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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesRienzi, Last Of The Roman Tribunes - Book 7. The Prison - Chapter 7.2. The Character Of A Warrior Priest...
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Rienzi, Last Of The Roman Tribunes - Book 7. The Prison - Chapter 7.2. The Character Of A Warrior Priest... Post by :Esther_Bowen Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3181

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Rienzi, Last Of The Roman Tribunes - Book 7. The Prison - Chapter 7.2. The Character Of A Warrior Priest...

Book VII. The Prison#Chapter 7.2. The Character Of A Warrior Priest--An Interview--The Intrigue And Counter-Intrigue Of Courts


Giles, (or Egidio, (Egidio is the proper Italian equivalent to the French name Gilles,--but the Cardinal is generally called, by the writers of that day, Gilio d'Albornoz.)) Cardinal d'Albornoz, was one of the most remarkable men of that remarkable time, so prodigal of genius. Boasting his descent from the royal houses of Aragon and Leon, he had early entered the church, and yet almost a youth, attained the archbishopric of Toledo. But no peaceful career, however brilliant, sufficed to his ambition. He could not content himself with the honours of the church, unless they were the honours of a church militant. In the war against the Moors, no Spaniard had more highly distinguished himself; and Alphonso XI. king of Castile, had insisted on receiving from the hand of the martial priest the badge of knighthood. After the death of Alphonso, who was strongly attached to him, Albornoz repaired to Avignon, and obtained from Clement VI. the cardinal's hat. With Innocent he continued in high favour, and now, constantly in the councils of the Pope, rumours of warlike preparation, under the banners of Albornoz, for the recovery of the papal dominions from the various tyrants that usurped them, were already circulated through the court. (It is a characteristic anecdote of this bold Churchman, that Urban V. one day demanded an account of the sums spent in his military expedition against the Italian tyrants. The Cardinal presented to the Pope a wagon, filled with the keys of the cities and fortresses he had taken. "This is my account," said he; "you perceive how I have invested your money." The Pope embraced him, and gave him no further trouble about his accounts.) Bold, sagacious, enterprising, and cold-hearted,--with the valour of the knight, and the cunning of the priest,--such was the character of Giles, Cardinal d'Albornoz.

Leaving his attendant gentlemen in the antechamber, Albornoz was ushered into the apartment of the Signora Cesarini. In person, the Cardinal was about the middle height; the dark complexion of Spain had faded by thought, and the wear of ambitious schemes, into a sallow but hardy hue; his brow was deeply furrowed, and though not yet passed the prime of life, Albornoz might seem to have entered age, but for the firmness of his step, the slender elasticity of his frame, and an eye which had acquired calmness and depth from thought, without losing any of the brilliancy of youth.

"Beautiful Signora," said the Cardinal, bending over the hand of the Cesarini with a grace which betokened more of the prince than of the priest; "the commands of his Holiness have detained me, I fear, beyond the hour in which you vouchsafed to appoint my homage, but my heart has been with you since we parted."

"The Cardinal d'Albornoz," replied the Signora, gently withdrawing her hand, and seating herself, "has so many demands on his time, from the duties of his rank and renown, that methinks to divert his attention for a few moments to less noble thoughts is a kind of treason to his fame."

"Ah, Lady," replied the Cardinal, "never was my ambition so nobly directed as it is now. And it were a prouder lot to be at thy feet than on the throne of St. Peter."

A momentary blush passed over the cheek of the Signora, yet it seemed the blush of indignation as much as of vanity; it was succeeded by an extreme paleness. She paused before she replied; and then fixing her large and haughty eyes on the enamoured Spaniard, she said, in a low voice,

"My Lord Cardinal, I do not affect to misunderstand your words; neither do I place them to the account of a general gallantry. I am vain enough to believe you imagine you speak truly when you say you love me."

"Imagine!" echoed the Spaniard.

"Listen to me," continued the Signora. "She whom the Cardinal Albornoz honours with his love has a right to demand of him its proofs. In the papal court, whose power like his?--I require you to exercise it for me."

