crowd as this ? ”
“Strange things.”replied Sant’ Ilario gravely. " A crowd is a terrible weapon.”
舠 Then my dream was not so foolish, after all. One might make history today.”
Sant’ Ilario made a gesture expressive of indifference.
“ What is history ? ” he asked. A comedy in which the actors have no written parts, but Improvise their speeches and actions as best they can. That is the reason why history is so dull and so full of mistakes.”
” And of surprises,” suggested Orsino.
“ The surprises in history are always disagreeable, my boy,” answered Sant’ Ilario.
Orsino felt the coldness in the answer, and felt even more his father’s readiness to damp any expression of enthusiasm. Of late he had encountered this chilling indifference at almost every turn, whenever he gave vent to his admiration for any sort of activity.
It was not that Giovanni Saracinesca had any intention of repressing Ids son’s energetic instincts, and he assuredly had no idea of the effect his words often produced. He sometimes wondered at the sudden silence which came over the young man after such conversations, but he did not understand it, and on the whole paid little attention to it. He remembered that he himself had been different, and had been wont to argue hotly and not unfrequently to quarrel with his father about trifles. He himself had been headstrong, passionate, often intractable, in his early youth, and his father had been no better at sixty, and was little improved in that respect even at his present great age. But Orsino did not argue. He suggested, and if any one disagreed with him he became silent. He seemed to possess energy in action and a number of rather fantastic aspirations, but in conversation he was easily silenced, and in outward manner he would have appeared too yielding if he had not often seemed too cold.
Giovanni did not see that Orsino was most like his mother in character, while the contact with a new generation had given him something unfamiliar to the old ; an affectation at first, but one which habit was amalgamating with the real nature beneath.
No doubt it was wise and right to discourage ideas which would tend in any way to revolution. Giovanni had seen revolutions, and had been the loser by them. It was not wise, and certainly was not necessary, to throw cold water on the young fellow’s harmless aspirations. But Giovanni had lived for many years in his own way, rich, respected, and supremely happy, and he believed that his way was good enough for Orsino. He had, in his youth, tried most things for himself, and had found them failures so far as happiness was concerned. Orsino might make the series of experiments in his turn, if he pleased, but there was no adequate reason for such an expenditure of energy. The sooner the boy loved some girl who would make him a good wife, and the sooner he married her, the sooner he would find that calm, satisfactory existence which had not finally come to Giovanni until after thirty years of age. As for the question of fortune, it was true that there were four sons ; but there was Giovanni’s mother’s fortune, there was Corona’s fortune, and there was the great Saracinesea estate behind both. They were all so extremely rich that the deluge must be very distant.
Orsino understood none of these things. He realized only that his father had the faculty and apparently the intention of freezing any originality he chanced to show, and he inwardly resented the coldness, quietly, if foolishly, resolving to astonish those who misunderstood him by seizing the first, opportunity of doing something out of the common way. For some time he stood in silence, watching the people who came by, and glancing from time to time at the dense crowd outside the barrier. Suddenly he was aware that his father was watching intently a lady who advanced along the open way.
“There is Tullia Del Ferice!” exclaimed Sant’ ilario in surprise.
“I do not know her, except by sight,” observed Orsino indifferently.
The countess was very imposing in her black veil and draperies. Her red face seemed to lose its color in the dim church, and she affected a slow and stately manner more becoming to her weight than was her natural restless vivacity. She had got what she desired, and she swept proudly along to take her old place among the ladies of Rome. No one knew whose card she had delivered op at the entrance to the sacristy, and she enjoyed the triumph of showing that the wife of the revolutionary, the banker, the member of parliament, had not lost caste after all.
She looked Giovanni full in the face with her disagreeable blue eyes, as she came up, apparently not meaning to recognize him. Then, just as she passed him, she deigned to make a very slight inclination of the head, just enough to compel Sant’ Ilario to return the salutation. It was very well done. Orsino did not know all the details of the past events, but he knew that his father had once wounded Del Ferice in a duel, and he looked at Del Ferice’s wife with some curiosity. He had seldom had an opportunity of being so near to her.
