Since the day when that formidable fork glittered before his eyes, he has taken excessive precautions. His horses are broken to gallop furiously through the streets, at considerable public risk. Occasionally, his carriage knocks down and runs over a little boy or girl. With characteristic magnanimity, he sends the parents fifty crowns.
Antonelli has been compared to Mazarin. They have, in common, the fear of death, inordinate love of money, a strong family feeling, utter indifference to the people’s welfare, contempt for mankind, and some other accidental points of resemblance. They were born in the same mountains, or nearly so. One obtained the influence over a woman’s heart which the other possesses over the mind of an old man. Both governed unscrupulously, and both have merited and obtained the hatred of their contemporaries. They have talked French comically, without being insensible to any of the delicate niceties of the language.
Still there would be manifest injustice in placing them in the same rank. The selfish Mazarin dictated to Europe the treaties of Westphalia, and the Peace of the Pyrenees: he founded by diplomacy the greatness of Louis XIV., and managed the affairs of the French monarchy, without in any way neglecting his own.
Antonelli has made his fortune at the expense of the nation, the Pope, and the Church. Mazarin may be compared to a skilful but rascally tailor, who dresses his customers well, while he contrives to cabbage sundry yards of their cloth; Antonelli, to those Jews of the Middle Ages, who demolished the Coliseum for the sake of the old iron in the walls.
If the Pope were merely the head of the Roman Catholic Church; if, limiting his action to the interior of temples, he would renounce the sway over temporal matters about which he knows nothing, his countrymen of Rome, Ancona, and Bologna might govern themselves as people do in London or in Paris. The administration would be lay, the laws would be lay, the nation would provide for its own wants with its own revenues, as is the custom in all civilized countries.