“And do you call that virtue?” asked the cardinal. “May Heaven preserve me from so cruel a virtue! Do you call it serving God when this virtue makes you the murderer of your beloved, and, more savage than a wild beast, deaf to the amorous complaints of a woman whom you had led into love and sin, whose virtue you sacrificed to your lust, and whom you afterward deserted because, as you say, God called to yourself, but really only, because satiated, you no longer desired her. Your faithfulness cunningly clothes itself in the mantle of godliness, nothing further. No, no, holy father of Christendom, I envy you not this virtue which has made you the murderer of God’s noblest work. That is a sacrilege committed in the holy temple of nature. Go your way, and think yourself great in your bloodthirsty, murderous virtue! You will not convert me to it. Let me still remain a sinner—it at least will not lead me to murder the woman I love, and provide for her torment and suffering, instead of the promised pleasure. Believe me, Corilla has never yet cursed me, nor have her fine eyes ever shed a tear of sorrow on my account. You have made your beloved an unwilling saint and martyr—possibly that may have been very sublime, and the angels may have wept or rejoiced over it. I have lavished upon my beloved ones nothing but earthly happiness. I have not made them saints, but only happy children of this world; and even when they have ceased to love me, they have always continued to call me their friend, and blessed me for making them rich and happy. You have set of crown of thorns upon the head of your beloved, I would bind a laurel-crown upon the beautiful brow of my Corilla, which will not wound her head, and will not cause her to die of grief. You are not willing to aid me in this, my work? You refuse me this laurel-wreath because you have only martyr-crowns to dispose of? Very well, holy father of Christendom, I will nevertheless compel you to comply with my wishes, and you shall have no peace in your holy city from my mad tricks until you promise me to crown the great improvisatrice in the capitol. Until then, addio, holy father of Christendom. You will not see me again in the Vatican or Quirinal, but all Rome shall ring with news of me!”
With a slight salutation, and without waiting for an answer from the pope, the cardinal departed with hasty steps, and soon his herculean form disappeared in the shadow of the pine and olive trees. But his loud and scornful laugh long resounded in the distance.
The pope followed his retreating form with a glance of sadness and a shake of the head.