Chapter XVII.
 

San Giacinto and Flavia were married on Saturday the thirtieth of November, thereby avoiding the necessity of paying a fee for being united during Advent, much to the satisfaction of Prince Montevarchi. The wedding was a brilliant affair, and if the old prince's hospitality left something to be desired, the display of liveries, coaches and family silver was altogether worthy of so auspicious an occasion. Everybody was asked, and almost everybody went, from the Saracinesca to Anastase Gouache, from Valdarno to Arnoldo Meschini. Even Spicca was there, as melancholy as usual, but evidently interested in the proceedings. He chanced to find himself next to Gouache in the crowd.

"I did not expect to see you here," he remarked.

"I have been preserved from a variety of dangers in order to assist at the ceremony," answered the Zouave, with a laugh. "At one time I thought it more likely that I should be the person of importance at a funeral."

"So did I. However, it could not be helped." Spicca did not smile.

"You seem to regret it," observed Gouache, who knew his companion's eccentric nature.

"Only on general principles. For the rest, I am delighted to see you. Come and breakfast with me when this affair is over. We will drink to the happiness of two people who will certainly be very unhappy before long."

"Ourselves?"

"No. The bride and bridegroom. 'Ye, who enter, leave all hope behind!' How can people be so foolish as to enter into an engagement from which there is no issue? The fools are not all dead yet."

"I am one of them," replied Gouache.

"You will probably have your wish. Providence has evidently preserved you from sudden death in order to destroy you by lingering torture. Is the wedding day fixed?"

"I wish it were."

"And the bride?"

"How can I tell?"

"Do you mean to say that, as an opinion, you would rather be married than not? The only excuse for the folly of marrying is the still greater folly of loving a woman enough to marry her. Of course, a man who is capable of that, is capable of anything. Here comes the bride with her father. Think of being tied to her until a merciful death part you. Think of being son-in-law to that old man, until heaven shall be pleased to remove him. Think of calling that stout English lady, mother-in-law, until she is at last overtaken by apoplexy. Think of calling all those relations brothers and sisters, Ascanio, Onorato, Andrea, Isabella, Bianca, Faustina! It is a day's work to learn their names and titles. She wears a veil--to hide her satisfaction--a wreath of orange flowers, artificial, too, made of paper and paste and wire, symbols of innocence, of course, pliable and easily patched together. She looks down, lest the priest should see that her eyes are laughing. Her father is whispering words of comfort and encouragement into her ear. 'Mind your expression,' he is saying, no doubt--'you must not look as though you were being sacrificed, nor as though you were too glad to be married, for everybody is watching you. Do not say, I will, too loudly nor inaudibly either, and remember that you are my daughter.' Very good advice. Now she kneels down and he crosses to the other side. She bends her head very low. She is looking under her elbow to see the folds of her train. You see--she moves her heel to make the gown fall better--I told you so. A pretty figure, all in white, before the great altar with the lights, and the priest in his robes, and the organ playing, and that Hercules in a black coat for a husband. Now she looks up. The rings are there on the gold salver upon the altar. She has not seen hers, and is wondering whether it is of plain gold, or a band of diamonds, like the Princess Valdarno's. Now then--ego conjungo vos--the devil, my friend, it is an awful sight!"

"Cynic!" muttered Gouache, with a suppressed laugh.

"There--it is done now, and she is already thinking what it will be like to dine alone with him this evening, and several thousand evenings hereafter. Cynic, you say? There are no more cynics. They are all married, and must turn stoics if they can. Let us be off. No--there is mass. Well then, go down on your knees and pray for their souls, for they are in a bad case. Marriage is Satan's hot- house for poisonous weeds. If anything can make a devil of an innocent girl it is marriage. If anything can turn an honest man into a fiend it is matrimony. Pray for them, poor creatures, if there is any available praying power left in you, after attending to the wants of your own soul, which, considering your matrimonial intentions, I should think very improbable."

Gouache looked at his companion curiously, for Spicca's virulence astonished him. He was not at all intimate with the man and had never heard him express his views so clearly upon any subject. Unlike most people, he was not in the least afraid of the melancholy Italian.

"From the way you talk," he remarked, "one might almost imagine that you had been married yourself."

Spicca looked at him with an odd expression, in which there was surprise as well as annoyance, and instead of making any answer, crossed himself and knelt down upon the marble pavement. Gouache followed his example instinctively.

