When he rose to his feet at last, he saw Don Matteo wrapping up the bishop’s cross and chain and ring in the same piece of clean white paper in which he kept the old stole.
But Don Teodoro went to his little room, which was ready for him as usual, and he was not seen again on that day. Several times Don Matteo went softly to the door. Once he heard the old man sobbing within as though his heart would break, all alone; and once again he heard his voice saying Latin prayers in a low tone; and the third time all was very still, and Don Matteo knew that the worst was past.
On the next morning very early Don Teodoro came out of his room. Neither of the two spoke of what had happened, but the clear light was in the old priest’s eyes again, clearer and happier than before, and little by little the lines smoothed themselves from his singular face until there were no more there than there had been for years. All that day they talked together of books and of Don Teodoro’s great history of the Church. But they were both thoughtful and subject to moments of absence of mind.
It was not until the evening of the third day that Don Teodoro asked his friend a question.
“What do you advise me to say to the princess?” he inquired, when they were alone together.
“Tell her that you have consulted an ecclesiastical authority and that there was an irregularity about the marriage with Don Gianluca so that you must solemnly marry them again before they can consider themselves man and wife. And tell the Baron of Guardia that the same authority is sure that he was not married to the princess, but is a free man. It is very simple, and there can be no possible mistake, now.”
“Yes,” said Don Teodoro. “It is very simple.”
And so it was, for Cardinal Campodonico deserved the reputation he enjoyed of being, in ecclesiastical affairs, a man equal to the most difficult emergencies, in character, in keen discernment, and in prompt action.
But Don Teodoro sighed softly when he had spoken, for he thought of Taquisara and of what that brave and silent man would suffer when he was forced to stand by Gianluca’s side and see the rings exchanged and the hands joined, and hear the words spoken which must cut him off forever from all hope. But Taquisara, at least, in his suffering, would have the consolation of having been honest and true and loyal from first to last. He would never have to bear the consequences of having been a coward at a great moment. It could not be so very hard for him, after all, thought Don Teodoro.
And he saw no reason for curtailing his stay in Naples, since there was time until the first of January. On the contrary, he grew glad of those long days, in which he could meditate on the past and think of the future, and be supremely and humbly thankful for the great change that had come into his life.