Caesar or Nothing
Part 3 out of 7
After this cornucopia number, there was a series of other games and
amusements, which required a hand-glass, a candle, and a bottle. The
conversation in Mlle. de Sandoval's group jumped from one thing to
another and finally arrived at palmistry.
Mlle. de Sandoval asked Caesar if he, as a Spaniard, knew how to tell
fortunes by the hand, and he jokingly replied that he did. Three or
four hands were stretched out toward Caesar, and he said whatsoever his
imagination suggested, foolishness, absurdities, impertinences; a little
When anybody was a bit puzzled at Caesar's words, he said:
"Don't pay any attention to it; these are absurdities."
Afterwards Mlle. Cadet told Caesar that she was going to cast his
horoscope. "Good! Out with it."
The governess, who was clever, studied Caesar's hand and expressed
herself in sibylline terms:
"You have something of everything, a little of some things and a great
deal of others; you are not a harmonious individual."
"No. You are very intelligent."
"Let the sibyl talk," said the Sandoval girl.
"You have a strong sense of logic," the governess went on.
"You are good and bad! You have much imagination and very little; you
are at the same time very brave and very timid. You have a loving
nature, but it is asleep, and little will-power."
"Little and ... a great deal," said Caesar.
"Do you believe that I have little will-power?"
"I am telling you what your hand says."
"Look here. My hand's opinion doesn't interest me so much as yours,
because you are an intelligent woman. Do you believe I have no
"A sibyl doesn't discuss her affirmations."
"Now you are worried about your lack of will-power," said Mlle. de
"Yes, I am, a bit."
"Well, I think you have will-power enough," she retorted; "what you do
lack is a little more amiability."
"Fortunately for you and for me, you are not so perspicacious in
psychology as this young lady."
"I don't expect to earn my living telling fortunes."
"I don't believe this young lady expects to, either. You have told me
what I am," Caesar pursued; "now tell me what is going to happen to me."
"Let me look," said Mlle. Cadet; "close your hand. You will make a
journey." "Very good! I like that."
"You will get into a desperate struggle...."
"I like that, too."
"And you will win, and you will be defeated...."
"I don't like that so much."
Mile. Cadet could not give other details. Her sibylline science extended
no further. During this chiromantic interlude, the dancing kept up,
until finally, about three in the morning, the party ended.
A SOUNDING-LINE IN THE DARK WORLD
_THE ADVICE OF TWO ABBES_
The Abbe Preciozi several times advised Caesar to make a new attempt at
a reconciliation with the Cardinal; but Caesar always refused.
"He is a man incapable of understanding me," he would insist with naive
Preciozi felt a great liking for his new friend, who invited him to
meals at good hotels and treated him very frequently. Almost every
morning he went to call on Caesar on one pretext or another, and they
would go for a walk and chat about various things.
Preciozi was beginning to believe that his friend was a man with a
future. Some explanations that Caesar gave him about the mechanism of
the stock-exchange convinced the abbe that he was in the presence of a
Preciozi talked to all his friends and acquaintances about Cardinal
Fort's nephew, picturing him as an extraordinary man; some took these
praises as a joke; others thought that it was really very possible that
the Spaniard had great talent; only one abbe, who was a teacher in a
college, felt a desire to meet the Cardinal's nephew, and Preciozi
introduced him to Caesar.
This abbe was named Cittadella, and he was fat, rosy, and blond; he
looked more like a singer than a priest.
Caesar invited the two abbes to dine at a restaurant and requested
Preciozi to do the ordering.
"So you are a nephew of Cardinal Fort's?" asked Cittadella. "Yes."
"His own nephew?"
"His own nephew; son of his sister."
"And he hasn't done anything for you?"
"It's a pity. He is a man of great influence, of great talent."
"Influence, I believe; talent, I doubt," said Caesar.
"Oh, no, no! He is an intelligent man."
"But I have heard that his _Theological Commentaries_ is absolutely
"A crude, banal book, full of stupidities...."
"_Macche_!" exclaimed the indignant Preciozi, neglecting the culinary
conflict he was engaged in.
"All right. It makes no difference," replied Caesar, smiling. "Whether
he is a famous man, as you two say, or a blockhead, as I think, the fact
remains that my uncle doesn't wish to have anything to do with me."
"You must have done something to him," said Cittadella.
"No; the only thing is that when I was small they told me the Cardinal
wished me to be a priest, and I answered that I didn't care to be."
"And why so?"
"It seems to me a poor job. It's evident that one doesn't make much at
"Yes, and what's more," Preciozi put in, "this gentleman says to anybody
who cares to listen, that religion is a farce, that Catholicism is like
a dish of Jewish meat with Roman sauce. Is it possible that a Cardinal
should bother about a nephew that talks like that?"
The Abbe Cittadella looked very serious and remarked that it is
necessary to believe, or at least to seem to believe, in the truths of
"Is the Cardinal supposed to have money?" asked Caesar.
"Yes, I should say he is," replied Preciozi. "Your sister and you will
be the only heirs," said Cittadella.
"Of course," agreed Preciozi.
"Has he made a will?" asked Caesar.
"All the better if he hasn't," said one of the abbes.
"If we could only poison him," sighed Caesar, with melancholy.
"Don't talk of such things just as we are going to eat," said Preciozi.
The dinner was brought, and the two abbes did it the honour it deserved.
Preciozi deserved congratulations for his excellent selection. They
ordered good wines and drank merry toasts.
"What an admirable secretary Preciozi would be, if I got to be a
personage!" exclaimed Caesar. "Twenty thousand francs or so salary, his
board, and the duty of choosing the dinner for the next day. That's my
The abbe blushed with pleasure, emptied his glass of wine, and murmured:
"If it depended on me!"
"The fact is that the way things are arranged today is no good," said
Caesar. "A hundred years ago, by the mere fact of being a Cardinal's
nephew, I should have been somebody."
"That's true," exclaimed Preciozi.
"And as I should have no scruples, and neither would you two, we would
have plunged into life strenuously, and sacked Rome, and the whole world
would be ours."
"You talk like a Caesar Borgia," said Preciozi, aroused. "You are a true
"Today one must have something to stand on," said Cittadella, coldly.
"Friend Cittadella," retorted Caesar, "I, as you see me here, am the man
who knows the most about financial matters in all Spain, and I believe I
shall soon get to where I can say, in all Europe. I put my knowledge at
the service of whoever pays me. I am like one of your old _condottieri_,
a mercenary general. I am ready to win battles for the Jewish bank, or
against the Jewish bank, for the Church or against the Church."
"For the Church is better. Against the Church we cannot assist you,"
"I will try first, for the Church. To whom can you recommend me first?"
The two abbes said nothing, and drank in silence.
"Perhaps Verry would see him," said Cittadella.
"Hm! ..." replied Preciozi. "I rather doubt it."
"What sort of a party is he?" asked Caesar.
"He is one of those _prelati_ that come out of the College of Nobles,"
said Cittadella, "and who get on, even if they are no good. Here they
consider him a haughty Spaniard; they blame him for wearing his robes,
and for always taking an automobile when he goes to Castel Gandolfo. The
priests hate him because he is a Jesuit and a Spaniard."
"And wherein does his strength lie?"
"In the Society, and in his knowing several languages. He was educated
"From what you two tell me of him, he gives me the impression of a
A bottle of champagne was brought in and the three of them drank,
toasting and touching glasses.
"If I were in your place," said Cittadella, after thinking a long while,
"I shouldn't try to get at people in high places, but people who are
inconspicuous and yet have influence in your country."
"For instance, Father Herreros, at the convent in Trastevere."
"And Father Miro too," added Preciozi, "and if you could talk to Father
Ferrer, of the Gregorian University, it wouldn't be a bad idea."
"That will be more difficult," said Cittadella.
"You could tell them," Preciozi suggested, "that your uncle the Cardinal
sent you, and hint that he doesn't want anybody to know that he is
backing you." "And if somebody should write to my uncle?"
"You mustn't say anything definite. You must speak ambiguously. Besides,
in case they did write, we would fix it up in the office."
