VII. HOW THEY TALKED IN THE PASTURES
'You often come this way?' said Festus to Anne rather before he had overtaken her.
'I come for the newspaper and other things,' she said, perplexed by a doubt whether he were there by accident or design.
They moved on in silence, Festus beating the grass with his switch in a masterful way. 'Did you speak, Mis'ess Anne?' he asked.
'No,' said Anne.
'Ten thousand pardons. I thought you did. Now don't let me drive you out of the path. I can walk among the high grass and giltycups—they will not yellow my stockings as they will yours. Well, what do you think of a lot of soldiers coming to the neighbourhood in this way?'
'I think it is very lively, and a great change,' she said with demure seriousness.
'Perhaps you don't like us warriors as a body?'
Anne smiled without replying.
'Why, you are laughing!' said the yeoman, looking searchingly at her and blushing like a little fire. 'What do you see to laugh at?'
'Did I laugh?' said Anne, a little scared at his sudden mortification.
'Why, yes; you know you did, you young sneerer,' he said like a cross baby. 'You are laughing at me—that's who you are laughing at! I should like to know what you would do without such as me if the French were to drop in upon ye any night?'
'Would you help to beat them off?' said she.
'Can you ask such a question? What are we for? But you don't think anything of soldiers.'
O yes, she liked soldiers, she said, especially when they came home from the wars, covered with glory; though when she thought what doings had won them that glory she did not like them quite so well. The gallant and appeased yeoman said he supposed her to mean chopping off heads, blowing out brains, and that kind of business, and thought it quite right that a tender-hearted thing like her should feel a little horrified. But as for him, he should not mind such another Blenheim this summer as the army had fought a hundred years ago, or whenever it was—dash his wig if he should mind it at all. 'Hullo! now you are laughing again; yes, I saw you!' And the choleric Festus turned his blue eyes and flushed face upon her as though he would read her through. Anne strove valiantly to look calmly back; but her eyes could not face his, and they fell. 'You did laugh!' he repeated.
'It was only a tiny little one,' she murmured.
'Ah—I knew you did!' thundered he. 'Now what was it you laughed at?'
'I only—thought that you were—merely in the yeomanry,' she murmured slily.
'And what of that?'
'And the yeomanry only seem farmers that have lost their senses.'
'Yes, yes! I knew you meant some jeering o' that sort, Mistress Anne. But I suppose 'tis the way of women, and I take no notice. I'll confess that some of us are no great things: but I know how to draw a sword, don't I?—say I don't just to provoke me.'
'I am sure you do,' said Anne sweetly. 'If a Frenchman came up to you, Mr. Derriman, would you take him on the hip, or on the thigh?'
'Now you are flattering!' he said, his white teeth uncovering themselves in a smile. 'Well, of course I should draw my sword—no, I mean my sword would be already drawn; and I should put spurs to my horse—charger, as we call it in the army; and I should ride up to him and say—no, I shouldn't say anything, of course—men never waste words in battle; I should take him with the third guard, low point, and then coming back to the second guard—'
'But that would be taking care of yourself—not hitting at him.'
'How can you say that!' he cried, the beams upon his face turning to a lurid cloud in a moment. 'How can you understand military terms who've never had a sword in your life? I shouldn't take him with the sword at all.' He went on with eager sulkiness, 'I should take him with my pistol. I should pull off my right glove, and throw back my goat-skin; then I should open my priming-pan, prime, and cast about—no, I shouldn't, that's wrong; I should draw my right pistol, and as soon as loaded, seize the weapon by the butt; then at the word "Cock your pistol" I should—'
'Then there is plenty of time to give such words of command in the heat of battle?' said Anne innocently.
'No!' said the yeoman, his face again in flames. 'Why, of course I am only telling you what would be the word of command if—there now! you la—'
'I didn't; 'pon my word I didn't!'
'No, I don't think you did; it was my mistake. Well, then I come smartly to Present, looking well along the barrel—along the barrel—and fire. Of course I know well enough how to engage the enemy! But I expect my old uncle has been setting you against me.'
'He has not said a word,' replied Anne; 'though I have heard of you, of course.'
'What have you heard? Nothing good, I dare say. It makes my blood boil within me!'
'O, nothing bad,' said she assuringly. 'Just a word now and then.'
'Now, come, tell me, there's a dear. I don't like to be crossed. It shall be a sacred secret between us. Come, now!'
Anne was embarrassed, and her smile was uncomfortable. 'I shall not tell you,' she said at last.
'There it is again!' said the yeoman, throwing himself into a despair. 'I shall soon begin to believe that my name is not worth sixpence about here!'
'I tell you 'twas nothing against you,' repeated Anne.
'That means it might have been for me,' said Festus, in a mollified tone. 'Well, though, to speak the truth, I have a good many faults, some people will praise me, I suppose. 'Twas praise?'
'Well, I am not much at farming, and I am not much in company, and I am not much at figures, but perhaps I must own, since it is forced upon me, that I can show as fine a soldier's figure on the Esplanade as any man of the cavalry.'
'You can,' said Anne; for though her flesh crept in mortal terror of his irascibility, she could not resist the fearful pleasure of leading him on. 'You look very well; and some say, you are—'
'What? Well, they say I am good-looking. I don't make myself, so 'tis no praise. Hullo! what are you looking across there for?'
'Only at a bird that I saw fly out of that tree,' said Anne.
'What? Only at a bird, do you say?' he heaved out in a voice of thunder. 'I see your shoulders a-shaking, young madam. Now don't you provoke me with that laughing! By God, it won't do!'
'Then go away!' said Anne, changed from mirthfulness to irritation by his rough manner. 'I don't want your company, you great bragging thing! You are so touchy there's no bearing with you. Go away!'
'No, no, Anne; I am wrong to speak to you so. I give you free liberty to say what you will to me. Say I am not a bit of a soldier, or anything! Abuse me—do now, there's a dear. I'm scum, I'm froth, I'm dirt before the besom—yes!'
'I have nothing to say, sir. Stay where you are till I am out of this field.'
'Well, there's such command in your looks that I ha'n't heart to go against you. You will come this way to-morrow at the same time? Now, don't be uncivil.'
She was too generous not to forgive him, but the short little lip murmured that she did not think it at all likely she should come that way to-morrow.
'Then Sunday?' he said.
'Not Sunday,' said she.
'Then Monday—Tuesday—Wednesday, surely?' he went on experimentally.
She answered that she should probably not see him on either day, and, cutting short the argument, went through the wicket into the other field. Festus paused, looking after her; and when he could no longer see her slight figure he swept away his deliberations, began singing, and turned off in the other direction.
VIII. ANNE MAKES A CIRCUIT OF THE CAMP
When Anne was crossing the last field, she saw approaching her an old woman with wrinkled cheeks, who surveyed the earth and its inhabitants through the medium of brass-rimmed spectacles. Shaking her head at Anne till the glasses shone like two moons, she said, 'Ah, ah; I zeed ye! If I had only kept on my short ones that I use for reading the Collect and Gospel I shouldn't have zeed ye; but thinks I, I be going out o' doors, and I'll put on my long ones, little thinking what they'd show me. Ay, I can tell folk at any distance with these—'tis a beautiful pair for out o' doors; though my short ones be best for close work, such as darning, and catching fleas, that's true.'
'What have you seen, Granny Seamore?' said Anne.
'Fie, fie, Miss Nancy! you know,' said Granny Seamore, shaking her head still. 'But he's a fine young feller, and will have all his uncle's money when 'a's gone.' Anne said nothing to this, and looking ahead with a smile passed Granny Seamore by.
Festus, the subject of the remark, was at this time about three-and-twenty, a fine fellow as to feet and inches, and of a remarkably warm tone in skin and hair. Symptoms of beard and whiskers had appeared upon him at a very early age, owing to his persistent use of the razor before there was any necessity for its operation. The brave boy had scraped unseen in the out-house, in the cellar, in the wood-shed, in the stable, in the unused parlour, in the cow-stalls, in the barn, and wherever he could set up his triangular bit of looking-glass without observation, or extemporize a mirror by sticking up his hat on the outside of a window-pane. The result now was that, did he neglect to use the instrument he once had trifled with, a fine rust broke out upon his countenance on the first day, a golden lichen on the second, and a fiery stubble on the third to a degree which admitted of no further postponement.
His disposition divided naturally into two, the boastful and the cantankerous. When Festus put on the big pot, as it is classically called, he was quite blinded ipso facto to the diverting effect of that mood and manner upon others; but when disposed to be envious or quarrelsome he was rather shrewd than otherwise, and could do some pretty strokes of satire. He was both liked and abused by the girls who knew him, and though they were pleased by his attentions, they never failed to ridicule him behind his back. In his cups (he knew those vessels, though only twenty-three) he first became noisy, then excessively friendly, and then invariably nagging. During childhood he had made himself renowned for his pleasant habit of pouncing down upon boys smaller and poorer than himself, and knocking their birds' nests out of their hands, or overturning their little carts of apples, or pouring water down their backs; but his conduct became singularly the reverse of aggressive the moment the little boys' mothers ran out to him, brandishing brooms, frying-pans, skimmers, and whatever else they could lay hands on by way of weapons. He then fled and hid behind bushes, under faggots, or in pits till they had gone away; and on one such occasion was known to creep into a badger's hole quite out of sight, maintaining that post with great firmness and resolution for two or three hours. He had brought more vulgar exclamations upon the tongues of respectable parents in his native parish than any other boy of his time. When other youngsters snowballed him he ran into a place of shelter, where he kneaded snowballs of his own, with a stone inside, and used these formidable missiles in returning their pleasantry. Sometimes he got fearfully beaten by boys his own age, when he would roar most lustily, but fight on in the midst of his tears, blood, and cries.
