Part 7 out of 7
'Fairness to Bob before everything!'
'He hev forgot her, and there's an end on't.'
'She's not forgot him.'
'Well, well; think it over.'
This discourse was the cause of his penning a letter to his brother.
He begged for a distinct statement whether, as John at first
supposed, Bob's verbal renunciation of Anne on the quay had been
only a momentary ebullition of friendship, which it would be cruel
to take literally; or whether, as seemed now, it had passed from a
hasty resolve to a standing purpose, persevered in for his own
pleasure, with not a care for the result on poor Anne.
John waited anxiously for the answer, but no answer came; and the
silence seemed even more significant than a letter of assurance
could have been of his absolution from further support to a claim
which Bob himself had so clearly renounced. Thus it happened that
paternal pressure, brotherly indifference, and his own released
impulse operated in one delightful direction, and the trumpet-major
once more approached Anne as in the old time.
But it was not till she had been left to herself for a full five
months, and the blue-bells and ragged-robins of the following year
were again making themselves common to the rambling eye, that he
directly addressed her. She was tying up a group of tall flowering
plants in the garden: she knew that he was behind her, but she did
not turn. She had subsided into a placid dignity which enabled her
when watched to perform any little action with seeming composure--
very different from the flutter of her inexperienced days.
'Are you never going to turn round?' he at length asked
She then did turn, and looked at him for a moment without speaking;
a certain suspicion looming in her eyes, as if suggested by his
perceptible want of ease.
'How like summer it is getting to feel, is it not?' she said.
John admitted that it was getting to feel like summer: and, bending
his gaze upon her with an earnestness which no longer left any doubt
of his subject, went on to ask--
'Have you ever in these last weeks thought of how it used to be
She replied quickly, 'O, John, you shouldn't begin that again. I am
almost another woman now!'
'Well, that's all the more reason why I should, isn't it?'
Anne looked thoughtfully to the other end of the garden, faintly
shaking her head; 'I don't quite see it like that,' she returned.
'You feel yourself quite free, don't you?'
'QUITE free!' she said instantly, and with proud distinctness; her
eyes fell, and she repeated more slowly, 'Quite free.' Then her
thoughts seemed to fly from herself to him. 'But you are not?'
'I am not?'
'O--that woman! You know as well as I that was all make-up, and
that I never for a moment thought of her.'
'I had an idea you were acting; but I wasn't sure.'
'Well, that's nothing now. Anne, I want to relieve your life; to
cheer you in some way; to make some amends for my brother's bad
conduct. If you cannot love me, liking will be well enough. I have
thought over every side of it so many times--for months have I been
thinking it over--and I am at last sure that I do right to put it to
you in this way. That I don't wrong Bob I am quite convinced. As
far as he is concerned we be both free. Had I not been sure of that
I would never have spoken. Father wants me to take on the mill, and
it will please him if you can give me one little hope; it will make
the house go on altogether better if you can think o' me.'
'You are generous and good, John,' she said, as a big round tear
bowled helter-skelter down her face and hat-strings.
'I am not that; I fear I am quite the opposite,' he said, without
looking at her. 'It would be all gain to me-- But you have not
answered my question.'
She lifted her eyes. 'John, I cannot!' she said, with a cheerless
smile. 'Positively I cannot. Will you make me a promise?'
'What is it?'
'I want you to promise first-- Yes, it is dreadfully unreasonable,'
she added, in a mild distress. 'But do promise!'
John by this time seemed to have a feeling that it was all up with
him for the present. 'I promise,' he said listlessly.
'It is that you won't speak to me about this for EVER so long,' she
returned, with emphatic kindliness.
'Very good,' he replied; 'very good. Dear Anne, you don't think I
have been unmanly or unfair in starting this anew?'
Anne looked into his face without a smile. 'You have been perfectly
natural,' she murmured. 'And so I think have I.'
John, mournfully: 'You will not avoid me for this, or be afraid of
me? I will not break my word. I will not worry you any more.'
'Thank you, John. You need not have said worry; it isn't that.'
'Well, I am very blind and stupid. I have been hurting your heart
all the time without knowing it. It is my fate, I suppose. Men who
love women the very best always blunder and give more pain than
those who love them less.'
Anne laid one of her hands on the other as she softly replied,
looking down at them, 'No one loves me as well as you, John; nobody
in the world is so worthy to be loved; and yet I cannot anyhow love
you rightly.' And lifting her eyes, 'But I do so feel for you that
I will try as hard as I can to think about you.'
'Well, that is something,' he said, smiling. 'You say I must not
speak about it again for ever so long; how long?'
'Now that's not fair,' Anne retorted, going down the garden, and
leaving him alone.
About a week passed. Then one afternoon the miller walked up to
Anne indoors, a weighty topic being expressed in his tread.
'I was so glad, my honey,' he began, with a knowing smile, 'to see
that from the mill-window last week.' He flung a nod in the
direction of the garden.
Anne innocently inquired what it could be.
'Jack and you in the garden together,' he continued laying his hand
gently on her shoulder and stroking it. 'It would so please me, my
dear little girl, if you could get to like him better than that
weathercock, Master Bob.'
Anne shook her head; not in forcible negation, but to imply a kind
'Can't you? Come now,' said the miller.
She threw back her head with a little laugh of grievance. 'How you
all beset me!' she expostulated. 'It makes me feel very wicked in
not obeying you, and being faithful--faithful to--' But she could
not trust that side of the subject to words. 'Why would it please
you so much?' she asked.
'John is as steady and staunch a fellow as ever blowed a trumpet.
I've always thought you might do better with him than with Bob. Now
I've a plan for taking him into the mill, and letting him have a
comfortable time o't after his long knocking about; but so much
depends upon you that I must bide a bit till I see what your
pleasure is about the poor fellow. Mind, my dear, I don't want to
force ye; I only just ask ye.'
Anne meditatively regarded the miller from under her shady eyelids,
the fingers of one hand playing a silent tattoo on her bosom. 'I
don't know what to say to you,' she answered brusquely, and went
But these discourses were not without their effect upon the
extremely conscientious mind of Anne. They were, moreover, much
helped by an incident which took place one evening in the autumn of
this year, when John came to tea. Anne was sitting on a low stool
in front of the fire, her hands clasped across her knee. John
Loveday had just seated himself on a chair close behind her, and
Mrs. Loveday was in the act of filling the teapot from the kettle
which hung in the chimney exactly above Anne. The kettle slipped
forward suddenly, whereupon John jumped from the chair and put his
own two hands over Anne's just in time to shield them, and the
precious knee she clasped, from the jet of scalding water which had
directed itself upon that point. The accidental overflow was
instantly checked by Mrs. Loveday; but what had come was received by
the devoted trumpet-major on the back of his hands.
Anne, who had hardly been aware that he was behind her, started up
like a person awakened from a trance. 'What have you done to
yourself, poor John, to keep it off me!' she cried, looking at his
John reddened emotionally at her words, 'It is a bit of a scald,
that's all,' he replied, drawing a finger across the back of one
hand, and bringing off the skin by the touch.
'You are scalded painfully, and I not at all!' She gazed into his
kind face as she had never gazed there before, and when Mrs. Loveday
came back with oil and other liniments for the wound Anne would let
nobody dress it but herself. It seemed as if her coyness had all
gone, and when she had done all that lay in her power she still sat
by him. At his departure she said what she had never said to him in
her life before: 'Come again soon!'
In short, that impulsive act of devotion, the last of a series of
the same tenor, had been the added drop which finally turned the
wheel. John's character deeply impressed her. His determined
steadfastness to his lode star won her admiration, the more
especially as that star was herself. She began to wonder more and
more how she could have so persistently held out against his
advances before Bob came home to renew girlish memories which had by
that time got considerably weakened. Could she not, after all,
please the miller, and try to listen to John? By so doing she would
make a worthy man happy, the only sacrifice being at worst that of
her unworthy self, whose future was no longer valuable. 'As for
Bob, the woman is to be pitied who loves him,' she reflected
indignantly, and persuaded herself that, whoever the woman might be,
she was not Anne Garland.
