Six bold riflemen clad in blue, with scarlet doublets over the left shoulder, bearing blazing torches; six glittering Zouaves, with brilliant trappings, sparkling in the light; and then the hollow square, where march the bridegroom and bride; then seven rows of six groomsmen in a row, all armed cap-a-ple, with burnished weapons, flashing back the lustre of the Zouave uniform; and all around the grand regiment darkening the white tent-folds, as their ruddy faces are but half disclosed between the red and yellow glare of the fires, and the soft, silver light of the May-moon. (This is all you will bear in mind, out on the broad, open air. The encampment occupies a conically-shaped hill-top, flanked around the rear crescent by a wood of fan-leaved maples sprinkled with blossoming dogberries, and looking out at the cone upon the river-swards below. The plain is full of mounds and ridges, save where it bulges in the centre to a circular elevation perfectly flat, around which, like facades about a court-yard, are arrayed the spiral tents, illuminated in honor of the coming nuptials.) The bride is the daughter of the regiment; the to-be-husband a favorite sergeant. Marching thus, preceded by two files of sixes, and followed by the glittering rows of groomsmen, the little cortege has moved out of the great tent on the edge of the circle, and comes slowly, amid the bold strains of the grand “Mid-summer-Night’s Dream,” towards the regimental chaplain.
You have seen the colored prints of Jenny Lind on the back of the music of “Vive la France.” You have noted the light-flowing hair, the soft Swiss eye, the military bodice, the coquettish red skirt, and the pretty buskined feet and ankles underneath. The print is not unlike the bride. She was fair-haired, blue eyed, rosy-checked, darkened in their hue by exposure to the sun, in just the dress worn by les filles du regiment. She was formed in that athletic mould which distinguishes the Amazon from her opposite extreme of frailty. You could not doubt her capacity to undergo the fatigues and hardships of a campaign, but your mind did not suggest to your eye those grosser and more masculine qualities which, whilst girting the woman with strength, disrobe her of the purer, more effeminate traits of body. You saw before you a young girl, apparently about eighteen years of age, with clear, courageous eye, quivering lip, and soldierly tread, a veritable daughter of the regiment. You have seen Caroline Richings and good old Peter (St. Peter!) march over the stage as the corporal and la fille. Well, this girl, barring the light flaxen hair, would remind you of the latter drilling a squad of grenadiers.
The bridegroom was of the same sanguine, Germanic temperament as the bride. As he marched, full six-feet in height, with long, light-colored beard, high cheek-bones, aquiline nose, piercing, deeply-studded blue eye, broad shoulders, long arms, sturdy legs, feet and hands of a laborious development, cocked hat with blue plume, dark blue frock, with bright scarlet blanket, tartan fashion over the shoulder, small sword, you would have taken him for a hero of Sir Walter. Faith, had Sir Walter seen him, he himself would have taken him. In default, however, of Sir Walter, I make bold to appropriate him as a hero on the present occasion. Indeed, he was a hero, and looked it, every inch of him, leading that self-sacrificing girl up to the regimental chaplain, with his robe, and surplice, and great book, amid the stare of a thousand anxious eyes, to the music of glorious old Mendelssohn, and the beating of a thousand earnest hearts!
The music ceased; a silence as calm as the silent moon held the strange, wild place; the fires seemed to sparkle less noisily in reverence; and a little white cloud paused in its course across the sky to look down on the group below; the clear voice of the preacher sounded above the suppressed breathing of the spectators, and the vague burning of the fagot heaps; a few short words, a few heartfelt prayers, the formal legal ceremonial and the happy “Amen.” It was done. The pair were man and wife. In rain or sunshine, joy or sorrow, for weal or woe, bone of one bone, and flesh of one flesh, forever and ever, amen!
Originally posted 2008-12-09 15:09:51.