Half an hour later the crowd moved slowly out of the church, and those who had carriages waited in the huge vestibule while the long line of equipages moved up to the gates. Gouache escaped from Spicca in the hope of getting a sight of Faustina before she drove away with her mother in one of the numerous Montevarchi coaches. Sant' Ilario and Corona were standing by one of the pillars, conversing in low tones.

"Montevarchi looked as though he knew it," said Giovanni.

"What?" asked Corona, quietly.

"That his daughter is the future Princess Saracinesca."

"It remains to be seen whether he is right."

Gouache had been pushed by the crowd into one of the angles of the pilaster while the two speakers stood before one of the four pillars of which it was built up. The words astonished him so much that he forced his way out until he could see the Princess of Sant' llano's beautiful profile dark against the bright light of the street. She was still speaking, but he could no longer hear her voice, some acoustic peculiarity of the columns had in all probability been the means of conveying to him the fragment of conversation he had overheard. Avoiding recognition, he slipped away through an opening in the throng and just succeeded in reaching the gate as the first of the Montevarchi carriages drew up. The numerous members of the family were gathered on the edge of the crowd, and Gouache managed to speak a few words with Faustina.

The girl's delicate face lighted up when she was conscious of his presence, and she turned her eyes lovingly to his. They met often now in public, though San Giacinto did his best to keep them apart.

"Here is a secret," said Gouache in a quick whisper. "I have just heard Sant' Ilario telling his wife that your sister is the future Princess Saracinesca. What does it mean?"

Faustina looked at him in the utmost astonishment. It was clear that she knew nothing of the matter at present.

"You must have heard wrong," she answered.

"Will you come to early mass to-morrow?" he asked hurriedly, for he had no time to lose.

"I will try--if it is possible. It will be easier now that San Giacinto is to be away. He knows everything, I am sure."

"San Giacinto?" It was Gouache's turn to be astonished. But explanations were impossible in such a crowd, and Faustina was already moving away.

"Say nothing about what I have told you," Anastase whispered as she left him. She bowed her lovely head in silence and passed on.

And so the Marchese di San Giacinto took Flavia Montevarchi for his wife, and all Rome looked on and smiled, and told imaginary stories of his former life, acknowledging, nevertheless, that Flavia had done very well--the stock phrase--since there was no doubt whatever but that the gigantic bridegroom was the cousin of the Saracinesca, and rich into the bargain. Amidst all the gossip and small talk no one, however, was found who possessed enough imagination to foretell what in reality was very imminent, namely, that the Marchese might turn out to be the prince.

The last person to suspect such a revelation was San Giacinto himself. He had indeed at one time entertained some hopes of pushing forward a claim which was certainly founded upon justice if not upon good law, but since Montevarchi had kept the documents relating to the case for many days, and had then returned them without mentioning the subject to his future son-in-law, the latter had thought it wiser to let the matter rest for the present, shrewdly suspecting that such a man as Montevarchi would not readily let such an opportunity of enriching his own daughter slip through his fingers. It has been already seen that Montevarchi purposely prevented San Giacinto from seeing the papers in order that he might be in reality quite innocent of any complicity in the matter when the proceedings were instituted, a point very important for the success of the suit.

Half an hour afterwards San Giacinto was closeted with the old prince in the latter's study, which looked more than usually dismal by contrast with the brilliant assemblage in the drawing- rooms.

"Now that we are alone, my dear son," began Montevarchi, who for a wonder had not changed his coat since the ceremony, "now that you are really my son, I have an important communication to make"

San Giacinto sat down and any one might have seen from the expression of his square jaw and determined mouth that he was prepared for battle. He did not trust his father-in-law in the least, and would not have been surprised if he had made an attempt to get back the money he had paid into the lawyer's hands as Flavia's dowry. But San Giacinto had taken all precautions and knew very well that he could not be cheated. Montevarchi continued in a bland voice.

"I have kept the matter as a surprise for you," he said. "You have of course been very busy during these last weeks in making your preparations for the solemn ceremony at which we have just assisted. It was therefore impossible for you to attend to the multifarious details which it has been my care, my privilege, to sift and examine. For it is a privilege we should value highly to labour for those we love, for those with whom we share our dearest affections. I am now about to communicate to you an affair of the highest importance, which, when brought to a successful termination will exercise a tremendous influence over all your life. Let me say beforehand, however, and lest you should suspect me of any unworthy motives, that I expect no thanks, nor any share in the immense triumph in store for you. Do not be surprised if I use somewhat strong language on such an occasion. I have examined everything, preserved everything, taken the best legal advice, and consulted those without whose spiritual counsel I enter upon no weighty undertaking. My dear son, you, and none other, are the real and rightful Prince Saracinesca."

