Part 3 out of 7
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.
'What a good, brave King!' said Anne.
Loveday seemed anxious to come to more personal matters. 'Will you
let me take you round to the other side, where you can see better?'
he asked. 'The Queen and the princesses are at the window.'
Anne passively assented. 'David, wait here for me,' she said; 'I
shall be back again in a few minutes.'
The trumpet-major then led her off triumphantly, and they skirted
the crowd and came round on the side towards the sands. He told her
everything he could think of, military and civil, to which Anne
returned pretty syllables and parenthetic words about the colour of
the sea and the curl of the foam--a way of speaking that moved the
soldier's heart even more than long and direct speeches would have
'And that other thing I asked you?' he ventured to say at last.
'We won't speak of it.'
'You don't dislike me?'
'O no!' she said, gazing at the bathing-machines, digging children,
and other common objects of the seashore, as if her interest lay
there rather than with him.
'But I am not worthy of the daughter of a genteel professional man--
that's what you mean?'
'There's something more than worthiness required in such cases, you
know,' she said, still without calling her mind away from
surrounding scenes. 'Ah, there are the Queen and princesses at the
'Well, since you will make me speak, I mean the woman ought to love
The trumpet-major seemed to be less concerned about this than about
her supposed superiority. 'If it were all right on that point,
would you mind the other?' he asked, like a man who knows he is too
persistent, yet who cannot be still.
'How can I say, when I don't know? What a pretty chip hat the elder
Her companion's general disappointment extended over him almost to
his lace and his plume. 'Your mother said, you know, Miss Anne--'
'Yes, that's the worst of it,' she said. 'Let us go back to David;
I have seen all I want to see, Mr. Loveday.'
The mass of the people had by this time noticed the Queen and
princesses at the window, and raised a cheer, to which the ladies
waved their embroidered handkerchiefs. Anne went back towards the
pavement with her trumpet-major, whom all the girls envied her, so
fine-looking a soldier was he; and not only for that, but because it
was well known that he was not a soldier from necessity, but from
patriotism, his father having repeatedly offered to set him up in
business: his artistic taste in preferring a horse and uniform to a
dirty, rumbling flour-mill was admired by all. She, too, had a very
nice appearance in her best clothes as she walked along--the
sarcenet hat, muslin shawl, and tight-sleeved gown being of the
newest Overcombe fashion, that was only about a year old in the
adjoining town, and in London three or four. She could not be harsh
to Loveday and dismiss him curtly, for his musical pursuits had
refined him, educated him, and made him quite poetical. To-day he
had been particularly well-mannered and tender; so, instead of
answering, 'Never speak to me like this again,' she merely put him
off with a 'Let us go back to David.'
When they reached the place where they had left him David was gone.
Anne was now positively vexed. 'What SHALL I do?' she said.
'He's only gone to drink the King's health,' said Loveday, who had
privately given David the money for performing that operation.
'Depend upon it, he'll be back soon.'
'Will you go and find him?' said she, with intense propriety in her
looks and tone.
'I will,' said Loveday reluctantly; and he went.
Anne stood still. She could now escape her gallant friend, for,
although the distance was long, it was not impossible to walk home.
On the other hand, Loveday was a good and sincere fellow, for whom
she had almost a brotherly feeling, and she shrank from such a
trick. While she stood and mused, scarcely heeding the music, the
marching of the soldiers, the King, the dukes, the brilliant staff,
the attendants, and the happy groups of people, her eyes fell upon
Before her she saw a flower lying--a crimson sweet-william--fresh
and uninjured. An instinctive wish to save it from destruction by
the passengers' feet led her to pick it up; and then, moved by a
sudden self-consciousness, she looked around. She was standing
before an inn, and from an upper window Festus Derriman was leaning
with two or three kindred spirits of his cut and kind. He nodded
eagerly, and signified to her that he had thrown the flower.
What should she do? To throw it away would seem stupid, and to keep
it was awkward. She held it between her finger and thumb, twirled
it round on its axis and twirled it back again, regarding and yet
not examining it. Just then she saw the trumpet-major coming back.
'I can't find David anywhere,' he said; and his heart was not sorry
as he said it.
Anne was still holding out the sweet-william as if about to drop it,
and, scarcely knowing what she did under the distressing sense that
she was watched, she offered the flower to Loveday.
His face brightened with pleasure as he took it. 'Thank you,
indeed,' he said.
Then Anne saw what a misleading blunder she had committed towards
Loveday in playing to the yeoman. Perhaps she had sown the seeds of
'It was not my sweet-william,' she said hastily; 'it was lying on
the ground. I don't mean anything by giving it to you.'
'But I'll keep it all the same,' said the innocent soldier, as if he
knew a good deal about womankind; and he put the flower carefully
inside his jacket, between his white waistcoat and his heart.
Festus, seeing this, enlarged himself wrathfully, got hot in the
face, rose to his feet, and glared down upon them like a
'Let us go away,' said Anne timorously.
'I'll see you safe to your own door, depend upon me,' said Loveday.
'But--I had near forgot--there's father's letter, that he's so
anxiously waiting for! Will you come with me to the post-office?
Then I'll take you straight home.'
Anne, expecting Festus to pounce down every minute, was glad to be
off anywhere; so she accepted the suggestion, and they went along
the parade together.
Loveday set this down as a proof of Anne's relenting. Thus in
joyful spirits he entered the office, paid the postage, and received
'It is from Bob, after all!' he said. 'Father told me to read it at
once, in case of bad news. Ask your pardon for keeping you a
moment.' He broke the seal and read, Anne standing silently by.
'He is coming home TO BE MARRIED,' said the trumpet-major, without
Anne did not answer. The blood swept impetuously up her face at his
words, and as suddenly went away again, leaving her rather paler
than before. She disguised her agitation and then overcame it,
Loveday observing nothing of this emotional performance.
'As far as I can understand he will be here Saturday,' he said.
'Indeed!' said Anne quite calmly. 'And who is he going to marry?'
'That I don't know,' said John, turning the letter about. 'The
woman is a stranger.'
At this moment the miller entered the office hastily.
'Come, John,' he cried, 'I have been waiting and waiting for that
there letter till I was nigh crazy!'
John briefly explained the news, and when his father had recovered
from his astonishment, taken off his hat, and wiped the exact line
where his forehead joined his hair, he walked with Anne up the
street, leaving John to return alone. The miller was so absorbed in
his mental perspective of Bob's marriage, that he saw nothing of the
gaieties they passed through; and Anne seemed also so much impressed
by the same intelligence, that she crossed before the inn occupied
by Festus without showing a recollection of his presence there.
XIV. LATER IN THE EVENING OF THE SAME DAY
When they reached home the sun was going down. It had already been
noised abroad that miller Loveday had received a letter, and, his
cart having been heard coming up the lane, the population of
Overcombe drew down towards the mill as soon as he had gone indoors-
-a sudden flash of brightness from the window showing that he had
struck such an early light as nothing but the immediate deciphering
of literature could require. Letters were matters of public moment,
and everybody in the parish had an interest in the reading of those
rare documents; so that when the miller had placed the candle,
slanted himself, and called in Mrs. Garland to have her opinion on
the meaning of any hieroglyphics that he might encounter in his
course, he found that he was to be additionally assisted by the
opinions of the other neighbours, whose persons appeared in the
doorway, partly covering each other like a hand of cards, yet each
showing a large enough piece of himself for identification. To pass
the time while they were arranging themselves, the miller adopted
his usual way of filling up casual intervals, that of snuffing the
'We heard you had got a letter, Maister Loveday,' they said.
'Yes; "Southampton, the twelfth of August, dear father,"' said
Loveday; and they were as silent as relations at the reading of a
will. Anne, for whom the letter had a singular fascination, came in
with her mother and sat down.
Bob stated in his own way that having, since landing, taken into
consideration his father's wish that he should renounce a seafaring
life and become a partner in the mill, he had decided to agree to
the proposal; and with that object in view he would return to
Overcombe in three days from the time of writing.
He then said incidentally that since his voyage he had been in
lodgings at Southampton, and during that time had become acquainted
with a lovely and virtuous young maiden, in whom he found the exact
qualities necessary to his happiness. Having known this lady for
the full space of a fortnight he had had ample opportunities of
studying her character, and, being struck with the recollection
that, if there was one thing more than another necessary in a mill
which had no mistress, it was somebody who could play that part with
grace and dignity, he had asked Miss Matilda Johnson to be his wife.
In her kindness she, though sacrificing far better prospects, had
agreed; and he could not but regard it as a happy chance that he
should have found at the nick of time such a woman to adorn his
home, whose innocence was as stunning as her beauty. Without much
ado, therefore, he and she had arranged to be married at once, and
at Overcombe, that his father might not be deprived of the pleasures
of the wedding feast. She had kindly consented to follow him by
land in the course of a few days, and to live in the house as their
guest for the week or so previous to the ceremony.
''Tis a proper good letter,' said Mrs. Comfort from the background.
'I never heerd true love better put out of hand in my life; and they
seem 'nation fond of one another.'
'He haven't knowed her such a very long time,' said Job Mitchell
'That's nothing,' said Esther Beach. 'Nater will find her way, very
rapid when the time's come for't. Well, 'tis good news for ye,
'Yes, sure, I hope 'tis,' said Loveday, without, however, showing
any great hurry to burst into the frantic form of fatherly joy which
the event should naturally have produced, seeming more disposed to
let off his feelings by examining thoroughly into the fibres of the
'I was five years a-courting my wife,' he presently remarked. 'But
folks were slower about everything in them days. Well, since she's
coming we must make her welcome. Did any of ye catch by my reading
which day it is he means? What with making out the penmanship, my
mind was drawn off from the sense here and there.'
'He says in three days,' said Mrs. Garland. 'The date of the letter
will fix it.'
