“I trust you will bear me no ill-will,” said San Giacinto rather awkwardly,
“For taking what is yours and not mine? Not in the least. Good-evening.”
San Giacinto left the room. When he was gone, Saracinesca stood still for a moment, and then sank into a chair. His strong nature had sustained him through the meeting and would sustain him to the end, but he was terribly shaken, and felt a strange sensation of numbness in the back of his head, which was quite new to him. For some minutes he sat still as though dazed and only half conscious. Then he rose again, shook himself as though to get rid of a bad dream and rang the bell. He sent for Giovanni, who appeared immediately.
“San Giacinto has been here,” he said quickly. “He is the man. You had better tell your wife, as she will want to collect her things before we leave the house.”
Giovanni was staggered by his father’s impetuosity. He had realised that the danger existed, but it had always seemed indefinitely far removed.
“I suppose there will be some legal proceedings before everything is settled,” he said with more calmness than he felt.
“What is that to us? We must go, sooner or later.”
“And if the courts do not decide in his favour, what then?”
“There is no doubt about it,” answered the prince, pacing the room as his excitement returned. “You and I are nobody. We had better go and live in an inn. That man is honest. I hate him, but he is honest. Why do you stand there staring at me? Were you not the first to say that if we are impostors we should give up everything of our own free-will? And now you seem to think that I will fight the suit! That is your logic! That is all the consistency you have acquired in your travels! Go and tell your wife that you are nobody, that I am nobody! Go and tell her to give you a title, a name for men to call you by! Go into the market and see whether you can find a name for your father! Go and hire a house for us to live in, when that Neapolitan devil has brought Mavia Montevarchi to live in the palace where your mother died, where you were born—poor Giovanni! Not that I pity you any more than I pity myself. Why should I? You are young and have done this house the honour to spend most of your life out of it. But after all—poor Giovanni!”
Saracinesca seized his son’s hand and looked into his eyes. The young man’s face was perfectly calm, almost serene in its expression of indifference to misfortune. His whole soul was preoccupied by greater and nobler emotions than any which could be caused by worldly loss. He had been with Corona again, had talked with her and had seen that look in her face which he had learned to dread more than he had ever dreaded anything in his life. What was life itself without that which her eyes refused?