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Montecitorio; he went to see Rome. He judged the façade of St. Peter's small and low; he roamed about the vast church unimpressed and bored. He went to the Colosseum and found it deserted save for a pair of lovers. Sangiorgio despised lovers. He gave up sight-seeing in disgust. Ambition
was all he cared for. The opening day at last drew near. Here occurs an amusing description of a glove-shop where it is customary for all the provincial deputies to go to provide themselves with gloves and cravats for the occasion. Everybody talks about his own affairs, as Italians are apt to do, and a flow of petty gossip pervades the little shop, to which Sangiorgio also has resorted to get the needful outfit for the opening day, when all appear in .evening dress though the ceremony takes place by day. The description of this opening is picturesque and graphic; Matilde Serao has few rivals in this style of writing. Many well-known names are introduced:
The whole chamber looked like some great sacred enclosure which annihilates the individual, an enclosure which dominated the intelligence, the will, the character, where to be some one it requires a profound, fervid, mystic ardor, or else that audacity of sacrilege which overthrows the altar. The altar seemed adumbrated
by the royal canopy, it seemed as though boundless power were hidden there. The king, an eminently military figure, thin, straight, robust, holding in his hand the manuscript of his speech,-looked like one of those old pictures of princes who were generals, with full, clear eyes and bare face, who grasp in their hands the maps of fortifications. He read his speech in a rough, hoarse voice, making strange breaks in his sentences. The queen in her tribune listened earnestly, all the assembly listened, now and then there was applause. Then followed the taking of the oaths. The minister of the day was Depretis; Sangiorgio, when his turn came, swore in a choked voice which could be heard by none.
He was now launched on his career as deputy, and his next step was to seek an apartment. He took a dull, illfurnished lodging in a dull, dark street. Visions of women had come to trouble
his head since he came to Rome, and he purposely chose a house where there were none. He preferred the company of men, the life of politics and ambition. He made acquaintances: one of them, Giustini, drawn, it is said, from Ferdinando Martini, is very clever, sarcastic, and cynical. Giustini initiates Sangiorgio into the back-stairs secrets of public life; he rubs the bloom off many of Sangiorgio's illusions. Thus, speaking of popular demonstrations. Giustini says that to believe in demonstrations like the one they are now witnessing one must be either twenty or sixty, either a child or a dotard. He rails at Parliament as a mass of chatterboxes. He, Giustini, feels that Sangiorgio has power in him, and talks to him as one who is worth attention. The above conversation takes place on the Pincio, and Giustini points out to the provincial the ladies returning from the promenade. Among them is the lady of the railway-station. This lady, says Giustini, is virtuous, but whether from calculation, from hypocrisy, or from coldness of temperaHer name is ment, who shall say. Angelica; she is the wife of Don Silvio Vargas, the minister of fine arts. There comes by another woman, who asks Giustini to present Sangiorgio to her; she is Countess Elena Fiammenti. She asks the new deputy to her house, and tells him he may smoke there, that she sings well, and that he will find no other woman. The splendid view of Rome that the Pincio hill presents gives Giustini an occasion to sum up for the new-comer's benefit his views concerning the modern aspect of the Eternal City. He begins with the Vatican that faces them, with its cupola of St. Peter's, and its huge, many-chambered dwelling-house; he launches out tirade of the on the theme
in a Papacy:
That is the Vatican: the pope lives in there; he is seventy, he is frail, he suffers, death has his hand on him; what matters? He is strong. I do not believe in God, Onorevole, but he has on his side the unhappy, the foolish, the humble, the young, the women, those women who transmit
from mother to daughter, not religion, perhaps, but cultus. Do you think they sleep down there by the river bank, in that great place where Michelangelo painted? This is the Vatican, a whole colossal idea, that is served by, from which spreads out, a population of cardinals, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, seminarists, clerks, and they not only pray, officiate, and sing, but they are in the houses, they penetrate into the families, they teach in the schools, they love, hate, enjoy, live for themselves and their own interests, for the Church and for the pope. Who can measure their strength or the extent of their power? I do not speak of faith, nor do I wish to glorify religion. That strange child's tale has done its work, but the human interest lives and multiplies. We pass side by side of this great ferment and are not aware of it. We live near a great mystery which is agitating in the dark and are not cognizant of its existence. And that great, seething caldron of Montecitorio, which we cannot see from here because it is suffocated amid the houses while we suffocate in it, what is it but a papier-maché oven where all sorts of things and people are baked into feverheat, where men are cooked like dry beans, burnt up by limitless desire, consumed by the emptiness of their own ideals? As to the impiegati (officials barbarians Giustini calls them they are nearly all Piedmontese, and in Italy the South despises the North, as the North in its turn gibes at the South), who live their poor hard lives and despise Rome because they do not understand it, who are themselves happy in their houses and abuse the government, their servants, Rome, the butcher, like miserable obtuse barbarians as they are, what of them? And the Romans, the real Romans, of the Rione Monti and the Rione Trevi, who put the adjective "Romano" after their names as a title of nobility, who eat gnocchi on Thursday, tripe on Saturday, and lamb always, who love white wine and the fireworks at Castel Sant' Angelo, who boast of the acqua marcia and placidly allow the black-beetles to overrun their old houses, these sceptical, sharp, indifferent Romans who make ex
cellent husbands and affectionate lovers, they are not sleeping.