After this there was something of recklessness and something of
pleasantry in the young girl's manner of making herself an example
of the triumph of pride and common sense over memory and sentiment.
Her attitude had been epitomized in her defiant singing at the time
she learnt that Bob was not leal and true. John, as was inevitable,
came again almost immediately, drawn thither by the sun of her first
smile on him, and the words which had accompanied it. And now
instead of going off to her little pursuits upstairs, downstairs,
across the room, in the corner, or to any place except where he
happened to be, as had been her custom hitherto, she remained seated
near him, returning interesting answers to his general remarks, and
at every opportunity letting him know that at last he had found
favour in her eyes.
The day was fine, and they went out of doors, where Anne endeavoured
to seat herself on the sloping stone of the window-sill.
'How good you have become lately,' said John, standing over her and
smiling in the sunlight which blazed against the wall. 'I fancy you
have stayed at home this afternoon on my account.'
'Perhaps I have,' she said gaily--
'"Do whatever we may for him, dame, we cannot do too much!
For he's one that has guarded our land."
'And he has done more than that: he has saved me from a dreadful
scalding. The back of your hand will not be well for a long time,
John, will it?'
He held out his hand to regard its condition, and the next natural
thing was to take hers. There was a glow upon his face when he did
it: his star was at last on a fair way towards the zenith after its
long and weary declination. The least penetrating eye could have
perceived that Anne had resolved to let him woo, possibly in her
temerity to let him win. Whatever silent sorrow might be locked up
in her, it was by this time thrust a long way down from the light.
'I want you to go somewhere with me if you will,' he said, still
holding her hand.
'Yes? Where is it?'
He pointed to a distant hill-side which, hitherto green, had within
the last few days begun to show scratches of white on its face. 'Up
there,' he said.
'I see little figures of men moving about. What are they doing?'
'Cutting out a huge picture of the king on horseback in the earth of
the hill. The king's head is to be as big as our mill-pond and his
body as big as this garden; he and the horse will cover more than an
acre. When shall we go?'
'Whenever you please,' said she.
'John!' cried Mrs. Loveday from the front door. 'Here's a friend
come for you.'
John went round, and found his trusty lieutenant, Trumpeter Buck,
waiting for him. A letter had come to the barracks for John in his
absence, and the trumpeter, who was going for a walk, had brought it
along with him. Buck then entered the mill to discuss, if possible,
a mug of last year's mead with the miller; and John proceeded to
read his letter, Anne being still round the corner where he had left
her. When he had read a few words he turned as pale as a sheet, but
he did not move, and perused the writing to the end.
Afterwards he laid his elbow against the wall, and put his palm to
his head, thinking with painful intentness. Then he took himself
vigorously in hand, as it were, and gradually became natural again.
When he parted from Anne to go home with Buck she noticed nothing
different in him.
In barracks that evening he read the letter again. It was from Bob;
and the agitating contents were these:--
'DEAR JOHN,--I have drifted off from writing till the present time
because I have not been clear about my feelings; but I have
discovered them at last, and can say beyond doubt that I mean to be
faithful to my dearest Anne after all. The fact is, John, I've got
into a bit of a scrape, and I've a secret to tell you about it
(which must go no further on any account). On landing last autumn I
fell in with a young woman, and we got rather warm as folks do; in
short, we liked one another well enough for a while. But I have got
into shoal water with her, and have found her to be a terrible
take-in. Nothing in her at all--no sense, no niceness, all tantrums
and empty noise, John, though she seemed monstrous clever at first.
So my heart comes back to its old anchorage. I hope my return to
faithfulness will make no difference to you. But as you showed by
your looks at our parting that you should not accept my offer to
give her up--made in too much haste, as I have since found--I feel
that you won't mind that I have returned to the path of honour. I
dare not write to Anne as yet, and please do not let her know a word
about the other young woman, or there will be the devil to pay. I
shall come home and make all things right, please God. In the
meantime I should take it as a kindness, John, if you would keep a
brotherly eye upon Anne, and guide her mind back to me. I shall die
of sorrow if anybody sets her against me, for my hopes are getting
bound up in her again quite strong. Hoping you are jovial, as times
go, I am,--Your affectionate brother, ROBERT.'
When the cold daylight fell upon John's face, as he dressed himself
next morning, the incipient yesterday's wrinkle in his forehead had
become permanently graven there. He had resolved, for the sake of
that only brother whom he had nursed as a baby, instructed as a
child, and protected and loved always, to pause in his procedure for
the present, and at least do nothing to hinder Bob's restoration to
favour, if a genuine, even though temporarily smothered, love for
Anne should still hold possession of him. But having arranged to
take her to see the excavated figure of the king, he started for
Overcombe during the day, as if nothing had occurred to check the
smooth course of his love.
XXXVIII. A DELICATE SITUATION
'I am ready to go,' said Anne, as soon as he arrived.
He paused as if taken aback by her readiness, and replied with much
uncertainty, 'Would it--wouldn't it be better to put it off till
there is less sun?'
The very slightest symptom of surprise arose in her as she rejoined,
'But the weather may change; or had we better not go at all?'
'O no!--it was only a thought. We will start at once.'
And along the vale they went, John keeping himself about a yard from
her right hand. When the third field had been crossed they came
upon half-a-dozen little boys at play.
'Why don't he clasp her to his side, like a man?' said the biggest
and rudest boy.
'Why don't he clasp her to his side, like a man?' echoed all the
rude smaller boys in a chorus.
The trumpet-major turned, and, after some running, succeeded in
smacking two of them with his switch, returning to Anne breathless.
'I am ashamed they should have insulted you so,' he said, blushing
'They said no harm, poor boys,' she replied reproachfully.
Poor John was dumb with perception. The gentle hint upon which he
would have eagerly spoken only one short day ago was now like fire
to his wound.
They presently came to some stepping-stones across a brook. John
crossed first without turning his head, and Anne, just lifting the
skirt of her dress, crossed behind him. When they had reached the
other side a village girl and a young shepherd approached the brink
to cross. Anne stopped and watched them. The shepherd took a hand
of the young girl in each of his own, and walked backward over the
stones, facing her, and keeping her upright by his grasp, both of
them laughing as they went.
'What are you staying for, Miss Garland?' asked John.
'I was only thinking how happy they are,' she said quietly; and
withdrawing her eyes from the tender pair, she turned and followed
him, not knowing that the seeming sound of a passing bumble-bee was
a suppressed groan from John.
When they reached the hill they found forty navvies at work removing
the dark sod so as to lay bare the chalk beneath. The equestrian
figure that their shovels were forming was scarcely intelligible to
John and Anne now they were close, and after pacing from the horse's
head down his breast to his hoof, back by way of the king's
bridle-arm, past the bridge of his nose, and into his cocked-hat,
Anne said that she had had enough of it, and stepped out of the
chalk clearing upon the grass. The trumpet-major had remained all
the time in a melancholy attitude within the rowel of his Majesty's
'My shoes are caked with chalk,' she said as they walked downwards
again; and she drew back her dress to look at them. 'How can I get
some of it cleared off?'
'If you was to wipe them in the long grass there,' said John,
pointing to a spot where the blades were rank and dense, 'some of it
would come off.' Having said this, he walked on with religious
Anne raked her little feet on the right side, on the left side, over
the toe, and behind the heel; but the tenacious chalk held its own.
Panting with her exertion, she gave it up, and at length overtook
'I hope it is right now?' he said, looking gingerly over his
'No, indeed!' said she. 'I wanted some assistance--some one to
steady me. It is so hard to stand on one foot and wipe the other
without support. I was in danger of toppling over, and so gave it
'Merciful stars, what an opportunity!' thought the poor fellow while
she waited for him to offer help. But his lips remained closed, and
she went on with a pouting smile--
'You seem in such a hurry! Why are you in such a hurry? After all
the fine things you have said about--about caring so much for me,
and all that, you won't stop for anything!'
