Unluckily for him, the time came when it answered the purpose of Antonelli to send him to the galleys. This great statesman had three objects to gain by such a course. Firstly, he would stop the mouth of diplomacy, and silence the foreign press, which both charged the Pope with tolerating an abuse. Secondly, he would humiliate one of those laymen who take the liberty to rise in the world without wearing violet hose. Lastly, he should be able to bestow Campana’s place upon one of his brothers, the worthy and interesting Filippo Antonelli.
He took a long time to mature his scheme, and laid his train silently and secretly. He is not a man to take any step inconsiderately. While Campana was going and coming, and giving dinners, and buying more statues, in blissful ignorance of the lowering storm, the Cardinal negotiated a loan at Rothschild’s, made arrangements to cover the deficit, and instructed the Procuratore Fiscale to draw up an indictment for peculation.
The accusation fell like a thunderbolt upon the poor Marquis. From his palace to his prison was but a step. As he entered there, he rubbed his eyes, and asked himself, ingenuously enough, whether this move was not all a horrible dream. He would have laughed at any one who had told him he was seriously in danger. He charged with peculation! Out upon it! Peculation meant the clandestine application by a public officer of public funds to his private profit: whereas he had taken nothing clandestinely, and was ruined root and branch. So he quietly occupied himself in his prison by writing sonnets, and when an artist came to pay him a visit, he gave him an order for a new work.
In spite of the eloquent defence made in his behalf by a young advocate, the tribunal condemned him to twenty years’ hard labour. At this rate, the Minister who had allowed him to borrow the money should certainly have been beheaded. But the lambs of the clergy don’t eat one another.
The advocate who had defended Campana was punished for having pleaded too eloquently, by being forbidden to practise in Court for three months.
You may imagine that this cruel sentence cast a stigma upon Campana. Not a bit of it. The people, who have often experienced his generosity, regard him as a martyr. The middle class despises him much less than it does many a yet unpunished functionary. His old friends of the nobility and of the Sacred College often shake him by the hand. I have known Cardinal Tosti, at once his gaoler and his friend, let him have the use of his private kitchen.
Condemnations are a dishonour only in countries where the judges are honoured. All the world knows that the pontifical magistrates are not instruments of justice, but tools of power.
If crimes against Heaven are those which the Church forgives the least, every man who is not even nominally a Catholic, is of course in the eyes of the Pope a rogue and a half.