Imágenes de páginas

rooms. It affords a gentle ascent through a host of masterpieces: Michael Angelo, Perugino, Luca della Robbia, and the divine Raphael receive us at the Scala Regia and do not take leave of us until we reach the threshold of the papal door. And I accepted their guidance when I went to the Vatican, preferring to take this circuitous road, with the proud and powerful appeal which it makes to the artistic sense, rather than the other and shorter route.

The loggie that morning were flooded with sunshine and filled, alas! with the irritating chatter of the numberless tourists who, generation after generation, come to rhapsodize in this same spot. The red Baedekers glared against the uniform gray of the ladies' dust-cloaks. Shrill exclamations rang out in the accents of Great Britain, to be drowned forthwith in the noisy double-bass of Teutonic voices. There were long-haired young men who measured the magnificent frescoes with their hands, and young married couples who spoke not a single word. From time to time a violet cassock passed, very swiftly, in the distance.

At the end of the gallery a sculptured door, with the arms of Gregory XIII. carved above it, opened after I had presented my lettere d'audienza, and I suddenly found myself separated from the light, the crowd, and the noise. A suite of rooms paved in marble and hung with tapestries stretched before me in the soft twilight shed by the great white silk curtains of the tall windows; monsignori, in violet mantles and floating capes, glided by in the silence; a picket of Swiss Guards, standing motionless with shouldered halberds, seemed to rise from the depths of a fabled past; beyond these, the bussolenti, in ruby silk, sat on a velvet bench, while a group of Noble Guards, booted, spurred, and all agleam with gold lace, bowed re

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A sound of footsteps: from behind a drawn curtain come four bronzed and bearded African monks, whose coarse frocks fade gradually from sight in the distance of the vistaed rooms. hind us loud sighs escape from a dark corner: a lady in a mighty state of excitement is waiting, like ourselves, for the honor of an audience. In her hands she holds a strange medley of objects: rosaries, a birthday-book, prayer-books, a jewelled necklace, gold rings, medals-a whole shop-windowful of things! In anxious tones she asks a young domestic prelate:

"Do you think the Holy Father will consent to bless all these?"

The young prelate gives a hardly perceptible smile:

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"It seems a good deal. But the Holy Father is so kind! Only you must not ask him for an autograph. He absolutely refuses."

And the birthday book straightway disappears into a little hand-bag.

Meanwhile the room has become filled with discreet shadows; officers and priests fall into groups, and talk in low voices:

Suddenly the mid-day gun on the Janiculum thunders out; and chimes start ringing at the same moment: those of St. Peter's first, followed by the chimes of all Rome. They rise from the Trastevere, they come down from the Pincio, they fly across from the Aventine Hill, they hasten up from the golden Campania, they tell the beads of their clear and merry notes and mingle their sweet, grave sounds with the loud brass voice of the basil

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The door opens. At first I see nothing but books, numberless books, all around an immense room, which the light enters in floods. Beyond the open windows on the left, Rome, with her hills and steeples, lies slumbering in a blue haze; on the right a screen cuts off and conceals a portion of the room. Feeling a little nervous, dazzled by this sudden brightness following so close upon the gloom in which I have spent the last half hour, I peer out of my eyes in vain-see no one. Where is the Pope?

Monsignor Bisleti beckons to us. I pass round the screen, and suddenly, behind a table loaded with papers, beside a crucifix hung high up on the wall and slanting, so that it seems to bend its look of pain upon him, I see His Holiness Pius X. standing erect in the imposing purity of his white cassock.

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eign Pontiff wears thrust on the back of his head; his plump and energetic hands are beautifully shaped; his voice is grave, sonorous, and distinct.

Formerly, the etiquette was that whoso had the honor of being admitted to an audience of the Pope should make three genuflexions as he entered: the first on the threshold, the second a little further, the third at the feet of the Pope, whose slipper, moreover, he was obliged to kiss. Leo XIII. made only the rarest exceptions to this rule: Pius X. has abolished it. He does not wish you to talk to him on your knees, and, when you still make a slight genuflexion on entering and leaving, he hastens to raise you up; and his friendly simplicity-I was almost saying his cordiality-at once puts you at your ease.

