“Qualche innamorato!” she muttered to herself as she smoothed the notes one by one and gloated over them and built castles in the air under the light of her little oil lamp. “It is some fellow in love. Heaven pardon me if I have done wrong! He seemed so anxious to know that the woman had been here—why should I not content him? Poveretto! He must be rich. I will always tell him what he wants to know. Heaven bring him often and bless him.”
Then she rocked herself backwards and forwards, hugging her pot of coals and crooning the words of an ancient Roman ditty—
“Io vorrei che nella luna Ci s’andasse in carrettella Per vedere la piu bella Delle donne di la su!”
What does the old song mean? Who knows whether it ever meant anything? “I wish one might drive in a little cart to the moon, to see the most beautiful of the women up there!” Caterina Ranucci somehow felt as though she could express her feelings in no better way than by singing the queer words to herself in her cracked old voice. Possibly she thought that the neighbours would not suspect her good fortune if they heard her favourite song.
Sant’ Ilario walked home from Gouache’s lodgings. The cool evening air refreshed him and helped him to think over what he had before him in the near future. Indeed the position was terrible enough, and doubly so to a man of his temperament. He would have faced anything rather than this, for there was no point in which he was more vulnerable than in his love for Corona. As he walked her figure rose before him, and her beauty almost dazzled him when he thought of it. But he could no longer think of her without bringing up that other being upon whom his thoughts of vengeance concentrated themselves, until it seemed as though the mere intention must do its object some bodily harm.
The fall was tremendous in itself and in its effects. It must have been a great passion indeed which could make such a man demean himself to bribe an inferior for information against his wife. He himself was so little able to measure the force by which he was swayed as to believe that he had extracted the confession from a reluctant accomplice. He would never have allowed that the sight of the money and the prompting of his own words could have caused the old woman to invent the perfectly imaginary story which he had seemed so fully determined to hear. He did not see that Caterina Ranucci had merely confirmed each statement he had made himself and had taken his bribe while laughing to herself at his folly. He was blinded by something which destroys the mental vision more surely than anger or hatred, or pride, or love itself.