I Fall in Love with Christine, and Find a Husband Worthy of Her-- Christine's Wedding
"Those gondoliers," said the elderly priest, ad dressing me in order to begin the conversation, "are very fortunate. They took us up at the Rialto for thirty soldi, on condition that they would be allowed to embark other passengers, and here is one already; they will certainly find more."
"When I am in a gondola, reverend sir, there is no room left for any more passengers."
So saying, I give forty more soldi to the gondoliers, who, highly pleased with my generosity, thank me and call me excellency. The good priest, accepting that title as truly belonging to me, entreats my pardon for not having addressed me as such.
"I am not a Venetian nobleman, reverend sir, and I have no right to the title of Excellenza."
"Ah!" says the young lady, "I am very glad of it."
"Why so, signora?"
"Because when I find myself near a nobleman I am afraid. But I suppose that you are an illustrissimo."
"Not even that, signora; I am only an advocate's clerk."
"So much the better, for I like to be in the company of persons who do not think themselves above me. My father was a farmer, brother of my uncle here, rector of P----, where I was born and bred. As I am an only daughter I inherited my father's property after his death, and I shall likewise be heiress to my mother, who has been ill a long time and cannot live much longer, which causes me a great deal of sorrow; but it is the doctor who says it. Now, to return to my subject, I do not suppose that there is much difference between an advocate's clerk and the daughter of a rich farmer. I only say so for the sake of saying something, for I know very well that, in travelling, one must accept all sorts of companions: is it not so, uncle?"
"Yes, my dear Christine, and as a proof you see that this gentleman has accepted our company without knowing who or what we are."
"But do you think I would have come if I had not been attracted by the beauty of your lovely niece?"
At these words the good people burst out laughing. As I did not think that there was anything very comic in what I had said, I judged that my travelling companions were rather simple, and I was not sorry to find them so.
"Why do you laugh so heartily, beautiful 'demigella'? Is it to shew me your fine teeth? I confess that I have never seen such a splendid set in Venice."
"Oh! it is not for that, sir, although everyone in Venice has paid me the same compliment. I can assure you that in P---- all the 'girls have teeth as fine as mine. Is it not a fact, uncle?"
"Yes, my dear niece."
"I was laughing, sir, at a thing which I will never tell you."
"Oh! tell me, I entreat you."
"Oh! certainly not, never."
"I will tell you myself," says the curate.
"You will not," she exclaims, knitting her beautiful eyebrows. "If you do I will go away."
"I defy you to do it, my dear. Do you know what she said, sir, when she saw you on the wharf? 'Here is a very handsome young man who is looking at me, and would not be sorry to be with us.' And when she saw that the gondoliers were putting back for you to embark she was delighted."
While the uncle was speaking to me, the indignant niece was slapping him on the shoulder.
"Why are you angry, lovely Christine, at my hearing that you liked my appearance, when I am so glad to let you know how truly charming I think you?"
"You are glad for a moment. Oh! I know the Venetians thoroughly now. They have all told me that they were charmed with me, and not one of those I would have liked ever made a declaration to me."
"What sort of declaration did you want?"
"There's only one sort for me, sir; the declaration leading to a good marriage in church, in the sight of all men. Yet we remained a fortnight in Venice; did we not, uncle?"
"This girl," said the uncle, "is a good match, for she possesses three thousand crowns. She has always said that she would marry only a Venetian, and I have accompanied her to Venice to give her an opportunity of being known. A worthy woman gave us hospitality for a fortnight, and has presented my niece in several houses where she made the acquaintance of marriageable young men, but those who pleased her would not hear of marriage, and those who would have been glad to marry her did not take her fancy."
"But do you imagine, reverend sir, that marriages can be made like omelets? A fortnight in Venice, that is nothing; you ought to live there at least six months. Now, for instance, I think your niece sweetly pretty, and I should consider myself fortunate if the wife whom God intends for me were like her, but, even if she offered me now a dowry of fifty thousand crowns on condition that our wedding takes place immediately, I would refuse her. A prudent young man wants to know the character of a girl before he marries her, for it is neither money nor beauty which can ensure happiness in married life."
"What do you mean by character?" asked Christine; "is it a beautiful hand-writing?"
"No, my dear. I mean the qualities of the mind and the heart. I shall most likely get married sometime, and I have been looking for a wife for the last three years, but I am still looking in vain. I have known several young girls almost as lovely as you are, and all with a good marriage portion, but after an acquaintance of two or three months I found out that they could not make me happy."