The cardinal hastily donned his official costume, and ordered his carriage for a visit to the Vatican.
Two men were walking up and down in the garden of the Quirinal, engaged in a lively discourse. One of them was an old man of more than sixty years. Long white locks waved about his forehead, falling like a halo on both sides of his cheeks. An infinite mildness and clearness looked out from his dreamy eyes, and a smile of infinite kindness played about his mouth, but so full of sorrow and resignation that it filled one’s heart with sadness and his eyes with tears. His tall herculean form was bent and shrunken; age had broken it, but could not take away that noble and dignified expression which distinguished that old man and involuntarily impelled every one to reverence and a sort of adoration. To his friends and admirers this old man seemed a super-terrestrial being, and often in their enthusiasm they called him their Saviour, the again-visible Son of God! The old man would smile at this, and say: “You are right in one respect, I am indeed a son of God, as you all are, but when you compare me with our Saviour, it can only be to the crucified. I am, indeed, a crucified person like Him, and have suffered many torments. But I have also overcome many.”
And, when so speaking, there lay in his face an almost celestial clearness and joyfulness, which would impel one involuntarily to bow down before him, had he not been, as he was, the vicegerent of God upon earth, the Pope Ganganelli.
The man who was now walking with him formed a singular contrast with the mild, reverence-commanding appearance of the pope. He was a man of forty, with a wild, glowing-red face, whose eyes flashed with malice and rage, whose mouth gave evidence of sensuality and barbarity, and whose form was more appropriate for a Vulcan than a prince of the Church. And yet he was such, as was manifested by his dress, by the great cardinal’s hat over his shoulder, and by the flashing cross of brilliants upon his breast. This cardinal was very well known, and whenever his name was mentioned it was with secret curses, with a sign of the cross, and a prayer to God for aid in avoiding him, the terror of Rome, the Cardinal Albani.
Sighing and reluctantly had the pope finally resolved to have the cardinal near his person, that he might attempt by mild and gentle persuasion to soften his stubborn disposition; but the cardinal had replied to all his gentle words only with a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders, with low murmured words, with a darkly clouded brow.
“It is in no one’s power to change and make a new being of himself,” he finally said, in a harsh tone, as the pope continued his exhortations and representations. “You, my blessed father, cannot convert yourself into a monster such as you describe me; and I, Cardinal Albani, cannot attain to the sublime godliness which we all admire in your holiness. Every one must walk in his own path, taking especial care not to disturb others in theirs.”