The Eternal City

The Eternal City

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Eternal City, by Hall Caine This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Eternal City Author: Hall Caine Release Date: November 7, 2006 [EBook #19732] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE ETERNAL CITY *** Produced by Roger Frank and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net "WHAT YOU SAID SHALL BE SACRED." ETERNAL CITY HALL CAINE By The Author of "The Christian," etc. "He looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God." GROSSET & DUNLAP Publishers :: New York C OPYRIGHT, 1901, 1902 BY HALL CAINE Popular Edition Published October, 1902 Table of Contents PROLOGUE PART ONE—THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE PART TWO—THE REPUBLIC OF MAN PART THREE—ROMA PART FOUR—DAVID ROSSI PART FIVE—THE PRIME MINISTER PART SIX—THE ROMAN OF ROME PART SEVEN—THE POPE PART EIGHT—THE KING PART NINE—THE PEOPLE 1 9 40 71 121 168 237 298 375 414 v PREFACE TO THIS EDITION Has a novelist a right to alter his novel after its publication, to condense it, to add to it, to modify or to heighten its situations, and otherwise so to change it that to all outward appearance it is practically a new book? I leave this point in literary ethics to the consideration of those whose business it is to discuss such questions, and content myself with telling the reader the history of the present story. About ten years ago I went to Russia with some idea (afterwards abandoned) of writing a book that should deal with the racial struggle which culminated in the eviction of the Jews from the holy cities of that country, and the scenes of tyrannical administration which I witnessed there made a painful and lasting impression on my mind. The sights of the day often followed me through the night, and after a more than usually terrible revelation of official cruelty, I had a dream of a Jewish woman who was induced to denounce her husband to the Russian police under a promise that they would spare his life, which they said he had forfeited as the leader of a revolutionary movement. The husband came to know who his betrayer had been, and he cursed his wife as his worst enemy. She pleaded on her knees that fear for his safety had been the only motive for her conduct, and he cursed her again. His cause was lost, his hopes were dead, his people were in despair, because the one being whom heaven had given him for his support had delivered him up to his enemies out of the weakness of her womanly love. I awoke in the morning with a vivid memory of this new version of the old story of Samson and Delilah, and on my return to England I wrote the draft of a play with the incident of husband and wife as the central situation. How from this germ came the novel which was published last year under the title of "The Eternal City" would be a long story to tell, a story of many personal experiences, of reading, of travel, of meetings in various countries with statesmen, priests, diplomats, police authorities, labour leaders, nihilists and anarchists, and of the consequent growth of my own political and religious convictions; but it will not be difficult to see where and in what way time and thought had little by little overlaid the humanities of the early sketch with many extra interests. That these interests were of the essence, clothing, and not crushing the human motive, I trust I may continue to believe, and certainly I have no reason to be dissatisfied with the reception of my book at the hands of that wide circle of general readers who care less for a contribution to a great social propaganda than for a simple tale of love. But when the time came to return to my first draft of a play, the tale of love was the only thing to consider, and being now on the point of producing the drama in England, America, and elsewhere, and requested to prepare an edition of my story for the use of the audiences at the theatre, I have thought myself justified in eliminating the politics and religion from my book, leaving nothing but the human interests with which alone the drama is allowed to deal. This has not been an easy thing to do, and now that it is done I am by no means sure that I may not have alienated the friends whom the abstract problems won for me without conciliating the readers who called for the story only. But not to turn my back on the work of three laborious years, or to discredit that part of it which expressed, however imperfectly, my sympathy with the struggles of the poor, and my participation in the social problems with which the world is now astir, I have obtained the promise of my publisher that the original version of "The Eternal City" shall be kept in print as long as the public calls for it. In this form of my book, the aim has been to rely solely on the humanities and to go back to the simple story of the woman who denounced her husband in order vi to save his life. That was the theme of the draft which was