Part 5 out of 7
supposed, and there it ought to have been. But in escaping from
Festus, when he feigned apoplexy, it had fallen out upon the grass.
Five minutes after that event, when pursuer and pursued were two or
three fields ahead, the gaily-dressed woman whom the yeoman had
overtaken, peeped cautiously through the stile into the corner of
the field which had been the scene of the scramble; and seeing the
paper she climbed over, secured it, loosened the wafer without
tearing the sheet, and read the memorandum within. Unable to make
anything of its meaning, the saunterer put it in her pocket, and,
dismissing the matter from her mind, went on by the by-path which
led to the back of the mill. Here, behind the hedge, she stood and
surveyed the old building for some time, after which she
meditatively turned, and retraced her steps towards the Royal
XXVI. THE ALARM
The night which followed was historic and memorable. Mrs. Loveday
was awakened by the boom of a distant gun: she told the miller, and
they listened awhile. The sound was not repeated, but such was the
state of their feelings that Mr. Loveday went to Bob's room and
asked if he had heard it. Bob was wide awake, looking out of the
window; he had heard the ominous sound, and was inclined to
investigate the matter. While the father and son were dressing they
fancied that a glare seemed to be rising in the sky in the direction
of the beacon hill. Not wishing to alarm Anne and her mother, the
miller assured them that Bob and himself were merely going out of
doors to inquire into the cause of the report, after which they
plunged into the gloom together. A few steps' progress opened up
more of the sky, which, as they had thought, was indeed irradiated
by a lurid light; but whether it came from the beacon or from a more
distant point they were unable to clearly tell. They pushed on
rapidly towards higher ground.
Their excitement was merely of a piece with that of all men at this
critical juncture. Everywhere expectation was at fever heat. For
the last year or two only five-and-twenty miles of shallow water had
divided quiet English homesteads from an enemy's army of a hundred
and fifty thousand men. We had taken the matter lightly enough,
eating and drinking as in the days of Noe, and singing satires
without end. We punned on Buonaparte and his gunboats, chalked his
effigy on stage-coaches, and published the same in prints. Still,
between these bursts of hilarity, it was sometimes recollected that
England was the only European country which had not succumbed to the
mighty little man who was less than human in feeling, and more than
human in will; that our spirit for resistance was greater than our
strength; and that the Channel was often calm. Boats built of wood
which was greenly growing in its native forest three days before it
was bent as wales to their sides, were ridiculous enough; but they
might be, after all, sufficient for a single trip between two
The English watched Buonaparte in these preparations, and Buonaparte
watched the English. At the distance of Boulogne details were lost,
but we were impressed on fine days by the novel sight of a huge army
moving and twinkling like a school of mackerel under the rays of the
sun. The regular way of passing an afternoon in the coast towns was
to stroll up to the signal posts and chat with the lieutenant on
duty there about the latest inimical object seen at sea. About once
a week there appeared in the newspapers either a paragraph
concerning some adventurous English gentleman who had sailed out in
a pleasure-boat till he lay near enough to Boulogne to see
Buonaparte standing on the heights among his marshals; or else some
lines about a mysterious stranger with a foreign accent, who, after
collecting a vast deal of information on our resources, had hired a
boat at a southern port, and vanished with it towards France before
his intention could be divined.
In forecasting his grand venture, Buonaparte postulated the help of
Providence to a remarkable degree. Just at the hour when his troops
were on board the flat-bottomed boats and ready to sail, there was
to be a great fog, that should spread a vast obscurity over the
length and breadth of the Channel, and keep the English blind to
events on the other side. The fog was to last twenty-four hours,
after which it might clear away. A dead calm was to prevail
simultaneously with the fog, with the twofold object of affording
the boats easy transit and dooming our ships to lie motionless.
Thirdly, there was to be a spring tide, which should combine its
manoeuvres with those of the fog and calm.
Among the many thousands of minor Englishmen whose lives were
affected by these tremendous designs may be numbered our old
acquaintance Corporal Tullidge, who sported the crushed arm, and
poor old Simon Burden, the dazed veteran who had fought at Minden.
Instead of sitting snugly in the settle of the Old Ship, in the
village adjoining Overcombe, they were obliged to keep watch on the
hill. They made themselves as comfortable as was possible in the
circumstances, dwelling in a hut of clods and turf, with a brick
chimney for cooking. Here they observed the nightly progress of the
moon and stars, grew familiar with the heaving of moles, the dancing
of rabbits on the hillocks, the distant hoot of owls, the bark of
foxes from woods further inland; but saw not a sign of the enemy.
As, night after night, they walked round the two ricks which it was
their duty to fire at a signal--one being of furze for a quick
flame, the other of turf, for a long, slow radiance--they thought
and talked of old times, and drank patriotically from a large wood
flagon that was filled every day.
Bob and his father soon became aware that the light was from the
beacon. By the time that they reached the top it was one mass of
towering flame, from which the sparks fell on the green herbage like
a fiery dew; the forms of the two old men being seen passing and
repassing in the midst of it. The Lovedays, who came up on the
smoky side, regarded the scene for a moment, and then emerged into
'Who goes there?' said Corporal Tullidge, shouldering a pike with
his sound arm. 'O, 'tis neighbour Loveday!'
'Did you get your signal to fire it from the east?' said the miller
'No; from Abbotsea Beach.'
'But you are not to go by a coast signal!'
'Chok' it all, wasn't the Lord-Lieutenant's direction, whenever you
see Rainbarrow's Beacon burn to the nor'east'ard, or Haggardon to
the nor'west'ard, or the actual presence of the enemy on the shore?'
'But is he here?'
'No doubt o't! The beach light is only just gone down, and Simon
heard the guns even better than I.'
'Hark, hark! I hear 'em!' said Bob.
They listened with parted lips, the night wind blowing through Simon
Burden's few teeth as through the ruins of Stonehenge. From far
down on the lower levels came the noise of wheels and the tramp of
horses upon the turnpike road.
'Well, there must be something in it,' said Miller Loveday gravely.
'Bob, we'll go home and make the women-folk safe, and then I'll don
my soldier's clothes and be off. God knows where our company will
They hastened down the hill, and on getting into the road waited and
listened again. Travellers began to come up and pass them in
vehicles of all descriptions. It was difficult to attract their
attention in the dim light, but by standing on the top of a wall
which fenced the road Bob was at last seen.
'What's the matter?' he cried to a butcher who was flying past in
his cart, his wife sitting behind him without a bonnet.
'The French have landed!' said the man, without drawing rein.
'Where?' shouted Bob.
'In West Bay; and all Budmouth is in uproar!' replied the voice, now
faint in the distance.
Bob and his father hastened on till they reached their own house.
As they had expected, Anne and her mother, in common with most of
the people, were both dressed, and stood at the door bonneted and
shawled, listening to the traffic on the neighbouring highway, Mrs.
Loveday having secured what money and small valuables they possessed
in a huge pocket which extended all round her waist, and added
considerably to her weight and diameter.
''Tis true enough,' said the miller: 'he's come! You and Anne and
the maid must be off to Cousin Jim's at King's-Bere, and when you
get there you must do as they do. I must assemble with the
'And I?' said Bob.
'Thou'st better run to the church, and take a pike before they be
The horse was put into the gig, and Mrs. Loveday, Anne, and the
servant-maid were hastily packed into the vehicle, the latter taking
the reins; David's duties as a fighting-man forbidding all thought
of his domestic offices now. Then the silver tankard, teapot, pair
of candlesticks like Ionic columns, and other articles too large to
be pocketed were thrown into a basket and put up behind. Then came
the leave-taking, which was as sad as it was hurried. Bob kissed
Anne, and there was no affectation in her receiving that mark of
affection as she said through her tears, 'God bless you!' At last
they moved off in the dim light of dawn, neither of the three women
knowing which road they were to take, but trusting to chance to find
As soon as they were out of sight Bob went off for a pike, and his
father, first new-flinting his firelock, proceeded to don his
uniform, pipe-claying his breeches with such cursory haste as to
bespatter his black gaiters with the same ornamental compound.
Finding when he was ready that no bugle had as yet sounded, he went
with David to the cart-house, dragged out the waggon, and put
therein some of the most useful and easily-handled goods, in case
there might be an opportunity for conveying them away. By the time
this was done and the waggon pushed back and locked in, Bob had
returned with his weapon, somewhat mortified at being doomed to this
low form of defence. The miller gave his son a parting grasp of the
hand, and arranged to meet him at King's-Bere at the first
opportunity if the news were true; if happily false, here at their
'Bother it all!' he exclaimed, looking at his stock of flints.
'What?' said Bob.
'I've got no ammunition: not a blessed round!'
'Then what's the use of going?' asked his son.
The miller paused. 'O, I'll go,' he said. 'Perhaps somebody will
lend me a little if I get into a hot corner?'
'Lend ye a little! Father, you was always so simple!' said Bob
'Well--I can bagnet a few, anyhow,' said the miller.
The bugle had been blown ere this, and Loveday the father
disappeared towards the place of assembly, his empty cartridge-box
behind him. Bob seized a brace of loaded pistols which he had
brought home from the ship, and, armed with these and a pike, he
locked the door and sallied out again towards the turnpike road.
By this time the yeomanry of the district were also on the move, and
among them Festus Derriman, who was sleeping at his uncle's, and had
been awakened by Cripplestraw. About the time when Bob and his
father were descending from the beacon the stalwart yeoman was
standing in the stable-yard adjusting his straps, while Cripplestraw
saddled the horse. Festus clanked up and down, looked gloomily at
the beacon, heard the retreating carts and carriages, and called
Cripplestraw to him, who came from the stable leading the horse at
the same moment that Uncle Benjy peeped unobserved from a mullioned
window above their heads, the distant light of the beacon fire
touching up his features to the complexion of an old brass
'I think that before I start, Cripplestraw,' said Festus, whose
lurid visage was undergoing a bleaching process curious to look
upon, 'you shall go on to Budmouth, and make a bold inquiry whether
the cowardly enemy is on shore as yet, or only looming in the bay.'