He was early in love, and had at the time of the story suffered from the ravages of that passion thirteen distinct times. He could not love lightly and gaily; his love was earnest, cross-tempered, and even savage. It was a positive agony to him to be ridiculed by the object of his affections, and such conduct drove him into a frenzy if persisted in. He was a torment to those who behaved humbly towards him, cynical with those who denied his superiority, and a very nice fellow towards those who had the courage to ill-use him.
This stalwart gentleman and Anne Garland did not cross each other's paths again for a week. Then her mother began as before about the newspaper, and, though Anne did not much like the errand, she agreed to go for it on Mrs. Garland pressing her with unusual anxiety. Why her mother was so persistent on so small a matter quite puzzled the girl; but she put on her hat and started.
As she had expected, Festus appeared at a stile over which she sometimes went for shortness' sake, and showed by his manner that he awaited her. When she saw this she kept straight on, as if she would not enter the park at all.
'Surely this is your way?' said Festus.
'I was thinking of going round by the road,' she said.
'Why is that?'
She paused, as if she were not inclined to say. 'I go that way when the grass is wet,' she returned at last.
'It is not wet now,' he persisted; 'the sun has been shining on it these nine hours.' The fact was that the way by the path was less open than by the road, and Festus wished to walk with her uninterrupted. 'But, of course, it is nothing to me what you do.' He flung himself from the stile and walked away towards the house.
Anne, supposing him really indifferent, took the same way, upon which he turned his head and waited for her with a proud smile.
'I cannot go with you,' she said decisively.
'Nonsense, you foolish girl! I must walk along with you down to the corner.'
'No, please, Mr. Derriman; we might be seen.'
'Now, now—that's shyness!' he said jocosely.
'No; you know I cannot let you.'
'But I must.'
'But I do not allow it.'
'Allow it or not, I will.'
'Then you are unkind, and I must submit,' she said, her eyes brimming with tears.
'Ho, ho; what a shame of me! My wig, I won't do any such thing for the world,' said the repentant yeoman. 'Haw, haw; why, I thought your "go away" meant "come on," as it does with so many of the women I meet, especially in these clothes. Who was to know you were so confoundedly serious?'
As he did not go Anne stood still and said nothing.
'I see you have a deal more caution and a deal less good-nature than I ever thought you had,' he continued emphatically.
'No, sir; it is not any planned manner of mine at all,' she said earnestly. 'But you will see, I am sure, that I could not go down to the hall with you without putting myself in a wrong light.'
'Yes; that's it, that's it. I am only a fellow in the yeomanry cavalry—a plain soldier, I may say; and we know what women think of such: that they are a bad lot—men you mustn't speak to for fear of losing your character—chaps you avoid in the roads—chaps that come into a house like oxen, daub the stairs wi' their boots, stain the furniture wi' their drink, talk rubbish to the servants, abuse all that's holy and righteous, and are only saved from being carried off by Old Nick because they are wanted for Boney.'
'Indeed, I didn't know you were thought so bad of as that,' said she simply.
'What! don't my uncle complain to you of me? You are a favourite of that handsome, nice old gaffer's, I know.'
'Well, what do we think of our nice trumpet-major, hey?'
Anne closed her mouth up tight, built it up, in fact, to show that no answer was coming to that question.
'O now, come, seriously, Loveday is a good fellow, and so is his father.'
'I don't know.'
'What a close little rogue you are! There is no getting anything out of you. I believe you would say "I don't know," to every mortal question, so very discreet as you are. Upon my heart, there are some women who would say "I don't know," to "Will ye marry me?"'
The brightness upon Anne's cheek and in her eyes during this remark showed that there was a fair quantity of life and warmth beneath the discretion he complained of. Having spoken thus, he drew aside that she might pass, and bowed very low. Anne formally inclined herself and went on.
She had been at vexation point all the time that he was present, from a haunting sense that he would not have spoken to her so freely had she been a young woman with thriving male relatives to keep forward admirers in check. But she had been struck, now as at their previous meeting, with the power she possessed of working him up either to irritation or to complacency at will; and this consciousness of being able to play upon him as upon an instrument disposed her to a humorous considerateness, and made her tolerate even while she rebuffed him.
When Anne got to the hall the farmer, as usual, insisted upon her reading what he had been unable to get through, and held the paper tightly in his skinny hand till she had agreed. He sent her to a hard chair that she could not possibly injure to the extent of a pennyworth by sitting in it a twelvemonth, and watched her from the outer angle of his near eye while she bent over the paper. His look might have been suggested by the sight that he had witnessed from his window on the last occasion of her visit, for it partook of the nature of concern. The old man was afraid of his nephew, physically and morally, and he began to regard Anne as a fellow- sufferer under the same despot. After this sly and curious gaze at her he withdrew his eye again, so that when she casually lifted her own there was nothing visible but his keen bluish profile as before.
When the reading was about half-way through, the door behind them opened, and footsteps crossed the threshold. The farmer diminished perceptibly in his chair, and looked fearful, but pretended to be absorbed in the reading, and quite unconscious of an intruder. Anne felt the presence of the swashing Festus, and stopped her reading.
'Please go on, Miss Anne,' he said, 'I am not going to speak a word.' He withdrew to the mantelpiece and leaned against it at his ease.
'Go on, do ye, maidy Anne,' said Uncle Benjy, keeping down his tremblings by a great effort to half their natural extent.
Anne's voice became much lower now that there were two listeners, and her modesty shrank somewhat from exposing to Festus the appreciative modulations which an intelligent interest in the subject drew from her when unembarrassed. But she still went on that he might not suppose her to be disconcerted, though the ensuing ten minutes was one of disquietude. She knew that the bothering yeoman's eyes were travelling over her from his position behind, creeping over her shoulders, up to her head, and across her arms and hands. Old Benjy on his part knew the same thing, and after sundry endeavours to peep at his nephew from the corner of his eye, he could bear the situation no longer.
'Do ye want to say anything to me, nephew?' he quaked.
'No, uncle, thank ye,' said Festus heartily. 'I like to stay here, thinking of you and looking at your back hair.'
The nervous old man writhed under this vivisection, and Anne read on; till, to the relief of both, the gallant fellow grew tired of his amusement and went out of the room. Anne soon finished her paragraph and rose to go, determined never to come again as long as Festus haunted the precincts. Her face grew warmer as she thought that he would be sure to waylay her on her journey home to-day.
On this account, when she left the house, instead of going in the customary direction, she bolted round to the further side, through the bushes, along under the kitchen-garden wall, and through a door leading into a rutted cart-track, which had been a pleasant gravelled drive when the fine old hall was in its prosperity. Once out of sight of the windows she ran with all her might till she had quitted the park by a route directly opposite to that towards her home. Why she was so seriously bent upon doing this she could hardly tell but the instinct to run was irresistible.
It was necessary now to clamber over the down to the left of the camp, and make a complete circuit round the latter—infantry, cavalry, sutlers, and all—descending to her house on the other side. This tremendous walk she performed at a rapid rate, never once turning her head, and avoiding every beaten track to keep clear of the knots of soldiers taking a walk. When she at last got down to the levels again she paused to fetch breath, and murmured, 'Why did I take so much trouble? He would not, after all, have hurt me.'
As she neared the mill an erect figure with a blue body and white thighs descended before her from the down towards the village, and went past the mill to a stile beyond, over which she usually returned to her house. Here he lingered. On coming nearer Anne discovered this person to be Trumpet-major Loveday; and not wishing to meet anybody just now Anne passed quickly on, and entered the house by the garden door.
'My dear Anne, what a time you have been gone!' said her mother.
'Yes, I have been round by another road.'
'Why did you do that?'
Anne looked thoughtful and reticent, for her reason was almost too silly a one to confess. 'Well, I wanted to avoid a person who is very busy trying to meet me—that's all,' she said.
Her mother glanced out of the window. 'And there he is, I suppose,' she said, as John Loveday, tired of looking for Anne at the stile, passed the house on his way to his father's door. He could not help casting his eyes towards their window, and, seeing them, he smiled.
Anne's reluctance to mention Festus was such that she did not correct her mother's error, and the dame went on: 'Well, you are quite right, my dear. Be friendly with him, but no more at present. I have heard of your other affair, and think it is a very wise choice. I am sure you have my best wishes in it, and I only hope it will come to a point.'
'What's that?' said the astonished Anne.
'You and Mr. Festus Derriman, dear. You need not mind me; I have known it for several days. Old Granny Seamore called here Saturday, and told me she saw him coming home with you across Park Close last week, when you went for the newspaper; so I thought I'd send you again to-day, and give you another chance.'
'Then you didn't want the paper—and it was only for that!'
'He's a very fine young fellow; he looks a thorough woman's protector.'
'He may look it,' said Anne.
'He has given up the freehold farm his father held at Pitstock, and lives in independence on what the land brings him. And when Farmer Derriman dies, he'll have all the old man's, for certain. He'll be worth ten thousand pounds, if a penny, in money, besides sixteen horses, cart and hack, a fifty-cow dairy, and at least five hundred sheep.'
Anne turned away, and instead of informing her mother that she had been running like a doe to escape the interesting heir-presumptive alluded to, merely said 'Mother, I don't like this at all.'
IX. ANNE IS KINDLY FETCHED BY THE TRUMPET-MAJOR
After this, Anne would on no account walk in the direction of the hall for fear of another encounter with young Derriman. In the course of a few days it was told in the village that the old farmer had actually gone for a week's holiday and change of air to the Royal watering-place near at hand, at the instance of his nephew Festus. This was a wonderful thing to hear of Uncle Benjy, who had not slept outside the walls of Oxwell Hall for many a long year before; and Anne well imagined what extraordinary pressure must have been put upon him to induce him to take such a step. She pictured his unhappiness at the bustling watering-place, and hoped no harm would come to him.