Caesar began to laugh naively. Afterwards, the two abbes, a little
excited by the food and the good wine, started in to have a violent
discussion, speaking Italian. Caesar paid the bill, and pretending that
he had an urgent engagement, took leave of them and went out.
_A SPANISH MONK_
The next day Caesar went to look up Father Herreros. He had not yet
succeeded in forming a plan. His only idea was to see if he could take
advantage of some chance: to follow a scent and be on the alert, in case
something new should start up on one side or the other.
Father Herreros lived in a convent in Trastevere. Caesar took the tram
in the Piazza Venezia, and got out after crossing the Tiber, near the
Via delle Fratte.
He soon found the convent; it had a yellow portal with a Latin
inscription which sang the gymnastic glories of Saint Pascual Bailon.
Above the inscription there was a picture, in which a monk, no doubt
Bailon, was dancing among the clouds.
On the lintel of the gate were the arms of Spain, and at the sides, two
medallions bearing hands wounded in the palm.
The convent door was old and quartered. Caesar knocked.
A lay-brother, with a suspicious glance, came out to admit him, told him
to wait, and left him alone. After some while, he came back and asked
him to follow him.
They went down a small passage and up a staircase, which was at the
end, and then along a corridor on the main floor. On one side of this
corridor, in his cell, they found Father Herreros.
Caesar, after bowing and introducing himself, sat down, as the monk
asked him to do, in a chair with its back to the light. Caesar began to
explain why he had come, and as he had prepared what he was going to
say, he employed his attention, while speaking, on the cage and the kind
of big bird which were before his eyes.
Father Herreros had a big rough head, black heavy eyebrows, a short
nose, an enormous mouth, yellow teeth, and grey hair. He wore a
chocolate-coloured robe, open enough to show his whole neck down to his
chest. The movement of the good monk's lips was that of a man who wished
to pass for keen and insinuating. His robe was dirty and he doubtless
had the habit of leaving cigarette stubs on the table.
The cell had one window, and in front of it a bookcase. Caesar made an
effort to read the titles. They were almost all Latin books, the kind
that nobody reads.
Father Herreros began to ask Caesar questions. In his brain, he was
doubtless wondering why Cardinal Fort's nephew should come to him.
After many useless words they got to the concrete point that Caesar
wanted to take up, Father Herreros's acquaintance in Spain, and the monk
said that he knew a very rich widow who had property in Toledo. When
Caesar went to Madrid, he would give him a letter of recommendation to
"I cannot keep you any longer now, because a Mexican lady is waiting for
me," said Father Herreros.
Caesar arose, and after shaking the monk's fat hand, he left the
convent. He returned to Rome on foot, crossing the river again, and
looking at the Tiberine island; and arrived without hurrying at the
hotel. He wrote to his friend Azugaray, requesting him to discover, by
the indications he gave him, who the rich widow that had property in
Toledo could be.
_THE LICENTIATE MIRO_
The next day Caesar decided to pursue his investigations, and went to
see Father Miro.
Father Miro lived in a college in the Via Monserrato. Caesar inspected
the map of Rome, looking for that street, and found that it is located
in the vicinity of the Campo de' Fiori, and took his way thither.
The spring day was magnificent; the sky was blue, without a cloud; the
tiled roofs of some of the palaces were decorated with borders of
plants and flowers; in the street, dry and flooded with sunshine, a
water-carrier in a cart full of fat, green bottles, passed by, singing
and cracking his whip.
Caesar crossed the Campo de' Fiori, a very lively, plebeian square, full
of canvas awnings with open stalls of fruit under them. In the middle
stood the statue of Giordano Bruno, with a crown of flowers around its
Then he took the Via de' Cappellari, a narrow lane and dirty enough.
From one side to the other clothes were hung out to dry.
He came to the college and entered the church contiguous to it. He asked
for Father Miro; a sacristan with a long moustache and a worn blue
overcoat, took him to another entrance, made him mount an old wooden
staircase, and conducted him to the office of the man he was looking
Father Miro was a tiny little man, dark and filthy, with a worn-out
cassock, covered with dandruff, and a large dirty square cap with a big
"Will you tell me what you want?" said the little priest in a sullen
Caesar introduced himself, and explained in a few words who he was and
what he proposed.
Father Miro, without asking him to sit down, answered rapidly, saying
that he had no acquaintance with matters of finance or speculation.
Caesar felt a shudder of anger at the rudeness with which he was treated
by this draggled little priest, and felt a vehement desire to take him
by the neck and twist it, like a chicken's.
Despite his anger, he did not change expression, and he asked the priest
smilingly if he knew who could give him advice about those questions.
"You can see Father Ferrer at the Gregorian University, or Father
Mendia. He is an encyclopedist. It was he who wrote the theological
portion of the encyclical _Pascendi_, the one about Modernism. He is a
man of very great learning."
"He will do. Many thanks," and Caesar turned toward the door.
"Excuse me for not having asked you to sit down, but ..."
"No matter," Caesar replied, rapidly, and he went out to the stairs.
In view of the poor result of his efforts, he decided to go to the
Gregorian University. He was told it was in the Via del Seminario, and
supposed it must be the large edifice with little windowed bridges over
That edifice was the Collegio Romano; the Gregorian University was in
the same street, but further on, opposite the Post Office Department.
Father Ferrer could not receive him, because he was holding a class; and
after they had gone up and come down and taken Caesar's card for Father
Mendia, they told him he was out.
Caesar concluded that it was not so easy to find a crack through which
one could get information of what was going on in the clerical world.
"I see that the Church gives them all a defensive instinct which they
make good use of. They are really only poor devils, but they have a
great organization, and it cannot be easy to get one's fingers through
the meshes of their net."
A MEETING ON THE PINCIO
_A WALK IN THE VILLA BORGHESE_
At the beginning of Holy Week Laura returned to the hotel, at
"And your husband?" Caesar asked her.
"He didn't want to come. Rome bores him. He is giving all his attention
to taking care of the heart-disease he says he has."
"Is it serious?"
"I think not. Every time I see him I find him with a new disease and a
new diet; one time it is vegetarian, another nothing but meat, another
time he says one should eat only grapes, or nothing but bread."
"Then I see that he belongs to the illustrious brotherhood of the
"You are not far from joining that brotherhood yourself."
"Dear sister, I am one of the few sane men that go stumbling around this
insane asylum let loose we call the earth."
"What you say about men is the truth, even though you are not an
exception. Really, the more I have to do with men, the more convinced I
am that any one of them who is not crazy, is stupid or vain or proud....
How much more intelligent, discreet, logical we women are!"
"Don't tell me. You are marvels; modest, kindly toward your rivals, so
little given to humiliating your neighbours, male or female...."
"Yes, yes; but we are not so conceited or such play-actors as you are.
A woman may think herself pretty and amiable and sweet, and not be so.
That is true; but on the other hand, every man thinks himself braver
than the Cid, even if he is afraid of a fly, and more talented than
Seneca, even if he is a dolt."
"To sum up, men are a calamity."
"And women spend their lives fishing for these calamities."
"They need them; there are inferior things which still are necessary."
"And there are superior things which are good for nothing."
"Will you come and take a drive with me, philosopher brother?"
"Let's go to the Villa Borghese. The carriage will be here in a moment."
"All right. Let us go there."
A two-horse victoria with rubber tires was waiting at the door, and
Laura and Caesar got in. The carriage went past the Treasury, and out
the Porta Salaria, and entered the gardens of the Villa Borghese.
The morning had been rainy; the ground was damp; the wind waved the
tree-tops gently and caused a murmur like the tide. The carriage rolled
slowly along the avenues. Laura was very gay and chatty. Caesar listened
to her as one listens to a bird warbling.
Many times while listening he thought: "What is there inside this head?
What is the master idea of her life? Has she really any idea about life,
or has she none?"
After several rounds they crossed the viaduct that unites the Villa
Borghese with the Pincio gardens.
_FROM THE PINCIO TERRACE_
They approached the great terrace of the gardens by an avenue that has
busts of celebrated men along both sides.