The climax to the long preamble was so unexpected that San Giacinto uttered a loud exclamation of surprise.

"Do not be amazed at what I have told you," said Montevarchi. "The documents upon which the claims of the Saracinesca rest were drawn up by a wise man. Although he had not at that time any intention of marrying, he was aware that with heaven all things are possible, and introduced a clause to the effect that if he should marry and leave heirs direct of his body, the whole deed was to be null, void and ineffectual. I do not know enough of your family history to understand why neither he nor his son nor his grandson ever made any attempt to recover their birthright, but I know enough of law to affirm that the clause is still good. It is identical"--the prince smiled pleasantly--"it is identical in the original and in the copy preserved in the Chancery archives. In my opinion you have only to present the two documents before a competent court, in order to obtain a unanimous verdict in your favour."

San Giacinto looked hard from under his overhanging brows at the old man's keen face. Then, suddenly, he stuck his heavy fist into the palm of his left hand, and rose from his chair, a gleam of savage triumph in his eyes. For some time he paced the room in silence.

"I wish Giovanni no ill, nor his father either," he said at last.

"Heaven forbid!" exclaimed Montevarchi, crossing himself. "And besides, as the property is all yours, that would be of no use."

San Giacinto stared a minute, and then his deep voice rang out in a hearty laugh. He had an intimate conviction that his devout father-in-law was quite capable, not only of wishing evil to his neighbour, but of putting his wishes into execution if his interests could be advanced thereby.

"No," he said, when his merriment had subsided, "I wish them no evil. But, after all, they must know what is contained in the papers they have in their possession, and they must know that I am the prince, and that they have kept me out of my inheritance. I will go and tell them so. Since there is no doubt about the case, I do not see why I should wait."

"Nor I," answered Montevarchi, with the air of a man who has done his part and expects others to finish what he has begun.

"It is fortunate that we have decided to go to Frascati instead of making a journey to the end of Europe. Not but that, as I have never seen Paris, I would have liked the trip well enough."

"You will find Paris pleasanter when you are Prince Saracinesca."

"That is true," replied San Giacinto, thoughtfully. There was the deep light of anticipated triumph in his eyes. "Will you see that the proper preliminary steps are taken?" he asked presently.

"I will engage lawyers for you. But you will have to do the rest yourself. The lawyers might go out and talk it over with you in Frascati. After all, you are a young man of good sense, and will not have any sentiment about being alone with your wife."

"For the matter of that, I anticipate much pleasure in the society of my wife, but when there is so much meat boiling, somebody must watch the pot, as we used to say in Naples. I am a practical man, you know."

"Ah, that is a great quality, one of the very greatest! If I had spent my life in a perpetual honeymoon with the princess, Casa Montevarchi would not be what it is, my son. I have always given my best attention to the affairs of my household, and I expect that you will continue the tradition."

"Never fear! If, by continuing the tradition, you mean that I should get what is mine, I will not disappoint you. Can you tell me when the case can be tried, and in what court it will be heard?"

"With my influence," replied Montevarchi, "the case may be put through at once. A month will suffice for the preliminaries, a day for the hearing. Everything is settled at once by the exhibition of the documents which provide for you in the most explicit terms. You can come in from the country and see them for yourself if you please. But I consider that quite unnecessary. The lawyers will settle everything."

"Pardon my curiosity, but I would like to know why you thought it best not to tell me anything of the matter until now."

"My dear son, you were so busy with the preparations for your marriage, and the questions involved seemed at first so doubtful that I thought it best not to trouble you with them. Then, when I knew the whole truth the time was so near that I preferred to give you the information as a sort of wedding present."

"A magnificent one indeed, for which I cannot find words to express my gratitude."

"No, no! Do not talk of gratitude. I feel that I am fulfilling a sacred duty in restoring to the fatherless his birthright. It is an act of divine justice for the execution of which I have been chosen as the humble instrument. Do your duty by my dear daughter, and render your gratitude to heaven--quoe sunt Coesaris, Coesari, et quoe sunt Dei, Deo! Would that we could all live by that rule!"