She spent much of her time indoors or in the garden, hearing little of the camp movements beyond the periodical Ta-ta-ta-taa of the trumpeters sounding their various ingenious calls for watch-setting, stables, feed, boot-and-saddle, parade, and so on, which made her think how clever her friend the trumpet-major must be to teach his pupils to play those pretty little tunes so well.
On the third morning after Uncle Benjy's departure, she was disturbed as usual while dressing by the tramp of the troops down the slope to the mill-pond, and during the now familiar stamping and splashing which followed there sounded upon the glass of the window a slight smack, which might have been caused by a whip or switch. She listened more particularly, and it was repeated.
As John Loveday was the only dragoon likely to be aware that she slept in that particular apartment, she imagined the signal to come from him, though wondering that he should venture upon such a freak of familiarity.
Wrapping herself up in a red cloak, she went to the window, gently drew up a corner of the curtain, and peeped out, as she had done many times before. Nobody who was not quite close beneath her window could see her face; but as it happened, somebody was close. The soldiers whose floundering Anne had heard were not Loveday's dragoons, but a troop of the York Hussars, quite oblivious of her existence. They had passed on out of the water, and instead of them there sat Festus Derriman alone on his horse, and in plain clothes, the water reaching up to the animal's belly, and Festus' heels elevated over the saddle to keep them out of the stream, which threatened to wash rider and horse into the deep mill-head just below. It was plainly he who had struck her lattice, for in a moment he looked up, and their eyes met. Festus laughed loudly, and slapped her window again; and just at that moment the dragoons began prancing down the slope in review order. She could not but wait a minute or two to see them pass. While doing so she was suddenly led to draw back, drop the corner of the curtain, and blush privately in her room. She had not only been seen by Festus Derriman, but by John Loveday, who, riding along with his trumpet slung up behind him, had looked over his shoulder at the phenomenon of Derriman beneath Anne's bedroom window and seemed quite astounded at the sight.
She was quite vexed at the conjunction of incidents, and went no more to the window till the dragoons had ridden far away and she had heard Festus's horse laboriously wade on to dry land. When she looked out there was nobody left but Miller Loveday, who usually stood in the garden at this time of the morning to say a word or two to the soldiers, of whom he already knew so many, and was in a fair way of knowing many more, from the liberality with which he handed round mugs of cheering liquor whenever parties of them walked that way.
In the afternoon of this day Anne walked to a christening party at a neighbour's in the adjoining parish of Springham, intending to walk home again before it got dark; but there was a slight fall of rain towards evening, and she was pressed by the people of the house to stay over the night. With some hesitation she accepted their hospitality; but at ten o'clock, when they were thinking of going to bed, they were startled by a smart rap at the door, and on it being unbolted a man's form was seen in the shadows outside.
'Is Miss Garland here?' the visitor inquired, at which Anne suspended her breath.
'Yes,' said Anne's entertainer, warily.
'Her mother is very anxious to know what's become of her. She promised to come home.' To her great relief Anne recognized the voice as John Loveday's, and not Festus Derriman's.
'Yes, I did, Mr. Loveday,' said she, coming forward; 'but it rained, and I thought my mother would guess where I was.'
Loveday said with diffidence that it had not rained anything to speak of at the camp, or at the mill, so that her mother was rather alarmed.
'And she asked you to come for me?' Anne inquired.
This was a question which the trumpet-major had been dreading during the whole of his walk thither. 'Well, she didn't exactly ask me,' he said rather lamely, but still in a manner to show that Mrs. Garland had indirectly signified such to be her wish. In reality Mrs. Garland had not addressed him at all on the subject. She had merely spoken to his father on finding that her daughter did not return, and received an assurance from the miller that the precious girl was doubtless quite safe. John heard of this inquiry, and, having a pass that evening, resolved to relieve Mrs. Garland's mind on his own responsibility. Ever since his morning view of Festus under her window he had been on thorns of anxiety, and his thrilling hope now was that she would walk back with him.
He shifted his foot nervously as he made the bold request. Anne felt at once that she would go. There was nobody in the world whose care she would more readily be under than the trumpet-major's in a case like the present. He was their nearest neighbour's son, and she had liked his single-minded ingenuousness from the first moment of his return home.
When they had started on their walk, Anne said in a practical way, to show that there was no sentiment whatever in her acceptance of his company, 'Mother was much alarmed about me, perhaps?'
'Yes; she was uneasy,' he said; and then was compelled by conscience to make a clean breast of it. 'I know she was uneasy, because my father said so. But I did not see her myself. The truth is, she doesn't know I am come.'
Anne now saw how the matter stood; but she was not offended with him. What woman could have been? They walked on in silence, the respectful trumpet-major keeping a yard off on her right as precisely as if that measure had been fixed between them. She had a great feeling of civility toward him this evening, and spoke again. 'I often hear your trumpeters blowing the calls. They do it beautifully, I think.'
'Pretty fair; they might do better,' said he, as one too well-mannered to make much of an accomplishment in which he had a hand.
'And you taught them how to do it?'
'Yes, I taught them.'
'It must require wonderful practice to get them into the way of beginning and finishing so exactly at one time. It is like one throat doing it all. How came you to be a trumpeter, Mr. Loveday?'
'Well, I took to it naturally when I was a little boy,' said he, betrayed into quite a gushing state by her delightful interest. 'I used to make trumpets of paper, eldersticks, eltrot stems, and even stinging-nettle stalks, you know. Then father set me to keep the birds off that little barley-ground of his, and gave me an old horn to frighten 'em with. I learnt to blow that horn so that you could hear me for miles and miles. Then he bought me a clarionet, and when I could play that I borrowed a serpent, and I learned to play a tolerable bass. So when I 'listed I was picked out for training as trumpeter at once.'
'Of course you were.'
'Sometimes, however, I wish I had never joined the army. My father gave me a very fair education, and your father showed me how to draw horses—on a slate, I mean. Yes, I ought to have done more than I have.'
'What, did you know my father?' she asked with new interest.
'O yes, for years. You were a little mite of a thing then; and you used to cry when we big boys looked at you, and made pig's eyes at you, which we did sometimes. Many and many a time have I stood by your poor father while he worked. Ah, you don't remember much about him; but I do!'
Anne remained thoughtful; and the moon broke from behind the clouds, lighting up the wet foliage with a twinkling brightness, and lending to each of the trumpet-major's buttons and spurs a little ray of its own. They had come to Oxwell park gate, and he said, 'Do you like going across, or round by the lane?'
'We may as well go by the nearest road,' said Anne.
They entered the park, following the half-obliterated drive till they came almost opposite the hall, when they entered a footpath leading on to the village. While hereabout they heard a shout, or chorus of exclamation, apparently from within the walls of the dark buildings near them.
'What was that?' said Anne.
'I don't know,' said her companion. 'I'll go and see.'
He went round the intervening swamp of watercress and brooklime which had once been the fish-pond, crossed by a culvert the trickling brook that still flowed that way, and advanced to the wall of the house. Boisterous noises were resounding from within, and he was tempted to go round the corner, where the low windows were, and look through a chink into the room whence the sounds proceeded.
It was the room in which the owner dined—traditionally called the great parlour—and within it sat about a dozen young men of the yeomanry cavalry, one of them being Festus. They were drinking, laughing, singing, thumping their fists on the tables, and enjoying themselves in the very perfection of confusion. The candles, blown by the breeze from the partly opened window, had guttered into coffin handles and shrouds, and, choked by their long black wicks for want of snuffing, gave out a smoky yellow light. One of the young men might possibly have been in a maudlin state, for he had his arm round the neck of his next neighbour. Another was making an incoherent speech to which nobody was listening. Some of their faces were red, some were sallow; some were sleepy, some wide awake. The only one among them who appeared in his usual frame of mind was Festus, whose huge, burly form rose at the head of the table, enjoying with a serene and triumphant aspect the difference between his own condition and that of his neighbours. While the trumpet-major looked, a young woman, niece of Anthony Cripplestraw, and one of Uncle Benjy's servants, was called in by one of the crew, and much against her will a fiddle was placed in her hands, from which they made her produce discordant screeches.
The absence of Uncle Benjy had, in fact, been contrived by young Derriman that he might make use of the hall on his own account. Cripplestraw had been left in charge, and Festus had found no difficulty in forcing from that dependent the keys of whatever he required. John Loveday turned his eyes from the scene to the neighbouring moonlit path, where Anne still stood waiting. Then he looked into the room, then at Anne again. It was an opportunity of advancing his own cause with her by exposing Festus, for whom he began to entertain hostile feelings of no mean force.
'No; I can't do it,' he said. ''Tis underhand. Let things take their chance.'
He moved away, and then perceived that Anne, tired of waiting, had crossed the stream, and almost come up with him.
'What is the noise about?' she said.
'There's company in the house,' said Loveday.
'Company? Farmer Derriman is not at home,' said Anne, and went on to the window whence the rays of light leaked out, the trumpet-major standing where he was. He saw her face enter the beam of candlelight, stay there for a moment, and quickly withdraw. She came back to him at once. 'Let us go on,' she said.
Loveday imagined from her tone that she must have an interest in Derriman, and said sadly, 'You blame me for going across to the window, and leading you to follow me.'
'Not a bit,' said Anne, seeing his mistake as to the state of her heart, and being rather angry with him for it. 'I think it was most natural, considering the noise.'
Silence again. 'Derriman is sober as a judge,' said Loveday, as they turned to go. 'It was only the others who were noisy.'