“ It was certainly not about her that they fought,” he reflected. " It must have been about some other woman, if there was a woman in the question at all.”
A moment later he was aware that a pair of yellow eyes were fixed on him. Maria Consuelo was following Donna Tullia at a distance of a dozen yards. Orsino came forward, and his new acquaintance held out her hand. They had not met since they had first seen each other.
“ It was so kind of you.” she said.
“ What, madame ? ”
“ To suggest this to Gouache. I should have had no ticket. Where shall I sit ? ”
Orsino did not understand, for, though he had mentioned the subject, Gouache had not told him what he meant to do. But there was no time to be lost in conversation. Orsino led her to the nearest opening in the tribune and pointed to a seat.
“I called,” he said quickly. " You did not receive ” —
“ Come again ; I will be at home,” she answered in a low voice, as she passed him. She sat down in a vacant place beside Donna Tullia, and Orsino noticed that his mother was just behind them both. Corona had been watching him unconsciously, as she often did, and was somewhat surprised to see him conducting a lady whom she did not know. A glance told her that the lady was a foreigner ; as such, if she were present at all, she should have been in the diplomatic tribune. There was nothing to think of, and Corona tried to solve the small social problem that presented itself. Orsino strolled back to his father’s side.
“ Who is she ? ” inquired Sant’ Ilario, with some curiosity.
“ The lady who wanted the tiger’s skin, — Aranjuez. I told you of her.”
“ The portrait you gave me was not flattering. She is handsome, if not beautiful.”
“ Did I say she was not? ” asked Orsino, with a visible irritation most unlike him.
I thought so. You said she had yellow eyes, red hair, and a squint.” Sant’ Ilario laughed.
Perhaps I did. But the effect seems to be harmonious.”
Decidedly so. You might have introduced me.”
To this Orsino said nothing, but relapsed into a moody silence. He would have liked nothing better than to bring about the acquaintance, but he had met Maria Consuelo only once, though that interview had been a long one, and he remembered her rather short answer to his offer of service in the way of making acquaintances.
Maria Consuelo, on her part, was quite unconscious that she was sitting in front of the Princess Sant’ Ilario ; but she had seen the lady by her side bow to Orsino’s companion in passing, and guessed, from a certain resemblance, that the dark, middle-aged man might be young Saracinesca’s father. Donna Tullia had seen Corona well enough, but as they had not spoken for nearly twenty years she decided not to risk a nod where she could not command an acknowledgment of it. So she pretended to be unaware of her old enemy’s presence.
Donna Tullia, however, had noticed, as she turned her head in sitting down, that Orsino was piloting a strange lady to the tribune, and when the latter sat down beside her she determined to make her acquaintance, no matter upon what pretext. The time was approaching at which the procession was to make its appearance, and Donna Tullia looked about for something upon which to open the conversation, glancing from time to time at her neighbor. It was easy to see that the place and the surroundings were equally unfamiliar to the new-comer. who gazed with evident interest at the twisted columns of the high altar, at the vast mosaics in the dome, at the red damask hangings of the nave, at the Swiss guards, the chamberlains in court dress, and at all the mediæval-looking, motley figures that moved about within the space kept open for the coming function.
“ It is a wonderful sight.” said Donna Tullia in French, very softly, and almost as though speaking to herself.
“ Wonderful indeed,” answered Maria Consuelo, “ especially to a stranger.”
“ Madame is a stranger, then,” observed Donna Tullia, with an agreeable smile.
She looked into her neighbor’s face, and for the first time realized that she was a striking person.
“ Quite,” replied the latter briefly, and as though not wishing to press the conversation.
“ I fancied so,” said Donna Tullia, 舠t hough on seeing you in these seats, among us Romans ” —
“ I received a card through the kindness of a friend.”
There was a short pause, during which Donna Tullia concluded that the friend must have been Orsino. But the next remark threw her off the scent.
