CH. XIV. -- A double marriage, and the conclusion of the history.
By this discourse, Scipio encouraged me to declare myself, without considering bow he exposed me to the danger of a refusal. My own resolution was taken with fear and trembling. Though I carried my years well, and might have sunk at least ten, it did not seem unlikely that a young beauty might turn up her nose at the disparity. I determined, however, to bolt the question the first time I saw her brother, who was not without his trepidations on the subject of my god-daughter.
He returned my call the next morning, just as I had done dressing. Signor de Santillane, said he, I wish to speak with you on some serious business. I took him into my closet, where entering on the subject at once, I imagine, continued he, that you are not unacquainted with the purpose of my visit: I love Seraphina; you are all in all with her father; I must request you therefore to intercede and procure for me the accomplishment of my heart's desire: then shall I have to thank you for the prime bliss of my existence. Signor Don Juan, answered I, as you come to the point at once, you can have no objection to my following your example: My good offices are fully at your service, and I shall hope for yours with your sister in return.
Don Juan was agreeably surprised. Can it be possible, exclaimed he, that Dorothea should have made a conquest of your heart since yesterday? It is even so, said I, and it would make me the happiest of men, if the proposal should meet with your joint approbation. You may rely on that, replied he; though with some pretensions to family pride, yours is not an alliance to be despised. You flatter me highly, rejoined I; that you are not mealy-mouthed about receiving a commoner into your pedigree, is a mark of good sense; but even if nobility had been a necessary ingredient in your sister's requisites for a husband, we should not have quarrelled on that account. I have worked out twenty years in the trammels of office; and the king, as a reward of my long labours, has granted me a patent of nobility. This high-minded gentleman read my credentials over with extreme satisfaction, and returning them, told me that Dorothea was mine. And Seraphina yours, exclaimed I.
Thus were the two marriages agreed on between us. The consent of the intended brides was all that remained; for we neither of us presumed to control the inclinations of our wards. My friend therefore carried home my proposal to his sister, and I called Scipio, Beatrice, and my god-daughter together, for the purpose of laying open a similar project. Beatrice voted loudly for immediate acceptance, and Seraphina silently. The father did not say much against it; but boggled a little at the fortune he must give to a gentleman whose seat required such immediate and extensive repairs. I stopped Scipio's mouth by telling him that was my concern, and that I should contribute four thousand pistoles to the architect's estimate.
In the evening, Don Juan came again. Your business is going swimmingly, said I; pray heaven mine may promise as fairly. Better it cannot, answered he; my influence was quite unnecessary to prevail with Dorothea; your person had made its impression, and your manners pleased her. You were afraid she might not like you; while she, with more reason, having nothing to offer you but her heart and hand . . . . What would she offer more? interrupted I, out of my wits with joy. Since the lovely Dorothea can think of me without repugnance, I ask no more: my fortune is ample, and the possession of her is the only dowry I should value.
Don Juan and myself, highly delighted at having brought our views to bear so soon, were for hastening our nuptials, and cutting off all superfluous ceremonies. I closeted the gentleman with Seraphina's parents; the settlemeuts were soon agreed on, and he took his leave, promising to return next day with Dorothea. My eager desire of appearing agreeable in that lady's eyes, occasioned me to spend three hours at least in adjusting my dress, and communicating the air of a lover to my person; but I could not do it so much to my mind as in my younger days. The preparations for courtship are a pleasure to a young man, but a serious business and hazardous speculation to one who is beginning to be oldish. And yet it turned out better than my hopes or deserts; for Don Juan's sister received me so graciously, as to put me in good humour with myself. I was charmed with the turn of her mind; and foreboded that with discreet management and much deference, I might really get her to like me as well as anybody else. Full of this sweet hope I sent for the lawyers to draw up the two contracts, and for the clergyman of Paterna, to bring us better acquainted with our mistresses.
Thus did I light the torch of Hymen for the second time, and it did not burn blue with the brimstone of repentance. Dorothea, like a virtuous wife, made a pleasure of her duty; in gratitude for the pains I took to anticipate all her wishes, she soon loved me as well as if I had been younger. Don Juan and my god-daughter were most enthusiastic in their mutual ardour; and what was most unprecedented of all, the two sisters-in-law loved one another sincerely. Don Juan was a man in whom all good qualities met: my esteem for him increased daily, and he did not repay it with ingratitude. In short, we were a happy and united family: we could scarcely bear the interval of separation between evening and morning. Our time was divided between Lirias and Jutella: his excellency's pistoles made the old battlements to raise their heads again, and the castle to resume its lordly port.
For these three years, reader, I have led a life of unmixed bliss in this beloved society. To perfect my satisfaction, heaven has deigned to send me two smiling babes, whose education will be the amusement of my declining years; and if ever husband might venture to hazard so bold an hypothesis, I devoutly believe myself their father.