'I'd go in a moment, sir,' said the other, 'if I hadn't my bad leg
again. I should have joined my company afore this; but they said at
last drill that I was too old. So I shall wait up in the hay-loft
for tidings as soon as I have packed you off, poor gentleman!'
'Do such alarms as these, Cripplestraw, ever happen without
foundation? Buonaparte is a wretch, a miserable wretch, and this
may be only a false alarm to disappoint such as me?'
'O no, sir; O no!'
'But sometimes there are false alarms?'
'Well, sir, yes. There was a pretended sally o' gunboats last
'And was there nothing else pretended--something more like this, for
Cripplestraw shook his head. 'I notice yer modesty, Mr. Festus, in
making light of things. But there never was, sir. You may depend
upon it he's come. Thank God, my duty as a Local don't require me
to go to the front, but only the valiant men like my master. Ah, if
Boney could only see 'ee now, sir, he'd know too well there is
nothing to be got from such a determined skilful officer but blows
'Yes, yes. Cripplestraw, if I ride off to Budmouth and meet 'em,
all my training will be lost. No skill is required as a forlorn
'True; that's a point, sir. You would outshine 'em all, and be
picked off at the very beginning as a too-dangerous brave man.'
'But if I stay here and urge on the faint-hearted ones, or get up
into the turret-stair by that gateway, and pop at the invaders
through the loophole, I shouldn't be so completely wasted, should
'You would not, Mr. Derriman. But, as you was going to say next,
the fire in yer veins won't let ye do that. You are valiant; very
good: you don't want to husband yer valiance at home. The arg'ment
'If my birth had been more obscure,' murmured the yeoman, 'and I had
only been in the militia, for instance, or among the humble pikemen,
so much wouldn't have been expected of me--of my fiery nature.
Cripplestraw, is there a drop of brandy to be got at in the house?
I don't feel very well.'
'Dear nephew,' said the old gentleman from above, whom neither of
the others had as yet noticed, 'I haven't any spirits opened--so
unfortunate! But there's a beautiful barrel of crab-apple cider in
draught; and there's some cold tea from last night.'
'What, is he listening?' said Festus, staring up. 'Now I warrant
how glad he is to see me forced to go--called out of bed without
breakfast, and he quite safe, and sure to escape because he's an old
man!--Cripplestraw, I like being in the yeomanry cavalry; but I wish
I hadn't been in the ranks; I wish I had been only the surgeon, to
stay in the rear while the bodies are brought back to him--I mean, I
should have thrown my heart at such a time as this more into the
labour of restoring wounded men and joining their shattered limbs
together--u-u-ugh!--more than I can into causing the wounds--I am
too humane, Cripplestraw, for the ranks!'
'Yes, yes,' said his companion, depressing his spirits to a kindred
level. 'And yet, such is fate, that, instead of joining men's limbs
together, you'll have to get your own joined--poor young sojer!--all
through having such a warlike soul.'
'Yes,' murmured Festus, and paused. 'You can't think how strange I
feel here, Cripplestraw,' he continued, laying his hand upon the
centre buttons of his waistcoat. 'How I do wish I was only the
He slowly mounted, and Uncle Benjy, in the meantime, sang to himself
as he looked on, 'TWEN-TY-THREE AND HALF FROM N.W. SIX-TEEN AND
THREE-QUAR-TERS FROM N.E.'
'What's that old mummy singing?' said Festus savagely.
'Only a hymn for preservation from our enemies, dear nephew,' meekly
replied the farmer, who had heard the remark. 'TWEN-TY-THREE AND
HALF FROM N.W.'
Festus allowed his horse to move on a few paces, and then turned
again, as if struck by a happy invention. 'Cripplestraw,' he began,
with an artificial laugh, 'I am obliged to confess, after all--I
must see her! 'Tisn't nature that makes me draw back--'tis love. I
must go and look for her.'
'A woman, sir?'
'I didn't want to confess it; but 'tis a woman. Strange that I
should be drawn so entirely against my natural wish to rush at 'em!'
Cripplestraw, seeing which way the wind blew, found it advisable to
blow in harmony. 'Ah, now at last I see, sir! Spite that few men
live that be worthy to command ye; spite that you could rush on,
marshal the troops to victory, as I may say; but then--what of it?
there's the unhappy fate of being smit with the eyes of a woman, and
you are unmanned! Maister Derriman, who is himself, when he's got a
woman round his neck like a millstone?'
'It is something like that.'
'I feel the case. Be you valiant?--I know, of course, the words
being a matter of form--be you valiant, I ask? Yes, of course.
Then don't you waste it in the open field. Hoard it up, I say, sir,
for a higher class of war--the defence of yer adorable lady. Think
what you owe her at this terrible time! Now, Maister Derriman, once
more I ask ye to cast off that first haughty wish to rush to
Budmouth, and to go where your mis'ess is defenceless and alone.'
'I will, Cripplestraw, now you put it like that!'
'Thank ye, thank ye heartily, Maister Derriman. Go now and hide
'But can I? Now, hang flattery!--can a man hide without a stain?
Of course I would not hide in any mean sense; no, not I!'
'If you be in love, 'tis plain you may, since it is not your own
life, but another's, that you are concerned for, and you only save
your own because it can't be helped.'
''Tis true, Cripplestraw, in a sense. But will it be understood
that way? Will they see it as a brave hiding?'
'Now, sir, if you had not been in love I own to ye that hiding would
look queer, but being to save the tears, groans, fits, swowndings,
and perhaps death of a comely young woman, yer principle is good;
you honourably retreat because you be too gallant to advance. This
sounds strange, ye may say, sir; but it is plain enough to less
Festus did for a moment try to uncover his teeth in a natural smile,
but it died away. 'Cripplestraw, you flatter me; or do you mean it?
Well, there's truth in it. I am more gallant in going to her than
in marching to the shore. But we cannot be too careful about our
good names, we soldiers. I must not be seen. I'm off.'
Cripplestraw opened the hurdle which closed the arch under the
portico gateway, and Festus passed under, Uncle Benjamin singing,
TWEN-TY-THREE AND A HALF FROM N.W. with a sort of sublime ecstasy,
feeling, as Festus had observed, that his money was safe, and that
the French would not personally molest an old man in such a ragged,
mildewed coat as that he wore, which he had taken the precaution to
borrow from a scarecrow in one of his fields for the purpose.
Festus rode on full of his intention to seek out Anne, and under
cover of protecting her retreat accompany her to King's-Bere, where
he knew the Lovedays had relatives. In the lane he met Granny
Seamore, who, having packed up all her possessions in a small
basket, was placidly retreating to the mountains till all should be
'Well, granny, have ye seen the French?' asked Festus.
'No,' she said, looking up at him through her brazen spectacles.
'If I had I shouldn't ha' seed thee!'
'Faugh!' replied the yeoman, and rode on. Just as he reached the
old road, which he had intended merely to cross and avoid, his
countenance fell. Some troops of regulars, who appeared to be
dragoons, were rattling along the road. Festus hastened towards an
opposite gate, so as to get within the field before they should see
him; but, as ill-luck would have it, as soon as he got inside, a
party of six or seven of his own yeomanry troop were straggling
across the same field and making for the spot where he was. The
dragoons passed without seeing him; but when he turned out into the
road again it was impossible to retreat towards Overcombe village
because of the yeomen. So he rode straight on, and heard them
coming at his heels. There was no other gate, and the highway soon
became as straight as a bowstring. Unable thus to turn without
meeting them, and caught like an eel in a water-pipe, Festus drew
nearer and nearer to the fateful shore. But he did not relinquish
hope. Just ahead there were cross-roads, and he might have a chance
of slipping down one of them without being seen. On reaching the
spot he found that he was not alone. A horseman had come up the
right-hand lane and drawn rein. It was an officer of the German
legion, and seeing Festus he held up his hand. Festus rode up to
him and saluted.
'It ist false report!' said the officer.
Festus was a man again. He felt that nothing was too much for him.
The officer, after some explanation of the cause of alarm, said that
he was going across to the road which led by the moor, to stop the
troops and volunteers converging from that direction, upon which
Festus offered to give information along the Casterbridge road. The
German crossed over, and was soon out of sight in the lane, while
Festus turned back upon the way by which he had come. The party of
yeomanry cavalry was rapidly drawing near, and he soon recognized
among them the excited voices of Stubb of Duddle Hole, Noakes of
Muckleford, and other comrades of his orgies at the hall. It was a
magnificent opportunity, and Festus drew his sword. When they were
within speaking distance he reined round his charger's head to
Budmouth and shouted, 'On, comrades, on! I am waiting for you. You
have been a long time getting up with me, seeing the glorious nature
of our deeds to-day!'
'Well said, Derriman, well said!' replied the foremost of the
riders. 'Have you heard anything new?'
'Only that he's here with his tens of thousands, and that we are to
ride to meet him sword in hand as soon as we have assembled in the
town ahead here.'
'O Lord!' said Noakes, with a slight falling of the lower jaw.
'The man who quails now is unworthy of the name of yeoman,' said
Festus, still keeping ahead of the other troopers and holding up his
sword to the sun. 'O Noakes, fie, fie! You begin to look pale,
'Faith, perhaps you'd look pale,' said Noakes, with an envious
glance upon Festus's daring manner, 'if you had a wife and family
depending upon ye!'
'I'll take three frog-eating Frenchmen single-handed!' rejoined
Derriman, still flourishing his sword.
'They have as good swords as you; as you will soon find,' said
another of the yeomen.
'If they were three times armed,' said Festus--'ay, thrice three
times--I would attempt 'em three to one. How do you feel now, my
old friend Stubb?' (turning to another of the warriors.) 'O, friend
Stubb! no bouncing health to our lady-loves in Oxwell Hall this
summer as last. Eh, Brownjohn?'
'I am afraid not,' said Brownjohn gloomily.
'No rattling dinners at Stacie's Hotel, and the King below with his
staff. No wrenching off door-knockers and sending 'em to the
bakehouse in a pie that nobody calls for. Weeks of cut-and-thrust
'I suppose so.'
