Prince Montevarchi, for his part, intended his youngest daughter to be a model of prim propriety. He attributed to Flavia’s frivolity of behaviour the difficulty he experienced in finding her a husband, and he had no intention of exposing himself to a second failure in the case of Faustina. She should marry in her first season, and if she chose to be gay after that, the responsibility thereof might fall upon her husband, or her father-in-law, or upon whomsoever it should most concern; he himself would have fulfilled his duty so soon as the nuptial benediction was pronounced. He knew the fortune and reputation of every marriageable young man in society, and was therefore eminently fitted for the task he undertook. To tell the truth, Faustina herself expected to be married before Easter, for it was eminently fitting that a young girl should lose no time in such matters. But she meant to choose a man after her own heart, if she found one; at all events, she would not submit too readily to the paternal choice nor appear satisfied with the first tolerable suitor who should be presented to her.
Under these circumstances it seemed probable that Donna Faustina’s first season, which had begun with the unexpected adventure at the corner of the old Orso, would not come to a close without some passage of arms between herself and her father, even though the ultimate conclusion should lead to the steps of the altar.
The men carried the wounded Zouave away to a distant room, and Faustina entered the main apartments by the side of the old prince. She sighed a little as she went.
“I hope the poor man will get well!” she exclaimed.
“Do not disturb your mind about the young man,” answered her father. “He will be attended by the proper persons, and the doctor will bleed him and the will of Heaven will be done. It is not the duty of a well-conducted young woman to be thinking of such things, and you may dismiss the subject at once.”
“Yes, papa,” said Faustina submissively. But in spite of the dutiful tone of voice in which she spoke, the dim light of the tall lamps in the antechambers showed a strange expression of mingled amusement and contrariety in the girl’s ethereal face.
“You know Gouache?” asked old Prince Saracinesca, in a tone which implied that he had news to tell. He looked from his daughter-in-law to his son as he put the question, and then went on with his breakfast.
“Very well,” answered Giovanni. “What about him?”
“He was knocked down by a carriage last night. The carriage belonged to Montevarchi, and Gouache is at his house, in danger of his life.”
“Poor fellow!” exclaimed Corona in ready sympathy. “I am so sorry! I am very fond of Gouache.”
Giovanni Saracinesca, known to the world since his marriage as Prince of Sant’ Ilario, glanced quickly at his wife, so quickly that neither she nor the old gentleman noticed the fact.