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Title: Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor
Author: R D Blackmore
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1000371.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: July 2010
Date most recently updated: July 2010

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor
Author: R D Blackmore



Preface


This work is called a 'romance,' because the incidents, characters,
time, and scenery, are alike romantic. And in shaping this old tale, the
Writer neither dares, nor desires, to claim for it the dignity or cumber
it with the difficulty of an historic novel.

And yet he thinks that the outlines are filled in more carefully, and
the situations (however simple) more warmly coloured and quickened, than
a reader would expect to find in what is called a 'legend.'

And he knows that any son of Exmoor, chancing on this volume, cannot
fail to bring to mind the nurse-tales of his childhood--the savage deeds
of the outlaw Doones in the depth of Bagworthy Forest, the beauty of
the hapless maid brought up in the midst of them, the plain John Ridd's
Herculean power, and (memory's too congenial food) the exploits of Tom
Faggus.

March, 1869.





CONTENTS


I.       ELEMENTS OF EDUCATION

II.      AN IMPORTANT ITEM

III.     THE WARPATH OF THE DOONES

IV.      A VERY RASH VISIT

V.       AN ILLEGAL SETTLEMENT

VI.      NECESSARY PRACTICE

VII.     HARD IT IS TO CLIMB

VIII.    A BOY AND A GIRL

IX.      THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME

X.       A BRAVE RESCUE AND A ROUGH RIDE

XI.      TOM DESERVES HIS SUPPER

XII.     A MAN JUSTLY POPULAR

XIII.    MASTER HUCKABACK COMES IN

XIV.     A MOTION WHICH ENDS IN A MULL

XV.      MASTER HUCKABACK FAILS OF WARRANT

XVI.     LORNA GROWS FORMIDABLE

XVII.    JOHN IS CLEARLY BEWITCHED

XVIII.   WITCHERY LEADS TO WITCHCRAFT

XIX.     ANOTHER DANGEROUS INTERVIEW

XX.      LORNA BEGINS HER STORY

XXI.     LORNA ENDS HER STORY

XXII.    A LONG SPRING MONTH

XXIII.   A ROYAL INVITATION

XXIV.    A SAFE PASS FOR KING'S MESSENGER

XXV.     A GREAT MAN ATTENDS TO BUSINESS

XXVI.    JOHN IS DRAINED AND CAST ASIDE

XXVII.   HOME AGAIN AT LAST

XXVIII.  JOHN HAS HOPE OF LORNA

XXIX.    REAPING LEADS TO REVELLING

XXX.     ANNIE GETS THE BEST OF IT

XXXI.    JOHN FRY'S ERRAND

XXXII.   FEEDING OF THE PIGS

XXXIII.  AN EARLY MORNING CALLING

XXXIV.   TWO NEGATIVES MAKE AN AFFIRMATIVE

XXXV.    RUTH IS NOT LIKE LORNA

XXXVI.   JOHN RETURNS TO BUSINESS

XXXVII.  A VERY DESPERATE VENTURE

XXXVIII. A GOOD TURN FOR JEREMY

XXXIX.   A TROUBLED STATE AND A FOOLISH JOKE

XL.      TWO FOOLS TOGETHER

XLI.     COLD COMFORT

XLII.    THE GREAT WINTER

XLIII.   NOT TOO SOON

XLIV.    BROUGHT HOME AT LAST

XLV.     A CHANGE LONG NEEDED

XLVI.    SQUIRE FAGGUS MAKES SOME LUCKY HITS

XLVII.   JEREMY IN DANGER

XLVIII.  EVERY MAN MUST DEFEND HIMSELF

XLIX.    MAIDEN SENTINELS ARE BEST

L.       A MERRY MEETING A SAD ONE

LI.      A VISIT FROM THE COUNSELLOR

LII.     THE WAY TO MAKE THE CREAM RISE

LIII.    JEREMY FINDS OUT SOMETHING

LIV.     MUTUAL DISCOMFITURE

LV.      GETTING INTO CHANCERY

LVI.     JOHN BECOMES TOO POPULAR

LVII.    LORNA KNOWS HER NURSE

LVIII.   MASTER HUCKABACK'S SECRET

LIX.     LORNA GONE AWAY

LX.      ANNIE LUCKIER THAN JOHN

LXI.     THEREFORE HE SEEKS COMFORT

LXII.    THE KING MUST NOT BE PRAYED FOR

LXIII.   JOHN IS WORSTED BY THE WOMEN

LXIV.    SLAUGHTER IN THE MARSHES

LXV.     FALLING AMONG LAMBS

LXVI.    SUITABLE DEVOTION

LXVII.   LORNA STILL IS LORNA

LXVIII.  JOHN IS JOHN NO LONGER

LXIX.    NOT TO BE PUT UP WITH

LXX.     COMPELLED TO VOLUNTEER

LXXI.    A LONG ACCOUNT SETTLED

LXXII.   THE COUNSELLOR AND THE CARVER

LXXIII.  HOW TO GET OUT OF CHANCERY

LXXIV.   DRIVEN BEYOND ENDURANCE

LXXV.    LIFE AND LORNA COME AGAIN




CHAPTER I

ELEMENTS OF EDUCATION

If anybody cares to read a simple tale told simply, I, John Ridd, of the
parish of Oare, in the county of Somerset, yeoman and churchwarden, have
seen and had a share in some doings of this neighborhood, which I will
try to set down in order, God sparing my life and memory. And they who
light upon this book should bear in mind not only that I write for the
clearing of our parish from ill fame and calumny, but also a thing which
will, I trow, appear too often in it, to wit--that I am nothing more
than a plain unlettered man, not read in foreign languages, as a
gentleman might be, nor gifted with long words (even in mine own
tongue), save what I may have won from the Bible or Master William
Shakespeare, whom, in the face of common opinion, I do value highly. In
short, I am an ignoramus, but pretty well for a yeoman.

My father being of good substance, at least as we reckon in Exmoor, and
seized in his own right, from many generations, of one, and that the
best and largest, of the three farms into which our parish is divided
(or rather the cultured part thereof), he John Ridd, the elder,
churchwarden, and overseer, being a great admirer of learning, and well
able to write his name, sent me his only son to be schooled at Tiverton,
in the county of Devon. For the chief boast of that ancient town (next
to its woollen staple) is a worthy grammar-school, the largest in the
west of England, founded and handsomely endowed in the year 1604 by
Master Peter Blundell, of that same place, clothier.

Here, by the time I was twelve years old, I had risen into the upper
school, and could make bold with Eutropius and Caesar--by aid of an
English version--and as much as six lines of Ovid. Some even said that
I might, before manhood, rise almost to the third form, being of a
perservering nature; albeit, by full consent of all (except my mother),
thick-headed. But that would have been, as I now perceive, an ambition
beyond a farmer's son; for there is but one form above it, and that made
of masterful scholars, entitled rightly 'monitors'. So it came to
pass, by the grace of God, that I was called away from learning,
whilst sitting at the desk of the junior first in the upper school, and
beginning the Greek verb [Greek word].

My eldest grandson makes bold to say that I never could have learned
[Greek word], ten pages further on, being all he himself could manage,
with plenty of stripes to help him. I know that he hath more head than
I--though never will he have such body; and am thankful to have stopped
betimes, with a meek and wholesome head-piece.

But if you doubt of my having been there, because now I know so little,
go and see my name, 'John Ridd,' graven on that very form. Forsooth,
from the time I was strong enough to open a knife and to spell my name,
I began to grave it in the oak, first of the block whereon I sate, and
then of the desk in front of it, according as I was promoted from one to
other of them: and there my grandson reads it now, at this present time
of writing, and hath fought a boy for scoffing at it--'John Ridd his
name'--and done again in 'winkeys,' a mischievous but cheerful device,
in which we took great pleasure.

This is the manner of a 'winkey,' which I here set down, lest child
of mine, or grandchild, dare to make one on my premises; if he does,
I shall know the mark at once, and score it well upon him. The scholar
obtains, by prayer or price, a handful of saltpetre, and then with the
knife wherewith he should rather be trying to mend his pens, what does
he do but scoop a hole where the desk is some three inches thick. This
hole should be left with the middle exalted, and the circumfere dug more
deeply. Then let him fill it with saltpetre, all save a little space in
the midst, where the boss of the wood is. Upon that boss (and it will be
the better if a splinter of timber rise upward) he sticks the end of his
candle of tallow, or 'rat's tail,' as we called it, kindled and burning
smoothly. Anon, as he reads by that light his lesson, lifting his eyes
now and then it may be, the fire of candle lays hold of the petre with
a spluttering noise and a leaping. Then should the pupil seize his pen,
and, regardless of the nib, stir bravely, and he will see a glow as of
burning mountains, and a rich smoke, and sparks going merrily; nor will
it cease, if he stir wisely, and there be a good store of petre, until
the wood is devoured through, like the sinking of a well-shaft. Now well
may it go with the head of a boy intent upon his primer, who betides to
sit thereunder! But, above all things, have good care to exercise this
art before the master strides up to his desk, in the early gray of the
morning.

Other customs, no less worthy, abide in the school of Blundell, such as
the singeing of nightcaps; but though they have a pleasant savour, and
refreshing to think of, I may not stop to note them, unless it be that
goodly one at the incoming of a flood. The school-house stands beside a
stream, not very large, called Lowman, which flows into the broad river
of Exe, about a mile below. This Lowman stream, although it be not fond
of brawl and violence (in the manner of our Lynn), yet is wont to flood
into a mighty head of waters when the storms of rain provoke it; and
most of all when its little co-mate, called the Taunton Brook--where
I have plucked the very best cresses that ever man put salt on--comes
foaming down like a great roan horse, and rears at the leap of the
hedgerows. Then are the gray stone walls of Blundell on every side
encompassed, the vale is spread over with looping waters, and it is a
hard thing for the day-boys to get home to their suppers.

And in that time, old Cop, the porter (so called because he hath copper
boots to keep the wet from his stomach, and a nose of copper also, in
right of other waters), his place is to stand at the gate, attending to
the flood-boards grooved into one another, and so to watch the torrents
rise, and not be washed away, if it please God he may help it. But long
ere the flood hath attained this height, and while it is only waxing,
certain boys of deputy will watch at the stoop of the drain-holes, and
be apt to look outside the walls when Cop is taking a cordial. And in
the very front of the gate, just without the archway, where the ground
is paved most handsomely, you may see in copy-letters done a great
P.B. of white pebbles. Now, it is the custom and the law that when
the invading waters, either fluxing along the wall from below the
road-bridge, or pouring sharply across the meadows from a cut called
Owen's Ditch--and I myself have seen it come both ways--upon the very
instant when the waxing element lips though it be but a single pebble of
the founder's letters, it is in the license of any boy, soever small
and undoctrined, to rush into the great school-rooms, where a score of
masters sit heavily, and scream at the top of his voice, 'P.B.'