“ It was his wife’s ticket, I believe,” said Maria Consuelo. " She could not come. I am here on false pretenses.” She smiled carelessly.
Donna Tullia lost herself in speculation, but failed to solve the problem.
“ You have chosen a most favorable moment for your first visit to Rome,舡 she remarked at last.
“Yes. I am always fortunate. I believe I have seen everything worth seeing ever since I was a little girl. ”
“ She is somebody,” thought Donna Tullia. “ Probably the wife of a diplomatist, though. Those people see everything, and talk of nothing but what they have seen.”
“ This is historic,” she said aloud. “ You will have a chance of contemplating the Romans in their glory ; Colonna and Orsini marching side by side, and old Saracinesca in all his magnificence, He is eighty-two years old.”
“ Saracinesca ? ” repeated Maria Consuelo, turning her tawny eyes upon her neighbor.
“Yes; the father of Sant’ Ilario,—grandfather of that young fellow who showed you to your seat.”
“Don Orsino? Yes, I know him slightly.”
Corona, sitting immediately behind them, heard her son’s name. As the two ladies turned towards each other in conversation, she heard distinctly what they said. Donna Tullia was of course aware of this.
“ Do you ? ” she asked. “ His father is a most estimable man,—just a little too estimable, it you understand ! As for the boy ” —
Donna Tullia moved her broad shoulders expressively. It was a habit of which even the irreproachable Del Ferice could not cure her. Corona’s face darkened.
“ You can hardly call him a boy,” observed Maria Consuelo, with a smile.
“ Ah, well — I might have been his mother,” Donna Tullia answered, with a contempt for the affectation of youth which she rarely showed. But Corona began to understand that the conversation was meant for her ears, and grew angry by degrees. Donna Tullia had indeed been near to marrying Giovanni, and in that sense, too, she might have been Orsino’s mother.
“ I fancied you spoke rather disparagingly,” said Maria Consuelo, with a certain degree of interest.
“ I ? No, indeed. On the contrary, Don Orsino is a very fine fellow, but thrown away, positively thrown away, in his present surroundings. Of what use is all this English education — But you are a stranger, madame ; you cannot understand our Roman point of view.”
“ If you could explain it to me, I might, perhaps,” suggested the other.
“ Ah, yes, if I could explain it! But I am far too ignorant myself, — no, ' ignorant ’ is not the word, — too prejudiced, perhaps, to make you see it quite as it is. It may be I am a little too liberal. and the Saracinesca are certainly far too conservative. They mistake education for progress. Poor Don Orsino, I am sorry for him.”
Donna Tullia found no other escape from the difficulty into which she had thrown herself.
“ I did not know that he was to be pitied.” said Maria Consuelo.
“ Oh, not he in particular, perhaps,” answered the stout countess, growing more and more vague. “ They are all to be pitied, you know. What is to become of young men brought up in that way ? The club, the turf, the card-table,
— to drink, to gamble, to bet, — it is not an existence ! ”
“ Do you mean that Don Orsino leads that sort of life ? ” inquired Maria Consuelo indifferently.
Again Donna Tullia’s heavy shoulders moved contemptuously.
“ What else is there for him to do ? ”
“And his father ? Did he not do likewise in his youth ? ”
“His father? Ah, he was different
— before he married—full of life, activity, originality! ”
“ And since his marriage ? ”
“ He has become estimable, most estimable. " The smile with which Donna Tullia accompanied the statement was intended to be fine, but was only spiteful. Maria Consuelo, who saw everything with her sleepy glance, noticed the fact.
Corona was disgusted, and leaned back in her seat as far as possible, in order not to hear more. She could not help wondering who the strange lady might be to whom Donna Tullia was so freely expressing her opinions concerning the Saracinesca, and she determined to ask Orsino after the ceremony. But she wished to hear as little more as she could.
“ When a married man becomes what you call estimable,” said Donna Tullia’s companion, “he either adores his wife or hates her.”
“What a, charming idea!” laughed the countess. It was tolerably evident that the remark was beyond her.
