Having thus stated his position as plainly as possible, San Giacinto folded his great hands upon his knee and leaned against the back of his chair. Saracinesca looked as though he were about to make some hasty answer, but he controlled his intention and rose to his feet. After walking twice up and down the room, he came and stood in front of his cousin.
“Let us be plain in what we say,” he began. “I give you my word that, until Montevarchi sent back those papers the other day, I did not know what they contained. I had not read them for thirty years, and at that time the clause escaped me. I do not remember to have noticed it. This may have been due to the fact that I had never heard that Leone had any living descendants, and should therefore have attached no importance to the words if I had seen them.”
“I believe you,” said San Giacinto, calmly. The old man’s eyes flashed.
“I always take it for granted that I am believed,” he answered. “Will you give me your word that you are what you assert yourself to be, Giovanni Saracinesca, the great-grandson and lawful heir of Leone?”
“Certainly. I pledge my honour that I am; and I, too, expect to be believed by you.”
There was something in the tone of the answer that struck a sympathetic chord in Saracinesca’s nature. San Giacinto had risen to his feet, and there was something in the huge, lean strength of him, in the bold look of his eyes, in the ring of his deep voice, that inspired respect. Rough he was, and not over refined or carefully trained in the ways of the world, cruel perhaps, and overbearing too; but he was every inch a Saracinesca, and the old man felt it.
“I believe you,” answered the prince. “You may take possession when you please. I am Don Leone, and you are the head of the house.”
He made a gesture full of dignity, as though resigning then and there his name and the house in which he lived, to him who was lawfully entitled to both. The action was magnificent and worthy of the man. There was a superb disregard of consequences in his readiness to give up everything rather than keep for a moment what was not his, which affected San Giacinto strangely. In justice to the latter it must be remembered that he had not the faintest idea that he was the instrument of a gigantic fraud from which he was to derive the chief advantage. He instinctively bowed in acknowledgment of his cousin’s generous conduct.
“I shall not take advantage of your magnanimity,” he said, “until the law has sanctioned my doing so.”
“As you please,” answered the other. “I have nothing to conceal from the law, but I am prejudiced against lawyers. Do as you think best. A family council can settle the matter as well as the courts.”
“Your confidence in me is generous and noble. I prefer, however, that the tribunal should examine the matter.”
“As you please,” repeated Saracinesca. There was no reason for prolonging an interview which could not be agreeable to either party. The old man remained standing. “No opposition will be made to the suit,” he said. “You will simply produce your papers in proper form, and I will declare myself satisfied.” He held out his hand.