Then, with a yell, the boys leap up, or break away from their standing;
they toss their caps to the black-beamed roof, and haply the very books
after them; and the great boys vex no more the small ones, and the small
boys stick up to the great ones. One with another, hard they go, to see
the gain of the waters, and the tribulation of Cop, and are prone to
kick the day-boys out, with words of scanty compliment. Then the masters
look at one another, having no class to look to, and (boys being no more
left to watch) in a manner they put their mouths up. With a spirited
bang they close their books, and make invitation the one to the other
for pipes and foreign cordials, recommending the chance of the time, and
the comfort away from cold water.

But, lo! I am dwelling on little things and the pigeons' eggs of the
infancy, forgetting the bitter and heavy life gone over me since then.
If I am neither a hard man nor a very close one, God knows I have had no
lack of rubbing and pounding to make stone of me. Yet can I not somehow
believe that we ought to hate one another, to live far asunder, and
block the mouth each of his little den; as do the wild beasts of the
wood, and the hairy outrangs now brought over, each with a chain upon
him. Let that matter be as it will. It is beyond me to unfold, and
mayhap of my grandson's grandson. All I know is that wheat is better
than when I began to sow it.



CHAPTER II

AN IMPORTANT ITEM

Now the cause of my leaving Tiverton school, and the way of it, were as
follows. On the 29th day of November, in the year of our Lord 1673, the
very day when I was twelve years old, and had spent all my substance in
sweetmeats, with which I made treat to the little boys, till the large
boys ran in and took them, we came out of school at five o'clock, as
the rule is upon Tuesdays. According to custom we drove the day-boys
in brave rout down the causeway from the school-porch even to the gate
where Cop has his dwelling and duty. Little it recked us and helped
them less, that they were our founder's citizens, and haply his own
grand-nephews (for he left no direct descendants), neither did we much
inquire what their lineage was. For it had long been fixed among us,
who were of the house and chambers, that these same day-boys were all
'caddes,' as we had discovered to call it, because they paid no groat
for their schooling, and brought their own commons with them. In
consumption of these we would help them, for our fare in hall fed
appetite; and while we ate their victuals, we allowed them freely to
talk to us. Nevertheless, we could not feel, when all the victuals
were gone, but that these boys required kicking from the premises
of Blundell. And some of them were shopkeepers' sons, young grocers,
fellmongers, and poulterers, and these to their credit seemed to know
how righteous it was to kick them. But others were of high family, as
any need be, in Devon--Carews, and Bouchiers, and Bastards, and some of
these would turn sometimes, and strike the boy that kicked them. But
to do them justice, even these knew that they must be kicked for not
paying.

After these 'charity-boys' were gone, as in contumely we called
them--'If you break my bag on my head,' said one, 'how will feed thence
to-morrow?'--and after old Cop with clang of iron had jammed the double
gates in under the scruff-stone archway, whereupon are Latin verses,
done in brass of small quality, some of us who were not hungry, and
cared not for the supper-bell, having sucked much parliament and dumps
at my only charges--not that I ever bore much wealth, but because I had
been thrifting it for this time of my birth--we were leaning quite at
dusk against the iron bars of the gate some six, or it may be seven of
us, small boys all, and not conspicuous in the closing of the daylight
and the fog that came at eventide, else Cop would have rated us up the
green, for he was churly to little boys when his wife had taken their
money. There was plenty of room for all of us, for the gate will hold
nine boys close-packed, unless they be fed rankly, whereof is little
danger; and now we were looking out on the road and wishing we could get
there; hoping, moreover, to see a good string of pack-horses come by,
with troopers to protect them. For the day-boys had brought us word that
some intending their way to the town had lain that morning at Sampford
Peveril, and must be in ere nightfall, because Mr. Faggus was after
them. Now Mr. Faggus was my first cousin and an honour to the family,
being a Northmolton man of great renown on the highway from Barum town
even to London. Therefore of course, I hoped that he would catch the
packmen, and the boys were asking my opinion as of an oracle, about it.

A certain boy leaning up against me would not allow my elbow room, and
struck me very sadly in the stomach part, though his own was full of my
parliament. And this I felt so unkindly, that I smote him straightway in
the face without tarrying to consider it, or weighing the question duly.
Upon this he put his head down, and presented it so vehemently at the
middle of my waistcoat, that for a minute or more my breath seemed
dropped, as it were, from my pockets, and my life seemed to stop from
great want of ease. Before I came to myself again, it had been settled
for us that we should move to the 'Ironing-box,' as the triangle of turf
is called where the two causeways coming from the school-porch and the
hall-porch meet, and our fights are mainly celebrated; only we must
wait until the convoy of horses had passed, and then make a ring by
candlelight, and the other boys would like it. But suddenly there came
round the post where the letters of our founder are, not from the way
of Taunton but from the side of Lowman bridge, a very small string of
horses, only two indeed (counting for one the pony), and a red-faced man
on the bigger nag.

'Plaise ye, worshipful masters,' he said, being feared of the gateway,
'carn 'e tull whur our Jan Ridd be?'

'Hyur a be, ees fai, Jan Ridd,' answered a sharp little chap, making
game of John Fry's language.

'Zhow un up, then,' says John Fry poking his whip through the bars at
us; 'Zhow un up, and putt un aowt.'

The other little chaps pointed at me, and some began to hallo; but I
knew what I was about.

'Oh, John, John,' I cried, 'what's the use of your coming now, and Peggy
over the moors, too, and it so cruel cold for her? The holidays don't
begin till Wednesday fortnight, John. To think of your not knowing
that!'

John Fry leaned forward in the saddle, and turned his eyes away from
me; and then there was a noise in his throat like a snail crawling on a
window-pane.

'Oh, us knaws that wull enough, Maister Jan; reckon every Oare-man knaw
that, without go to skoo-ull, like you doth. Your moother have kept arl
the apples up, and old Betty toorned the black puddens, and none dare
set trap for a blagbird. Arl for thee, lad; every bit of it now for
thee!'

He checked himself suddenly, and frightened me. I knew that John Fry's
way so well.

'And father, and father--oh, how is father?' I pushed the boys right and
left as I said it. 'John, is father up in town! He always used to come
for me, and leave nobody else to do it.'

'Vayther'll be at the crooked post, tother zide o' telling-house.* Her
coodn't lave 'ouze by raison of the Chirstmas bakkon comin' on, and zome
o' the cider welted.'

     * The 'telling-houses' on the moor are rude cots where the
     shepherds meet to 'tell' their sheep at the end of the
     pasturing season.

He looked at the nag's ears as he said it; and, being up to John Fry's
ways, I knew that it was a lie. And my heart fell like a lump of lead,
and I leaned back on the stay of the gate, and longed no more to fight
anybody. A sort of dull power hung over me, like the cloud of a brooding
tempest, and I feared to be told anything. I did not even care to stroke
the nose of my pony Peggy, although she pushed it in through the rails,
where a square of broader lattice is, and sniffed at me, and began to
crop gently after my fingers. But whatever lives or dies, business must
be attended to; and the principal business of good Christians is, beyond
all controversy, to fight with one another.

'Come up, Jack,' said one of the boys, lifting me under the chin; 'he
hit you, and you hit him, you know.'

'Pay your debts before you go,' said a monitor, striding up to me, after
hearing how the honour lay; 'Ridd, you must go through with it.'

'Fight, for the sake of the junior first,' cried the little fellow in my
ear, the clever one, the head of our class, who had mocked John Fry, and
knew all about the aorists, and tried to make me know it; but I never
went more than three places up, and then it was an accident, and I came
down after dinner. The boys were urgent round me to fight, though my
stomach was not up for it; and being very slow of wit (which is not
chargeable on me), I looked from one to other of them, seeking any cure
for it. Not that I was afraid of fighting, for now I had been three
years at Blundell's, and foughten, all that time, a fight at least once
every week, till the boys began to know me; only that the load on my
heart was not sprightly as of the hay-field. It is a very sad thing to
dwell on; but even now, in my time of wisdom, I doubt it is a fond thing
to imagine, and a motherly to insist upon, that boys can do without
fighting. Unless they be very good boys, and afraid of one another.

'Nay,' I said, with my back against the wrought-iron stay of the gate,
which was socketed into Cop's house-front: 'I will not fight thee now,
Robin Snell, but wait till I come back again.'

'Take coward's blow, Jack Ridd, then,' cried half a dozen little boys,
shoving Bob Snell forward to do it; because they all knew well enough,
having striven with me ere now, and proved me to be their master--they
knew, I say, that without great change, I would never accept that
contumely. But I took little heed of them, looking in dull wonderment
at John Fry, and Smiler, and the blunderbuss, and Peggy. John Fry was
scratching his head, I could see, and getting blue in the face, by the
light from Cop's parlour-window, and going to and fro upon Smiler, as if
he were hard set with it. And all the time he was looking briskly from
my eyes to the fist I was clenching, and methought he tried to wink at
me in a covert manner; and then Peggy whisked her tail.

'Shall I fight, John?' I said at last; 'I would an you had not come,
John.'

'Chraist's will be done; I zim thee had better faight, Jan,' he
answered, in a whisper, through the gridiron of the gate; 'there be a
dale of faighting avore thee. Best wai to begin gude taime laike. Wull
the geatman latt me in, to zee as thee hast vair plai, lad?'

He looked doubtfully down at the colour of his cowskin boots, and the
mire upon the horses, for the sloughs were exceedingly mucky. Peggy,
indeed, my sorrel pony, being lighter of weight, was not crusted much
over the shoulders; but Smiler (our youngest sledder) had been well in
over his withers, and none would have deemed him a piebald, save of red
mire and black mire. The great blunderbuss, moreover, was choked with a
dollop of slough-cake; and John Fry's sad-coloured Sunday hat was indued
with a plume of marish-weed. All this I saw while he was dismounting,
heavily and wearily, lifting his leg from the saddle-cloth as if with a
sore crick in his back.

