“But,” objected Gouache, “allowing, as one easily may, that all this is true, your Eminence is always called reactionary in politics. Does that accord with these views?”
Gouache believed the question unanswerable, but as he put it he worked calmly on with his pencil, labouring hard to catch something of the Cardinal’s striking expression in the rough drawing he was making.
“Nothing is easier, my friend,” replied the statesman. “The republic of the Church is driven to bay. We are on a war footing. For the sake of strength we are obliged to hold together so firmly that for the time we can only think of maintaining old traditions without dreaming of progress or spending time in experiments. When we have weathered the storm we shall have leisure for improving much that needs improvement. Do not think that if I am alive twenty years hence I shall advise what I advise now. We are fighting now, and we have no time to think of the arts of peace. We shall have peace some day. We shall lose an ornament or two from our garments in the struggle, but our body will not be injured, and in time of peace our ornaments will be restored to us fourfold. But now there is war and rumour of war. There is a vast difference between the ideal republic which I was speaking of, and the real anarchy and confusion which would be brought about by what is called republicanism.”
“In other words, if the attack upon the Church were suddenly abandoned, your Eminence would immediately abandon your reactionary policy,” said Gouache, “and adopt progressive views?”
“Immediately,” replied the Cardinal.
“I see,” said Gouache. “A little more towards me—just so that I can catch that eye. Thank you—that will do.”
When Del Ferice was thought sufficiently recovered of his wound to hear some of the news of the day, which was about three weeks after the duel, he learned that Astrardente was dead, that the Duchessa had inherited all his fortune, and that she was on the point of leaving Rome. It would be hard to say how the information of her approaching departure had got abroad; it might be merely a clever guess of the gossips, or it might be the report gleaned from her maid by all the other maids in town. Be that as it may, when Del Ferice