“What will you do?”
“I hardly know. If he is really our cousin, we must give up everything without a struggle. We are impostors, or little better. I think I ought to tell him plainly how the deed is made out, in order that he may judge whether or not he is in a position to prove his identity.”
“Do you imagine that he does not know all about it as well as we ourselves?”
“Probably not—otherwise he would have spoken.”
“The papers came back from Montevarchi to-day,” said Corona. “It is gratuitous to suppose that the old man has not told his future son-in-law what they contain. Yes—you see it yourself. Therefore San Giacinto knows. Therefore, also, if he is the man he pretends to be, he will let you know his intentions soon enough. I fancy you forgot that in your excitement. If he says nothing, it is because he cannot prove his rights.”
“It is true,” replied Giovanni, “I did not think of that. Nevertheless I would like to be beforehand. I wish him to know that we shall make no opposition. It is a point of honour.”
“Which a woman cannot understand, of course,” added Corona, calmly.
“I did not say that. I do not mean it.”
“Well—do you want my advice?”
The single word was uttered with an accent implying more than mere trust, and was accompanied by a look full of strong feeling. But Corona’s expression did not change. Her eyes returned the glance quietly, without affectation, neither lovingly nor unlovingly, but indifferently. Giovanni felt a sharp little pain in his heart as he realised the change that had taken place in his wife.
“My advice is to do nothing in the matter. San Giacinto may be an impostor; indeed, it is not at all unlikely. If he is, he will take advantage of your desire to act generously. He will be forewarned and forearmed and will have time to procure all the proofs he wants. What could you say to him? ’If you can prove your birth, I give you all I possess.’ He will at once see that nothing else is necessary, and if he is a rogue he will succeed. Besides, as I tell you, he knows what that deed contains as well as you do, and if he is the man he will bring an action against your father in a week. If he does not, you gain the advantage of having discovered that he is an impostor without exposing yourself to be robbed.”
“It goes against the grain,” said Giovanni. “But I suppose you are right.”
“You will do as you think best. I have no power to make you follow my advice.”
“No power? Ah, Corona, do not say that!”
A short silence followed, during which Corona looked placidly at the fire, while Giovanni gazed at her dark face and tried to read the thoughts that were passing in her mind. She did not speak, however, and his guesswork was inconclusive. What hurt him most was her indifference, and he longed to discover by some sign that it was only assumed.