She needed repose even more than Faustina, who, after all, had slept soundly on her prison bed, trusting with childlike faith in her friend’s promise that she should be free in the morning. Corona, on the contrary, had passed a wakeful night, and was almost worn out with fatigue. She remained in her room until twelve o’clock, the hour when the members of the family met at the midday breakfast. She found her father-in-law waiting for her, and at a glance she saw that he was in a savage humour. His bronzed face was paler than usual and his movements more sudden and nervous, while his dark eyes gleamed angrily beneath his bent and shaggy brows. Corona, on her part, was silent and preoccupied. In spite of the tragic events of the night, which, after all, only affected her indirectly at present, and in spite of the constant moral suffering which now played so important a part in her life, she could not but be disturbed by the tremendous loss sustained by her husband and by his father. It fell most heavily upon the latter, who was an old man, and whose mind was not engaged by any other absorbing consideration, but the blow was a terrible one to the other also.
“Where is Giovanni?” asked Saracinesca brusquely, as they sat down to the table.
“I do not know,” answered Corona. “The last I heard of him was that he was with Cardinal Antonelli. I suppose that after getting the order to release Faustina he stayed there.”
“So his Eminence suffered himself to be persuaded that a little girl did not strangle that old tanner,” remarked the prince.
“If they had taken Flavia it would have been more natural. She would have inaugurated her reign as Princess Saracinesca by a night in the Termini. Delightful contrast! I suppose you know who did it?”
“No. Probably a servant, though they say that nothing was stolen.”
“San Giacinto did it. I have thought the whole matter out, and I am convinced of it. Look at his hands. He could strangle an elephant. Not that he could have had any particular reason for liquidating his father-in-law. He is rich enough without Flavia’s share, but I always thought he would kill somebody one of these days, ever since I met him at Aquila.”
“Without any reason, why should he have done it?”
“My dear child, when one has no reason to give, it is very hard to say why a thing occurs. He looks like the man.”
“Is it conceivable that after getting all he could desire he should endanger his happiness in such a way?”
“Perhaps not. I believe he did it. What an abominable omelet—a glass of water, Pasquale. Abominable, is it not, Corona? Perfectly uneatable. I suppose the cook has heard of our misfortunes and wants to leave.”
“I fancy we are not very hungry,” remarked Corona, in order to say something.
“I would like to know whether the murderer is eating his breakfast at this moment, and whether he has any appetite. It would be interesting from a psychological point of view. By the bye, all this is very like a jettatura.”