“It is not for me to forgive, sweetheart,” said Giovanni, bending down and kissing her sweet dark hair. “It is for you—”
“But I would so much rather think it my fault, dear,” she answered, drawing his face down to hers. It was a very womanly impulse that made her take the blame upon herself.
“You must not think anything so unreasonable, Corona. I brought all the harm that came, from the first moment.”
He would have gone on to accuse himself, obstinate and manlike, recapitulating the whole series of events. But she would not let him. Once more she sat beside him and held his hand in hers. They talked incoherently and it is not to be wondered at if they arrived at no very definite conclusion after a very long conversation. They were still sitting together when the attendant entered and presented Giovanni with a large sealed letter, bearing the Apostolic arms, and addressed merely to the number of Giovanni’s cell.
“There is an answer,” said the man, and then left the room.
“It is probably the notice of the trial, or something of the kind,” observed Giovanni, suddenly growing very grave as he broke the seal. He wished it might have come at any other time than the present. Corona held her breath and watched his face while he read the lines written upon one of the two papers he took from the envelope. Suddenly the colour came to his cheeks and his eyes brightened with a look of happiness and surprise.
“I am free!” he cried, as he finished. “Free if I will sign this paper! Of course I will! I will sign anything he likes.”
The envelope contained a note from the cardinal, in his own hand, to the effect that suspicion had fallen upon another person and that Giovanni was at liberty to return to his home if he would sign the accompanying document. The latter was very short, and set forth that Giovanni Saracinesca bound himself upon his word to appear in the trial of the murderer of Prince Montevarchi, if called upon to do so, and not to leave Rome until the matter was finally concluded and set at rest.
He took the pen that lay on the table and signed his name in a broad firm hand, a fact the more notable because Corona was leaning over his shoulder, watching the characters as he traced them. He folded the paper and placed it in the open envelope which accompanied it. The cardinal was a man of details. He thought it possible that the document might be returned open for lack of the means to seal it. He did not choose that his secrets should become the property of the people about the Holy Office. It was a specimen of his forethought in small things which might have an influence upon great ones.
When Giovanni had finished, he rose and stood beside Corona. Each looked into the other’s eyes and for a moment neither saw very clearly. They said little more, however, until the attendant entered again.
“You are at liberty,” he said briefly, and without a word began to put together the few small things that belonged to his late prisoner.