'Whether he is sober or not is nothing whatever to me,' said Anne.
'Of course not. I know it,' said the trumpet-major, in accents expressing unhappiness at her somewhat curt tone, and some doubt of her assurance.
Before they had emerged from the shadow of the hall some persons were seen moving along the road. Loveday was for going on just the same; but Anne, from a shy feeling that it was as well not to be seen walking alone with a man who was not her lover, said—
'Mr. Loveday, let us wait here a minute till they have passed.'
On nearer view the group was seen to comprise a man on a piebald horse, and another man walking beside him. When they were opposite the house they halted, and the rider dismounted, whereupon a dispute between him and the other man ensued, apparently on a question of money.
''Tis old Mr. Derriman come home!' said Anne. 'He has hired that horse from the bathing-machine to bring him. Only fancy!'
Before they had gone many steps further the farmer and his companion had ended their dispute, and the latter mounted the horse and cantered away, Uncle Benjy coming on to the house at a nimble pace. As soon as he observed Loveday and Anne, he fell into a feebler gait; when they came up he recognized Anne.
'And you have torn yourself away from King George's Esplanade so soon, Farmer Derriman?' said she.
'Yes, faith! I couldn't bide at such a ruination place,' said the farmer. 'Your hand in your pocket every minute of the day. 'Tis a shilling for this, half-a-crown for that; if you only eat one egg, or even a poor windfall of an apple, you've got to pay; and a bunch o' radishes is a halfpenny, and a quart o' cider a good tuppence three-farthings at lowest reckoning. Nothing without paying! I couldn't even get a ride homeward upon that screw without the man wanting a shilling for it, when my weight didn't take a penny out of the beast. I've saved a penn'orth or so of shoeleather to be sure; but the saddle was so rough wi' patches that 'a took twopence out of the seat of my best breeches. King George hev' ruined the town for other folks. More than that, my nephew promised to come there to-morrow to see me, and if I had stayed I must have treated en. Hey—what's that?'
It was a shout from within the walls of the building, and Loveday said—
'Your nephew is here, and has company.'
'My nephew here?' gasped the old man. 'Good folks, will you come up to the door with me? I mean—hee—hee—just for company! Dear me, I thought my house was as quiet as a church?'
They went back to the window, and the farmer looked in, his mouth falling apart to a greater width at the corners than in the middle, and his fingers assuming a state of radiation.
''Tis my best silver tankards they've got, that I've never used! O! 'tis my strong beer! 'Tis eight candles guttering away, when I've used nothing but twenties myself for the last half-year!'
'You didn't know he was here, then?' said Loveday.
'O no!' said the farmer, shaking his head half-way. 'Nothing's known to poor I! There's my best rummers jingling as careless as if 'twas tin cups; and my table scratched, and my chairs wrenched out of joint. See how they tilt 'em on the two back legs—and that's ruin to a chair! Ah! when I be gone he won't find another old man to make such work with, and provide goods for his breaking, and house-room and drink for his tear- brass set!'
'Comrades and fellow-soldiers,' said Festus to the hot farmers and yeomen he entertained within, 'as we have vowed to brave danger and death together, so we'll share the couch of peace. You shall sleep here to- night, for it is getting late. My scram blue-vinnied gallicrow of an uncle takes care that there shan't be much comfort in the house, but you can curl up on the furniture if beds run short. As for my sleep, it won't be much. I'm melancholy! A woman has, I may say, got my heart in her pocket, and I have hers in mine. She's not much—to other folk, I mean—but she is to me. The little thing came in my way, and conquered me. I fancy that simple girl! I ought to have looked higher—I know it; what of that? 'Tis a fate that may happen to the greatest men.'
'Whash her name?' said one of the warriors, whose head occasionally drooped upon his epaulettes, and whose eyes fell together in the casual manner characteristic of the tired soldier. (It was really Farmer Stubb, of Duddle Hole.)
'Her name? Well, 'tis spelt, A, N—but, by gad, I won't give ye her name here in company. She don't live a hundred miles off, however, and she wears the prettiest cap-ribbons you ever saw. Well, well, 'tis weakness! She has little, and I have much; but I do adore that girl, in spite of myself!'
'Let's go on,' said Anne.
'Prithee stand by an old man till he's got into his house!' implored Uncle Benjy. 'I only ask ye to bide within call. Stand back under the trees, and I'll do my poor best to give no trouble.'
'I'll stand by you for half-an-hour, sir,' said Loveday. 'After that I must bolt to camp.'
'Very well; bide back there under the trees,' said Uncle Benjy. 'I don't want to spite 'em?'
'You'll wait a few minutes, just to see if he gets in?' said the trumpet- major to Anne as they retired from the old man.
'I want to get home,' said Anne anxiously.
When they had quite receded behind the tree-trunks and he stood alone, Uncle Benjy, to their surprise, set up a loud shout, altogether beyond the imagined power of his lungs.
'Man a-lost! man a-lost!' he cried, repeating the exclamation several times; and then ran and hid himself behind a corner of the building. Soon the door opened, and Festus and his guests came tumbling out upon the green.
''Tis our duty to help folks in distress,' said Festus. 'Man a-lost, where are you?'
''Twas across there,' said one of his friends.
'No! 'twas here,' said another.
Meanwhile Uncle Benjy, coming from his hiding-place, had scampered with the quickness of a boy up to the door they had quitted, and slipped in. In a moment the door flew together, and Anne heard him bolting and barring it inside. The revellers, however, did not notice this, and came on towards the spot where the trumpet-major and Anne were standing.
'Here's succour at hand, friends,' said Festus. 'We are all king's men; do not fear us.'
'Thank you,' said Loveday; 'so are we.' He explained in two words that they were not the distressed traveller who had cried out, and turned to go on.
''Tis she! my life, 'tis she said Festus, now first recognizing Anne. 'Fair Anne, I will not part from you till I see you safe at your own dear door.'
'She's in my hands,' said Loveday civilly, though not without firmness, 'so it is not required, thank you.'
'Man, had I but my sword—'
'Come,' said Loveday, 'I don't want to quarrel. Let's put it to her. Whichever of us she likes best, he shall take her home. Miss Anne, which?'
Anne would much rather have gone home alone, but seeing the remainder of the yeomanry party staggering up she thought it best to secure a protector of some kind. How to choose one without offending the other and provoking a quarrel was the difficulty.
'You must both walk home with me,' she adroitly said, 'one on one side, and one on the other. And if you are not quite civil to one another all the time, I'll never speak to either of you again.'
They agreed to the terms, and the other yeomen arriving at this time said they would go also as rearguard.
'Very well,' said Anne. 'Now go and get your hats, and don't be long.'
'Ah, yes; our hats,' said the yeomanry, whose heads were so hot that they had forgotten their nakedness till then.
'You'll wait till we've got 'em—we won't be a moment,' said Festus eagerly.
Anne and Loveday said yes, and Festus ran back to the house, followed by all his band.
'Now let's run and leave 'em,' said Anne, when they were out of hearing.
'But we've promised to wait!' said the trumpet-major in surprise.
'Promised to wait!' said Anne indignantly. 'As if one ought to keep such a promise to drunken men as that. You can do as you like, I shall go.'
'It is hardly fair to leave the chaps,' said Loveday reluctantly, and looking back at them. But she heard no more, and flitting off under the trees, was soon lost to his sight.
Festus and the rest had by this time reached Uncle Benjy's door, which they were discomfited and astonished to find closed. They began to knock, and then to kick at the venerable timber, till the old man's head, crowned with a tasselled nightcap, appeared at an upper window, followed by his shoulders, with apparently nothing on but his shirt, though it was in truth a sheet thrown over his coat.
'Fie, fie upon ye all for making such a hullaballoo at a weak old man's door,' he said, yawning. 'What's in ye to rouse honest folks at this time o' night?'
'Hang me—why—it's Uncle Benjy! Haw—haw—haw?' said Festus. 'Nunc, why how the devil's this? 'Tis I—Festus—wanting to come in.'
'O no, no, my clever man, whoever you be!' said Uncle Benjy in a tone of incredulous integrity. 'My nephew, dear boy, is miles away at quarters, and sound asleep by this time, as becomes a good soldier. That story won't do to-night, my man, not at all.'
'Upon my soul 'tis I,' said Festus.
'Not to-night, my man; not to-night! Anthony, bring my blunderbuss,' said the farmer, turning and addressing nobody inside the room.
'Let's break in the window-shutters,' said one of the others.
'My wig, and we will!' said Festus. 'What a trick of the old man!'
'Get some big stones,' said the yeomen, searching under the wall.
'No; forbear, forbear,' said Festus, beginning to be frightened at the spirit he had raised. 'I forget; we should drive him into fits, for he's subject to 'em, and then perhaps 'twould be manslaughter. Comrades, we must march! No, we'll lie in the barn. I'll see into this, take my word for 't. Our honour is at stake. Now let's back to see my beauty home.'
'We can't, as we hav'n't got our hats,' said one of his fellow-troopers—in domestic life Jacob Noakes, of Muckleford Farm.
'No more we can,' said Festus, in a melancholy tone. 'But I must go to her and tell her the reason. She pulls me in spite of all.'
'She's gone. I saw her flee across park while we were knocking at the door,' said another of the yeomanry.
'Gone!' said Festus, grinding his teeth and putting himself into a rigid shape. 'Then 'tis my enemy—he has tempted her away with him! But I am a rich man, and he's poor, and rides the King's horse while I ride my own. Could I but find that fellow, that regular, that common man, I would—'
'Yes?' said the trumpet-major, coming up behind him.
'I,'—said Festus, starting round,—'I would seize him by the hand and say, "Guard her; if you are my friend, guard her from all harm!"'
