the perfect nobleman; his conduct in the affair between
Faustina and Gouache had shown that. He acted
according to his lights, and was not ashamed to do
things which his cousin Giovanni would have called
mean. But he was manly, for all that, and if he
owed some of his dignity to great stature and to his
indomitable will, it was also in a measure the outward
sign of a good heart and of an innate sense of justice.
There had as yet been nothing dishonest in his dealings
since he had come to Rome. He had acquired a
fortune which enabled him to take the position that
was lawfully his. He liked Flavia, and had bargained
for her with her father, afterwards scrupulously fulfilling
the terms of the contract. He had not represented
himself to be what he was not, and he had taken no
unfair advantage of any one for his own advancement.
In the matter of the suit he was the dupe of old Montevarchi,
so far as the deeds were concerned, but he was perfectly
aware that he actually represented the elder branch
of his family. It is hard to imagine how any
man in his position could have done less than he did,
and now that it had come to a final settlement he was
really anxious to cause his vanquished relations as
little humiliation as possible. To go to their
house was like playing the part of a bailiff.
To allow them to come to his dwelling suggested the
journey to Canossa. The Palazzo Montevarchi was
neutral ground, and he proposed that the formalities
should be fulfilled there. Saracinesca consented
readily enough and the day was fixed.
The notaries arrived at ten o’clock in the morning,
accompanied by clerks who were laden with books, inventories
and rolls of manuscript. The study had been selected
for the meeting, both on account of its seclusion
from the rest of the house and because it contained
an immense table which would serve for the voluminous
documents, all of which must be examined and verified.
San Giacinto himself awaited the arrival of the Saracinesca
in the great reception-room. He had sent his
wife away, for he was in reality by no means so calm
as he appeared to be, and her constant talk disturbed
him. He paced the long room with regular steps,
his head erect, his hands behind him, stopping from
time to time to listen for the footsteps of those
he expected. It was the great day of his life.
Before night, he was to be Prince Saracinesca.
The moments that precede a great triumph are very
painful, especially if a man has looked forward to
the event for a long time. No matter how sure
he is of the result, something tells him that it is
uncertain. A question may arise, he cannot guess
whence, by which all may be changed. He repeats
to himself a hundred times that failure is impossible,
but he is not at rest. The uncertainty of all
things, even of his own life, appears very clearly
before his eyes. His heart beats fast and slow
from one minute to another. At the very instant
when he is dreaming of the future, the possibility