“I do not think she will see you this evening. She will be busy in getting ready for the journey.”
“She will dine with us, I suppose?”
“I scarcely know—I am not sure.”
Old Saracinesca suddenly turned upon his son. His gray hair bristled on his head, and his black eyes flashed. With a quick movement he seized Giovanni’s arms and held him before him as in a vice.
“Look here!” he cried savagely. “I will not be made a fool of by a boy. Something has happened which you are afraid to tell me. Answer me. I mean to know!”
“You will not know from me,” replied Sant’ Ilario, keeping his temper as he generally did in the face of a struggle. “You will know nothing, because there is nothing to know.” Saracinesca laughed.
“Then there can be no possible objection to my seeing Corona,” he said, dropping his hold and again going towards the door. Once more Giovanni stopped him.
“You cannot see her now,” he said in determined tones.
“Then tell me what all this trouble is about,” retorted his father.
But Giovanni did not speak. Had he been cooler he would not have sought the interview so soon, but he had forgotten that the old prince would certainly want to know the reason of the sudden journey.
“Do you mean to tell me or not?”
“The fact is,” replied Giovanni desperately, “we have consulted the doctor—Corona is not really well—he advises us to go to the mountains—”
“Giovanni,” broke in the old man roughly, “you never lied to me, but you are lying now. There has been trouble between you two, though I cannot imagine what has caused it.”
“Pray do not ask me, then. I am doing what I think best—what you would think best if you knew all. I came to tell you that we were going, and I did not suppose you would have anything to say. Since you do not like the idea—well, I am sorry—but I entreat you not to ask questions. Let us go in peace.”
Saracinesca looked fixedly at his son for some minutes. Then the anger faded from his face, and his expression grew very grave. He loved Giovanni exceedingly, and he loved Corona for his sake more than for her own, though he admired her and delighted in her conversation. It was certain that if there were a quarrel between husband and wife, and if Giovanni had the smallest show of right on his side, the old man’s sympathies would be with him.
Giovanni’s sense of honour, on the other hand, prevented him from telling his father what had happened. He did not choose that even his nearest relation should think of Corona as he thought himself, and he would have taken any step to conceal her guilt. Unfortunately for his purpose he was a very truthful man, and had no experience of lying, so that his father detected him at once. Moreover, his pale face and agitated manner told plainly enough that something very serious had occurred, and so soon as the old prince had convinced himself of this his goodwill was enlisted on the side of his son.