By this time the question of fighting was gone quite out of our
discretion; for sundry of the elder boys, grave and reverend signors,
who had taken no small pleasure in teaching our hands to fight, to ward,
to parry, to feign and counter, to lunge in the manner of sword-play,
and the weaker child to drop on one knee when no cunning of fence might
baffle the onset--these great masters of the art, who would far liefer
see us little ones practise it than themselves engage, six or seven of
them came running down the rounded causeway, having heard that there
had arisen 'a snug little mill' at the gate. Now whether that word
hath origin in a Greek term meaning a conflict, as the best-read boys
asseverated, or whether it is nothing more than a figure of similitude,
from the beating arms of a mill, such as I have seen in counties where
are no waterbrooks, but folk make bread with wind--it is not for a man
devoid of scholarship to determine. Enough that they who made the ring
intituled the scene a 'mill,' while we who must be thumped inside it
tried to rejoice in their pleasantry, till it turned upon the stomach.

Moreover, I felt upon me now a certain responsibility, a dutiful need to
maintain, in the presence of John Fry, the manliness of the Ridd family,
and the honour of Exmoor. Hitherto none had worsted me, although in the
three years of my schooling, I had fought more than threescore battles,
and bedewed with blood every plant of grass towards the middle of the
Ironing-box. And this success I owed at first to no skill of my own;
until I came to know better; for up to twenty or thirty fights, I struck
as nature guided me, no wiser than a father-long-legs in the heat of a
lanthorn; but I had conquered, partly through my native strength, and
the Exmoor toughness in me, and still more that I could not see when I
had gotten my bellyful. But now I was like to have that and more; for
my heart was down, to begin with; and then Robert Snell was a bigger boy
than I had ever encountered, and as thick in the skull and hard in the
brain as even I could claim to be.

I had never told my mother a word about these frequent strivings,
because she was soft-hearted; neither had I told by father, because
he had not seen it. Therefore, beholding me still an innocent-looking
child, with fair curls on my forehead, and no store of bad language,
John Fry thought this was the very first fight that ever had befallen
me; and so when they let him at the gate, 'with a message to the
headmaster,' as one of the monitors told Cop, and Peggy and Smiler were
tied to the railings, till I should be through my business, John comes
up to me with the tears in his eyes, and says, 'Doon't thee goo for to
do it, Jan; doon't thee do it, for gude now.' But I told him that now it
was much too late to cry off; so he said, 'The Lord be with thee, Jan,
and turn thy thumb-knuckle inwards.'

It was not a very large piece of ground in the angle of the causeways,
but quite big enough to fight upon, especially for Christians, who loved
to be cheek by jowl at it. The great boys stood in a circle around,
being gifted with strong privilege, and the little boys had leave to lie
flat and look through the legs of the great boys. But while we were yet
preparing, and the candles hissed in the fog-cloud, old Phoebe, of more
than fourscore years, whose room was over the hall-porch, came hobbling
out, as she always did, to mar the joy of the conflict. No one ever
heeded her, neither did she expect it; but the evil was that two senior
boys must always lose the first round of the fight, by having to lead
her home again.

I marvel how Robin Snell felt. Very likely he thought nothing of it,
always having been a boy of a hectoring and unruly sort. But I felt my
heart go up and down as the boys came round to strip me; and greatly
fearing to be beaten, I blew hot upon my knuckles. Then pulled I off
my little cut jerkin, and laid it down on my head cap, and over that my
waistcoat, and a boy was proud to take care of them. Thomas Hooper was
his name, and I remember how he looked at me. My mother had made that
little cut jerkin, in the quiet winter evenings. And taken pride to loop
it up in a fashionable way, and I was loth to soil it with blood, and
good filberds were in the pocket. Then up to me came Robin Snell (mayor
of Exeter thrice since that), and he stood very square, and looking
at me, and I lacked not long to look at him. Round his waist he had a
kerchief busking up his small-clothes, and on his feet light pumpkin
shoes, and all his upper raiment off. And he danced about in a way that
made my head swim on my shoulders, and he stood some inches over me. But
I, being muddled with much doubt about John Fry and his errand, was only
stripped of my jerkin and waistcoat, and not comfortable to begin.

'Come now, shake hands,' cried a big boy, jumping in joy of the
spectacle, a third-former nearly six feet high; 'shake hands, you little
devils. Keep your pluck up, and show good sport, and Lord love the
better man of you.'

Robin took me by the hand, and gazed at me disdainfully, and then smote
me painfully in the face, ere I could get my fence up.

'Whutt be 'bout, lad?' cried John Fry; 'hutt un again, Jan, wull 'e?
Well done then, our Jan boy.'

For I had replied to Robin now, with all the weight and cadence of
penthemimeral caesura (a thing, the name of which I know, but could
never make head nor tail of it), and the strife began in a serious
style, and the boys looking on were not cheated. Although I could not
collect their shouts when the blows were ringing upon me, it was no
great loss; for John Fry told me afterwards that their oaths went up
like a furnace fire. But to these we paid no heed or hap, being in the
thick of swinging, and devoid of judgment. All I know is, I came to my
corner, when the round was over, with very hard pumps in my chest, and a
great desire to fall away.

'Time is up,' cried head-monitor, ere ever I got my breath again; and
when I fain would have lingered awhile on the knee of the boy that held
me. John Fry had come up, and the boys were laughing because he wanted a
stable lanthorn, and threatened to tell my mother.

'Time is up,' cried another boy, more headlong than head-monitor. 'If we
count three before the come of thee, thwacked thou art, and must go
to the women.' I felt it hard upon me. He began to count, one, too,
three--but before the 'three' was out of his mouth, I was facing my foe,
with both hands up, and my breath going rough and hot, and resolved to
wait the turn of it. For I had found seat on the knee of a boy sage and
skilled to tutor me, who knew how much the end very often differs from
the beginning. A rare ripe scholar he was; and now he hath routed up the
Germans in the matter of criticism. Sure the clever boys and men have
most love towards the stupid ones.

'Finish him off, Bob,' cried a big boy, and that I noticed especially,
because I thought it unkind of him, after eating of my toffee as he
had that afternoon; 'finish him off, neck and crop; he deserves it for
sticking up to a man like you.'

But I was not so to be finished off, though feeling in my knuckles now
as if it were a blueness and a sense of chilblain. Nothing held except
my legs, and they were good to help me. So this bout, or round, if you
please, was foughten warily by me, with gentle recollection of what my
tutor, the clever boy, had told me, and some resolve to earn his praise
before I came back to his knee again. And never, I think, in all my
life, sounded sweeter words in my ears (except when my love loved me)
than when my second and backer, who had made himself part of my doings
now, and would have wept to see me beaten, said,--

'Famously done, Jack, famously! Only keep your wind up, Jack, and you'll
go right through him!'

Meanwhile John Fry was prowling about, asking the boys what they thought
of it, and whether I was like to be killed, because of my mother's
trouble. But finding now that I had foughten three-score fights already,
he came up to me woefully, in the quickness of my breathing, while I sat
on the knee of my second, with a piece of spongious coralline to ease
me of my bloodshed, and he says in my ears, as if he was clapping spurs
into a horse,--

'Never thee knack under, Jan, or never coom naigh Hexmoor no more.'

With that it was all up with me. A simmering buzzed in my heavy brain,
and a light came through my eyeplaces. At once I set both fists again,
and my heart stuck to me like cobbler's wax. Either Robin Snell should
kill me, or I would conquer Robin Snell. So I went in again with my
courage up, and Bob came smiling for victory, and I hated him for
smiling. He let at me with his left hand, and I gave him my right
between his eyes, and he blinked, and was not pleased with it. I feared
him not, and spared him not, neither spared myself. My breath came
again, and my heart stood cool, and my eyes struck fire no longer. Only
I knew that I would die sooner than shame my birthplace. How the rest
of it was I know not; only that I had the end of it, and helped to put
Robin in bed.



CHAPTER III

THE WAR-PATH OF THE DOONES

From Tiverton town to the town of Oare is a very long and painful road,
and in good truth the traveller must make his way, as the saying is; for
the way is still unmade, at least, on this side of Dulverton, although
there is less danger now than in the time of my schooling; for now a
good horse may go there without much cost of leaping, but when I was
a boy the spurs would fail, when needed most, by reason of the
slough-cake. It is to the credit of this age, and our advance upon
fatherly ways, that now we have laid down rods and fagots, and even
stump-oaks here and there, so that a man in good daylight need not sink,
if he be quite sober. There is nothing I have striven at more than doing
my duty, way-warden over Exmoor.

But in those days, when I came from school (and good times they were,
too, full of a warmth and fine hearth-comfort, which now are dying out),
it was a sad and sorry business to find where lay the highway. We are
taking now to mark it off with a fence on either side, at least, when
a town is handy; but to me his seems of a high pretence, and a sort of
landmark, and channel for robbers, though well enough near London, where
they have earned a race-course.

We left the town of the two fords, which they say is the meaning of it,
very early in the morning, after lying one day to rest, as was demanded
by the nags, sore of foot and foundered. For my part, too, I was glad to
rest, having aches all over me, and very heavy bruises; and we lodged
at the sign of the White Horse Inn, in the street called Gold Street,
opposite where the souls are of John and Joan Greenway, set up in
gold letters, because we must take the homeward way at cockcrow of the
morning. Though still John Fry was dry with me of the reason of his
coming, and only told lies about father, and could not keep them
agreeable, I hoped for the best, as all boys will, especially after a
victory. And I thought, perhaps father had sent for me because he had a
good harvest, and the rats were bad in the corn-chamber.

It was high noon before we were got to Dulverton that day, near to which
town the river Exe and its big brother Barle have union. My mother had
an uncle living there, but we were not to visit his house this time, at
which I was somewhat astonished, since we needs must stop for at least
two hours, to bait our horses thorough well, before coming to the black
bogway. The bogs are very good in frost, except where the hot-springs
rise; but as yet there had been no frost this year, save just enough
to make the blackbirds look big in the morning. In a hearty black-frost
they look small, until the snow falls over them.

The road from Bampton to Dulverton had not been very delicate, yet
nothing to complain of much--no deeper, indeed, than the hocks of a
horse, except in the rotten places. The day was inclined to be mild and
foggy, and both nags sweated freely; but Peggy carrying little weight
(for my wardrobe was upon Smiler, and John Fry grumbling always), we
could easily keep in front, as far as you may hear a laugh.