It was too much for John. 'Upon my heart and life, my dea--' he
began. Here Bob's letter crackled warningly in his waistcoat pocket
as he laid his hand asseveratingly upon his breast, and he became
suddenly scaled up to dumbness and gloom as before.
When they reached home Anne sank upon a stool outside the door,
fatigued with her excursion. Her first act was to try to pull off
her shoe--it was a difficult matter; but John stood beating with his
switch the leaves of the creeper on the wall.
'Mother--David--Molly, or somebody--do come and help me pull off
these dirty shoes!' she cried aloud at last. 'Nobody helps me in
'I am very sorry,' said John, coming towards her with incredible
slowness and an air of unutterable depression.
'O, I can do without YOU. David is best,' she returned, as the old
man approached and removed the obnoxious shoes in a trice.
Anne was amazed at this sudden change from devotion to crass
indifference. On entering her room she flew to the glass, almost
expecting to learn that some extraordinary change had come over her
pretty countenance, rendering her intolerable for evermore. But it
was, if anything, fresher than usual, on account of the exercise.
'Well!' she said retrospectively. For the first time since their
acqaintance she had this week encouraged him; and for the first time
he had shown that encouragement was useless. 'But perhaps he does
not clearly understand,' she added serenely.
When he next came it was, to her surprise, to bring her newspapers,
now for some time discontinued. As soon as she saw them she said,
'I do not care for newspapers.'
'The shipping news is very full and long to-day, though the print is
'I take no further interest in the shipping news,' she replied with
She was sitting by the window, inside the table, and hence when, in
spite of her negations, he deliberately unfolded the paper and began
to read about the Royal Navy she could hardly rise and go away.
With a stoical mien he read on to the end of the report, bringing
out the name of Bob's ship with tremendous force.
'No,' she said at last, 'I'll hear no more! Let me read to you.'
The trumpet-major sat down. Anne turned to the military news,
delivering every detail with much apparent enthusiasm. 'That's the
subject _I_ like!' she said fervently.
'But--but Bob is in the navy now, and will most likely rise to be an
officer. And then--'
'What is there like the army?' she interrupted. 'There is no
smartness about sailors. They waddle like ducks, and they only
fight stupid battles that no one can form any idea of. There is no
science nor stratagem in sea-fights--nothing more than what you see
when two rams run their heads together in a field to knock each
other down. But in military battles there is such art, and such
splendour, and the men are so smart, particularly the
horse-soldiers. O, I shall never forget what gallant men you all
seemed when you came and pitched your tents on the downs! I like
the cavalry better than anything I know; and the dragoons the best
of the cavalry--and the trumpeters the best of the dragoons!'
'O, if it had but come a little sooner!' moaned John within him. He
replied as soon as he could regain self-command, 'I am glad Bob is
in the navy at last--he is so much more fitted for that than the
merchant-service--so brave by nature, ready for any daring deed. I
have heard ever so much more about his doings on board the Victory.
Captain Hardy took special notice that when he--'
'I don't want to know anything more about it,' said Anne
impatiently; 'of course sailors fight; there's nothing else to do in
a ship, since you can't run away! You may as well fight and be
killed as be killed not fighting.'
'Still it is his character to be careless of himself where the
honour of his country is concerned,' John pleaded. 'If you had only
known him as a boy you would own it. He would always risk his own
life to save anybody else's. Once when a cottage was afire up the
lane he rushed in for a baby, although he was only a boy himself,
and he had the narrowest escape. We have got his hat now with the
hole burnt in it. Shall I get it and show it to you?'
'No--I don't wish it. It has nothing to do with me.' But as he
persisted in his course towards the door, she added, 'Ah! you are
leaving because I am in your way. You want to be alone while you
read the paper--I will go at once. I did not see that I was
interrupting you.' And she rose as if to retreat.
'No, no! I would rather be interrupted by YOU than--O, Miss
Garland, excuse me! I'll just speak to father in the mill, now I am
It is scarcely necessary to state that Anne (whose unquestionable
gentility amid somewhat homely surroundings has been many times
insisted on in the course of this history) was usually the reverse
of a woman with a coming-on disposition; but, whether from pique at
his manner, or from wilful adherence to a course rashly resolved on,
or from coquettish maliciousness in reaction from long depression,
or from any other thing,--so it was that she would not let him go.
'Trumpet-major,' she said, recalling him.
'Yes?' he replied timidly.
'The bow of my cap-ribbon has come untied, has it not?' She turned
and fixed her bewitching glance upon him.
The bow was just over her forehead, or, more precisely, at the point
where the organ of comparison merges in that of benevolence,
according to the phrenological theory of Gall. John, thus brought
to, endeavoured to look at the bow in a skimming, duck-and-drake
fashion, so as to avoid dipping his own glance as far as to the
plane of his interrogator's eyes. 'It is untied,' he said, drawing
back a little.
She came nearer, and asked, 'Will you tie it for me, please?'
As there was no help for it, he nerved himself and assented. As her
head only reached to his fourth button she necessarily looked up for
his convenience, and John began fumbling at the bow. Try as he
would it was impossible to touch the ribbon without getting his
finger tips mixed with the curls of her forehead.
'Your hand shakes--ah! you have been walking fast,' she said.
'Have you almost done it?' She inquiringly directed her gaze upward
through his fingers.
'No--not yet,' he faltered in a warm sweat of emotion, his heart
going like a flail.
'Then be quick, please.'
'Yes, I will, Miss Garland! B--B--Bob is a very good fel--'
'Not that man's name to me!' she interrupted.
John was silent instantly, and nothing was to be heard but the
rustling of the ribbon; till his hands once more blundered among the
curls, and then touched her forehead.
'O good God!' ejaculated the trumpet-major in a whisper, turning
away hastily to the corner-cupboard, and resting his face upon his
'What's the matter, John?' said she.
'I can't do it!'
'Tie your cap-ribbon.'
'Because you are so--Because I am clumsy, and never could tie a
'You are clumsy indeed,' answered Anne, and went away.
After this she felt injured, for it seemed to show that he rated her
happiness as of meaner value than Bob's; since he had persisted in
his idea of giving Bob another chance when she had implied that it
was her wish to do otherwise. Could Miss Johnson have anything to
do with his firmness? An opportunity of testing him in this
direction occurred some days later. She had been up the village,
and met John at the mill-door.
'Have you heard the news? Matilda Johnson is going to be married to
Anne stood with her back to the sun, and as he faced her, his
features were searchingly exhibited. There was no change whatever
in them, unless it were that a certain light of interest kindled by
her question turned to complete and blank indifference. 'Well, as
times go, it is not a bad match for her,' he said, with a phlegm
which was hardly that of a lover.
John on his part was beginning to find these temptations almost more
than he could bear. But being quartered so near to his father's
house it was unnatural not to visit him, especially when at any
moment the regiment might be ordered abroad, and a separation of
years ensue; and as long as he went there he could not help seeing
The year changed from green to gold, and from gold to grey, but
little change came over the house of Loveday. During the last
twelve months Bob had been occasionally heard of as upholding his
country's honour in Denmark, the West Indies, Gibraltar, Malta, and
other places about the globe, till the family received a short
letter stating that he had arrived again at Portsmouth. At
Portsmouth Bob seemed disposed to remain, for though some time
elapsed without further intelligence, the gallant seaman never
appeared at Overcombe. Then on a sudden John learnt that Bob's
long-talked-of promotion for signal services rendered was to be an
accomplished fact. The trumpet-major at once walked off to
Overcombe, and reached the village in the early afternoon. Not one
of the family was in the house at the moment, and John strolled
onwards over the hill towards Casterbridge, without much thought of
direction till, lifting his eyes, he beheld Anne Garland wandering
about with a little basket upon her arm.
