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The Drummer's Coat   By: (1859-1933)

Book cover

First Page:

[Frontispiece: "Hold mun fast, brave lads!"]

The Drummer's Coat

by the

Hon. J. W. Fortescue

Author of "The Story of a Red Deer"

With illustrations by

H. M. Brock

London

MacMillan and Co., Limited

New York: The MacMillan Company

1899

All rights reserved

RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED

LONDON AND BUNGAY.

First Edition, November 1899.

Reprinted, December 1899.

TO

D. W.

PREFATORY NOTE

Lest a principal incident in this little tale should seem incredible, it may be mentioned that an instance of a child being deprived of speech for several days, at the bidding of a reputed witch, came under the author's immediate notice less than three years ago, in a village but three miles distant from his own home.

It may be added that the military details in Chapter XIII. are all drawn from authentic sources, mainly from the Recollections of Rifleman Harris and the History of the Fifty Second Regiment .

CASTLE HILL,

28th August, 1899.

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"HOLD MUN FAST, BRAVE LADS!" . . . Frontispiece

BENT DOWN TO KISS ELSIE'S AS HE HAD KISSED HER MOTHER'S

"THE BIRD BEGAN TO PIPE A LITTLE TUNE"

"STILL THE WOMAN LED THEM ON"

THE DRUMMER'S COAT

CHAPTER I

In a deep wooded valley in the north of Devon stands the village of Ashacombe. It is but a little village, of some twenty or thirty cottages with white cob walls and low thatched roofs, running along the sunny side of the valley for a little way, and then curving downward across it to a little bridge of two tiny pointed arches, on the other side of which stands a mill with a water wheel. For a little stream runs down this valley as down all Devonshire valleys; and as you look up the water from the bridge you can see it winding and sparkling through its margin of meadow, while the great oak woods hang still and solemn above it, till some bold green headland slopes down and shuts it from your sight; and you raise your eyes, and count fresh headlands crossing each other right and left beyond it, fainter and fainter, till at last they end in a little patch of purple heather, which seems to be the end of all things.

But when you look down the water, you find that the woods no longer cover the sunny side of the valley so thickly, but that there is open ground like a park. There is a gate by the bridge opening on to a narrow road, which presently ends in two great spreading yews; and through these you can see a lych gate, and beyond it a little grey church with a low grey tower. Close to this gate is a lodge of grey stone, with a winding drive which guides your eye through the trees to the gables of a house of the same grey stone, which peer up over the trees on the ground above the church. Then beyond it the headlands of green wood begin to cross each other again, lower and lower, till you can follow them no more.

So Ashacombe, as may easily be guessed, is a sleepy little village, which sees little of the great world outside. But whatever it sees it can see well, for the hill on which it stands is so much broken by little clefts and hollows that some of the cottages stand level with the road and some high above it; wherefore if you are not satisfied with looking at anything on the road from the same level, you can go to some neighbour's garden and gaze down upon it from above, or again you can slip down from the road into the meadow (for the road is raised on a wall) and scrutinise it carefully from below. Still sleepy though the village may be, it is always beautifully neat and clean. The walls are always of spotless white, and the thatch trim and in good repair. The scrap of garden behind each cottage is well tended and full of vegetables, and the scrap of garden in front gay with flowers; for Ashacombe has never known the time when there was not a master or mistress in the Hall who made the village their first care. Such it is now, and such, if old pictures are to be trusted, it was with little difference eighty years ago, at which time we are about to examine its history... Continue reading book >>




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