'Fight how we may we shan't get rid of the cursed tyrant before
autumn, and many thousand brave men will lie low before it's done,'
remarked a young yeoman with a calm face, who meant to do his duty
without much talking.
'No grinning matches at Mai-dun Castle this summer,' Festus resumed;
'no thread-the-needle at Greenhill Fair, and going into shows and
driving the showman crazy with cock-a-doodle-doo!'
'I suppose not.'
'Does it make you seem just a trifle uncomfortable, Noakes? Keep up
your spirits, old comrade. Come, forward! we are only ambling on
like so many donkey-women. We have to get into Budmouth, join the
rest of the troop, and then march along the coast west'ard, as I
imagine. At this rate we shan't be well into the thick of battle
before twelve o'clock. Spur on, comrades. No dancing on the green,
Lockham, this year in the moonlight! You was tender upon that girl;
gad, what will become o' her in the struggle?'
'Come, come, Derriman,' expostulated Lockham--'this is all very
well, but I don't care for 't. I am as ready to fight as any man,
'Perhaps when you get into battle, Derriman, and see what it's like,
your courage will cool down a little,' added Noakes on the same
side, but with secret admiration of Festus's reckless bravery.
'I shall be bayoneted first,' said Festus. 'Now let's rally, and
Since Festus was determined to spur on wildly, the rest of the
yeomen did not like to seem behindhand, and they rapidly approached
the town. Had they been calm enough to reflect, they might have
observed that for the last half-hour no carts or carriages had met
them on the way, as they had done further back. It was not till the
troopers reached the turnpike that they learnt what Festus had known
a quarter of an hour before. At the intelligence Derriman sheathed
his sword with a sigh; and the party soon fell in with comrades who
had arrived there before them, whereupon the source and details of
the alarm were boisterously discussed.
'What, didn't you know of the mistake till now?' asked one of these
of the new-comers. 'Why, when I was dropping over the hill by the
cross-roads I looked back and saw that man talking to the messenger,
and he must have told him the truth.' The speaker pointed to
Festus. They turned their indignant eyes full upon him. That he
had sported with their deepest feelings, while knowing the rumour to
be baseless, was soon apparent to all.
'Beat him black and blue with the flat of our blades!' shouted two
or three, turning their horses' heads to drop back upon Derriman, in
which move they were followed by most of the party.
But Festus, foreseeing danger from the unexpected revelation, had
already judiciously placed a few intervening yards between himself
and his fellow-yeomen, and now, clapping spurs to his horse, rattled
like thunder and lightning up the road homeward. His ready flight
added hotness to their pursuit, and as he rode and looked fearfully
over his shoulder he could see them following with enraged faces and
drawn swords, a position which they kept up for a distance of more
than a mile. Then he had the satisfaction of seeing them drop off
one by one, and soon he and his panting charger remained alone on
XXVII. DANGER TO ANNE
He stopped and reflected how to turn this rebuff to advantage.
Baulked in his project of entering the watering-place and enjoying
congratulations upon his patriotic bearing during the advance, he
sulkily considered that he might be able to make some use of his
enforced retirement by riding to Overcombe and glorifying himself in
the eyes of Miss Garland before the truth should have reached that
hamlet. Having thus decided he spurred on in a better mood.
By this time the volunteers were on the march, and as Derriman
ascended the road he met the Overcombe company, in which trudged
Miller Loveday shoulder to shoulder with the other substantial
householders of the place and its neighbourhood, duly equipped with
pouches, cross-belts, firelocks, flint-boxes, pickers, worms,
magazines, priming-horns, heel-ball, and pomatum. There was nothing
to be gained by further suppression of the truth, and briefly
informing them that the danger was not so immediate as had been
supposed, Festus galloped on. At the end of another mile he met a
large number of pikemen, including Bob Loveday, whom the yeoman
resolved to sound upon the whereabouts of Anne. The circumstances
were such as to lead Bob to speak more frankly than he might have
done on reflection, and he told Festus the direction in which the
women had been sent. Then Festus informed the group that the report
of invasion was false, upon which they all turned to go homeward
with greatly relieved spirits.
Bob walked beside Derriman's horse for some distance. Loveday had
instantly made up his mind to go and look for the women, and ease
their anxiety by letting them know the good news as soon as
possible. But he said nothing of this to Festus during their return
together; nor did Festus tell Bob that he also had resolved to seek
them out, and by anticipating every one else in that enterprise,
make of it a glorious opportunity for bringing Miss Garland to her
senses about him. He still resented the ducking that he had
received at her hands, and was not disposed to let that insult pass
without obtaining some sort of sweet revenge.
As soon as they had parted Festus cantered on over the hill, meeting
on his way the Longpuddle volunteers, sixty rank and file, under
Captain Cunningham; the Casterbridge company, ninety strong (known
as the 'Consideration Company' in those days), under Captain
Strickland; and others--all with anxious faces and covered with
dust. Just passing the word to them and leaving them at halt, he
proceeded rapidly onward in the direction of King's-Bere. Nobody
appeared on the road for some time, till after a ride of several
miles he met a stray corporal of volunteers, who told Festus in
answer to his inquiry that he had certainly passed no gig full of
women of the kind described. Believing that he had missed them by
following the highway, Derriman turned back into a lane along which
they might have chosen to journey for privacy's sake,
notwithstanding the badness and uncertainty of its track. Arriving
again within five miles of Overcombe, he at length heard tidings of
the wandering vehicle and its precious burden, which, like the Ark
when sent away from the country of the Philistines, had apparently
been left to the instincts of the beast that drew it. A labouring
man, just at daybreak, had seen the helpless party going slowly up a
distant drive, which he pointed out.
No sooner had Festus parted from this informant than he beheld Bob
approaching, mounted on the miller's second and heavier horse. Bob
looked rather surprised, and Festus felt his coming glory in danger.
'They went down that lane,' he said, signifying precisely the
opposite direction to the true one. 'I, too, have been on the
look-out for missing friends.'
As Festus was riding back there was no reason to doubt his
information, and Loveday rode on as misdirected. Immediately that
he was out of sight Festus reversed his course, and followed the
track which Anne and her companions were last seen to pursue.
This road had been ascended by the gig in question nearly two hours
before the present moment. Molly, the servant, held the reins, Mrs.
Loveday sat beside her, and Anne behind. Their progress was but
slow, owing partly to Molly's want of skill, and partly to the
steepness of the road, which here passed over downs of some extent,
and was rarely or never mended. It was an anxious morning for them
all, and the beauties of the early summer day fell upon unheeding
eyes. They were too anxious even for conjecture, and each sat
thinking her own thoughts, occasionally glancing westward, or
stopping the horse to listen to sounds from more frequented roads
along which other parties were retreating. Once, while they
listened and gazed thus, they saw a glittering in the distance, and
heard the tramp of many horses. It was a large body of cavalry
going in the direction of the King's watering-place, the same
regiment of dragoons, in fact, which Festus had seen further on in
its course. The women in the gig had no doubt that these men were
marching at once to engage the enemy. By way of varying the
monotony of the journey Molly occasionally burst into tears of
horror, believing Buonaparte to be in countenance and habits
precisely what the caricatures represented him. Mrs. Loveday
endeavoured to establish cheerfulness by assuring her companions of
the natural civility of the French nation, with whom unprotected
women were safe from injury, unless through the casual excesses of
soldiery beyond control. This was poor consolation to Anne, whose
mind was more occupied with Bob than with herself, and a miserable
fear that she would never again see him alive so paled her face and
saddened her gaze forward, that at last her mother said, 'Who was
you thinking of, my dear?' Anne's only reply was a look at her
mother, with which a tear mingled.
Molly whipped the horse, by which she quickened his pace for five
yards, when he again fell into the perverse slowness that showed how
fully conscious he was of being the master-mind and chief personage
of the four. Whenever there was a pool of water by the road he
turned aside to drink a mouthful, and remained there his own time in
spite of Molly's tug at the reins and futile fly-flapping on his
rump. They were now in the chalk district, where there were no
hedges, and a rough attempt at mending the way had been made by
throwing down huge lumps of that glaring material in heaps, without
troubling to spread it or break them abroad. The jolting here was
most distressing, and seemed about to snap the springs.
'How that wheel do wamble,' said Molly at last. She had scarcely
spoken when the wheel came off, and all three were precipitated over
it into the road.
Fortunately the horse stood still, and they began to gather
themselves up. The only one of the three who had suffered in the
least from the fall was Anne, and she was only conscious of a severe
shaking which had half stupefied her for the time. The wheel lay
flat in the road, so that there was no possibility of driving
further in their present plight. They looked around for help. The
only friendly object near was a lonely cottage, from its situation
evidently the home of a shepherd.
The horse was unharnessed and tied to the back of the gig, and the
three women went across to the house. On getting close they found
that the shutters of all the lower windows were closed, but on
trying the door it opened to the hand. Nobody was within; the house
appeared to have been abandoned in some confusion, and the
probability was that the shepherd had fled on hearing the alarm.
Anne now said that she felt the effects of her fall too severely to
be able to go any further just then, and it was agreed that she
should be left there while Mrs. Loveday and Molly went on for
assistance, the elder lady deeming Molly too young and vacant-minded
to be trusted to go alone. Molly suggested taking the horse, as the
distance might be great, each of them sitting alternately on his
back while the other led him by the head. This they did, Anne
watching them vanish down the white and lumpy road.
She then looked round the room, as well as she could do so by the
light from the open door. It was plain, from the shutters being
closed, that the shepherd had left his house before daylight, the
candle and extinguisher on the table pointing to the same
conclusion. Here she remained, her eyes occasionally sweeping the
bare, sunny expanse of down, that was only relieved from absolute
emptiness by the overturned gig hard by. The sheep seemed to have
gone away, and scarcely a bird flew across to disturb the solitude.
Anne had risen early that morning, and leaning back in the withy
chair, which she had placed by the door, she soon fell into an
uneasy doze, from which she was awakened by the distant tramp of a
horse. Feeling much recovered from the effects of the overturn, she
eagerly rose and looked out. The horse was not Miller Loveday's,
but a powerful bay, bearing a man in full yeomanry uniform.