the original basis of my novel, it is the central incident of the drama which is about to be produced in New York, and the present abbreviated version of the story is intended to follow the lines of the play in all essential particulars down to the end of the last chapter but one. H. C. ISLE OF MAN, Sept. 1902. THE ETERNAL CITY PROLOGUE I He was hardly fit to figure in the great review of life. A boy of ten or twelve, in tattered clothes, with an accordion in a case swung over one shoulder like a sack, and under the other arm a wooden cage containing a grey squirrel. It was a December night in London, and the Southern lad had nothing to shelter his little body from the Northern cold but his short velveteen jacket, red waistcoat, and knickerbockers. He was going home after a long day in Chelsea, and, conscious of something fantastic in his appearance, and of doubtful legality in his calling, he was dipping into side streets in order to escape the laughter of the London boys and the attentions of policemen. Coming to the Italian quarter in Soho, he stopped at the door of a shop to see the time. It was eight o'clock. There was an hour to wait before he would be allowed to go indoors. The shop was a baker's, and the window was full of cakes and confectionery. From an iron grid on the pavement there came the warm breath of the oven underground, the red glow of the fire, and the scythelike swish of the long shovels. The boy blocked the squirrel under his armpit, dived into his pocket, and brought out some copper coins and counted them. There was ninepence. Ninepence was the sum he had to take home every night, and there was not a halfpenny to spare. He knew that perfectly before he began to count, but his appetite had tempted him to try again if his arithmetic was not at fault. The air grew warmer, and it began to snow. At first it was a fine sprinkle that made a snow-mist, and adhered wherever it fell. The traffic speedily became less, and things looked big in the thick air. The boy was wandering aimlessly through the streets, waiting for nine o'clock. When he thought the hour was near, he realised that he had lost his way. He screwed up his eyes to see if he knew the houses and shops and signs, but everything seemed strange. The snow snowed on, and now it fell in large, corkscrew flakes. The boy brushed them from his face, but at the next moment they blinded him again. The few persons still in the streets loomed up on him out of the darkness, and passed in a moment like gigantic shadows. He tried to ask his way, but nobody 1 2 would stand long enough to listen. One man who was putting up his shutters shouted some answer that was lost in the drumlike rumble of all voices in the falling snow. The boy came up to a big porch with four pillars, and stepped in to rest and reflect. The long tunnels of smoking lights which had receded down the streets were not to be seen from there, and so he knew that he was in a square. It would be Soho Square, but whether he was on the south or east of it he could not tell, and consequently he was at a loss to know which way to turn. A great silence had fallen over everything, and only the sobbing nostrils of the cabhorses seemed to be audible in the hollow air. He was very cold. The snow had got into his shoes, and through the rents in his cross-gartered stockings. His red waistcoat wanted buttons, and he could feel that his shirt was wet. He tried to shake the snow off by stamping, but it clung to his velveteens. His numbed fingers could scarcely hold the cage, which was also full of snow. By the light coming from a fanlight over the door in the porch he looked at his squirrel. The little thing was trembling pitifully in its icy bed, and he took it out and breathed on it to warm it, and then put it in his bosom. The sound of a child's voice laughing and singing came to him from within the house, muffled by the walls and the door. Across the white vapour cast outward from the fanlight he could see nothing but the crystal snowflakes falling wearily. He grew dizzy, and sat down by one of the pillars. After a while a shiver passed along his spine, and then he became warm and felt sleepy. A church clock struck nine, and he started up with a guilty feeling, but his limbs were stiff and he sank back again, blew two or three breaths on to the squirrel inside his waistcoat, and fell into a doze. As he dropped off into unconsciousness he seemed to see the big, cheerless house, almost destitute of furniture, where he lived with thirty or forty other boys. They trooped in with their organs and accordions, counted out their coppers to a man with a clipped moustache, who was blowing whiffs of smoke from a long, black cigar, with a straw through it, and then sat down on forms to eat their plates of macaroni and cheese. The man was not in good temper to-night, and he was shouting at some who were coming in late and at others who were sharing their supper with the squirrels that nestled in their bosoms, or