The fourth of July 1812, was a more than usual gala-day in the little Fort of Chicago, for in addition to the National Jubilee, there was to be celebrated one of a private, yet not less interesting nature. On that evening Ensign Ronayne was to espouse, in the very room in which he had first been introduced to her the woman he had so long and so ardently loved, and who, her mother having after a severe struggle become convalescent, had conformably to her promise, yielded a not reluctant consent to his proposal that this day of general joy, should be that of the commencement of their own happiness.
At that remote period, and in the absence of duly ordained clergymen, it was customary for marriages to be performed by the Governors of Districts and by commanding officers of distant Forts, and these, perfectly legal, were subsequently as inclination, or scruple of conscience induced, celebrated in the usual manner. The early marriages of British subjects in Canada, soon after its conquest from the French, as well as many of those of the colonies now known as the United States, took place in this manner, and the custom had been continued until increased population provided the means of securing that spiritual comfort, which it must, of course, have been impossible for one dressed in a red coat instead of a black one, to impart.
But neither Maria Heywood or Ronayne stood much on this punctilio. Provided the ceremony was legal, and according to the customs of the country, it mattered little who married them—the governor of a district—the commandant of a garrison, or a Gretna Green blacksmith—had they felt at all disposed to avail themselves of the services of the latter.
It was a lovely day, and every thing seemed to smile upon the denizens of that region, from the early dawn until the setting of the sun. Officers and men were in their brightest uniforms—the women and children in their holiday dresses. A splendid new Star Spangled Banner—the work of Maria Heywood’s hands—floated in the dazzling rays of the sun, upon the southern bastion of the Fort. Joy and pride sat on every brow. They exulted at the recollection of that hardly won freedom from injustice, which was that day to be celebrated for the thirty-sixth time.
At noon the cannon thundered forth their bursts of rejoicing. This was the signal for the numerous Pottawattamies outside, all of whom had decked themselves for the occasion, to approach nearer to the Fort. On the glacis they discharged their guns and rifles, and seemed to have but one spirit with the allies to whom they appeared to have devoted themselves. Winnebeg, however, though long expected, had not yet returned, and nothing yet had been seen of Waunangee, since his departure on the day following the little incident which occurred in Elmsley’s apartments.