'A good speech. And I will, too,' said Loveday heartily.
'And now for shelter,' said Festus to his companions.
They then unceremoniously left Loveday, without wishing him good-night, and proceeded towards the barn. He crossed the park and ascended the down to the camp, grieved that he had given Anne cause of complaint, and fancying that she held him of slight account beside his wealthier rival.
X. THE MATCH-MAKING VIRTUES OF A DOUBLE GARDEN
Anne was so flurried by the military incidents attending her return home that she was almost afraid to venture alone outside her mother's premises. Moreover, the numerous soldiers, regular and otherwise, that haunted Overcombe and its neighbourhood, were getting better acquainted with the villagers, and the result was that they were always standing at garden gates, walking in the orchards, or sitting gossiping just within cottage doors, with the bowls of their tobacco-pipes thrust outside for politeness' sake, that they might not defile the air of the household. Being gentlemen of a gallant and most affectionate nature, they naturally turned their heads and smiled if a pretty girl passed by, which was rather disconcerting to the latter if she were unused to society. Every belle in the village soon had a lover, and when the belles were all allotted those who scarcely deserved that title had their turn, many of the soldiers being not at all particular about half-an-inch of nose more or less, a trifling deficiency of teeth, or a larger crop of freckles than is customary in the Saxon race. Thus, with one and another, courtship began to be practised in Overcombe on rather a large scale, and the dispossessed young men who had been born in the place were left to take their walks alone, where, instead of studying the works of nature, they meditated gross outrages on the brave men who had been so good as to visit their village.
Anne watched these romantic proceedings from her window with much interest, and when she saw how triumphantly other handsome girls of the neighbourhood walked by on the gorgeous arms of Lieutenant Knockheelmann, Cornet Flitzenhart, and Captain Klaspenkissen, of the thrilling York Hussars, who swore the most picturesque foreign oaths, and had a wonderful sort of estate or property called the Vaterland in their country across the sea, she was filled with a sense of her own loneliness. It made her think of things which she tried to forget, and to look into a little drawer at something soft and brown that lay in a curl there, wrapped in paper. At last she could bear it no longer, and went downstairs.
'Where are you going?' said Mrs. Garland.
'To see the folks, because I am so gloomy!'
'Certainly not at present, Anne.'
'Why not, mother?' said Anne, blushing with an indefinite sense of being very wicked.
'Because you must not. I have been going to tell you several times not to go into the street at this time of day. Why not walk in the morning? There's young Mr. Derriman would be glad to—'
'Don't mention him, mother, don't!'
'Well then, dear, walk in the garden.'
So poor Anne, who really had not the slightest wish to throw her heart away upon a soldier, but merely wanted to displace old thoughts by new, turned into the inner garden from day to day, and passed a good many hours there, the pleasant birds singing to her, and the delightful butterflies alighting on her hat, and the horrid ants running up her stockings.
This garden was undivided from Loveday's, the two having originally been the single garden of the whole house. It was a quaint old place, enclosed by a thorn hedge so shapely and dense from incessant clipping that the mill-boy could walk along the top without sinking in—a feat which he often performed as a means of filling out his day's work. The soil within was of that intense fat blackness which is only seen after a century of constant cultivation. The paths were grassed over, so that people came and went upon them without being heard. The grass harboured slugs, and on this account the miller was going to replace it by gravel as soon as he had time; but as he had said this for thirty years without doing it, the grass and the slugs seemed likely to remain.
The miller's man attended to Mrs. Garland's piece of the garden as well as to the larger portion, digging, planting, and weeding indifferently in both, the miller observing with reason that it was not worth while for a helpless widow lady to hire a man for her little plot when his man, working alongside, could tend it without much addition to his labour. The two households were on this account even more closely united in the garden than within the mill. Out there they were almost one family, and they talked from plot to plot with a zest and animation which Mrs. Garland could never have anticipated when she first removed thither after her husband's death.
The lower half of the garden, farthest from the road, was the most snug and sheltered part of this snug and sheltered enclosure, and it was well watered as the land of Lot. Three small brooks, about a yard wide, ran with a tinkling sound from side to side between the plots, crossing the path under wood slabs laid as bridges, and passing out of the garden through little tunnels in the hedge. The brooks were so far overhung at their brinks by grass and garden produce that, had it not been for their perpetual babbling, few would have noticed that they were there. This was where Anne liked best to linger when her excursions became restricted to her own premises; and in a spot of the garden not far removed the trumpet-major loved to linger also.
Having by virtue of his office no stable duty to perform, he came down from the camp to the mill almost every day; and Anne, finding that he adroitly walked and sat in his father's portion of the garden whenever she did so in the other half, could not help smiling and speaking to him. So his epaulettes and blue jacket, and Anne's yellow gipsy hat, were often seen in different parts of the garden at the same time; but he never intruded into her part of the enclosure, nor did she into Loveday's. She always spoke to him when she saw him there, and he replied in deep, firm accents across the gooseberry bushes, or through the tall rows of flowering peas, as the case might be. He thus gave her accounts at fifteen paces of his experiences in camp, in quarters, in Flanders, and elsewhere; of the difference between line and column, of forced marches, billeting, and such-like, together with his hopes of promotion. Anne listened at first indifferently; but knowing no one else so good-natured and experienced, she grew interested in him as in a brother. By degrees his gold lace, buckles, and spurs lost all their strangeness and were as familiar to her as her own clothes.
At last Mrs. Garland noticed this growing friendship, and began to despair of her motherly scheme of uniting Anne to the moneyed Festus. Why she could not take prompt steps to check interference with her plans arose partly from her nature, which was the reverse of managing, and partly from a new emotional circumstance with which she found it difficult to reckon. The near neighbourhood that had produced the friendship of Anne for John Loveday was slowly effecting a warmer liking between her mother and his father.
Thus the month of July passed. The troop horses came with the regularity of clockwork twice a day down to drink under her window, and, as the weather grew hotter, kicked up their heels and shook their heads furiously under the maddening sting of the dun-fly. The green leaves in the garden became of a darker dye, the gooseberries ripened, and the three brooks were reduced to half their winter volume.
At length the earnest trumpet-major obtained Mrs. Garland's consent to take her and her daughter to the camp, which they had not yet viewed from any closer point than their own windows. So one afternoon they went, the miller being one of the party. The villagers were by this time driving a roaring trade with the soldiers, who purchased of them every description of garden produce, milk, butter, and eggs at liberal prices. The figures of these rural sutlers could be seen creeping up the slopes, laden like bees, to a spot in the rear of the camp, where there was a kind of market- place on the greensward.
Mrs. Garland, Anne, and the miller were conducted from one place to another, and on to the quarter where the soldiers' wives lived who had not been able to get lodgings in the cottages near. The most sheltered place had been chosen for them, and snug huts had been built for their use by their husbands, of clods, hurdles, a little thatch, or whatever they could lay hands on. The trumpet-major conducted his friends thence to the large barn which had been appropriated as a hospital, and to the cottage with its windows bricked up, that was used as the magazine; then they inspected the lines of shining dark horses (each representing the then high figure of two-and-twenty guineas purchase money), standing patiently at the ropes which stretched from one picket-post to another, a bank being thrown up in front of them as a protection at night.
They passed on to the tents of the German Legion, a well-grown and rather dandy set of men, with a poetical look about their faces which rendered them interesting to feminine eyes. Hanoverians, Saxons, Prussians, Swedes, Hungarians, and other foreigners were numbered in their ranks. They were cleaning arms, which they leant carefully against a rail when the work was complete.
On their return they passed the mess-house, a temporary wooden building with a brick chimney. As Anne and her companions went by, a group of three or four of the hussars were standing at the door talking to a dashing young man, who was expatiating on the qualities of a horse that one was inclined to buy. Anne recognized Festus Derriman in the seller, and Cripplestraw was trotting the animal up and down. As soon as she caught the yeoman's eye he came forward, making some friendly remark to the miller, and then turning to Miss Garland, who kept her eyes steadily fixed on the distant landscape till he got so near that it was impossible to do so longer. Festus looked from Anne to the trumpet-major, and from the trumpet-major back to Anne, with a dark expression of face, as if he suspected that there might be a tender understanding between them.
'Are you offended with me?' he said to her in a low voice of repressed resentment.
'No,' said Anne.
'When are you coming to the hall again?'
'Nonsense, Anne,' said Mrs. Garland, who had come near, and smiled pleasantly on Festus. 'You can go at any time, as usual.'
'Let her come with me now, Mrs. Garland; I should be pleased to walk along with her. My man can lead home the horse.'
'Thank you, but I shall not come,' said Miss Anne coldly.
The widow looked unhappily in her daughter's face, distressed between her desire that Anne should encourage Festus, and her wish to consult Anne's own feelings.
'Leave her alone, leave her alone,' said Festus, his gaze blackening. 'Now I think of it I am glad she can't come with me, for I am engaged;' and he stalked away.
Anne moved on with her mother, young Loveday silently following, and they began to descend the hill.
'Well, where's Mr. Loveday?' asked Mrs. Garland.
'Father's behind,' said John.
Mrs. Garland looked behind her solicitously; and the miller, who had been waiting for the event, beckoned to her.
'I'll overtake you in a minute,' she said to the younger pair, and went back, her colour, for some unaccountable reason, rising as she did so. The miller and she then came on slowly together, conversing in very low tones, and when they got to the bottom they stood still. Loveday and Anne waited for them, saying but little to each other, for the rencounter with Festus had damped the spirits of both. At last the widow's private talk with Miller Loveday came to an end, and she hastened onward, the miller going in another direction to meet a man on business. When she reached the trumpet-major and Anne she was looking very bright and rather flurried, and seemed sorry when Loveday said that he must leave them and return to the camp. They parted in their usual friendly manner, and Anne and her mother were left to walk the few remaining yards alone.