On examination it was found that the day appointed was the one
nearly expired; at which the miller jumped up and said, 'Then he'll
be here before bedtime. I didn't gather till now that he was coming
afore Saturday. Why, he may drop in this very minute!'
He had scarcely spoken when footsteps were heard coming along the
front, and they presently halted at the door. Loveday pushed
through the neighbours and rushed out; and, seeing in the passage a
form which obscured the declining light, the miller seized hold of
him, saying, 'O my dear Bob; then you are come!'
'Scrounch it all, miller, don't quite pull my poor shoulder out of
joint! Whatever is the matter?' said the new-comer, trying to
release himself from Loveday's grasp of affection. It was Uncle
'Thought 'twas my son!' faltered the miller, sinking back upon the
toes of the neighbours who had closely followed him into the entry.
'Well, come in, Mr. Derriman, and make yerself at home. Why, you
haven't been here for years! Whatever has made you come now, sir,
of all times in the world?'
'Is he in there with ye?' whispered the farmer with misgiving.
'My nephew, after that maid that he's so mighty smit with?'
'O no; he never calls here.'
Farmer Derriman breathed a breath of relief. 'Well, I've called to
tell ye,' he said, 'that there's more news of the French. We shall
have 'em here this month as sure as a gun. The gunboats be all
ready--near two thousand of 'em--and the whole army is at Boulogne.
And, miller, I know ye to be an honest man.'
Loveday did not say nay.
'Neighbour Loveday, I know ye to be an honest man,' repeated the old
squireen. 'Can I speak to ye alone?'
As the house was full, Loveday took him into the garden, all the
while upon tenter-hooks, not lest Buonaparte should appear in their
midst, but lest Bob should come whilst he was not there to receive
him. When they had got into a corner Uncle Benjy said, 'Miller,
what with the French, and what with my nephew Festus, I assure ye my
life is nothing but wherrit from morning to night. Miller Loveday,
you are an honest man.'
'Well, I've come to ask a favour--to ask if you will take charge of
my few poor title-deeds and documents and suchlike, while I am away
from home next week, lest anything should befall me, and they should
be stole away by Boney or Festus, and I should have nothing left in
the wide world? I can trust neither banks nor lawyers in these
terrible times; and I am come to you.'
Loveday after some hesitation agreed to take care of anything that
Derriman should bring, whereupon the farmer said he would call with
the parchments and papers alluded to in the course of a week.
Derriman then went away by the garden gate, mounted his pony, which
had been tethered outside, and rode on till his form was lost in the
The miller rejoined his friends, and found that in the meantime John
had arrived. John informed the company that after parting from his
father and Anne he had rambled to the harbour, and discovered the
Pewit by the quay. On inquiry he had learnt that she came in at
eleven o'clock, and that Bob had gone ashore.
'We'll go and meet him,' said the miller. ''Tis still light out of
So, as the dew rose from the meads and formed fleeces in the
hollows, Loveday and his friends and neighbours strolled out, and
loitered by the stiles which hampered the footpath from Overcombe to
the high road at intervals of a hundred yards. John Loveday, being
obliged to return to camp, was unable to accompany them, but Widow
Garland thought proper to fall in with the procession. When she had
put on her bonnet she called to her daughter. Anne said from
upstairs that she was coming in a minute; and her mother walked on
What was Anne doing? Having hastily unlocked a receptacle for
emotional objects of small size, she took thence the little folded
paper with which we have already become acquainted, and, striking a
light from her private tinder-box, she held the paper, and curl of
hair it contained, in the candle till they were burnt. Then she put
on her hat and followed her mother and the rest of them across the
moist grey fields, cheerfully singing in an undertone as she went,
to assure herself of her indifference to circumstances.
XV. 'CAPTAIN' BOB LOVEDAY OF THE MERCHANT SERVICE
While Loveday and his neighbours were thus rambling forth, full of
expectancy, some of them, including Anne in the rear, heard the
crackling of light wheels along the curved lane to which the path
was the chord. At once Anne thought, 'Perhaps that's he, and we are
missing him.' But recent events were not of a kind to induce her to
say anything; and the others of the company did not reflect on the
Had they gone across to the hedge which hid the lane, and looked
through it, they would have seen a light cart driven by a boy,
beside whom was seated a seafaring man, apparently of good standing
in the merchant service, with his feet outside on the shaft. The
vehicle went over the main bridge, turned in upon the other bridge
at the tail of the mill, and halted by the door. The sailor
alighted, showing himself to be a well-shaped, active, and fine
young man, with a bright eye, an anonymous nose, and of such a rich
complexion by exposure to ripening suns that he might have been some
connexion of the foreigner who calls his likeness the Portrait of a
Gentleman in galleries of the Old Masters. Yet in spite of this,
and though Bob Loveday had been all over the world from Cape Horn to
Pekin, and from India's coral strand to the White Sea, the most
conspicuous of all the marks that he had brought back with him was
an increased resemblance to his mother, who had lain all the time
beneath Overcombe church wall.
Captain Loveday tried the house door; finding this locked he went to
the mill door: this was locked also, the mill being stopped for the
'They are not at home,' he said to the boy. 'But never mind that.
Just help to unload the things and then I'll pay you, and you can
drive off home.'
The cart was unloaded, and the boy was dismissed, thanking the
sailor profusely for the payment rendered. Then Bob Loveday,
finding that he had still some leisure on his hands, looked musingly
east, west, north, south, and nadir; after which he bestirred
himself by carrying his goods, article by article, round to the back
door, out of the way of casual passers. This done, he walked round
the mill in a more regardful attitude, and surveyed its familiar
features one by one--the panes of the grinding-room, now as
heretofore clouded with flour as with stale hoar-frost; the meal
lodged in the corners of the window-sills, forming a soil in which
lichens grew without ever getting any bigger, as they had done since
his smallest infancy; the mosses on the plinth towards the river,
reaching as high as the capillary power of the walls would fetch up
moisture for their nourishment, and the penned mill-pond, now as
ever on the point of overflowing into the garden. Everything was
When he had had enough of this it occurred to Loveday that he might
get into the house in spite of the locked doors; and by entering the
garden, placing a pole from the fork of an apple-tree to the
window-sill of a bedroom on that side, and climbing across like a
Barbary ape, he entered the window and stepped down inside. There
was something anomalous in being close to the familiar furniture
without having first seen his father, and its silent, impassive
shine was not cheering; it was as if his relations were all dead,
and only their tables and chests of drawers left to greet him. He
went downstairs and seated himself in the dark parlour. Finding
this place, too, rather solitary, and the tick of the invisible
clock preternaturally loud, he unearthed the tinder-box, obtained a
light, and set about making the house comfortable for his father's
return, divining that the miller had gone out to meet him by the
Robert's interest in this work increased as he proceeded, and he
bustled round and round the kitchen as lightly as a girl. David,
the indoor factotum, having lost himself among the quart pots of
Budmouth, there had been nobody left here to prepare supper, and Bob
had it all to himself. In a short time a fire blazed up the
chimney, a tablecloth was found, the plates were clapped down, and a
search made for what provisions the house afforded, which, in
addition to various meats, included some fresh eggs of the elongated
shape that produces cockerels when hatched, and had been set aside
on that account for putting under the next broody hen.
A more reckless cracking of eggs than that which now went on had
never been known in Overcombe since the last large christening; and
as Loveday gashed one on the side, another at the end, another
longways, and another diagonally, he acquired adroitness by
practice, and at last made every son of a hen of them fall into two
hemispheres as neatly as if it opened by a hinge. From eggs he
proceeded to ham, and from ham to kidneys, the result being a
Not to be tempted to fall to before his father came back, the
returned navigator emptied the whole into a dish, laid a plate over
the top, his coat over the plate, and his hat over his coat. Thus
completely stopping in the appetizing smell, he sat down to await
events. He was relieved from the tediousness of doing this by
hearing voices outside; and in a minute his father entered.
'Glad to welcome ye home, father,' said Bob. 'And supper is just
'Lard, lard--why, Captain Bob's here!' said Mrs. Garland.
'And we've been out waiting to meet thee!' said the miller, as he
entered the room, followed by representatives of the houses of
Cripplestraw, Comfort, Mitchell, Beach, and Snooks, together with
some small beginnings of Fencible Tremlett's posterity. In the rear
came David, and quite in the vanishing-point of the composition,
Anne the fair.
'I drove over; and so was forced to come by the road,' said Bob.
'And we went across the fields, thinking you'd walk,' said his
'I should have been here this morning; but not so much as a
wheelbarrow could I get for my traps; everything was gone to the
review. So I went too, thinking I might meet you there. I was then
obliged to return to the harbour for the luggage.'
Then there was a welcoming of Captain Bob by pulling out his arms
like drawers and shutting them again, smacking him on the back as if
he were choking, holding him at arm's length as if he were of too
large type to read close. All which persecution Bob bore with a
wide, genial smile that was shaken into fragments and scattered
promiscuously among the spectators.
'Get a chair for 'n!' said the miller to David, whom they had met in
the fields and found to have got nothing worse by his absence than a
slight slant in his walk.
'Never mind--I am not tired--I have been here ever so long,' said
Bob. 'And I--' But the chair having been placed behind him, and a
smart touch in the hollow of a person's knee by the edge of that
piece of furniture having a tendency to make the person sit without
further argument, Bob sank down dumb, and the others drew up other
chairs at a convenient nearness for easy analytic vision and the
subtler forms of good fellowship. The miller went about saying,
'David, the nine best glasses from the corner cupboard!'--'David,
the corkscrew!'--'David, whisk the tail of thy smock-frock round the
inside of these quart pots afore you draw drink in 'em--they be an
inch thick in dust!'--'David, lower that chimney-crook a couple of
notches that the flame may touch the bottom of the kettle, and light
three more of the largest candles!'--'If you can't get the cork out
of the jar, David, bore a hole in the tub of Hollands that's buried
under the scroff in the fuel-house; d'ye hear?--Dan Brown left en
there yesterday as a return for the little porker I gied en.'