Anne did not wait to recognize further; instantly re-entering the
house, she shut the door and bolted it. In the dark she sat and
listened: not a sound. At the end of ten minutes, thinking that
the rider if he were not Festus had carelessly passed by, or that if
he were Festus he had not seen her, she crept softly upstairs and
peeped out of the window. Excepting the spot of shade, formed by
the gig as before, the down was quite bare. She then opened the
casement and stretched out her neck.
'Ha, young madam! There you are! I knew 'ee! Now you are caught!'
came like a clap of thunder from a point three or four feet beneath
her, and turning down her frightened eyes she beheld Festus Derriman
lurking close to the wall. His attention had first been attracted
by her shutting the door of the cottage; then by the overturned gig;
and after making sure, by examining the vehicle, that he was not
mistaken in her identity, he had dismounted, led his horse round to
the side, and crept up to entrap her.
Anne started back into the room, and remained still as a stone.
Festus went on--'Come, you must trust to me. The French have
landed. I have been trying to meet with you every hour since that
confounded trick you played me. You threw me into the water.
Faith, it was well for you I didn't catch ye then! I should have
taken a revenge in a better way than I shall now. I mean to have
that kiss of ye. Come, Miss Nancy; do you hear?--'Tis no use for
you to lurk inside there. You'll have to turn out as soon as Boney
comes over the hill--Are you going to open the door, I say, and
speak to me in a civil way? What do you think I am, then, that you
should barricade yourself against me as if I was a wild beast or
Frenchman? Open the door, or put out your head, or do something; or
'pon my soul I'll break in the door!'
It occurred to Anne at this point of the tirade that the best policy
would be to temporize till somebody should return, and she put out
her head and face, now grown somewhat pale.
'That's better,' said Festus. 'Now I can talk to you. Come, my
dear, will you open the door? Why should you be afraid of me?'
'I am not altogether afraid of you; I am safe from the French here,'
said Anne, not very truthfully, and anxiously casting her eyes over
the vacant down.
'Then let me tell you that the alarm is false, and that no landing
has been attempted. Now will you open the door and let me in? I am
tired. I have been on horseback ever since daylight, and have come
to bring you the good tidings.'
Anne looked as if she doubted the news.
'Come,' said Festus.
'No, I cannot let you in,' she murmured, after a pause.
'Dash my wig, then,' he cried, his face flaming up, 'I'll find a way
to get in! Now, don't you provoke me! You don't know what I am
capable of. I ask you again, will you open the door?'
'Why do you wish it?' she said faintly.
'I have told you I want to sit down; and I want to ask you a
'You can ask me from where you are.'
'I cannot ask you properly. It is about a serious matter: whether
you will accept my heart and hand. I am not going to throw myself
at your feet; but I ask you to do your duty as a woman, namely, give
your solemn word to take my name as soon as the war is over and I
have time to attend to you. I scorn to ask it of a haughty hussy
who will only speak to me through a window; however, I put it to you
for the last time, madam.'
There was no sign on the down of anybody's return, and she said,
'I'll think of it, sir.'
'You have thought of it long enough; I want to know. Will you or
'Very well; I think I will.' And then she felt that she might be
buying personal safety too dearly by shuffling thus, since he would
spread the report that she had accepted him, and cause endless
complication. 'No,' she said, 'I have changed my mind. I cannot
accept you, Mr. Derriman.'
'That's how you play with me!' he exclaimed, stamping. '"Yes," one
moment; "No," the next. Come, you don't know what you refuse. That
old hall is my uncle's own, and he has nobody else to leave it to.
As soon as he's dead I shall throw up farming and start as a squire.
And now,' he added with a bitter sneer, 'what a fool you are to hang
back from such a chance!'
'Thank you, I don't value it,' said Anne.
'Because you hate him who would make it yours?'
'It may not lie in your power to do that.'
'What--has the old fellow been telling you his affairs?'
'Then why do you mistrust me? Now, after this will you open the
door, and show that you treat me as a friend if you won't accept me
as a lover? I only want to sit and talk to you.'
Anne thought she would trust him; it seemed almost impossible that
he could harm her. She retired from the window and went downstairs.
When her hand was upon the bolt of the door, her mind misgave her.
Instead of withdrawing it she remained in silence where she was, and
he began again--
'Are you going to unfasten it?'
Anne did not speak.
'Now, dash my wig, I will get at you! You've tried me beyond
endurance. One kiss would have been enough that day in the mead;
now I'll have forty, whether you will or no!'
He flung himself against the door; but as it was bolted, and had in
addition a great wooden bar across it, this produced no effect. He
was silent for a moment, and then the terrified girl heard him
attempt the shuttered window. She ran upstairs and again scanned
the down. The yellow gig still lay in the blazing sunshine, and the
horse of Festus stood by the corner of the garden--nothing else was
to be seen. At this moment there came to her ear the noise of a
sword drawn from its scabbard; and, peeping over the window-sill,
she saw her tormentor drive his sword between the joints of the
shutters, in an attempt to rip them open. The sword snapped off in
his hand. With an imprecation he pulled out the piece, and returned
the two halves to the scabbard.
'Ha! ha!' he cried, catching sight of the top of her head. ''Tis
only a joke, you know; but I'll get in all the same. All for a
kiss! But never mind, we'll do it yet!' He spoke in an affectedly
light tone, as if ashamed of his previous resentful temper; but she
could see by the livid back of his neck that he was brimful of
suppressed passion. 'Only a jest, you know,' he went on. 'How are
we going to do it now? Why, in this way. I go and get a ladder,
and enter at the upper window where my love is. And there's the
ladder lying under that corn-rick in the first enclosed field. Back
in two minutes, dear!'
He ran off, and was lost to her view.
XXVIII. ANNE DOES WONDERS
Anne fearfully surveyed her position. The upper windows of the
cottage were of flimsiest lead-work, and to keep him out would be
hopeless. She felt that not a moment was to be lost in getting
away. Running downstairs she opened the door, and then it occurred
to her terrified understanding that there would be no chance of
escaping him by flight afoot across such an extensive down, since he
might mount his horse and easily ride after her. The animal still
remained tethered at the corner of the garden; if she could release
him and frighten him away before Festus returned, there would not be
quite such odds against her. She accordingly unhooked the horse by
reaching over the bank, and then, pulling off her muslin
neckerchief, flapped it in his eyes to startle him. But the gallant
steed did not move or flinch; she tried again, and he seemed rather
pleased than otherwise. At this moment she heard a cry from the
cottage, and turning, beheld her adversary approaching round the
corner of the building.
'I thought I should tole out the mouse by that trick!' cried Festus
exultingly. Instead of going for a ladder, he had simply hidden
himself at the back to tempt her down.
Poor Anne was now desperate. The bank on which she stood was level
with the horse's back, and the creature seemed quiet as a lamb.
With a determination of which she was capable in emergencies, she
seized the rein, flung herself upon the sheepskin, and held on by
the mane. The amazed charger lifted his head, sniffed, wrenched his
ears hither and thither, and started off at a frightful speed across
'O, my heart and limbs!' said Festus under his breath, as,
thoroughly alarmed, he gazed after her. 'She on Champion! She'll
break her neck, and I shall be tried for manslaughter, and disgrace
will be brought upon the name of Derriman!'
Champion continued to go at a stretch-gallop, but he did nothing
worse. Had he plunged or reared, Derriman's fears might have been
verified, and Anne have come with deadly force to the ground. But
the course was good, and in the horse's speed lay a comparative
security. She was scarcely shaken in her precarious half-horizontal
position, though she was awed to see the grass, loose stones, and
other objects pass her eyes like strokes whenever she opened them,
which was only just for a second at intervals of half a minute; and
to feel how wildly the stirrups swung, and that what struck her knee
was the bucket of the carbine, and that it was a pistol-holster
which hurt her arm.
They quickly cleared the down, and Anne became conscious that the
course of the horse was homeward. As soon as the ground began to
rise towards the outer belt of upland which lay between her and the
coast, Champion, now panting and reeking with moisture, lessened his
speed in sheer weariness, and proceeded at a rapid jolting trot.
Anne felt that she could not hold on half so well; the gallop had
been child's play compared with this. They were in a lane,
ascending to a ridge, and she made up her mind for a fall. Over the
ridge rose an animated spot, higher and higher; it turned out to be
the upper part of a man, and the man to be a soldier. Such was
Anne's attitude that she only got an occasional glimpse of him; and,
though she feared that he might be a Frenchman, she feared the horse
more than the enemy, as she had feared Festus more than the horse.
Anne had energy enough left to cry, 'Stop him; stop him!' as the
soldier drew near.
He, astonished at the sight of a military horse with a bundle of
drapery across his back, had already placed himself in the middle of
the lane, and he now held out his arms till his figure assumed the
form of a Latin cross planted in the roadway. Champion drew near,
swerved, and stood still almost suddenly, a check sufficient to send
Anne slipping down his flank to the ground. The timely friend
stepped forward and helped her to her feet, when she saw that he was
'Are you hurt?' he said hastily, having turned quite pale at seeing
'O no; not a bit,' said Anne, gathering herself up with forced
briskness, to make light of the misadventure.
'But how did you get in such a place?'
'There, he's gone!' she exclaimed, instead of replying, as Champion
swept round John Loveday and cantered off triumphantly in the
direction of Oxwell, a performance which she followed with her eyes.
'But how did you come upon his back, and whose horse is it?'
'I will tell you.'
'I--cannot tell you.'
John looked steadily at her, saying nothing.
'How did you come here?' she asked. 'Is it true that the French
have not landed at all?'
'Quite true; the alarm was groundless. I'll tell you all about it.
You look very tired. You had better sit down a few minutes. Let us
sit on this bank.'
He helped her to the slope indicated, and continued, still as if his
thoughts were more occupied with the mystery of her recent situation
than with what he was saying: 'We arrived at Budmouth Barracks this
morning, and are to lie there all the summer. I could not write to
tell father we were coming. It was not because of any rumour of the
French, for we knew nothing of that till we met the people on the
road, and the colonel said in a moment the news was false.