“ She is stupid,” thought Maria Consuelo. “ I fancied so from the first. I will ask Don Orsino about her. He will say something amusing. It will be a subject of conversation, at all events, in place of that endless tiger I invented the other day. I wonder whether this woman expects me to tell her who I am ? That will amount to an acquaintance. She is certainly somebody, or she would not be here. On the other hand, she seems to dislike the only man I know besides Gouache. That may lead to complications. Let us talk of Gouache first, and be guided by circumstances.”
“ Do you know Monsieur Gouache ? ” she inquired abruptly.
“The painter? Yes; I have known him a long time. Is he perhaps painting your portrait ? ”
“ Exactly. It is really for that purpose that I am in Rome. What a charming man! ”
“Do you think so ? Perhaps he is. Me painted me some time ago. I was not very well satisfied. But he has talent.” Donna Tullia had never forgiven the artist for not putting enough soul into the picture he had painted of her when she was a very young widow.
“He has a great reputation,” said Maria Consuelo, “ and I think he will succeed very well with me. Besides. I am grateful to him. He and his painting have been a pleasant episode in my short stay here.”
“ Really, I should hardly have thought you could find it worth your while to come all the way to Rome to be painted by Gouache,” observed Donna Tullia. “ But of course, as I say, he has talent.”
“ This woman is rich,” she said to herself. “ The wives of diplomatists do not allow themselves such caprices, as a rule. I wonder who she is ? ”
“ Great talent,” assented Maria Consuelo ; “ and great charm, I think.”
“ Ah. well, of course, I dare say. We Romans cannot help thinking that for an artist he is a little too much occupied in being a gentleman, and for a gentleman he is quite too much an artist.”
The remark was not original with Donna Tullia, but had been reported to her as Spicca’s, and Spicca had really said something similar about somebody else.
“ I had not got that impression,” said Maria Consuelo quietly.
“ She hates him, too,” she thought. “ She seems to hate everybody. That means either that she knows everybody, or is not received in society.”
“ But of course you know him better than I do,” she added aloud, after a little pause.
At that moment a strain of music broke out above the great, soft, muffled whispering that filled the basilica. Some thirty chosen voices of the choir of St. Peter’s had begun the hymn Tu es Petrus, as the procession began to defile from the south aisle to the nave, close by the great door, to traverse the whole distance thence to the high altar. The Pope’s own choir, consisting solely of the singers of the Sistine Chapel, waited silently behind the lattice under the statue of St. Veronica.
The song rang out louder and louder, simple and grand. Those who have heard Italian singers at their best know that thirty young Roman throats can emit a volume of sound equal to that which a hundred men of any other nation could produce. The stillness around them increased, too, as the procession lengthened. The great dark crowd stood shoulder to shoulder, breathless with expectation, each man and woman feeling for a few short moments that thrill of mysterious anxiety and impatience which Orsino had felt. No one who was there can ever forget what followed. More than forty cardinals filed out in front from the chapel of the Pietà. Then the hereditary assistants of the Holy See, the heads of the Colonna and the Orsini houses, entered the nave, side by side for the first time, I believe, in history. Immediately after them, high above all the procession and the crowd, appeared the great chair of state, the huge white feathered fans moving slowly on each side, and upon the throne, the central figure of that vast display, sat the Pope, Leo XIII.
Then, without warning and without hesitation, a shout went up such as has never been heard before in that dim cathedral, nor will, perhaps, be heard again : —
舠Viva il Papa-Rè ! ” Long life to the Pope-King !
At the same instant, as though at a preconcerted signal, —utterly impossible in such a throng, — in the twinkling of an eye, the dark crowd was as white as snow. In every hand a white handkerchief was raised, fluttering and waving above every head. And the shout, once taken up, drowned the strong voices of the singers as long-drawn thunder drowns the pattering of the raindrops and the sighing of the wind.
The wonderful face, that seemed to be carved out of transparent alabaster, smiled and slowly turned from side to side, as it passed by. The thin, fragile hand moved unceasingly, blessing the people.