"To Saracinesca what is his, and to San Giacinto that which belongs to him--that is what you mean?"

"Yes, my good son. I am glad to see that you understand Latin. It does you credit that amidst the misfortunes of your early life you should have so improved yourself as to possess the education necessary to the high rank you are about to assume. I tell you frankly that, in spite of your personal qualities, in spite of the great name and possessions which will soon be yours, if I had not distinguished in you that refinement and instruction without which no gentleman is worthy of the name, I would not have bestowed upon you the hand of that sweet creature whom I have cherished as a flower in the house of my old age."

San Giacinto had made a study of old Montevarchi during a month past, and was not in the least deceived by his rounded periods and well expressed moral sentiments. But he smiled and bowed, enjoying the idea of attributing such flattery to himself in proportion as he felt that he was unworthy of it. He had indeed done his best to acquire a certain amount of instruction, as his father-in-law called it, and his tastes were certainly not so coarse as might have been expected, but he was too strong a man to be easily deceived concerning his own powers, and he knew well enough that he owed his success to his fortune. He saw, too, that Montevarchi, in giving him Flavia, had foreseen the possibility of his claiming the rights of his cousins, and if he had not been thoroughly satisfied with his choice he would have now felt that he had been deceived. He had no regrets, however, for he felt that even had he already enjoyed the titles and wealth he was so soon to claim, he would nevertheless have chosen Flavia for his wife. Of all the young girls he had seen in Rome she was the only one who really attracted him; a fact due, perhaps, to her being more natural than the rest, or at least more like what he thought a woman should naturally be. His rough nature would not have harmonised with Faustina's character; still less could he have understood and appreciated a woman like Corona, who was indeed almost beyond the comprehension of Giovanni, her own husband. San Giacinto was almost a savage, compared with the young men of the class to which he now belonged, and there was something wild and half-tamed in Flavia Montevarchi which, had fascinated him from the first, and held him by that side of his temperament by which alone savages are governed.

Had the bringing of the suit been somewhat hastened it is not impossible that San Giacinto and his wife might have driven up to the ancient towers of Saracinesca on that Saturday afternoon, as Giovanni and Corona had done on their wedding day two years and a half earlier. As it was, they were to go out to Frascati to spend a week in Montevarchi's villa, as the prince and princess and all their married children had done before them.

"Eh! what a satisfaction!" exclaimed Flavia, with a sigh of relief as the carriage rolled out of the deep archway under the palace. Then she laughed a little and looked up at her husband out of the corners of her bright black eyes, after which she produced a very pretty silver scent-bottle which her mother had put into her hand as a parting gift. She looked at it, turned it round, opened it and at last smelled the contents.

"Ugh!" she cried, shutting it up quickly and making a wry face. "It is full of salts--horrible! I thought it was something good to smell! Did she think I was going to faint on the way?"

"You do not look like fainting," remarked San Giacinto, who looked gigantic in a wide fur pelisse. He put out his great hand, which closed with a sort of rough tenderness over hers, completely hiding it as well as the smelling-bottle she held. "So it is a satisfaction, is it?" he asked, with a gleam of pleasure in his deep-set eyes.

"If you had been educated under the supervision of the eccellentissima casa Montevarchi, you would understand what a blessed institution marriage is! You--what shall I call you--your name is Giovanni, is it not?"

"Yes--Giovanni. Do you like the name?"

"No--it reminds me of the head of John the Baptist. I will call you--let me see--Nino. Yes--that sounds so small, and you are so immensely big. You are Nino, in future. I am glad you are big. I do not like little men." She nestled close to the giant, with a laugh that pleased him.

San Giacinto suddenly found that he was very much more in love than he had supposed. His life had been very full of contrasts, but this was the greatest which had yet presented itself. He remembered a bright summer's morning a few years earlier, when he had walked back from the church in Aquila with Felice Baldi by his side. Poor Felice! She had worn a very pretty black silk frock with a fine gold chain around her neck, and a veil upon her head, for she was not of the class "that wear hats," as they say in Rome. But she had forced her stout hands into gloves, and Giovanni the innkeeper had been somewhat proud of her ladylike appearance. Her face was very red and there were tears of pleasure and timidity in her eyes, which he remembered very well. It was strange that she, too, should have been proud of her husband's size and strength. Perhaps all women were very much alike. How well he remembered the wedding collation, the little yellow cakes with a drop of hard pink sugar in the middle of each, the bottles of sweet cordial of various flavours, cinnamon, clove, aniseseed and the like, the bright red japanned tray, and the cheaply gaudy plates whereon were painted all manner of impossible flowers.

