There is a striking contrast between the youth and delicacy of Franconia, blushing modestly and in her calmness suppressing that inert repugnance working in her mind, and the brusqueness of M’Carstrow, who assumes the free and easy dash, hoping thereby to lessen his years in the picture of himself. Clotilda, for the last time, has arranged Franconia’s hair, which lies in simple braids across her polished brows, and folds upon the back, where it is secured and set off with a garland of wild flowers. The hand that laid it there, that arranged it so neatly, will never arrange it again. As a last token of affection for her young mistress, Clotilda has plucked a new-blown chiponique, white with crystal dew, and surrounded it with tiny buds and orange blossoms: this, Franconia holds in her left hand, the lace to which it is attached falling like mist to the ground.
Thus arrayed, they appear at the altar: the good man of modest cloth takes his place, the ceremony commences; and as it proceeds, and the solemn words fall upon her ear, “Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder,” she raises her eyes upwards, with a look of melancholy, as tears, like pearls, glisten in her soft expressive eyes. Her heart is moved with deeper emotion than this display of southern galaxy can produce. The combination of circumstances that has brought her to the altar, the decline of fortune, perhaps disgrace, worked upon her mind. It is that which has consigned her to the arms of one she cannot love, whose feelings and associations she never can respect. Was she to be the ransom?-was she to atone for the loss of family fortune, family pride, family inconsistency? kept forcing itself upon her. There was no gladness in it-no happiness. And there was the captive, the victim of foul slavery-so foul that hell yearns for its abettors-whose deliverance she prayed for with her earnest soul. She knew the oppressor’s grasp-she had, with womanly pride, come forward to relieve the wronged, and she had become sensible of the ties binding her to Clotilda. Unlike too many of her sex, she did not suppress her natural affections; she could not see only the slave in a disowned sister; she acknowledged the relationship, and hastened to free her, to send her beyond slavery’s grasp, into the glad embrace of freedom.
The ceremony ends; the smiles and congratulations of friends, as they gather round Franconia, shower upon her; she receives them coldly, her heart has no love for them, it throbs with anxiety for that slave whose liberty she has planned, and for whose safety she invokes the all-protecting hand of heaven.
Another phase of the picture.
While the ceremony we have described in the foregoing chapter was proceeding, Clotilda, yielding to the earnest request of Franconia, dresses herself in garments she has provided, and awaits the commencement of the scene. A little schooner from one of the Bahama Islands lies moored in the harbour awaiting a fair wind to return.