“I can’t take it,” he was sobbing; “I am not able. It’s a mistake, a terrible mistake.”
Ramoni put his hand on the other man’s head. “It is true, Pietro,” he said. “You are Archbishop of Marqua. May God bless you!”
But he could say no more. Pietro was still weeping when Ramoni went away, crossing the cloister on his way to his cell, where, with the door closed behind him, he fought the battle of his soul.
In the beginning Ramoni could not think. He sat looking dully at the softened tones of the wall, trying to evolve some order of thought from the chaos into which the shock of his disappointment had plunged his mind. It was late in the night before the situation began to outline itself dimly.
His first thought was, curiously enough, not of himself directly, but of the people out in Marqua who were anxiously looking for his return as their leader, confident of his appointment to the new Archbishopric. He could not face them as the servant of another man. From the crowd afar his thoughts traveled back to the crowd on the Pincio—the crowd that welcomed him as the great missionary. He would go no more to the Pincio, for now they would point him out with that cynical amusement of the Romans as the man who had been shelved for his servant. He resented the fate that had uprooted him from Rome ten years before, sending him to Marqua. He resented the people he had converted, Pietro, the Consistory—everything. For that black and bitter night the Church, which he had loved and reverenced, looked to him like the root of all injustice. The more he thought of the slight that had been put upon him, the worse it became, till the thought arose in him that he would leave the Community, leave Rome, leave it all. After long hours, anger had full sway in the heart of Father Ramoni.
At midnight he heard the striking of the city’s clocks through the windows, the lattices of which he had forgotten to close. The sound of the city brought back to him the words of the great prelate who had returned with him to San Ambrogio from his first audience with the Holy Father—“Filius urbis et orbis.” How bitterly the city had treated him!
A knock sounded at his door. He walked to it and flung it open. His anger had come to the overflowing of speech. At first he saw only a hand at the door-casing, groping with a blind man’s uncertainty. Then he saw the old General.
In the soul of Ramoni rose an awful revulsion against the old man. Instantly, with a memory of that first day in the cloister garden, of those following days that gave him the unexpected, uncanny glimpses of the priest, he centered all his bitterness upon Denfili. So fearful was his anger as he held it back with the rein of years of self-control, that he wondered to see Father Denfili smiling.
“May I enter, my son?” he asked.