Giovanni and Corona were very evenly matched, as nearly resembling each other as is possible for a man and a woman. Corona was outwardly a little the colder, Giovanni a little the more resentful of the two. Corona had learned during the years of her marriage with Astrardente to wear a mask of serene indifference, and the assumed habit had at last become in some degree a part of her nature. Giovanni, whose first impulses had originally been quicker than they now were, had learned the power of waiting by constant intercourse with his father, whose fiery temper seemed to snatch at trifles for the mere pleasure of tearing them to pieces, and did injustice to the generous heart he concealed under his rough exterior.
Under these circumstances it was not probable that Sant’ Ilario would make any exhibition of his jealousy for some time to come. As he paced the floor of his room, the bitterness of his situation slowly sank from the surface, leaving his face calm and almost serene. He forced himself to look at the facts again and again, trying bravely to be impartial and to survey them as though he were the judge and not the plaintiff. He admitted at last that there was undoubtedly abundant matter for jealousy, but Corona still stood protected as it were by the love he bore her, a love which even her guilt would be unable to destroy. His love indeed, must outlast everything, all evil, all disgrace, and he knew it. He thought of that Latin poet who, writing to his mistress, said in the bitterness of his heart that though she were to become the best woman in the world he could never again respect her, but that he could not cease to love her, were she guilty of all crimes. He knew that if the worst turned out true that must be his case, and perhaps for the first time in his life he understood all the humanity of Catullus, and saw how a man might love even what he despised.
Happily matters had not yet come to that. He knew that he might be deceived, and that circumstantial evidence was not always to be trusted. Even while his heart grew cold with the strongest and most deadly passion of which man is capable, with jealousy which is cruel as the grave, the nobility of his nature rose up and made him see that his duty was to believe Corona innocent until she were proved unfaithful. The effort to quench the flame was great, though fruitless, but the determination to cover it and hide it from every one, even from Corona herself, appealed to all that was brave and manly in his strong character. When at last he once more sat down, his face betrayed no emotion, his eyes were quiet, his hands did not tremble. He took up a book and forced his attention upon the pages for nearly an hour without interruption. Then he dressed himself, and went and sat at table with his father and his wife as though nothing had occurred to disturb his equanimity.
Corona supposed that he had recovered from his annoyance at not being admitted to share the secret for which she was unconsciously sacrificing so much. She had expected this result and was more than usually cheerful. Once old Saracinesca mentioned Gouache, but both Corona and Giovanni hastened to change the subject. This time, however, Giovanni did not look at his wife when the name was pronounced. Those days were over now.