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1635 The Cannon Law: Chapter Twenty
Last updated: Thursday, May 25, 2006 19:23 EDT
Sharon had been in the Palazzo Barberini for less than an hour, and was already feeling under siege. Ruy had wandered off to discuss poetry with someone or otherSharon suspected that he almost certainly had the poor fellow completely confused by nowand she had been, well, mobbed was the only word for it, by every single one of the physicists, physicians, astronomers and in a couple of cases outright charlatans that His Eminence Cardinal Antonio Barberini seemed to have surrounded himself with.
Shed exchanged maybe ten words with the cardinal, a short, slightly pudgy, bright-eyed little fellow who, whatever his priestly vows, came off as gay as the eighteen-nineties. Which was some achievement for a man born in the early seventeenth century. Doubtless hed be around again later; it beggared belief that this invitation had turned up for no good reason after nearly three months of very polite cold shoulder from his uncle the pope. For now, though, she was having trouble keeping the names straight of the dozen or so guys who were literally hanging on her every word. Shed managed to get through a blow-by-blow account of the operation shed done on her fiancé, and made a list of the mistakes shed made for them to learn from.
That seemed to puzzle them. Shed read up on the way science operated in this time after the business with Galileo. Half of what would be peer-reviewed journals, in later times, was filled with outright bragging. That was a good part of the reason that scientific controversy reached the levels of venom that had got Galileo in trouble. Not that, judging from some of the stories her dad told about getting papers published, it was much different in the twentieth century. It was just that the backbiting and nastiness tended not to end up mixed in with the science.
So when she pointed out that her dad had explained that getting direct sunlight on Ruys innards was a bad idea, and that he’d listed a whole lot of other mistakes she’d made, they seemed to decide that as well as knowing a great deal more than they did, she was capable of saintly forbearance as well. As for the rest of it, she was trotting out high-school science, and they were hanging on every word.
That was what was so damn exhausting. Individually, they were charming, wouldnt let her move a muscle to call for more food or drink, and were solicitous of her every want and need. She just found it hard work to carry the entire load of the discussion, when what she really wanted was whatever gossip they had about Rome and its notables. On the other hand, she wished it was this easy to get people to listen elsewhere. Of course, elsewhere, she didnt usually have an audience that consisted entirely of the most forward-thinking minds in the neighborhood. Lots of other people considered themselves too hard-headed and practical to believe in something that they could neither see nor read about in the Bible. How Stoner got the results he did when he lectured, shed love to know. It wasnt like she said anything different. She supposed it was because where she was simply exotic, where Stoner was otherworldly to these people. There was the air of alien wizardry about him, which just seemed to establish confidence and credibility the way that the charlatans of alchemy and magic did.
As she was winding up an explanation of the difference between bacterial and viral infection, Cardinal Antonio Barberini finally returned.
Signori, he said, cutting in smoothly as Sharon wound down, you monopolize the dottoressa, for shame! He wagged a finger around at the assembled scientific talent of Rome. My salon is for the sciences and the arts, doctors. So let me show the dottoressa some of the finer things we have here, eh?
There were a few rueful grins and flowery apologies.
Really, she said, getting in to the spirit of the thing, it is no trouble at all. I wish every audience I had was this appreciative.
Barberinis grin was impish. And in some quarters, getting an audience at all would have been a help, perhaps?
Here it comes, she thought. She and Ruy had discussed the matter, and there had been a couple of hours of back-and-forth radio traffic with the State Department over it. No-one really had a clue why Barberini had invited her to her salon, except to manage the stunningly obvious conclusion that the Popes nephew was hardly likely to invite her over to the family palazzo for an afternoon of wine and chit-chat in learned company if there wasnt some deeper purpose. If it was purely for the sake of her scientific knowledge, entirely practical and rule-of-thumb by the standards of the twentieth century but cutting-edge theory here and now, why not earlier?
There had been some change, and she was probably about to find out what. Your Eminence need not worry, she said, uncomfortable at how stilted she sounded in the more formal Italian they used hereabouts. The doctors have been most kind, and I in turn have learned far more about their own fields of expertise than I have been pleased to help with from my own small knowledge.