When they had all had a thimbleful round, and the superfluous
neighbours had reluctantly departed, one by one, the inmates gave
their minds to the supper, which David had begun to serve up.
'What be you rolling back the tablecloth for, David?' said the
'Maister Bob have put down one of the under sheets by mistake, and I
thought you might not like it, sir, as there's ladies present!'
'Faith, 'twas the first thing that came to hand,' said Robert. 'It
seemed a tablecloth to me.'
'Never mind--don't pull off the things now he's laid 'em down--let
it bide,' said the miller. 'But where's Widow Garland and Maidy
'They were here but a minute ago,' said David. 'Depend upon it they
have slinked off 'cause they be shy.'
The miller at once went round to ask them to come back and sup with
him; and while he was gone David told Bob in confidence what an
excellent place he had for an old man.
'Yes, Cap'n Bob, as I suppose I must call ye; I've worked for yer
father these eight-and-thirty years, and we have always got on very
well together. Trusts me with all the keys, lends me his
sleeve-waistcoat, and leaves the house entirely to me. Widow
Garland next door, too, is just the same with me, and treats me as
if I was her own child.'
'She must have married young to make you that, David.'
'Yes, yes--I'm years older than she. 'Tis only my common way of
Mrs. Garland would not come in to supper, and the meal proceeded
without her, Bob recommending to his father the dish he had cooked,
in the manner of a householder to a stranger just come. The miller
was anxious to know more about his son's plans for the future, but
would not for the present interrupt his eating, looking up from his
own plate to appreciate Bob's travelled way of putting English
victuals out of sight, as he would have looked at a mill on improved
David had only just got the table clear, and set the plates in a row
under the bakehouse table for the cats to lick, when the door was
hastily opened, and Mrs. Garland came in, looking concerned.
'I have been waiting to hear the plates removed to tell you how
frightened we are at something we hear at the back-door. It seems
like robbers muttering; but when I look out there's nobody there!'
'This must be seen to,' said the miller, rising promptly. 'David,
light the middle-sized lantern. I'll go and search the garden.'
'And I'll go too,' said his son, taking up a cudgel. 'Lucky I've
come home just in time!'
They went out stealthily, followed by the widow and Anne, who had
been afraid to stay alone in the house under the circumstances. No
sooner were they beyond the door when, sure enough, there was the
muttering almost close at hand, and low upon the ground, as from
persons lying down in hiding.
'Bless my heart!' said Bob, striking his head as though it were some
enemy's: 'why, 'tis my luggage. I'd quite forgot it!'
'What!' asked his father.
'My luggage. Really, if it hadn't been for Mrs. Garland it would
have stayed there all night, and they, poor things! would have been
starved. I've got all sorts of articles for ye. You go inside, and
I'll bring 'em in. 'Tis parrots that you hear a muttering, Mrs.
Garland. You needn't be afraid any more.'
'Parrots?' said the miller. 'Well, I'm glad 'tis no worse. But how
couldst forget so, Bob?'
The packages were taken in by David and Bob, and the first
unfastened were three, wrapped in cloths, which being stripped off
revealed three cages, with a gorgeous parrot in each.
'This one is for you, father, to hang up outside the door, and amuse
us,' said Bob. 'He'll talk very well, but he's sleepy to-night.
This other one I brought along for any neighbour that would like to
have him. His colours are not so bright; but 'tis a good bird. If
you would like to have him you are welcome to him,' he said, turning
to Anne, who had been tempted forward by the birds. 'You have
hardly spoken yet, Miss Anne, but I recollect you very well. How
much taller you have got, to be sure!'
Anne said she was much obliged, but did not know what she could do
with such a present. Mrs. Garland accepted it for her, and the
sailor went on--'Now this other bird I hardly know what to do with;
but I dare say he'll come in for something or other.'
'He is by far the prettiest,' said the widow. 'I would rather have
it than the other, if you don't mind.'
'Yes,' said Bob, with embarrassment. 'But the fact is, that bird
will hardly do for ye, ma'am. He's a hard swearer, to tell the
truth; and I am afraid he's too old to be broken of it.'
'How dreadful!' said Mrs. Garland.
'We could keep him in the mill,' suggested the miller. 'It won't
matter about the grinder hearing him, for he can't learn to cuss
worse than he do already!'
'The grinder shall have him, then,' said Bob. 'The one I have given
you, ma'am, has no harm in him at all. You might take him to church
o' Sundays as far as that goes.'
The sailor now untied a small wooden box about a foot square,
perforated with holes. 'Here are two marmosets,' he continued.
'You can't see them tonight; but they are beauties--the tufted
'What's a marmoset?' said the miller.
'O, a little kind of monkey. They bite strangers rather hard, but
you'll soon get used to 'em.'
'They are wrapped up in something, I declare,' said Mrs. Garland,
peeping in through a chink.
'Yes, that's my flannel shirt,' said Bob apologetically. 'They
suffer terribly from cold in this climate, poor things! and I had
nothing better to give them. Well, now, in this next box I've got
things of different sorts.'
The latter was a regular seaman's chest, and out of it he produced
shells of many sizes and colours, carved ivories, queer little
caskets, gorgeous feathers, and several silk handkerchiefs, which
articles were spread out upon all the available tables and chairs
till the house began to look like a bazaar.
'What a lovely shawl!' exclaimed Widow Garland, in her interest
forestalling the regular exhibition by looking into the box at what
'O yes,' said the mate, pulling out a couple of the most bewitching
shawls that eyes ever saw. 'One of these I am going to give to that
young lady I am shortly to be married to, you know, Mrs. Garland.
Has father told you about it? Matilda Johnson, of Southampton,
that's her name.'
'Yes, we know all about it,' said the widow.
'Well, I shall give one of these shawls to her--because, of course,
I ought to.'
'Of course,' said she.
'But the other one I've got no use for at all; and,' he continued,
looking round, 'will you have it, Miss Anne? You refused the
parrot, and you ought not to refuse this.'
'Thank you,' said Anne calmly, but much distressed; 'but really I
don't want it, and couldn't take it.'
'But do have it!' said Bob in hurt tones, Mrs. Garland being all the
while on tenter-hooks lest Anne should persist in her absurd
'Why, there's another reason why you ought to!' said he, his face
lighting up with recollections. 'It never came into my head till
this moment that I used to be your beau in a humble sort of way.
Faith, so I did, and we used to meet at places sometimes, didn't we-
-that is, when you were not too proud; and once I gave you, or
somebody else, a bit of my hair in fun.'
'It was somebody else,' said Anne quickly.
'Ah, perhaps it was,' said Bob innocently. 'But it was you I used
to meet, or try to, I am sure. Well, I've never thought of that
boyish time for years till this minute! I am sure you ought to
accept some one gift, dear, out of compliment to those old times!'
Anne drew back and shook her head, for she would not trust her
'Well, Mrs. Garland, then you shall have it,' said Bob, tossing the
shawl to that ready receiver. 'If you don't, upon my life I will
throw it out to the first beggar I see. Now, here's a parcel of cap
ribbons of the splendidest sort I could get. Have these--do, Anne!'
'Yes, do,' said Mrs. Garland.
'I promised them to Matilda,' continued Bob; 'but I am sure she
won't want 'em, as she has got some of her own: and I would as soon
see them upon your head, my dear, as upon hers.'
'I think you had better keep them for your bride if you have
promised them to her,' said Mrs. Garland mildly.
'It wasn't exactly a promise. I just said, "Til, there's some cap
ribbons in my box, if you would like to have them." But she's got
enough things already for any bride in creation. Anne, now you
shall have 'em--upon my soul you shall--or I'll fling them down the
Anne had meant to be perfectly firm in refusing everything, for
reasons obvious even to that poor waif, the meanest capacity; but
when it came to this point she was absolutely compelled to give in,
and reluctantly received the cap ribbons in her arms, blushing
fitfully, and with her lip trembling in a motion which she tried to
exhibit as a smile.
'What would Tilly say if she knew!' said the miller slily.
'Yes, indeed--and it is wrong of him!' Anne instantly cried, tears
running down her face as she threw the parcel of ribbons on the
floor. 'You'd better bestow your gifts where you bestow your l--l--
love, Mr. Loveday--that's what I say!' And Anne turned her back and
'I'll take them for her,' said Mrs. Garland, quickly picking up the
'Now that's a pity,' said Bob, looking regretfully after Anne. 'I
didn't remember that she was a quick-tempered sort of girl at all.
Tell her, Mrs. Garland, that I ask her pardon. But of course I
didn't know she was too proud to accept a little present--how should
I? Upon my life if it wasn't for Matilda I'd--Well, that can't be,
'What's this?' said Mrs. Garland, touching with her foot a large
package that had been laid down by Bob unseen.
'That's a bit of baccy for myself,' said Robert meekly.
The examination of presents at last ended, and the two families
parted for the night. When they were alone, Mrs. Garland said to
Anne, 'What a close girl you are! I am sure I never knew that Bob
Loveday and you had walked together: you must have been mere
'O yes--so we were,' said Anne, now quite recovered. 'It was when
we first came here, about a year after father died. We did not walk
together in any regular way. You know I have never thought the
Lovedays high enough for me. It was only just--nothing at all, and
I had almost forgotten it.'
It is to be hoped that somebody's sins were forgiven her that night
before she went to bed.
When Bob and his father were left alone, the miller said, 'Well,
Robert, about this young woman of thine--Matilda what's her name?'
'Yes, father--Matilda Johnson. I was just going to tell ye about
The miller nodded, and sipped his mug.