Orsino Saracinesca saw and heard, and his young face turned pale, while his lips set themselves. By his side, a head shorter than he, stood his father, lost in thought as he gazed at the mighty spectacle of what had been, and of what might still have been but for one day of history’s surprises.
Orsino said nothing, but he glanced at Sant’ Ilario’s face, as though to remind his father of what he had said half an hour earlier; and the elder man knew that there had been truth in the boy’s words. There were soldiers in the church, and they were not Italian soldiers ; some thousands of them in all, perhaps. They were armed, and there were, at the very least computation, thirty thousand strong grown men in the crowd. And the crowd was on fire. Had there been a hundred, nay a score, of desperate, devoted leaders, who knows what, bloody work might have been done in the city before the sun went down? Who knows what new surprises History might have found for her play ? The thought must have crossed many minds at that moment. But no one stirred ; the religious ceremony remained a religious ceremony, and nothing more; holy peace reigned within the walls, and the hour of peril glided away undisturbed to take its place among memories of good.
“ The world is worn out!” thought Orsino. 舠The days of great deeds are over. Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die ; they are right in teaching me their philosophy.”
A gloomy, sullen melancholy took hold of the boy’s young nature ; a passing mood, perhaps, but one which left its mark upon him. For he was at that age when a very little thing will turn the balance of a character; when an older man’s thoughtless words, recalled and repeated for a score of years, may direct half a lifetime in a good or evil channel. Who is it that does not remember that day when an impatient “ I will,” or a defiant “I will not,” turned the whole current of his existence in the one direction or the other, towards good or evil, or towards success or failure ? Who that has fought his way against odds into the front rank lias forgotten the woman’s look that gave him courage, or the man’s sneer that braced nerve and muscle to strike the first of many hard blows ?
The depression which fell upon Orsino was lasting, for that morning at least . The stupendous pageant went on before him; the choirs sang; the sweet boys’ voices answered back, like an angels’ song, out of the lofty dome ; the incense rose in columns through the streaming sunlight, as the high mass proceeded. Again the Pope was raised upon the chair and borne out into the nave, whence in the solemn silence the thin, clear aged voice intoned the benediction three times, slowly rising and falling, pausing and beginning again. Once more the enormous shout broke out, louder and deeper than ever, as the procession moved away. Then all was over.
Orsino saw and heard, but the first impression was gone, and the thrill did not come back.
“It was a fine sight,” he said to his father, as the shout died away.
“ A fine sight ? Have you no stronger expression than that ?
“ No,” answered Orsino, “ I have not.”
The ladies were already coming out of the tribunes, and Orsino saw his father give his arm to Corona to lead her through the crowd. Naturally enough. Maria Consuelo and Donna Tullia came out together very soon after her. Orsino offered to pilot the former through the confusion, and she accepted gratefully. Donna Tullia walked beside them.
舠 You do not know me, Don Orsino, 舡 said she, with a gracious smile.
“ I beg your pardon; you are the Countess Del Ferice. I have not been back from England long, and have not had an opportunity of being presented.舡
Whatever might be Orsino’s weaknesses, shyness was certainly not one of them, and as he made the civil answer he calmly looked at Donna Tullia as though to inquire what in the world she wished to accomplish in making his acquaintance. He had been so situated during the ceremony as not to see that the two ladies had fallen into conversation.
“Will you introduce me?” said Maria Consuelo. “ We have been talking together.’
She spoke in a low voice, but the words could hardly have escaped Donna Tullia. Orsino was very much surprised, and not by any means pleased, for he saw that the elder woman had forced the introduction by a rather vulgar trick. Nevertheless he could not escape.
“ Since you have been good enough to recognize me,” he said, rather stiffly, to Donna Tullia, “ permit me to make you acquainted with Madame d’Aranjuez d’Aragona.”
Both ladies nodded and smiled the smile of the newly introduced. Donna Tullia at once began to wonder how it was that a person with such a name should have but a plain 舠 Madame 舡 to put before it. But her curiosity was not satisfied on this occasion.