"Speak, dearest Lady; have your estates been seized by the barbarians of these lawless times? Hath any dared to injure you? Lands and titles, are these thy wish?--my power is thy slave."

"Cardinal, no! there is one thing dearer to an Italian and a woman than wealth or station--it is revenge!"

The Cardinal drew back from the flashing eye that was bent upon him, but the spirit of her speech touched a congenial chord.

"There," said he, after a little hesitation, "there spake high descent. Revenge is the luxury of the well-born. Let serfs and churls forgive an injury. Proceed, Lady."

"Hast thou heard the last news from Rome?" asked the Signora.

"Surely," replied the Cardinal, in some surprise, "we were poor statesmen to be ignorant of the condition of the capital of the papal dominions; and my heart mourns for that unfortunate city. But wherefore wouldst thou question me of Rome?--thou art--"

"Roman! Know, my Lord, that I have a purpose in calling myself of Naples. To your discretion I intrust my secret--I am of Rome! Tell me of her state."

"Fairest one," returned the Cardinal, "I should have known that that brow and presence were not of the light Campania. My reason should have told me that they bore the stamp of the Empress of the World. The state of Rome," continued Albornoz, in a graver tone, "is briefly told. Thou knowest that after the fall of the able but insolent Rienzi, Pepin, count of Minorbino, (a creature of Montreal's) who had assisted in expelling him, would have betrayed Rome to Montreal,--but he was neither strong enough nor wise enough, and the Barons chased him as he had chased the Tribune. Some time afterwards a new demagogue, John Cerroni, was installed in the Capitol. He once more expelled the nobles; new revolutions ensued--the Barons were recalled. The weak successor of Rienzi summoned the people to arms--in vain: in terror and despair he abdicated his power, and left the city a prey to the interminable feuds of the Orsini, the Colonna, and the Savelli."

"Thus much I know, my Lord; but when his Holiness succeeded to the chair of Clement VI.--"

"Then," said Albornoz, and a slight frown darkened his sallow brow, "then came the blacker part of the history. Two senators were elected in concert by the Pope."

"Their names?"

"Bertoldo Orsini, and one of the Colonna. A few weeks afterwards, the high price of provisions stung the rascal stomachs of the mob--they rose, they clamoured, they armed, they besieged the Capitol--"

"Well, well," cried the Signora, clasping her hands, and betokening in every feature her interest in the narration.

"Colonna only escaped death by a vile disguise; Bertoldo Orsini was stoned."

"Stoned!--there fell one!"

"Yes, lady, one of a great house; the least drop of whose blood were worth an ocean of plebeian puddle. At present, all is disorder, misrule, anarchy, at Rome. The contests of the nobles shake the city to the centre; and prince and people, wearied of so many experiments to establish a government, have now no governor but the fear of the sword. Such, fair madam, is the state of Rome. Sigh not, it occupies now our care. It shall be remedied; and I, madam, may be the happy instrument of restoring peace to your native city."

"There is but one way of restoring peace to Rome," answered the Signora, abruptly, "and that is--The restoration of Rienzi!"

The Cardinal started. "Madam," said he, "do I hear aright?--are you not nobly born?--can you desire the rise of a plebeian? Did you not speak of revenge, and now you ask for mercy?"

"Lord Cardinal," said the beautiful Signora, earnestly, "I do not ask for mercy: such a word is not for the lips of one who demands justice. Nobly born I am--ay, and from a stock to whose long descent from the patricians of ancient Rome the high line of Aragon itself would be of yesterday. Nay, I would not offend you, Monsignore; your greatness is not borrowed from pedigrees and tombstones--your greatness is your own achieving: would you speak honestly, my Lord, you would own that you are proud only of your own laurels, and that, in your heart, you laugh at the stately fools who trick themselves out in the mouldering finery of the dead!"

"Muse! prophetess! you speak aright," said the high-spirited Cardinal, with unwonted energy; "and your voice is like that of the Fame I dreamed of in my youth. Speak on, speak ever!"

