Our People Are Affected By The Presence Of Royalty
To explain the miller's sudden proposal it is only necessary to go back to that moment
when Anne, Festus, and Mrs. Garland were talking together on the down. John Loveday
had fallen behind so as not to interfere with a meeting in which he was decidedly
superfluous; and his father, who guessed the trumpet-major's secret, watched his face as
he stood. John's face was sad, and his eyes followed Mrs. Garland's encouraging manner
to Festus in a way which plainly said that every parting of her lips was tribulation to him.
The miller loved his son as much as any miller or private gentleman could do, and he was
pained to see John's gloom at such a trivial circumstance. So what did he resolve but to
help John there and then by precipitating a matter which, had he himself been the only
person concerned, he would have delayed for another six months.
He had long liked the society of his impulsive, tractable neighbour, Mrs. Garland; had
mentally taken her up and pondered her in connexion with the question whether it would
not be for the happiness of both if she were to share his home, even though she was a
little his superior in antecedents and knowledge. In fact he loved her; not tragically, but to
a very creditable extent for his years; that is, next to his sons, Bob and John, though he
knew very well of that ploughed-ground appearance near the corners of her once
handsome eyes, and that the little depression in her right cheek was not the lingering
dimple it was poetically assumed to be, but a result of the abstraction of some worn-out
nether millstones within the cheek by Rootle, the Budmouth man, who lived by such
practices on the heads of the elderly. But what of that, when he had lost two to each one
of hers, and exceeded her in age by some eight years! To do John a service, then, he
quickened his designs, and put the question to her while they were standing under the
eyes of the younger pair.
Mrs. Garland, though she had been interested in the miller for a long time, and had for a
moment now and then thought on this question as far as, 'Suppose he should, 'If he were
to,' and so on, had never thought much further; and she was really taken by surprise when
the question came. She answered without affectation that she would think over the
proposal; and thus they parted.
Her mother's infirmity of purpose set Anne thinking, and she was suddenly filled with a
conviction that in such a case she ought to have some purpose herself. Mrs. Garland's
complacency at the miller's offer had, in truth, amazed her. While her mother had held up
her head, and recommended Festus, it had seemed a very pretty thing to rebel; but the
pressure being removed an awful sense of her own responsibility took possession of her
mind. As there was no longer anybody to be wise or ambitious for her, surely she should
be wise and ambitious for herself, discountenance her mother's attachment, and
encourage Festus in his addresses, for her own and her mother's good. There had been a
time when a Loveday thrilled her own heart; but that was long ago, before she had
thought of position or differences. To wake into cold daylight like this, when and because
her mother had gone into the land of romance, was dreadful and new to her, and like an
increase of years without living them.