All these make
up a whole so complicated, a machine so delicate in its working, that the thought of it terrifies him as though it were an infernal machine.
This Rome, Giustini tells Sangiorgio, gives herself to none; she must be conquered:
"Her strength, her power, her altitude is in a virtue almost divine-namely, indifference. You struggle, cry, howl, burn your house and your books, dance at the stake, she takes no notice of it all. It is the city to which all come, where everything has happened; what does she care about you, imperceptible atoms that vanish so quickly? She is indifferent, she is the great cosmopolitan city, that has this character of universality, that she knows everything because she has seen everything. Indifference, imperturbable serenity, a deaf soul, the woman who knows not how to love. It is the spiritual sirocco, the
luke-warm and uniform temperature will, and causes in you every now and then which blunts your nerves, weakens your great internal rebellions and great despondency. Yet there must be some one that overcomes this indifference. There or something that troubles this serenity, is absolute need of some one who will conquer Rome; be it only for ten years, for one year, for a month, but conquer her, take her, revenge all those who have died, all those who have fallen, all the weak ones who have touched her walls without having been able to surmount them. Oh, that one must have a heart of bronze, a rigid and inflexible will; he must be young, strong, robust, and daring, without ties, without weaknesses; he must concentrate himself with depth and intensity in this sole idea of conquest. Some one must conquer her, this. superb Rome."
"I will," said Francesco Sangiorgio.
This overweening self-esteem of Sangiorgio, which is very characteristic of his nationality, makes him unable to doubt that he, too, could fail where others before him have suffered shipwreck. For a moment it seems as though fortune seconded his ambition; chance enables him to make a hit with his maiden speech in Parliament. His theme was the state of the provinces of the South, for which he claimed the just treatment, the interest they had never yet obtained. The Camera was excited and touched. Sangiorgio's career had begun. There now follows
one of the most characteristic scenes and bits of word-painting in the book,
a description of that curious locality, which exists on the ground-floor of the Italian Parliament House, where collect daily all those who have or think they have claims upon the various deputies. The scene, to those who may have witnessed it (as happened once by accident to the present writer, who, coming to attend a sitting of the Italian Parliament, missed the right door), is one not easily forgotten, and recalls the spectacle that must have been witnessed in ancient Rome when the clients gathered round their patron in the Forum and in the street. Indeed there
is direct hereditary affinity between
that state of affairs and this:
Every moment the glass door of the ground-floor room at No. 9 Via della Missione opened to admit another person. Those who were already in the room, seated on the benches or standing about, cast hostile glances at the new-comer; with him there entered an icy gust of the tramontana. The one who hurriedly and shiveringly came in went straight to the long table which divided the ground-floor room in two, took a small ticket and wrote on it his own name and that of the
deputy whom he wished to see, and like him there were always five or six writing on little tickets. On the other side of the table, the ushers, in uniform, their breasts covered with medals, a tricolor band on their arms, with bald heads and hoary heads, came and went, carrying way those tickets five at a time, disappearing through a door which, by means of certain corridors, gave access to the Aula. The man who had sent off his request began to walk contentedly up and down, or if there was room he took a seat, without impatience, even with a certain presumptuous security. The sacred door opened and an usher reappeared with a number of tickets in his hand; all the heads were raised and the ears on the alert.
"Yet he ought to be here," grumbled the other.
"Who asked for the Honorable Sambucetto?"
"I did," answered a young man with a sallow face and a shabby overcoat with the collar turned up.
"He is here, but he cannot come."
"Why cannot he come?" demanded the young man in an insolent tone, turning almost livid.
