IN AND ABOUT THE VATICAN
It would be a very bold or very incompetent observer of the Roman situation who should venture upon a decided opinion of the relations of the monarchy and the papacy. You hear it said with intimations of special authority in the matter, that both king and pope are well content with the situation, and it is clearly explained how and why they are so; but I did not understand how or why at the moment of the explanation, or else I have now forgotten whatever was clear in it. I believe, however, it was to the effect that the pope willingly remained self-prisoned in the Vatican because, if he came out, he might not only invalidate a future claim upon the sovereign dignity which the Italian occupation had invaded, but he might incur risks from the more unfriendly extremists which would at least be very offensive. On his part, it was said that the king used the embarrassment occasioned by the pope's attitude as his own defence against the anti-Clericals, who otherwise would have urged him to far more hostile measures with the Church. The king and the pope were therefore not very real enemies, it was said by those who tried to believe themselves better informed than others.
To the passing or tarrying stranger the situation does not offer many dramatic aspects. When you are going to St. Peter's, if you will look up at the plain wall of the Vatican palace you will see two windows with their shutters open, and these are the windows of the rooms where Pius X. lives, a voluntary captive; the closed blinds are those of the rooms where Leo XIII. died, a voluntary captive. Whatever we think of the wisdom or the reason of the papal protest against the occupation of the States of the Church by the Italian people, these windows have their pathos. The pope immures himself in the Vatican and takes his walks in the Vatican gardens, whose beauty I could have envied him, if he had not been a prisoner, when I caught a glimpse of them one morning, with the high walls of their privet and laurel alleys blackening in the sun.
But otherwise the severest Protestant could not cherish so unkind a feeling toward the gentle priest whom all men speak well of for his piety and humility. It is a touching fact of his private life that his three maiden sisters, who wish to be as near him as they can, have their simple lodging over a shop for the sale of holy images in a street opening into the Piazza of St. Peter's. We all know that they are of a Venetian family neither rich nor great; their pride and joy is solely in him, as it well might be, and it is said that when they come to hear him in some high function at the Sistine Chapel their rapture of affection and devotion is as evident as it is sweet and touching.
Their relation to him is the supremely poetic fact of a situation which even one who knows of it merely by hearsay cannot refuse to feel. The tragical effect of the situation is in the straining and sundering of family ties among those who take one side or the other in the difference of the monarchy and papacy. I do not know how equally Roman society, in the large or the small sense, is divided into the Black of the Papists and the White of the Monarchists (for the mediaeval names of Neri and Bianchi are revived in the modern differences), but one cannot help hearing of instances in which their political and religious opinions part fathers and sons and mothers and daughters. These are promptly noted to the least-inquiring foreigner, and his imagination is kindled by the attribution of like variances to the members of the reigning family, who are reported respectively blacker and whiter if they are not as positively black or white as the nobles. Some of these are said to meet one another only in secret across the gulf that divides them openly; but how far the cleavage may descend among other classes I cannot venture to conjecture; I can only testify to some expressions of priest-hatred which might have shocked a hardier heretical substance than mine.