'Well, she is an excellent body,' continued Bob; 'that can truly be
said--a real charmer, you know--a nice good comely young woman, a
miracle of genteel breeding, you know, and all that. She can throw
her hair into the nicest curls, and she's got splendid gowns and
headclothes. In short, you might call her a land mermaid. She'll
make such a first-rate wife as there never was.'
'No doubt she will,' said the miller; 'for I have never known thee
wanting in sense in a jineral way.' He turned his cup round on its
axis till the handle had travelled a complete circle. 'How long did
you say in your letter that you had known her?'
'Not VERY long.'
'It don't sound long, 'tis true; and 'twas really longer--'twas
fifteen days and a quarter. But hang it, father, I could see in the
twinkling of an eye that the girl would do. I know a woman well
enough when I see her--I ought to, indeed, having been so much about
the world. Now, for instance, there's Widow Garland and her
daughter. The girl is a nice little thing; but the old woman--O
no!' Bob shook his head.
'What of her?' said his father, slightly shifting in his chair.
'Well, she's, she's--I mean, I should never have chose her, you
know. She's of a nice disposition, and young for a widow with a
grown-up daughter; but if all the men had been like me she would
never have had a husband. I like her in some respects; but she's a
style of beauty I don't care for.'
'O, if 'tis only looks you are thinking of,' said the miller, much
relieved, 'there's nothing to be said, of course. Though there's
many a duchess worse-looking, if it comes to argument, as you would
find, my son,' he added, with a sense of having been mollified too
The mate's thoughts were elsewhere by this time.
'As to my marrying Matilda, thinks I, here's one of the very
genteelest sort, and I may as well do the job at once. So I chose
her. She's a dear girl; there's nobody like her, search where you
'How many did you choose her out from?' inquired his father.
'Well, she was the only young woman I happened to know in
Southampton, that's true. But what of that? It would have been all
the same if I had known a hundred.'
'Her father is in business near the docks, I suppose?'
'Well, no. In short, I didn't see her father.'
'Her mother? No, I didn't. I think her mother is dead; but she has
got a very rich aunt living at Melchester. I didn't see her aunt,
because there wasn't time to go; but of course we shall know her
when we are married.'
'Yes, yes, of course,' said the miller, trying to feel quite
satisfied. 'And she will soon be here?'
'Ay, she's coming soon,' said Bob. 'She has gone to this aunt's at
Melchester to get her things packed, and suchlike, or she would have
come with me. I am going to meet the coach at the King's Arms,
Casterbridge, on Sunday, at one o'clock. To show what a capital
sort of wife she'll be, I may tell you that she wanted to come by
the Mercury, because 'tis a little cheaper than the other. But I
said, "For once in your life do it well, and come by the Royal Mail,
and I'll pay." I can have the pony and trap to fetch her, I
suppose, as 'tis too far for her to walk?'
'Of course you can, Bob, or anything else. And I'll do all I can to
give you a good wedding feast.'
XVI. THEY MAKE READY FOR THE ILLUSTRIOUS STRANGER
Preparations for Matilda's welcome, and for the event which was to
follow, at once occupied the attention of the mill. The miller and
his man had but dim notions of housewifery on any large scale; so
the great wedding cleaning was kindly supervised by Mrs. Garland,
Bob being mostly away during the day with his brother, the
trumpet-major, on various errands, one of which was to buy paint and
varnish for the gig that Matilda was to be fetched in, which he had
determined to decorate with his own hands.
By the widow's direction the old familiar incrustation of shining
dirt, imprinted along the back of the settle by the heads of
countless jolly sitters, was scrubbed and scraped away; the brown
circle round the nail whereon the miller hung his hat, stained by
the brim in wet weather, was whitened over; the tawny smudges of
bygone shoulders in the passage were removed without regard to a
certain genial and historical value which they had acquired. The
face of the clock, coated with verdigris as thick as a diachylon
plaister, was rubbed till the figures emerged into day; while,
inside the case of the same chronometer, the cobwebs that formed
triangular hammocks, which the pendulum could hardly wade through,
were cleared away at one swoop.
Mrs. Garland also assisted at the invasion of worm-eaten cupboards,
where layers of ancient smells lingered on in the stagnant air, and
recalled to the reflective nose the many good things that had been
kept there. The upper floors were scrubbed with such abundance of
water that the old-established death-watches, wood-lice, and
flour-worms were all drowned, the suds trickling down into the room
below in so lively and novel a manner as to convey the romantic
notion that the miller lived in a cave with dripping stalactites.
They moved what had never been moved before--the oak coffer,
containing the miller's wardrobe--a tremendous weight, what with its
locks, hinges, nails, dirt, framework, and the hard stratification
of old jackets, waistcoats, and knee-breeches at the bottom, never
disturbed since the miller's wife died, and half pulverized by the
moths, whose flattened skeletons lay amid the mass in thousands.
'It fairly makes my back open and shut!' said Loveday, as, in
obedience to Mrs. Garland's direction, he lifted one corner, the
grinder and David assisting at the others. 'All together: speak
when ye be going to heave. Now!'
The pot covers and skimmers were brought to such a state that, on
examining them, the beholder was not conscious of utensils, but of
his own face in a condition of hideous elasticity. The broken
clock-line was mended, the kettles rocked, the creeper nailed up,
and a new handle put to the warming-pan. The large household
lantern was cleaned out, after three years of uninterrupted
accumulation, the operation yielding a conglomerate of
candle-snuffs, candle-ends, remains of matches, lamp-black, and
eleven ounces and a half of good grease--invaluable as dubbing for
skitty boots and ointment for cart-wheels.
Everybody said that the mill residence had not been so thoroughly
scoured for twenty years. The miller and David looked on with a
sort of awe tempered by gratitude, tacitly admitting by their gaze
that this was beyond what they had ever thought of. Mrs. Garland
supervised all with disinterested benevolence. It would never have
done, she said, for his future daughter-in-law to see the house in
its original state. She would have taken a dislike to him, and
perhaps to Bob likewise.
'Why don't ye come and live here with me, and then you would be able
to see to it at all times?' said the miller as she bustled about
again. To which she answered that she was considering the matter,
and might in good time. He had previously informed her that his
plan was to put Bob and his wife in the part of the house that she,
Mrs. Garland, occupied, as soon as she chose to enter his, which
relieved her of any fear of being incommoded by Matilda.
The cooking for the wedding festivities was on a proportionate scale
of thoroughness. They killed the four supernumerary chickens that
had just begun to crow, and the little curly-tailed barrow pig, in
preference to the sow; not having been put up fattening for more
than five weeks it was excellent small meat, and therefore more
delicate and likely to suit a town-bred lady's taste than the large
one, which, having reached the weight of fourteen score, might have
been a little gross to a cultured palate. There were also provided
a cold chine, stuffed veal, and two pigeon pies. Also thirty rings
of black-pot, a dozen of white-pot, and ten knots of tender and
well-washed chitterlings, cooked plain in case she should like a
As additional reserves there were sweetbreads, and five milts, sewed
up at one side in the form of a chrysalis, and stuffed with thyme,
sage, parsley, mint, groats, rice, milk, chopped egg, and other
ingredients. They were afterwards roasted before a slow fire, and
The business of chopping so many herbs for the various stuffings was
found to be aching work for women; and David, the miller, the
grinder, and the grinder's boy being fully occupied in their proper
branches, and Bob being very busy painting the gig and touching up
the harness, Loveday called in a friendly dragoon of John's regiment
who was passing by, and he, being a muscular man, willingly chopped
all the afternoon for a quart of strong, judiciously administered,
and all other victuals found, taking off his jacket and gloves,
rolling up his shirt-sleeves and unfastening his collar in an
honourable and energetic way.
All windfalls and maggot-cored codlins were excluded from the apple
pies; and as there was no known dish large enough for the purpose,
the puddings were stirred up in the milking-pail, and boiled in the
three-legged bell-metal crock, of great weight and antiquity, which
every travelling tinker for the previous thirty years had tapped
with his stick, coveted, made a bid for, and often attempted to
In the liquor line Loveday laid in an ample barrel of Casterbridge
'strong beer.' This renowned drink--now almost as much a thing of
the past as Falstaff's favourite beverage--was not only well
calculated to win the hearts of soldiers blown dry and dusty by
residence in tents on a hill-top, but of any wayfarer whatever in
that land. It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an
artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano;
piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset; free
from streakiness of taste; but, finally, rather heady. The masses
worshipped it, the minor gentry loved it more than wine, and by the
most illustrious county families it was not despised. Anybody
brought up for being drunk and disorderly in the streets of its
natal borough, had only to prove that he was a stranger to the place
and its liquor to be honourably dismissed by the magistrates, as one
overtaken in a fault that no man could guard against who entered the
In addition, Mr. Loveday also tapped a hogshead of fine cider that
he had had mellowing in the house for several months, having bought
it of an honest down-country man, who did not colour, for any
special occasion like the present. It had been pressed from fruit
judiciously chosen by an old hand--Horner and Cleeves apple for the
body, a few Tom-Putts for colour, and just a dash of Old
Five-corners for sparkle--a selection originally made to please the
palate of a well-known temperate earl who was a regular
cider-drinker, and lived to be eighty-eight.
On the morning of the Sunday appointed for her coming Captain Bob
Loveday set out to meet his bride. He had been all the week engaged
in painting the gig, assisted by his brother at odd times, and it
now appeared of a gorgeous yellow, with blue streaks, and tassels at
the corners, and red wheels outlined with a darker shade. He put in
the pony at half-past eleven, Anne looking at him from the door as
he packed himself into the vehicle and drove off. There may be
young women who look out at young men driving to meet their brides
as Anne looked at Captain Bob, and yet are quite indifferent to the
circumstances; but they are not often met with.