"He wrote nothing else, only that he cannot come."
The young man mingled with the people who filled the room, but he did not go away. He remained there, angry, grumbling, with his hat pulled down over
his eyes, and a look of discontent that was but little promising. Moreover, the faces of the people who walked to and fro impatiently in that room or sat on the benches along the walls all bore an expression of sadness, weariness, of repressed suffering. It was like the waiting-room of a famous doctor, where, coming one after another, the invalids congregate, awaiting their turns, each gazing round with the vague eyes of one who is no longer interested in anything, with thoughts always directed towards his own infirmities. And as in that gloomy anteroom, which no one who has visited it once either for himself or for any one beloved can ever forget, so in this room there were met together all the evils which torment the poor human frame. . . . Thus in that cold room were
gathered together all the moral miseries of humanity, forgetful of everything but their own troubles. There was the youth who had taught in the elementary schools without having a certificate, now come to Rome to find some employment or other, and after having wandered round for a month in vain, timidly, had ended by applying for a situation as servant, which had been refused him because his mien was but little servile; the ex-employé of the Banco di Napoli or Banco di Sicilia, who was thrown into destitution for malpractices twelve years ago under the party "Who asked for the Honorable Parodi?" of the Right, and now wished to be reincried the usher.
stated in the progressionist party he has
"I did," replied a voice from amongst always served faithfully; the manufacthe waiting crowd.
"He is not here."
turer who had dabbled in hazardous speculations, who had to pay a heavy fine "Have you looked carefully?" insisted to the Treasury because he had not registhe voice, which belonged to an old man tered a contract, and hopes by the interwith a bottle nose and thick and purple vention of the minister to be absolved lips. from paying the required compensation; "The Honorable Parodi is not here," the widow of a pensioner, accompanied by repeated the usher, patiently.
a child whimpering with cold, who for ten
months has been begging for the charge of a lottery-office, renouncing her pension; the idler who can do everything and is good for nothing, who insists on having a position, no matter what it may be, on the pretext that because in the Chamber and amongst the ministers there are some who are such fools, he also ought to have a share in the land of plenty. And the
varieties of needs and necessities are infinite. Each one of these people has anger in his soul, an unsatisfied desire, a lively and tormenting illusion, a secret care, a bitterness of aspiration, a discontent; and on the face there corresponds a spasmodic contraction, a tightening of passionate lips, a dilation of nostrils which tremble at the nervous shock, a knitting of the brows which saddens the whole face, a convulsion of the hands which are tightly closed in the pockets of the overcoat, a melancholy twist in the feminine smile that descends from delusion. to delusion; and with it all a profound concentration, anoblivion of all the interests of others, a single thought, a fixed idea, for which they gaze at and meet and jostle each other, while it almost seems as though they neither heard nor saw each other. The floor of the room is dirty, fouled by feet which have traversed the mire of the streets, spit over by persons suffering from colds.
"Who asked for the Honorable Moraldi?" cried the usher.
"I," answered a loud and imposing voice that belonged to a big, stout man in a red comforter.
"He begs you to wait a little; the minister is just speaking." And the big man strutted about in uis warm overcoat, which described a very noticeable curve over his paunch. Several persons looked at him with envy, because his deputy had at least asked him to wait, whilst others pretended to be absent or sent curt, dry messages to say they could not come. The movement continued; those who had received a definite refusal remained there a while undecided, with pale faces, glancing at the door, scarcely finding the courage to go into the cold, then making up their minds to leave, with bent shoulders, slowly, without turning round again. For one who went out two or three came inthe room was never empty; the ushers came and went through that door, which seemed like the door of a tabernacle; the negative replies rained in.
"Who wants the Honorable Nicotera?" "I do," said a tall, thin man with a flesh
less neck, a face like a skeleton, and scanty, discolored hair.
"He is here, but he begs to excuse himself, he cannot come."
The man of fantastic leanness bent himself double like a caterpillar over the table, wrote another ticket, and gave it to another usher, who returned crying:
"Who asked for the Honorable Zanardelli ?"
"I did," answered that sibilant little voice.
"He is here, but the minister is speaking and he cannot come."