"Poor great men!" exclaimed Caesar. "Their statues serve only to
decorate a public garden." "They had their lives," replied Laura, gaily;
"now we have ours."
Laura ordered the coachman to stop a moment. The air was still murmuring
in the foliage, the birds singing, and the clouds flying slowly across
A man with a black box approached the carriage to offer them postcards.
"Buy two or three," said Laura.
Caesar bought a few and put them into his pocket. The vendor withdrew
and Laura continued to look at Rome with enthusiasm.
"Oh, how beautiful, how lovely it is! I never get tired of looking at
it. It is my favourite city. '_O fior d'ogni citta, donna del mondo_.'"
"She is no longer mistress of the world, little sister."
"For me she is. Look at St. Peter's. It looks like a shred of cloud."
"Yes, that's so. It's of a blue shade that seems transparent."
Bells were ringing and great majestic white clouds kept moving along the
horizon; on the Janiculum the statue of Garibaldi rose up gallantly into
the air, like a bird ready to take wing.
"When I look at Rome this way," murmured Laura, "I feel a pang, a pang
"Because I remember that I must die, and then I shall not come back
to see Rome. She will be here still, century after century, full of
sunlight, and I shall be dead.... It is horrible, horrible!"
"And your religion?"
"Yes, I know. I believe I shall see other things; but not these things
that are so beautiful."
"You are an Epicurean."
"It is so beautiful to be alive!"
They stayed there looking at the panorama. Below, in the Piazza del
Popolo, they saw a red tram slipping along, which looked, at that
distance, like a toy.
A tilbury, driven by a woman, stopped near their carriage. The woman was
blond with green eyes, prominent cheek-bones, and a little fur cap. At
her feet lay an enormous dog with long flame-coloured hair.
"She must be a Russian," said Caesar.
"Yes. Do you like that type?"
"She has a lot of character. She looks like one of the women that would
order servants to be whipped."
The Russian was smiling vaguely. Laura told the coachman to drive on.
They made a few rounds in the avenues of the Pincio. The music was
beginning; a few carriages, and groups of soldiers and seminarians,
crowded around the bandstand; Laura didn't care for brass bands, they
were too noisy for her, and she gave the coachman orders to drive to the
They passed in front of the Villa Medici, and when they got near the
Piazza, della Trinita de' Monti they met a man on horseback, who, on
seeing them, immediately approached the carriage. It was Archibald
Marchmont, who had just arrived in Rome.
"I thought you had forgotten us," said Laura.
"I forget you, Marchesa! Never."
"You say you came to Rome...."
"From Nice I had to return to London, because my father was seriously
ill with an attack of gout."
"He is well again?"
"Yes, thank you. You are coming back from a drive?"
"Don't you want to come and have tea with my wife and me?"
"At the Hotel Excelsior. We are staying there. Will you come?" "All
Laura accepted, and they went to the Via Veneto with the Englishman
riding beside them.
They went into the hotel and passed through to the "hall" full of
people, Marchmont sent word to his wife by a servant, to come down.
Laura and Caesar seated themselves with the Englishman.
"This hotel is unbearable," exclaimed Marchmont; "there is nothing here
"Your wife, however, must like that," said Caesar.
"No. Susanna is more European every day, and she doesn't care for the
shrieking elegance of her compatriots. Besides, her father is here, and
that makes her feel less American."
"It is an odd form of filial enthusiasm," remarked Caesar.
"It doesn't shock me. I almost think it's the rule," replied Marchmont;
"at home I could see that my brothers and sisters hated one another
cordially, and that every member of the family wanted to get away from
the others. You two who are so fond of each other are a very rare
instance. Is it frequent in Spain that brothers and sisters like one
"Yes, there are instances of it," answered Caesar, laughing.
Mrs. Marchmont arrived, accompanied by an old man who evidently was her
father, and two other men. Susanna was most smart; she greeted Laura and
Caesar very affably, and presented her father, Mr. Russell; then she
presented an English author, tall, skinny, with blue eyes, a white
beard, and hair like a halo; and then a young Englishman from the
Embassy, a very distinguished person named Kennedy, who was a Catholic.
After the introductions they passed into the dining-room, which was
most impressive. It was an exhibition of very smart women, some of
them ideally beautiful, and idle men. All about them resounded a nasal
English of the American sort.
Susanna Marchmont served the tea and did the honours to her guests.
They all talked French, excepting Mr. Russell, who once in a long while
uttered some categorical monosyllable in his own language.
Mr. Russell was not of the classic Yankee type; he looked like a vulgar
Englishman. He was a serious man, with a short moustache, grey-headed,
with three or four gold teeth.
What to Caesar seemed wonderful in this gentleman was his economy of
words. There was not one useless expression in his vocabulary, and
not the slightest redundancy; whatever partook of merit, prestige, or
nobility was condensed, for him, to the idea of value; whatever partook
of arrangement, cleanliness, order, was condensed to the word "comfort";
so that Mr. Russell, with a very few words, had everything specified.
To Susanna, imbued with her preoccupation in supreme _chic_, her father
no doubt did not seem a completely decorative father; but he gave Caesar
the impression of a forceful man.
Near them, at a table close by, was a little blond man, with a hooked
nose and a scanty imperial, in company with a fat lady. They bowed to
Marchmont and his wife.
"That gentleman looks like a Jew," said Caesar.
"He is," replied Marchmont, "that is Senor Pereyra, a rich Jew; of
Portuguese origin, I think."
"How quickly you saw it!" exclaimed Susanna.
"He has that air of a sick goat, so frequent in Jews."
"His wife has nothing sickly about her, or thin either," remarked Laura.
"No," said Caesar; "his wife represents another Biblical type; one of
the fat kine of somebody's dream, which foretold abundance and a good
The Englishman, Kennedy, had also little liking for Jews.
"I do not hate a Jew as anti-Christian," said Caesar; "but as
super-Christian. Nor do I hate the race, but the tendency they have
never to be producers, but always middlemen, and because they incarnate
so well for our era the love of money, and of joy and pleasure."
The English author was a great partisan of Jews, and he asserted that
they were more distinguished in science and the arts than any other
race. The Jewish question was dropped in an instant, when they saw a
smart lady come in accompanied by a pale man with a black shock of hair
and an uneasy eye.
"That is the Hungarian violinist Kolozsvar," said Susanna.
"Kolozsvar, Kolozsvar!" they heard everybody saying.
"Is he a great virtuoso?" Caesar asked Kennedy.
"No, I think not," answered Kennedy. "It seems that this Hungarian's
speciality is playing the waltzes and folk-songs of his own country,
which is certainly not anything great; but his successes are not
obtained with the violin, but among the women. The ladies in London
fight for him. His game is to pass himself off as a fallen man,
depraved, worn-out. There you have his phraseology.... They see a man to
save, to raise up, and convert into a great artist, and almost all of
them yield to this temptation."
"That is comical," said Caesar, looking curiously at the fiddler and his
"To a Spaniard," replied Kennedy, "it is comical; and probably it would
be to an Italian too; but in England there are many women that have a
purely imaginative idealism, a romanticism fed on ridiculous novels, and
they fall into traps like these, which seem clumsy and grotesque to you
here in the South, where people are more clear-sighted and realistic."
Caesar watched the brave fiddler, who played the role of a man used up,
to great perfection.
After tea, Susanna invited them to go up to her rooms, and Laura and her
brother and Kennedy and Mr. Russell went.
The English author had met a colleague, with whom he stayed behind
talking, and Marchmont remained in the "hall," as if it did not seem to
him proper for him to go to his wife's rooms.
Susanna's rooms were very high, had balconies on the Via Veneto, and
were almost opposite Queen Margherita's palace. One overlooked the
garden and could see the Queen Mother taking her walks, which is not
without its importance for persons who live in a republic.
Susanna was most amiable to Laura; repeated to all of them her
invitation to come and see her again; and after they had all promised
to see one another frequently, Caesar and Laura went down to their
carriage, and took a turn on the Corso by twilight.
