“For twenty years I have had no thought but to serve these, my people!” he thought; but he neither rebuked nor reproached them.
The women as he passed them hissed at him; “Judas! Judas!”
One man alone said: “Nay, ’tis a shame. Have you forgot what he did in the cholera? ’Tis long ago, but still —”
But the women said: “He betrayed the poor lads. He brought the soldiers. He sold the water.”
Under that outrage, his manhood and his dignity revived.
He drew his tall form erect, and passed through the reviling crowd, and gave them his blessing as he passed.
Then he went within his church; and remained there alone.
“He is gone to pray for the soul of Adone,” said the sacristan.
When he came out of the church and entered his house, the street was empty; the people were afraid of what they had done and of their own ingratitude. He crossed the threshold of the presbytery. The sere vine veiled his study casement; in the silence he could hear the sound of the Edera water; he sat down at his familiar table, with the dog upon his knees. His eyes were wet, and his heart was sick; his courage was broken.
“How shall I bear my life here?” he thought. All which had made it of value and lightened its solitude was gone. Even his people had turned against him; suspicious, thankless, hostile.
The old sacristan, standing doubtful and timid at the entrance of the chamber, drew near and reverently touched his arm.
“Sir — here is a letter — it came three days ago.”
Don Silverio stretched out his hand over the little dog’s head, and took it.
He changed colour as he saw its seal and superscription.
Rome had at last remembered him, and awakened to his value.
At the latest Consistory he had been nominated to the Cardinalate.
As it may appear strange to the English reader that the Porpora Romana should be given to a village priest, I may here say that, to my knowledge, a country vicar was himself sweeping out his rural church when he was informed of his nomination as Cardinal, and M. S. de Mérode was only deacon when raised to that elevation.