“Oh, there he is!” he cried. “Do you see him?—his back is turned—he is alone with the Astrardente.”
“Come,” said Donna Tullia, shortly. Del Ferice would have preferred to have let her go alone, and to have witnessed from a distance the scene he had brought about. But he could not refuse to accompany Madame Mayer.
Neither Corona, who was facing the pair, but was talking with Giovanni, nor Giovanni himself, who was turned away from them, noticed their approach until they came and stood still beside them. Saracinesca looked up and started. The Duchessa d’Astrardente raised her black eyebrows in surprise.
“Our dance!” exclaimed Giovanni, in considerable agitation. “It is the one after this—”
“On the contrary,” said Donna Tullia, in tones trembling with rage, “it is already over. It is the most unparalleled insolence!”
Giovanni was profoundly disgusted at himself and Donna Tullia. He cared not so much for the humiliation itself, which was bad enough, as for the annoyance the scene caused Corona, who looked from one to the other in angry astonishment, but of course could have nothing to say.
“I can only assure you that I thought—”
“You need not assure me!” cried Donna Tullia, losing all self-control. “There is no excuse, nor pardon—it is the second time. Do not insult me further, by inventing untruths for your apology.”
“Nevertheless—” began Giovanni, who was sincerely sorry for his great rudeness, and would gladly have attempted to explain his conduct, seeing that Donna Tullia was so justly angry.
“There is no nevertheless!” she interrupted. “You may stay where you are,” she added, with a scornful glance at the Duchessa d’Astrardente. Then she laid her hand upon Del Ferice’s arm, and swept angrily past, so that the train of her red silk gown brushed sharply against Corona’s soft white velvet.
Giovanni remained standing a moment, with a puzzled expression upon his face.
“How could you do anything so rude?” asked Corona, very gravely. “She will never forgive you, and she will be quite right.”
“I do not know how I forgot,” he answered, seating himself again. “It is dreadful—unpardonable—but perhaps the consequences will be good.”
Corona was ill at ease. In the first few moments of being alone with Giovanni the pleasure she felt outweighed all other thoughts. But as the minutes lengthened to a quarter of an hour, then to half an hour, she grew nervous, and her answers came more and more shortly. She said to herself that she should never have given him the cotillon, and she wondered how the remainder of the time would pass. The realisation of what had occurred came upon her, and the hot blood rose to her face and ebbed away again, and rose once more. Yet she could not speak out what her pride prompted her to say, because she pitied Giovanni a little, and was willing to think for a moment that it was only compassion she felt, lest she should feel that she must send him away.