Malta, 1775: The Twilight of the Knights
Palermo and, after a few years in Sicily, has now been put in charge of the parish of Floriana. Don Mannarino, despite Monsignor Pellerano’s reiterated recommendations not to exacerbate relations between the Order and the local population, has, against all custom, begun to preach in Maltese and to thunder from the pulpit against the government of the Grand Master, gathering around him a large number of nationalists from all walks of life and also many other priests of the island.
While a new wave of price increases brings social tension a step away from the revolt, Bartolomeo is charged with yet another humiliating escort assignment to a convoy but, on that occasion, has the surprise of meeting corporal Ninu Fenech again, he too returned from Comino. While the convoy is halfway, however, Bartolomeo is reached by his friend Franz who informs him how Henry learned, during his service at the Magistral Palace, that the previous night fra’ Yves de Compigny has been murdered with a Roman knife and now the Capitoline noble is the main suspect in the murder and will be arrested as soon as he reaches his destination.
Bartolomeo, traumatized by the news, does not know what to do but, while the young Castilian brethren who escorts the convoy with him, hearing Franz’s words, would like to hand him over to the authorities, Ninu disarms the Spaniard and helps his former commander to escape.
The two fugitives find shelter in Rabat, at the house of the corporal’s sister, Tereza, a beautiful thirty-year-old girl, married to a sailor who is always absent as engaged in the Russian merchant fleet and working as a waitress for baroness Attardo. The girl hosts the two in her poor house, and, little by little, Bartolomeo falls in love, reciprocated, with her, though well knowing that too many things, first of all, his monastic condition and the marital bond of Tereza, separate them.
However, the Knight’s goal is to escape to Rome, where the influence of his family, also including an uncle Cardinal, would allow him to defend himself from the accusations orchestrated, he believes, by Rohan-Polduc to get rid of a potential enemy. The problem is that for the two fugitives, it is impossible to reach Valletta, where the residence of Cardinal Lante, Grand Inquisitor of the island and Papal Nuncio is located, without risk of being immediately recognized, nor it is for Bartolomeo in any way possible to contact his father to organize his escape from Malta. Tereza has the idea of involving Baroness Attardo to convince her husband to obtain an interview for Bartolomeo with Monsignor Pellerano at the Bishop’s residence in Mdina, hoping that he can do something to help the fugitive. After a few days, the Roman prince is effectively summoned to the palace of the Maltese noble. Baron Attardo, taking to heart the fate of the fugitive and saying he is perfectly informed about the actual events relating to the death of Compigny, claims he is willing to interest Pellerano in the matter and, in the meantime, invites Bartolomeo to be his guest in the period in which he has to wait to be received by the Bishop. Although
reluctantly for having less chance of meeting Tereza, the young Roman accepts and, a few days later, he is finally received in the Bishopric.
Monsignor Pellerano, desperate for the politics of Ximenez and his government, has taken the decision to go directly to Rome to report the situation of the island to the Pope. Meeting