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in anticipation of the reigning Pope's death, and communications of the most avowed and open description were going on, apparently almost uninterruptedly, with the outside world. While roasted capons were being ostentatiously prodded by the examining probes of the custos of the Conclave at the turntables, where the dinners of the cardinals were with much ceremonial passed in to them, to ascertain that no letter or hidden message of any kind was concealed within them, we find it stated, as if it were completely a matter of course, that the Conclave suspended its operations while a reply was awaited from some Court or some ambassador who had been consulted as to such or such probabilities or possible solutions!
At one moment, towards the end of the Conclave, the chance of the austere and saintly Odeschalchi seemed a good one; and we hear of his adherents waiting the return of a messenger sent to France with the hope of securing the adherence of the French party! And Cardinal Bona, the ascetic monk, went about the Conclave speaking of Odeschalchi's exalted virtue, and declaring that the Holy Ghost at the end of so wearisome a conflict was about to conclude it once for all by an election of his own making, which would tend to the sure reformation so much needed in the Church—discourses, says the conclavist, which set so many tongues wagging about such a tendency, that the combined intentions which arose from them amounted to an exclusion for the proposed reforming Pope!
Gradually the ideas of the leaders of factions began to draw together towards Altieri as a-man to whom nobody had any special objection. Nobody, or nearly so—not quite. For we read that Barberini, who had now made up his mind to try for the election of Altieri, showed Cardinal Pio one day a paper on which was written the name of Altieri. Whereupon Pio, having cast his eyes on the paper, did not give him time to add a word, but told him at once that "he had had a long litigation with that person in the court of the Eota, that the Eminence whose name was written there had lost his cause, and that he (Pio) had made him pay the damages. So that your Eminence must excuse me I" "True!" said Barberini; "excuse me; I had forgotten it. Let us say no more about it." And it is notable, in accordance with a remark that has already been made, that the grounds on which Cardinal Pio states that he cannot vote for Altieri, and which Barberini at once accepts and considers to be quite as a matter of course unanswerable, are not that Pio, the winner of the cause, owes Altieri a grudge because of the lawsuit, but that he takes it so much for granted that Altieri owes him such a grudge on that account, that common prudence requires that he should do nothing towards putting into that man's hands the supreme power of the Papacy.
Chigi, who had entered the Conclave, in his own persuasion and in that of most others, both within and without the Conclave, the most likely man to have in effect the nomination of the new Pope, had become entirely convinced not only that such power was entirely out of his reach, but that he might be well content if he could succeed in averting the election of one whose elevation would be especially objectionable to him; and he was accordingly contented to accede to that of Altieri. Meanwhile one of those curious little accidents which often produced large results in the semi-obscurity and studied silence of the Conclave world, where the echo of a whisper in circulating through those mysterious corridors frequently did more than any loud-voiced announcement might have effected, reduced to nothing the chances of Odeschalchi, on whom just previously to the final decision of the Conclave the voices of the electors seemed to have been on the point of concentrating themselves. Cardinal Eazzi one evening, while he was under the hands of his barber, and was chatting the while with his conclavist, said, puzzling out the probabilities of the upshot in his own mind rather than intending to make an assertion, that Spinola would be the Pope. The conclavist soon betrayed what he conceived to have been a secret confided to him, and the statement very shortly came to Spinola's ears. He immediately rushed to Eazzi's cell and implored him "for heaven's sake not to place him in a discreditable position by attributing to him pretensions and expectations which he was far from entertaining, and which were wholly out of the question." Eazzi was taken aback, and, not knowing how to excuse himself, declared that what he had said was that "Odeschalchi would be the new Pope," making the statement in a way which led to the supposition that he was in the secret of the real wishes of the Spanish party. And this had contributed, at a period of the Conclave when all began to feel the necessity of putting an end to it, to recommend the election of Odeschalchi to many. But almost immediately afterwards there came a communication from the ambassador of Spain, bearing a strong remonstrance to the cardinals from the -King his master on their protracted delay, and urging them, laying aside the supposed wishes of any crowned head, to exercise their unquestioned right and elect independently any fit and proper person, adding that the King was the more scandalized at the delay from reports that had reached him to the effect that "a certain number of the cardinals, called the 1 squadrone,' would not consent to any election from motives of private interest."
The conclavist's account of the result of this communication is remarkable. "The Conclave became on a sudden a gathering of dumb men!" All talking and intriguing for this or that candidate ceased. The elders felt that the time was come when the business must be brought to a conclusion, and the younger men professed their readiness to follow the lead of their elders. At the same time reports came to the Conclave (how, we are not told; but the fact is mentioned in the most matter of course way possible, and it shows how great a farce the isolation theory had become) that there was a great outcry throughout Eomo against the election of Odeschalchi; and it is intimated that this was by no means without influence upon the purposes of the electors. So it appears, therefore, that not only were those shut up in Conclave aware of what was being thought and said in Eome, but that those outside the hermetically sealed Conclave walls were instructed—in a certain degree—of what was passing inside them.
Thus gradually Altieri became designated as the man against whom the least amount of objection could be found. One evening Altieri chanced to look in on Cardinal Eazzi in his cell, and the latter offered him some refreshment. Altieri drank a glass of water, and filled his glass again. Upon which Eazzi's conclavist ventured to caution his Eminence, remarking that the water he was drinking was exceedingly cold. Altieri replied that he was of robust constitution, and that icydrinks agreed with him; whereupon the conclavist took occasion to wish that such a constitution might give the world a long Papacy. Altieri left the cell, smiling, as was thought, significantly. The writer of the narrative, which has been preserved, however gives a different interpretation to the smile, believing that Altieri was far from expecting or desiring the Papacy. Unless indeed he deems the self-depreciatory speeches and papari nolo shrinking of the octogenarian, when the cardinals came to his cell to announce their resolution of electing him, to have been mere matter-of-course dissimulation and hypocrisy.
The thing was settled at last at a conference between Barberini and Chigi, while, according to the conclavist, a great many of the younger cardinals still thought that Odeschalchi was the man they were going to elect. Having, however, agreed on the course they were about to take, those two chiefs went round to their adherents, and it was understood that there was to be an "adoration" the next morning. It is remarkable, however, that even during that night and the few intervening hours before the "adoration" could take place, an extraordinary degree of secrecy seems to have been observed. Even though all, or nearly so, were told what was in