'There, I've settled it,' said Mrs. Garland. 'Anne, what are you thinking about? I have settled in my mind that it is all right.'
'What's all right?' said Anne.
'That you do not care for Derriman, and mean to encourage John Loveday. What's all the world so long as folks are happy! Child, don't take any notice of what I have said about Festus, and don't meet him any more.'
'What a weathercock you are, mother! Why should you say that just now?'
'It is easy to call me a weathercock,' said the matron, putting on the look of a good woman; 'but I have reasoned it out, and at last, thank God, I have got over my ambition. The Lovedays are our true and only friends, and Mr. Festus Derriman, with all his money, is nothing to us at all.'
'But,' said Anne, 'what has made you change all of a sudden from what you have said before?'
'My feelings and my reason, which I am thankful for!'
Anne knew that her mother's sentiments were naturally so versatile that they could not be depended on for two days together; but it did not occur to her for the moment that a change had been helped on in the present case by a romantic talk between Mrs. Garland and the miller. But Mrs. Garland could not keep the secret long. She chatted gaily as she walked, and before they had entered the house she said, 'What do you think Mr Loveday has been saying to me, dear Anne?'
Anne did not know at all.
'Why, he has asked me to marry him.'
XI. OUR PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED BY THE PRESENCE OF ROYALTY
To explain the miller's sudden proposal it is only necessary to go back to that moment when Anne, Festus, and Mrs. Garland were talking together on the down. John Loveday had fallen behind so as not to interfere with a meeting in which he was decidedly superfluous; and his father, who guessed the trumpet-major's secret, watched his face as he stood. John's face was sad, and his eyes followed Mrs. Garland's encouraging manner to Festus in a way which plainly said that every parting of her lips was tribulation to him. The miller loved his son as much as any miller or private gentleman could do, and he was pained to see John's gloom at such a trivial circumstance. So what did he resolve but to help John there and then by precipitating a matter which, had he himself been the only person concerned, he would have delayed for another six months.
He had long liked the society of his impulsive, tractable neighbour, Mrs. Garland; had mentally taken her up and pondered her in connexion with the question whether it would not be for the happiness of both if she were to share his home, even though she was a little his superior in antecedents and knowledge. In fact he loved her; not tragically, but to a very creditable extent for his years; that is, next to his sons, Bob and John, though he knew very well of that ploughed-ground appearance near the corners of her once handsome eyes, and that the little depression in her right cheek was not the lingering dimple it was poetically assumed to be, but a result of the abstraction of some worn-out nether millstones within the cheek by Rootle, the Budmouth man, who lived by such practices on the heads of the elderly. But what of that, when he had lost two to each one of hers, and exceeded her in age by some eight years! To do John a service, then, he quickened his designs, and put the question to her while they were standing under the eyes of the younger pair.
Mrs. Garland, though she had been interested in the miller for a long time, and had for a moment now and then thought on this question as far as, 'Suppose he should, 'If he were to,' and so on, had never thought much further; and she was really taken by surprise when the question came. She answered without affectation that she would think over the proposal; and thus they parted.
Her mother's infirmity of purpose set Anne thinking, and she was suddenly filled with a conviction that in such a case she ought to have some purpose herself. Mrs. Garland's complacency at the miller's offer had, in truth, amazed her. While her mother had held up her head, and recommended Festus, it had seemed a very pretty thing to rebel; but the pressure being removed an awful sense of her own responsibility took possession of her mind. As there was no longer anybody to be wise or ambitious for her, surely she should be wise and ambitious for herself, discountenance her mother's attachment, and encourage Festus in his addresses, for her own and her mother's good. There had been a time when a Loveday thrilled her own heart; but that was long ago, before she had thought of position or differences. To wake into cold daylight like this, when and because her mother had gone into the land of romance, was dreadful and new to her, and like an increase of years without living them.
But it was easier to think that she ought to marry the yeoman than to take steps for doing it; and she went on living just as before, only with a little more thoughtfulness in her eyes.
Two days after the visit to the camp, when she was again in the garden, Soldier Loveday said to her, at a distance of five rows of beans and a parsley-bed—
'You have heard the news, Miss Garland?'
'No,' said Anne, without looking up from a book she was reading.
'The King is coming to-morrow.'
'The King?' She looked up then.
'Yes; to Gloucester Lodge; and he will pass this way. He can't arrive till long past the middle of the night, if what they say is true, that he is timed to change horses at Woodyates Inn—between Mid and South Wessex—at twelve o'clock,' continued Loveday, encouraged by her interest to cut off the parsley-bed from the distance between them.
Miller Loveday came round the corner of the house.
'Have ye heard about the King coming, Miss Maidy Anne?' he said.
Anne said that she had just heard of it; and the trumpet-major, who hardly welcomed his father at such a moment, explained what he knew of the matter.
'And you will go with your regiment to meet 'en, I suppose?' said old Loveday.
Young Loveday said that the men of the German Legion were to perform that duty. And turning half from his father, and half towards Anne, he added, in a tentative tone, that he thought he might get leave for the night, if anybody would like to be taken to the top of the Ridgeway over which the royal party must pass.
Anne, knowing by this time of the budding hope in the gallant dragoon's mind, and not wishing to encourage it, said, 'I don't want to go.'
The miller looked disappointed as well as John.
'Your mother might like to?'
'Yes, I am going indoors, and I'll ask her if you wish me to,' said she.
She went indoors and rather coldly told her mother of the proposal. Mrs. Garland, though she had determined not to answer the miller's question on matrimony just yet, was quite ready for this jaunt, and in spite of Anne she sailed off at once to the garden to hear more about it. When she re- entered, she said—
'Anne, I have not seen the King or the King's horses for these many years; and I am going.'
'Ah, it is well to be you, mother,' said Anne, in an elderly tone.
'Then you won't come with us?' said Mrs. Garland, rather rebuffed.
'I have very different things to think of,' said her daughter with virtuous emphasis, 'than going to see sights at that time of night.'
Mrs. Garland was sorry, but resolved to adhere to the arrangement. The night came on; and it having gone abroad that the King would pass by the road, many of the villagers went out to see the procession. When the two Lovedays and Mrs. Garland were gone, Anne bolted the door for security, and sat down to think again on her grave responsibilities in the choice of a husband, now that her natural guardian could no longer be trusted.
A knock came to the door.
Anne's instinct was at once to be silent, that the comer might think the family had retired.
The knocking person, however, was not to be easily persuaded. He had in fact seen rays of light over the top of the shutter, and, unable to get an answer, went on to the door of the mill, which was still going, the miller sometimes grinding all night when busy. The grinder accompanied the stranger to Mrs. Garland's door.
'The daughter is certainly at home, sir,' said the grinder. 'I'll go round to t'other side, and see if she's there, Master Derriman.'
'I want to take her out to see the King,' said Festus.
Anne had started at the sound of the voice. No opportunity could have been better for carrying out her new convictions on the disposal of her hand. But in her mortal dislike of Festus, Anne forgot her principles, and her idea of keeping herself above the Lovedays. Tossing on her hat and blowing out the candle, she slipped out at the back door, and hastily followed in the direction that her mother and the rest had taken. She overtook them as they were beginning to climb the hill.
'What! you have altered your mind after all?' said the widow. 'How came you to do that, my dear?'
'I thought I might as well come,' said Anne.
'To be sure you did,' said the miller heartily. 'A good deal better than biding at home there.'
John said nothing, though she could almost see through the gloom how glad he was that she had altered her mind. When they reached the ridge over which the highway stretched they found many of their neighbours who had got there before them idling on the grass border between the roadway and the hedge, enjoying a sort of midnight picnic, which it was easy to do, the air being still and dry. Some carriages were also standing near, though most people of the district who possessed four wheels, or even two, had driven into the town to await the King there. From this height could be seen in the distance the position of the watering-place, an additional number of lanterns, lamps, and candles having been lighted to- night by the loyal burghers to grace the royal entry, if it should occur before dawn.
Mrs. Garland touched Anne's elbow several times as they walked, and the young woman at last understood that this was meant as a hint to her to take the trumpet-major's arm, which its owner was rather suggesting than offering to her. Anne wondered what infatuation was possessing her mother, declined to take the arm, and contrived to get in front with the miller, who mostly kept in the van to guide the others' footsteps. The trumpet-major was left with Mrs. Garland, and Anne's encouraging pursuit of them induced him to say a few words to the former.
'By your leave, ma'am, I'll speak to you on something that concerns my mind very much indeed?'
'It is my wish to be allowed to pay my addresses to your daughter.'
'I thought you meant that,' said Mrs. Garland simply.
'And you'll not object?'
'I shall leave it to her. I don't think she will agree, even if I do.'
The soldier sighed, and seemed helpless. 'Well, I can but ask her,' he said.
The spot on which they had finally chosen to wait for the King was by a field gate, whence the white road could be seen for a long distance northwards by day, and some little distance now. They lingered and lingered, but no King came to break the silence of that beautiful summer night. As half-hour after half-hour glided by, and nobody came, Anne began to get weary; she knew why her mother did not propose to go back, and regretted the reason. She would have proposed it herself, but that Mrs. Garland seemed so cheerful, and as wide awake as at noonday, so that it was almost a cruelty to disturb her.
The trumpet-major at last made up his mind, and tried to draw Anne into a private conversation. The feeling which a week ago had been a vague and piquant aspiration, was to-day altogether too lively for the reasoning of this warm-hearted soldier to regulate. So he persevered in his intention to catch her alone, and at last, in spite of her manoeuvres to the contrary, he succeeded. The miller and Mrs. Garland had walked about fifty yards further on, and Anne and himself were left standing by the gate.