John had been rather bitter with me, which methought was a mark of ill
taste at coming home for the holidays; and yet I made allowance for
John, because he had never been at school, and never would have chance
to eat fry upon condition of spelling it; therefore I rode on, thinking
that he was hard-set, like a saw, for his dinner, and would soften after
tooth-work. And yet at his most hungry times, when his mind was far gone
upon bacon, certes he seemed to check himself and look at me as if he
were sorry for little things coming over great.

But now, at Dulverton, we dined upon the rarest and choicest victuals
that ever I did taste. Even now, at my time of life, to think of it
gives me appetite, as once and awhile to think of my first love makes
me love all goodness. Hot mutton pasty was a thing I had often heard
of from very wealthy boys and men, who made a dessert of dinner; and to
hear them talk of it made my lips smack, and my ribs come inwards.

And now John Fry strode into the hostel, with the air and grace of a
short-legged man, and shouted as loud as if he was calling sheep upon
Exmoor,--

'Hot mooton pasty for twoo trarv'lers, at number vaive, in vaive
minnits! Dish un up in the tin with the grahvy, zame as I hardered last
Tuesday.'

Of course it did not come in five minutes, nor yet in ten or twenty; but
that made it all the better when it came to the real presence; and the
smell of it was enough to make an empty man thank God for the room there
was inside him. Fifty years have passed me quicker than the taste of
that gravy.

It is the manner of all good boys to be careless of apparel, and take no
pride in adornment. Good lack, if I see a boy make to do about the fit
of his crumpler, and the creasing of his breeches, and desire to be shod
for comeliness rather than for use, I cannot 'scape the mark that God
took thought to make a girl of him. Not so when they grow older, and
court the regard of the maidens; then may the bravery pass from the
inside to the outside of them; and no bigger fools are they, even then,
than their fathers were before them. But God forbid any man to be a fool
to love, and be loved, as I have been. Else would he have prevented it.

When the mutton pasty was done, and Peggy and Smiler had dined well
also, out I went to wash at the pump, being a lover of soap and water,
at all risk, except of my dinner. And John Fry, who cared very little
to wash, save Sabbath days in his own soap, and who had kept me from the
pump by threatening loss of the dish, out he came in a satisfied manner,
with a piece of quill in his hand, to lean against a door-post, and
listen to the horses feeding, and have his teeth ready for supper.

Then a lady's-maid came out, and the sun was on her face, and she turned
round to go back again; but put a better face upon it, and gave a
trip and hitched her dress, and looked at the sun full body, lest the
hostlers should laugh that she was losing her complexion. With a long
Italian glass in her fingers very daintily, she came up to the pump in
the middle of the yard, where I was running the water off all my head
and shoulders, and arms, and some of my breast even, and though I had
glimpsed her through the sprinkle, it gave me quite a turn to see
her, child as I was, in my open aspect. But she looked at me, no whit
abashed, making a baby of me, no doubt, as a woman of thirty will do,
even with a very big boy when they catch him on a hayrick, and she said
to me in a brazen manner, as if I had been nobody, while I was shrinking
behind the pump, and craving to get my shirt on, 'Good leetle boy, come
hither to me. Fine heaven! how blue your eyes are, and your skin like
snow; but some naughty man has beaten it black. Oh, leetle boy, let me
feel it. Ah, how then it must have hurt you! There now, and you shall
love me.'

All this time she was touching my breast, here and there, very lightly,
with her delicate brown fingers, and I understood from her voice and
manner that she was not of this country, but a foreigner by extraction.
And then I was not so shy of her, because I could talk better English
than she; and yet I longed for my jerkin, but liked not to be rude to
her.

'If you please, madam, I must go. John Fry is waiting by the tapster's
door, and Peggy neighing to me. If you please, we must get home
to-night; and father will be waiting for me this side of the
telling-house.'

'There, there, you shall go, leetle dear, and perhaps I will go after
you. I have taken much love of you. But the baroness is hard to me. How
far you call it now to the bank of the sea at Wash--Wash--'

'At Watchett, likely you mean, madam. Oh, a very long way, and the roads
as soft as the road to Oare.'

'Oh-ah, oh-ah--I shall remember; that is the place where my leetle boy
live, and some day I will come seek for him. Now make the pump to flow,
my dear, and give me the good water. The baroness will not touch unless
a nebule be formed outside the glass.'

I did not know what she meant by that; yet I pumped for her very
heartily, and marvelled to see her for fifty times throw the water away
in the trough, as if it was not good enough. At last the water suited
her, with a likeness of fog outside the glass, and the gleam of a
crystal under it, and then she made a curtsey to me, in a sort of
mocking manner, holding the long glass by the foot, not to take the
cloud off; and then she wanted to kiss me; but I was out of breath, and
have always been shy of that work, except when I come to offer it; and
so I ducked under the pump-handle, and she knocked her chin on the knob
of it; and the hostlers came out, and asked whether they would do as
well.

Upon this, she retreated up the yard, with a certain dark dignity, and
a foreign way of walking, which stopped them at once from going farther,
because it was so different from the fashion of their sweethearts. One
with another they hung back, where half a cart-load of hay was, and
they looked to be sure that she would not turn round; and then each one
laughed at the rest of them.

Now, up to the end of Dulverton town, on the northward side of it,
where the two new pig-sties be, the Oare folk and the Watchett folk must
trudge on together, until we come to a broken cross, where a murdered
man lies buried. Peggy and Smiler went up the hill, as if nothing could
be too much for them, after the beans they had eaten, and suddenly
turning a corner of trees, we happened upon a great coach and six horses
labouring very heavily. John Fry rode on with his hat in his hand, as
became him towards the quality; but I was amazed to that degree, that I
left my cap on my head, and drew bridle without knowing it.

For in the front seat of the coach, which was half-way open, being of
the city-make, and the day in want of air, sate the foreign lady, who
had met me at the pump and offered to salute me. By her side was a
little girl, dark-haired and very wonderful, with a wealthy softness on
her, as if she must have her own way. I could not look at her for two
glances, and she did not look at me for one, being such a little child,
and busy with the hedges. But in the honourable place sate a handsome
lady, very warmly dressed, and sweetly delicate of colour. And close
to her was a lively child, two or it may be three years old, bearing a
white cockade in his hat, and staring at all and everybody. Now, he saw
Peggy, and took such a liking to her, that the lady his mother--if so
she were--was forced to look at my pony and me. And, to tell the truth,
although I am not of those who adore the high folk, she looked at us
very kindly, and with a sweetness rarely found in the women who milk the
cows for us.

Then I took off my cap to the beautiful lady, without asking wherefore;
and she put up her hand and kissed it to me, thinking, perhaps, that
I looked like a gentle and good little boy; for folk always called me
innocent, though God knows I never was that. But now the foreign lady,
or lady's maid, as it might be, who had been busy with little dark eyes,
turned upon all this going-on, and looked me straight in the face. I was
about to salute her, at a distance, indeed, and not with the nicety she
had offered to me, but, strange to say, she stared at my eyes as if she
had never seen me before, neither wished to see me again. At this I was
so startled, such things beings out of my knowledge, that I startled
Peggy also with the muscle of my legs, and she being fresh from stable,
and the mire scraped off with cask-hoop, broke away so suddenly that I
could do no more than turn round and lower my cap, now five months old,
to the beautiful lady. Soon I overtook John Fry, and asked him all about
them, and how it was that we had missed their starting from the hostel.
But John would never talk much till after a gallon of cider; and all
that I could win out of him was that they were 'murdering Papishers,'
and little he cared to do with them, or the devil, as they came
from. And a good thing for me, and a providence, that I was gone down
Dulverton town to buy sweetstuff for Annie, else my stupid head would
have gone astray with their great out-coming.

We saw no more of them after that, but turned into the sideway; and soon
had the fill of our hands and eyes to look to our own going. For the
road got worse and worse, until there was none at all, and perhaps the
purest thing it could do was to be ashamed to show itself. But we pushed
on as best we might, with doubt of reaching home any time, except by
special grace of God.

The fog came down upon the moors as thick as ever I saw it; and there
was no sound of any sort, nor a breath of wind to guide us. The little
stubby trees that stand here and there, like bushes with a wooden leg
to them, were drizzled with a mess of wet, and hung their points with
dropping. Wherever the butt-end of a hedgerow came up from the hollow
ground, like the withers of a horse, holes of splash were pocked and
pimpled in the yellow sand of coneys, or under the dwarf tree's ovens.
But soon it was too dark to see that, or anything else, I may say,
except the creases in the dusk, where prisoned light crept up the
valleys.

After awhile even that was gone, and no other comfort left us except to
see our horses' heads jogging to their footsteps, and the dark ground
pass below us, lighter where the wet was; and then the splash, foot
after foot, more clever than we can do it, and the orderly jerk of the
tail, and the smell of what a horse is.

John Fry was bowing forward with sleep upon his saddle, and now I could
no longer see the frizzle of wet upon his beard--for he had a very brave
one, of a bright red colour, and trimmed into a whale-oil knot, because
he was newly married--although that comb of hair had been a subject of
some wonder to me, whether I, in God's good time, should have the like
of that, handsomely set with shining beads, small above and large below,
from the weeping of the heaven. But still I could see the jog of his
hat--a Sunday hat with a top to it--and some of his shoulder bowed out
in the mist, so that one could say 'Hold up, John,' when Smiler put
his foot in. 'Mercy of God! where be us now?' said John Fry, waking
suddenly; 'us ought to have passed hold hash, Jan. Zeen it on the road,
have 'ee?'

'No indeed, John; no old ash. Nor nothing else to my knowing; nor heard
nothing, save thee snoring.'

'Watt a vule thee must be then, Jan; and me myzell no better. Harken,
lad, harken!'

We drew our horses up and listened, through the thickness of the air,
and with our hands laid to our ears. At first there was nothing to hear,
except the panting of the horses and the trickle of the eaving drops
from our head-covers and clothing, and the soft sounds of the lonely
night, that make us feel, and try not to think. Then there came a mellow
noise, very low and mournsome, not a sound to be afraid of, but to long
to know the meaning, with a soft rise of the hair. Three times it came
and went again, as the shaking of a thread might pass away into the
distance; and then I touched John Fry to know that there was something
near me.

'Doon't 'e be a vule, Jan! Vaine moozick as iver I 'eer. God bless the
man as made un doo it.'

'Have they hanged one of the Doones then, John?'

'Hush, lad; niver talk laike o' thiccy. Hang a Doone! God knoweth, the
King would hang pretty quick if her did.'

'Then who is it in the chains, John?'