So much dust had been raised on the highway by traffic resulting
from the presence of the Court at the town further on, that brambles
hanging from the fence, and giving a friendly scratch to the
wanderer's face, were dingy as church cobwebs; and the grass on the
margin had assumed a paper-shaving hue. Bob's father had wished him
to take David, lest, from want of recent experience at the whip, he
should meet with any mishap; but, picturing to himself the
awkwardness of three in such circumstances, Bob would not hear of
this; and nothing more serious happened to his driving than that the
wheel-marks formed two serpentine lines along the road during the
first mile or two, before he had got his hand in, and that the horse
shied at a milestone, a piece of paper, a sleeping tramp, and a
wheelbarrow, just to make use of the opportunity of being in bad
He entered Casterbridge between twelve and one, and, putting up at
the Old Greyhound, walked on to the Bow. Here, rather dusty on the
ledges of his clothes, he stood and waited while the people in their
best summer dresses poured out of the three churches round him.
When they had all gone, and a smell of cinders and gravy had spread
down the ancient high-street, and the pie-dishes from adjacent
bakehouses had all travelled past, he saw the mail coach rise above
the arch of Grey's Bridge, a quarter of a mile distant, surmounted
by swaying knobs, which proved to be the heads of the outside
'That's the way for a man's bride to come to him,' said Robert to
himself with a feeling of poetry; and as the horn sounded and the
horses clattered up the street he walked down to the inn. The knot
of hostlers and inn-servants had gathered, the horses were dragged
from the vehicle, and the passengers for Casterbridge began to
descend. Captain Bob eyed them over, looked inside, looked outside
again; to his disappointment Matilda was not there, nor her boxes,
nor anything that was hers. Neither coachman nor guard had seen or
heard of such a person at Melchester; and Bob walked slowly away.
Depressed by forebodings to an extent which took away nearly a third
of his appetite, he sat down in the parlour of the Old Greyhound to
a slice from the family joint of the landlord. This gentleman, who
dined in his shirt-sleeves, partly because it was August, and partly
from a sense that they would not be so fit for public view further
on in the week, suggested that Bob should wait till three or four
that afternoon, when the road-waggon would arrive, as the lost lady
might have preferred that mode of conveyance; and when Bob appeared
rather hurt at the suggestion, the landlord's wife assured him, as a
woman who knew good life, that many genteel persons travelled in
that way during the present high price of provisions. Loveday, who
knew little of travelling by land, readily accepted her assurance
and resolved to wait.
Wandering up and down the pavement, or leaning against some hot wall
between the waggon-office and the corner of the street above, he
passed the time away. It was a still, sunny, drowsy afternoon, and
scarcely a soul was visible in the length and breadth of the street.
The office was not far from All Saints' Church, and the
church-windows being open, he could hear the afternoon service from
where he lingered as distinctly as if he had been one of the
congregation. Thus he was mentally conducted through the Psalms,
through the first and second lessons, through the burst of fiddles
and clarionets which announced the evening-hymn, and well into the
sermon, before any signs of the waggon could be seen upon the London
The afternoon sermons at this church being of a dry and metaphysical
nature at that date, it was by a special providence that the
waggon-office was placed near the ancient fabric, so that whenever
the Sunday waggon was late, which it always was in hot weather, in
cold weather, in wet weather, and in weather of almost every other
sort, the rattle, dismounting, and swearing outside completely
drowned the parson's voice within, and sustained the flagging
interest of the congregation at precisely the right moment. No
sooner did the charity children begin to writhe on their benches,
and adult snores grow audible, than the waggon arrived.
Captain Loveday felt a kind of sinking in his poetry at the
possibility of her for whom they had made such preparations being in
the slow, unwieldy vehicle which crunched its way towards him; but
he would not give in to the weakness. Neither would he walk down
the street to meet the waggon, lest she should not be there. At
last the broad wheels drew up against the kerb, the waggoner with
his white smock-frock, and whip as long as a fishing-line, descended
from the pony on which he rode alongside, and the six broad-chested
horses backed from their collars and shook themselves. In another
moment something showed forth, and he knew that Matilda was there.
Bob felt three cheers rise within him as she stepped down; but it
being Sunday he did not utter them. In dress, Miss Johnson passed
his expectations--a green and white gown, with long, tight sleeves,
a green silk handkerchief round her neck and crossed in front, a
green parasol, and green gloves. It was strange enough to see this
verdant caterpillar turn out of a road-waggon, and gracefully shake
herself free from the bits of straw and fluff which would usually
gather on the raiment of the grandest travellers by that vehicle.
'But, my dear Matilda,' said Bob, when he had kissed her three times
with much publicity--the practical step he had determined on seeming
to demand that these things should no longer be done in a corner--
'my dear Matilda, why didn't you come by the coach, having the money
for't and all?'
'That's my scrimping!' said Matilda in a delightful gush. 'I know
you won't be offended when you know I did it to save against a rainy
Bob, of course, was not offended, though the glory of meeting her
had been less; and even if vexation were possible, it would have
been out of place to say so. Still, he would have experienced no
little surprise had he learnt the real reason of his Matilda's
change of plan. That angel had, in short, so wildly spent Bob's and
her own money in the adornment of her person before setting out,
that she found herself without a sufficient margin for her fare by
coach, and had scrimped from sheer necessity,
'Well, I have got the trap out at the Greyhound,' said Bob. 'I
don't know whether it will hold your luggage and us too; but it
looked more respectable than the waggon on a Sunday, and if there's
not room for the boxes I can walk alongside.'
'I think there will be room,' said Miss Johnson mildly. And it was
soon very evident that she spoke the truth; for when her property
was deposited on the pavement, it consisted of a trunk about
eighteen inches long, and nothing more.
'O--that's all!' said Captain Loveday, surprised.
'That's all,' said the young woman assuringly. 'I didn't want to
give trouble, you know, and what I have besides I have left at my
'Yes, of course,' he answered readily. 'And as it's no bigger, I
can carry it in my hand to the inn, and so it will be no trouble at
He caught up the little box, and they went side by side to the
Greyhound; and in ten minutes they were trotting up the Southern
Bob did not hurry the horse, there being many things to say and
hear, for which the present situation was admirably suited. The sun
shone occasionally into Matilda's face as they drove on, its rays
picking out all her features to a great nicety. Her eyes would have
been called brown, but they were really eel-colour, like many other
nice brown eyes; they were well-shaped and rather bright, though
they had more of a broad shine than a sparkle. She had a firm,
sufficient nose, which seemed to say of itself that it was good as
noses go. She had rather a picturesque way of wrapping her upper in
her lower lip, so that the red of the latter showed strongly.
Whenever she gazed against the sun towards the distant hills, she
brought into her forehead, without knowing it, three short vertical
lines--not there at other times--giving her for the moment rather a
hard look. And in turning her head round to a far angle, to stare
at something or other that he pointed out, the drawn flesh of her
neck became a mass of lines. But Bob did not look at these things,
which, of course, were of no significance; for had she not told him,
when they compared ages, that she was a little over two-and-twenty?
As Nature was hardly invented at this early point of the century,
Bob's Matilda could not say much about the glamour of the hills, or
the shimmering of the foliage, or the wealth of glory in the distant
sea, as she would doubtless have done had she lived later on; but
she did her best to be interesting, asking Bob about matters of
social interest in the neighbourhood, to which she seemed quite a
'Is your watering-place a large city?' she inquired when they
mounted the hill where the Overcombe folk had waited for the King.
'Bless you, my dear--no! 'Twould be nothing if it wasn't for the
Royal Family, and the lords and ladies, and the regiments of
soldiers, and the frigates, and the King's messengers, and the
actors and actresses, and the games that go on.'
At the words 'actors and actresses,' the innocent young thing
pricked up her ears.
'Does Elliston pay as good salaries this summer as in--?'
'O, you know about it then? I thought--'
'O no, no! I have heard of Budmouth--read in the papers, you know,
dear Robert, about the doings there, and the actors and actresses,
'Yes, yes, I see. Well, I have been away from England a long time,
and don't know much about the theatre in the town; but I'll take you
there some day. Would it be a treat to you?'
'O, an amazing treat!' said Miss Johnson, with an ecstasy in which a
close observer might have discovered a tinge of ghastliness.
'You've never been into one perhaps, dear?'
'N--never,' said Matilda flatly. 'Whatever do I see yonder--a row
of white things on the down?'
'Yes, that's a part of the encampment above Overcombe. Lots of
soldiers are encamped about here; those are the white tops of their
He pointed to a wing of the camp that had become visible. Matilda
was much interested.
'It will make it very lively for us,' he added, 'especially as John
She thought so too, and thus they chatted on.
XVII. TWO FAINTING FITS AND A BEWILDERMENT
Meanwhile Miller Loveday was expecting the pair with interest; and
about five o'clock, after repeated outlooks, he saw two specks the
size of caraway seeds on the far line of ridge where the sunlit
white of the road met the blue of the sky. Then the remainder parts
of Bob and his lady became visible, and then the whole vehicle, end
on, and he heard the dry rattle of the wheels on the dusty road.
Miller Loveday's plan, as far as he had formed any, was that Robert
and his wife should live with him in the millhouse until Mrs.
Garland made up her mind to join him there; in which event her
present house would be made over to the young couple. Upon all
grounds, he wished to welcome becomingly the woman of his son's
choice, and came forward promptly as they drew up at the door.
'What a lovely place you've got here!' said Miss Johnson, when the
miller had received her from the captain. 'A real stream of water,
a real mill-wheel, and real fowls, and everything!'
'Yes, 'tis real enough,' said Loveday, looking at the river with
balanced sentiments; 'and so you will say when you've lived here a
bit as mis'ess, and had the trouble of claning the furniture.'
At this Miss Johnson looked modest, and continued to do so till
Anne, not knowing they were there, came round the corner of the
house, with her prayer-book in her hand, having just arrived from
church. Bob turned and smiled to her, at which Miss Johnson looked
glum. How long she would have remained in that phase is unknown,
for just then her ears were assailed by a loud bass note from the
other side, causing her to jump round.
