“Every thing is ready is the next room,” answered Captain Headley—“go in. When I have announced that the ceremony is about to take place, I shall hasten to give you the dear girl for life,” and imprinting a kiss upon her brow, he passed on to those who were paying their homage to the punch-bowl, and discussing the merits of the oration just delivered.
It was with a flushed cheek, and a beating heart that Maria Heywood was led by Ronayne, radiant with hope and joy, to the little table covered with plain, white linen, and illuminated by half a dozen tall candles, behind which the commanding officer had placed himself on an elevated estrade.
All of the guests were grouped around, a little in the rear, while Lieutenant Elmsley stood on the right hand of his friend, and his wife on the left of the betrothed. Next to her, in an arm chair, which, provided with rollers, was easily moved, Mrs. Heywood—and with her beautiful arms reposing on the high back of this, stood Mrs. Headley in graceful attitude, watching the ceremony with almost maternal interest. Immediately behind Ronayne, from whom he evidently did not like to be separated, stood Waunangee, with an air of deep dejection, yet casting glances rapidly from one to the other of his two friends.
When the young officer, after having formally received the bride from her mother, whose strength barely permitted her to rise and go through that part of the ceremony, proceeded to place the ring upon the finger of his wife, it fell, either from nervousness or accident upon the matted floor. Quick as thought, Waunangee, who had now his whole attention bent upon the passing scene, stooped, picked it up, and attempted to place it on the finger, still extended, for which it was designed.
“Gently, Waunangee, my good fellow,” said the officer, piqued not less at his own awkwardness at such a moment, than at the outre act of the youth, from whom he rather unceremoniously took it—“the husband only does this.”
“Wah!” involuntarily exclaimed the other, his cheek becoming brighter, and his eyes kindling into sudden fierceness, while his hand intuitively clutched the handle of his knife—yet the moment afterwards relinquished it. The motion had been so quick, indeed, that only Mr. Headley and the bride herself had noticed it.
Still fascinated as it were by the novel scene, Waunangee moved not away, but the expression of his eyes had wholly changed. There was no longer to be remarked there the great melancholy of the past—but the wild restless, flashing glance that told of strong excitement within.
When immediately afterwards they knelt, and had their hands joined by Captain Headley, Waunangee bent eagerly forward, as if apprehensive of losing the slightest part of the ceremonial, but when at the conclusion, Ronayne saluted his wife in the usual manner, his cheek became suddenly pale as its native hue would permit, and with folded arms and proud attitude he withdrew slowly from the place he had hitherto occupied, to mingle more with the crowd behind.