ESTHETICS AND DEMAGOGY
_SUSANNA AND THE YOUNGSTERS_
From this meeting on, Caesar noticed that Marchmont paid court to Laura
with much persistence. A light-hearted, coquettish woman, it pleased
Laura to be pursued by a person like this Englishman, young,
distinguished, and rich; but she was not prepared to yield. Her
bringing-up, her class-feelings impelled her to consider adultery a
heinous thing. Nor was divorce a solution for her, since accepting it
would oblige her to cease being a Catholic and to quarrel irrevocably
with the Cardinal. Marchmont showed no discretion in the way he paid
court to Laura; he cared nothing about his wife, and talked of her with
Laura found herself besieged by the Englishman; she couldn't decide to
discourage him entirely, and at critical moments she would take the
train, go off to Naples, and come back two or three days later,
doubtless with more strength for withstanding the siege.
"As a matter of reciprocal justice, since he makes love to my sister,
I ought to make love to his wife," thought Caesar, and he went several
times to the Hotel Excelsior to call on Susanna.
The Yankee wife was full of complaints against her husband. Her father
had advised her simply to get a divorce, but she didn't want to.
She found such a solution lacking in distinction, and no doubt she
considered the advice of an author in her own country very true, who had
given this triple injunction to the students of a woman's college: "Do
not drink, that is, do not drink too much; do not smoke, that is, do not
smoke too much; and do not get married, that is, do not get married too
It did not seem quite right to Susanna to get married too much. Besides
she had a desire to become a Catholic. One day she questioned Caesar
"You want to change your religion!" exclaimed Caesar, "What for? I don't
believe you are going to find your lost faith by becoming a Catholic."
"And what do you think about it, Kennedy?" Susanna asked the young
Englishman, who was there too.
"To me a Catholic woman seems doubly enchanting."
"You would not marry a woman who wasn't a Catholic?"
"No, indeed," the Englishman proclaimed.
Caesar and Kennedy disagreed about everything.
Susanna discussed her plans, and constantly referred to Paul Bourget's
novel _Cosmopolis_, which had obviously influenced her in her
inclination for Catholicism.
"Are there many Jewish ladies who aspire to be baptized and become
Catholics, as Bourget says?" asked Susanna.
"Bah!" exclaimed Caesar.
"You do not believe that either?"
"No, it strikes me as a piece of naivety in this good soul of a
novelist. To become a Catholic, I don't believe requires more than some
"You are detestable, as a Cardinal's nephew."
"I mean that I don't perceive that there are any obstacles to prevent
anybody from becoming a Catholic, as there are to prevent his becoming
rich. What a high ambition, to aspire to be a Catholic! While nobody
anywhere does anything but laugh at Catholics; and it has become an
axiom: 'A Catholic country is a country bound for certain ruin.'"
Kennedy burst out laughing.
Susanna said that she had no real faith, but that she did have a great
enthusiasm for churches and for choirs, for the smell of incense and
"Spain is the place for all that," said Kennedy. "Here in Italy the
Church ceremonies are too gay. Not so in Spain; at Toledo, at Burgos,
there is an austerity in the cathedrals, an unworldliness...."
"Yes," said Caesar; "unhappily we have nothing left there but
ceremonies. At the same time, the people are dying of hunger."
They discussed whether it is better to live in a decorative, esthetic
sphere, or in a more humble and practical one; and Susanna and Kennedy
stood up for the superiority of an esthetic life.
As they left the hotel Caesar said to Kennedy:
"Allow me a question. Have you any intentions concerning Mrs.
"Why do you ask?"
"Simply because I shouldn't go to see her often, so as not to be in the
"Thank you ever so much. But I have no intentions in relation to her.
She is too beautiful and too rich a woman for a modest employee like me
to fix his eyes on."
"Bah! A modest diplomat! That is absurd. It is merely that you don't
take to her."
"No. It's because she is a queen. There ought to be some defect in her
face to make her human."
"Yes; that's true. She is too much of a prize beauty."
"That is the defect in the Yankee women; they have no character. The
weight of tradition might be fatal to industry and modern life, but it
is the one thing that creates the spirituality of the old countries.
Beyond contradiction American women have intelligence, beauty, energy,
attractive flashes, but they lack that particular thing created by
centuries: character. At times they have very charming impulses. Have
you heard the story about Prince Torlonia's wife?"
"Well, Torlonia's present wife was an American girl worth millions, who
came with letters to the prince. He took her about Rome, and at the end
of some days he said to her, supposing that the beautiful American had
the intention of marrying: 'I will introduce some young noblemen to
you'; and she answered: 'Don't introduce anybody to me; because you
please me more than anybody'; and she married him."
"It was a pretty impulse."
"Yes, Americans do things like that on the spur of the moment. But if
you saw a Spanish woman behave that way, it would seem wrong to you."
Chattering amicably they came to the Piazza Esedra.
"Would you care to have lunch with me?" said Kennedy.
"Just what I was going to propose to you."
"I eat alone."
"I do not. I eat with my sister."
"The Marchesa di Vaccarone?"
"Then you must pardon me if I accept your invitation, for I am very
anxious to meet her."
"Then come along."
_RUSKIN AND THE PHILISTINES_
They reached the hotel and Caesar introduced his friend to Laura.
"He is an admirer of yours."
"A respectful admirer ... from a distance," explained Kennedy.
"But are there admirers of that sort?" asked Laura, laughing.
"Here you have one," said the Englishman. "I have known you by sight
ever since I came to Rome, and have never had the pleasure of speaking
to you until today."
"And have you been here a long time?"
"Nearly two years."
"And do you like Rome; eh?"
"I should say so! At first, I didn't, I must admit. It was a
disappointment to me. I had dreamed so much about Rome!" and Kennedy
talked of the books and guides he had read about the Eternal City.
"I must admit that I had never dreamed about Rome," said Caesar. "And
you boast of that?" asked Laura.
"No, I don't boast of it, I merely state it. I understand how agreeable
it is to know things. Caesar died here! Cicero made speeches here! Saint
Peter stumbled over this stone! It is fine! But not knowing things
is also very comfortable. I am rather like a barbarian walking
indifferently among monuments he knows nothing about."
"Doesn't such an idea make you ashamed?"
"No, why? It would be a bother to me to know a lot of things offhand. To
pass by a mountain and know how it was thrown up, what it is composed
of, what its flora and fauna are; to get to a town and know its history
in detail.... What things to be interested in! It's tiresome! I hate
history too much. I far prefer to be ignorant of everything, and
especially the past, and from time to time to offer myself a capricious,
"But I think that knowing things not only is not tiresome," said
Kennedy, "but is a great satisfaction."
"You think even learning things is a satisfaction?"
"Thousands of years ago one could know things almost without learning
them; nowadays in order to know, one has to learn. That is natural and
"Yes, certainly. And the effort to learn about useful things seems
natural and logical to me too, but not to learn about merely agreeable
things. To learn medicine and mechanics is logical; but to learn to look
at a picture or to hear a symphony is an absurdity."
"At any rate the neophytes that go to see a Rafael picture or to hear
a Bach sonata and have an exclamation all ready, give me the sad
impression of a flock of lambs. As for your sublime pedagogues of the
Ruskin type, they seem to me to be the fine flower of priggishness, of
pedantry, of the most objectionable bourgeoisie."
"What things your brother is saying!" exclaimed Kennedy.
"You shouldn't notice him," said Laura.
"Those artistic pedagogues enrage me; they remind me of Protestant
pastors and of the friars that go around dressed like peasants, and who
I think are called Brothers of the Christian Doctrine. The pedagogues
are Brothers of the Esthetic Doctrine, one of the stupidest inventions
that ever occurred to the English. I don't know which I find more
ridiculous, the Salvation Army or Ruskin's books."
"Why have you this hatred for Ruskin?"
"I find him an idiot. I only skimmed through a book of his called _The
Seven Lamps of Architecture_, and the first thing I read was a paragraph
in which he said that to use an imitation diamond or any other imitation
stone was a lie, an imposition, and a sin. I immediately said: 'This man
who thinks a diamond is the truth and paste a lie, is a stupid fool who
doesn't deserve to be read.'"