'O la! what dreadful thing is it?' she exclaimed, and beheld a cow
of Loveday's, of the name of Crumpler, standing close to her
shoulder. It being about milking-time, she had come to look up
David and hasten on the operation.
'O, what a horrid bull!--it did frighten me so. I hope I shan't
faint,' said Matilda.
The miller immediately used the formula which has been uttered by
the proprietors of live stock ever since Noah's time. 'She won't
hurt ye. Hoosh, Crumpler! She's as timid as a mouse, ma'am.'
But as Crumpler persisted in making another terrific inquiry for
David, Matilda could not help closing her eyes and saying, 'O, I
shall be gored to death!' her head falling back upon Bob's shoulder,
which--seeing the urgent circumstances, and knowing her delicate
nature--he had providentially placed in a position to catch her.
Anne Garland, who had been standing at the corner of the house, not
knowing whether to go back or come on, at this felt her womanly
sympathies aroused. She ran and dipped her handkerchief into the
splashing mill-tail, and with it damped Matilda's face. But as her
eyes still remained closed, Bob, to increase the effect, took the
handkerchief from Anne and wrung it out on the bridge of Matilda's
nose, whence it ran over the rest of her face in a stream.
'O, Captain Loveday!' said Anne, 'the water is running over her
green silk handkerchief, and into her pretty reticule!'
'There--if I didn't think so!' exclaimed Matilda, opening her eyes,
starting up, and promptly pulling out her own handkerchief, with
which she wiped away the drops, and an unimportant trifle of her
complexion, assisted by Anne, who, in spite of her background of
antagonistic emotions, could not help being interested.
'That's right!' said the miller, his spirits reviving with the
revival of Matilda. 'The lady is not used to country life; are you,
'I am not,' replied the sufferer. 'All is so strange about here!'
Suddenly there spread into the firmament, from the direction of the
'Ra, ta, ta! Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta! Ra, ta, ta!'
'O dear, dear! more hideous country sounds, I suppose?' she
inquired, with another start.
'O no,' said the miller cheerfully. ''Tis only my son John's
trumpeter chaps at the camp of dragoons just above us, a-blowing
Mess, or Feed, or Picket, or some other of their vagaries. John
will be much pleased to tell you the meaning on't when he comes
down. He's trumpet-major, as you may know, ma'am.'
'O yes; you mean Captain Loveday's brother. Dear Bob has mentioned
'If you come round to Widow Garland's side of the house, you can see
the camp,' said the miller.
'Don't force her; she's tired with her long journey,' said Mrs.
Garland humanely, the widow having come out in the general wish to
see Captain Bob's choice. Indeed, they all behaved towards her as
if she were a tender exotic, which their crude country manners might
She went into the house, accompanied by Mrs. Garland and her
daughter; though before leaving Bob she managed to whisper in his
ear, 'Don't tell them I came by waggon, will you, dear?'--a request
which was quite needless, for Bob had long ago determined to keep
that a dead secret; not because it was an uncommon mode of travel,
but simply that it was hardly the usual conveyance for a gorgeous
lady to her bridal.
As the men had a feeling that they would be superfluous indoors just
at present, the miller assisted David in taking the horse round to
the stables, Bob following, and leaving Matilda to the women.
Indoors, Miss Johnson admired everything: the new parrots and
marmosets, the black beams of the ceiling, the double-corner
cupboard with the glass doors, through which gleamed the remainders
of sundry china sets acquired by Bob's mother in her housekeeping--
two-handled sugar-basins, no-handled tea-cups, a tea-pot like a
pagoda, and a cream-jug in the form of a spotted cow. This
sociability in their visitor was returned by Mrs. Garland and Anne;
and Miss Johnson's pleasing habit of partly dying whenever she heard
any unusual bark or bellow added to her piquancy in their eyes. But
conversation, as such, was naturally at first of a nervous,
tentative kind, in which, as in the works of some minor poets, the
sense was considerably led by the sound.
'You get the sea-breezes here, no doubt?'
'O yes, dear; when the wind is that way.'
'Do you like windy weather?'
'Yes; though not now, for it blows down the young apples.'
'Apples are plentiful, it seems. You country-folk call St.
Swithin's their christening day, if it rains?'
'Yes, dear. Ah me! I have not been to a christening for these many
years; the baby's name was George, I remember--after the King.'
'I hear that King George is still staying at the town here. I HOPE
he'll stay till I have seen him!'
'He'll wait till the corn turns yellow; he always does.'
'How VERY fashionable yellow is getting for gloves just now!'
'Yes. Some persons wear them to the elbow, I hear.'
'Do they? I was not aware of that. I struck my elbow last week so
hard against the door of my aunt's mansion that I feel the ache
Before they were quite overwhelmed by the interest of this
discourse, the miller and Bob came in. In truth, Mrs. Garland found
the office in which he had placed her--that of introducing a strange
woman to a house which was not the widow's own--a rather awkward
one, and yet almost a necessity. There was no woman belonging to
the house except that wondrous compendium of usefulness, the
intermittent maid-servant, whom Loveday had, for appearances,
borrowed from Mrs. Garland, and Mrs. Garland was in the habit of
borrowing from the girl's mother. And as for the demi-woman David,
he had been informed as peremptorily as Pharaoh's baker that the
office of housemaid and bedmaker was taken from him, and would be
given to this girl till the wedding was over, and Bob's wife took
the management into her own hands.
They all sat down to high tea, Anne and her mother included, and the
captain sitting next to Miss Johnson. Anne had put a brave face
upon the matter--outwardly, at least--and seemed in a fair way of
subduing any lingering sentiment which Bob's return had revived.
During the evening, and while they still sat over the meal, John
came down on a hurried visit, as he had promised, ostensibly on
purpose to be introduced to his intended sister-in-law, but much
more to get a word and a smile from his beloved Anne. Before they
saw him, they heard the trumpet-major's smart step coming round the
corner of the house, and in a moment his form darkened the door. As
it was Sunday, he appeared in his full-dress laced coat, white
waistcoat and breeches, and towering plume, the latter of which he
instantly lowered, as much from necessity as good manners, the beam
in the mill-house ceiling having a tendency to smash and ruin all
such head-gear without warning.
'John, we've been hoping you would come down,' said the miller, 'and
so we have kept the tay about on purpose. Draw up, and speak to
Mrs. Matilda Johnson. . . . Ma'am, this is Robert's brother.'
'Your humble servant, ma'am,' said the trumpet-major gallantly.
As it was getting dusk in the low, small-paned room, he
instinctively moved towards Miss Johnson as he spoke, who sat with
her back to the window. He had no sooner noticed her features than
his helmet nearly fell from his hand; his face became suddenly
fixed, and his natural complexion took itself off, leaving a
greenish yellow in its stead. The young person, on her part, had no
sooner looked closely at him than she said weakly, 'Robert's
brother!' and changed colour yet more rapidly than the soldier had
done. The faintness, previously half counterfeit, seized on her now
in real earnest.
'I don't feel well,' she said, suddenly rising by an effort. 'This
warm day has quite upset me!'
There was a regular collapse of the tea-party, like that of the
Hamlet play scene. Bob seized his sweetheart and carried her
upstairs, the miller exclaiming, 'Ah, she's terribly worn by the
journey! I thought she was when I saw her nearly go off at the
blare of the cow. No woman would have been frightened at that if
she'd been up to her natural strength.'
'That, and being so very shy of men, too, must have made John's
handsome regimentals quite overpowering to her, poor thing,' added
Mrs. Garland, following the catastrophic young lady upstairs, whose
indisposition was this time beyond question. And yet, by some
perversity of the heart, she was as eager now to make light of her
faintness as she had been to make much of it two or three hours ago.
The miller and John stood like straight sticks in the room the
others had quitted, John's face being hastily turned towards a
caricature of Buonaparte on the wall that he had not seen more than
a hundred and fifty times before.
'Come, sit down and have a dish of tea, anyhow,' said his father at
last. 'She'll soon be right again, no doubt.'
'Thanks; I don't want any tea,' said John quickly. And, indeed, he
did not, for he was in one gigantic ache from head to foot.
The light had been too dim for anybody to notice his amazement; and
not knowing where to vent it, the trumpet-major said he was going
out for a minute. He hastened to the bakehouse; but David being
there, he went to the pantry; but the maid being there, he went to
the cart-shed; but a couple of tramps being there, he went behind a
row of French beans in the garden, where he let off an ejaculation
the most pious that he had uttered that Sabbath day: 'Heaven!
what's to be done!'
And then he walked wildly about the paths of the dusky garden, where
the trickling of the brooks seemed loud by comparison with the
stillness around; treading recklessly on the cracking snails that
had come forth to feed, and entangling his spurs in the long grass
till the rowels were choked with its blades. Presently he heard
another person approaching, and his brother's shape appeared between
the stubbard tree and the hedge.
'O, is it you?' said the mate.
'Yes. I am--taking a little air.'
'She is getting round nicely again; and as I am not wanted indoors
just now, I am going into the village to call upon a friend or two I
have not been able to speak to as yet.'
John took his brother Bob's hand. Bob rather wondered why.
'All right, old boy,' he said. 'Going into the village? You'll be
back again, I suppose, before it gets very late?'
'O yes,' said Captain Bob cheerfully, and passed out of the garden.
John allowed his eyes to follow his brother till his shape could not
be seen, and then he turned and again walked up and down.
XVIII. THE NIGHT AFTER THE ARRIVAL
John continued his sad and heavy pace till walking seemed too old
and worn-out a way of showing sorrow so new, and he leant himself
against the fork of an apple-tree like a log. There the
trumpet-major remained for a considerable time, his face turned
towards the house, whose ancient, many-chimneyed outline rose
against the darkened sky, and just shut out from his view the camp
above. But faint noises coming thence from horses restless at the
pickets, and from visitors taking their leave, recalled its
existence, and reminded him that, in consequence of Matilda's
arrival, he had obtained leave for the night--a fact which, owing to
the startling emotions that followed his entry, he had not yet
mentioned to his friends.
