Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter IX / The Bride of Fate >> Page 158

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Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription 158 SOUTHWARD HO
consciousness, in the arms of her sympathizing kindred. For a
brief space the impression was a painful one upon the hearts of
the vast assembly ; but as the deep organ rolled its ascending
anthems, the emotion subsided. The people had assembled for
pleasure and an agreeable spectacle ; and though sympathizing,
for a moment, with the pathetic fortunes of the sundered lovers,
quite as earnestly as it is possible for mere lookers-on to do, they
were not to be disappointed in the objects for which they came.
The various shows of the assemblage�the dresses, the jewels,
the dignitaries, and the beauties�were quite enough to divert
the feelings of a populace, at all times notorious for its levities,
from a scene which, however impressive at first, was becoming
a little tedious. Sympathies are very good and proper things;
but the world seldom suffers them to occupy too much of its
time. Our Venetians did not pretend to be any more humane
than the rest of the great family ; and the moment that Fran-
cesca had fainted, and Giovanni had disappeared, the multitude
began to express their impatience of any further delay-by all the
means in their possession. There was no longer a motive to re-
sist their desires, and simply reserving the fate of the poor Fran-
cesca to the last, or until she should sufficiently recover to be
fully conscious of the sacrifice-which she was about to make, the
ceremonies were begun. There was a political part to be played
by the doge, in which the people took particular interest ; and
to behold which, indeed, was the strongest reason of their impa-
tience. The government of Venice, as was remarked by quaint
and witty James Howell, was a compound thing, mixed of' all
kinds of governments, and might be said to be composed of a
grain of monarchy, a dose of democracy, and a dram, if not an
ounce of optimacy." It was in regard to this dose of democracy
that the government annually assigned marriage portions to
twelve young maidens, selected from the great body of the peo-
ple, of those not sufficiently opulent to secure husbands, or find
the adequate means for marriage, without this help. To bestow
these maidens upon their lovers, and with them the portions
allotted by the state, constituted the first, and in the eyes of the
masses, the most agreeable part of the spectacle. The doge,
on this occasion, who was the thrice-renowned Pietro Candiano,
" did his spiriting gently," and in a highly edifying manner.