At first John blushed with delight at the sweet vision; but,
recalled by his conscience, the blush of delight was at once mangled
and slain. He looked for a means of retreat. But the field was
open, and a soldier was a conspicuous object: there was no escaping
'It was kind of you to come,' she said, with an inviting smile.
'It was quite by accident,' he answered, with an indifferent laugh.
'I thought you was at home.'
Anne blushed and said nothing, and they rambled on together. In the
middle of the field rose a fragment of stone wall in the form of a
gable, known as Faringdon Ruin; and when they had reached it John
paused and politely asked her if she were not a little tired with
walking so far. No particular reply was returned by the young lady,
but they both stopped, and Anne seated herself on a stone, which had
fallen from the ruin to the ground.
'A church once stood here,' observed John in a matter-of-fact tone.
'Yes, I have often shaped it out in my mind,' she returned. 'Here
where I sit must have been the altar.'
'True; this standing bit of wall was the chancel end.'
Anne had been adding up her little studies of the trumpet-major's
character, and was surprised to find how the brightness of that
character increased in her eyes with each examination. A kindly and
gentle sensation was again aroused in her. Here was a neglected
heroic man, who, loving her to distraction, deliberately doomed
himself to pensive shade to avoid even the appearance of standing in
a brother's way.
'If the altar stood here, hundreds of people have been made man and
wife just there, in past times,' she said, with calm deliberateness,
throwing a little stone on a spot about a yard westward.
John annihilated another tender burst and replied, 'Yes, this field
used to be a village. My grandfather could call to mind when there
were houses here. But the squire pulled 'em down, because poor folk
were an eyesore to him.'
'Do you know, John, what you once asked me to do?' she continued,
not accepting the digression, and turning her eyes upon him.
'In what sort of way?'
'In the matter of my future life, and yours.'
'I am afraid I don't.'
He turned his back upon her for a moment, that she might not see his
face. 'Ah--I do remember,' he said at last, in a dry, small,
'Well--need I say more? Isn't it sufficient?'
'It would be sufficient,' answered the unhappy man. 'But--'
She looked up with a reproachful smile, and shook her head. 'That
summer,' she went on, 'you asked me ten times if you asked me once.
I am older now; much more of a woman, you know; and my opinion is
changed about some people; especially about one.'
'O Anne, Anne!' he burst out as, racked between honour and desire,
he snatched up her hand. The next moment it fell heavily to her
lap. He had absolutely relinquished it half-way to his lips.
'I have been thinking lately,' he said, with preternaturally sudden
calmness, 'that men of the military profession ought not to m--ought
to be like St. Paul, I mean.'
'Fie, John; pretending religion!' she said sternly. 'It isn't that
at all. IT'S BOB!'
'Yes!' cried the miserable trumpet-major. 'I have had a letter from
him to-day.' He pulled out a sheet of paper from his breast.
'That's it! He's promoted--he's a lieutenant, and appointed to a
sloop that only cruises on our own coast, so that he'll be at home
on leave half his time--he'll be a gentleman some day, and worthy of
He threw the letter into her lap, and drew back to the other side of
the gable-wall. Anne jumped up from her seat, flung away the letter
without looking at it, and went hastily on. John did not attempt to
overtake her. Picking up the letter, he followed in her wake at a
distance of a hundred yards.
But, though Anne had withdrawn from his presence thus precipitately,
she never thought more highly of him in her life than she did five
minutes afterwards, when the excitement of the moment had passed.
She saw it all quite clearly; and his self-sacrifice impressed her
so much that the effect was just the reverse of what he had been
aiming to produce. The more he pleaded for Bob, the more her
perverse generosity pleaded for John. To-day the crisis had come--
with what results she had not foreseen.
As soon as the trumpet-major reached the nearest pen-and-ink he
flung himself into a seat and wrote wildly to Bob:--
'DEAR ROBERT,--I write these few lines to let you know that if you
want Anne Garland you must come at once--you must come instantly,
and post-haste--OR SHE WILL BE GONE! Somebody else wants her, and
she wants him! It is your last chance, in the opinion of--
'Your faithful brother and well-wisher,
'P.S.--Glad to hear of your promotion. Tell me the day and I'll
meet the coach.'
XXXIX. BOB LOVEDAY STRUTS UP AND DOWN
One night, about a week later, two men were walking in the dark
along the turnpike road towards Overcombe, one of them with a bag in
'Now,' said the taller of the two, the squareness of whose shoulders
signified that he wore epaulettes, 'now you must do the best you can
for yourself, Bob. I have done all I can; but th'hast thy work cut
out, I can tell thee.'
'I wouldn't have run such a risk for the world,' said the other, in
a tone of ingenuous contrition. 'But thou'st see, Jack, I didn't
think there was any danger, knowing you was taking care of her, and
keeping my place warm for me. I didn't hurry myself, that's true;
but, thinks I, if I get this promotion I am promised I shall
naturally have leave, and then I'll go and see 'em all. Gad, I
shouldn't have been here now but for your letter!'
'You little think what risks you've run,' said his brother.
'However, try to make up for lost time.'
'All right. And whatever you do, Jack, don't say a word about this
other girl. Hang the girl!--I was a great fool, I know; still, it
is over now, and I am come to my senses. I suppose Anne never
caught a capful of wind from that quarter?'
'She knows all about it,' said John seriously.
'Knows? By George, then, I'm ruined!' said Bob, standing
stock-still in the road as if he meant to remain there all night.
'That's what I meant by saying it would be a hard battle for 'ee,'
returned John, with the same quietness as before.
Bob sighed and moved on. 'I don't deserve that woman!' he cried
passionately, thumping his three upper ribs with his fist.
'I've thought as much myself,' observed John, with a dryness which
was almost bitter. 'But it depends on how thou'st behave in
'John,' said Bob, taking his brother's hand, 'I'll be a new man. I
solemnly swear by that eternal milestone staring at me there that
I'll never look at another woman with the thought of marrying her
whilst that darling is free--no, not if she be a mermaiden of light!
It's a lucky thing that I'm slipped in on the quarterdeck! it may
help me with her--hey?'
'It may with her mother; I don't think it will make much difference
with Anne. Still, it is a good thing; and I hope that some day
you'll command a big ship.'
Bob shook his head. 'Officers are scarce; but I'm afraid my luck
won't carry me so far as that.'
'Did she ever tell you that she mentioned your name to the King?'
The seaman stood still again. 'Never!' he said. 'How did such a
thing as that happen, in Heaven's name?'
John described in detail, and they walked on, lost in conjecture.
As soon as they entered the house the returned officer of the navy
was welcomed with acclamation by his father and David, with mild
approval by Mrs. Loveday, and by Anne not at all--that discreet
maiden having carefully retired to her own room some time earlier in
the evening. Bob did not dare to ask for her in any positive
manner; he just inquired about her health, and that was all.
'Why, what's the matter with thy face, my son?' said the miller,
staring. 'David, show a light here.' And a candle was thrust
against Bob's cheek, where there appeared a jagged streak like the
geological remains of a lobster.
'O--that's where that rascally Frenchman's grenade busted and hit me
from the Redoubtable, you know, as I told 'ee in my letter.'
'Not a word!'
'What, didn't I tell 'ee? Ah, no; I meant to, but I forgot it.'
'And here's a sort of dint in yer forehead too; what do that mean,
my dear boy?' said the miller, putting his finger in a chasm in
'That was done in the Indies. Yes, that was rather a troublesome
chop--a cutlass did it. I should have told 'ee, but I found 'twould
make my letter so long that I put it off, and put it off; and at
last thought it wasn't worth while.'
John soon rose to take his departure.
'It's all up with me and her, you see,' said Bob to him outside the
door. 'She's not even going to see me.'