I felt my spirit rise as I asked; for now I had crossed Exmoor so often
as to hope that the people sometimes deserved it, and think that it
might be a lesson to the rogues who unjustly loved the mutton they were
never born to. But, of course, they were born to hanging, when they set
themselves so high.

'It be nawbody,' said John, 'vor us to make a fush about. Belong to
t'other zide o' the moor, and come staling shape to our zide. Red Jem
Hannaford his name. Thank God for him to be hanged, lad; and good cess
to his soul for craikin' zo.'

So the sound of the quiet swinging led us very modestly, as it came and
went on the wind, loud and low pretty regularly, even as far as the foot
of the gibbet where the four cross-ways are.

'Vamous job this here,' cried John, looking up to be sure of it, because
there were so many; 'here be my own nick on the post. Red Jem, too, and
no doubt of him; he do hang so handsome like, and his ribs up laike a
horse a'most. God bless them as discoovered the way to make a rogue so
useful. Good-naight to thee, Jem, my lad; and not break thy drames with
the craikin'.'

John Fry shook his bridle-arm, and smote upon Smiler merrily, as he
jogged into the homeward track from the guiding of the body. But I was
sorry for Red Jem, and wanted to know more about him, and whether
he might not have avoided this miserable end, and what his wife and
children thought of it, if, indeed, he had any.

But John would talk no more about it; and perhaps he was moved with a
lonesome feeling, as the creaking sound came after us.

'Hould thee tongue, lad,' he said sharply; 'us be naigh the Doone-track
now, two maile from Dunkery Beacon hill, the haighest place of Hexmoor.
So happen they be abroad to-naight, us must crawl on our belly-places,
boy.'

I knew at once what he meant--those bloody Doones of Bagworthy, the awe
of all Devon and Somerset, outlaws, traitors, murderers. My little legs
began to tremble to and fro upon Peggy's sides, as I heard the dead
robber in chains behind us, and thought of the live ones still in front.

'But, John,' I whispered warily, sidling close to his saddle-bow; 'dear
John, you don't think they will see us in such a fog as this?'

'Never God made vog as could stop their eyesen,' he whispered in answer,
fearfully; 'here us be by the hollow ground. Zober, lad, goo zober now,
if thee wish to see thy moother.'

For I was inclined, in the manner of boys, to make a run of the danger,
and cross the Doone-track at full speed; to rush for it, and be done
with it. But even then I wondered why he talked of my mother so, and
said not a word of father.

We were come to a long deep 'goyal,' as they call it on Exmoor, a word
whose fountain and origin I have nothing to do with. Only I know that
when little boys laughed at me at Tiverton, for talking about a 'goyal,'
a big boy clouted them on the head, and said that it was in Homer, and
meant the hollow of the hand. And another time a Welshman told me that
it must be something like the thing they call a 'pant' in those parts.
Still I know what it means well enough--to wit, a long trough among
wild hills, falling towards the plain country, rounded at the bottom,
perhaps, and stiff, more than steep, at the sides of it. Whether it be
straight or crooked, makes no difference to it.

We rode very carefully down our side, and through the soft grass at
the bottom, and all the while we listened as if the air was a
speaking-trumpet. Then gladly we breasted our nags to the rise, and were
coming to the comb of it, when I heard something, and caught John's
arm, and he bent his hand to the shape of his ear. It was the sound of
horses' feet knocking up through splashy ground, as if the bottom sucked
them. Then a grunting of weary men, and the lifting noise of stirrups,
and sometimes the clank of iron mixed with the wheezy croning of leather
and the blowing of hairy nostrils.

'God's sake, Jack, slip round her belly, and let her go where she wull.'

As John Fry whispered, so I did, for he was off Smiler by this time;
but our two pads were too fagged to go far, and began to nose about and
crop, sniffing more than they need have done. I crept to John's side
very softly, with the bridle on my arm.

'Let goo braidle; let goo, lad. Plaise God they take them for
forest-ponies, or they'll zend a bullet through us.'

I saw what he meant, and let go the bridle; for now the mist was rolling
off, and we were against the sky-line to the dark cavalcade below us.
John lay on the ground by a barrow of heather, where a little gullet
was, and I crept to him, afraid of the noise I made in dragging my legs
along, and the creak of my cord breeches. John bleated like a sheep to
cover it--a sheep very cold and trembling.

Then just as the foremost horseman passed, scarce twenty yards below us,
a puff of wind came up the glen, and the fog rolled off before it. And
suddenly a strong red light, cast by the cloud-weight downwards, spread
like fingers over the moorland, opened the alleys of darkness, and hung
on the steel of the riders.

'Dunkery Beacon,' whispered John, so close into my ear, that I felt his
lips and teeth ashake; 'dursn't fire it now except to show the Doones
way home again, since the naight as they went up and throwed the
watchmen atop of it. Why, wutt be 'bout, lad? God's sake--'

For I could keep still no longer, but wriggled away from his arm, and
along the little gullet, still going flat on my breast and thighs, until
I was under a grey patch of stone, with a fringe of dry fern round it;
there I lay, scarce twenty feet above the heads of the riders, and I
feared to draw my breath, though prone to do it with wonder.

For now the beacon was rushing up, in a fiery storm to heaven, and the
form of its flame came and went in the folds, and the heavy sky was
hovering. All around it was hung with red, deep in twisted columns, and
then a giant beard of fire streamed throughout the darkness. The sullen
hills were flanked with light, and the valleys chined with shadow, and
all the sombrous moors between awoke in furrowed anger.

But most of all the flinging fire leaped into the rocky mouth of the
glen below me, where the horsemen passed in silence, scarcely deigning
to look round. Heavy men and large of stature, reckless how they bore
their guns, or how they sate their horses, with leathern jerkins, and
long boots, and iron plates on breast and head, plunder heaped behind
their saddles, and flagons slung in front of them; I counted more than
thirty pass, like clouds upon red sunset. Some had carcasses of sheep
swinging with their skins on, others had deer, and one had a child flung
across his saddle-bow. Whether the child were dead, or alive, was more
than I could tell, only it hung head downwards there, and must take the
chance of it. They had got the child, a very young one, for the sake of
the dress, no doubt, which they could not stop to pull off from it; for
the dress shone bright, where the fire struck it, as if with gold and
jewels. I longed in my heart to know most sadly what they would do with
the little thing, and whether they would eat it.

It touched me so to see that child, a prey among those vultures, that in
my foolish rage and burning I stood up and shouted to them leaping on
a rock, and raving out of all possession. Two of them turned round, and
one set his carbine at me, but the other said it was but a pixie, and
bade him keep his powder. Little they knew, and less thought I, that the
pixie then before them would dance their castle down one day.

John Fry, who in the spring of fright had brought himself down from
Smiler's side, as if he were dipped in oil, now came up to me, all risk
being over, cross, and stiff, and aching sorely from his wet couch of
heather.

'Small thanks to thee, Jan, as my new waife bain't a widder. And who be
you to zupport of her, and her son, if she have one? Zarve thee right if
I was to chuck thee down into the Doone-track. Zim thee'll come to un,
zooner or later, if this be the zample of thee.'

And that was all he had to say, instead of thanking God! For if ever
born man was in a fright, and ready to thank God for anything, the name
of that man was John Fry not more than five minutes agone.

However, I answered nothing at all, except to be ashamed of myself; and
soon we found Peggy and Smiler in company, well embarked on the homeward
road, and victualling where the grass was good. Right glad they were
to see us again--not for the pleasure of carrying, but because a horse
(like a woman) lacks, and is better without, self-reliance.

My father never came to meet us, at either side of the telling-house,
neither at the crooked post, nor even at home-linhay although the dogs
kept such a noise that he must have heard us. Home-side of the
linhay, and under the ashen hedge-row, where father taught me to catch
blackbirds, all at once my heart went down, and all my breast was
hollow. There was not even the lanthorn light on the peg against the
cow's house, and nobody said 'Hold your noise!' to the dogs, or shouted
'Here our Jack is!'

I looked at the posts of the gate, in the dark, because they were tall,
like father, and then at the door of the harness-room, where he used to
smoke his pipe and sing. Then I thought he had guests perhaps--people
lost upon the moors--whom he could not leave unkindly, even for his
son's sake. And yet about that I was jealous, and ready to be vexed with
him, when he should begin to make much of me. And I felt in my pocket
for the new pipe which I had brought him from Tiverton, and said to
myself, 'He shall not have it until to-morrow morning.'

Woe is me! I cannot tell. How I knew I know not now--only that I slunk
away, without a tear, or thought of weeping, and hid me in a saw-pit.
There the timber, over-head, came like streaks across me; and all I
wanted was to lack, and none to tell me anything.

By-and-by, a noise came down, as of woman's weeping; and there my mother
and sister were, choking and holding together. Although they were my
dearest loves, I could not bear to look at them, until they seemed to
want my help, and put their hands before their eyes.



CHAPTER IV

A VERY RASH VISIT

My dear father had been killed by the Doones of Bagworthy, while riding
home from Porlock market, on the Saturday evening. With him were six
brother-farmers, all of them very sober; for father would have no
company with any man who went beyond half a gallon of beer, or a single
gallon of cider. The robbers had no grudge against him; for he had never
flouted them, neither made overmuch of outcry, because they robbed other
people. For he was a man of such strict honesty, and due parish feeling,
that he knew it to be every man's own business to defend himself and
his goods; unless he belonged to our parish, and then we must look after
him.

These seven good farmers were jogging along, helping one another in the
troubles of the road, and singing goodly hymns and songs to keep their
courage moving, when suddenly a horseman stopped in the starlight full
across them.

By dress and arms they knew him well, and by his size and stature, shown
against the glimmer of the evening star; and though he seemed one man to
seven, it was in truth one man to one. Of the six who had been
singing songs and psalms about the power of God, and their own
regeneration--such psalms as went the round, in those days, of the
public-houses--there was not one but pulled out his money, and sang
small beer to a Doone.

