Later In The Evening Of The Same Day
When they reached home the sun was going down. It had already been noised abroad that
miller Loveday had received a letter, and, his cart having been heard coming up the lane,
the population of Overcombe drew down towards the mill as soon as he had gone
indoors- -a sudden flash of brightness from the window showing that he had struck such
an early light as nothing but the immediate deciphering of literature could require. Letters
were matters of public moment, and everybody in the parish had an interest in the reading
of those rare documents; so that when the miller had placed the candle, slanted himself,
and called in Mrs. Garland to have her opinion on the meaning of any hieroglyphics that
he might encounter in his course, he found that he was to be additionally assisted by the
opinions of the other neighbours, whose persons appeared in the doorway, partly
covering each other like a hand of cards, yet each showing a large enough piece of
himself for identification. To pass the time while they were arranging themselves, the
miller adopted his usual way of filling up casual intervals, that of snuffing the candle.
'We heard you had got a letter, Maister Loveday,' they said.
'Yes; "Southampton, the twelfth of August, dear father,"' said Loveday; and they were as
silent as relations at the reading of a will. Anne, for whom the letter had a singular
fascination, came in with her mother and sat down.
Bob stated in his own way that having, since landing, taken into consideration his father's
wish that he should renounce a seafaring life and become a partner in the mill, he had
decided to agree to the proposal; and with that object in view he would return to
Overcombe in three days from the time of writing.
He then said incidentally that since his voyage he had been in lodgings at Southampton,
and during that time had become acquainted with a lovely and virtuous young maiden, in
whom he found the exact qualities necessary to his happiness. Having known this lady
for the full space of a fortnight he had had ample opportunities of studying her character,
and, being struck with the recollection that, if there was one thing more than another
necessary in a mill which had no mistress, it was somebody who could play that part with
grace and dignity, he had asked Miss Matilda Johnson to be his wife. In her kindness she,
though sacrificing far better prospects, had agreed; and he could not but regard it as a
happy chance that he should have found at the nick of time such a woman to adorn his
home, whose innocence was as stunning as her beauty. Without much ado, therefore, he
and she had arranged to be married at once, and at Overcombe, that his father might not
be deprived of the pleasures of the wedding feast. She had kindly consented to follow
him by land in the course of a few days, and to live in the house as their guest for the
week or so previous to the ceremony.