Of course, that brought a round of flowery protests from the doctorswhy, their own arts were nearly mediaevalthe new learning far outstripped their ownthe dottoressa was a legend, and deservedly so. Polite fictions, all of it, and Sharon realized there was a huge difference between the way in which polite society functioned and the cut-and-thrust of scientific debate. The conversation shed had had up to now had been far more colloquial and informal, more near to what shed been used to back home. Earlier, they had, to their credit, been challenging what shed said and taken notes when shed described high-school lab experiments they could do to verify some of it. Not that they needed scientific method explained, though. That was familiar to all of these good Lyncaeans, in its practical terms if not as a formal methodology.
The flowery protests ran down, and Barberini beamed. Nevertheless, doctors, I shall claim the privilege of rank and steal the dottoressa away from you for a time. Doubtless you will seek to recapture her later, but for the time being let me show her that this symposium is not of natural philosophers alone?
Well, Sharon thought, its his party. And, truth to tell, she was dying of curiosity as well. She got to her feet. Thank you, Your Eminence,. I should like that very much, if only to repay your generosity as host in some small way.
Barberini offered her his arm. Let me show you around some of the things we have here, dottoressa. Doubtless you have heard the stories of Barberini peculation? Not waiting for her to acknowledge the reference to the principal charge against his familys tenure in the papacy, he added, with a sly smile, I should like to show you what it has bought.
I should like that very much indeed, Your Eminence, she said, and that was the plain truth. The place had more art about the place than any museum shed been in back in the up-time US, although her experience in that line hadnt been much. She wasnt a great connoisseur of art, really, but shed tried not to be a complete philistine. And Cardinal Mazzare had told her that the collection that this man had assembled was, in the twentieth-century Rome that Mazzare had worked in as a young priest, the nucleus of the Italian states national art collection, in a museum housed in this very palazzo. So she was getting a tour of one of Europes better art collections conducted by one of Europes leading patrons of the arts who was also, despite being only three or four years older than Sharon herself, recognized as one of the leading experts in the field as well.
Indeed, it soon became apparent the man was encyclopedic on just about everything in the place, and there were dozens of rooms packed with beautiful things. The rest of the salon was taking place in the huge hall on the ground floor that still looked a little bare. Apparently Cortona was due to begin work on it soon, although Sharon hadn’t a clue who he might be. But the Palazzo Barberini was a huge building with a dozen or more rooms on each floor and even the parts that were still under construction were breathtaking.
At length, she could resist no longer. Your Eminence, she said, I love what youve done with the place.
He creased up at that. Yes, it is a little overwhelming all in one go, isnt it? I confess, I am a thieving magpie.
He was looking at her expectantly, and she realized there was a reference she wasnt getting here. And there was no guarantee it was even one she could ask about. From what she’d heard, he’d had a lot brought from Grantville and there was every possibility he knew more about twentieth-century art and literature and music than she did. She decided to brush past it if she could. Who wouldnt be, if they could?
True. It does not stop my familys enemies upbraiding us for it. His face twisted up in a sour expression for a moment. Horseflies, they call us. Still, Cardinal Mazzare tells me that one day all this will edify the multitudes. He waved a hand around.
He told me that, as well, Sharon agreed. He said he found it strange to be staying here in what he last came to as a museum. She paused a moment to take in the profusion. The décor was remarkable in every detail, the themes varying from room to room in wild profusion without ever clashing, and almost completely hidden with every square inch covered in art and sculpture. You could, she realized, lose days in here. It was a wonder that this Barberini, whose enthusiasm seeped out of every pore, ever left the place.
As it was, he was ranging his eyes over the collection. Mazzare, he said, after a moment, is a man who is destined either for great things or to be remembered by history as the worst disaster ever to befall the Church.
How so? Sharon asked. The disaster part, that is.
It is… hard to explain, Barberini said, after another long stare at the paintings. I do not, you understand, pretend to understand all of the politics. Or the theology. Or how the two go together.