But father had been used to think that any man who was comfortable
inside his own coat and waistcoat deserved to have no other set, unless
he would strike a blow for them. And so, while his gossips doffed their
hats, and shook with what was left of them, he set his staff above his
head, and rode at the Doone robber. With a trick of his horse, the wild
man escaped the sudden onset, although it must have amazed him sadly
that any durst resist him. Then when Smiler was carried away with the
dash and the weight of my father (not being brought up to battle, nor
used to turn, save in plough harness), the outlaw whistled upon his
thumb, and plundered the rest of the yeoman. But father, drawing at
Smiler's head, to try to come back and help them, was in the midst of
a dozen men, who seemed to come out of a turf-rick, some on horse, and
some a-foot. Nevertheless, he smote lustily, so far as he could see;
and being of great size and strength, and his blood well up, they had no
easy job with him. With the play of his wrist, he cracked three or four
crowns, being always famous at single-stick; until the rest drew their
horses away, and he thought that he was master, and would tell his wife
about it.

But a man beyond the range of staff was crouching by the peat-stack,
with a long gun set to his shoulder, and he got poor father against the
sky, and I cannot tell the rest of it. Only they knew that Smiler came
home, with blood upon his withers, and father was found in the morning
dead on the moor, with his ivy-twisted cudgel lying broken under him.
Now, whether this were an honest fight, God judge betwixt the Doones and
me.

It was more of woe than wonder, being such days of violence, that mother
knew herself a widow, and her children fatherless. Of children there
were only three, none of us fit to be useful yet, only to comfort
mother, by making her to work for us. I, John Ridd, was the eldest,
and felt it a heavy thing on me; next came sister Annie, with about two
years between us; and then the little Eliza.

Now, before I got home and found my sad loss--and no boy ever loved his
father more than I loved mine--mother had done a most wondrous thing,
which made all the neighbours say that she must be mad, at least. Upon
the Monday morning, while her husband lay unburied, she cast a white
hood over her hair, and gathered a black cloak round her, and, taking
counsel of no one, set off on foot for the Doone-gate.

In the early afternoon she came to the hollow and barren entrance, where
in truth there was no gate, only darkness to go through. If I get on
with this story, I shall have to tell of it by-and-by, as I saw it
afterwards; and will not dwell there now. Enough that no gun was fired
at her, only her eyes were covered over, and somebody led her by the
hand, without any wish to hurt her.

A very rough and headstrong road was all that she remembered, for she
could not think as she wished to do, with the cold iron pushed against
her. At the end of this road they delivered her eyes, and she could
scarce believe them.

For she stood at the head of a deep green valley, carved from out the
mountains in a perfect oval, with a fence of sheer rock standing round
it, eighty feet or a hundred high; from whose brink black wooded hills
swept up to the sky-line. By her side a little river glided out from
underground with a soft dark babble, unawares of daylight; then growing
brighter, lapsed away, and fell into the valley. Then, as it ran down
the meadow, alders stood on either marge, and grass was blading out
upon it, and yellow tufts of rushes gathered, looking at the hurry. But
further down, on either bank, were covered houses built of stone, square
and roughly cornered, set as if the brook were meant to be the street
between them. Only one room high they were, and not placed opposite each
other, but in and out as skittles are; only that the first of all, which
proved to be the captain's, was a sort of double house, or rather two
houses joined together by a plank-bridge, over the river.

Fourteen cots my mother counted, all very much of a pattern, and nothing
to choose between them, unless it were the captain's. Deep in the quiet
valley there, away from noise, and violence, and brawl, save that of
the rivulet, any man would have deemed them homes of simple mind and
innocence. Yet not a single house stood there but was the home of
murder.

Two men led my mother down a steep and gliddery stair-way, like the
ladder of a hay-mow; and thence from the break of the falling water as
far as the house of the captain. And there at the door they left her
trembling, strung as she was, to speak her mind.

Now, after all, what right had she, a common farmer's widow, to take it
amiss that men of birth thought fit to kill her husband. And the Doones
were of very high birth, as all we clods of Exmoor knew; and we had
enough of good teaching now--let any man say the contrary--to feel that
all we had belonged of right to those above us. Therefore my mother was
half-ashamed that she could not help complaining.

But after a little while, as she said, remembrance of her husband came,
and the way he used to stand by her side and put his strong arm round
her, and how he liked his bacon fried, and praised her kindly for
it--and so the tears were in her eyes, and nothing should gainsay them.

A tall old man, Sir Ensor Doone, came out with a bill-hook in his
hand, hedger's gloves going up his arms, as if he were no better than a
labourer at ditch-work. Only in his mouth and eyes, his gait, and most
of all his voice, even a child could know and feel that here was no
ditch-labourer. Good cause he has found since then, perhaps, to wish
that he had been one.

With his white locks moving upon his coat, he stopped and looked down
at my mother, and she could not help herself but curtsey under the fixed
black gazing.

'Good woman, you are none of us. Who has brought you hither? Young men
must be young--but I have had too much of this work.'

And he scowled at my mother, for her comeliness; and yet looked under
his eyelids as if he liked her for it. But as for her, in her depth of
love-grief, it struck scorn upon her womanhood; and in the flash she
spoke.

'What you mean I know not. Traitors! cut-throats! cowards! I am here to
ask for my husband.' She could not say any more, because her heart
was now too much for her, coming hard in her throat and mouth; but she
opened up her eyes at him.

'Madam,' said Sir Ensor Doone--being born a gentleman, although a very
bad one--'I crave pardon of you. My eyes are old, or I might have known.
Now, if we have your husband prisoner, he shall go free without ransoms,
because I have insulted you.'

'Sir,' said my mother, being suddenly taken away with sorrow, because of
his gracious manner, 'please to let me cry a bit.'

He stood away, and seemed to know that women want no help for that. And
by the way she cried he knew that they had killed her husband. Then,
having felt of grief himself, he was not angry with her, but left her to
begin again.

'Loth would I be,' said mother, sobbing with her new red handkerchief,
and looking at the pattern of it, 'loth indeed, Sir Ensor Doone, to
accuse any one unfairly. But I have lost the very best husband God ever
gave to a woman; and I knew him when he was to your belt, and I not up
to your knee, sir; and never an unkind word he spoke, nor stopped
me short in speaking. All the herbs he left to me, and all the
bacon-curing, and when it was best to kill a pig, and how to treat the
maidens. Not that I would ever wish--oh, John, it seems so strange to
me, and last week you were everything.'

Here mother burst out crying again, not loudly, but turning quietly,
because she knew that no one now would ever care to wipe the tears. And
fifty or a hundred things, of weekly and daily happening, came across my
mother, so that her spirit fell like slackening lime.

'This matter must be seen to; it shall be seen to at once,' the old man
answered, moved a little in spite of all his knowledge. 'Madam, if any
wrong has been done, trust the honour of a Doone; I will redress it to
my utmost. Come inside and rest yourself, while I ask about it. What was
your good husband's name, and when and where fell this mishap?'

'Deary me,' said mother, as he set a chair for her very polite, but she
would not sit upon it; 'Saturday morning I was a wife, sir; and Saturday
night I was a widow, and my children fatherless. My husband's name was
John Ridd, sir, as everybody knows; and there was not a finer or better
man in Somerset or Devon. He was coming home from Porlock market, and a
new gown for me on the crupper, and a shell to put my hair up--oh, John,
how good you were to me!'

Of that she began to think again, and not to believe her sorrow, except
as a dream from the evil one, because it was too bad upon her, and
perhaps she would awake in a minute, and her husband would have the
laugh of her. And so she wiped her eyes and smiled, and looked for
something.

'Madam, this is a serious thing,' Sir Ensor Doone said graciously, and
showing grave concern: 'my boys are a little wild, I know. And yet I
cannot think that they would willingly harm any one. And yet--and yet,
you do look wronged. Send Counsellor to me,' he shouted, from the door
of his house; and down the valley went the call, 'Send Counsellor to
Captain.'

Counsellor Doone came in ere yet my mother was herself again; and if any
sight could astonish her when all her sense of right and wrong was gone
astray with the force of things, it was the sight of the Counsellor.
A square-built man of enormous strength, but a foot below the Doone
stature (which I shall describe hereafter), he carried a long grey beard
descending to the leather of his belt. Great eyebrows overhung his face,
like ivy on a pollard oak, and under them two large brown eyes, as of an
owl when muting. And he had a power of hiding his eyes, or showing them
bright, like a blazing fire. He stood there with his beaver off, and
mother tried to look at him, but he seemed not to descry her.

'Counsellor,' said Sir Ensor Doone, standing back in his height from
him, 'here is a lady of good repute--'

'Oh, no, sir; only a woman.'

'Allow me, madam, by your good leave. Here is a lady, Counsellor, of
great repute in this part of the country, who charges the Doones with
having unjustly slain her husband--'

'Murdered him! murdered him!' cried my mother, 'if ever there was a
murder. Oh, sir! oh, sir! you know it.'

'The perfect rights and truth of the case is all I wish to know,' said
the old man, very loftily: 'and justice shall be done, madam.'

'Oh, I pray you--pray you, sirs, make no matter of business of it. God
from Heaven, look on me!'

'Put the case,' said the Counsellor.

'The case is this,' replied Sir Ensor, holding one hand up to mother:
'This lady's worthy husband was slain, it seems, upon his return from
the market at Porlock, no longer ago than last Saturday night. Madam,
amend me if I am wrong.'

'No longer, indeed, indeed, sir. Sometimes it seems a twelvemonth, and
sometimes it seems an hour.'

'Cite his name,' said the Counsellor, with his eyes still rolling
inwards.

'Master John Ridd, as I understand. Counsellor, we have heard of him
often; a worthy man and a peaceful one, who meddled not with our duties.
Now, if any of our boys have been rough, they shall answer it dearly.
And yet I can scarce believe it. For the folk about these parts are
apt to misconceive of our sufferings, and to have no feeling for us.
Counsellor, you are our record, and very stern against us; tell us how
this matter was.'

'Oh, Counsellor!' my mother cried; 'Sir Counsellor, you will be fair: I
see it in your countenance. Only tell me who it was, and set me face to
face with him, and I will bless you, sir, and God shall bless you, and
my children.'

The square man with the long grey beard, quite unmoved by anything, drew
back to the door and spoke, and his voice was like a fall of stones in
the bottom of a mine.

'Few words will be enow for this. Four or five of our best-behaved and
most peaceful gentlemen went to the little market at Porlock with a lump
of money. They bought some household stores and comforts at a very high
price, and pricked upon the homeward road, away from vulgar revellers.
When they drew bridle to rest their horses, in the shelter of a
peat-rick, the night being dark and sudden, a robber of great size and
strength rode into the midst of them, thinking to kill or terrify. His
arrogance and hardihood at the first amazed them, but they would not
give up without a blow goods which were on trust with them. He had
smitten three of them senseless, for the power of his arm was terrible;
whereupon the last man tried to ward his blow with a pistol. Carver,
sir, it was, our brave and noble Carver, who saved the lives of
his brethren and his own; and glad enow they were to escape.
Notwithstanding, we hoped it might be only a flesh-wound, and not to
speed him in his sins.'

