We were married at the end of June, and Guido Ferrari graced our bridal with his handsome and gallant presence.
“By the body of Bacchus!” he exclaimed to me when the nuptial ceremony was over, “thou hast profited by my teaching, Fabio! A quiet rogue is often most cunning! Thou hast rifled the casket of Venus, and stolen her fairest jewel—thou hast secured the loveliest maiden in the two Sicilies!”
I pressed his hand, and a touch of remorse stole over me, for he was no longer first in my affection. Almost I regretted it—yes, on my very wedding-morn I looked back to the old days—old now though so recent—and sighed to think they were ended. I glanced at Nina, my wife. It was enough! Her beauty dazzled and overcame me. The melting languor of her large limpid eyes stole into my veins—I forgot all but her. I was in that high delirium of passion in which love, and love only, seems the keynote of creation. I touched the topmost peak of the height of joy—the days were feasts of fairy-land, the nights dreams of rapture! No; I never tired! My wife’s beauty never palled upon me; she grew fairer with each day of possession. I never saw her otherwise than attractive, and within a few months she had probed all the depths of my nature. She discovered how certain sweet looks of hers could draw me to her side, a willing and devoted slave; she measured my weakness with her own power; she knew—what did she not know? I torture myself with these foolish memories. All men past the age of twenty have learned somewhat of the tricks of women—the pretty playful nothings that weaken the will and sap the force of the strongest hero. She loved me? Oh, yes, I suppose so! Looking back on those days, I can frankly say I believe she loved me—as nine hundred wives out of a thousand love their husbands, namely—for what they can get. And I grudged her nothing. If I chose to idolize her, and raise her to the stature of an angel when she was but on the low level of mere womanhood, that was my folly, not her fault.
We kept open house. Our villa was a place of rendezvous for the leading members of the best society in and around Naples. My wife was universally admired; her lovely face and graceful manners were themes of conversation throughout the whole neighborhood. Guido Ferrari, my friend, was one of those who were loudest in her praise, and the chivalrous homage he displayed toward her doubly endeared him to me. I trusted him as a brother; he came and went as pleased him; he brought Nina gifts of flowers and fanciful trifles adapted to her taste, and treated her with fraternal and delicate kindness. I deemed my happiness perfect—with love, wealth, and friendship, what more could a man desire?