As soon as the breakfast was over, the table on which it had been eaten, was converted into a rude altar, and the ceremony was commenced. Jacques Chapeau and Annot, whose turn was immediately to follow, stood close up to the table, opposite to their master and mistress; but Michael Stein and his two sons, who of course were to be present at Annot’s marriage, and who had prepared to seat themselves on the stairs till their presence should be required, had also been invited to attend; and they now sat but very ill at their ease, on three chairs, in the very farthest corner of the room. Michael Stein, though chance had thrown him among the loyal Vendeans, had in his heart but little of that love and veneration for his immediate superiors, which was the strong and attractive point in the character of the people of Poitou. Though he had lived all his life in the now famous village of Echanbroignes, he had in his disposition, much of the stubborn self-dependence of the early republicans; and he did not relish his position, sitting in the back-ground as a humble hanger-on in the family of a nobleman and an aristocrat. He was, however, unable to help himself; his sons were Vendeans; his daughter was just going to marry the confidential follower of the Vendean Commander-in-Chief; and he himself had been seen fighting for La Vendee: there he sat, therefore, quiet, though hardly happy, between his two stalwart sons, with his thin hair brushed over his forehead, and his huge swarthy hands crossed on his knees before him.
The marriage ceremonies were soon performed: and then Henri and Chapeau, each in their turn, led their brides from the altar; and all went on as quietly in the one room which they occupied, as though nothing beyond their daily occupations had occurred.
“God bless you, my children!” said the old Marquis, “this is but a sad wedding; but it is useless to regret the happy times which are gone, it seems for ever.”
“Not for ever, father,” said Marie, kissing the old man’s face, “Henri and I still look forward to having our wedding fete; perhaps in Paris—perhaps in dear La Vendee, when we shall once more be able to call our old homes our own; then we will make you, and Agatha, and Victorine, make up fivefold for all that has been omitted now. Will we not, Henri?”
Below stairs, Chapeau and Annot, wisely thinking that no time was like the present, endeavoured to be as gay as they would have been had they enjoyed their marriage-feast in the smith’s own cottage; one or two of Chapeau’s friends were asked on the occasion, and among them, Plume condescended to regale himself though the cheer was spread in the kitchen instead of in the parlour. Michael, now relieved from the presence of aristocracy, eat and drank himself into good humour; and even received, with grim complacency, the jokes of his Sons, who insisted on drinking to his health as a new recruit to the famous regiment which was drawn from the parish of Echanbroignes.