“And besides,” continued the count, “our incognito is at an end. All Rome may now learn that I am here! Ah, Stephano, what a happy time awaits me! This Natalie is beautiful as an angel!”
“God grant that you may not fall in love with her!” sighed Stephano. “You are always very generous when you are in love.”
Two things principally occupied the Romans during the next weeks and months, offering them rich material for conversation. In talking of these they had forgotten all other events; they spoke no more of the giant fish which had destroyed the friendship of France and Spain; they no longer entertained each other with anecdotes in connection with the festival of Cardinal Bernis, at which the entree of that fish upon his long silver platter was hailed with shouts and vivats—yes, even that Russian princess, who had momentarily shown herself on the horizon of society, all these were quickly forgotten, and people now interested themselves only about the extirpation of the order of the Jesuits, which Pope Clement had now really effected, and of the arrival of the Russian ambassador-extraordinary, the famous Alexis Orloff, whose visit to Rome seemed the more important and significant as they well knew in what near and confidential relations his brother, Count Gregory Orloff, stood with the Empress Catharine, and what participation Alexis Orloff had in the sudden death of the Emperor Peter III.
The order of the Jesuits, then, no longer existed; the pious fathers of the order of Jesus were stricken out of the book of history; a word of power had annihilated them! With loud complaints and lamentations they filled the streets of the holy city, and if the prayer of humility and resignation resounded from their lips, yet there were very different prayers in their hearts, prayers of anger and rage, of hatred and revenge! They were seen wringing their hands and loudly lamenting, as they hastened to their friends and protectors, and besieged the doors of the foreign embassies. With them wept the poor and suffering people to whom the pious fathers had proved themselves benefactors. For, since they knew that their existence was threatened, they had assiduously devoted themselves to works of charity and mercy, and to strengthening, especially in Rome, their reputation for piety, benevolence, and generosity. Prodigious sums were by them distributed among the poor; more than five hundred respectable impoverished Romans, who had been accused of political offences, were secretly supported by them. In this way the Jesuits, against whom the cry of denunciation had been raised for years in all Europe, had nevertheless succeeded, at least in the holy city, in gaining for themselves a very considerable party, and thus securing protection and support in the time of misfortune and persecution. But while the people wept with them, and many cardinals and princes of the Church secretly