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given him of guilt in the woman he adored and yet show nothing, any more than if she had been a stranger? But the argument was not satisfactory, nor conclusive. If human ills could be healed by the use of logic, there would long since have been no unhappiness left in the world. Is there anything easier than to deceive one's self when one wishes to be deceived? Nothing, surely, provided that the inner reality of ourselves which we call our hearts consents to the deception. But if it will not consent, then there is no help in all the logic that has been lavished upon the philosophy of a dozen ages.
Her slender fingers tightened upon the freezing bars, and once more, in the silent night, her tears flowed down as she looked up at the stars through the prison window. The new condition of her life sought an expression she had hitherto considered as weak and despicable, and against which she struggled even now. There was no relief in weeping, it brought her no sense of rest, no respite from the dull consciousness of her situation; and yet she could not restrain the drops that fell so fast upon her hands. She suffered always, without any intermittence, as people do who have little imagination, with few but strong passions and a constant nature. There are men and women whose active fancy is able to lend a romantic beauty to misfortune, which gives some pleasure even to themselves, or who can obtain some satisfaction, if they are poets, by expressing their pain in grand or tender language. There are others to whom sorrow is but a reality, for which all expression seems inadequate.
Corona was such a woman, too strong to suffer little, too unimaginative to suffer poetically. There are those who might say that she exaggerated the gravity of the position, that, since Giovanni had always been faithful to her, had acknowledged his error and repented of it so sincerely, there was no reason why she should not love him as before. The answer is very simple. The highest kind of love not only implies the highest trust in the person loved, but demands it in return; the two conditions are as necessary to each other as body and soul, so that if one is removed from the other, the whole love dies. Our relations with our fellow-creatures are reciprocal in effect, whatever morality may require in theory, from the commonest intercourse between mere acquaintances to the bond between man and wife. An honest man will always hesitate to believe another unless he himself is believed. Humanity gives little, on the whole, unless it expects a return; still less will men continue to give when their gifts have been denounced to them as false, no matter what apology is offered alter the mistake has been discovered. Corona was very human, and being outwardly cold, she was inwardly more sensitive to suspicion than very expansive women can ever be. With women who express very readily what they feel, the expression often assumes such importance as to deceive them into believing their passions to be stronger than they are. Corona had given all, love, devotion, faithfulness, and yet, because appearances had been against her, Giovanni had doubted her. He had cut the plant down at the very root, and she had nothing more to give.
Faustina moved in her sleep. Corona softly closed the window and once more lay down to rest. The hours seemed endless as she listened for the bells. At last the little room grew gray and she could distinguish the furniture in the gloom. Then all at once the door opened, and the nun entered, bearing her little lantern and peering over it to try and see whether the occupants of the chamber were awake. In the shadow behind her Corona could distinguish the figure of a man.
"The prince is here," said the sister in a low voice, as she saw that Corona's eyes were open. The latter glanced at Faustina, whose childlike sleep was not interrupted. She slipped from the bed and went out into the corridor.
The nun would have led the two down to the parlour, but Corona would not go so far from Faustina. At their request she opened an empty cell a few steps farther on, and left Giovanni and his wife alone in the gray dawn. Corona looked eagerly into his eyes for some news concerning the young girl. He took her hand and kissed it.
"My darling--that you should have spent the night in such a place as this!" he exclaimed.
"Never mind me. Is Faustina at liberty? Did you see the cardinal?"
"I saw him." Giovanni shook his head.
"And do you mean to say that he would not give the order at once?"
"Nothing would induce him to give it. The prefect got there before me, and I was kept waiting half an hour while they talked the matter over. The cardinal declared to me that he knew there had been an enmity between Faustina and her father concerning her love for Gouache--"
"Her love for Gouache!" repeated Corona slowly, looking into his eyes. She could not help it. Giovanni turned pale and looked away as he continued.
"Yes, and he said that the evidence was very strong, since no one had been known to enter the house, and the servants were clearly innocent--not one of them betrayed the slightest embarrassment."
"In other words, he believes that Faustina actually did it?"
"It looks like it," said Giovanni in a low voice.
"Giovanni!" she seized his arm. "Do you believe it, too?"
"I will believe whatever you tell me."
"She is as innocent as I!" cried Corona, her eyes blazing with indignation. Giovanni understood more from the words than she meant to convey.
"Will you never forgive?" he asked sadly.
"I did not mean that--I meant Faustina. Giovanni--you must get her away from here. You can, if you will."
"I will do much for you," he answered quietly.
"It is not for me. It is for an unfortunate child who is the victim of a horrible mistake. I have comforted her by promising that she should be free this morning. She will go mad if she is kept here."
"Whatever I do, I do for you, and I will do nothing for any one else. For you or for no one, but I must know that it is really for you."
Corona understood and turned away. It was broad daylight now, as she looked through the grating of the window, watching the people who passed, without seeing them.
"What is Faustina Montevarchi to me, compared with your love?" Giovanni asked.
Something in the tone of his voice made her look at him. She saw the intensity of his feeling in his eyes, and she wondered that he should try to tempt her to love him with, such an insignificant bribe--with the hope of liberating the young girl. She did not understand that he was growing desperate. Had she known what was in his mind she might have made a supreme effort to deceive herself into the belief that he was still to her what he had been so long. But she did not know.
"For the sake of her innocence, Giovanni!" she exclaimed. "Can you let a child like that suffer so? I am sure, if you really would you could manage it, with your influence. Do you not see that I am suffering too, for the girl's sake?"
"Will you say that it is for your sake?"
"For my sake--if you will," she cried almost impatiently.
"For your sake, then," he answered. "Remember that it is for you, Corona."
Before she could answer, he had left the room, without another word, without so much as touching her hand. Corona gazed sadly at the open door, and then returned to Faustina.
An hour later the nun entered the cell, with a bright smile on her face.
"Your carriage is waiting for you--for you both," she said, addressing the princess. "Donna Faustina is free to return to her mother."
When Giovanni Saracinesca had visited Cardinal Antonelli on the previous evening, he had been as firmly persuaded that Faustina was innocent, as Corona herself, and was at first very much astonished by the view the great man took of the matter. But as the latter developed the case, the girl's guilt no longer seemed impossible, or even improbable. The total absence of any ostensible incentive to the murder gave Faustina's quarrel with her father a very great importance, which was further heightened by the nature of the evidence. There had been high words, in the course of which the Princess Montevarchi had left the room, leaving her daughter alone with the old man. No one had seen him alive after that moment, and he had been found dead, evidently strangled with her handkerchief. The fact that Faustina had a bruise on her arm and a cut on her lip pointed to the conclusion that a desperate struggle had taken place. The cardinal argued that, although she might not have had the strength to do the deed if the contest had begun when both were on their feet, it was by no means impossible that so old a man might have been overcome by a young and vigorous girl, if she had attacked him when he was in his chair, and was prevented from rising by the table before him. As for the monstrosity of the act, the cardinal merely smiled when Giovanni alluded to it. Had not fathers been murdered by their children before, and in Rome? The argument had additional weight, when Giovanni remembered Faustina's wild behaviour on the night of the insurrection. A girl who was capable of following a soldier into action, and who had spent hours in searching for him after such an appalling disaster as the explosion of the Serristori barracks, might well be subject to fits of desperate anger, and it
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