The spectre wrote again, without losing patience. But a deputy, more compliant than the others, had come at the call of the one who wanted him, greeting him with a certain eager haste and taking him into the next room, where the conversations between clients and deputies take place. In this room were three or four ladies, seated in the shadow, waiting, with their hands in their muffs. The deputy and the client walked up and down; the client talked with animation and gesticulation, and the honorable member listened to him with his eyes cast down, attentively, nodding his head every now and then in token of approval. In the first room the long waiting had wearied all these people. A lassitude physical and moral weighed upon them; the new delusion at the close of the day destroyed their strength; some of them leaned against the wall; the widow's child had fallen asleep upon her knee, and silence reigned. And true miseries or false miseries, the desires idle brains or the more fervent wishes of industrious souls, necessities into misfortunes, inordinate ambitions, bitions modest and small, fantastic ideas which vice had thrown them or unmerited of unstrung nerves, the thirst for justice of obstinate madmen, all that secret human trouble borne in silence, confused into a sense of oppression, of melancholy, into a feeling of abandonment, into disconsolate regrets for having come there again to knock at that door which refused to open. Already the gas was burning brightly, but it fell upon faces discomposed, prostrated, immovable as the dead. Three ushers came out of the door, one behind the other.
"Who asked for the Honorable Sella?" "Who asked for the Honorable Bomba?" "Who asked for the Honorable Crispi?" "I, I, I," answered the small voice of the skeleton man.
"The Honorable Sella cannot leave the back in his seat like a dead man. For, Aula.' in truth, Rome had conquered him."
"The Honorable Bomba is busy in the Aula."
"The Honorable Crispi is in the Budget Commission."
Calmly the skeleton being wrote another
ticket and handed it to an usher.
"Excuse me," observed this one, "we cannot call the ministers, and especially not the president of the Council."
"Why not?' asked the spectre in surprise.
"It is the rule."
Sangiorgio has got his foot upon the first rung of the ladder of success, he has now but to climb steadily to reach the top; but here, alas! he falls under the pernicious influence of woman. He has intrigues first with one married woman, the lady of the coupé, then with another, the wife of the minister of fine arts,―intrigues of the kind so familiar in French and Italian novels, and which reflect a common custom of the respective countries, distract his thoughts from public affairs, prevent him carrying out an order received to write a report on the state of the Basilicata, oblige him to fight a duel and to have a disagreeable scene with the minister. He has involved himself in debts also with house decorators and furnishers for the luxurious apartment he prepares for his illicit love; he has even borrowed sums from a bank in order to help on his amours, sums he can scarcely hope to repay; he is, in short, bankrupt actually and morally. He gives in his resignation, leaves the capital, and returns to his remote mountain village, a vanquished wouldbe conqueror. No more reserved carriages for him, no more first-class. A modest second-class compartment of the slow train carries him away from the scene of his would-be triumphs triumphs that might have been real could he have stuck to work, could he have resisted the Latin, all-devouring, all-blinding penchant for women and light loves. As he left the city behind him, "he gazed out of the window and beheld Rome, black, great, immense, upon her seven hills that sparkled with light; he withdrew his head and lay
"L'Onorevole" (the term corresponds to our M.P.) is yet another tale of a deputy who not only fails in public life, but is also financially ruined, thanks to his low and sordid personal ambition. The writer of the novel is Signor Achille Bizzoni, an old parliamentary reporter on the staff of the Secolo, well versed in all the intrigues and jobberies, the puerile faction tactics that are the form of politics which absorb too much of the time and energy of the Italian Parliament. He was also one of the newspaper writers, indeed the first, whom the luckless General Baratieri banished from the camp in Africa, because as war correspondent he was sending home an inkling of the true state of affairs, the suicidal folly of the whole campaign, the insufficient supplies, the general disorder and confusion that pervaded all these disastrous "L'Onorevole" operations. written with much bitterness, and hence, no doubt, with some exaggeration; but it is the bitterness an honest man and accurate observer cannot fail
to experience when watching how petty private aims and goals override all the higher duties and considerations of patriotism,—a patriotism, alas! such worlds asunder from the realm of polit cs pure and simple, a method that threatens to undo the noble work, threatens seriously to undermine the promising edifice reared by the patriots and martyrs of the Italian Risorgimento. This view is synthetized in the mouth of an ex-deputy, ex-patriot, Ruggieri, a friend of this Onorevole, who meets him at the Roman station and initiates him into his views of the current political life. He himself is given over to despair and drinking of absinthe, which, according to him, is the baschisch of the Westerners:
However, to you, happy man, I do not advise such heroic remedies. They are of no use except for us, veterans of a generation of diseased sentimentalism, sons of a century that commenced in 1859 and ended in 1870. Your twenty years save