As this atrocious tale of lies turned up joint by joint before her, like
a 'devil's coach-horse,'* mother was too much amazed to do any more than
look at him, as if the earth must open. But the only thing that opened
was the great brown eyes of the Counsellor, which rested on my mother's
face with a dew of sorrow, as he spoke of sins.

     * The cock-tailed beetle has earned this name in the West of
     England.

She, unable to bear them, turned suddenly on Sir Ensor, and caught (as
she fancied) a smile on his lips, and a sense of quiet enjoyment.

'All the Doones are gentlemen,' answered the old man gravely, and
looking as if he had never smiled since he was a baby. 'We are always
glad to explain, madam, any mistake which the rustic people may fall
upon about us; and we wish you clearly to conceive that we do not charge
your poor husband with any set purpose of robbery, neither will we bring
suit for any attainder of his property. Is it not so, Counsellor?'

'Without doubt his land is attainted; unless is mercy you forbear, sir.'

'Counsellor, we will forbear. Madam, we will forgive him. Like enough he
knew not right from wrong, at that time of night. The waters are strong
at Porlock, and even an honest man may use his staff unjustly in this
unchartered age of violence and rapine.'

The Doones to talk of rapine! Mother's head went round so that she
curtseyed to them both, scarcely knowing where she was, but calling to
mind her manners. All the time she felt a warmth, as if the right was
with her, and yet she could not see the way to spread it out before
them. With that, she dried her tears in haste and went into the cold
air, for fear of speaking mischief.

But when she was on the homeward road, and the sentinels had charge of
her, blinding her eyes, as if she were not blind enough with weeping,
some one came in haste behind her, and thrust a heavy leathern bag into
the limp weight of her hand.

'Captain sends you this,' he whispered; 'take it to the little ones.'

But mother let it fall in a heap, as if it had been a blind worm; and
then for the first time crouched before God, that even the Doones should
pity her.



CHAPTER V

AN ILLEGAL SETTLEMENT

Good folk who dwell in a lawful land, if any such there be, may for want
of exploration, judge our neighbourhood harshly, unless the whole truth
is set before them. In bar of such prejudice, many of us ask leave to
explain how and why it was the robbers came to that head in the midst
of us. We would rather not have had it so, God knows as well as anybody;
but it grew upon us gently, in the following manner. Only let all who
read observe that here I enter many things which came to my knowledge in
later years.

In or about the year of our Lord 1640, when all the troubles of England
were swelling to an outburst, great estates in the North country were
suddenly confiscated, through some feud of families and strong influence
at Court, and the owners were turned upon the world, and might think
themselves lucky to save their necks. These estates were in co-heirship,
joint tenancy I think they called it, although I know not the meaning,
only so that if either tenant died, the other living, all would come to
the live one in spite of any testament.

One of the joint owners was Sir Ensor Doone, a gentleman of brisk
intellect; and the other owner was his cousin, the Earl of Lorne and
Dykemont.

Lord Lorne was some years the elder of his cousin, Ensor Doone, and was
making suit to gain severance of the cumbersome joint tenancy by any
fair apportionment, when suddenly this blow fell on them by wiles and
woman's meddling; and instead of dividing the land, they were divided
from it.

The nobleman was still well-to-do, though crippled in his expenditure;
but as for the cousin, he was left a beggar, with many to beg from him.
He thought that the other had wronged him, and that all the trouble of
law befell through his unjust petition. Many friends advised him to make
interest at Court; for having done no harm whatever, and being a good
Catholic, which Lord Lorne was not, he would be sure to find hearing
there, and probably some favour. But he, like a very hot-brained man,
although he had long been married to the daughter of his cousin (whom he
liked none the more for that), would have nothing to say to any attempt
at making a patch of it, but drove away with his wife and sons, and the
relics of his money, swearing hard at everybody. In this he may have
been quite wrong; probably, perhaps, he was so; but I am not convinced
at all but what most of us would have done the same.

Some say that, in the bitterness of that wrong and outrage, he slew a
gentleman of the Court, whom he supposed to have borne a hand in the
plundering of his fortunes. Others say that he bearded King Charles the
First himself, in a manner beyond forgiveness. One thing, at any rate,
is sure--Sir Ensor was attainted, and made a felon outlaw, through some
violent deed ensuing upon his dispossession.

He had searched in many quarters for somebody to help him, and with
good warrant for hoping it, inasmuch as he, in lucky days, had been
open-handed and cousinly to all who begged advice of him. But now
all these provided him with plenty of good advice indeed, and great
assurance of feeling, but not a movement of leg, or lip, or purse-string
in his favour. All good people of either persuasion, royalty or
commonalty, knowing his kitchen-range to be cold, no longer would play
turnspit. And this, it may be, seared his heart more than loss of land
and fame.

In great despair at last, he resolved to settle in some outlandish part,
where none could be found to know him; and so, in an evil day for us,
he came to the West of England. Not that our part of the world is at all
outlandish, according to my view of it (for I never found a better one),
but that it was known to be rugged, and large, and desolate. And here,
when he had discovered a place which seemed almost to be made for
him, so withdrawn, so self-defended, and uneasy of access, some of the
country-folk around brought him little offerings--a side of bacon, a
keg of cider, hung mutton, or a brisket of venison; so that for a little
while he was very honest. But when the newness of his coming began to
wear away, and our good folk were apt to think that even a gentleman
ought to work or pay other men for doing it, and many farmers were grown
weary of manners without discourse to them, and all cried out to one
another how unfair it was that owning such a fertile valley young men
would not spade or plough by reason of noble lineage--then the young
Doones growing up took things they would not ask for.

And here let me, as a solid man, owner of five hundred acres (whether
fenced or otherwise, and that is my own business), churchwarden also of
this parish (until I go to the churchyard), and proud to be called the
parson's friend--for a better man I never knew with tobacco and strong
waters, nor one who could read the lessons so well and he has been at
Blundell's too--once for all let me declare, that I am a thorough-going
Church-and-State man, and Royalist, without any mistake about it. And
this I lay down, because some people judging a sausage by the skin,
may take in evil part my little glosses of style and glibness, and the
mottled nature of my remarks and cracks now and then on the frying-pan.
I assure them I am good inside, and not a bit of rue in me; only queer
knots, as of marjoram, and a stupid manner of bursting.

There was not more than a dozen of them, counting a few retainers who
still held by Sir Ensor; but soon they grew and multiplied in a manner
surprising to think of. Whether it was the venison, which we call a
strengthening victual, or whether it was the Exmoor mutton, or the keen
soft air of the moorlands, anyhow the Doones increased much faster than
their honesty. At first they had brought some ladies with them, of good
repute with charity; and then, as time went on, they added to their
stock by carrying. They carried off many good farmers' daughters, who
were sadly displeased at first; but took to them kindly after awhile,
and made a new home in their babies. For women, as it seems to me, like
strong men more than weak ones, feeling that they need some staunchness,
something to hold fast by.

And of all the men in our country, although we are of a thick-set breed,
you scarce could find one in three-score fit to be placed among the
Doones, without looking no more than a tailor. Like enough, we could
meet them man for man (if we chose all around the crown and the skirts
of Exmoor), and show them what a cross-buttock means, because we are
so stuggy; but in regard of stature, comeliness, and bearing, no woman
would look twice at us. Not but what I myself, John Ridd, and one or two
I know of--but it becomes me best not to talk of that, although my hair
is gray.

Perhaps their den might well have been stormed, and themselves driven
out of the forest, if honest people had only agreed to begin with them
at once when first they took to plundering. But having respect for
their good birth, and pity for their misfortunes, and perhaps a little
admiration at the justice of God, that robbed men now were robbers,
the squires, and farmers, and shepherds, at first did nothing more than
grumble gently, or even make a laugh of it, each in the case of others.
After awhile they found the matter gone too far for laughter, as
violence and deadly outrage stained the hand of robbery, until every
woman clutched her child, and every man turned pale at the very name of
Doone. For the sons and grandsons of Sir Ensor grew up in foul liberty,
and haughtiness, and hatred, to utter scorn of God and man, and
brutality towards dumb animals. There was only one good thing about
them, if indeed it were good, to wit, their faith to one another, and
truth to their wild eyry. But this only made them feared the more, so
certain was the revenge they wreaked upon any who dared to strike a
Doone. One night, some ten years ere I was born, when they were sacking
a rich man's house not very far from Minehead, a shot was fired at them
in the dark, of which they took little notice, and only one of them knew
that any harm was done. But when they were well on the homeward road,
not having slain either man or woman, or even burned a house down, one
of their number fell from his saddle, and died without so much as a
groan. The youth had been struck, but would not complain, and perhaps
took little heed of the wound, while he was bleeding inwardly. His
brothers and cousins laid him softly on a bank of whortle-berries, and
just rode back to the lonely hamlet where he had taken his death-wound.
No man nor woman was left in the morning, nor house for any to dwell in,
only a child with its reason gone.*

     *This vile deed was done, beyond all doubt.

This affair made prudent people find more reason to let them alone than
to meddle with them; and now they had so entrenched themselves, and
waxed so strong in number, that nothing less than a troop of soldiers
could wisely enter their premises; and even so it might turn out ill, as
perchance we shall see by-and-by.

For not to mention the strength of the place, which I shall describe in
its proper order when I come to visit it, there was not one among them
but was a mighty man, straight and tall, and wide, and fit to lift four
hundredweight. If son or grandson of old Doone, or one of the northern
retainers, failed at the age of twenty, while standing on his naked feet
to touch with his forehead the lintel of Sir Ensor's door, and to fill
the door frame with his shoulders from sidepost even to sidepost, he was
led away to the narrow pass which made their valley so desperate, and
thrust from the crown with ignominy, to get his own living honestly.
Now, the measure of that doorway is, or rather was, I ought to say,
six feet and one inch lengthwise, and two feet all but two inches taken
crossways in the clear. Yet I not only have heard but know, being so
closely mixed with them, that no descendant of old Sir Ensor, neither
relative of his (except, indeed, the Counsellor, who was kept by them
for his wisdom), and no more than two of their following ever failed of
that test, and relapsed to the difficult ways of honesty.

