“May I see them? I know many in the corps. They might be acquaintances.”
“Certainly. They are close by in the mortuary chamber, unless they have been put in the chapel.”
The two men entered the grim place, which was dimly lighted by a lantern hanging overhead. It is unnecessary to dwell upon the ghastly details. San Giacinto bent down curiously and looked at the dead men’s faces. He knew neither of them, and told the surgeon so.
“Will you allow me to see the lady?” he asked.
“Pardon me, if I ask a question,” said the surgeon, who was a man of middle age, with a red beard and keen grey eyes. “To whom have I the advantage of speaking?”
“Signor Professore,” replied San Giacinto, “I must tell you that if this is the lady I suppose your patient to be, the honour of one of the greatest families in Rome is concerned, and it is important that strict secrecy should be preserved.”
“The porter told me that you were a Roman prince,” returned the surgeon rather bluntly. “But you speak like a southerner.”
“I was brought up in Naples. As I was saying, secrecy is very important, and I can assure you that you will earn the gratitude of many by assisting me.”
“Do you wish to take this lady away at once?”
“Heaven forbid! Her mother and sister shall come for her in half an hour.”
The surgeon thrust his hands into his pockets, and stood staring for a moment or two at the bodies of the Zouaves.
“I cannot do it,” he said, suddenly looking up at San. Giacinto. “I am master here, and I am responsible. The secret is professional, of course. If I knew you, even by sight, I should not hesitate. As it is, I must ask your name.”
San Giacinto did not hesitate long, as the surgeon was evidently master of the situation. He took a card from his case and silently handed it to the doctor. The latter took it and read the name, “Don Giovanni Saracinesca, Marchese di San Giacinto.” His face betrayed no emotion, but the belief flashed through his mind that there was no such person in existence. He was one of the leading men in his profession, and knew Prince Saracinesca and Sant’ Ilario, but he had never heard of this other Don Giovanni. He knew also that the city was in a state of revolution and that many suspicious persons were likely to gain access to public buildings on false pretences.
“Very well,” he said quietly. “You are not afraid of dead men, I see. Be good enough to wait a moment here—no one will see you, and you will not be recognised. I will go and see that there is nobody in the way, and you shall have a sight of the young lady.”