And while the improvisatrice was thus speaking to herself, she had mechanically adorned her person with the brilliants, attaching the beautiful collar to her neck, the long pendants to her ears, and placing the splendid diadem upon her brow.
She looked exceedingly beautiful in these ornaments, and consequently rejoiced that her friend Cardinal Francesco Albani came at this precise moment.
“He will be ravished?” said she, with a smile, advancing to meet him with the proud and imposing dignity of a queen.
“You are beautiful as a goddess!” exclaimed the cardinal, “and whoever sees you thus has seen the protecting divinity of ancient Rome, the sublime Juno, queen of heaven!”
“Were I Juno, would you consent to be my Vulcan?” roguishly asked Corilla.
“No,” said Albani, laughing; “the noble Juno was not exactly true to her Vulcan, and I require a faithful love! Would you be that, Corilla?”
“We shall see,” said she, changing the arrangement of the diadem before the glass—“we shall see, my worthy friend. But forget not the conditions—first the laurel-crown!”
“You shall have it!” triumphantly responded the cardinal.
“Are you certain of that?” asked Corilla, with flashing eyes and glowing cheeks.
Cardinal Francesco Albani smiled mysteriously.
“Pope Ganganelli is ill,” said he, “and it is thought he will die!”
Groaning, supported by his faithful Lorenzo’s arm, Pope Ganganelli slowly moved through the walks of his garden. Some months had passed since the suppression of the order of the Jesuits—how had these few months changed poor Clement! Where was the peace and cheerfulness of his face, where was the sublime expression of his features, the firm and noble carriage of his body—where was it all?
Trembling, shattered, with distorted features, and with dull, half-closed eyes, crawled he about with groans, his brow wrinkled, his lips compressed by pain and inward sorrow.
No one dared to remain with him; he spoke to no one. But Lorenzo was yet sometimes able to drive away the clouds from his brow, and to recall a faint smile to his thin pale lips.
He had also to-day succeeded in this, and for the first time in several weeks had Ganganelli, yielding to his prayers, consented to a walk in the garden of the Quirinal.
“This air refreshes me,” said the pope, breathing more freely; “it seems as if it communicated to my lungs a renewed vital power and caused the blood to flow more rapidly in my veins. Lorenzo, this is a singularly fortunate day for me, and I will make the most of it. Come, we will repair to our Franciscan Place!”
“That is an admirable idea,” said Lorenzo, delighted. “If your holiness can reach it, you will recover your health, and all will again be well.”
Ganganelli sighed, and glanced toward heaven with a sad smile.