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Chapter 24

XXIV

In the levities which the most undeserving husbands permit themselves with the severest of wives, there were times after their marriage when Colville accused Lina of never really intending to drive him away, but of meaning, after a disciplinary ordeal, to marry him in reward of his tested self-sacrifice and obedience. He said that if the appearance of Effie was not a coup de théâtre contrived beforehand, it was an accident of no consequence whatever; that if she had not come in at that moment, her mother would have found some other pretext for detaining him. This is a point which I would not presume to decide. I only know that they were married early in June before the syndic of Florence, who tied a tricolour sash round his ample waist for the purpose, and never looked more paternal or venerable than when giving the sanction of the Italian state to their union. It is not, of course, to be supposed that Mrs. Colville was contented with the civil rite, though Colville may have thought it quite sufficient. The religious ceremony took place in the English chapel, the assistant clergyman officiating in the absence of the incumbent, who had already gone out of town.

The Rev. Mr. Waters gave away the bride, and then went home to Palazzo Pinti with the party, the single and singularly honoured guest at their wedding feast, for which Effie Bowen went with Colville to Giacosa's to order the ices in person. She has never regretted her choice of a step father, though when Colville asked her how she would like him in that relation she had a moment of hesitation, in which she reconciled herself to it; as to him she had no misgivings. He has sometimes found himself the object of little jealousies on her part, but by promptly deciding all questions between her and her mother in Effie's favour he has convinced her of the groundlessness of her suspicions.

In the absence of any social pressure to the contrary, the Colvilles spent the summer in Palazzo Pinti. Before their fellow-sojourners returned from the villeggiatura in the fall, however, they had turned their faces southward, and they are now in Rome, where, arriving as a married couple, there was no inquiry and no interest in their past.

It is best to be honest, and own that the affair with Imogene has been the grain of sand to them. No one was to blame, or very much to blame; even Mrs. Colville says that. It was a thing that happened, but one would rather it had not happened.

Last winter, however, Mrs Colville received a letter from Mrs. Graham which suggested, if it did not impart, consolation. "Mr. Morton was here the other day, and spent the morning. He has a parish at Erie, and there is talk of his coming to Buffalo."

"Oh, Heaven grant it!" said Colville, with sudden piety.

"Why?" demanded his wife.

"Well, I wish she was married."

"You have nothing whatever to do with her."

It took him some time to realise that this was the fact.

"No," he confessed; "but what do you think about it?"

"There is no telling. We are such simpletons! If a man will keep on long enough—But if it isn't Mr. Morton, it will be some one else—some young person."

Colville rose and went round the breakfast table to her. "I hope so," he said. "I have married a young person, and it would only be fair."

This magnanimity was irresistible.

THE END.

William Dean Howells

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