The Prince decided that the story was perfectly true, and he reflected somewhat bitterly that unless his son had heirs after him, this herculean innkeeper of Aquila was the lawful successor to his own title, and to all the Saracinesca lands. He determined that Giovanni’s marriage should not be delayed another day, and with his usual impetuosity he hastened back to Rome, hardly remembering that he had spent the previous night and all that day upon the road, and that he had another twenty-four hours of travel before him.
At dawn his carriage stopped at a little town not far from the papal frontier. Just as the vehicle was starting, a large man, muffled in a huge cloak, from the folds of which protruded the long brown barrel of a rifle, put his head into the window. The Prince started and grasped his revolver, which lay beside him on the seat.
“Good morning, Prince,” said the man. “I hope you have slept well.”
“Sor Giovanni!” exclaimed the old gentleman. “Where did you drop from?”
“The roads are not very safe,” returned the innkeeper. “So I thought it best to accompany you. Good-bye—buon viaggio!”
Before the Prince could answer, the carriage rolled off, the horses springing forward at a gallop. Saracinesca put his head out of the window, but his namesake had disappeared, and he rolled on towards Terni, wondering at the innkeeper’s anxiety for his safety.
Even old Saracinesca’s iron strength was in need of rest when, at the end of forty-eight hours, he again entered his son’s rooms, and threw himself upon the great divan.
“How is Corona?” was his first question.
“She is very anxious about you,” returned Giovanni, who was himself considerably disturbed.
“We will go and set her mind at rest as soon as I have had something to eat,” said his father.
“It is all right, then? It was just as I said—a namesake?”
“Precisely. Only the namesake happens to be a cousin—the last of the San Giacinto, who keeps an inn in Aquila. I saw him, and shook hands with him.”
“Impossible!” exclaimed Giovanni. “They are all extinct—”
“There has been a resurrection,” returned the Prince. He told the whole story of his journey, graphically and quickly.
“That is a very extraordinary tale,” remarked Giovanni, thoughtfully. “So, if I die without children the innkeeper will be prince.”
“Precisely. And now, Giovanni, you must be married next week.”
“As soon as you please—to-morrow if you like.”
“What shall we do with Del Ferice?” asked the old prince.
“Ask him to the wedding,” answered Giovanni, magnanimously.
“The wedding will have to be a very quiet one, I suppose,” remarked his father, thoughtfully. “The year is hardly over—”
“The more quiet the better, provided it is done quickly. Of course we must consult Corona at once.”