Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1097
The Bridegroom’s Mother is unhappy when she learns that her son wishes to be married to the woman he desires. In spite of her sorrow at losing him, she commands him to go buy fine presents for the Bride. The Bridegroom’s Mother is also unhappy because the Bridegroom is her only surviving child. Her husband and her older son were killed many years before in fights with members of the Felíx family. Since then, the Bridegroom’s Mother lived in fear that the only surviving man in her family, the Bridegroom, might also fall a victim to someone’s knife or gun. She tells her son that she wishes he was born a girl, to sit in the house and knit instead of going out among men.
After the Bridegroom leaves the house to go buy gifts for the Bride, gifts to be presented when the parents meet, a neighbor stops to see his Mother. The neighbor tells the Bridegroom’s Mother that there is bad blood in the Bride’s veins, inherited from her mother. She also says that Leonardo, a member of the hated Felíx family and a cousin of the Bride, wooed the Bride unsuccessfully before his own marriage three years earlier. The Bridegroom’s Mother grows uneasy at the news, but she determines to carry through her part in the marriage customs because her son is in love and because the Bride’s Father owns rich vineyards comparable to those of her own family.
Meanwhile word of the proposed marriage reaches Leonardo, who still is in love with the Bride. In fact, he rides many miles to her house to see her whenever he has the chance. For some time both Leonardo’s Wife and her mother realized that something was wrong. Leonardo is curt and sharp with his Wife for no reason at all, and he fails to take much notice of their child.
The next day the Bride’s servant prepares her to meet with her father, the Bridegroom, and the Bridegroom’s Mother in order to make plans for the wedding. The servant accuses the Bride of permitting Leonardo to visit late at night. The Bride, without denying the fact, merely indicates that she is not very happy at the prospect of marrying the Bridegroom.
After the arrival of the Bridegroom and his Mother, it is decided to have the wedding take place on the following Thursday, the Bride’s twenty-second birthday. The Bride says that she will welcome the chance to shut out the world from her life and devote herself to the Bridegroom. A short time after the Bridegroom and his Mother depart, Leonardo’s horse is heard neighing beneath the Bride’s window.
The day of the wedding arrives, and early in the morning the servant begins to prepare the Bride for the ceremony. The Bride is not happy. When the servant begins to speak of the bliss that will soon be hers, the Bride commands the woman to be quiet. She even throws her wreath of orange blossoms to the ground.
A short time later the guests begin to arrive. The first to make his appearance is the Bride’s cousin and former wooer, Leonardo. He and the Bride, despite the servant’s pleas, have a talk in which bitter recriminations are flung back and forth. Neither wishes to be married to anyone else, but each blames the other for the unhappiness to which they are apparently doomed. Only the arrival of other guests breaks up the argument.
The guests having arrived, the party sets out for the church. Only the most vigorous language on the part of his Wife convinces Leonardo that he ought to ride in the cart with her, in order to keep up appearances. When the wedding ceremony is over, Leonardo and his Wife are the first guests to return to the Bride’s Father’s house. Leonardo drives like a madman.
Shortly after the guests gather at the house, the Bridegroom goes up quietly behind the Bride and puts his arms about her. She shrinks from his embrace. Complaining that she feels ill, she goes to her room to rest after asking the Bridegroom to leave her alone. As the wedding feast continues, some of the guests propose that the Bridegroom and the Bride dance together. The Bride, however, is nowhere to be found. Searchers discover that she and Leonardo rode away on his horse. The Bridegroom, furious at being so dishonored and filled with desire for revenge, organizes a posse of his relatives and immediately starts out after the fugitives. All day they search without finding the pair.
On into the night the Bridegroom continues his search and comes at last into the wood where the runaways stopped. The Bride, meanwhile, has a change of heart; refusing to give herself to Leonardo, she says that it is enough that she ran away with him. Leonardo, becoming angry, reminds her that it is she who went down the stairs first, who put a new bridle on the horse, and who even buckled on his spurs. Nevertheless, the Bride says she has enough. She does not want to stay with him, but she has no greater desire to return to her husband.
While they argue, the Bridegroom meets Death, disguised as a beggar woman. Death insists upon leading him to the place where he will find his escaped bride and her lover. By the light of the moon they search until they find the pair. When they meet, Leonardo and the Bridegroom fight, killing each other.
After they die, Death, still disguised as a beggar woman, goes back to spread the evil tidings. When she hears of her son’s death, the Bridegroom’s Mother takes the news stoically, not wanting her neighbors to see her overwhelming grief. Returning to her mother-in-law, the Bride is told to remain at the door without entering the room. The Bride tries to explain her actions, saying also that she comes so that the Bridegroom’s Mother can kill her. No one pays any attention to the Bride’s argument that neither Leonardo nor her husband ever slept with her.
The Bridegroom’s Mother is joined in her lamentations by Leonardo’s Wife when searchers carry in the bodies of the two men. The grief-stricken women, joined by the Bride, complain bitterly that an instrument as small as a knife can take away the lives of two such men, lives that were so much greater than the instrument that caused their deaths.