"Such," continued the Signora, "such as your pride, is the just pride of Rienzi. Proud that he is the workman of his own great renown. In such as the Tribune of Rome we acknowledge the founders of noble lineage. Ancestry makes not them--they make ancestry. Enough of this. I am of noble race, it is true; but my house, and those of many, have been crushed and broken beneath the yoke of the Orsini and Colonna--it is against them I desire revenge. But I am better than an Italian lady--I am a Roman woman--I weep tears of blood for the disorders of my unhappy country. I mourn that even you, my Lord,--yes, that a barbarian, however eminent and however great, should mourn for Rome. I desire to restore her fortunes."

"But Rienzi would only restore his own."

"Not so, my Lord Cardinal; not so. Ambitious and proud he may be--great souls are so--but he has never had one wish divorced from the welfare of Rome. But put aside all thought of his interests--it is not of these I speak. You desire to re-establish the papal power in Rome. Your senators have failed to do it. Demagogues fail--Rienzi alone can succeed; he alone can command the turbulent passions of the Barons--he alone can sway the capricious and fickle mob. Release, restore Rienzi, and through Rienzi the Pope regains Rome!"

The Cardinal did not answer for some moments. Buried as in a revery, he sate motionless, shading his face with his hand. Perhaps he secretly owned there was a wiser policy in the suggestions of the Signora than he cared openly to confess. Lifting his head, at length, from his bosom, he fixed his eyes upon the Signora's watchful countenance, and, with a forced smile, said,

"Pardon me, madam; but while we play the politicians, forget not that I am thy adorer. Sagacious may be thy counsels, yet wherefore are they urged? Why this anxious interest for Rienzi? If by releasing him the Church may gain an ally, am I sure that Giles d'Albornoz will not raise a rival?"

"My Lord," said the Signora, half rising, "you are my suitor; but your rank does not tempt me--your gold cannot buy. If you love me, I have a right to command your services to whatsoever task I would require--it is the law of chivalry. If ever I yield to the addresses of mortal lover, it will be to the man who restores to my native land her hero and her saviour."

"Fair patriot," said the Cardinal, "your words encourage my hope, yet they half damp my ambition; for fain would I desire that love and not service should alone give me the treasure that I ask. But hear me, sweet lady; you over-rate my power: I cannot deliver Rienzi--he is accused of rebellion, he is excommunicated for heresy. His acquittal rests with himself."

"You can procure his trial?"

"Perhaps, Lady."

"That is his acquittal. And a private audience of his Holiness?"

"Doubtless."

"That is his restoration! Behold all I ask!"

"And then, sweet Roman, it will be mine to ask," said the Cardinal, passionately, dropping on his knee, and taking the Signora's hand. For one moment, that proud lady felt that she was woman--she blushed, she trembled; but it was not (could the Cardinal have read that heart) with passion or with weakness; it was with terror and with shame. Passively she surrendered her hand to the Cardinal, who covered it with kisses.

"Thus inspired," said Albornoz, rising, "I will not doubt of success. Tomorrow I wait on thee again."

He pressed her hand to his heart--the lady felt it not. He sighed his farewell--she did not hear it. Lingeringly he gazed; and slowly he departed. But it was some moments before, recalled to herself, the Signora felt that she was alone.

"Alone!" she cried, half aloud, and with wild emphasis--"alone! Oh, what have I undergone--what have I said! Unfaithful, even in thought, to him! Oh, never! never! I, that have felt the kiss of his hallowing lips--that have slept on his kingly heart--I!--holy Mother, befriend and strengthen me!" she continued, as, weeping bitterly, she sunk upon her knees; and for some moments she was lost in prayer. Then, rising composed, but deadly pale, and with the tears rolling heavily down her cheeks, the Signora passed slowly to the casement; she threw it open, and bent forward; the air of the declining day came softly on her temples; it cooled, it mitigated, the fever that preyed within. Dark and huge before her frowned, in its gloomy shadow, the tower in which Rienzi was confined; she gazed at it long and wistfully, and then, turning away, drew from the folds of her robe a small and sharp dagger. "Let me save him for glory!" she murmured; "and this shall save me from dishonour!"

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