'Wait a little,' said the trumpet-major. It was easy enough on the
night of the arrival, in the midst of excitement, when blood was
warm, for Anne to be resolute in her avoidance of Bob Loveday. But
in the morning determination is apt to grow invertebrate; rules of
pugnacity are less easily acted up to, and a feeling of live and let
live takes possession of the gentle soul. Anne had not meant even
to sit down to the same breakfast-table with Bob; but when the rest
were assembled, and had got some way through the substantial repast
which was served at this hour in the miller's house, Anne entered.
She came silently as a phantom, her eyes cast down, her cheeks pale.
It was a good long walk from the door to the table, and Bob made a
full inspection of her as she came up to a chair at the remotest
corner, in the direct rays of the morning light, where she dumbly
sat herself down.
It was altogether different from how she had expected. Here was
she, who had done nothing, feeling all the embarrassment; and Bob,
who had done the wrong, feeling apparently quite at ease.
'You'll speak to Bob, won't you, honey?' said the miller after a
silence. To meet Bob like this after an absence seemed irregular in
'If he wish me to,' she replied, so addressing the miller that no
part, scrap, or outlying beam whatever of her glance passed near the
subject of her remark.
'He's a lieutenant, you know, dear,' said her mother on the same
side; 'and he's been dreadfully wounded.'
'Oh?' said Anne, turning a little towards the false one; at which
Bob felt it to be time for him to put in a spoke for himself.
'I am glad to see you,' he said contritely; 'and how do you do?'
'Very well, thank you.'
He extended his hand. She allowed him to take hers, but only to the
extent of a niggardly inch or so. At the same moment she glanced up
at him, when their eyes met, and hers were again withdrawn.
The hitch between the two younger members of the household tended to
make the breakfast a dull one. Bob was so depressed by her
unforgiving manner that he could not throw that sparkle into his
stories which their substance naturally required; and when the meal
was over, and they went about their different businesses, the pair
resembled the two Dromios in seldom or never being, thanks to Anne's
subtle contrivances, both in the same room at the same time.
This kind of performance repeated itself during several days. At
last, after dogging her hither and thither, leaning with a wrinkled
forehead against doorposts, taking an oblique view into the room
where she happened to be, picking up worsted balls and getting no
thanks, placing a splinter from the Victory, several bullets from
the Redoubtable, a strip of the flag, and other interesting relics,
carefully labelled, upon her table, and hearing no more about them
than if they had been pebbles from the nearest brook, he hit upon a
new plan. To avoid him she frequently sat upstairs in a window
overlooking the garden. Lieutenant Loveday carefully dressed
himself in a new uniform, which he had caused to be sent some days
before, to dazzle admiring friends, but which he had never as yet
put on in public or mentioned to a soul. When arrayed he entered
the sunny garden, and there walked slowly up and down as he had seen
Nelson and Captain Hardy do on the quarter-deck; but keeping his
right shoulder, on which his one epaulette was fixed, as much
towards Anne's window as possible.
But she made no sign, though there was not the least question that
she saw him. At the end of half-an-hour he went in, took off his
clothes, and gave himself up to doubt and the best tobacco.
He repeated the programme on the next afternoon, and on the next,
never saying a word within doors about his doings or his notice.
Meanwhile the results in Anne's chamber were not uninteresting. She
had been looking out on the first day, and was duly amazed to see a
naval officer in full uniform promenading in the path. Finding it
to be Bob, she left the window with a sense that the scene was not
for her; then, from mere curiosity, peeped out from behind the
curtain. Well, he was a pretty spectacle, she admitted, relieved as
his figure was by a dense mass of sunny, close-trimmed hedge, over
which nasturtiums climbed in wild luxuriance; and if she could care
for him one bit, which she couldn't, his form would have been a
delightful study, surpassing in interest even its splendour on the
memorable day of their visit to the town theatre. She called her
mother; Mrs. Loveday came promptly.
'O, it is nothing,' said Anne indifferently; 'only that Bob has got
Mrs. Loveday peeped out, and raised her hands with delight. 'And he
has not said a word to us about it! What a lovely epaulette! I
must call his father.'
'No, indeed. As I take no interest in him I shall not let people
come into my room to admire him.'
'Well, you called me,' said her mother.
'It was because I thought you liked fine clothes. It is what I
don't care for.'
Notwithstanding this assertion she again looked out at Bob the next
afternoon when his footsteps rustled on the gravel, and studied his
appearance under all the varying angles of the sunlight, as if fine
clothes and uniforms were not altogether a matter of indifference.
He certainly was a splendid, gentlemanly, and gallant sailor from
end to end of him; but then, what were a dashing presentment, a
naval rank, and telling scars, if a man was fickle-hearted?
However, she peeped on till the fourth day, and then she did not
peep. The window was open, she looked right out, and Bob knew that
he had got a rise to his bait at last. He touched his hat to her,
keeping his right shoulder forwards, and said, 'Good-day, Miss
Garland,' with a smile.
Anne replied, 'Good-day,' with funereal seriousness; and the
acquaintance thus revived led to the interchange of a few words at
supper-time, at which Mrs. Loveday nodded with satisfaction. But
Anne took especial care that he should never meet her alone, and to
insure this her ingenuity was in constant exercise. There were so
many nooks and windings on the miller's rambling premises that she
could never be sure he would not turn up within a foot of her,
particularly as his thin shoes were almost noiseless.
One fine afternoon she accompanied Molly in search of elderberries
for making the family wine which was drunk by Mrs. Loveday, Anne,
and anybody who could not stand the rougher and stronger liquors
provided by the miller. After walking rather a long distance over
the down they came to a grassy hollow, where elder-bushes in knots
of twos and threes rose from an uneven bank and hung their heads
towards the south, black and heavy with bunches of fruit. The charm
of fruit-gathering to girls is enhanced in the case of elderberries
by the inoffensive softness of the leaves, boughs, and bark, which
makes getting into the branches easy and pleasant to the most
indifferent climbers. Anne and Molly had soon gathered a basketful,
and sending the servant home with it, Anne remained in the bush
picking and throwing down bunch by bunch upon the grass. She was so
absorbed in her occupation of pulling the twigs towards her, and the
rustling of their leaves so filled her ears, that it was a great
surprise when, on turning her head, she perceived a similar movement
to her own among the boughs of the adjoining bush.
At first she thought they were disturbed by being partly in contact
with the boughs of her bush; but in a moment Robert Loveday's face
peered from them, at a distance of about a yard from her own. Anne
uttered a little indignant 'Well!' recovered herself, and went on
plucking. Bob thereupon went on plucking likewise.
'I am picking elderberries for your mother,' said the lieutenant at
'So I see.'
'And I happen to have come to the next bush to yours.'
'So I see; but not the reason why.'
Anne was now in the westernmost branches of the bush, and Bob had
leant across into the eastern branches of his. In gathering he
swayed towards her, back again, forward again.
'I beg pardon,' he said, when a further swing than usual had taken
him almost in contact with her.
'Then why do you do it?'
'The wind rocks the bough, and the bough rocks me.' She expressed
by a look her opinion of this statement in the face of the gentlest
breeze; and Bob pursued: 'I am afraid the berries will stain your
'I wear gloves.'
'Ah, that's a plan I should never have thought of. Can I help you?'
'Not at all.'
'You are offended: that's what that means.'
'No,' she said.
'Then will you shake hands?'
Anne hesitated; then slowly stretched out her hand, which he took at
once. 'That will do,' she said, finding that he did not relinquish
it immediately. But as he still held it, she pulled, the effect of
which was to draw Bob's swaying person, bough and all, towards her,
and herself towards him.
'I am afraid to let go your hand,' said that officer, 'for if I do
your spar will fly back, and you will be thrown upon the deck with
'I wish you to let me go!'
He accordingly did, and she flew back, but did not by any means
'It reminds me of the times when I used to be aloft clinging to a
yard not much bigger than this tree-stem, in the mid-Atlantic, and
thinking about you. I could see you in my fancy as plain as I see
'Me, or some other woman!' retorted Anne haughtily.