With a simple gesture of the hand he invites my wife and me to take a seat on either side of him. He himself has sat down in a wide armchair in front of his desk, and, while speaking, with one hand he alternately takes up and lays down the gold pen-holder that lies beside the inkstand, and with the other plays with the gold chain that hangs from his neck and supports a pectoral cross in emeralds-a present from the Emperor William to Leo XIII. on his Jubilee-the green reflections of which sparkle in the rays of the sun.

At this solemn moment I was a little perplexed and troubled, as the Pope does not speak French. Should I dare to venture upon the Italian tongue, which I knew but very imperfectly?

The Holy Father put an end to my embarrassment very paternally by asking me about my journey, about France . . and when I apologized for the insufficiency of my acquaintance with the language of Dante:

"I understand you quite well: that is the great thing; and, believe me, I

should be very glad to be able to say as much in French!"

The ice was broken, and my mind was now at ease and confident.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I was not present in the Vatican as an interviewer. I had for some weeks been far removed from the scene of religious strife, and had heard only a very faint echo of it through the telegrams in the Italian papers. If, however, the Holy Father consented-and that at greater length than I had dared hope to speak to me of "French affairs," as they say in Rome, I do not consider myself entitled, by repeating our conversation here, to abuse the confidence which he was pleased to show me in the course of that audience. The views of Pius X. are well known; he has expressed them so clearly on other occasions that there can be no need to recapitulate them here.

The Pope speaks of these grave matters without bitterness and without unnecessary emphasis; his words reflect a calm and deliberate firmness. He appears to me to be exceedingly well informed as regards the intellectual powers of foreign statesmen; he has formed a very definite opinion of each of them; and this opinion reveals a great subtlety of appreciation, combined with a serene and placid philosophy.

Leaving the political ground, we talk of Italy, of its artistic beauties.

I call the Holy Father's attention to the wonderful panorama that stretches beneath his windows, and I permit myself to ask him if he does not feel a profound regret at being now separated for ever from all those marvels.

"I suffered greatly at first," he says, speaking slowly; "now I am resigned. I obey the will of God."

At a given moment I bring up the memory of Venice. When he hears

that magic name his eyes light up, his features glow with animation. He speaks to me with real emotion of the town in which he spent the happiest hours of his life; and, as I listen to him, I remember a number of charming anecdotes which I heard about his life in Venice when I last visited the city of the Doges. He used to loathe display as much as his predecessor in the patriarchate loved it. Cardinal Sarto could never accustom himself to luxury in any form. He was of the race of bishops who have a "wooden crozier and a heart of gold." His predecessor never went out but in a gondola with four rowers; he himself was modestly satisfied with a oneoared gondola and yet when

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it passed down the Grand Canal hundreds of gondoliers would escort him, seeking for a blessing, a word of comfort and encouragement from him whom they called familiarly in their Venetian dialect, "Il nostro Si'or Beppo."

Summoned to the conclave at Rome, when he left Venice, one blazing morning in July, greeted by the prophetic cry of "Long live the Pope!" he not for a moment doubted that he should return.

"So little did I think that I should never see Venice again," he says, with a smile, "that I took а biglietto d'andata e ritorno."

He long kept this return ticket. Wealthy collectors strove by every means in their power to become its purchaser he invariably refused. Last year the King of Greece, in the course of a visit which he paid to the Pope, expressed a keen desire to possess this little piece of cardboard which has become for all time historical-and the Pope gave it him.

On the other hand, there is one humble relic with which nothing will ever induce him to part. This relic is his watch, a little cheap nickel watch.

"It marked the minutes of my mother's death-struggles," he says, "and the hour of my definite separation from the outer world, from space and liberty. It has marked all the sad, all the joyous, all the solemn moments of my life. What jewel could be more precious to me?"

He carries it fastened to a white silk cord in the broad sash which he wears round his waist; and he did not hesitate to offend against the etiquette which hitherto had obliged the Pope, when he wished to know the time, to apply to one of his prelates in waiting.

This extreme simplicity, I repeat, is to him as much a matter of principle as of habit. It governs all the actions of his life, and is in admirable keeping with his instinctive, sovereign, and triumphant kindness. His contempt for forms and ceremonies makes it much easier for him to exercise that charity which was always his ruling virtue. If the sun were to set without his having made at least one human being happy, he would be inclined to say, with Titus: "I have wasted my day." He rarely wastes time.

