“We have our difficulties, as is the fact wherever man is found with his selfishness and passions Signor Bailiff; but are we not doing an ungallant act towards yonder fair bride, by giving the precedency to men of this cast? Would it not be better to dismiss the modest Christine, happy in Hymen’s chains, before we enter more deeply into the question of the manacles of these prisoners?”
To the amazement of all who knew the bailiff’s natural obstinacy, which was wont to increase instead of becoming more manageable in his cups, Peterchen assented to this proposition with a complaisance and apparent good-will, that he rarely manifested towards any opinion of which he did not think himself legitimately the father; though, like many others who bear that honorable title, he was sometimes made to yield the privileges of paternity to other men’s children. He had shown an unusual deference to the Italian, however, throughout the whole of their short intercourse, and on no occasion was it less equivocal, than in the promptness with which he received the present hint. The prisoners and officers were commanded to stand aside, but so near as to remain beneath his eye, while some of the officials of the abbaye were ordered to give notice to the train, which awaited these arrangements in silent wonder, that it might now approach.
Go, wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense
Weigh thy opinion against Providence;
Call imperfection what thou fanciest such;
Say, here he gives too little, there too much;
Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust,
And say, if man’s unhappy, God’s unjust.
It is unnecessary to repeat the list of characters that acted the different parts in the train of the village nuptials. All were there at the close of the ceremonies, as they had appeared earlier in the day, and as the last of the legal forms of the marriage was actually to take place in presence of the bailiff, preparatory to the more solemn rites of the church, the throng yielded to its curiosity, breaking through the line of those who were stationed to restrain its inroads, and pressing about the foot of the estrade in the stronger interest which reality is known to possess over fiction. During the day, a thousand new inquiries had been made concerning the bride, whose beauty and mien were altogether so superior to what might have been expected in one who could consent to act the part she did on so public an occasion, and whose modest bearing was in such singular contradiction to her present situation. None knew, however, or, if it were known, no one chose to reveal, her history; and, as curiosity had been so keenly whetted by mystery, the rush of the multitude was merely a proof of the power which expectation, aided by the thousand surmises of rumor, can gain over the minds of the idle.