Buonaparte is not even at Boulogne just now. I was anxious to know
how you had borne the fright, so I hastened to Overcombe at once, as
soon as I could get out of barracks.'
Anne, who had not been at all responsive to his discourse, now
swayed heavily against him, and looking quickly down he found that
she had silently fainted. To support her in his arms was of course
the impulse of a moment. There was no water to be had, and he could
think of nothing else but to hold her tenderly till she came round
again. Certainly he desired nothing more.
Again he asked himself, what did it all mean?
He waited, looking down upon her tired eyelids, and at the row of
lashes lying upon each cheek, whose natural roundness showed itself
in singular perfection now that the customary pink had given place
to a pale luminousness caught from the surrounding atmosphere. The
dumpy ringlets about her forehead and behind her poll, which were
usually as tight as springs, had been partially uncoiled by the
wildness of her ride, and hung in split locks over her forehead and
neck. John, who, during the long months of his absence, had lived
only to meet her again, was in a state of ecstatic reverence, and
bending down he gently kissed her.
Anne was just becoming conscious.
'O, Mr. Derriman, never, never!' she murmured, sweeping her face
with her hand.
'I thought he was at the bottom of it,' said John.
Anne opened her eyes, and started back from him. 'What is it?' she
'You are ill, my dear Miss Garland,' replied John in trembling
anxiety, and taking her hand.
'I am not ill, I am wearied out!' she said. 'Can't we walk on? How
far are we from Overcombe?'
'About a mile. But tell me, somebody has been hurting you--
frightening you. I know who it was; it was Derriman, and that was
his horse. Now do you tell me all.'
Anne reflected. 'Then if I tell you,' she said, 'will you discuss
with me what I had better do, and not for the present let my mother
and your father know? I don't want to alarm them, and I must not
let my affairs interrupt the business connexion between the mill and
the hall that has gone on for so many years.'
The trumpet-major promised, and Anne told the adventure. His brow
reddened as she went on, and when she had done she said, 'Now you
are angry. Don't do anything dreadful, will you? Remember that
this Festus will most likely succeed his uncle at Oxwell, in spite
of present appearances, and if Bob succeeds at the mill there should
be no enmity between them.'
'That's true. I won't tell Bob. Leave him to me. Where is
Derriman now? On his way home, I suppose. When I have seen you
into the house I will deal with him--quite quietly, so that he shall
say nothing about it.'
'Yes, appeal to him, do! Perhaps he will be better then.'
They walked on together, Loveday seeming to experience much quiet
'I came to look for you,' he said, 'because of that dear, sweet
letter you wrote.'
'Yes, I did write you a letter,' she admitted, with misgiving, now
beginning to see her mistake. 'It was because I was sorry I had
'I am almost glad you did blame me,' said John cheerfully, 'since,
if you had not, the letter would not have come. I have read it
fifty times a day.'
This put Anne into an unhappy mood, and they proceeded without much
further talk till the mill chimneys were visible below them. John
then said that he would leave her to go in by herself.
'Ah, you are going back to get into some danger on my account?'
'I can't get into much danger with such a fellow as he, can I?' said
'Well, no,' she answered, with a sudden carelessness of tone. It
was indispensable that he should be undeceived, and to begin the
process by taking an affectedly light view of his personal risks was
perhaps as good a way to do it as any. Where friendliness was
construed as love, an assumed indifference was the necessary
expression for friendliness.
So she let him go; and, bidding him hasten back as soon as he could,
went down the hill, while John's feet retraced the upland.
The trumpet-major spent the whole afternoon and evening in that long
and difficult search for Festus Derriman. Crossing the down at the
end of the second hour he met Molly and Mrs. Loveday. The gig had
been repaired, they had learnt the groundlessness of the alarm, and
they would have been proceeding happily enough but for their anxiety
about Anne. John told them shortly that she had got a lift home,
and proceeded on his way.
The worthy object of his search had in the meantime been plodding
homeward on foot, sulky at the loss of his charger, encumbered with
his sword, belts, high boots, and uniform, and in his own
discomfiture careless whether Anne Garland's life had been
endangered or not.
At length Derriman reached a place where the road ran between high
banks, one of which he mounted and paced along as a change from the
hard trackway. Ahead of him he saw an old man sitting down, with
eyes fixed on the dust of the road, as if resting and meditating at
one and the same time. Being pretty sure that he recognized his
uncle in that venerable figure, Festus came forward stealthily, till
he was immediately above the old man's back. The latter was clothed
in faded nankeen breeches, speckled stockings, a drab hat, and a
coat which had once been light blue, but from exposure as a
scarecrow had assumed the complexion and fibre of a dried
pudding-cloth. The farmer was, in fact, returning to the hall,
which he had left in the morning some time later than his nephew, to
seek an asylum in a hollow tree about two miles off. The tree was
so situated as to command a view of the building, and Uncle Benjy
had managed to clamber up inside this natural fortification high
enough to watch his residence through a hole in the bark, till,
gathering from the words of occasional passers-by that the alarm was
at least premature, he had ventured into daylight again.
He was now engaged in abstractedly tracing a diagram in the dust
with his walking-stick, and muttered words to himself aloud.
Presently he arose and went on his way without turning round.
Festus was curious enough to descend and look at the marks. They
represented an oblong, with two semi-diagonals, and a little square
in the middle. Upon the diagonals were the figures 20 and 17, and
on each side of the parallelogram stood a letter signifying the
point of the compass.
'What crazy thing is running in his head now?' said Festus to
himself, with supercilious pity, recollecting that the farmer had
been singing those very numbers earlier in the morning. Being able
to make nothing of it, he lengthened his strides, and treading on
tiptoe overtook his relative, saluting him by scratching his back
like a hen. The startled old farmer danced round like a top, and
gasping, said, as he perceived his nephew, 'What, Festy! not thrown
from your horse and killed, then, after all!'
'No, nunc. What made ye think that?'
'Champion passed me about an hour ago, when I was in hiding--poor
timid soul of me, for I had nothing to lose by the French coming--
and he looked awful with the stirrups dangling and the saddle empty.
'Tis a gloomy sight, Festy, to see a horse cantering without a
rider, and I thought you had been--feared you had been thrown off
and killed as dead as a nit.'
'Bless your dear old heart for being so anxious! And what pretty
picture were you drawing just now with your walking-stick!'
'O, that! That is only a way I have of amusing myself. It showed
how the French might have advanced to the attack, you know. Such
trifles fill the head of a weak old man like me.'
'Or the place where something is hid away--money, for instance?'
'Festy,' said the farmer reproachfully, 'you always know I use the
old glove in the bedroom cupboard for any guinea or two I possess.'
'Of course I do,' said Festus ironically.
They had now reached a lonely inn about a mile and a half from the
hall, and, the farmer not responding to his nephew's kind invitation
to come in and treat him, Festus entered alone. He was dusty,
draggled, and weary, and he remained at the tavern long. The
trumpet-major, in the meantime, having searched the roads in vain,
heard in the course of the evening of the yeoman's arrival at this
place, and that he would probably be found there still. He
accordingly approached the door, reaching it just as the dusk of
evening changed to darkness.
There was no light in the passage, but John pushed on at hazard,
inquired for Derriman, and was told that he would be found in the
back parlour alone. When Loveday first entered the apartment he was
unable to see anything, but following the guidance of a vigorous
snoring, he came to the settle, upon which Festus lay asleep, his
position being faintly signified by the shine of his buttons and
other parts of his uniform. John laid his hand upon the reclining
figure and shook him, and by degrees Derriman stopped his snore and
'Who are you?' he said, in the accents of a man who has been
drinking hard. 'Is it you, dear Anne? Let me kiss you; yes, I
'Shut your mouth, you pitiful blockhead; I'll teach you genteeler
manners than to persecute a young woman in that way!' and taking
Festus by the ear, he gave it a good pull. Festus broke out with an
oath, and struck a vague blow in the air with his fist; whereupon
the trumpet-major dealt him a box on the right ear, and a similar
one on the left to artistically balance the first. Festus jumped up
and used his fists wildly, but without any definite result.
'Want to fight, do ye, eh?' said John. 'Nonsense! you can't fight,
you great baby, and never could. You are only fit to be smacked!'
and he dealt Festus a specimen of the same on the cheek with the
palm of his hand.
'No, sir, no! O, you are Loveday, the young man she's going to be
married to, I suppose? Dash me, I didn't want to hurt her, sir.'
'Yes, my name is Loveday; and you'll know where to find me, since we
can't finish this to-night. Pistols or swords, whichever you like,
my boy. Take that, and that, so that you may not forget to call
upon me!' and again he smacked the yeoman's ears and cheeks. 'Do
you know what it is for, eh?'
'No, Mr. Loveday, sir--yes, I mean, I do.'
'What is it for, then? I shall keep smacking until you tell me.
Gad! if you weren't drunk, I'd half kill you here to-night.'
'It is because I served her badly. Damned if I care! I'll do it
again, and be hanged to 'ee! Where's my horse Champion? Tell me
that,' and he hit at the trumpet-major.
John parried this attack, and taking him firmly by the collar,
pushed him down into the seat, saying, 'Here I hold 'ee till you beg
pardon for your doings to-day. Do you want any more of it, do you?'
And he shook the yeoman to a sort of jelly.
'I do beg pardon--no, I don't. I say this, that you shall not take
such liberties with old Squire Derriman's nephew, you dirty miller's
son, you flour-worm, you smut in the corn! I'll call you out
to-morrow morning, and have my revenge.'
'Of course you will; that's what I came for.' And pushing him back
into the corner of the settle, Loveday went out of the house,
feeling considerable satisfaction at having got himself into the
beginning of as nice a quarrel about Anne Garland as the most
jealous lover could desire.
But of one feature in this curious adventure he had not the least
notion--that Festus Derriman, misled by the darkness, the fumes of
his potations, and the constant sight of Anne and Bob together,
never once supposed his assailant to be any other man than Bob,
believing the trumpet-major miles away.