Felice was dead, buried in the campo santo of Aquila, with its whitewashed walls of enclosure and its appalling monuments and mortuary emblems. Poor Felice! She had been a good wife, and he had been a good husband to her. She was such a simple creature that he could almost fancy her spirit shedding tears of satisfied pride at seeing her Giovanni married to a princess, rich and about to be metamorphosed into a prince himself. She had known that he was a Marchese of a great family, and had often begged him to let her be called the Signora Marchesa. But he had always told her that for people in their position it was absurd. They were not poor for their station; indeed, they were among the wealthiest of their class in Aquila. He had promised to assert his title when they should be rich enough, but poor Felice had died too soon. Then had come that great day when Giovanni had won in the lottery- -Giovanni who had never played before and had all his life called it a waste of money and a public robbery. But, playing once, he had played high, and all his numbers had appeared on the following Saturday. Two hundred thousand francs in a day! Such luck only falls to the lot of men who are born under destiny. Giovanni had long known what he should do if he only possessed the capital. The winnings were paid in cash, and in a fortnight he had taken up a government contract in the province of Aquila. Then came another and another. Everything turned to gold in his hands, and in two years he was a rich man.

Alone in the world, with his two little boys, and possessed of considerable wealth, the longing had come over him to take the position to which he had a legitimate right, a position which, he supposed, would not interfere with his increasing his fortune if he wished to do so. He had left the children under the supervision of old Don Paolo, the curate, and had come to Rome, where he had lodged in an obscure hotel until he had fitted himself to appear before his cousins as a gentleman. His grave temper, indomitable energy, and natural astuteness had done the rest, and fortune had crowned all his efforts. The old blood of the Saracinesca had grown somewhat coarse by the admixture of a stream very far from blue; but if it had lost in some respects it had gained in others, and the type was not wholly low. The broad-shouldered, dark- complexioned giant was not altogether unworthy of the ancient name, and he knew it as his wife nestled to his side. He loved the wild element in her, but most of all he loved the thoroughbred stamp of her face, the delicacy of her small hands, the aristocratic ring of her laughter, for these all told him that, after three generations of obscurity he had risen again to the level whence his fathers had fallen.

The change in his life became very dear to him, as all these things passed quickly through his mind; and with the consciousness of vivid contrast came the certainty that he loved Flavia far better than he had believed possible.

"And what shall I call you?" he asked, rather bluntly. He did not quite know whether it would be wise to use any term of endearment or not. Indeed, this was the weak point in his experience, but he supplemented the deficiency by a rough tenderness which was far from disagreeable to Flavia.

"Anything you like, dear," she answered. San Giacinto felt the blood rush to his head with pleasure as he heard the epithet.

"Anything?" he asked, with a very unwonted tremour in his voice.

"Anything--provided you will love me," she replied. He thought he had never seen such wicked, fascinating eyes. He drew her face to his and looked into them a moment, his own blazing suddenly with a passion wholly new to him.

"I will not call you anything--instead of calling you, I will kiss you--so--is it not better than any name?"

A deep blush spread over Flavia's face and then subsided suddenly, leaving her very pale. For a long time neither spoke again.

"Did your father tell you the news before we left?" asked San Giacinto at last, when they were rolling over the Campagna along the Via Latina.

"No--what?"

"It is somewhat remarkable news. If you are afraid of fainting," he added, with rough humour, "hold your bottle of salts ready."

Flavia looked up uneasily, wondering whether there were anything wrong about San Giacinto. She knew very well that her father had been glad to get rid of her.

"I am not San Giacinto after all," he said quietly. Flavia started and drew back.

"Who are you then?" she asked quickly.

"I am Prince Saracinesca, and you are the princess." He spoke very calmly, and watched her face to see the effect of the news.

"I wish you were!" she exclaimed nervously. She wondered whether he was going mad.

"There seems to be no doubt about it," he answered, "your father informed me of the fact as a wedding present. He has examined all the papers and will send the lawyers out to Frascati to prepare the case with me."

He told her the whole story in detail. As he proceeded, a singular expression came into Flavia's face, and when he had finished she broke out into voluble expressions of joy.

