Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter IX / The Bride of Fate >> Page 159

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Page 159

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription SURPRISE AND TERROR. 159
The bishop bestowed his blessings, and confirmed by the reli-
gious, the civil rites, which allied the chosen couples. To these
succeeded the voluntary parties, if we may thus presume upon a
distinction between the two classes, which we are yet not sure
that we have a right to make. The high-born and the wealthy,
couple after couple, now approached the altar, to receive the
final benediction which committed them to hopes of happiness
which it is not in the power of any priesthood to compel. No
doubt there was a great deal of hope among the parties, and
we have certainly no reason to suppose that happiness did not
follow in every instance.
But there is poor Francesca Ziani. It is now her turn. Her
cruel parents remain unsubdued and unsoftened by her deep and
touching sorrows. She is made to rise, to totter forward to the
altar, scarcely conscious of anything, except, perhaps, that the
worthless, but wealthy, Ulric Barberigo is at her side. Once
more the mournful spectacle restores to the spectators all their
better feelings. They perceive, they feel the cruelty of that sac-
rifice to which her kindred are insensible. In vain do they
murmur shame !" In vain does she turn her vacant, wild, but
still expressive eyes, expressive because of their very soulless
vacancy, to that stern, ambitious mother, whose bosom no longer
responds to her child with the true maternal feeling. Hopeless
of help from that quarter, she lifts her eyes to heaven, and, no
longer listening to the words of the holy man, she surrenders
herself only to despair.
Is it Heaven that hearkens to her prayer ? Is it the benevo-
lent office of an angel that bursts the doors of the church at the
very moment when she is called upon to yield that response
which dooms her to misery for ever ? To her ears, the thunders
which now shake the church were the fruits of Heaven's benig-
nant interposition. The shrieks of women on every hand the
oaths and shouts of fierce and insolent authority the clamors of
men�the struggles and cries of those who seek safety in flight,
or entreat for mercy� suggest no other idea to the wretched Fran-
cesca, than that she is saved from the embraces of Ulric Barbe-
rigo. She is only conscious that, heedless of her, and of the
entreaties of her mother, he is the first to endeavor selfishly to
save himself by flight. But her escape from Barberigo is only