Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter IX / The Bride of Fate >> Page 139

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Page 139

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription THE HEART'S SACRIFICE. 139
moment, the treasures of the city were transplanted to the soli-
tude and waste.
But gorgeous and grand as was the spectacle, and joyous as
was the crowd, there were some at the festival, some young,
throbbing hearts, who, though deeply interested in its proceed-
ings, felt anything but gladness. While most of the betrothed
thrilled only with rapturous anticipations that might have been
counted in the strong pulsations that made the bosom heave rap-
idly beneath the close pressure of the virgin zone, there were
yet others, who felt only that sad sinking of the heart which de-
clares nothing but its hopelessness and desolation. There were
victims to be sacrificed as well as virgins to be made happy, and
girdled in by thousands of the brave and goodly�by- golden
images and flaunting banners, and speaking symbols by music
and by smiles�there were more hearts than one that longed to
escape from all, to fly away to some far solitude, where the
voices of such a joy as was now present could vex the defrauded
soul no more. As the fair procession moved onward and up
through the gorgeous avenues of the cathedral to the altar-place,
where stood the venerable patriarch in waiting for their coming,
in order to begin the solemn but grateful rites, you might have
marked, in the crowding groups, the face of one meek damsel,
which declared a heart very far removed from hope or joyful
expectation. Is that tearful eye�is that pallid cheek�that
lip, now so tremulously convulsed�are these proper to one
going to a bridal, and that her own ? Where is her anticipated
joy ? It is not in that despairing vacancy of face�not in that
feeble, faltering, almost fainting footstep�not, certainly, in any-
thing that we behold about the maiden, unless we seek it in the
rich and flaming jewels with which she is decorated and almost
laden down; and these no more declare for her emotions than
the roses which encircle the neck of the white lamb, as it is led
to the altar and the priest. The fate of the two is not unlike,
and so also is their character. Francesca Mani is decreed for a
sacrifice. She was one of those sweet and winning, but feeble
spirits, which know how to submit only. She has no powers of
resistance. She knows that she is a victim ; she feels that her
heart has been wronged even to the death, by the duty to which
it is now commanded ; she feels that it is thus made the cruel