The Trumpet-Major HTML version

How Everybody Great And Small Climbed To The Top Of
The Downs
As the days went on, echoes of the life and bustle of the town reached the ears of the
quiet people in Overcombe hollow--exciting and moving those unimportant natives as a
ground-swell moves the weeds in a cave. Travelling-carriages of all kinds and colours
climbed and descended the road that led towards the seaside borough. Some contained
those personages of the King's suite who had not kept pace with him in his journey from
Windsor; others were the coaches of aristocracy, big and little, whom news of the King's
arrival drew thither for their own pleasure: so that the highway, as seen from the hills
about Overcombe, appeared like an ant-walk--a constant succession of dark spots
creeping along its surface at nearly uniform rates of progress, and all in one direction.
The traffic and intelligence between camp and town passed in a measure over the
villagers' heads. It being summer time the miller was much occupied with business, and
the trumpet-major was too constantly engaged in marching between the camp and
Gloucester Lodge with the rest of the dragoons to bring his friends any news for some
At last he sent a message that there was to be a review on the downs by the King, and that
it was fixed for the day following. This information soon spread through the village and
country round, and next morning the whole population of Overcombe--except two or
three very old men and women, a few babies and their nurses, a cripple, and Corporal
Tullidge--ascended the slope with the crowds from afar, and awaited the events of the
The miller wore his best coat on this occasion, which meant a good deal. An Overcombe
man in those days would have a best coat, and keep it as a best coat half his life. The
miller's had seen five and twenty summers chiefly through the chinks of a clothes-box,
and was not at all shabby as yet, though getting singular. But that could not be helped;
common coats and best coats were distinct species, and never interchangeable. Living so
near the scene of the review he walked up the hill, accompanied by Mrs. Garland and
Anne as usual.
It was a clear day, with little wind stirring, and the view from the downs, one of the most
extensive in the county, was unclouded. The eye of any observer who cared for such
things swept over the wave-washed town, and the bay beyond, and the Isle, with its
pebble bank, lying on the sea to the left of these, like a great crouching animal tethered to
the mainland. On the extreme east of the marine horizon, St. Aldhelm's Head closed the
scene, the sea to the southward of that point glaring like a mirror under the sun. Inland
could be seen Badbury Rings, where a beacon had been recently erected; and nearer,
Rainbarrow, on Egdon Heath, where another stood: farther to the left Bulbarrow, where
there was yet another. Not far from this came Nettlecombe Tout; to the west, Dogberry
Hill, and Black'on near to the foreground, the beacon thereon being built of furze faggots
thatched with straw, and standing on the spot where the monument now raises its head.