“I do not know—I have not seen Giovanni yet. He stayed with the cardinal when the carriage came for us. It was managed in some way, and quickly. I shall hear all about it this evening. What is it, dear?”
There were tears in Faustina’s soft eyes, followed quickly by a little sob.
“I miss him dreadfully!” she exclaimed, laying her head on her friend’s shoulder. “And I am so unhappy! We parted angrily, and I can never tell him how sorry I am. You do not think it could have had anything to do with it, do you?”
“Your little quarrel? No, child. What could it have changed? We do not know what happened.”
“I shall never forget his face. I was dreadfully undutiful—oh! I could almost marry that man if it would do any good!”
Corona smiled sadly. The young girl’s sorrow was genuine, in strange contrast to Flavia’s voluble flippancy. She laid her hand affectionately on the thick chestnut hair.
“Perhaps he sees now that you should not marry against your heart.”
“Oh, do you think so? I wish it were possible. I should not feel as though I were so bad if I thought he understood now. I could bear it better. I should not feel as though it were almost a duty to marry Frangipani.”
Corona turned quickly with an expression that was almost fierce in its intensity. She took Faustina’s hands in hers.
“Never do that, Faustina. Whatever comes to you, do not do that! You do not know what it is to live with a man you do not love, even if you do not hate him. It is worse than death.”
Corona kissed her and left her standing by the door. Was it possible, Faustina asked, that Corona did not love her husband? Or was she speaking of her former life with old Astrardente? Of course, it must be that. Giovanni and Corona were a proverbially happy couple.
When Corona again entered her own room, there was a note lying upon the table, the one her husband had written that morning from his place of confinement. She tore the envelope open with an anxiety of which she had not believed herself capable. She had asked for him when she returned and he had not been heard of yet. The vague uneasiness she had felt at his absence suddenly increased, until she felt that unless she saw him at once she must go in search of him. She read the note through again and again, without clearly understanding the contents.
It was evident that he had left Rome suddenly and had not cared to tell her whither he was going, since the instructions as to what she was to say were put in such a manner as to make it evident that they were only to serve as an excuse for his absence to others, and not as an explanation to herself. The note was enigmatical and might mean almost anything. At last Corona tossed the bit of paper into the fire, and tapped the thick carpet impatiently with her foot.
“How coldly he writes!” she exclaimed aloud.