THE MILL BECOMES AN IMPORTANT CENTRE OF
The next morning Miss Garland awoke with an impression that something more than
usual was going on, and she recognized as soon as she could clearly reason that the
proceedings, whatever they might be, lay not far away from her bedroom window. The
sounds were chiefly those of pickaxes and shovels. Anne got up, and, lifting the corner of
the curtain about an inch, peeped out.
A number of soldiers were busily engaged in making a zigzag path down the incline from
the camp to the river-head at the back of the house, and judging from the quantity of
work already got through they must have begun very early. Squads of men were working
at several equidistant points in the proposed pathway, and by the time that Anne had
dressed herself each section of the length had been connected with those above and below
it, so that a continuous and easy track was formed from the crest of the down to the
bottom of the steep.
The down rested on a bed of solid chalk, and the surface exposed by the roadmakers
formed a white ribbon, serpenting from top to bottom.
Then the relays of working soldiers all disappeared, and, not long after, a troop of
dragoons in watering order rode forward at the top and began to wind down the new path.
They came lower and closer, and at last were immediately beneath her window, gathering
themselves up on the space by the mill-pond. A number of the horses entered it at the
shallow part, drinking and splashing and tossing about. Perhaps as many as thirty, half of
them with riders on their backs, were in the water at one time; the thirsty animals drank,
stamped, flounced, and drank again, letting the clear, cool water dribble luxuriously from
their mouths. Miller Loveday was looking on from over his garden hedge, and many
admiring villagers were gathered around.
Gazing up higher, Anne saw other troops descending by the new road from the camp,
those which had already been to the pond making room for these by withdrawing along
the village lane and returning to the top by a circuitous route.
Suddenly the miller exclaimed, as in fulfilment of expectation, 'Ah, John, my boy; good
morning!' And the reply of 'Morning, father,' came from a well-mounted soldier near him,
who did not, however, form one of the watering party. Anne could not see his face very
clearly, but she had no doubt that this was John Loveday.
There were tones in the voice which reminded her of old times, those of her very infancy,
when Johnny Loveday had been top boy in the village school, and had wanted to learn
painting of her father. The deeps and shallows of the mill-pond being better known to
him than to any other man in the camp, he had apparently come down on that account,
and was cautioning some of the horsemen against riding too far in towards the mill-head.