“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.”
“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.