Father Denfili, old and blind, telling his beads in the corner of the cloister garden, sighed. Father Tomasso, who had brought him from his confessional in the great church to the bench where day after day he kept his sightless vigil over the pond of the goldfish, turned back at the sound, then, seeing the peace of Father Denfili’s face, thought he must have fancied the sigh. For sadness came alien to the little garden of the Community of San Ambrogio on Via Paoli, a lustrous gem of a little garden under its square of Roman sky. The dripping of the tiny fountain, tinkling like a bit of familiar music, and the swelling tones of the organ, drifting over the flowers that clustered beneath the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, so merged their murmurings into the peacefulness of San Ambrogio, that Father Tomasso, just from the novitiate, felt intensely that he knew he must have dreamed Father Denfili’s sigh. For what could trouble the old man here in San Ambrogio on this, the greatest day of the Community?
For to-day Father Ramoni had returned to Rome. Even as Father Tomasso passed the fountain a group of Fathers and novices were gathering around one of the younger priests, who still wore his fereoula and wide-brimmed hat, just as he had entered from Via Paoli. The newcomer’s eyes traveled joyously over his breathless audience, calling Father Tomasso to join in hearing his news.
“Yes, it is true,” he was saying. “I have just come from the audience. Father General and Father Ramoni stopped to call at the Secretariate of State, but I came straight home to tell you. His Holiness was most kind, and Father Ramoni was not a mite abashed, even in the presence of the Pope. When he knelt down the Holy Father raised him up and gave him a seat. ’Tell me all about your wonderful people and your wonderful work,’ he said. And Father Ramoni told him of the thousands he had converted and how easy it was, with the blessing of God, to do so much. The Holy Father asked him every manner of question. He was full of enthusiasm for the great things our Father Ramoni has done. He is the greatest man in Rome to-day, is Ramoni. He will be honored by the Holy See. The Pope showed it plainly. This is a red-letter day for our Community.” The little priest paused for breath, then hastened on. “Rome knows that our Father Ramoni has come back,” he cried, “and Rome has not forgotten ten years ago.”
“Was it ten years that Father Ramoni passed in South America?” a tall novice asked Father Tomasso.
“Ten years,” said Father Tomasso. “He was the great preacher of Rome when the old General”—he nodded toward the cloister corner where Father Denfili prayed—“sent him away from Rome. No one knew why. His fame was at its height. Men and women of all the city crowded the church to listen to him, and he was but thirty-four years old. But Father Denfili