Sharon looked around, and realized that, for the first time since they had started on this little tour, they were alone. Barberini had stopped in a spot where, with only a little effort, easily covered as contemplation of the surrounding artwork, he could see for quite some distance into the adjoining rooms whose doors had been thrown open. They would not be easily overheard by anyone. After Barberinis pause had grown uncomfortably long, she said, I dont really understand all of it myself. Really, I just wanted to be a nurse. It wasnt my fault I ended up a politician. As for theology, well, I went to church on Sundays and that was it. She refrained from mentioning which church, since the African Methodist Episcopal church didnt even exist in this time and place. Not that Barberini wouldnt have had full reports on her accompanying Ruy to mass on Sunday.
There are those that do, Dottoressa. And they have taken decisions I do not pretend to understand, and cannot see the wisdom of. There are times when I wonder whether we would not be better simply to denounce everything from your time as witchcraft as some of the older generation want to. He sounded weary. It would spare us all so many complications. After all, everyone understood the world before the Ring of Fire came, even though some of us affected a certain skepticism. Cynicism, even. Now? My esteemed uncle seems to have an idea fixed in his mind that God himself is speaking to him in this matter. But is not yet convinced he knows what he is being told.
Sharon didnt know what to say to that. And so the uncomfortable pause stretched even longer than the one before it. She said nothing, and just waited. What was up with the man? Either he thought she was going to be offended or he wasnt happy with what hed been ordered to say to her.
She hopedno, she wasnt sure what she hoped. She could take offense in stride, she figured. It wasnt like most of what she saw around here wasnt offensive in some way or other, and after a while shed stopped noticing, most of the time. If he was unhappy about what he had to say, what was the worst of it? Business as usual, the Pope carefully pretending he didnt have one more ambassador in his city, one who wasnt getting invited to his court. Something that, between any other nations not actually at war, would be an insult but which the USE was being very forbearing about since theyd had the bare minimum recognition that protocol required. So either way there was no need to worry.
Barberini was making it look like there was, though. After a moment or too more, he turned back to her. I must apologize, Dottoressa. I am being most unmannerly with you. I am uncharacteristically unsure of how to phrase what I would ask of you.
Well, that was easy enough to deal with. It wasnt like a bashful patient wasnt something she had the training and experience to handle. She shrugged, and summoned up her best bedside manner. So begin at the beginning. I promise I wont hit you.
He smiled a small, sad, smile. For all that I would extend you every courtesy, Dottoressa, it is not for your sake that I hesitate. I am unconvinced of the wisdom of what must follow as it affects the interests of the Church, nor as it affects the interests of the papal states. I am, I confess, no diplomat, nor yet much of a politician, measured against those who instruct me. So perhaps I am naive.
Sharon decided to try firmness. Please, Your Eminence, stop beating about the bush. Im a doctor, for goodness sake. You can bet Ive heard much weirder things than you have in store. And it might be that Ill have to say no, and you can heave a sigh of relief.
I must apologize once again. So, I screw up my meager courage. Dottora Ambassadora, he said, and she caught that he had suddenly started using her other title, which couldnt have been idly done since hed completely left it out so far, I must ask what contact you have with the Committee of Correspondence in Rome? And whether they would follow directions if you were to communicate them?
Well, that was unexpected. Officially, she said, I dont have any contact with the Committee of Correspondence anywhere. Unofficially, Frank Stone is a friend of mine. His stepmother is a very close friend and business partner. His wife is one of my patients. So if you want a message passed, I have plenty of opportunity, although I cant promise anything. I suppose that ethically I have to pass on any message you want me to pass. Although Franks his own man these days, not just a kid, and its him in charge of the Committee, not me. And if you want to hold a discussion, Id rather not act as your messenger-girl. I can ask Frank to come talk to you. Im guessing you cant go haunting low tavernas like the one he runs, right?
Not that my reputation could get any lower, if the handbills are to be believed, he said. But the Ambassadora is most generous and gracious. A message is, indeed, what I would have passed. What, rather, those instructing me would have passed.
I guess I ought to mention that even though you married Frank and Giovanna, neither of them is really likely to take any message from any part of the Church on trust. Not after their last experience of you included a spell in one of your jails.
Barberini laughed aloud. And ours of them included them shooting up one of our churches in the middle of a most solemn occasion! Monsignor Mazarini might have bent his considerable talents to making that particular outrage disappear, but I need hardly say that such things are not readily forgotten, whatever the public appearance.