There was a moon during the early part of John's walk home, but when
he had arrived within a mile of Overcombe the sky clouded over, and
rain suddenly began to fall with some violence. Near him was a
wooden granary on tall stone staddles, and perceiving that the rain
was only a thunderstorm which would soon pass away, he ascended the
steps and entered the doorway, where he stood watching the
half-obscured moon through the streaming rain. Presently, to his
surprise, he beheld a female figure running forward with great
rapidity, not towards the granary for shelter, but towards open
ground. What could she be running for in that direction? The
answer came in the appearance of his brother Bob from that quarter,
seated on the back of his father's heavy horse. As soon as the
woman met him, Bob dismounted and caught her in his arms. They
stood locked together, the rain beating into their unconscious
forms, and the horse looking on.
The trumpet-major fell back inside the granary, and threw himself on
a heap of empty sacks which lay in the corner: he had recognized
the woman to be Anne. Here he reclined in a stupor till he was
aroused by the sound of voices under him, the voices of Anne and his
brother, who, having at last discovered that they were getting wet,
had taken shelter under the granary floor.
'I have been home,' said she. 'Mother and Molly have both got back
long ago. We were all anxious about you, and I came out to look for
you. O, Bob, I am so glad to see you again!'
John might have heard every word of the conversation, which was
continued in the same strain for a long time; but he stopped his
ears, and would not. Still they remained, and still was he
determined that they should not see him. With the conserved hope of
more than half a year dashed away in a moment, he could yet feel
that the cruelty of a protest would be even greater than its
inutility. It was absolutely by his own contrivance that the
situation had been shaped. Bob, left to himself, would long ere
this have been the husband of another woman.
The rain decreased, and the lovers went on. John looked after them
as they strolled, aqua-tinted by the weak moon and mist. Bob had
thrust one of his arms through the rein of the horse, and the other
was round Anne's waist. When they were lost behind the declivity
the trumpet-major came out, and walked homeward even more slowly
than they. As he went on, his face put off its complexion of
despair for one of serene resolve. For the first time in his
dealings with friends he entered upon a course of counterfeiting,
set his features to conceal his thought, and instructed his tongue
to do likewise. He threw fictitiousness into his very gait, even
now, when there was nobody to see him, and struck at stems of wild
parsley with his regimental switch as he had used to do when
soldiering was new to him, and life in general a charming
Thus cloaking his sickly thought, he descended to the mill as the
others had done before him, occasionally looking down upon the wet
road to notice how close Anne's little tracks were to Bob's all the
way along, and how precisely a curve in his course was followed by a
curve in hers. But after this he erected his head and walked so
smartly up to the front door that his spurs rang through the court.
They had all reached home, but before any of them could speak he
cried gaily, 'Ah, Bob, I have been thinking of you! By God, how are
you, my boy? No French cut-throats after all, you see. Here we
are, well and happy together again.'
'A good Providence has watched over us,' said Mrs. Loveday
cheerfully. 'Yes, in all times and places we are in God's hand.'
'So we be, so we be!' said the miller, who still shone in all the
fierceness of uniform. 'Well, now we'll ha'e a drop o' drink.'
'There's none,' said David, coming forward with a drawn face.
'What!' said the miller.
'Afore I went to church for a pike to defend my native country from
Boney, I pulled out the spigots of all the barrels, maister; for,
thinks I--damn him!--since we can't drink it ourselves, he shan't
have it, nor none of his men.'
'But you shouldn't have done it till you was sure he'd come!' said
the miller, aghast.
'Chok' it all, I was sure!' said David. 'I'd sooner see churches
fall than good drink wasted; but how was I to know better?'
'Well, well; what with one thing and another this day will cost me a
pretty penny!' said Loveday, bustling off to the cellar, which he
found to be several inches deep in stagnant liquor. 'John, how can
I welcome 'ee?' he continued hopelessly, on his return to the room.
'Only go and see what he's done!'
'I've ladled up a drap wi' a spoon, trumpet-major,' said David.
''Tisn't bad drinking, though it do taste a little of the floor,
John said that he did not require anything at all; and then they all
sat down to supper, and were very temperately gay with a drop of
mild elder-wine which Mrs. Loveday found in the bottom of a jar.
The trumpet-major, adhering to the part he meant to play, gave
humorous accounts of his adventures since he had last sat there. He
told them that the season was to be a very lively one--that the
royal family was coming, as usual, and many other interesting
things; so that when he left them to return to barracks few would
have supposed the British army to contain a lighter-hearted man.
Anne was the only one who doubted the reality of this behaviour.
When she had gone up to her bedroom she stood for some time looking
at the wick of the candle as if it were a painful object, the
expression of her face being shaped by the conviction that John's
afternoon words when he helped her out of the way of Champion were
not in accordance with his words to-night, and that the
dimly-realized kiss during her faintness was no imaginary one. But
in the blissful circumstances of having Bob at hand again she took
optimist views, and persuaded herself that John would soon begin to
see her in the light of a sister.
XXIX. A DISSEMBLER
To cursory view, John Loveday seemed to accomplish this with amazing
ease. Whenever he came from barracks to Overcombe, which was once
or twice a week, he related news of all sorts to her and Bob with
infinite zest, and made the time as happy a one as had ever been
known at the mill, save for himself alone. He said nothing of
Festus, except so far as to inform Anne that he had expected to see
him and been disappointed. On the evening after the King's arrival
at his seaside residence John appeared again, staying to supper and
describing the royal entry, the many tasteful illuminations and
transparencies which had been exhibited, the quantities of tallow
candles burnt for that purpose, and the swarms of aristocracy who
had followed the King thither.
When supper was over Bob went outside the house to shut the
shutters, which had, as was often the case, been left open some time
after lights were kindled within. John still sat at the table when
his brother approached the window, though the others had risen and
retired. Bob was struck by seeing through the pane how John's face
had changed. Throughout the supper-time he had been talking to Anne
in the gay tone habitual with him now, which gave greater
strangeness to the gloom of his present appearance. He remained in
thought for a moment, took a letter from his breast-pocket, opened
it, and, with a tender smile at his weakness, kissed the writing
before restoring it to its place. The letter was one that Anne had
written to him at Exonbury.
Bob stood perplexed; and then a suspicion crossed his mind that
John, from brotherly goodness, might be feigning a satisfaction with
recent events which he did not feel. Bob now made a noise with the
shutters, at which the trumpet-major rose and went out, Bob at once
'Jack,' said the sailor ingenuously, 'I'm terribly sorry that I've
'How?' asked his brother.
'In courting our little Anne. Well, you see, John, she was in the
same house with me, and somehow or other I made myself her beau.
But I have been thinking that perhaps you had the first claim on
her, and if so, Jack, I'll make way for 'ee. I--I don't care for
her much, you know--not so very much, and can give her up very well.
It is nothing serious between us at all. Yes, John, you try to get
her; I can look elsewhere.' Bob never knew how much he loved Anne
till he found himself making this speech of renunciation.
'O Bob, you are mistaken!' said the trumpet-major, who was not
deceived. 'When I first saw her I admired her, and I admire her
now, and like her. I like her so well that I shall be glad to see
you marry her.'
'But,' replied Bob, with hesitation, 'I thought I saw you looking
very sad, as if you were in love; I saw you take out a letter, in
short. That's what it was disturbed me and made me come to you.'
'O, I see your mistake!' said John, laughing forcedly.
At this minute Mrs. Loveday and the miller, who were taking a
twilight walk in the garden, strolled round near to where the
brothers stood. She talked volubly on events in Budmouth, as most
people did at this time. 'And they tell me that the theatre has
been painted up afresh,' she was saying, 'and that the actors have
come for the season, with the most lovely actresses that ever were
When they had passed by John continued, 'I AM in love, Bob; but--not
'Ah! who is it then?' said the mate hopefully.
'One of the actresses at the theatre,' John replied, with a
concoctive look at the vanishing forms of Mr. and Mrs. Loveday.
'She is a very lovely woman, you know. But we won't say anything
more about it--it dashes a man so.'
'O, one of the actresses!' said Bob, with open mouth.
'But don't you say anything about it!' continued the trumpet-major
heartily. 'I don't want it known.'
'No, no--I won't, of course. May I not know her name?'
'No, not now, Bob. I cannot tell 'ee,' John answered, and with
truth, for Loveday did not know the name of any actress in the
When his brother had gone, Captain Bob hastened off in a state of
great animation to Anne, whom he found on the top of a neighbouring
hillock which the daylight had scarcely as yet deserted.
'You have been a long time coming, sir,' said she, in sprightly
tones of reproach.
'Yes, dearest; and you'll be glad to hear why. I've found out the
whole mystery--yes--why he's queer, and everything.'
Anne looked startled.
'He's up to the gunnel in love! We must try to help him on in it,
or I fear he'll go melancholy-mad like.'
'We help him?' she asked faintly.
'He's lost his heart to one of the play-actresses at Budmouth, and I
think she slights him.'
'O, I am so glad!' she exclaimed.
'Glad that his venture don't prosper?'
'O no; glad he's so sensible. How long is it since that alarm of
'Six weeks, honey. Why do you ask?'
'Men can forget in six weeks, can't they, Bob?'
The impression that John had really kissed her still remained.
'Well, some men might,' observed Bob judicially. '_I_ couldn't.
Perhaps John might. I couldn't forget YOU in twenty times as long.
Do you know, Anne, I half thought it was you John cared about; and
it was a weight off my heart when he said he didn't.'
'Did he say he didn't?'
'Yes. He assured me himself that the only person in the hold of his
heart was this lovely play-actress, and nobody else.'
'How I should like to see her!'
'Yes. So should I.'
'I would rather it had been one of our own neighbours' girls, whose
birth and breeding we know of; but still, if that is his taste, I
hope it will end well for him. How very quick he has been! I
certainly wish we could see her.'
'I don't know so much as her name. He is very close, and wouldn't
tell a thing about her.'
'Couldn't we get him to go to the theatre with us? and then we could
watch him, and easily find out the right one. Then we would learn
if she is a good young woman; and if she is, could we not ask her
here, and so make it smoother for him? He has been very gay lately;
that means budding love: and sometimes between his gaieties he has
had melancholy moments; that means there's difficulty.'
