As he sat waiting for Faustina a great horror of death rose suddenly and clearly before him. He was not a very old man and he would have found it hard to account for the sensation. It is a notable fact, too, that he feared death rather because it might prevent him from carrying out his intentions, than because his conscience was burdened with the recollection of many misdeeds. His whole existence had been passed in such an intricate labyrinth of duplicity towards others and towards himself that he no longer distinguished between the true and the untrue. Even in this last great fraud he had so consistently deceived his own sense of veracity that he almost felt himself to be the instrument of justice he assumed to be. The case was a delicate one, too, for the most unprejudiced person could hardly have escaped feeling sympathy for San Giacinto, the victim of his ancestor’s imprudence. Montevarchi found it very easy to believe that it was permissible to employ any means in order to gain such an end, and although he might have regarded the actual work of the forgery in the light of a crime, venial indeed, though contrary to the law, his own share in the transaction, as instigator of the deed itself, appeared to be defensible by a whole multitude of reasons. San Giacinto, by all the traditions of primogeniture dear to the heart of the Roman noble, was the head of the family of Saracinesca. But for a piece of folly, hardly to be equalled in Montevarchi’s experience, San Giacinto would have been in possession of the estates and titles without opposition or contradiction since the day of his father’s death. The mere fact that the Saracinesca had not defended the case proved that they admitted the justice of their cousin’s claims. Had old Leone foreseen the contingency of a marriage in his old age, he would either never have signed the deed at all, or else he would have introduced just such a conditional clause as had been forged by Meschini. When a great injustice has been committed, through folly or carelessness, when those who have been most benefited by it admit that injustice, when to redress it is merely to act in accordance with the spirit of the laws, is it a crime then to bring about so much good by merely sacrificing a scruple of conscience, by employing some one to restore an inheritance to its rightful possessor with a few clever strokes of the pen? The answer seemed so clear to Montevarchi that he did not even ask himself the question. Indeed it would have been superfluous to do so, for he had so often satisfied all objections to doubtful courses by a similar sophistry that he knew beforehand what reply would present itself to his self-inquiry. He did not even experience a sense of relief as he turned from the contemplation of what he had just done to the question of Faustina’s marriage, in which there was nothing that could torment his conscience. He was not even aware that he ought to recognise a difference between the two affairs.