The Song And The Stranger
The trumpet-major now contrived to place himself near her, Anne's presence having
evidently been a great pleasure to him since the moment of his first seeing her. She was
quite at her ease with him, and asked him if he thought that Buonaparte would really
come during the summer, and many other questions which the gallant dragoon could not
answer, but which he nevertheless liked to be asked. William Tremlett, who had not
enjoyed a sound night's rest since the First Consul's menace had become known, pricked
up his ears at sound of this subject, and inquired if anybody had seen the terrible flat-
bottomed boats that the enemy were to cross in.
'My brother Robert saw several of them paddling about the shore the last time he passed
the Straits of Dover,' said the trumpet-major; and he further startled the company by
informing them that there were supposed to be more than fifteen hundred of these boats,
and that they would carry a hundred men apiece. So that a descent of one hundred and
fifty thousand men might be expected any day as soon as Boney had brought his plans to
'Lord ha' mercy upon us!' said William Tremlett.
'The night-time is when they will try it, if they try it at all,' said old Tullidge, in the tone
of one whose watch at the beacon must, in the nature of things, have given him
comprehensive views of the situation. 'It is my belief that the point they will choose for
making the shore is just over there,' and he nodded with indifference towards a section of
the coast at a hideous nearness to the house in which they were assembled, whereupon
Fencible Tremlett, and Cripplestraw of the Locals, tried to show no signs of trepidation.
'When d'ye think 'twill be?' said Volunteer Comfort, the blacksmith.
'I can't answer to a day,' said the corporal, 'but it will certainly be in a down-channel tide;
and instead of pulling hard against it, he'll let his boats drift, and that will bring 'em right
into Budmouth Bay. 'Twill be a beautiful stroke of war, if so be 'tis quietly done!'
'Beautiful,' said Cripplestraw, moving inside his clothes. 'But how if we should be all
abed, corpel? You can't expect a man to be brave in his shirt, especially we Locals, that
have only got so far as shoulder fire-locks.'
'He's not coming this summer. He'll never come at all,' said a tall sergeant-major
Loveday the soldier was too much engaged in attending upon Anne and her mother to
join in these surmises, bestirring himself to get the ladies some of the best liquor the
house afforded, which had, as a matter of fact, crossed the Channel as privately as
Buonaparte wished his army to do, and had been landed on a dark night over the cliff.
After this he asked Anne to sing, but though she had a very pretty voice in private