"Yes, all right: you take one point of view and he takes another. I
understand why Ruskin wouldn't please you. What I do not understand is
why you find it absurd that if a person has a desire to penetrate into
the beauties of a symphony or a picture, he should do so. What is there
strange in that?"
"You are right," said Caesar; "whoever wants to learn, should. I have
done so about financial questions."
"Is it true that your brother knows all about questions of money?"
Kennedy asked Laura.
"He says so."
"I haven't much belief in his financial knowledge."
"No, I have not. You are a sort of dilettante, half nihilist, half
financier. You would like to pass for a tranquil, well-balanced man, for
what is called a philistine, but you cannot compass it."
"I will compass it. It is true that I want to be a philistine, but a
philistine out in the real world. All those great artists you people
admire, Goethe, Ruskin, were really philistines, who were in the
business of being interested in poetry and statues and pictures."
"Moncada, you are a sophist," said Kennedy. "Possibly I am wrong in this
discussion," retorted Caesar, "but the feeling I have is right. Artists
irritate me; they seem to me like old ladies with a flatulency that
prevents their breathing freely."
Kennedy laughed at the definition.
_CHIC AND THE REVOLUTION_
"I understand hating bad kings and conquerors; but artists! What harm do
they do?" said Laura.
"Artists are always doing harm to the whole of humanity. They have
invented an esthetic system for the use of the rich, and they have
killed the Revolution. The _chic_ put an end to the Revolution. And
now everything is coming back; enthusiasm for the aristocracy, for the
Church; the cult of kings. People look backward and the Revolutionary
movement is paralysed. The people that irritate me most are those
esthetes of the Ruskin school, for whom everything is religious: having
money, buying jewels, blowing one's nose ... everything is religious.
Vulgar creatures, lackeys that they are!"
"My brother is a demagogue," said Laura ironically.
"Yes," added Kennedy; "he doesn't like categories."
"But each thing has its value whether he likes it or not."
"I do not deny different values, or even categories. There are things of
great value in life; some natural, like youth, beauty, strength;
others more artificial, like money, social position; but this idea of
distinction, of aristocratic fineness, is a farce. It is a literary
legend in the same style as the one current in novels, which tells
us that the aristocrats of old families close their doors to rich
Americans, or like that other story Mrs. Marchmont was talking to us of,
about the Jewish ladies who were crazy to become Catholics."
"I don't see what you are trying to prove by all this," said Laura.
"I am trying to prove that all there is underneath distinguished society
is money, for which reason it doesn't matter if it is destroyed. The
cleverest and finest man, if he has no money, will die of hunger in a
corner. Smart society, which thinks itself superior, will never receive
him, because being really superior and intelligent is of no value on
the market. On the other hand, when it is a question of some very rich
brute, he will succeed in being accepted and feted by the aristocrats,
because money has a real value, a quotable value, or I'd better say, it
is the only thing that has a quotable value."
"What you are saying isn't true. A man doesn't go with the best people
merely because he is rich."
"No, certainly; not immediately. There is a preparatory process. He
begins by robbing people in some miserable little shop, and feels
himself democratic. Then he robs in a bank, and at that period he feels
that he is a Liberal and begins to experience vaguely aristocratic
ideas. If business goes splendidly, the aristocratic ideas get
crystallized. Then he can come to Rome and go into ecstasies over
all the humbugs of Catholicism; and after that, one is authorized to
acknowledge that the religion of our fathers is a beautiful religion,
and one finishes by giving a tip to the Pope, and another to Cardinal
Verry, so that they will make him Prince of the Ecumenical Council or
Marquis of the Holy Crusade."
"What very stupid and false ideas," exclaimed Laura. "Really I
appreciate having a brother who talks in such a vulgar way."
"You are an aristocrat and the truth doesn't please you. But such are
the facts. I can see the chief of the bureau of Papal titles. What fun
he must have thinking up the most appropriate title for a magnate of
Yankee tinned beef or for an illustrious Andean general! How magnificent
it would be to gather all the Bishops _in partibus infidelium_ and all
the people with Papal titles in one drawing-room! The Bishop of Nicaea
discussing with the Marquis of the Holy Roman Empire; the Marchioness of
Easter Sunday flirting with the Bishop of Sion, while the Patriarchs
of Thebes, Damascus, and Trebizond played bridge with the sausage
manufacturer, Mr. Smiles, the pork king, or with the illustrious General
Perez, the hero of Guachinanguito. What a moving spectacle it would be!"
"You are a clown!" said Laura.
"He is a finished satirist," added Kennedy.
After lunch, Laura, Kennedy, and Caesar went into the salon, and Laura
introduced the Englishman to the San Martino girls and the Countess
Brenda. They stayed there chatting until four o'clock, at which time the
San Martinos got ready to go out in a motor car, and Laura, with the
Countess and her daughter, in a carriage.
Caesar and Kennedy went into the street together.
"You are awfully well fixed here," said Kennedy, "with no Americans, no
Germans, or any other barbarians."
"Yes, this hotel is a hive of petty aristocrats."
"Your sister was telling me that you might pick out a very rich wife
here, among the girls."
"Yes, my sister would like me to live here, in a foreign country, in
cowlike tranquillity, looking at pictures and statues, and travelling
pointlessly. That wouldn't be living for me; I am not a society man. I
require excitement, danger.... Though I warn you that I am not in the
"Not at all. Not now. At moments I believe I could control myself and
take a trench without wavering."
"But you have some fixed plan, haven't you?"
"Yes, I expect to go back to Spain, and work there."
"Are you patriotic?"
"Yes, up to a certain point. I have no transcendental idea of patriotism
at all. Patriotism, as I interpret it, is a matter of curiosity. I
believe that there is strength in Spain. If this strength could be
led in a given direction, where would it get to? That is my form of
patriotism; as I say, it is an experimental form."
Kennedy looked at Caesar with curiosity.
"And how can it help you with your plans to stay here in Rome?" he
"It can help me. In Spain nobody knows me. This is the only place where
I have a certain position, through being the nephew of a Cardinal. I am
trying to build on that. How am I going to arrange it? I don't know. I
am feeling out my future course, taking soundings."
"But the support you could find here would be all of a clerical nature,"
"But you are not Clerical!"
"No; but it is necessary for me to climb. Afterwards there will be time
"You are not taking it into account, my dear Caesar, that the Church is
still powerful and that it doesn't pardon people who impose upon it."
"Bah! I am not afraid of it."
"And you were just saying you are not courageous! You are courageous, my
dear man.... After this, I don't doubt of your success."
"I need data."
"If I can furnish you with any...."
"Wouldn't it be disagreeable for you to help a man who is your enemy, so
far as ideas go?"
"No; because I am beginning to have some curiosity too, as to whether
you will succeed in doing something. If I can be of any use, let me
"I will let you know."
Caesar and Kennedy took a walk about the streets, and at twilight they
took leave of each other affectionately.
NEW ATTEMPTS, NEW RAMBLES
"I have arranged two interesting conferences for you," said Kennedy, a
few days later.
"My dear man!"
"Yes; one with Cardinal Spada, the other with the Abbe Tardieu. I have
spoken to them both about you."
"Splendid! What kind of people are they?"
"Cardinal Spada is a very intelligent man and a very amiable one. At
heart he is a Liberal and fond of the French. As to the Abbe Tardieu, he
is a very influential priest at the church of San Luigi."
After lunch they went direct to a solitary street in the old part of
Rome. At the door of the big, sad palace where Cardinal Spada lived, a
porter with a cocked hat, a grey greatcoat, and a staff with a silver
knob, was watching the few passers-by.
They went in by the broad entry-way, as far as a dark colonnaded court,
paved with big flags which had grass between them.
In the middle of the court a fountain shot up a little way and fell into
a stone basin covered with moss.
Kennedy and Caesar mounted the wide monumental stairway; on the first
floor a handsome glassed-in gallery ran around the court. The whole
house had an air of solemnity and sadness. They entered the Cardinal's
office, which was a large, sad, severe room.
Monsignor Spada was a vigorous man, despite his age. He looked frank
and intelligent, but one guessed that there was a hidden bitterness and
desolation in him. He wore a black cassock with red edges and buttons.