the monkeys, in red jacket and fez, that perched upon their shoulders. The boy was perfectly unconscious by this time, and the child within the house was singing away as if her little breast was a cage of song-birds. As the church clock struck nine a class of Italian lads in an upper room in Old Compton Street was breaking up for the night, and the teacher, looking out of the window, said: "While we have been telling the story of the great road to our country a snowstorm has come, and we shall have enough to do to find our road home." The lads laughed by way of answer, and cried: "Good-night, doctor." "Good-night, boys, and God bless you," said the teacher. He was an elderly man, with a noble forehead and a long beard. His face, a sad one, was lighted up by a feeble smile; his voice was soft, and his manner gentle. When the boys were gone he swung over his shoulders a black cloak 3 with a red lining, and followed them into the street. He had not gone far into the snowy haze before he began to realise that his playful warning had not been amiss. "Well, well," he thought, "only a few steps, and yet so difficult to find." He found the right turnings at last, and coming to the porch of his house in Soho Square, he almost trod on a little black and white object lying huddled at the base of one of the pillars. "A boy," he thought, "sleeping out on a night like this! Come, come," he said severely, "this is wrong," and he shook the little fellow to waken him. The boy did not answer, but he began to mutter in a sleepy monotone, "Don't hit me, sir. It was snow. I'll not come home late again. Ninepence, sir, and Jinny is so cold." The man paused a moment, then turned to the door rang the bell sharply. 4 II Half-an-hour later the little musician was lying on a couch in the doctor's surgery, a cheerful room with a fire and a soft lamp under a shade. He was still unconscious, but his damp clothes had been taken off and he was wrapped in blankets. The doctor sat at the boy's head and moistened his lips with brandy, while a good woman, with the face of a saint, knelt at the end of the couch and rubbed his little feet and legs. After a little while there was a perceptible quivering of the eyelids and twitching of the mouth. "He is coming to, mother," said the doctor. "At last," said his wife. The boy moaned and opened his eyes, the big helpless eyes of childhood, black as a sloe, and with long black lashes. He looked at the fire, the lamp, the carpet, the blankets, the figures at either end of the couch, and with a smothered cry he raised himself as though thinking to escape. "Carino!" said the doctor, smoothing the boy's curly hair. "Lie still a little longer." The voice was like a caress, and the boy sank back. But presently he raised himself again, and gazed around the room as if looking for something. The good mother understood him perfectly, and from a chair on which his clothes were lying she picked up his little grey squirrel. It was frozen stiff with the cold and now quite dead, but he grasped it tightly and kissed it passionately, while big teardrops rolled on to his cheeks. "Carino!" said the doctor again, taking the dead squirrel away, and after a while the boy lay quiet and was comforted. "Italiano—si?" "Si, Signore." "From which province?" "Campagna Romana, Signore." "Where does he say he comes from, doctor?" "From the country district outside Rome. And now you are living at Maccari's in Greek Street—isn't that so?" "Yes, sir." "How long have you been in England—one year, two years?" "Two years and a half, sir." "And what is your name, my son?" "David Leone." "A beautiful name, carino! David Le-o-ne," repeated the doctor, smoothing the curly hair. "A beautiful boy, too! What will you do with him, doctor?" "Keep him here to-night at all events, and to-morrow we'll see if some institution will not receive him. David Leone! Where have I heard that name before, I wonder? Your father is a farmer?" But the boy's face had clouded like a mirror that has been breathed upon, and he made no answer. "Isn't your father a farmer in the Campagna Romana, David?" "I have no father," said the boy. "Carino! But your mother is alive—yes?" "I have no mother." "Caro mio! Caro mio! You shall not go to the institution to-morrow, my son," said the doctor, and then the mirror cleared in a moment as if the sun had shone on it. "Listen, father!" Two little feet were drumming on the floor above. "Baby hasn't gone to bed yet. She wouldn't sleep until she had seen the boy, and I had to promise she might come down presently." "Let her come down now," said the doctor. The boy was supping a basin of broth when the door burst open with a bang, and like a tiny cascade which leaps and bubbles in the sunlight, a little maid of three, with violet eyes, golden complexion, and glossy black hair, came bounding into the room. She was trailing behind her a train of white nightdress, hobbling on the portion in front, and carrying under her arm a cat, which, being