Old Mr. Derriman Of Oxwell Hall
At this time in the history of Overcombe one solitary newspaper occasionally found its
way into the village. It was lent by the postmaster at Budmouth (who, in some mysterious
way, got it for nothing through his connexion with the mail) to Mr. Derriman at the Hall,
by whom it was handed on to Mrs. Garland when it was not more than a fortnight old.
Whoever remembers anything about the old farmer-squire will, of course, know well
enough that this delightful privilege of reading history in long columns was not accorded
to the Widow Garland for nothing. It was by such ingenuous means that he paid her for
her daughter's occasional services in reading aloud to him and making out his accounts,
in which matters the farmer, whose guineas were reported to touch five figures--some
said more--was not expert.
Mrs. Martha Garland, as a respectable widow, occupied a twilight rank between the
benighted villagers and the well-informed gentry, and kindly made herself useful to the
former as letter-writer and reader, and general translator from the printing tongue. It was
not without satisfaction that she stood at her door of an evening, newspaper in hand, with
three or four cottagers standing round, and poured down their open throats any paragraph
that she might choose to select from the stirring ones of the period. When she had done
with the sheet Mrs. Garland passed it on to the miller, the miller to the grinder, and the
grinder to the grinder's boy, in whose hands it became subdivided into half pages, quarter
pages, and irregular triangles, and ended its career as a paper cap, a flagon bung, or a
wrapper for his bread and cheese.
Notwithstanding his compact with Mrs. Garland, old Mr. Derriman kept the paper so
long, and was so chary of wasting his man's time on a merely intellectual errand, that
unless she sent for the journal it seldom reached her hands. Anne was always her
messenger. The arrival of the soldiers led Mrs. Garland to despatch her daughter for it the
day after the party; and away she went in her hat and pelisse, in a direction at right angles
to that of the encampment on the hill.
Walking across the fields for the distance of a mile or two, she came out upon the high-
road by a wicket-gate. On the other side of the way was the entrance to what at first sight
looked like a neglected meadow, the gate being a rotten one, without a bottom rail, and
broken-down palings lying on each side. The dry hard mud of the opening was marked
with several horse and cow tracks, that had been half obliterated by fifty score sheep
tracks, surcharged with the tracks of a man and a dog. Beyond this geological record
appeared a carriage-road, nearly grown over with grass, which Anne followed. It
descended by a gentle slope, dived under dark-rinded elm and chestnut trees, and
conducted her on till the hiss of a waterfall and the sound of the sea became audible,
when it took a bend round a swamp of fresh watercress and brooklime that had once been
a fish pond. Here the grey, weather-worn front of a building edged from behind the trees.
It was Oxwell Hall, once the seat of a family now extinct, and of late years used as a