'No!' declared Bob, shaking the bush for emphasis, 'I'll protest
that I did not think of anybody but you all the time we were
dropping down channel, all the time we were off Cadiz, all the time
through battles and bombardments. I seemed to see you in the smoke,
and, thinks I, if I go to Davy's locker, what will she do?'
'You didn't think that when you landed after Trafalgar.'
'Well, now,' said the lieutenant in a reasoning tone; 'that was a
curious thing. You'll hardly believe it, maybe; but when a man is
away from the woman he loves best in the port--world, I mean--he can
have a sort of temporary feeling for another without disturbing the
old one, which flows along under the same as ever.'
'I can't believe it, and won't,' said Anne firmly.
Molly now appeared with the empty basket, and when it had been
filled from the heap on the grass, Anne went home with her, bidding
Loveday a frigid adieu.
The same evening, when Bob was absent, the miller proposed that they
should all three go to an upper window of the house, to get a
distant view of some rockets and illuminations which were to be
exhibited in the town and harbour in honour of the King, who had
returned this year as usual. They accordingly went upstairs to an
empty attic, placed chairs against the window, and put out the
light; Anne sitting in the middle, her mother close by, and the
miller behind, smoking. No sign of any pyrotechnic display was
visible over the port as yet, and Mrs. Loveday passed the time by
talking to the miller, who replied in monosyllables. While this was
going on Anne fancied that she heard some one approach, and
presently felt sure that Bob was drawing near her in the surrounding
darkness; but as the other two had noticed nothing she said not a
All at once the swarthy expanse of southward sky was broken by the
blaze of several rockets simultaneously ascending from different
ships in the roads. At the very same moment a warm mysterious hand
slipped round her own, and gave it a gentle squeeze.
'O dear!' said Anne, with a sudden start away.
'How nervous you are, child, to be startled by fireworks so far
off,' said Mrs. Loveday.
'I never saw rockets before,' murmured Anne, recovering from her
Mrs. Loveday presently spoke again. 'I wonder what has become of
Anne did not reply, being much exercised in trying to get her hand
away from the one that imprisoned it; and whatever the miller
thought he kept to himself, because it disturbed his smoking to
Another batch of rockets went up. 'O I never!' said Anne, in a
half-suppressed tone, springing in her chair. A second hand had
with the rise of the rockets leapt round her waist.
'Poor girl, you certainly must have change of scene at this rate,'
said Mrs. Loveday.
'I suppose I must,' murmured the dutiful daughter.
For some minutes nothing further occurred to disturb Anne's
serenity. Then a slow, quiet 'a-hem' came from the obscurity of the
'What, Bob? How long have you been there?' inquired Mrs. Loveday.
'Not long,' said the lieutenant coolly. 'I heard you were all here,
and crept up quietly, not to disturb ye.'
'Why don't you wear heels to your shoes like Christian people, and
not creep about so like a cat?'
'Well, it keeps your floors clean to go slip-shod.'
Meanwhile Anne was gently but firmly trying to pull Bob's arm from
her waist, her distressful difficulty being that in freeing her
waist she enslaved her hand, and in getting her hand free she
enslaved her waist. Finding the struggle a futile one, owing to the
invisibility of her antagonist, and her wish to keep its nature
secret from the other two, she arose, and saying that she did not
care to see any more, felt her way downstairs. Bob followed,
leaving Loveday and his wife to themselves.
'Dear Anne,' he began, when he had got down, and saw her in the
candle-light of the large room. But she adroitly passed out at the
other door, at which he took a candle and followed her to the small
room. 'Dear Anne, do let me speak,' he repeated, as soon as the
rays revealed her figure. But she passed into the bakehouse before
he could say more; whereupon he perseveringly did the same. Looking
round for her here he perceived her at the end of the room, where
there were no means of exit whatever.
'Dear Anne,' he began again, setting down the candle, 'you must try
to forgive me; really you must. I love you the best of anybody in
the wide, wide world. Try to forgive me; come!' And he imploringly
took her hand.
Anne's bosom began to surge and fall like a small tide, her eyes
remaining fixed upon the floor; till, when Loveday ventured to draw
her slightly towards him, she burst out crying. 'I don't like you,
Bob; I don't!' she suddenly exclaimed between her sobs. 'I did
once, but I don't now--I can't, I can't; you have been very cruel to
me!' She violently turned away, weeping.
'I have, I have been terribly bad, I know,' answered Bob,
conscience-stricken by her grief. 'But--if you could only forgive
me--I promise that I'll never do anything to grieve 'ee again. Do
you forgive me, Anne?'
Anne's only reply was crying and shaking her head.
'Let's make it up. Come, say we have made it up, dear.'
She withdrew her hand, and still keeping her eyes buried in her
handkerchief, said 'No.'
'Very well, then!' exclaimed Bob, with sudden determination. 'Now I
know my doom! And whatever you hear of as happening to me, mind
this, you cruel girl, that it is all your causing!' Saying this he
strode with a hasty tread across the room into the passage and out
at the door, slamming it loudly behind him.
Anne suddenly looked up from her handkerchief, and stared with round
wet eyes and parted lips at the door by which he had gone. Having
remained with suspended breath in this attitude for a few seconds
she turned round, bent her head upon the table, and burst out
weeping anew with thrice the violence of the former time. It really
seemed now as if her grief would overwhelm her, all the emotions
which had been suppressed, bottled up, and concealed since Bob's
return having made themselves a sluice at last.
But such things have their end; and left to herself in the large,
vacant, old apartment, she grew quieter, and at last calm. At
length she took the candle and ascended to her bedroom, where she
bathed her eyes and looked in the glass to see if she had made
herself a dreadful object. It was not so bad as she had expected,
and she went downstairs again.
Nobody was there, and, sitting down, she wondered what Bob had
really meant by his words. It was too dreadful to think that he
intended to go straight away to sea without seeing her again, and
frightened at what she had done she waited anxiously for his return.
XL. A CALL ON BUSINESS
Her suspense was interrupted by a very gentle tapping at the door,
and then the rustle of a hand over its surface, as if searching for
the latch in the dark. The door opened a few inches, and the
alabaster face of Uncle Benjy appeared in the slit.
'O, Squire Derriman, you frighten me!'
'All alone?' he asked in a whisper.
'My mother and Mr. Loveday are somewhere about the house.'
'That will do,' he said, coming forward. 'I be wherrited out of my
life, and I have thought of you again--you yourself, dear Anne, and
not the miller. If you will only take this and lock it up for a few
days till I can find another good place for it--if you only would!'
And he breathlessly deposited the tin box on the table.
'What, obliged to dig it up from the cellar?'
'Ay; my nephew hath a scent of the place--how, I don't know! but he
and a young woman he's met with are searching everywhere. I worked
like a wire-drawer to get it up and away while they were scraping in
the next cellar. Now where could ye put it, dear? 'Tis only a few
documents, and my will, and such like, you know. Poor soul o' me,
I'm worn out with running and fright!'
'I'll put it here till I can think of a better place,' said Anne,
lifting the box. 'Dear me, how heavy it is!'
'Yes, yes,' said Uncle Benjy hastily; 'the box is iron, you see.
However, take care of it, because I am going to make it worth your
while. Ah, you are a good girl, Anne. I wish you was mine!'
Anne looked at Uncle Benjy. She had known for some time that she
possessed all the affection he had to bestow.
'Why do you wish that?' she said simply.
'Now don't ye argue with me. Where d'ye put the coffer?'
'Here,' said Anne, going to the window-seat, which rose as a flap,
disclosing a boxed receptacle beneath, as in many old houses.