Sharon shrugged. Well, with bad blood on both sides I guess asking a diplomat to act as go-between makes sense, then. Whats the message, Your Eminence? Truth be told, she was getting a little impatient with Barberinis constant dodging around the point.
We would prefer they were less solicitous of official concerns, he said, flatly and without intonation.
You want them to start being more she groped for the right wordRevolutionary?
Just so, Ambassadora.
Forgive me for saying it, Your Eminence, but that sounds like a trap. Whats to say that they wont find the Inquisition landing on them and getting a little payback for, as you say, shooting up one of your churches? She figured a little annoyance was safe to show. There had to be more to this, since surely an institution as long-lived and subtle as the Catholic church wouldnt be that simple-minded?
A promise, which His Holiness instructed me to make on his behalf. He winced, and Sharon got a feeling that the meeting at which Barberini had been told what to say by his uncle had not been an easy one for him. The Inquisition will be restrained. We make no promises in respect of other methods of opposition. Counter-propaganda, other methods. But the persons of the Committee themselves will not be molested.
I have to ask why, she said flatly.
“Because my masters would rather the Committee fought back openly than let themselves be used as a tool against us. If people were not being duped about the Committee, it is felt that they might not be so ready to create disorder in the streets.” He sighed deeply. “The disorder they would create if some of their firebrands from the Germanies come here is quite overlooked. But I am a man under authority.”
Sharon felt quite sorry for the little cardinal, then. Well, almost sorry. He might be wearing a priest’s robes, but he was really every inch the consummate nobleman. A plot by other nobles, he was comfortable with, and if he lost, well, there was no great shaking of the world order as a result. If Sharon had to guess, this particular idea came straight from the Jesuits, who were making great strides back in the USE. Their reasoning was that freedom of religion was freedom to convert the Protestants, one at a time if they had to. They were doing a lot of good educational work, and leave it to the Committees of Correspondence to be brutally pragmatic about working with them on things like setting up schools. Or, at least, to leave them alone. An organization mentally supple enough to make as many converts as they had in Japan, of all places, would regard the USE as easy pickings. And the Committees of Correspondence as no particular obstacle. Allies, even, in some matters.
Barberini, on the other hand, saw the social and economic consequences for his own class first and foremost. And if there was one thing Sharon had no sympathy for, it was the nobility clinging to their power and wealth, no matter the consequences.
But she was enough of an ambassador to realize that rubbing it in wouldn’t be a good thing to do, just now. “You can pass the message back that I’ll speak to Frank. I can’t speak for his response, and I’ve no idea what good it’ll do you if he starts doing what you want, but I will tell him.”
“I thank you, Ambassadora.”
“If there’s anything further the USE can do to help, again, I can’t guarantee what my instructions from Magdeburg will be, but feel free to ask. And I’m always happy to come to your salon, Your Eminence. The company is excellent, and your home is a pleasure to visit.”
“And for my part, Ambassadora, if there is any service I can perform in a purely personal capacity, you have only to ask. Your presence in my home is a pleasure and a privilege, and”the impish grin came back in full force”too much of a social coup for me to resist, when so graciously offered.”
Well, she said, we should be getting back, or people will talk. She realized it was a feeble joke, but she felt she had to lighten the young cardinals mood
It seemed to work. They already do, Dottoressa, he said, giggling a little. Mostly they say that your honor is quite safe from the likes of me, I am afraid, except when they denounce me as a fornicator.
Sharon couldnt help chuckling. I could help with that first one, she said, I could claim you tried to press your attentions, and I had to fight you off…
He wagged a finger. Not even in jest, he said, mock-serious. I have heard stories of your intended, Senor Sanchez. A most bloodthirsty devil, it is said, who has left corpses on dueling fields from here to America. Deadly with any weapon and completely without compunction in killing on the slightest provocation.
Oh, true, Sharon said, but how well squashed those rumors will be! Who could think a man slain by a jealous fiancée was anything other than red-blooded?
Enough! Before you tempt me, woman. Sanchez de Casador y Ortiz is a lucky man, and I would not deprive anyone of such happiness.
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