While abstractedly considering how he could best use that privilege
under the new circumstances which had arisen, he heard Farmer
Derriman drive up to the front door and hold a conversation with his
father. The old man had at last apparently brought the tin box of
private papers that he wished the miller to take charge of during
Derriman's absence; and it being a calm night, John could hear,
though he little heeded, Uncle Benjy's reiterated supplications to
Loveday to keep it safe from fire and thieves. Then Uncle Benjy
left, and John's father went upstairs to deposit the box in a place
of security, the whole proceeding reaching John's preoccupied
comprehension merely as voices during sleep.
The next thing was the appearance of a light in the bedroom which
had been assigned to Matilda Johnson. This effectually aroused the
trumpet-major, and with a stealthiness unusual in him he went
indoors. No light was in the lower rooms, his father, Mrs. Garland,
and Anne having gone out on the bridge to look at the new moon.
John went upstairs on tip-toe, and along the uneven passage till he
came to her door. It was standing ajar, a band of candlelight
shining across the passage and up the opposite wall. As soon as he
entered the radiance he saw her. She was standing before the
looking-glass, apparently lost in thought, her fingers being clasped
behind her head in abstraction, and the light falling full upon her
'I must speak to you,' said the trumpet-major.
She started, turned and grew paler than before; and then, as if
moved by a sudden impulse, she swung the door wide open, and, coming
out, said quite collectedly and with apparent pleasantness, 'O yes;
you are my Bob's brother! I didn't, for a moment, recognize you.'
'But you do now?'
'As Bob's brother.'
'You have not seen me before?'
'I have not,' she answered, with a face as impassible as
'I have not!' she repeated.
'Nor any of the --th Dragoons? Captain Jolly, for instance?'
'You mistake. I'll remind you of particulars,' he said drily. And
he did remind her at some length.
'Never!' she said desperately.
But she had miscalculated her staying powers, and her adversary's
character. Five minutes after that she was in tears, and the
conversation had resolved itself into words, which, on the soldier's
part, were of the nature of commands, tempered by pity, and were a
mere series of entreaties on hers.
The whole scene did not last ten minutes. When it was over, the
trumpet-major walked from the doorway where they had been standing,
and brushed moisture from his eyes. Reaching a dark lumber-room, he
stood still there to calm himself, and then descended by a Flemish-
ladder to the bakehouse, instead of by the front stairs. He found
that the others, including Bob, had gathered in the parlour during
his absence and lighted the candles.
Miss Johnson, having sent down some time before John re-entered the
house to say that she would prefer to keep her room that evening,
was not expected to join them, and on this account Bob showed less
than his customary liveliness. The miller wishing to keep up his
son's spirits, expressed his regret that, it being Sunday night,
they could have no songs to make the evening cheerful; when Mrs.
Garland proposed that they should sing psalms which, by choosing
lively tunes and not thinking of the words, would be almost as good
This they did, the trumpet-major appearing to join in with the rest;
but as a matter of fact no sound came from his moving lips. His
mind was in such a state that he derived no pleasure even from Anne
Garland's presence, though he held a corner of the same book with
her, and was treated in a winsome way which it was not her usual
practice to indulge in. She saw that his mind was clouded, and, far
from guessing the reason why, was doing her best to clear it.
At length the Garlands found that it was the hour for them to leave,
and John Loveday at the same time wished his father and Bob
good-night, and went as far as Mrs. Garland's door with her.
He had said not a word to show that he was free to remain out of
camp, for the reason that there was painful work to be done, which
it would be best to do in secret and alone. He lingered near the
house till its reflected window-lights ceased to glimmer upon the
mill-pond, and all within the dwelling was dark and still. Then he
entered the garden and waited there till the back door opened, and a
woman's figure timorously came forward. John Loveday at once went
up to her, and they began to talk in low yet dissentient tones.
They had conversed about ten minutes, and were parting as if they
had come to some painful arrangement, Miss Johnson sobbing bitterly,
when a head stealthily arose above the dense hedgerow, and in a
moment a shout burst from its owner.
'Thieves! thieves!--my tin box!--thieves! thieves!'
Matilda vanished into the house, and John Loveday hastened to the
hedge. 'For heaven's sake, hold your tongue, Mr. Derriman!' he
'My tin box!' said Uncle Benjy. 'O, only the trumpet-major!'
'Your box is safe enough, I assure you. It was only'--here the
trumpet-major gave vent to an artificial laugh--'only a sly bit of
courting, you know.'
'Ha, ha, I see!' said the relieved old squireen. 'Courting Miss
Anne! Then you've ousted my nephew, trumpet-major! Well, so much
the better. As for myself, the truth on't is that I haven't been
able to go to bed easy, for thinking that possibly your father might
not take care of what I put under his charge; and at last I thought
I would just step over and see if all was safe here before I turned
in. And when I saw your two shapes my poor nerves magnified ye to
housebreakers, and Boneys, and I don't know what all.'
'You have alarmed the house,' said the trumpet-major, hearing the
clicking of flint and steel in his father's bedroom, followed in a
moment by the rise of a light in the window of the same apartment.
'You have got me into difficulty,' he added gloomily, as his father
opened the casement.
'I am sorry for that,' said Uncle Benjy. 'But step back; I'll put
it all right again.'
'What, for heaven's sake, is the matter?' said the miller, his
tasselled nightcap appearing in the opening.
'Nothing, nothing!' said the farmer. 'I was uneasy about my few
bonds and documents, and I walked this way, miller, before going to
bed, as I start from home to-morrow morning. When I came down by
your garden-hedge, I thought I saw thieves, but it turned out to be-
Here a lump of earth from the trumpet-major's hand struck Uncle
Benjy in the back as a reminder.
'To be--the bough of a cherry-tree a-waving in the wind.
'No thieves are like to try my house,' said Miller Loveday. 'Now
don't you come alarming us like this again, farmer, or you shall
keep your box yourself, begging your pardon for saying so.
Good-night t' ye!'
'Miller, will ye just look, since I am here--just look and see if
the box is all right? there's a good man! I am old, you know, and
my poor remains are not what my original self was. Look and see if
it is where you put it, there's a good, kind man.'
'Very well,' said the miller good-humouredly.
'Neighbour Loveday! on second thoughts I will take my box home
again, after all, if you don't mind. You won't deem it ill of me?
I have no suspicion, of course; but now I think on't there's rivalry
between my nephew and your son; and if Festus should take it into
his head to set your house on fire in his enmity, 'twould be bad for
my deeds and documents. No offence, miller, but I'll take the box,
if you don't mind.'
'Faith! I don't mind,' said Loveday. 'But your nephew had better
think twice before he lets his enmity take that colour.' Receding
from the window, he took the candle to a back part of the room and
soon reappeared with the tin box.
'I won't trouble ye to dress,' said Derriman considerately; 'let en
down by anything you have at hand.'
The box was lowered by a cord, and the old man clasped it in his
arms. 'Thank ye!' he said with heartfelt gratitude. 'Good-night!'
The miller replied and closed the window, and the light went out.
'There, now I hope you are satisfied, sir?' said the trumpet-major.
'Quite, quite!' said Derriman; and, leaning on his walking-stick, he
pursued his lonely way.
That night Anne lay awake in her bed, musing on the traits of the
new friend who had come to her neighbour's house. She would not be
critical, it was ungenerous and wrong; but she could not help
thinking of what interested her. And were there, she silently
asked, in Miss Johnson's mind and person such rare qualities as
placed that lady altogether beyond comparison with herself? O yes,
there must be; for had not Captain Bob singled out Matilda from
among all other women, herself included? Of course, with his
world-wide experience, he knew best.
When the moon had set, and only the summer stars threw their light
into the great damp garden, she fancied that she heard voices in
that direction. Perhaps they were the voices of Bob and Matilda
taking a lover's walk before retiring. If so, how sleepy they would
be next day, and how absurd it was of Matilda to pretend she was
tired! Ruminating in this way, and saying to herself that she hoped
they would be happy, Anne fell asleep.
XIX. MISS JOHNSON'S BEHAVIOUR CAUSES NO LITTLE SURPRISE
Partly from the excitement of having his Matilda under the paternal
roof, Bob rose next morning as early as his father and the grinder,
and, when the big wheel began to patter and the little ones to
mumble in response, went to sun himself outside the mill-front,
among the fowls of brown and speckled kinds which haunted that spot,
and the ducks that came up from the mill-tail.
Standing on the worn-out mill-stone inlaid in the gravel, he talked
with his father on various improvements of the premises, and on the
proposed arrangements for his permanent residence there, with an
enjoyment that was half based upon this prospect of the future, and
half on the penetrating warmth of the sun to his back and shoulders.
Then the different troops of horses began their morning scramble
down to the mill-pond, and, after making it very muddy round the
edge, ascended the slope again. The bustle of the camp grew more
and more audible, and presently David came to say that breakfast was
'Is Miss Johnson downstairs?' said the miller; and Bob listened for
the answer, looking at a blue sentinel aloft on the down.
'Not yet, maister,' said the excellent David.
'We'll wait till she's down,' said Loveday. 'When she is, let us
David went indoors again, and Loveday and Bob continued their
morning survey by ascending into the mysterious quivering recesses
of the mill, and holding a discussion over a second pair of
burr-stones, which had to be re-dressed before they could be used
again. This and similar things occupied nearly twenty minutes, and,
looking from the window, the elder of the two was reminded of the
time of day by seeing Mrs. Garland's table-cloth fluttering from her
back door over the heads of a flock of pigeons that had alighted for
'I suppose David can't find us,' he said, with a sense of hunger
that was not altogether strange to Bob. He put out his head and
'The lady is not down yet,' said his man in reply.