''Tis very well for the present,' he said dubiously, and they
dropped the coffer in, Anne locking down the seat, and giving him
the key. 'Now I don't want ye to be on my side for nothing,' he
went on. 'I never did now, did I? This is for you.' He handed her
a little packet of paper, which Anne turned over and looked at
curiously. 'I always meant to do it,' continued Uncle Benjy, gazing
at the packet as it lay in her hand, and sighing. 'Come, open it,
my dear; I always meant to do it!'
She opened it and found twenty new guineas snugly packed within.
'Yes, they are for you. I always meant to do it!' he said, sighing
'But you owe me nothing!' returned Anne, holding them out.
'Don't say it!' cried Uncle Benjy, covering his eyes. 'Put 'em
away. . . . Well, if you DON'T want 'em--But put 'em away, dear
Anne; they are for you, because you have kept my counsel.
Good-night t'ye. Yes, they are for you.'
He went a few steps, and turning back added anxiously, 'You won't
spend 'em in clothes, or waste 'em in fairings, or ornaments of any
kind, my dear girl?'
'I will not,' said Anne. 'I wish you would have them.'
'No, no,' said Uncle Benjy, rushing off to escape their shine. But
he had got no further than the passage when he returned again.
'And you won't lend 'em to anybody, or put 'em into the bank--for no
bank is safe in these troublous times?. . . If I was you I'd keep
them EXACTLY as they be, and not spend 'em on any account. Shall I
lock them into my box for ye?'
'Certainly,' said she; and the farmer rapidly unlocked the
window-bench, opened the box, and locked them in.
''Tis much the best plan,' he said with great satisfaction as he
returned the keys to his pocket. 'There they will always be safe,
you see, and you won't be exposed to temptation.'
When the old man had been gone a few minutes, the miller and his
wife came in, quite unconscious of all that had passed. Anne's
anxiety about Bob was again uppermost now, and she spoke but
meagrely of old Derriman's visit, and nothing of what he had left.
She would fain have asked them if they knew where Bob was, but that
she did not wish to inform them of the rupture. She was forced to
admit to herself that she had somewhat tried his patience, and that
impulsive men had been known to do dark things with themselves at
They sat down to supper, the clock ticked rapidly on, and at length
the miller said, 'Bob is later than usual. Where can he be?'
As they both looked at her, she could no longer keep the secret.
'It is my fault,' she cried; 'I have driven him away! What shall I
The nature of the quarrel was at once guessed, and her two elders
said no more. Anne rose and went to the front door, where she
listened for every sound with a palpitating heart. Then she went
in; then she went out: and on one occasion she heard the miller
say, 'I wonder what hath passed between Bob and Anne. I hope the
chap will come home.'
Just about this time light footsteps were heard without, and Bob
bounced into the passage. Anne, who stood back in the dark while he
passed, followed him into the room, where her mother and the miller
were on the point of retiring to bed, candle in hand.
'I have kept ye up, I fear,' began Bob cheerily, and apparently
without the faintest recollection of his tragic exit from the house.
'But the truth on't is, I met with Fess Derriman at the "Duke of
York" as I went from here, and there we have been playing Put ever
since, not noticing how the time was going. I haven't had a good
chat with the fellow for years and years, and really he is an out
and out good comrade--a regular hearty! Poor fellow, he's been very
badly used. I never heard the rights of the story till now; but it
seems that old uncle of his treats him shamefully. He has been
hiding away his money, so that poor Fess might not have a farthing,
till at last the young man has turned, like any other worm, and is
now determined to ferret out what he has done with it. The poor
young chap hadn't a farthing of ready money till I lent him a couple
of guineas--a thing I never did more willingly in my life. But the
man was very honourable. "No; no," says he, "don't let me deprive
ye." He's going to marry, and what may you think he is going to do
'For love, I hope,' said Anne's mother.
'For money, I suppose, since he's so short,' said the miller.
'No,' said Bob, 'for SPITE. He has been badly served--deuced badly
served--by a woman. I never heard of a more heartless case in my
life. The poor chap wouldn't mention names, but it seems this young
woman has trifled with him in all manner of cruel ways--pushed him
into the river, tried to steal his horse when he was called out to
defend his country--in short, served him rascally. So I gave him
the two guineas and said, "Now let's drink to the hussy's
'O!' said Anne, having approached behind him.
Bob turned and saw her, and at the same moment Mr. and Mrs. Loveday
discreetly retired by the other door.
'Is it peace?' he asked tenderly.
'O yes,' she anxiously replied. 'I--didn't mean to make you think I
had no heart.' At this Bob inclined his countenance towards hers.
'No,' she said, smiling through two incipient tears as she drew
back. 'You are to show good behaviour for six months, and you must
promise not to frighten me again by running off when I--show you how
badly you have served me.'
'I am yours obedient--in anything,' cried Bob. 'But am I pardoned?'
Youth is foolish; and does a woman often let her reasoning in favour
of the worthier stand in the way of her perverse desire for the less
worthy at such times as these? She murmured some soft words, ending
with 'Do you repent?'
It would be superfluous to transcribe Bob's answer.
Footsteps were heard without.
'O begad; I forgot!' said Bob. 'He's waiting out there for a
'My friend Derriman.'
'But, Bob, I have to explain.'
But Festus had by this time entered the lobby, and Anne, with a
hasty 'Get rid of him at once!' vanished upstairs.
Here she waited and waited, but Festus did not seem inclined to
depart; and at last, foreboding some collision of interests from
Bob's new friendship for this man, she crept into a storeroom which
was over the apartment into which Loveday and Festus had gone. By
looking through a knot-hole in the floor it was easy to command a
view of the room beneath, this being unceiled, with moulded beams
Festus had sat down on the hollow window-bench, and was continuing
the statement of his wrongs. 'If he only knew what he was sitting
upon,' she thought apprehensively, 'how easily he could tear up the
flap, lock and all, with his strong arm, and seize upon poor Uncle
Benjy's possessions!' But he did not appear to know, unless he were
acting, which was just possible. After a while he rose, and going
to the table lifted the candle to light his pipe. At the moment
when the flame began diving into the bowl the door noiselessly
opened and a figure slipped across the room to the window-bench,
hastily unlocked it, withdrew the box, and beat a retreat. Anne in
a moment recognized the ghostly intruder as Festus Derriman's uncle.
Before he could get out of the room Festus set down the candle and
'What--Uncle Benjy--haw, haw! Here at this time of night?'
Uncle Benjy's eyes grew paralyzed, and his mouth opened and shut
like a frog's in a drought, the action producing no sound.
'What have we got here--a tin box--the box of boxes? Why, I'll
carry it for 'ee, uncle!--I am going home.'
'N--no--no, thanky, Festus: it is n--n--not heavy at all, thanky,'
gasped the squireen.
'O but I must,' said Festus, pulling at the box.
'Don't let him have it, Bob!' screamed the excited Anne through the
hole in the floor.
'No, don't let him!' cried the uncle. ''Tis a plot--there's a woman
at the window waiting to help him!'
Anne's eyes flew to the window, and she saw Matilda's face pressed
against the pane.
Bob, though he did not know whence Anne's command proceeded obeyed
with alacrity, pulled the box from the two relatives, and placed it
on the table beside him.
'Now, look here, hearties; what's the meaning o' this?' he said.
'He's trying to rob me of all I possess!' cried the old man. 'My
heart-strings seem as if they were going crack, crack, crack!'
At this instant the miller in his shirt-sleeves entered the room,
having got thus far in his undressing when he heard the noise. Bob
and Festus turned to him to explain; and when the latter had had his
say Bob added, 'Well, all I know is that this box'--here he
stretched out his hand to lay it upon the lid for emphasis. But as
nothing but thin air met his fingers where the box had been, he
turned, and found that the box was gone, Uncle Benjy having vanished
Festus, with an imprecation, hastened to the door, but though the
night was not dark Farmer Derriman and his burden were nowhere to be
seen. On the bridge Festus joined a shadowy female form, and they
went along the road together, followed for some distance by Bob,
lest they should meet with and harm the old man. But the precaution
was unnecessary: nowhere on the road was there any sign of Farmer
Derriman, or of the box that belonged to him. When Bob re-entered
the house Anne and Mrs. Loveday had joined the miller downstairs,
and then for the first time he learnt who had been the heroine of
Festus's lamentable story, with many other particulars of that
yeoman's history which he had never before known. Bob swore that he
would not speak to the traitor again, and the family retired.
