“Of course,” said Corona. “And I thank you, Giovanni, with my whole heart! There is no one like you, dear.”
She sat down in a chair beside him as he stood, and taking his hand she pressed it to her lips. She knew well enough what a strange thing she had asked, and she was indeed grateful to him. He stooped down and kissed her forehead.
“I will always trust you,” he said, softly. “Tell me, dear one, has this matter given you pain? Is it a secret that will trouble you?”
“Not now,” she answered, frankly.
Giovanni was in earnest when he promised to trust his wife. He knew, better than any living man, how well worthy she was of his utmost confidence, and he meant what he said. It must be confessed that the situation was a trying one to a man of his temper, and the depth of his love for Corona can be judged from the readiness with which he consented to her concealing anything from him. Every circumstance connected with what had happened that evening was strange, and the conclusion, instead of elucidating the mystery, only made it more mysterious still. His cousin’s point-blank declaration that Faustina and Gouache were in love was startling to all his ideas and prejudices. He had seen Gouache kiss Corona’s hand in a corner of the drawing-room, a proceeding which he did not wholly approve, though it was common enough. Then Gouache and Faustina had disappeared. Then Faustina had been found, and to facilitate the finding it had been necessary that Corona and Gouache should leave the palace together at one o’clock in the morning. Finally, Corona had appealed to his confidence in her and had taken advantage of it to refuse any present explanation whatever of her proceedings. Corona was a very noble and true woman, and he had promised to trust her. How far he kept his word will appear hereafter.
When San Giacinto heard Corona’s explanation of Faustina’s disappearance, he said nothing. He did not believe the story in the least, but if every one was satisfied there was no reason why he should not be satisfied also. Though he saw well enough that the tale was a pure invention, and that there was something behind it which was not to be known, the result was, on the whole, exactly what he desired. He received the thanks of the Montevarchi household for his fruitless exertions with a smile of gratification, and congratulated the princess upon the happy issue of the adventure. He made no present attempt to ascertain the real truth by asking questions which would have been hard to answer, for he was delighted that the incident should be explained away and forgotten at once. Donna Faustina’s disappearance was of course freely discussed and variously commented, but the general verdict of the world was contrary to San Giacinto’s private conclusions. People said that the account given by the family must be true, since it was absurd to suppose that a child just out of the convent could be either so foolish or so courageous as to go out alone at such a moment. No other hypothesis was in the least tenable, and the demonstration offered must be accepted as giving the only solution of the problem. San Giacinto told no one that he thought differently.