To a man of his temperament the sensation of finding himself a mere impostor was intolerable. His first impulse had of course been to fight the case, and had the attack upon his position come from San Giacinto, he would probably have done so. But his own son had discovered the truth and had put the matter clearly before him, in such a light as to make an appeal to his honour. He had no choice but to submit. He could not allow himself to be outdone in common honesty by the boy he loved, nor could he have been guilty of deliberate injustice, for his own advantage, after he had been convinced that he had no right to his possessions. He belonged to a race of men who had frequently committed great crimes and done atrocious deeds, notorious in history, from motives of personal ambition, for the love of women or out of hatred for men, but who had never had the reputation of loving money or of stooping to dishonour for its sake. As soon as he was persuaded that everything belonged to San Giacinto, he felt that he must resign all in favour of the latter.
One doubt alone remained to be solved. It was not absolutely certain that San Giacinto was the man he represented himself to be. It was quite possible that he should have gained possession of the papers he held, by some means known only to himself; such things are often sold as curiosities, and as the last of the older branch of whom there was any record preserved in Rome had died in obscurity, it was conceivable that the ex-innkeeper might have found or bought the documents he had left, in order to call himself Marchese di San Giacinto. Saracinesca did not go so far as to believe that the latter had any knowledge whatsoever of the main deed which was about to cause so much trouble, unless he had seen it in the hands of Montevarchi, in which case he could not be blamed if he brought a suit for the recovery of so much wealth.
Giovanni was quite right in his prediction concerning Corona’s conduct. He found her in her dressing-room, lying upon the couch near the fire, as he had found her on that fatal evening three weeks earlier. He sat down beside her and took her hand in his. She had not wholly recovered her strength yet, but her beauty had returned and seemed perfected by the suffering through which she had passed. In a few words he told her the whole story, to which she listened without showing any great surprise. Once or twice, while he was speaking, her dark eyes sought his with an expression he did not fully understand, but which was at least kind and full of sympathy.
“Are you quite sure of all the facts?” she asked when he had finished. “Are you certain that San Giacinto is the man? I cannot tell why, but I have always distrusted him since he first came to us.”
“That is the only point that remains to be cleared up,” answered Giovanni. “If he is not the man he will not venture to take any steps in the matter, lest he should be exposed and lose what he has.”