The Conversation In The Crowd
In the afternoon they drove off, John Loveday being nowhere visible. All along the road
they passed and were overtaken by vehicles of all descriptions going in the same
direction; among them the extraordinary machines which had been invented for the
conveyance of troops to any point of the coast on which the enemy should land; they
consisted of four boards placed across a sort of trolly, thirty men of the volunteer
companies riding on each.
The popular Georgian watering-place was in a paroxysm of gaiety. The town was quite
overpowered by the country round, much to the town's delight and profit. The fear of
invasion was such that six frigates lay in the roads to ensure the safety of the royal
family, and from the regiments of horse and foot quartered at the barracks, or encamped
on the hills round about, a picket of a thousand men mounted guard every day in front of
Gloucester Lodge, where the King resided. When Anne and her attendant reached this
point, which they did on foot, stabling the horse on the outskirts of the town, it was about
six o'clock. The King was on the Esplanade, and the soldiers were just marching past to
mount guard. The band formed in front of the King, and all the officers saluted as they
Anne now felt herself close to and looking into the stream of recorded history, within
whose banks the littlest things are great, and outside which she and the general bulk of
the human race were content to live on as an unreckoned, unheeded superfluity.
When she turned from her interested gaze at this scene, there stood John Loveday. She
had had a presentiment that he would turn up in this mysterious way. It was marvellous
that he could have got there so quickly; but there he was--not looking at the King, or at
the crowd, but waiting for the turn of her head.
'Trumpet-major, I didn't see you,' said Anne demurely. 'How is it that your regiment is
not marching past?'
'We take it by turns, and it is not our turn,' said Loveday.
She wanted to know then if they were afraid that the King would be carried off by the
First Consul. Yes, Loveday told her; and his Majesty was rather venturesome. A day or
two before he had gone so far to sea that he was nearly caught by some of the enemy's
cruisers. 'He is anxious to fight Boney single-handed,' he said.
'What a good, brave King!' said Anne.
Loveday seemed anxious to come to more personal matters. 'Will you let me take you
round to the other side, where you can see better?' he asked. 'The Queen and the
princesses are at the window.'