Endowed with an essentially liberal mind, he professes a keen admiration for nations that love independence and liberty, such as the American nation, and he never misses an opportunity of bestowing exceptional marks of kindness upon them. For instance, two years ago a group of American pilgrims, who had come to Rome under the conduct of Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, obtained leave to visit the private gardens of the Vatican. The pilgrims, however, were not satisfied with this favor. They wanted, in addition, then and there to see the Pope. Cardinal Gibbons scribbled a few words in pencil on a card, which he sent to the Holy Father. But a few minutes elapsed before the Pope came down to the garden and

walked straight to the Cardinal, who tried to kiss the outstretched hand, on which gleamed the marvellous sapphire of the Pontifical ring. Pius X., anticipating and preventing His Emi nence's movement, opened wide his arms and gave a fraternal embrace to the Archbishop of Baltimore, subsequently entering upon a familiar talk with the American pilgrims, who gave him an enthusiastic ovation.

Coupled with this lovable good nature Pius X. possesses a very delicate sense of humor, of which I received a number of delightful instances in the course of my conversation with him. After putting a few questions to me on the organization of newspapers in France, he asked me if our journalists are gifted with as fruitful an imagination as certain of their colleagues.


"For, you know, the reporter who is short of news is a terrible man! not the Socialist Roman journalists, for instance, say that I had the most extraordinary and enormous meals served, and that my table recalled the table of Lucullus? However, those gentlemen had to yield to evidence. They watched the entrance to our kitchens, hoping to disCover in the provisions which are brought there day by day the dazzling confirmation of their allegations.

Well, in the end they were bound to admit that my succulent bills of fare were composed invariably of risotto and meat, meat and risotto"; and the Holy Father adds archly: "In point of fact, it was the memory of Lucullus that they calumniated."

At a certain moment I venture to put a few questions to him on the development of Catholicism in Germany. The subject is a delicate one, and I am anxious to employ words that say exactly what I mean to say and no I have selected them beforehand in my mind. But, alas! my lack of experience in speaking Ital


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"Why should I mind?" he asks. "After all, we say thee and thou to God in Latin!"

But the precious moments are flying. A chamberlain had discreetly entered the room and, kneeling in the attitude prescribed by tradition, reminds the Holy Father that there are others hoping for the honor of a presentation. Thereupon Pius X. rises from his chair, signs to us to stay where we are, and walks down the whole length of the library. Coming to a writing-desk which stands in a dark corner of the room, he takes a little key, stoops down to the floor, opens a drawer, fumbles in it for a second or two, and at last returns to us, holding in his hands a red case stamped with his

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After this kind thought, this charming act, our audience comes to an end. The pastoral hand adorned with the shining emerald of the Supreme Pontiffs is raised with a grave and spacious gesture to bless us, while we sink down on the threshold of the door. For the last time those clear eyes, those expressive and limpid eyes, whose penetrating brightness appears about to fathom the most sacred depths of our soul, envelop us in their living light. Then suddenly, the curtain drops. The vision had disap

peared. As I once more pass through the

proud and gloomy rooms on my way to the Scala di San Damaso, I am struck by the startling contrast between the austerity and intimacy of the papal study which I have just left and the sumptuousness of these magnificent antechambers. The august prisoner of an idea, who guides the destinies of Catholicism, has preserved amid the splendor of his prison-house the habits of his ecclesiastical life; from this point of view the Pope has remained the humble country parish priest. Rising at five o'clock, he is found by the dawn, as of yore, in his oratory, where every morning he says mass, served by his private secretary Monsignor Bressan. Then, after an early cup of coffee and milk, come reading and correspondence, followed by a short walk in the lonely garden. Receptions and audiences, the reading of reports, interrupted by a frugal meal at noon, fill up the monotony of the long, cloistered days. And, again as of yore, when the day is waning and the church bells ring the evening Angelus, Pius X., like the apostles before him, summons two of the faithful whom devotion or employment brings to the Vatican and speaks a kind word to them, thus literally fulfilling the precepts of St. Paul to become "all things to all men so that all may be gained over to Christ." Only these meetings, instead of being held, as in the time when the Pope ruled the diocese of Venice, on some piazzetta, some picturesque and popular square, are held nowadays in the loggie, to which Michael Angelo and Raphael have set a frame of undying beauty.

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