But the gallant musician's soul was so much disturbed by tender vibrations and by the sense of his presumption that he could not begin; and it may be questioned if he would ever have broached the subject at all, had not a distant church clock opportunely assisted him by striking the hour of three. The trumpet-major heaved a breath of relief.
'That clock strikes in G sharp,' he said.
'Indeed—G sharp?' said Anne civilly.
'Yes. 'Tis a fine-toned bell. I used to notice that note when I was a boy.'
'Did you—the very same?'
'Yes; and since then I had a wager about that bell with the bandmaster of the North Wessex Militia. He said the note was G; I said it wasn't. When we found it G sharp we didn't know how to settle it.'
'It is not a deep note for a clock.'
'O no! The finest tenor bell about here is the bell of Peter's, Casterbridge—in E flat. Tum-m-m-m—that's the note—tum-m-m-m.' The trumpet-major sounded from far down his throat what he considered to be E flat, with a parenthetic sense of luxury unquenchable even by his present distraction.
'Shall we go on to where my mother is?' said Anne, less impressed by the beauty of the note than the trumpet-major himself was.
'In one minute,' he said tremulously. 'Talking of music—I fear you don't think the rank of a trumpet-major much to compare with your own?'
'I do. I think a trumpet-major a very respectable man.'
'I am glad to hear you say that. It is given out by the King's command that trumpet-majors are to be considered respectable.'
'Indeed! Then I am, by chance, more loyal than I thought for.'
'I get a good deal a year extra to the trumpeters, because of my position.'
'That's very nice.'
'And I am not supposed ever to drink with the trumpeters who serve beneath me.'
'And, by the orders of the War Office, I am to exert over them (that's the government word) exert over them full authority; and if any one behaves towards me with the least impropriety, or neglects my orders, he is to be confined and reported.'
'It is really a dignified post,' she said, with, however, a reserve of enthusiasm which was not altogether encouraging.
'And of course some day I shall,' stammered the dragoon—'shall be in rather a better position than I am at present.'
'I am glad to hear it, Mr. Loveday.'
'And in short, Mistress Anne,' continued John Loveday bravely and desperately, 'may I pay court to you in the hope that—no, no, don't go away!—you haven't heard yet—that you may make me the happiest of men; not yet, but when peace is proclaimed and all is smooth and easy again? I can't put it any better, though there's more to be explained.'
'This is most awkward,' said Anne, evidently with pain. 'I cannot possibly agree; believe me, Mr. Loveday, I cannot.'
'But there's more than this. You would be surprised to see what snug rooms the married trumpet- and sergeant-majors have in quarters.'
'Barracks are not all; consider camp and war.'
'That brings me to my strong point!' exclaimed the soldier hopefully. 'My father is better off than most non-commissioned officers' fathers; and there's always a home for you at his house in any emergency. I can tell you privately that he has enough to keep us both, and if you wouldn't hear of barracks, well, peace once established, I'd live at home as a miller and farmer—next door to your own mother.'
'My mother would be sure to object,' expostulated Anne.
'No; she leaves it all to you.'
'What! you have asked her?' said Anne, with surprise.
'Yes. I thought it would not be honourable to act otherwise.'
'That's very good of you,' said Anne, her face warming with a generous sense of his straightforwardness. 'But my mother is so entirely ignorant of a soldier's life, and the life of a soldier's wife—she is so simple in all such matters, that I cannot listen to you any more readily for what she may say.'
'Then it is all over for me,' said the poor trumpet-major, wiping his face and putting away his handkerchief with an air of finality.
Anne was silent. Any woman who has ever tried will know without explanation what an unpalatable task it is to dismiss, even when she does not love him, a man who has all the natural and moral qualities she would desire, and only fails in the social. Would-be lovers are not so numerous, even with the best women, that the sacrifice of one can be felt as other than a good thing wasted, in a world where there are few good things.
'You are not angry, Miss Garland?' said he, finding that she did not speak.
'O no. Don't let us say anything more about this now.' And she moved on.
When she drew near to the miller and her mother she perceived that they were engaged in a conversation of that peculiar kind which is all the more full and communicative from the fact of definitive words being few. In short, here the game was succeeding which with herself had failed. It was pretty clear from the symptoms, marks, tokens, telegraphs, and general byplay between widower and widow, that Miller Loveday must have again said to Mrs. Garland some such thing as he had said before, with what result this time she did not know.
As the situation was delicate, Anne halted awhile apart from them. The trumpet-major, quite ignorant of how his cause was entered into by the white-coated man in the distance (for his father had not yet told him of his designs upon Mrs. Garland), did not advance, but stood still by the gate, as though he were attending a princess, waiting till he should be called up. Thus they lingered, and the day began to break. Mrs. Garland and the miller took no heed of the time, and what it was bringing to earth and sky, so occupied were they with themselves; but Anne in her place and the trumpet-major in his, each in private thought of no bright kind, watched the gradual glory of the east through all its tones and changes. The world of birds and insects got lively, the blue and the yellow and the gold of Loveday's uniform again became distinct; the sun bored its way upward, the fields, the trees, and the distant landscape kindled to flame, and the trumpet-major, backed by a lilac shadow as tall as a steeple, blazed in the rays like a very god of war.
It was half-past three o'clock. A short time after, a rattle of horses and wheels reached their ears from the quarter in which they gazed, and there appeared upon the white line of road a moving mass, which presently ascended the hill and drew near.
Then there arose a huzza from the few knots of watchers gathered there, and they cried, 'Long live King Jarge!' The cortege passed abreast. It consisted of three travelling-carriages, escorted by a detachment of the German Legion. Anne was told to look in the first carriage—a post-chariot drawn by four horses—for the King and Queen, and was rewarded by seeing a profile reminding her of the current coin of the realm; but as the party had been travelling all night, and the spectators here gathered were few, none of the royal family looked out of the carriage windows. It was said that the two elder princesses were in the same carriage, but they remained invisible. The next vehicle, a coach and four, contained more princesses, and the third some of their attendants.
'Thank God, I have seen my King!' said Mrs. Garland, when they had all gone by.
Nobody else expressed any thankfulness, for most of them had expected a more pompous procession than the bucolic tastes of the King cared to indulge in; and one old man said grimly that that sight of dusty old leather coaches was not worth waiting for. Anne looked hither and thither in the bright rays of the day, each of her eyes having a little sun in it, which gave her glance a peculiar golden fire, and kindled the brown curls grouped over her forehead to a yellow brilliancy, and made single hairs, blown astray by the night, look like lacquered wires. She was wondering if Festus were anywhere near, but she could not see him.
Before they left the ridge they turned their attention towards the Royal watering-place, which was visible at this place only as a portion of the sea-shore, from which the night-mist was rolling slowly back. The sea beyond was still wrapped in summer fog, the ships in the roads showing through it as black spiders suspended in the air. While they looked and walked a white jet of smoke burst from a spot which the miller knew to be the battery in front of the King's residence, and then the report of guns reached their ears. This announcement was answered by a salute from the Castle of the adjoining Isle, and the ships in the neighbouring anchorage. All the bells in the town began ringing. The King and his family had arrived.
XII. HOW EVERYBODY GREAT AND SMALL CLIMBED TO THE TOP OF THE DOWNS
As the days went on, echoes of the life and bustle of the town reached the ears of the quiet people in Overcombe hollow—exciting and moving those unimportant natives as a ground-swell moves the weeds in a cave. Travelling-carriages of all kinds and colours climbed and descended the road that led towards the seaside borough. Some contained those personages of the King's suite who had not kept pace with him in his journey from Windsor; others were the coaches of aristocracy, big and little, whom news of the King's arrival drew thither for their own pleasure: so that the highway, as seen from the hills about Overcombe, appeared like an ant-walk—a constant succession of dark spots creeping along its surface at nearly uniform rates of progress, and all in one direction.
The traffic and intelligence between camp and town passed in a measure over the villagers' heads. It being summer time the miller was much occupied with business, and the trumpet-major was too constantly engaged in marching between the camp and Gloucester Lodge with the rest of the dragoons to bring his friends any news for some days.
At last he sent a message that there was to be a review on the downs by the King, and that it was fixed for the day following. This information soon spread through the village and country round, and next morning the whole population of Overcombe—except two or three very old men and women, a few babies and their nurses, a cripple, and Corporal Tullidge—ascended the slope with the crowds from afar, and awaited the events of the day.
The miller wore his best coat on this occasion, which meant a good deal. An Overcombe man in those days would have a best coat, and keep it as a best coat half his life. The miller's had seen five and twenty summers chiefly through the chinks of a clothes-box, and was not at all shabby as yet, though getting singular. But that could not be helped; common coats and best coats were distinct species, and never interchangeable. Living so near the scene of the review he walked up the hill, accompanied by Mrs. Garland and Anne as usual.
It was a clear day, with little wind stirring, and the view from the downs, one of the most extensive in the county, was unclouded. The eye of any observer who cared for such things swept over the wave-washed town, and the bay beyond, and the Isle, with its pebble bank, lying on the sea to the left of these, like a great crouching animal tethered to the mainland. On the extreme east of the marine horizon, St. Aldhelm's Head closed the scene, the sea to the southward of that point glaring like a mirror under the sun. Inland could be seen Badbury Rings, where a beacon had been recently erected; and nearer, Rainbarrow, on Egdon Heath, where another stood: farther to the left Bulbarrow, where there was yet another. Not far from this came Nettlecombe Tout; to the west, Dogberry Hill, and Black'on near to the foreground, the beacon thereon being built of furze faggots thatched with straw, and standing on the spot where the monument now raises its head.
