Towards evening he went out and heard news of the engagement. It was already known that the enemy had fallen back upon Mentana, and no one doubted the ultimate result of the day’s fighting. People were already beginning to talk of going out to take assistance to the wounded. The idea struck Giovanni as plausible and he determined to act upon it at once. He took a surgeon and several men with him, and drove out across the Campagna to the scene of the battle.
As has been told, he found Gouache at last, after a long and difficult search. The ground was so broken and divided by ditches, walls and trees, that some of the wounded were not found until the middle of the next day. Unless Giovanni had undertaken the search Anastase might have escaped notice for a long time, and it was no wonder if he expressed astonishment on waking up to find himself comfortably installed in Saracinesca’s carriage, tended by the man who a few days earlier had wanted to take his life.
Gouache’s wound was by no means dangerous, and when he had somewhat recovered from the combined effects of loss of blood and excessive fatigue he did not feel much the worse for having a ball in his shoulder. Giovanni and the doctor gave him food and a little wine in the carriage, and long before they reached the gates of the city the Zouave was well enough to have heard Sant’ Ilario’s explanation. The presence of the surgeon, however, made any intimate conversation difficult.
“I came to find you,” said Giovanni in a low voice, “because everything has been set right in your absence, and I was afraid you might be killed at Mentana without receiving my apology.”
Gouache looked at his companion in some surprise. He knew very well that Sant’ Ilario was not a man to make excuses without some very extraordinary reasons for such a step. It is a prime law of the code of honour, however, that an apology duly made must be duly accepted as putting an end to any quarrel, and Anastase saw at once that Giovanni had relinquished all intention of fighting.
“I am very glad that everything is explained,” answered Gouache. “I confess that I was surprised beyond measure by the whole affair.”
“I regret having entered your rooms without your permission,” continued Giovanni who intended to go to the end of what he had undertaken. “The pin was my wife’s, but the letter was written by another person with a view to influencing your conduct. I cannot explain here, but you shall know whatever is necessary when we are alone. Of course, if you still desire any satisfaction, I am at your service.”
“Pray do not suggest such a thing. I have no further feeling of annoyance in the matter.”
Gouache insisted on being taken to his own lodgings, though Sant’ Ilario offered him the hospitality of the Palazzo Saracinesca. By four o’clock in the morning the ball was extracted and the surgeon took his leave, recommending sleep and quiet for his patient. Gouache, however, would not let Giovanni go without hearing the end of the story.