'No hurry, no hurry,' said the miller, with cheerful emptiness.
'Bob, to pass the time we'll look into the garden.'
'She'll get up sooner than this, you know, when she's signed
articles and got a berth here,' Bob observed apologetically.
'Yes, yes,' said Loveday; and they descended into the garden.
Here they turned over sundry flat stones and killed the slugs
sheltered beneath them from the coming heat of the day, talking of
slugs in all their branches--of the brown and the black, of the
tough and the tender, of the reason why there were so many in the
garden that year, of the coming time when the grass-walks harbouring
them were to be taken up and gravel laid, and of the relatively
exterminatory merits of a pair of scissors and the heel of the shoe.
At last the miller said, 'Well, really, Bob, I'm hungry; we must
begin without her.'
They were about to go in, when David appeared with haste in his
motions, his eyes wider vertically than crosswise, and his cheeks
nearly all gone.
'Maister, I've been to call her; and as 'a didn't speak I rapped,
and as 'a didn't answer I kicked, and not being latched the door
opened, and--she's gone!'
Bob went off like a swallow towards the house, and the miller
followed like the rather heavy man that he was. That Miss Matilda
was not in her room, or a scrap of anything belonging to her, was
soon apparent. They searched every place in which she could
possibly hide or squeeze herself, every place in which she could
not, but found nothing at all.
Captain Bob was quite wild with astonishment and grief. When he was
quite sure that she was nowhere in his father's house, he ran into
Mrs. Garland's, and telling them the story so hastily that they
hardly understood the particulars, he went on towards Comfort's
house, intending to raise the alarm there, and also at Mitchell's,
Beach's, Cripplestraw's, the parson's, the clerk's, the camp of
dragoons, of hussars, and so on through the whole county. But he
paused, and thought it would be hardly expedient to publish his
discomfiture in such a way. If Matilda had left the house for any
freakish reason he would not care to look for her, and if her deed
had a tragic intent she would keep aloof from camp and village.
In his trouble he thought of Anne. She was a nice girl and could be
trusted. To her he went, and found her in a state of excitement and
anxiety which equalled his own.
''Tis so lonely to cruise for her all by myself!' said Bob
disconsolately, his forehead all in wrinkles, 'and I've thought you
would come with me and cheer the way?'
'Where shall we search?' said Anne.
'O, in the holes of rivers, you know, and down wells, and in
quarries, and over cliffs, and like that. Your eyes might catch the
loom of any bit of a shawl or bonnet that I should overlook, and it
would do me a real service. Please do come!'
So Anne took pity upon him, and put on her hat and went, the miller
and David having gone off in another direction. They examined the
ditches of fields, Bob going round by one fence and Anne by the
other, till they met at the opposite side. Then they peeped under
culverts, into outhouses, and down old wells and quarries, till the
theory of a tragical end had nearly spent its force in Bob's mind,
and he began to think that Matilda had simply run away. However,
they still walked on, though by this time the sun was hot and Anne
would gladly have sat down.
'Now, didn't you think highly of her, Miss Garland?' he inquired, as
the search began to languish.
'O yes,' said Anne, 'very highly.'
'She was really beautiful; no nonsense about her looks, was there?'
'None. Her beauty was thoroughly ripe--not too young. We should
all have got to love her. What can have possessed her to go away?'
'I don't know, and, upon my life, I shall soon be drove to say I
don't care!' replied the mate despairingly. 'Let me pilot ye down
over those stones,' he added, as Anne began to descend a rugged
quarry. He stepped forward, leapt down, and turned to her.
She gave him her hand and sprang down. Before he relinquished his
hold, Captain Bob raised her fingers to his lips and kissed them.
'O, Captain Loveday!' cried Anne, snatching away her hand in genuine
dismay, while a tear rose unexpectedly to each eye. 'I never heard
of such a thing! I won't go an inch further with you, sir; it is
too barefaced!' And she turned and ran off.
'Upon my life I didn't mean it!' said the repentant captain,
hastening after. 'I do love her best--indeed I do--and I don't love
you at all! I am not so fickle as that! I merely just for the
moment admired you as a sweet little craft, and that's how I came to
do it. You know, Miss Garland,' he continued earnestly, and still
running after, ''tis like this: when you come ashore after having
been shut up in a ship for eighteen months, women-folks seem so new
and nice that you can't help liking them, one and all in a body; and
so your heart is apt to get scattered and to yaw a bit; but of
course I think of poor Matilda most, and shall always stick to her.'
He heaved a sigh of tremendous magnitude, to show beyond the
possibility of doubt that his heart was still in the place that
'I am glad to hear that--of course I am very glad!' said she, with
quick petulance, keeping her face turned from him. 'And I hope we
shall find her, and that the wedding will not be put off, and that
you'll both be happy. But I won't look for her any more! No; I
don't care to look for her--and my head aches. I am going home!'
'And so am I,' said Robert promptly.
'No, no; go on looking for her, of course--all the afternoon, and
all night. I am sure you will, if you love her.'
'O yes; I mean to. Still, I ought to convoy you home first?'
'No, you ought not; and I shall not accept your company.
Good-morning, sir!' And she went off over one of the stone stiles
with which the spot abounded, leaving the friendly sailor standing
in the field.
He sighed again, and, observing the camp not far off, thought he
would go to his brother John and ask him his opinion on the
sorrowful case. On reaching the tents he found that John was not at
liberty just at that time, being engaged in practising the
trumpeters; and leaving word that he wished the trumpet-major to
come down to the mill as soon as possible, Bob went back again.
''Tis no good looking for her,' he said gloomily. 'She liked me
well enough, but when she came here and saw the house, and the
place, and the old horse, and the plain furniture, she was
disappointed to find us all so homely, and felt she didn't care to
marry into such a family!'
His father and David had returned with no news.
'Yes, 'tis as I've been thinking, father,' Bob said. 'We weren't
good enough for her, and she went away in scorn!'
'Well, that can't be helped,' said the miller. 'What we be, we be,
and have been for generations. To my mind she seemed glad enough to
get hold of us!'
'Yes, yes--for the moment--because of the flowers, and birds, and
what's pretty in the place,' said Bob tragically. 'But you don't
know, father--how should you know, who have hardly been out of
Overcombe in your life?--you don't know what delicate feelings are
in a real refined woman's mind. Any little vulgar action unreaves
their nerves like a marline-spike. Now I wonder if you did anything
to disgust her?'
'Faith! not that I know of,' said Loveday, reflecting. 'I didn't
say a single thing that I should naturally have said, on purpose to
give no offence.'
'You was always very homely, you know, father.'
'Yes; so I was,' said the miller meekly.
'I wonder what it could have been,' Bob continued, wandering about
restlessly. 'You didn't go drinking out of the big mug with your
mouth full, or wipe your lips with your sleeve?'
'That I'll swear I didn't!' said the miller firmly. 'Thinks I,
there's no knowing what I may do to shock her, so I'll take my solid
victuals in the bakehouse, and only a crumb and a drop in her
company for manners.'
'You could do no more than that, certainly,' said Bob gently.
'If my manners be good enough for well-brought-up people like the
Garlands, they be good enough for her,' continued the miller, with a
sense of injustice.
'That's true. Then it must have been David. David, come here! How
did you behave before that lady? Now, mind you speak the truth!'
'Yes, Mr. Captain Robert,' said David earnestly. 'I assure ye she
was served like a royal queen. The best silver spoons wez put down,
and yer poor grandfer's silver tanket, as you seed, and the feather
cushion for her to sit on--'
'Now I've got it!' said Bob decisively, bringing down his hand upon
the window-sill. 'Her bed was hard!--and there's nothing shocks a
true lady like that. The bed in that room always was as hard as the
Rock of Gibraltar!'
'No, Captain Bob! The beds were changed--wasn't they maister? We
put the goose bed in her room, and the flock one, that used to be
there, in yours.'
'Yes, we did,' corroborated the miller. 'David and I changed 'em
with our own hands, because they were too heavy for the women to
'Sure I didn't know I had the flock bed,' murmured Bob. 'I slept
on, little thinking what I was going to wake to. Well, well, she's
gone; and search as I will I shall never find another like her! She
was too good for me. She must have carried her box with her own
hands, poor girl. As far as that goes, I could overtake her even
now, I dare say; but I won't entreat her against her will--not I.'
Miller Loveday and David, feeling themselves to be rather a
desecration in the presence of Bob's sacred emotions, managed to
edge off by degrees, the former burying himself in the most floury
recesses of the mill, his invariable resource when perturbed, the
rumbling having a soothing effect upon the nerves of those properly
trained to its music.
Bob was so impatient that, after going up to her room to assure
himself once more that she had not undressed, but had only lain down
on the outside of the bed, he went out of the house to meet John,
and waited on the sunny slope of the down till his brother appeared.
John looked so brave and shapely and warlike that, even in Bob's
present distress, he could not but feel an honest and affectionate
pride at owning such a relative. Yet he fancied that John did not
come along with the same swinging step he had shown yesterday; and
when the trumpet-major got nearer he looked anxiously at the mate
and waited for him to speak first.
'You know our great trouble, John?' said Robert, gazing stoically
into his brother's eyes.
'Come and sit down, and tell me all about it,' answered the
trumpet-major, showing no surprise.
They went towards a slight ravine, where it was easier to sit down
than on the flat ground, and here John reclined among the
grasshoppers, pointing to his brother to do the same.
'But do you know what it is?' said Robert. 'Has anybody told ye?'
'I do know,' said John. 'She's gone; and I am thankful!'
'What!' said Bob, rising to his knees in amazement.
'I'm at the bottom of it,' said the trumpet-major slowly.
'Yes; and if you will listen I'll tell you all. Do you remember