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Beschreibung des Verlags
When, before the altar, the priest asked her, “are you content?” it was with all her soul Gemma had responded, “Yes!”
Oh, yes; she was content indeed. Through the cloud of costly lace which enwrapped her in its snowy transparence, she saw the vast church all dotted with lights, resplendent in the dark gleam of mosaics upon golden backgrounds, animated by the slight movement of the very elegant crowd that filled it; lighted by oblique rays descending from the nave, all a glitter of gold, silks and brilliants; and it was her own future that she seemed to see thus—the years of luxury and wealth which her rich marriage was preparing for her. And had it not been the dream for which she sighed? She, the ideal blonde, of eighteen years, with the tall and proud figure; the pure, disdainful profile under heavy curls like those of an archangel; with haughty eyes sparkling like blue gems under the golden fringes of her long eyelashes.
She had been for a long time a poor girl, the daughter of citizens who had seen better days, that marvelous human lily. She had experienced all the petty troubles, all the cruel daily sufferings of misery that conceals itself. The poor and inelegant gowns, painfully remodeled every year; the insolence of creditors; humiliations; continual and tormenting thoughts of money—she had experienced them all, and in her little heart, eager for pleasure and enjoyment, swollen with unsatisfied longings, a dream was arisen little by little, occupying all the room, rendering her insensible to all the rest: the dream of at last becoming rich.
She wanted it, absolutely; she was born for it; she was rich, now. That “yes,” which she had just pronounced, had, by its three magic letters, changed her destiny; and she was so content, so happy, that it appeared to her it was all a dream, that her Mechlin veil was a cloud that transported her into the realms of the impossible, across a sidereal heaven, of which the diamond pins thrust among her laces formed the flaming stars; and, in order to return to reality, she must cast her eyes toward her husband, Luigo Marchis, kneeling beside her, in the mystic, velvety shade of the altar, lit by the tremulous brightness of the candles.
Ah, there was nothing ideal about him, poor fellow! In vain he straightened his correct person of an elegant man, with his accurately shaven face, with slender brown moustaches, and a still fresh color that gave him something the look of an actor; he remained none the less old, with his powerful shoulders a little bent, with his eyelids grown heavy, and crow’s feet toward his temples, with the gray locks that appeared here and there among his brown hair, with his forty-seven years, of which the weariness was more conspicuous beside that radiant and blonde Spring.
Forty-seven years! How was it possible? He felt his heart so palpitating, full of tears as in youth! And he could not comprehend how so much time had passed, he could not persuade himself of the incredible fact—forty-seven years passed without knowing Gemma.
For they had been acquainted with each other only two months. Marchis, however much he had frequented society, drawn there by his banking connections, had never let himself be talked to of marriage. What! A wife, children, troubles, cares, disappointments ... not even by idea!
And at forty-seven years, one evening, present from motives of curiosity at a ball to which the employees of his bank had invited him, he must needs be smitten by the exquisite, vaporous grace of that blonde girl, dressed simply in white, entering on the arm of a funny little man with a baby-face and a big, silvery beard, her father, a modest clerk in the bank, a rather ridiculous little old man who, beside that divine apparition, slender in her robes of snow, made one think of the gnomes of folk-tales, always crouching at the feet of the fairies.
Ah, weakness of hearts growing old! That apparition was enough to shake all the ideas of Luigo Marchis concerning matrimony, and as the old gnome, despite his absolute nullity, was an honest citizen, incapable of resisting the assiduities of the Director to his pretty daughter, the suitor had been greatly pleased with the consent of that little maiden of eighteen, that beautiful creature, that blonde being, to become his wife. Now he trembled with joy; his eyes were misty with vivid emotion—not perceiving that that too was a sign of old age—and it was a voice choked with joy that to the question of the priest, “Are you content?” replied: “Oh, yes.”
Now, it is done. United, forever united. Having arisen to their feet, she with an elegant and light impulse, like a lily, wind-lifted on its stem; he with a little effort and difficulty, wearied by emotion, they go down from the altar arm-in-arm. Now they pass through the church amid the murmurs of compliments which arise amid the shadows of the aisles, among the dull scraping of feet and the rustle of gowns; there on the peristyle, among the white columns, is a living wave of sun and air which comes to meet them, like a recall to real life, outside of the mystic dream of the church, the creaking of the line of carriages that advanced, the slow descent of the steps, with the white train of the bride spreading and dragging upon the stairs, in folds like snow, soft and light; then the carriages depart; they are alone for the first time, in the narrow space of the carriage, which the bridal dress fills with its whiteness, and the bouquet of orange-blossoms with its acute perfume of intoxicating virginity; and it is then that, conquered by the charm of that face, so delicate and proud amid its large pallid curls, by the splendor of those blue eyes, the elderly bridegroom bends over her to kiss her—
“Dear me, dear me....”
And to see the tranquility with which those finely cut, rose-colored lips return the kisses, through the veil, the question arises whether it is the bridegroom that she kisses, or the Mechlin lace, at five hundred the metre.