The escape of old Mr. Derriman from the annoyances of his nephew not
only held good for that night, but for next day, and for ever. Just
after dawn on the following morning a labouring man, who was going
to his work, saw the old farmer and landowner leaning over a rail in
a mead near his house, apparently engaged in contemplating the water
of a brook before him. Drawing near, the man spoke, but Uncle Benjy
did not reply. His head was hanging strangely, his body being
supported in its erect position entirely by the rail that passed
under each arm. On after-examination it was found that Uncle
Benjy's poor withered heart had cracked and stopped its beating from
damages inflicted on it by the excitements of his life, and of the
previous night in particular. The unconscious carcass was little
more than a light empty husk, dry and fleshless as that of a dead
heron found on a moor in January.
But the tin box was not discovered with or near him. It was
searched for all the week, and all the month. The mill-pond was
dragged, quarries were examined, woods were threaded, rewards were
offered; but in vain.
At length one day in the spring, when the mill-house was about to be
cleaned throughout, the chimney-board of Anne's bedroom, concealing
a yawning fire-place, had to be taken down. In the chasm behind it
stood the missing deed-box of Farmer Derriman.
Many were the conjectures as to how it had got there. Then Anne
remembered that on going to bed on the night of the collision
between Festus and his uncle in the room below, she had seen mud on
the carpet of her room, and the miller remembered that he had seen
footprints on the back staircase. The solution of the mystery
seemed to be that the late Uncle Benjy, instead of running off from
the house with his box, had doubled on getting out of the front
door, entered at the back, deposited his box in Anne's chamber where
it was found, and then leisurely pursued his way home at the heels
of Festus, intending to tell Anne of his trick the next day--an
intention that was for ever frustrated by the stroke of death.
Mr. Derriman's solicitor was a Casterbridge man, and Anne placed the
box in his hands. Uncle Benjy's will was discovered within; and by
this testament Anne's queer old friend appointed her sole executrix
of his said will, and, more than that, gave and bequeathed to the
same young lady all his real and personal estate, with the solitary
exception of five small freehold houses in a back street in
Budmouth, which were devised to his nephew Festus, as a sufficient
property to maintain him decently, without affording any margin for
extravagances. Oxwell Hall, with its muddy quadrangle, archways,
mullioned windows, cracked battlements, and weed-grown garden,
passed with the rest into the hands of Anne.
XLI. JOHN MARCHES INTO THE NIGHT
During this exciting time John Loveday seldom or never appeared at
the mill. With the recall of Bob, in which he had been sole agent,
his mission seemed to be complete.
One mid-day, before Anne had made any change in her manner of living
on account of her unexpected acquisition, Lieutenant Bob came in
rather suddenly. He had been to Budmouth, and announced to the
arrested senses of the family that the --th Dragoons were ordered to
join Sir Arthur Wellesley in the Peninsula.
These tidings produced a great impression on the household. John
had been so long in the neighbourhood, either at camp or in
barracks, that they had almost forgotten the possibility of his
being sent away; and they now began to reflect upon the singular
infrequency of his calls since his brother's return. There was not
much time, however, for reflection, if they wished to make the most
of John's farewell visit, which was to be paid the same evening, the
departure of the regiment being fixed for next day. A hurried
valedictory supper was prepared during the afternoon, and shortly
afterwards John arrived.
He seemed to be more thoughtful and a trifle paler than of old, but
beyond these traces, which might have been due to the natural wear
and tear of time, he showed no signs of gloom. On his way through
the town that morning a curious little incident had occurred to him.
He was walking past one of the churches when a wedding-party came
forth, the bride and bridegroom being Matilda and Festus Derriman.
At sight of the trumpet-major the yeoman had glared triumphantly;
Matilda, on her part, had winked at him slily, as much as to say--.
But what she meant heaven knows: the trumpet-major did not trouble
himself to think, and passed on without returning the mark of
confidence with which she had favoured him.
Soon after John's arrival at the mill several of his friends dropped
in for the same purpose of bidding adieu. They were mostly the men
who had been entertained there on the occasion of the regiment's
advent on the down, when Anne and her mother were coaxed in to grace
the party by their superior presence; and their well-trained,
gallant manners were such as to make them interesting visitors now
as at all times. For it was a period when romance had not so
greatly faded out of military life as it has done in these days of
short service, heterogeneous mixing, and transient campaigns; when
the esprit de corps was strong, and long experience stamped
noteworthy professional characteristics even on rank and file; while
the miller's visitors had the additional advantage of being picked
They could not stay so long to-night as on that earlier and more
cheerful occasion, and the final adieus were spoken at an early
hour. It was no mere playing at departure, as when they had gone to
Exonbury barracks, and there was a warm and prolonged shaking of
hands all round.
'You'll wish the poor fellows good-bye?' said Bob to Anne, who had
not come forward for that purpose like the rest. 'They are going
away, and would like to have your good word.'
She then shyly advanced, and every man felt that he must make some
pretty speech as he shook her by the hand.
'Good-bye! May you remember us as long as it makes ye happy, and
forget us as soon as it makes ye sad,' said Sergeant Brett.
'Good-night! Health, wealth, and long life to ye!' said
Sergeant-major Wills, taking her hand from Brett.
'I trust to meet ye again as the wife of a worthy man,' said
'We'll drink your health throughout the campaign, and so good-bye
t'ye,' said Saddler-sergeant Jones, raising her hand to his lips.
Three others followed with similar remarks, to each of which Anne
blushingly replied as well as she could, wishing them a prosperous
voyage, easy conquest, and a speedy return.
But, alas, for that! Battles and skirmishes, advances and retreats,
fevers and fatigues, told hard on Anne's gallant friends in the
coming time. Of the seven upon whom these wishes were bestowed,
five, including the trumpet-major, were dead men within the few
following years, and their bones left to moulder in the land of
John lingered behind. When the others were outside, expressing a
final farewell to his father, Bob, and Mrs. Loveday, he came to
Anne, who remained within.
'But I thought you were going to look in again before leaving?' she
'No; I find I cannot. Good-bye!'
'John,' said Anne, holding his right hand in both hers, 'I must tell
you something. You were wise in not taking me at my word that day.
I was greatly mistaken about myself. Gratitude is not love, though
I wanted to make it so for the time. You don't call me thoughtless
for what I did?'
'My dear Anne,' cried John, with more gaiety than truthfulness,
'don't let yourself be troubled! What happens is for the best.
Soldiers love here to-day and there to-morrow. Who knows that you
won't hear of my attentions to some Spanish maid before a month is
gone by? 'Tis the way of us, you know; a soldier's heart is not
worth a week's purchase--ha, ha! Goodbye, good-bye!'
Anne felt the expediency of his manner, received the affectation as
real, and smiled her reply, not knowing that the adieu was for
evermore. Then with a tear in his eye he went out of the door,
where he bade farewell to the miller, Mrs. Loveday, and Bob, who
said at parting, 'It's all right, Jack, my dear fellow. After a
coaxing that would have been enough to win three ordinary
Englishwomen, five French, and ten Mulotters, she has to-day agreed
to bestow her hand upon me at the end of six months. Good-bye,
The candle held by his father shed its waving light upon John's face
and uniform as with a farewell smile he turned on the doorstone,
backed by the black night; and in another moment he had plunged into
the darkness, the ring of his smart step dying away upon the bridge
as he joined his companions-in-arms, and went off to blow his
trumpet till silenced for ever upon one of the bloody battle-fields