Bob thought her plan a good one, and resolved to put it in practice
on the first available evening. Anne was very curious as to whether
John did really cherish a new passion, the story having quite
surprised her. Possibly it was true; six weeks had passed since
John had shown a single symptom of the old attachment, and what
could not that space of time effect in the heart of a soldier whose
very profession it was to leave girls behind him?
After this John Loveday did not come to see them for nearly a month,
a neglect which was set down by Bob as an additional proof that his
brother's affections were no longer exclusively centred in his old
home. When at last he did arrive, and the theatre-going was
mentioned to him, the flush of consciousness which Anne expected to
see upon his face was unaccountably absent.
'Yes, Bob; I should very well like to go to the theatre,' he replied
heartily. 'Who is going besides?'
'Only Anne,' Bob told him, and then it seemed to occur to the
trumpet-major that something had been expected of him. He rose and
said privately to Bob with some confusion, 'O yes, of course we'll
go. As I am connected with one of the--in short I can get you in
for nothing, you know. At least let me manage everything.'
'Yes, yes. I wonder you didn't propose to take us before, Jack, and
let us have a good look at her.'
'I ought to have. You shall go on a King's night. You won't want
me to point her out, Bob; I have my reasons at present for asking
'We'll be content with guessing,' said his brother.
When the gallant John was gone, Anne observed, 'Bob, how he is
changed! I watched him. He showed no feeling, even when you burst
upon him suddenly with the subject nearest his heart.'
'It must be because his suit don't fay,' said Captain Bob.
XXX. AT THE THEATRE ROYAL
In two or three days a message arrived asking them to attend at the
theatre on the coming evening, with the added request that they
would dress in their gayest clothes, to do justice to the places
taken. Accordingly, in the course of the afternoon they drove off,
Bob having clothed himself in a splendid suit, recently purchased as
an attempt to bring himself nearer to Anne's style when they
appeared in public together. As finished off by this dashing and
really fashionable attire, he was the perfection of a beau in the
dog-days; pantaloons and boots of the newest make; yards and yards
of muslin wound round his neck, forming a sort of asylum for the
lower part of his face; two fancy waistcoats, and coat-buttons like
circular shaving glasses. The absurd extreme of female fashion,
which was to wear muslin dresses in January, was at this time
equalled by that of the men, who wore clothes enough in August to
melt them. Nobody would have guessed from Bob's presentation now
that he had ever been aloft on a dark night in the Atlantic, or knew
the hundred ingenuities that could be performed with a rope's end
and a marline-spike as well as his mother tongue.
It was a day of days. Anne wore her celebrated celestial blue
pelisse, her Leghorn hat, and her muslin dress with the waist under
the arms; the latter being decorated with excellent Honiton lace
bought of the woman who travelled from that place to Overcombe and
its neighbourhood with a basketful of her own manufacture, and a
cushion on which she worked by the wayside. John met the lovers at
the inn outside the town, and after stabling the horse they entered
the town together, the trumpet-major informing them that the
watering-place had never been so full before, that the Court, the
Prince of Wales, and everybody of consequence was there, and that an
attic could scarcely be got for money. The King had gone for a
cruise in his yacht, and they would be in time to see him land.
Then drums and fifes were heard, and in a minute or two they saw
Sergeant Stanner advancing along the street with a firm countenance,
fiery poll, and rigid staring eyes, in front of his
recruiting-party. The sergeant's sword was drawn, and at intervals
of two or three inches along its shining blade were impaled
fluttering one-pound notes, to express the lavish bounty that was
offered. He gave a stern, suppressed nod of friendship to our
people, and passed by. Next they came up to a waggon, bowered over
with leaves and flowers, so that the men inside could hardly be
'Come to see the King, hip-hip hurrah!' cried a voice within, and
turning they saw through the leaves the nose and face of
Cripplestraw. The waggon contained all Derriman's workpeople.
'Is your master here?' said John.
'No, trumpet-major, sir. But young maister is coming to fetch us at
nine o'clock, in case we should be too blind to drive home.'
'O! where is he now?'
'Never mind,' said Anne impatiently, at which the trumpet-major
obediently moved on.
By the time they reached the pier it was six o'clock; the royal
yacht was returning; a fact announced by the ships in the harbour
firing a salute. The King came ashore with his hat in his hand, and
returned the salutations of the well-dressed crowd in his old
indiscriminate fashion. While this cheering and waving of
handkerchiefs was going on Anne stood between the two brothers, who
protectingly joined their hands behind her back, as if she were a
delicate piece of statuary that a push might damage. Soon the King
had passed, and receiving the military salutes of the piquet, joined
the Queen and princesses at Gloucester Lodge, the homely house of
red brick in which he unostentatiously resided.
As there was yet some little time before the theatre would open,
they strayed upon the velvet sands, and listened to the songs of the
sailors, one of whom extemporized for the occasion:--
'Portland Road the King aboard, the King aboard!
Portland Road the King aboard,
We weighed and sailed from Portland Road !' *
* Vide Preface.
When they had looked on awhile at the combats at single-stick which
were in progress hard by, and seen the sum of five guineas handed
over to the modest gentleman who had broken most heads, they
returned to Gloucester Lodge, whence the King and other members of
his family now reappeared, and drove, at a slow trot, round to the
theatre in carriages drawn by the Hanoverian white horses that were
so well known in the town at this date.
When Anne and Bob entered the theatre they found that John had taken
excellent places, and concluded that he had got them for nothing
through the influence of the lady of his choice. As a matter of
fact he had paid full prices for those two seats, like any other
outsider, and even then had a difficulty in getting them, it being a
King's night. When they were settled he himself retired to an
obscure part of the pit, from which the stage was scarcely visible.
'We can see beautifully,' said Bob, in an aristocratic voice, as he
took a delicate pinch of snuff, and drew out the magnificent
pocket-handkerchief brought home from the East for such occasions.
'But I am afraid poor John can't see at all.'
'But we can see him,' replied Anne, 'and notice by his face which of
them it is he is so charmed with. The light of that corner candle
falls right upon his cheek.'
By this time the King had appeared in his place, which was overhung
by a canopy of crimson satin fringed with gold. About twenty places
were occupied by the royal family and suite; and beyond them was a
crowd of powdered and glittering personages of fashion, completely
filling the centre of the little building; though the King so
frequently patronized the local stage during these years that the
crush was not inconvenient.
The curtain rose and the play began. To-night it was one of
Colman's, who at this time enjoyed great popularity, and Mr.
Bannister supported the leading character. Anne, with her hand
privately clasped in Bob's, and looking as if she did not know it,
partly watched the piece and partly the face of the impressionable
John who had so soon transferred his affections elsewhere. She had
not long to wait. When a certain one of the subordinate ladies of
the comedy entered on the stage the trumpet-major in his corner not
only looked conscious, but started and gazed with parted lips.
'This must be the one,' whispered Anne quickly. 'See, he is
She turned to Bob, but at the same moment his hand convulsively
closed upon hers as he, too, strangely fixed his eyes upon the
'What is it?'
Anne looked from one to the other without regarding the stage at
all. Her answer came in the voice of the actress who now spoke for
the first time. The accents were those of Miss Matilda Johnson.
One thought rushed into both their minds on the instant, and Bob was
the first to utter it.
'What--is she the woman of his choice after all?'
'If so, it is a dreadful thing!' murmured Anne.
But, as may be imagined, the unfortunate John was as much surprised
by this rencounter as the other two. Until this moment he had been
in utter ignorance of the theatrical company and all that pertained
to it. Moreover, much as he knew of Miss Johnson, he was not aware
that she had ever been trained in her youth as an actress, and that
after lapsing into straits and difficulties for a couple of years
she had been so fortunate as to again procure an engagement here.
The trumpet-major, though not prominently seated, had been seen by
Matilda already, who had observed still more plainly her old
betrothed and Anne in the other part of the house. John was not
concerned on his own account at being face to face with her, but at
the extraordinary suspicion that this conjuncture must revive in the
minds of his best beloved friends. After some moments of pained
reflection he tapped his knee.
'Gad, I won't explain; it shall go as it is!' he said. 'Let them
think her mine. Better that than the truth, after all.'
Had personal prominence in the scene been at this moment
proportioned to intentness of feeling, the whole audience, regal and
otherwise, would have faded into an indistinct mist of background,
leaving as the sole emergent and telling figures Bob and Anne at one
point, the trumpet-major on the left hand, and Matilda at the
opposite corner of the stage. But fortunately the deadlock of
awkward suspense into which all four had fallen was terminated by an
accident. A messenger entered the King's box with despatches.
There was an instant pause in the performance. The despatch-box
being opened the King read for a few moments with great interest,
the eyes of the whole house, including those of Anne Garland, being
anxiously fixed upon his face; for terrible events fell as
unexpectedly as thunderbolts at this critical time of our history.
The King at length beckoned to Lord --, who was immediately behind
him, the play was again stopped, and the contents of the despatch
were publicly communicated to the audience.
Sir Robert Calder, cruising off Finisterre, had come in sight of
Villeneuve, and made the signal for action, which, though checked by
the weather, had resulted in the capture of two Spanish
line-of-battle ships, and the retreat of Villeneuve into Ferrol.
The news was received with truly national feeling, if noise might be
taken as an index of patriotism. 'Rule Britannia' was called for
and sung by the whole house. But the importance of the event was
far from being recognized at this time; and Bob Loveday, as he sat
there and heard it, had very little conception how it would bear
upon his destiny.
This parenthetic excitement diverted for a few minutes the eyes of
Bob and Anne from the trumpet-major; and when the play proceeded,
and they looked back to his corner, he was gone.
'He's just slipped round to talk to her behind the scenes,' said Bob
knowingly. 'Shall we go too, and tease him for a sly dog?'
'No, I would rather not.'
'Shall we go home, then?'
'Not unless her presence is too much for you?'
'O--not at all. We'll stay here. Ah, there she is again.'