Kennedy went close and was about to kneel to the Cardinal, but he
Caesar explained his ideas to the Cardinal with modesty. He felt that
this man was worthy of all his respect.
Monsignor Spada listened attentively, and then said that he understood
nothing about financial matters, but that on principle he was in favour
of having the administration of all the Church's property kept entirely
at home, as in the time of Pius IX. Leo XIII had preferred to replace
this paternal method by a trained bureaucracy, but the Church had not
gained anything by it, and they had lost credit through unfortunate
negotiations, buying land and taking mortgages.
Caesar realized that it was useless to attempt to convince a man of
the intelligence and austerity of the Cardinal, and he listened to him
Monsignor Spada conversed amiably, he escorted them as far as the door,
and shook hands when they said good-bye.
THE ABBE TARDIEU
Then they went to see the Abbe Tardieu. The abbe lived in the Piazza.
Navona. His office, furnished in modern style, produced the effect of a
violent contrast with Cardinal Spada's sumptuous study, and yet brought
it to mind. The Abbe Tardieu's work-room was small, worldly, full of
books and photographs.
The abbe, a tall young man, thin, with a rosy face, a long nose, and a
mouth almost from ear to ear, had the air of an astute but jolly person,
and laughed at everything said to him. He was liveliness personified.
When they entered his office he was writing and smoking.
Caesar explained about his financial knowledge, and how he had gone on
acquiring it, until he got to the point where he could discern a law, a
system, in things where others saw nothing more than chance. The Abbe
Tardieu promised that if he knew a way to utilize Caesar's knowledge, he
would send him word. In respect to giving him letters of introduction to
influential persons in Spain, he had no objection.
They took leave of the abbe.
"All this has to go slowly," said Kennedy.
"Of course. One cannot insist that it should happen all at once."
"If you have nothing to do, let's take a walk," said the Englishman.
"If you like."
"Have you noticed the fountains in this square?"
"They are worth looking at."
Caesar contemplated the central obelisk. It is set on top of a rock
hollowed out like a cavern, in the mouth of which a lion is seen.
Afterwards they looked at the fountains at the ends of the square.
"The sculptures are by Bernini," explained Kennedy. "Bernini belonged to
an epoch that has been very much abused by the critics, but nowadays he
is much praised. He enchants me."
"It is rather a mixed style, don't you think?"
"The artist is not living?"
"For heaven's sake, man! No."
"Well, if he were alive today they would employ him to make those
gewgaws some people present to leading ladies and to the deputies of
their district. He would be the king of the manufacturers of ornate
"It is undeniable that Bernini had a baroque taste."
"He gives the impression of a rather pretentious and affected person."
"Yes, he does. He was an exuberant, luxuriant Neapolitan; but when he
chose he could produce marvels. Haven't you seen his Saint Teresa?"
"Then you must see it. Let's take a carriage."
They drove to the Piazza San Bernardo, a little square containing three
churches and a fountain, and went into Santa Maria della Vittoria.
Kennedy went straight toward the high altar, and stopped to the left of
In an altar of the transept is to be seen a group carved in marble,
representing the ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Caesar gazed at it absorbed.
The saint is an attractive young girl, falling backward in a sensual
spasm; her eyes are closed, her mouth open, and her jaw a bit
dislocated. In front of the swooning saint is a little angel who
smilingly threatens her with an arrow.
"Well, what do you think of it?" said Kennedy.
"It is wonderful," exclaimed Caesar. "But it is a bedroom scene, only
the lover has slipped away."
"Yes, that is true."
"It really is pretty; you seem to see the pallor of the saint's face,
the circles under her eyes, the relaxation of all her muscles. Then the
angel is a little joker who stands there smiling at the ecstasy of the
"Yes, that's true," said Kennedy; "it is all the more admirable for the
very reason that it is tender, sensual, and charming, all at once."
"However, this sort of thing is not healthy," murmured Caesar, "this
kind of vision depletes your life-force. One wants to find the same
things represented in works of art that one ought to look for in life,
even if they are not to be found in life."
"Good! Here enters the moralist. You talk like an Englishman," exclaimed
Kennedy. "Let us go along."
"I have to stop in at the French Embassy a moment; then we can go where
_CORNERS OF ROME_
They went back to the carriage, and having crossed through the centre of
Rome, got out in front of the Farnese Palace.
"I will be out inside of ten minutes," said Kennedy.
The Farnese Palace aroused great admiration in Caesar; he had never
passed it before. By one of the fountains in the _piazza,_ he stood
gazing at the huge square edifice, which seemed to him like a die cut
from an immense block of stone.
"This really gives me an impression of grandeur and force," he said to
himself. "What a splendid palace! It looks like an ancient knight in
full armour, looking indifferently at everything, sure of his own
Caesar walked from one end of the _piazza_ to the other, absorbed in the
majestic pile of stone.
Kennedy surprised him in his contemplation.
"Now will you say that you are a good philistine?"
"Ah, well, this palace is magnificent. Here are grandeur, strength,
"Yes, it is magnificent; but very uncomfortable, my French colleagues
Kennedy related the history of the Farnese Palace to Caesar. They went
through the Via del Mascherone and came out into the Via Giulia.
"This Via Giulia is a street in a provincial capital," said Kennedy;
"always sad and deserted; a Cardinal or two who like isolation are still
At the entrance to the Via dei Farnesi, Caesar stopped to look at two
marble tablets set into the wall at the two sides of a chapel door.
Cut on the tablets were skeletons painted black; on one, the words:
"Alms for the poor dead bodies found in the fields," and on the other:
"Alms for the perpetual lamp in the cemetery."
"What does this mean?" said Caesar.
"That is the Church of the Orison of the Confraternity of Death. The
tablets are modern."
They passed by the "Mascherone" again, and went rambling on until they
reached the Synagogue and the Theatre of Marcellus.
They went through narrow streets without sidewalks; they passed across
tiny squares; and it seemed like a dead city, or like the outskirts of a
village. In certain streets towered high dark palaces of blackish stone.
These mysterious palaces looked uninhabited; the gratings were eaten
with rust, all sorts of weeds grew on the roofs, and the balconies were
covered with climbing plants. At corners, set into the wall, one saw
niches with glass fronts. A painted madonna, black now, with silver
jewels and a crown, could be guessed at inside, and in front a little
lantern swung on a cord.
Suddenly a cart would come down one of these narrow streets without
sidewalks, driving very quickly and scattering the women and children
seated by the gutter.
In all these poor quarters there were lanes crossed by ropes loaded with
torn washing; there were wretched black shops from which an odour of
grease exhaled; there were narrow streets with mounds of garbage in the
middle. In the very palaces, now shorn of their grandeur, appeared
the same decoration of rags waving in the breeze. In the Theatre of
Marcellus one's gaze got lost in the depths of black caves, where smiths
stood out against flames.
This mixture of sumptuousness and squalor, of beauty and ugliness, was
reflected in the people; young and most beautiful women were side by
side with fat, filthy old ones covered with rags, their eyes gloomy, and
of a type that recalled old African Jewesses.
_WHAT CAN BE READ ON WALLS_
Caesar and Kennedy went on toward the Temple of Vesta and followed the
river bank until the Tiber Embankment ended.
Here the banks were green and the river clearer and more poetic. To the
left rose the Aventine with its villas; in the harbour two or three tugs
were tied up; and here and there along the pier stood a crane. Evening
was falling and the sky was filling with pink clouds.
They sat down awhile on the side of the road, and Caesar entertained
himself deciphering the inscriptions written in charcoal on a mud-wall.
"Do you go in for modern epigraphy?" asked Kennedy.
"Yes. It is one of the things I take pleasure in reading, in the towns
I go to; the advertisements in the newspapers and the writings on the
"It's a good kind of curiosity."
"Yes, I believe one learns more about the real life in a town from such
inscriptions than from the guide- and text-books."
"That's possible. And what conclusions have you drawn from your
"They are not of much value. I haven't constructed a science of
wall-inscriptions, as that fake Lambroso would have done."
