Sant’ Ilario had guessed rightly that the place of safety and secrecy to which he was to be conveyed was no other than the Holy Office, or prison of the Inquisition. He was familiar with the interior of the building, and knew that it contained none of the horrors generally attributed to it, so that, on the whole, he was well satisfied with the cardinal’s choice. The cell to which he was conveyed after dark was a large room on the second story, comfortably furnished and bearing no sign of its use but the ornamented iron grating that filled the window. The walls were not thicker than those of most Roman palaces, and the chamber was dry and airy, and sufficiently warmed by a huge brazier of coals. It was clear from the way in which he was treated that the cardinal relied upon his honour more than upon any use of force in order to keep him in custody. A silent individual in a black coat had brought him in a carriage to the great entrance, whence a man of similar discretion and of like appearance had conducted him to his cell. This person returned soon afterwards, bringing a sufficient meal of fish and vegetables—it was Friday—decently cooked and almost luxuriously served. An hour later the man came back to carry away what was left. He asked whether the prisoner needed anything else for the night.
“I would like to know,” said Giovanni, “whether any of my friends will be allowed to see me, if I ask it.”
“I am directed to say that any request or complaint you have to make will be transmitted to his Eminence by a special messenger,” answered the man. “Anything,” he added in explanation, “beyond what concerns your personal comfort. In this respect I am at liberty to give you whatever you desire, within reason.”
“Thank you. I will endeavour to be reasonable,” replied Giovanni. “I am much obliged to you.”
The man left the room and closed the door softly, so softly that the prisoner wondered whether he had turned the key. On examining the panels he saw, however, that they were smooth and not broken by any latch or keyhole. The spring was on the outside, and there was no means whatever of opening the door from within.