“ How absurd society is ! 舡 she exclaimed. “ Madame d’Aranjuez and I have been talking all the morning, quite like old friends, and now we need an introduction !
Maria Consuelo glanced at Qrsino as though expecting him to make some remark. But he said nothing.
“ What should we do without conventions ? ” she said, for the sake of saying something.
By this time they were threading the endless passages of the sacristy building, on their way to the Piazza Santa Marta. Sant.' Ilario and Corona were not far in front of them. At a turn in the corridor Corona looked back.
“ There is Orsino talking to Tullia Del Ferice ! ” she exclaimed, in great surprise. “ And he has given his arm to that other lady who was next to her in the tribune.”
“ What does if matter ? ” asked Sant’ Ilario indifferently. “ By the bye, the other lady is that Madame d’Aranjuez he talks about.”
“ Is she any relation of your mother’s family, Giovanni ? ”
“ Not that I am aware of. She may have married some younger son of whom I never heard.”
“ You do not seem to care whom Orsino knows,” said Corona, rather reproachfully.
“ Orsino is grown up, dear. You must not forget that.”
“ Yes, I suppose he is, 舡 Corona answered, with a little sigh. 舠But surely you will not encourage him to cultivate the Del Ferice ! ”
“ I fancy it would take a deal of encouragement to drive him to that,” said Sant’ Ilario, with a laugh. “ He has better taste.”
There was some confusion outside. People were waiting for their carriages, and as most of them knew each other intimately every one was talking at once. Donna Tullia nodded here and there, but Maria Consuelo noticed that her salutations were coldly returned. Orsino and his two companions stood a little aloof from the crowd. Just then the Saracinesca carriage drove up.
“ Who is that magnificent woman ? ” asked Maria Consuelo, as Corona got in.
“ My mother,” replied Orsino. “My father is getting in now.”
“ There comes my carriage ! Please help me.”
A modest hired brougham made its appearance. Orsino hoped that Madame d’Aranjuez would offer him a seat. But he was mistaken.
“ I am afraid mine is miles away,” said Donna Tullia. “ Good-by. I shall be so glad if you will come and see me.” She held out her hand.
“ May I not take you home ? ” asked Maria Consuelo. “ There is just room. It will be better than waiting here.”
Donna Tullia hesitated a moment, and then accepted, to Orsino’s great annoyance. He helped the two ladies to get in, and shut the door.
“ Come soon,” said Maria Consuelo, giving him her hand out of the window.
He was inclined to be angry, but the look that accompanied the invitation did its work satisfactorily.
“He is very young,” thought Maria Consuelo, as she drove away.
“She can be very amusing. It is worth while,” said Orsino to himself, as he passed in front of the next carriage and walked out upon the small square.
He had not gone far, hindered as he was at every step, when some one touched his arm. It was Spicca, looking more cadaverous and exhausted than usual.
“ Are you going home in a cab ? ” he asked. “ Then let us go together.”
They got out of the square, scarcely knowing how they had accomplished the feat. Spicca seemed nervous as well as tired, and he leaned on Orsino’s arm.
“ There was a chance lost this morning.” said the latter, when they were under the colonnade. He felt, sure of a bitter answer from the keen old man.
“ Why did you not seize it, then ? ” asked Spicca. “ Do you expect old men like me to stand up and yell for a republic, or a restoration, or a monarchy, or whichever of the other seven plagues of Egypt you desire ? I have not voice enough left to call a cab, much less to howl down a kingdom.”
“ I wonder what would have happened, if I, or some one else, had tried ? ”
“ You would have spent the night in prison with a few kindred spirits. After all, that would have been better than making love to old Donna Tullia and her young friend.”
“ You have good eyes.” he said.
“ So have you, Orsino. Use them. You will see something odd, if you look where you were looking this morning. Do you know what sort of a place this world is ? ”
“It is a dull place. I have found that out already.”
“ You are mistaken. It is hell. Do you mind calling that cab ? ”
Orsino stared a moment at his companion, and then hailed the passing con veyance.
F. Marion Crawford.