"But you will construct it surely, when you have lighted on the
"You think my epigraphical science is on the same level as my financial
science. What a mistake!"
"All right. But tell me what you have discovered about different towns."
"London, for instance, I have found, is childish in its inscriptions and
somewhat clownish. When some sentimental foolishness doesn't occur to a
Londoner of the people, some brutality or rough joke occurs to him."
"You are very kind," said Kennedy, laughing.
"Paris has a vulgar, cruel taste; in the Frenchman of the people you
find the tiger alternating with the monkey. There the dominant note on
the walls is the patriotic note, insults to politicians, calling them
assassins and thieves, and also sentiments of revenge expressed by
an _'A mort Dupin!'_ or _'A mort Duval!'_ Moreover, there is a great
enthusiasm for the guillotine."
"Madrid is at heart a rude, moral town with little imagination, and
the epigraphs on the walls and benches are primitive."
"And in Rome what do you find?"
"Here one finds a mixture of pornography, romanticism, and politics.
A heart pierced by an arrow and poetic phrases, alternate with some
enormous piece of filthiness and with hurrahs for Anarchy or for the
"Well done!" said Kennedy; "I can see that the branch of epigraphy you
practise amounts to something. It should be systematized and given a
"What do you think we should name it? Wallography?"
"And one of these fine days we can systematize it. Now we might go and
They took a tram which was coming back from St. Paul's beyond the Walls,
and returned to the heart of the city.
_THE MONK WITH THE RED NOSE_
The next day Caesar was finishing dressing when the servant told him
that a gentleman was waiting for him.
"Who is it?" asked Caesar.
"It's a monk."
Caesar went to the salon and there found a tall monk with an evil face,
a red nose, and a worn habit.
Caesar recalled having seen him, but didn't know where.
"What can I do for you?" asked Caesar.
"I come from His Eminence, Cardinal Fort. I must speak with you."
"Let's go into the dining-room. We shall be alone there."
"It would be better to talk in your room."
"No, there is no one here. Besides, I have to eat breakfast. Will you
"No, thanks," said the monk.
Caesar remembered having seen that face in the Altemps palace. He was
doubtless one of the domestic monks who had been with the Abbe Preciozi.
The waiter came bringing Caesar's breakfast. "Will you tell me what it
is?" said Caesar to the ecclesiastic, while he filled his cup.
The monk waited until the waiter was gone, and then said in a hard
"His Eminence the Cardinal sent me to bid you not to present yourself
anywhere again, giving his name."
"What? What does this mean?" asked Caesar, calmly.
"It means that His Eminence has found out about your intrigues and
"Intrigues? What intrigues were those?"
"You know perfectly well. And His Eminence forbids you to continue in
"His Eminence forbids me to pay calls? And for what reason?"
"Because you have used his name to introduce yourself into certain
"It is not true."
"You have told people you went to that you are Cardinal Fort's nephew."
"And I am not?" asked Caesar, after taking a swallow of coffee.
"You are trying to make use of the relationship, we don't know with what
end in view."
"I am trying to make use of my relationship to Cardinal Fort? Why
"You admit it?"
"Yes, I admit it. People are such imbeciles that they think it is an
honour to have a Cardinal in the family; I take advantage of this stupid
idea, although I do not share it, because for me a Cardinal is merely an
object of curiosity, an object for an archeological museum...."
Caesar paused, because the monk's countenance was growing dark. In the
twilight of his pallid face, his nose looked like a comet portending
some public calamity.
"Poor wretch!" murmured the monk. "You do not know what you are saying.
You are blaspheming. You are offending God." "Do you really believe that
God has any relation to my uncle?" asked Caesar, paying more attention
to his toast than to his visitor.
And then he added:
"The truth is that it would be extravagant behaviour on the part of
The monk looked at Caesar with terrible eyes. Those grey eyes of his,
under their long, black, thick brows, shot lightning.
"Poor wretch!" repeated the monk. "You ought to have more respect for
things above you."
"You are bothering me and preventing me from drinking my coffee," he
said, with exquisite politeness, and touched the bell.
"Be careful!" exclaimed the monk, seizing Caesar's arm with violence.
"Don't you touch me again," said Caesar, pulling away violently, his
face pale and his eyes flashing. "If you do, I have a revolver here with
five chambers, and I shall take pleasure in emptying them one by one,
taking that lighthouse you carry about for a nose, as my target."
"Fire it if you dare."
Fortunately the waiter had come in on hearing the bell.
"Do you wish anything, sir?" he asked.
"Yes, please escort this clerical gentleman to the door, and tell him on
the way not to come back here."
Days later Caesar found out that there had been a great disturbance at
the Altemps palace in consequence of the calls he had made. Preciozi
had been punished and sent away from Rome, and the various Spanish
monasteries and colleges warned not to receive Caesar.
GIOVANNI BATTISTA, PAGAN
"My dear Caesar," said Kennedy, "I believe it will be very difficult for
you to find what you want by looking for it. You ought to leave it a
little to chance."
"Abandon myself to events as they arrive? All right, it seems a good
"Then if you find something practicable, utilize it."
Kennedy took his friend to a statue-shop where he used to pass some of
his hours. The shop was in a lane near the Forum, and its stock was in
antiques, majolicas, and plaster casts of pagan gods.
The shop was dark and rather gloomy, with a small court at the back
covered with vines. The proprietor was an old man, with a moustache,
an imperial, and a shock of white hair. His name was Giovanni Battista
Lanza. He professed revolutionary ideas and had great enthusiasm about
Mazzini. He expressed himself in an ironical and malicious manner.
Signora Vittoria, his wife, was a grumbling old woman, rather devoted to
wine. She spoke like a Roman of the lowest class, was olive-coloured and
wrinkled, and of her former beauty there remained only her very black
eyes and hair that was still black.
The daughter, Simonetta, a girl who resembled her father, blond, with
the build of a goddess, was the one that waited on customers and kept
Simonetta, being the manager, divided up the profits; the elder son was
head of the workshop and he made the most money; then came two workmen
from outside; and then the father who still got his day's wages, out
of consideration for his age; and finally the younger son, twelve or
fourteen years old, who was an apprentice.
Simonetta gave her mother what was indispensable for household expenses
and managed the rest herself.
Kennedy retailed this information the first day they went to Giovanni
Battista Lanza's house. Caesar could see Simonetta keeping the books,
while the small brother, in a white blouse that came to his heels, was
chasing a dog, holding a pipe in his hand by the thick part, as if it
were a pistol, the dog barking and hanging on to the blouse, the small
boy shrieking and laughing, when Signora Vittoria came bawling out.
Kennedy presented Simonetta to his friend Caesar, and she smiled and
gave her hand.
"Is Signore Giovanni Battista here?" Kennedy asked Signora Vittoria.
"Yes, he is in the court." she answered in her gloomy way.
"Is something wrong with your mamma?" said Kennedy to Simonetta.
They went into the court and Giovanni Battista arose, very dignified,
and bowed to Caesar. The elder son and the two workmen in white blouses
and paper caps were busy with water and wires, cleaning a plaster mould
they had just emptied.
The mould was a big has-relief of the Way of the Cross. Giovanni
Battista permitted himself various jocose remarks about the Way of
the Cross, which his son and the other two workmen heard with
great indifference; but while he was still emptying his store of
anti-Christian irony, the voice of Signora Vittoria was heard, crying
"What is it?"
"That's enough, that's enough! I can hear you from here."
"That's my wife," said Giovanni Battista, "she doesn't like me to be
lacking in respect for plaster saints." "You are a pagan!" screamed the
old woman. "You shall see, you shall see what will happen to you."
"What do you expect to have happen to me, darling?"
"Leave her alone," exclaimed the elder son, ill at ease; "you always
have to be making mother fly into a rage."
"No, my boy, no; she is the one who makes me fly into a rage."
"Giovanni Battista is used to living among gods," said Kennedy, "and he
"No, no," replied the cast-maker; "some saints are all right. If all
the churches had figures by Donatello or Robbia, I would go to church
oftener; but to go and look at those statues in the Jesuit churches,
those figures with their arms spread and their eyes rolling.... Oh, no!
