Faustina drew herself up a little and fixed her deep brown eyes upon her father’s face, very quietly and solemnly.
“You misunderstand me,” she said. “I only wish to know your decision in order that I may give you my answer.”
“And what can that answer be? Have I not chosen, wisely, a husband fit for you in every way?”
“From your point of view, I have no doubt of it.”
“I trust you are not about to commit the unpardonable folly of differing from me, my daughter,” answered Montevarchi, with a sudden change of tone indicative of rising displeasure. “It is for me to decide, for you to accept my decision.”
“Upon other points, yes. In the question of marriage I think I have something to say.”
“Is it possible that you can have any objections to the match I have found for you? Is it possible that you are so foolish as to fancy that at your age you can understand these things better than I? Faustina, I would not have believed it!”
“How can you understand what I feel?”
“It is not a question of feeling, it is a question of wisdom, of foresight, of prudence, of twenty qualities which you are far too young to possess. If marriage were a matter of feeling, of vulgar sentiment, I ask you, what would become of the world? Of what use is it to have all the sentiment in life, if you have not that which makes life itself possible? Can you eat sentiment? Can you harness sentiment in a carriage and make it execute a trottata in the Villa Borghese? Can you change an ounce of sentiment into good silver scudi and make it pay for a journey in the hot weather? No, no, my child. Heaven knows that I am not avaricious. Few men, I think, know better than I that wealth is perishable stuff—but so is this mortal body, and the perishable must be nourished with the perishable, lest dust return to dust sooner than it would in the ordinary course of nature. Money alone will not give happiness, but it is, nevertheless, most important to possess a certain amount of it.”
“I would rather do without it than be miserable all my life for having got it.”
“Miserable all your life? Why should you be miserable? No woman should be unhappy who is married to a good man. My dear, this matter admits of no discussion. Frangipani is young, handsome, of irreproachable moral character, heir to a great fortune and to a great name. You desire to be in love. Good. Love will come, the reward of having chosen wisely. It will be time enough then to think of your sentiments. Dear me! if we all began life by thinking of sentiment, where would our existence end?”
“Will you please tell me whether you have quite decided that I am to marry Frangipani?” Faustina found her father’s discourses intolerable, and, moreover, she had something to say which would be hard to express and still harder to sustain by her actions.
“If you insist upon my giving you an answer, which you must have already foreseen, I am willing to tell you that I have quite decided upon the match.”