held out by the neck, was coiling its body and kicking its legs like a rabbit. But having entered with so fearless a front, the little woman drew up suddenly at sight of the boy, and, entrenching herself behind the doctor, began to swing 5 by his coat-tails, and to take furtive glances at the stranger in silence and aloofness. "Bless their hearts! what funny things they are, to be sure," said the mother. "Somebody seems to have been telling her she might have a brother some day, and when nurse said to Susanna, 'The doctor has brought a boy home with him to-night,' nothing was so sure as that this was the brother they had promised her, and yet now ... Roma, you silly child, why don't you come and speak to the poor boy who was nearly frozen to death in the snow?" But Roma's privateering fingers were now deep in her father's pocket, in search of a specimen of the sugar-stick which seemed to live and grow there. She found two sugar-sticks this time, and sight of a second suggested a bold adventure. Sidling up toward the couch, but still holding on to the doctor's coattails, like a craft that swings to anchor, she tossed one of the sugar-sticks on to the floor at the boy's side. The boy smiled and picked it up, and this being taken for sufficient masculine response, the little daughter of Eve proceeded to proper overtures. "Oo a boy?" The boy smiled again and assented. "Oo me brodder?" The boy's smile paled perceptibly. "Oo lub me?" The tide in the boy's eyes was rising rapidly. "Oo lub me eber and eber?" The tears were gathering fast, when the doctor, smoothing the boy's dark curls again, said: "You have a little sister of your own far away in the Campagna Romana—yes?" "No, sir." "Perhaps it's a brother?" "I ... I have nobody," said the boy, and his voice broke on the last word with a thud. "You shall not go to the institution at all, David," said the doctor softly. "Doctor Roselli!" exclaimed his wife. But something in the doctor's face smote her instantly and she said no more. "Time for bed, baby." But baby had many excuses. There were the sugar-sticks, and the pussy, and the boy-brother, and finally her prayers to say. "Say them here, then, sweetheart," said her mother, and with her cat pinned up again under one arm and the sugar-stick held under the other, kneeling face to the fire, but screwing her half-closed eyes at intervals in the direction of the 6 7 couch, the little maid put her little waif-and-stray hands together and said: "Our Fader oo art in Heben, alud be dy name. Dy kingum tum. Dy will be done on eard as it is in Heben. Gib us dis day our dayey bread, and forgib us our trelspasses as we forgib dem dat trelspass ayenst us. And lee us not into temstashuns, but deliber us from ebil ... for eber and eber. Amen." The house in Soho Square was perfectly silent an hour afterward. In the surgery the lamp was turned down, the cat was winking and yawning at the fire, and the doctor sat in a chair in front of the fading glow and listened to the measured breathing of the boy behind him. It dropped at length, like a pendulum that is about to stop, into the noiseless beat of innocent sleep, and then the good man got up and looked down at the little head on the pillow. Even with the eyes closed it was a beautiful face; one of the type which great painters have loved to paint for their saints and angels—sweet, soft, wise, and wistful. And where did it come from? From the Campagna Romana, a scene of poverty, of squalor, of fever, and of death! The doctor thought of his own little daughter, whose life had been a long holiday, and then of the boy whose days had been an unbroken bondage. "Yet who knows but in the rough chance of life our little Roma may not some day ... God forbid!" The boy moved in his sleep and laughed the laugh of a dream that is like the sound of a breeze in soft summer grass, and it broke the thread of painful reverie. "Poor little man! he has forgotten all his troubles." Perhaps he was back in his sunny Italy by this time, among the vines and the oranges and the flowers, running barefoot with other children on the dazzling whiteness of the roads!... Perhaps his mother in heaven was praying her heart out to the Blessed Virgin to watch over her fatherless darling cast adrift upon the world! The train of thought was interrupted by voices in the street, and the doctor drew the curtain of the window aside and looked out. The snow had ceased to fall, and the moon was shining; the leafless trees were casting their delicate black shadows on the whitened ground, and the yellow light of a lantern on the opposite angle of the square showed where a group of lads were singing a Christmas carol. "While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, The angel of the Lord came down, and glory shone around." Doctor Roselli closed the curtain, put out the lamp, touched with his lips the forehead of the sleeping boy, and went to bed. 8 PART ONE—THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE 9