"I always knew that I was born to be a princess--I mean a real one! How could I be anything else? Oh! I am so happy, and you are such a darling to be a prince! And to think that if papa had not discovered the papers, those horrid Sant' Ilario people would have had everything. Princess Saracinesca! Eh, but how it sounds! Almost as good as Orsini, and much nicer with you, you great big, splendid lion! Why did they not call you Leone? It is too good to be true! And I always hated Corona, ever since I was a little girl and she was the Astrardente, because she used to say I did not behave well and that Faustina was much prettier--I heard her say so when I was behind the curtains. Why did you not find it out ever so long ago? Think what a wedding we should have had, just like Sant' Ilario's! But it was very fine after all, and of course there is nothing to complain of. Evviva! Evviva! Do give me one of those cigarettes--I never smoked in my life, and I am so happy that I know it will not hurt me!"

San Giacinto had his case in his hand, and laughed as he presented it to her. Quiet as he was in his manner he was far the happier of the two, as he was far more capable of profound feeling than the wild girl who was now his wife. He was glad, too, to see that she was so thoroughly delighted, for he knew well enough that even after he had gained the suit he would need the support of an ambitious woman to strengthen his position. He did not believe that the Saracinesca would submit tamely to such a tremendous shock of fortune, and he foresaw that their resentment would probably be shared by a great number of their friends.

Flavia looked prettier than ever as she put the bit of rolled paper between her red lips and puffed away with an energy altogether unnecessary. He would not have believed that, being already so brilliant and good to see, a piece of unexpected good news could have lent her expression so much more brightness. She was positively radiant, as she looked from his eyes at her little cigarette, and then, looking back to him again, laughed and snapped her small gloved fingers.

"Do you know," she said presently, with a glance that completed the conquest of San Giacinto's heart, "I thought I should be dreadfully shy with you--at first--and I am not in the least! I confess, at the very moment when you were putting the ring on my finger I was wondering what we should talk about during the drive."

"You did not think we should have such an agreeable subject of conversation, did you?"

"No--and it is such a pretty ring! I always wanted a band of diamonds--plain gold is so common. Did you think of it yourself or did some one else suggest the idea?"

"Castellani said it was old-fashioned," answered San Giacinto, "but I preferred it."

"Would you have liked one, too?"

"No. It would be ridiculous for a man."

"You have very good taste," remarked Flavia, eyeing him critically. "Where did you get it? You used to keep a hotel in Aquila, did you not?"

San Giacinto had long been prepared for the question and did not wince nor show the slightest embarrassment. He smiled calmly as he answered her.

"You would hardly have called it a hotel, it was a country inn. I daresay I shall manage Saracinesca all the better for having kept a hostelry."

"Of course. Oh, I have such a delightful idea! Let us go to Aquila and keep the hotel together. It would be such fun! You could say you had married a little shop-keeper's daughter in Rome, you know. Just for a month, Nino--do let us do it! It would be such a change after society, and then we would go back for the Carnival. Oh, do!"

"But you forget the lawsuit--"

"That is true. Besides, it will be just as much of a change to be Princess Saracinesca. But we can do it another time. I would like so much to go about in an apron with a red cotton handkerchief on my head and see all the queer people! When are the lawyers coming?"

"During the week, I suppose."

"There will be a fight," said Flavia, her face growing more grave. "What will Sant' Ilario and his father say and do? I cannot believe that it will all go so smoothly as you think. They do not look like people who would give up easily what they have had so long. I suppose they will be quite ruined."

"I do not know. Corona is rich in her own right, and Sant' Ilario has his mother's fortune. Of course, they will be poor compared with their present wealth. I am sorry for them--"

"Sorry?" Flavia looked at her husband in some astonishment. "It is their own fault. Why should you be sorry?"

"It is not exactly their fault. I could hardly have expected them to come to me and inform me that a mistake had been made in the last century, and that all they possessed was mine."

"All they possessed!" echoed Flavia, thoughtfully. "What a wonderful idea it is!"

"Very wonderful," assented San Giacinto, who was thinking once more of his former poverty.

The carriage rolled on and both were silent for some time, absorbed in dreaming of the greatness which was before them in the near future, San Giacinto enumerating in his mind the titles and estates which were soon to be his, while Flavia imagined herself in Corona's place in Rome, grown suddenly to be a central figure in society, leading and organising the brilliant amusements of her world, and above all, rejoicing in that lavish use of abundant money which had always seemed to her the most desirable of all enjoyments.