His companion nodded in assent and the surgeon went out through the narrow door. San Giacinto was surprised to hear the heavy key turned in the lock and withdrawn, but immediately accounted for the fact on the theory that the surgeon wished to prevent any one from finding his visitor lest the secret should be divulged. He was not a nervous man, and had no especial horror of being left alone in a mortuary chamber for a few minutes. He looked about him, and saw that the room was high and vaulted. One window alone gave air, and this was ten feet from the floor and heavily ironed. He reflected with a smile that if it pleased the surgeon to leave him there he could not possibly get out. Neither his size nor his phenomenal strength could assist him in the least. There was no furniture in the place. Half a dozen slabs of slate for the bodies were built against the wall, solid and immovable, and the door was of the heaviest oak, thickly studded with huge iron nails. If the dead men had been living prisoners their place of confinement could not have been more strongly contrived.
San Giacinto waited a quarter of an hour, and at last, as the surgeon did not return, he sat down upon one of the marble slabs and, being very hungry, consoled himself by lighting a cigar, while he meditated upon the surest means of conveying Donna Faustina to her father’s house. At last he began to wonder how long he was to wait.
“I should not wonder,” he said to himself, “if that long-eared professor had taken me for a revolutionist.”
He was not far wrong, indeed. The surgeon had despatched a messenger for a couple of gendarmes and had gone about his business in the hospital, knowing very well that it would take some time to find the police while the riot lasted, and congratulating himself upon having caught a prisoner who, if not a revolutionist, was at all events an impostor, since he had a card printed with a false name.
The improvised banquet at the Palazzo Saracinesca was not a merry one, but the probable dangers to the city and the disappearance of Faustina Montevarchi furnished matter for plenty of conversation. The majority inclined to the belief that the girl had lost her head and had run home, but as neither Sant’ Ilario nor his cousin returned, there was much speculation. The prince said he believed that they had found Faustina at her father’s house and had stayed to dinner, whereupon some malicious person remarked that it needed a revolution in Rome to produce hospitality in such a quarter.
Dinner was nearly ended when Pasquale, the butler, whispered to the prince that a gendarme wanted to speak with him on very important business.
“Bring him here,” answered old Saracinesca, aloud. “There is a gendarme outside,” he added, addressing his guests, “he will tell us all the news. Shall we have him here?”
Every one assented enthusiastically to the proposition, for most of those present were anxious about their houses, not knowing what had taken place during the last two hours. The man was ushered in, and stood at a distance holding his three-cornered hat in his hand, and looking rather sheepish and uncomfortable.