I cannot look at such things."
Caesar could see that Giovanni Battista expressed himself very well;
but that he was not precisely a star when it came to working. After the
mould for the bas-relief was cleaned and fixed, the cast-maker invited
Caesar and Kennedy to have a glass of wine in a wine-shop near by.
"How's this, are you leaving already, father?" said Simonetta, as he
went through the shop to get to the street.
"I'm coming back, I'm coming back right away."
The three of them went to a rather dirty tavern in the same lane,
and settled themselves by the window. This post was a good point of
observation for that narrow street, so crowded and so picturesque.
Workmen went by, and itinerant vendors, women with kerchiefs, half
head-dress and half muffler, and with black eyes and expressive faces.
Opposite was a booth of coloured candies, dried figs strung on a reed,
and various kinds of sweets.
A wine-cart passed, and Kennedy made Caesar observe how decorative it
was with its big arm-seat in the middle and its hood above, like a
Giovanni Battista ordered a flask of wine for the three of them. While
he chatted and drank, friends of his came to greet them. They were men
with beards, long hair, and soft hats, of the Garbaldi and Verdi type so
abundant in Italy.
Among them were two serious old men; one was a model, a native of
Frascati, with the face of a venerable apostle; the other, for contrast,
looked like a buffoon and was the possessor of a grotesque nose, long,
thin at the end and adorned with a red wart.
"My wife has a deadly hatred for all of them," said Giovanni Battista,
"And why so?" asked Caesar.
"Because we talk politics and sometimes they ask me for a few
"Your wife must have a lively temper,..." said Caesar.
"Yes, an unhappy disposition; good, awfully good; but very
superstitious. Christianity has produced nothing but superstitions."
"Giovanni Battista is a pagan, as his wife well says," asserted Kennedy.
"What superstitions has your wife?" asked Caesar.
"All of them. Romans are very superstitious and my wife is a Roman. If
you see a hunchback, it is good luck; if you see three, then your luck
is magnificent and you have to swallow your saliva three times; on the
other hand, if you see a humpbacked woman it is a bad omen and you must
spit on the ground to keep away the _jettatura_. Three priests together
is a very good sign. We ought all to get along very well in Rome,
because we see three and up to thirty priests together."
"A spider is also very significant," said Kennedy; "in the morning it is
of bad augury, and in the evening good."
"And at noon?" asked Caesar.
"At noon," answered Lanza, laughing, "it means nothing to speak of. But
if you wish to make sure whether it is a good auspice or a bad, you kill
the spider and count its legs. If they are an even number, it is a good
omen; if uneven, bad."
"But I believe spiders always have an even number of legs," said Caesar.
"Certainly," responded the old man; "but my wife swears they do not;
that she has seen many with seven and nine legs. It is religious
"Are there many people like that, so credulous?" asked Caesar.
"Oh, lots," replied Lanza; "in the shops you will find amulets, horns,
hands made of coral or horseshoes, all to keep away bad luck. My wife
and the neighbour women play the lottery, by combining the numbers of
their birthdays, and the ages of their fathers, their mothers, and their
children. When some relative dies, they make a magic combination of
the dates of birth and death, the day and the month, and buy a lottery
ticket. They never win; and instead of realizing that their systems
are of no avail, they say that they omitted to count in the number of
letters in the name or something of that sort. It is comical, so much
religion and so much superstition."
"But you confuse religion and superstition, my friend," said Kennedy.
"It's all the same," answered the old man, smiling his suavely ironical
smile. "There is nothing except Nature."
"You do not believe in miracles, Giovanni Battista?" asked the
"Yes, I believe in the earth's miracles, making trees and flowers grow,
and the miracle of children's being born from their mothers. The other
miracles I do not believe in. What for? They are so insignificant beside
the works of Nature!"
"He is a pagan," Kennedy again stated.
They were chatting, when three young lads came into the tavern, all
three having the air of artists, black clothes, soft hats, flowing
cravats, long hair, and pipes. "Two of them are fellow-countrymen of
yours," Kennedy told Caesar.
"They are Spanish painters," the old man added. "The other is a sculptor
who has been in the Argentine, and he talks Spanish too."
The three entered and sat down at the same table and were introduced to
Caesar. Everybody chattered. Buonacossi, the Italian, was a real type.
Of very low stature, he had a giant's torso and strong little legs. His
head was like a woe-begone eagle, his nose hooked, thin, and reddish,
eyes round, and hair black.
Buonacossi proved to be gay, exuberant, changeable, and full of
He explained his artistic ideas with picturesque warmth, mingling them
with blasphemies and curses. Things struck him as the best or the worst
in the world. For him there doubtless were no middle terms.
One of the two Spaniards was serious, grave, jaundiced, sour-visaged,
and named Cortes; the other, large, ordinary, fleshy, and coarse, seemed
rather a bully.
Giovanni Battista was not able to be long outside the workshop, no doubt
because his conscience troubled him, and though with difficulty, he got
up and left. Kennedy, Caesar, and the two Spaniards went toward the
Piazza, del Campidoglio, and Buonacossi marched off in the opposite
On reaching the Via Nazionale, Kennedy took his leave and Caesar
remained with the two Spaniards. The red, fleshy one, who had the air of
a bully, started in to make fun of the Italians, and to mimic their bows
and salutes; then he said that he had an engagement with a woman and
made haste to take his leave.
When he had gone, the grave Spaniard with the sour face, said to Caesar:
"That chap is like the dandies here; that's why he imitates them so
Afterwards Cortes talked about his studies in painting; he didn't get
on well, he had no money, and anyway Rome didn't please him at all.
Everything seemed wrong to him, absurd, ridiculous.
Caesar, after he had said good-bye to him, murmured: "The truth is that
we Spaniards are impossible people."
THE PORTRAIT OF A POPE
Two or three days later Caesar met the Spaniard Cortes in the Piazza
Colonna. They bowed. The thin, sour-looking painter was walking with a
beardless young German, red and snub-nosed. This young man was a painter
too, Cortes said; he wore a green hat with a cock's feather, a blue
cape, thick eyeglasses, big boots, and had a certain air of being a
"Would you like to come to the Doria gallery with us?" asked Cortes.
"What is there to see there?"
"A stupendous portrait by Velazquez."
"I warn you that I know nothing about pictures."
"Nobody does," Cortes declared roundly. "Everybody says what he thinks."
"Is the gallery near here?"
"Yes, just a step."
In company with Cortes and the German with the green hat with the cock's
feather, Caesar went to the Piazza del Collegio Romano, where the Doria
palace is. They saw a lot of pictures which didn't seem any better to
Caesar than those in the antique shops and the pawnbrokers', but which
drew learned commentaries from the German. Then Cortes took them to a
cabinet hung in green and lighted by a skylight. There was nothing to
be seen in the cabinet except the portrait of the Pope. In order that
people might look at it comfortably, a sofa had been installed facing
"Is this the Velazquez portrait?" asked Caesar.
"This is it."
Caesar looked at it carefully. "That man had eaten and drunk well before
his portrait was painted," said Caesar; "his face is congested."
"It is extraordinary!" exclaimed Cortes. "It is something to see, the
way this is done. What boldness! Everything is red, the cape, the cap,
the curtains in the background.... What a man!"
The German aired his opinions in his own language, and took out a
notebook and pencil and wrote some notes.
"What sort of man was this?" asked Caesar, whom the technical side of
painting did not preoccupy, as it did Cortes.
"They say he was a dull man, who lived under a woman's domination."
"The great thing is," murmured Caesar, "how the painter has left him
here alive. It seems as if we had come in here to salute him, and he
was waiting for us to speak. Those clear eyes are questioning us. It is
"Not curious," exclaimed Cortes, "but admirable."
"For me it is more curious than admirable. There is something brutal in
this Pope; through his grey beard, which is so thin, you can see his
projecting chin. The good gentleman was of a marked prognathism, a type
of degeneration, indifference, intellectual torpor, and nevertheless, he
reached the top. Perhaps in the Church it's the same as in water, only
Back to Full Books