They sat on, and listened to Matilda's speeches which she delivered
with such delightful coolness that they soon began to considerably
interest one of the party.
'Well, what a nerve the young woman has!' he said at last in tones
of admiration, and gazing at Miss Johnson with all his might.
'After all, Jack's taste is not so bad. She's really deuced
'Bob, I'll go home if you wish to,' said Anne quickly.
'O no--let us see how she fleets herself off that bit of a scrape
she's playing at now. Well, what a hand she is at it, to be sure!'
Anne said no more, but waited on, supremely uncomfortable, and
almost tearful. She began to feel that she did not like life
particularly well; it was too complicated: she saw nothing of the
scene, and only longed to get away, and to get Bob away with her.
At last the curtain fell on the final act, and then began the farce
of 'No Song no Supper.' Matilda did not appear in this piece, and
Anne again inquired if they should go home. This time Bob agreed,
and taking her under his care with redoubled affection, to make up
for the species of coma which had seized upon his heart for a time,
he quietly accompanied her out of the house.
When they emerged upon the esplanade, the August moon was shining
across the sea from the direction of St. Aldhelm's Head. Bob
unconsciously loitered, and turned towards the pier. Reaching the
end of the promenade they surveyed the quivering waters in silence
for some time, until a long dark line shot from behind the
promontory of the Nothe, and swept forward into the harbour.
'What boat is that?' said Anne.
'It seems to be some frigate lying in the Roads,' said Bob
carelessly, as he brought Anne round with a gentle pressure of his
arm and bent his steps towards the homeward end of the town.
Meanwhile, Miss Johnson, having finished her duties for that
evening, rapidly changed her dress, and went out likewise. The
prominent position which Anne and Captain Bob had occupied side by
side in the theatre, left her no alternative but to suppose that the
situation was arranged by Bob as a species of defiance to herself;
and her heart, such as it was, became proportionately embittered
against him. In spite of the rise in her fortunes, Miss Johnson
still remembered--and always would remember--her humiliating
departure from Overcombe; and it had been to her even a more
grievous thing that Bob had acquiesced in his brother's ruling than
that John had determined it. At the time of setting out she was
sustained by a firm faith that Bob would follow her, and nullify his
brother's scheme; but though she waited Bob never came.
She passed along by the houses facing the sea, and scanned the
shore, the footway, and the open road close to her, which,
illuminated by the slanting moon to a great brightness, sparkled
with minute facets of crystallized salts from the water sprinkled
there during the day. The promenaders at the further edge appeared
in dark profiles; and beyond them was the grey sea, parted into two
masses by the tapering braid of moonlight across the waves.
Two forms crossed this line at a startling nearness to her; she
marked them at once as Anne and Bob Loveday. They were walking
slowly, and in the earnestness of their discourse were oblivious of
the presence of any human beings save themselves. Matilda stood
motionless till they had passed.
'How I love them!' she said, treading the initial step of her walk
onwards with a vehemence that walking did not demand.
'So do I--especially one,' said a voice at her elbow; and a man
wheeled round her, and looked in her face, which had been fully
exposed to the moon.
'You--who are you?' she asked.
'Don't you remember, ma'am? We walked some way together towards
Overcombe earlier in the summer.' Matilda looked more closely, and
perceived that the speaker was Derriman, in plain clothes. He
continued, 'You are one of the ladies of the theatre, I know. May I
ask why you said in such a queer way that you loved that couple?'
'In a queer way?'
'Well, as if you hated them.'
'I don't mind your knowing that I have good reason to hate them.
You do too, it seems?'
'That man,' said Festus savagely, 'came to me one night about that
very woman; insulted me before I could put myself on my guard, and
ran away before I could come up with him and avenge myself. The
woman tricks me at every turn! I want to part 'em.'
'Then why don't you? There's a splendid opportunity. Do you see
that soldier walking along? He's a marine; he looks into the
gallery of the theatre every night: and he's in connexion with the
press-gang that came ashore just now from the frigate lying in
Portland Roads. They are often here for men.'
'Yes. Our boatmen dread 'em.'
'Well, we have only to tell him that Loveday is a seaman to be clear
of him this very night.'
'Done!' said Festus. 'Take my arm and come this way.' They walked
across to the footway. 'Fine night, sergeant.'
'It is, sir.'
'Looking for hands, I suppose?'
'It is not to be known, sir. We don't begin till half past ten.'
'It is a pity you don't begin now. I could show 'ee excellent
'What, that little nest of fellows at the "Old Rooms" in Cove Row?
I have just heard of 'em.'
'No--come here.' Festus, with Miss Johnson on his arm, led the
sergeant quickly along the parade, and by the time they reached the
Narrows the lovers, who walked but slowly, were visible in front of
them. 'There's your man,' he said.
'That buck in pantaloons and half-boots--a looking like a squire?'
'Twelve months ago he was mate of the brig Pewit; but his father has
made money, and keeps him at home.'
'Faith, now you tell of it, there's a hint of sea legs about him.
What's the young beau's name?'
'Don't tell!' whispered Matilda, impulsively clutching Festus's arm.
But Festus had already said, 'Robert Loveday, son of the miller at
Overcombe. You may find several likely fellows in that
The marine said that he would bear it in mind, and they left him.
'I wish you had not told,' said Matilda tearfully. 'She's the
'Dash my eyes now; listen to that! Why, you chicken-hearted old
stager, you was as well agreed as I. Come now; hasn't he used you
Matilda's acrimony returned. 'I was down on my luck, or he wouldn't
have had the chance!' she said.
'Well, then, let things be.'
XXXI. MIDNIGHT VISITORS
Miss Garland and Loveday walked leisurely to the inn and called for
horse-and-gig. While the hostler was bringing it round, the
landlord, who knew Bob and his family well, spoke to him quietly in
'Is this then because you want to throw dust in the eyes of the
Black Diamond chaps?' (with an admiring glance at Bob's costume).
'The Black Diamond?' said Bob; and Anne turned pale.
'She hove in sight just after dark, and at nine o'clock a boat
having more than a dozen marines on board, with cloaks on, rowed
Bob reflected. 'Then there'll be a press to-night; depend upon it,'
'They won't know you, will they, Bob?' said Anne anxiously.
'They certainly won't know him for a seaman now,' remarked the
landlord, laughing, and again surveying Bob up and down. 'But if I
was you two, I should drive home-along straight and quiet; and be
very busy in the mill all to-morrow, Mr. Loveday.'
They drove away; and when they had got onward out of the town, Anne
strained her eyes wistfully towards Portland. Its dark contour,
lying like a whale on the sea, was just perceptible in the gloom as
the background to half-a-dozen ships' lights nearer at hand.
'They can't make you go, now you are a gentleman tradesman, can
they?' she asked.
'If they want me they can have me, dearest. I have often said I
ought to volunteer.'
'And not care about me at all?'
'It is just that that keeps me at home. I won't leave you if I can
'It cannot make such a vast difference to the country whether one
man goes or stays! But if you want to go you had better, and not
mind us at all!'
Bob put a period to her speech by a mark of affection to which
history affords many parallels in every age. She said no more about
the Black Diamond; but whenever they ascended a hill she turned her
head to look at the lights in Portland Roads, and the grey expanse
of intervening sea.
Though Captain Bob had stated that he did not wish to volunteer, and
would not leave her if he could help it, the remark required some
qualification. That Anne was charming and loving enough to chain
him anywhere was true; but he had begun to find the mill-work
terribly irksome at times. Often during the last month, when
standing among the rumbling cogs in his new miller's suit, which ill
became him, he had yawned, thought wistfully of the old pea-jacket,
and the waters of the deep blue sea. His dread of displeasing his
father by showing anything of this change of sentiment was great;
yet he might have braved it but for knowing that his marriage with
Anne, which he hoped might take place the next year, was dependent
entirely upon his adherence to the mill business. Even were his
father indifferent, Mrs. Loveday would never intrust her only
daughter to the hands of a husband who would be away from home
five-sixths of his time.
But though, apart from Anne, he was not averse to seafaring in
itself, to be smuggled thither by the machinery of a press-gang was
intolerable; and the process of seizing, stunning, pinioning, and
carrying off unwilling hands was one which Bob as a man had always
determined to hold out against to the utmost of his power. Hence,
as they went towards home, he frequently listened for sounds behind
him, but hearing none he assured his sweetheart that they were safe
for that night at least. The mill was still going when they
arrived, though old Mr. Loveday was not to be seen; he had retired
as soon as he heard the horse's hoofs in the lane, leaving Bob to
watch the grinding till three o'clock; when the elder would rise,
and Bob withdraw to bed--a frequent arrangement between them since
Bob had taken the place of grinder.
Having reached the privacy of her own room, Anne threw open the
window, for she had not the slightest intention of going to bed just
yet. The tale of the Black Diamond had disturbed her by a slow,
insidious process that was worse than sudden fright. Her window
looked into the court before the house, now wrapped in the shadow of
the trees and the hill; and she leaned upon its sill listening
intently. She could have heard any strange sound distinctly enough
in one direction; but in the other all low noises were absorbed in
the patter of the mill, and the rush of water down the race.
However, what she heard came from the hitherto silent side, and was
intelligible in a moment as being the footsteps of men. She tried
to think they were some late stragglers from Budmouth. Alas! no;
the tramp was too regular for that of villagers. She hastily
turned, extinguished the candle, and listened again. As they were
on the main road there was, after all, every probability that the
party would pass the bridge which gave access to the mill court
without turning in upon it, or even noticing that such an entrance
existed. In this again she was disappointed: they crossed into the
front without a pause. The pulsations of her heart became a turmoil
now, for why should these men, if they were the press-gang, and
strangers to the locality, have supposed that a sailor was to be
found here, the younger of the two millers Loveday being never seen
now in any garb which could suggest that he was other than a miller
pure, like his father? One of the men spoke.
'I am not sure that we are in the right place,' he said.
'This is a mill, anyhow,' said another.
'There's lots about here.'
'Then come this way a moment with your light.'
Two of the group went towards the cart-house on the opposite side of
the yard, and when they reached it a dark lantern was opened, the