With a free and noble demeanor, Braschi now approached the pope, who remained standing at some distance awaiting him, with a calm and proud self-possession. Braschi dropped upon one knee, and pressing the hem of the pope’s garment in his lips, said:
“Pardon me, most holy father, that I have ventured to seek you here. But my lively gratitude would not be longer restrained. It impelled me toward you with the wings of the wind. I must be the first to fall at your feet to stammer out to you my inexpressible thanks.”
Proudly nodding his head the pope motioned him to rise.
“It is well,” said he, “and you have lent your gratitude an abundance of words. It is true you were only treasurer, and I have permitted you to take a great step in making you a cardinal. But remember, my lord cardinal, that I have promoted you only because I wished to take from you the office of treasurer, as I need a man for that post whose honesty no one could call in question!”
Thus speaking he passed on with a ceremonious salutation, leaving the new cardinal rooted to the earth with terror, his beautiful brow distorted with rage.
“He shall expiate that,” muttered Braschi, gnashing his teeth, as the pope slowly pursued his way. “By the Eternal, the proud Franciscan shall expiate that! Ah, the day will come when he will fully remember these words!”
Meantime, Ganganelli wandered calmly on, followed by his faithful Lorenzo, with a smile of joy at this dismissal and humiliation of the proud and handsome Cardinal Braschi.
The pope suddenly stopped, and turning to Lorenzo said:
“What a strange thought has passed through my head! I have made this miserable coxcomb Braschi a cardinal because he was not honest enough for a treasurer, but in doing so I have paved the way for him to the papal throne! Would it not be strange, Lorenzo, if I have thus myself provided my successor? His dishonesty and intriguing disposition has made him a cardinal. Why can it not also make him a pope? The world is indeed so strange!"(*)
(*) Juan Angelo Braschi, whom Pope Clement XIV. made a cardinal, was in fact Ganganelli’s successor, and took possession of the papal chair as Pius VI. He was chosen after a very stormy conclave and indeed the different parties voted for him on the ground that he belonged to no party, and because they thought he was so very much occupied with his own beauty that he would think of nothing else, and, while occupied with the care of his face, would leave the cares of state to others.
“What dreams those are,” murmured Lorenzo, shrugging his shoulders; “the idea that a Braschi could be the successor of the noble Ganganelli!”