Giovanni had not far to seek for his weapons. He had long suspected Del Ferice of treasonable practices; he did not doubt that with small exertion he could find evidence to convict him. He would, then, allow him to marry Donna Tullia; and on the day after the wedding, Del Ferice should be arrested and lodged in the prison of the Holy Office as a political delinquent of the meanest and most dangerous kind—as a political spy. The determination was soon reached. It did not seem cruel to Giovanni, for he was in a relentless mood; it would not have seemed cruel to Corona,—Del Ferice had deserved all that, and more also.
So Giovanni went home and slept the sleep of a man who has made up his mind upon an important matter. And in the morning he rose early and communicated his ideas to his father. The result was that they determined for the present to avoid an interview with Donna Tullia, and to communicate to her by letter the result of old Saracinesca’s rapid journey to Aquila.
When Donna Tullia received Saracinesca’s note, explaining the existence of a second Giovanni, his pedigree and present circumstances, she almost fainted with disappointment. It seemed to her that she had compromised herself before the world, that all Rome knew the ridiculous part she had played in Del Ferice’s comedy, and that her shame would never be forgotten. Suddenly she saw how she had been led away by her hatred of Giovanni into believing blindly in a foolish tale which ought not to have deceived a child. So soon as she learned the existence of a second Giovanni Saracinesca, it seemed to her that she must have been mad not to foresee such an explanation from the first. She had been duped, she had been made a cat’s-paw, she had been abominably deceived by Del Ferice, who had made use of this worthless bribe in order to extort from her a promise of marriage. She felt very ill, as very vain people often do when they feel that they have been made ridiculous. She lay upon the sofa in her little boudoir, where everything was in the worst possible taste—from the gaudy velvet carpet and satin furniture to the gilt clock on the chimney-piece—and she turned red and pale and red again, and wished she were dead, or in Paris, or anywhere save in Rome. If she went out she might meet one of the Saracinesca at any turn of the street, or even Corona herself. How they would bow and smile sweetly at her, enjoying her discomfiture with the polite superiority of people who cannot be hurt!
And she herself—she could not tell what she should do. She had announced her engagement to Del Ferice, but she could not marry him. She had been entrapped into making him a promise, into swearing a terrible oath; but the Church did not consider such oaths binding. She would go to Padre Filippo and ask his advice.