At nine o'clock the troops marched upon the ground—some from the camps in the vicinity, and some from quarters in the different towns round about. The approaches to the down were blocked with carriages of all descriptions, ages, and colours, and with pedestrians of every class. At ten the royal personages were said to be drawing near, and soon after the King, accompanied by the Dukes of Cambridge and Cumberland, and a couple of generals, appeared on horseback, wearing a round hat turned up at the side, with a cockade and military feather. (Sensation among the crowd.) Then the Queen and three of the princesses entered the field in a great coach drawn by six beautiful cream-coloured horses. Another coach, with four horses of the same sort, brought the two remaining princesses. (Confused acclamations, 'There's King Jarge!' 'That's Queen Sharlett!' 'Princess 'Lizabeth!' 'Princesses Sophiar and Meelyer!' etc., from the surrounding spectators.)
Anne and her party were fortunate enough to secure a position on the top of one of the barrows which rose here and there on the down; and the miller having gallantly constructed a little cairn of flints, he placed the two women thereon, by which means they were enabled to see over the heads, horses, and coaches of the multitudes below and around. At the march-past the miller's eye, which had been wandering about for the purpose, discovered his son in his place by the trumpeters, who had moved forwards in two ranks, and were sounding the march.
'That's John!' he cried to the widow. 'His trumpet-sling is of two colours, d'ye see; and the others be plain.'
Mrs. Garland too saw him now, and enthusiastically admired him from her hands upwards, and Anne silently did the same. But before the young woman's eyes had quite left the trumpet-major they fell upon the figure of Yeoman Festus riding with his troop, and keeping his face at a medium between haughtiness and mere bravery. He certainly looked as soldierly as any of his own corps, and felt more soldierly than half-a-dozen, as anybody could see by observing him. Anne got behind the miller, in case Festus should discover her, and, regardless of his monarch, rush upon her in a rage with, 'Why the devil did you run away from me that night—hey, madam?' But she resolved to think no more of him just now, and to stick to Loveday, who was her mother's friend. In this she was helped by the stirring tones which burst from the latter gentleman and his subordinates from time to time.
'Well,' said the miller complacently, 'there's few of more consequence in a regiment than a trumpeter. He's the chap that tells 'em what to do, after all. Hey, Mrs. Garland?'
'So he is, miller,' said she.
'They could no more do without Jack and his men than they could without generals.'
'Indeed they could not,' said Mrs. Garland again, in a tone of pleasant agreement with any one in Great Britain or Ireland.
It was said that the line that day was three miles long, reaching from the high ground on the right of where the people stood to the turnpike road on the left. After the review came a sham fight, during which action the crowd dispersed more widely over the downs, enabling Widow Garland to get still clearer glimpses of the King, and his handsome charger, and the head of the Queen, and the elbows and shoulders of the princesses in the carriages, and fractional parts of General Garth and the Duke of Cumberland; which sights gave her great gratification. She tugged at her daughter at every opportunity, exclaiming, 'Now you can see his feather!' 'There's her hat!' 'There's her Majesty's India muslin shawl!' in a minor form of ecstasy, that made the miller think her more girlish and animated than her daughter Anne.
In those military manoeuvres the miller followed the fortunes of one man; Anne Garland of two. The spectators, who, unlike our party, had no personal interest in the soldiery, saw only troops and battalions in the concrete, straight lines of red, straight lines of blue, white lines formed of innumerable knee-breeches, black lines formed of many gaiters, coming and going in kaleidoscopic change. Who thought of every point in the line as an isolated man, each dwelling all to himself in the hermitage of his own mind? One person did, a young man far removed from the barrow where the Garlands and Miller Loveday stood. The natural expression of his face was somewhat obscured by the bronzing effects of rough weather, but the lines of his mouth showed that affectionate impulses were strong within him—perhaps stronger than judgment well could regulate. He wore a blue jacket with little brass buttons, and was plainly a seafaring man.
Meanwhile, in the part of the plain where rose the tumulus on which the miller had established himself, a broad-brimmed tradesman was elbowing his way along. He saw Mr. Loveday from the base of the barrow, and beckoned to attract his attention. Loveday went halfway down, and the other came up as near as he could.
'Miller,' said the man, 'a letter has been lying at the post-office for you for the last three days. If I had known that I should see ye here I'd have brought it along with me.'
The miller thanked him for the news, and they parted, Loveday returning to the summit. 'What a very strange thing!' he said to Mrs. Garland, who had looked inquiringly at his face, now very grave. 'That was Budmouth postmaster, and he says there's a letter for me. Ah, I now call to mind that there was a letter in the candle three days ago this very night—a large red one; but foolish-like I thought nothing o't. Who can that letter be from?'
A letter at this time was such an event for hamleteers, even of the miller's respectable standing, that Loveday thenceforward was thrown into a fit of abstraction which prevented his seeing any more of the sham fight, or the people, or the King. Mrs. Garland imbibed some of his concern, and suggested that the letter might come from his son Robert.
'I should naturally have thought that,' said Miller Loveday; 'but he wrote to me only two months ago, and his brother John heard from him within the last four weeks, when he was just about starting on another voyage. If you'll pardon me, Mrs. Garland, ma'am, I'll see if there's any Overcombe man here who is going to Budmouth to-day, so that I may get the letter by night-time. I cannot possibly go myself.'
So Mr. Loveday left them for awhile; and as they were so near home Mrs. Garland did not wait on the barrow for him to come back, but walked about with Anne a little time, until they should be disposed to trot down the slope to their own door. They listened to a man who was offering one guinea to receive ten in case Buonaparte should be killed in three months, and to other entertainments of that nature, which at this time were not rare. Once during their peregrination the eyes of the sailor before-mentioned fell upon Anne; but he glanced over her and passed her unheedingly by. Loveday the elder was at this time on the other side of the line, looking for a messenger to the town. At twelve o'clock the review was over, and the King and his family left the hill. The troops then cleared off the field, the spectators followed, and by one o'clock the downs were again bare.
They still spread their grassy surface to the sun as on that beautiful morning not, historically speaking, so very long ago; but the King and his fifteen thousand armed men, the horses, the bands of music, the princesses, the cream-coloured teams—the gorgeous centre-piece, in short, to which the downs were but the mere mount or margin—how entirely have they all passed and gone!—lying scattered about the world as military and other dust, some at Talavera, Albuera, Salamanca, Vittoria, Toulouse, and Waterloo; some in home churchyards; and a few small handfuls in royal vaults.
In the afternoon John Loveday, lightened of his trumpet and trappings, appeared at the old mill-house door, and beheld Anne standing at hers.
'I saw you, Miss Garland,' said the soldier gaily.
'Where was I?' said she, smiling.
'On the top of the big mound—to the right of the King.'
'And I saw you; lots of times,' she rejoined.
Loveday seemed pleased. 'Did you really take the trouble to find me? That was very good of you.'
'Her eyes followed you everywhere,' said Mrs. Garland from an upper window.
'Of course I looked at the dragoons most,' said Anne, disconcerted. 'And when I looked at them my eyes naturally fell upon the trumpets. I looked at the dragoons generally, no more.'
She did not mean to show any vexation to the trumpet-major, but he fancied otherwise, and stood repressed. The situation was relieved by the arrival of the miller, still looking serious.
'I am very much concerned, John; I did not go to the review for nothing. There's a letter a-waiting for me at Budmouth, and I must get it before bedtime, or I shan't sleep a wink.'
'I'll go, of course,' said John; 'and perhaps Miss Garland would like to see what's doing there to-day? Everybody is gone or going; the road is like a fair.'
He spoke pleadingly, but Anne was not won to assent.
'You can drive in the gig; 'twill do Blossom good,' said the miller.
'Let David drive Miss Garland,' said the trumpet-major, not wishing to coerce her; 'I would just as soon walk.'
Anne joyfully welcomed this arrangement, and a time was fixed for the start.
XIII. THE CONVERSATION IN THE CROWD
In the afternoon they drove off, John Loveday being nowhere visible. All along the road they passed and were overtaken by vehicles of all descriptions going in the same direction; among them the extraordinary machines which had been invented for the conveyance of troops to any point of the coast on which the enemy should land; they consisted of four boards placed across a sort of trolly, thirty men of the volunteer companies riding on each.
The popular Georgian watering-place was in a paroxysm of gaiety. The town was quite overpowered by the country round, much to the town's delight and profit. The fear of invasion was such that six frigates lay in the roads to ensure the safety of the royal family, and from the regiments of horse and foot quartered at the barracks, or encamped on the hills round about, a picket of a thousand men mounted guard every day in front of Gloucester Lodge, where the King resided. When Anne and her attendant reached this point, which they did on foot, stabling the horse on the outskirts of the town, it was about six o'clock. The King was on the Esplanade, and the soldiers were just marching past to mount guard. The band formed in front of the King, and all the officers saluted as they went by.
Anne now felt herself close to and looking into the stream of recorded history, within whose banks the littlest things are great, and outside which she and the general bulk of the human race were content to live on as an unreckoned, unheeded superfluity.
When she turned from her interested gaze at this scene, there stood John Loveday. She had had a presentiment that he would turn up in this mysterious way. It was marvellous that he could have got there so quickly; but there he was—not looking at the King, or at the crowd, but waiting for the turn of her head.
'Trumpet-major, I didn't see you,' said Anne demurely. 'How is it that your regiment is not marching past?'
'We take it by turns, and it is not our turn,' said Loveday.
She wanted to know then if they were afraid that the King would be carried off by the First Consul. Yes, Loveday told her; and his Majesty was rather venturesome. A day or two before he had gone so far to sea that he was nearly caught by some of the enemy's cruisers. 'He is anxious to fight Boney single-handed,' he said.