“Yes, papa. May I go, now?”
“If your conscience will permit you to retire without a word of gratitude to your parents, who in spite of the extreme singularities of your behaviour have at last provided you with a suitable husband; if, I say, you are capable of such ingratitude, then, Flavia, you may certainly go.”
“I was going to say, papa, that I thank you very much for my husband, and mamma, too.”
Thereupon she kissed her father’s and her mother’s hands with great reverence and turned to leave the room. Her gravity forsook her, however, before she reached the door.
“Evviva! Hurrah!” she cried, suddenly skipping across the intervening space and snapping her small fingers like a pair of castanets. “Evviva! Married at last! Hurrah!” And with this parting salute she disappeared.
When she was gone, her father and mother looked at each other, as they had looked many times before in the course of Flavia’s life. They had found little difficulty in bringing up their other children, but Flavia was a mystery to them both. The princess would have understood well enough a thorough English girl, full of life and animal spirits, though shy and timid in the world, as the elderly lady had herself been in her youth. But Flavia’s character was incomprehensible to her northern soul. Montevarchi understood the girl better, but loved her even less. What seemed odd in her to his wife, to him seemed vulgar and ill-bred, for he would have had her like the rest, silent and respectful in his presence, and in awe of him as the head of the house, if not in fact, at least in manner. But Flavia’s behaviour was in the eyes of Romans a very serious objection to her as a wife for any of their sons, for in their view moral worth was necessarily accompanied by outward gravity and decorum, and a light manner could only be the visible sign of a giddy heart.
“If only he does not find out what she is like!” exclaimed the princess at last.
“I devoutly trust that heaven in its mercy may avert such a catastrophe from our house,” replied Montevarchi, who, however, seemed to be occupied in adding together certain sums upon his fingers.
San Giacinto understood Flavia better than either of her parents; and although his marriage with her was before all things a part of his plan for furthering his worldly interests, it must be confessed that he had a stronger liking for the girl than her father would have considered indispensable in such affairs. The matter was decided at once, and in a few days the preliminaries were settled between the lawyers, while Flavia exerted the utmost pressure possible upon the parental purse in the question of the trousseau.