There was a deep and sincere devotion on both sides, in two persons both singularly capable of sincerity, and both foresaw that the result of this love could never be indifference. The end could only be exceeding happiness, or mortal sorrow. Anastase and Faustina were not only themselves in earnest; each knew instinctively that the other would be faithful, a condition extremely rare in ordinary cases. Each recognised that the obstacles were enormous, but neither doubted for a moment that means would be found to overcome them.
In some countries the marriage of these two would have been a simple matter enough. A man of the world, honourable, successful, beginning to be famous, possessed of some fortune, might aspire to marry any one he pleased in lands where it is not a disgrace to have acquired the means of subsistence by one’s own talent and industry. Artists and poets have sometimes made what are called great marriages. But in Rome, twenty years ago, things were very different. It is enough to consider the way in which Montevarchi arranged to dispose of his daughter Flavia to understand the light in which he would have regarded Faustina’s marriage with Anastase Gouache. The very name of Gouache would have raised a laugh in the Montevarchi household had any one suggested that a woman of that traditionally correct race could ever make it her own. There were persons in Rome, indeed, who might have considered the matter more leniently. Corona Sant’ Ilario was one of these; but her husband and father-in-law would have opened their eyes as wide as old Lotario Montevarchi himself, had the match been discussed before them. Their patriarchally exclusive souls would have been shocked and the dear fabric of their inborn prejudices shaken to its deepest foundations. It was bad enough, from the point of view of potential matrimony, to earn money, even if one had the right to prefix “Don” to one’s baptismal name. But to be no Don and to receive coin for one’s labour was a far more insurmountable barrier against intermarriage with the patriarchs than hereditary madness, toothless old age, leprosy, or lack of money.