“My child is fair, Herr Peter;” she continued, without adverting to the interruption; “but better than fair, she is good! Christine is gentle and dutiful, and not for a world would she bruise the spirit of another as hers has been this day bruised. Humbled as we are, and despised of men, bailiff, we have our thoughts, and our wishes, and our hopes, and memory, and all the other feelings of those that are more fortunate; and when I have racked my brain to reason on the justice of a fate which has condemned all of my race to have little other communion with their kind but that of blood, and when bitterness has swollen at my heart, ay, near to bursting, and I have been ready to curse Providence and die, this mild, affectionate girl hath been near to quench the fire that consumed me, and to tighten the cords of life, until her love and innocence have left me willing to live even under a heavier load than this I bear. Thou art of an honored race, bailiff, and canst little understand most of our suffering; but thou art a man, and shouldst know what it is to be wounded through another, and that one who is dearer to thee than thine own flesh.”
“Thy words are strong, good Marguerite,” again interrupted the bailiff, who felt an uneasiness, of which he would very gladly be rid. “Himmel! Who can like any thing better than his own flesh? Besides, thou shouldst remember that I am a bachelor, and bachelors are apt, naturally, to feel more for their own flesh than for that of others. Stand aside, and let the procession pass, that we may go to the banquet, which waits. If Jacques Colis will none of thy girl, I hove not the power to make him. Double the dowry, good woman, and thou shalt have a choice of husbands, in spite of the axe and the sword that are in thy escutcheon. Let the halberdiers make way for those honest people there who, at least, are functionaries of the law, and are to be protected as well as ourselves.”
The crowd obeyed, yielding readily to the advance of the officers, and, in a few minutes, the useless attendants of the village nuptials, and the train of Hymen, slunk away, sensible of the ridicule that, in a double degree, attaches itself to folly when it fails of effecting even its own absurdities.
The weeping blood in woman’s breast
Was never known to thee;
Nor the balm that drops on wounds of woe
From woman’s pitying e’e.
A large portion of the curious followed the disconcerted mummers from the square, while others hastened to break their fasts at the several places selected for this important feature in the business of the day. Most of those who had been on the estrade now left it, and, in a few minutes, the living carpet of heads around the little area in front of the bailiff was reduced to a few hundreds of those whose better feelings were stronger than their self indulgence. Perhaps this distribution of the multitude is about in the proportion that is usually found in those cases in which selfishness draws in one direction, while feeling or sympathy with the wronged pulls in another, among all masses of human beings that are congregated as spectators of some general and indifferent exhibition of interests in which they have no near personal concern.