Not that I think anything great of a standard the like of that: for
if they had set me in that door-frame at the age of twenty, it is like
enough that I should have walked away with it on my shoulders, though
I was not come to my full strength then: only I am speaking now of the
average size of our neighbourhood, and the Doones were far beyond that.
Moreover, they were taught to shoot with a heavy carbine so delicately
and wisely, that even a boy could pass a ball through a rabbit's head at
the distance of fourscore yards. Some people may think nought of this,
being in practice with longer shots from the tongue than from the
shoulder; nevertheless, to do as above is, to my ignorance, very good
work, if you can be sure to do it. Not one word do I believe of Robin
Hood splitting peeled wands at seven-score yards, and such like. Whoever
wrote such stories knew not how slippery a peeled wand is, even if one
could hit it, and how it gives to the onset. Now, let him stick one in
the ground, and take his bow and arrow at it, ten yards away, or even
five.

Now, after all this which I have written, and all the rest which a
reader will see, being quicker of mind than I am (who leave more than
half behind me, like a man sowing wheat, with his dinner laid in the
ditch too near his dog), it is much but what you will understand the
Doones far better than I did, or do even to this moment; and therefore
none will doubt when I tell them that our good justiciaries feared to
make an ado, or hold any public inquiry about my dear father's death.
They would all have had to ride home that night, and who could say what
might betide them. Least said soonest mended, because less chance of
breaking.

So we buried him quietly--all except my mother, indeed, for she could
not keep silence--in the sloping little churchyard of Oare, as meek a
place as need be, with the Lynn brook down below it. There is not much
of company there for anybody's tombstone, because the parish spreads
so far in woods and moors without dwelling-house. If we bury one man
in three years, or even a woman or child, we talk about it for three
months, and say it must be our turn next, and scarcely grow accustomed
to it until another goes.

Annie was not allowed to come, because she cried so terribly; but she
ran to the window, and saw it all, mooing there like a little calf, so
frightened and so left alone. As for Eliza, she came with me, one on
each side of mother, and not a tear was in her eyes, but sudden starts
of wonder, and a new thing to be looked at unwillingly, yet
curiously. Poor little thing! she was very clever, the only one of our
family--thank God for the same--but none the more for that guessed she
what it is to lose a father.



CHAPTER VI

NECESSARY PRACTICE

About the rest of all that winter I remember very little, being only a
young boy then, and missing my father most out of doors, as when it
came to the bird-catching, or the tracking of hares in the snow, or
the training of a sheep-dog. Oftentimes I looked at his gun, an ancient
piece found in the sea, a little below Glenthorne, and of which he was
mighty proud, although it was only a match-lock; and I thought of the
times I had held the fuse, while he got his aim at a rabbit, and once
even at a red deer rubbing among the hazels. But nothing came of my
looking at it, so far as I remember, save foolish tears of my own
perhaps, till John Fry took it down one day from the hooks where
father's hand had laid it; and it hurt me to see how John handled it, as
if he had no memory.

'Bad job for he as her had not got thiccy the naight as her coom acrass
them Doones. Rackon Varmer Jan 'ood a-zhown them the wai to kingdom
come, 'stead of gooin' herzel zo aisy. And a maight have been gooin' to
market now, 'stead of laying banked up over yanner. Maister Jan, thee
can zee the grave if thee look alang this here goon-barryel. Buy now,
whutt be blubberin' at? Wish I had never told thee.'

'John Fry, I am not blubbering; you make a great mistake, John. You are
thinking of little Annie. I cough sometimes in the winter-weather, and
father gives me lickerish--I mean--I mean--he used to. Now let me have
the gun, John.'

'Thee have the goon, Jan! Thee isn't fit to putt un to thy zhoulder.
What a weight her be, for sure!'

'Me not hold it, John! That shows how much you know about it. Get out
of the way, John; you are opposite the mouth of it, and likely it is
loaded.'

John Fry jumped in a livelier manner than when he was doing day-work;
and I rested the mouth on a cross rack-piece, and felt a warm sort
of surety that I could hit the door over opposite, or, at least, the
cobwall alongside of it, and do no harm in the orchard. But John would
not give me link or fuse, and, on the whole, I was glad of it, though
carrying on as boys do, because I had heard my father say that the
Spanish gun kicked like a horse, and because the load in it came from
his hand, and I did not like to undo it. But I never found it kick very
hard, and firmly set to the shoulder, unless it was badly loaded. In
truth, the thickness of the metal was enough almost to astonish one; and
what our people said about it may have been true enough, although most
of them are such liars--at least, I mean, they make mistakes, as all
mankind must do. Perchance it was no mistake at all to say that this
ancient gun had belonged to a noble Spaniard, the captain of a fine
large ship in the 'Invincible Armada,' which we of England managed to
conquer, with God and the weather helping us, a hundred years ago or
more--I can't say to a month or so.

After a little while, when John had fired away at a rat the charge I
held so sacred, it came to me as a natural thing to practise shooting
with that great gun, instead of John Fry's blunderbuss, which looked
like a bell with a stalk to it. Perhaps for a boy there is nothing
better than a good windmill to shoot at, as I have seen them in flat
countries; but we have no windmills upon the great moorland, yet here
and there a few barn-doors, where shelter is, and a way up the hollows.
And up those hollows you can shoot, with the help of the sides to lead
your aim, and there is a fair chance of hitting the door, if you lay
your cheek to the barrel, and try not to be afraid of it.

Gradually I won such skill, that I sent nearly all the lead gutter from
the north porch of our little church through our best barn-door, a thing
which has often repented me since, especially as churchwarden, and made
me pardon many bad boys; but father was not buried on that side of the
church.

But all this time, while I was roving over the hills or about the farm,
and even listening to John Fry, my mother, being so much older and
feeling trouble longer, went about inside the house, or among the maids
and fowls, not caring to talk to the best of them, except when she broke
out sometimes about the good master they had lost, all and every one
of us. But the fowls would take no notice of it, except to cluck for
barley; and the maidens, though they had liked him well, were thinking
of their sweethearts as the spring came on. Mother thought it wrong of
them, selfish and ungrateful; and yet sometimes she was proud that none
had such call as herself to grieve for him. Only Annie seemed to go
softly in and out, and cry, with nobody along of her, chiefly in the
corner where the bees are and the grindstone. But somehow she would
never let anybody behold her; being set, as you may say, to think it
over by herself, and season it with weeping. Many times I caught her,
and many times she turned upon me, and then I could not look at her, but
asked how long to dinner-time.

Now in the depth of the winter month, such as we call December, father
being dead and quiet in his grave a fortnight, it happened me to be out
of powder for practice against his enemies. I had never fired a shot
without thinking, 'This for father's murderer'; and John Fry said that
I made such faces it was a wonder the gun went off. But though I could
hardly hold the gun, unless with my back against a bar, it did me good
to hear it go off, and hope to have hitten his enemies.

'Oh, mother, mother,' I said that day, directly after dinner, while she
was sitting looking at me, and almost ready to say (as now she did seven
times in a week), 'How like your father you are growing! Jack, come here
and kiss me'--'oh, mother, if you only knew how much I want a shilling!'

'Jack, you shall never want a shilling while I am alive to give thee
one. But what is it for, dear heart, dear heart?'

'To buy something over at Porlock, mother. Perhaps I will tell you
afterwards. If I tell not it will be for your good, and for the sake of
the children.'

'Bless the boy, one would think he was threescore years of age at least.
Give me a little kiss, you Jack, and you shall have the shilling.'

For I hated to kiss or be kissed in those days: and so all honest boys
must do, when God puts any strength in them. But now I wanted the powder
so much that I went and kissed mother very shyly, looking round the
corner first, for Betty not to see me.

But mother gave me half a dozen, and only one shilling for all of them;
and I could not find it in my heart to ask her for another, although I
would have taken it. In very quick time I ran away with the shilling
in my pocket, and got Peggy out on the Porlock road without my mother
knowing it. For mother was frightened of that road now, as if all the
trees were murderers, and would never let me go alone so much as a
hundred yards on it. And, to tell the truth, I was touched with fear for
many years about it; and even now, when I ride at dark there, a man by
a peat-rick makes me shiver, until I go and collar him. But this time
I was very bold, having John Fry's blunderbuss, and keeping a sharp
look-out wherever any lurking place was. However, I saw only sheep and
small red cattle, and the common deer of the forest, until I was nigh to
Porlock town, and then rode straight to Mr. Pooke's, at the sign of the
Spit and Gridiron.

Mr. Pooke was asleep, as it happened, not having much to do that day;
and so I fastened Peggy by the handle of a warming-pan, at which she
had no better manners than to snort and blow her breath; and in I walked
with a manful style, bearing John Fry's blunderbuss. Now Timothy Pooke
was a peaceful man, glad to live without any enjoyment of mind at
danger, and I was tall and large already as most lads of a riper age.
Mr. Pooke, as soon as he opened his eyes, dropped suddenly under the
counting-board, and drew a great frying-pan over his head, as if the
Doones were come to rob him, as their custom was, mostly after the
fair-time. It made me feel rather hot and queer to be taken for a
robber; and yet methinks I was proud of it.

'Gadzooks, Master Pooke,' said I, having learned fine words at Tiverton;
'do you suppose that I know not then the way to carry firearms? An it
were the old Spanish match-lock in the lieu of this good flint-engine,
which may be borne ten miles or more and never once go off, scarcely
couldst thou seem more scared. I might point at thee muzzle on--just so
as I do now--even for an hour or more, and like enough it would never
shoot thee, unless I pulled the trigger hard, with a crock upon my
finger; so you see; just so, Master Pooke, only a trifle harder.'

'God sake, John Ridd, God sake, dear boy,' cried Pooke, knowing me by
this time; 'don't 'e, for good love now, don't 'e show it to me, boy,
as if I was to suck it. Put 'un down, for good, now; and thee shall have
the very best of all is in the shop.'

'Ho!' I replied with much contempt, and swinging round the gun so that
it fetched his hoop of candles down, all unkindled as they were: 'Ho!
as if I had not attained to the handling of a gun yet! My hands are cold
coming over the moors, else would I go bail to point the mouth at you
for an hour, sir, and no cause for uneasiness.'

But in spite of all assurances, he showed himself desirous only to see
the last of my gun and me. I dare say 'villainous saltpetre,' as the
great playwright calls it, was never so cheap before nor since. For my
shilling Master Pooke afforded me two great packages over-large to go
into my pockets, as well as a mighty chunk of lead, which I bound upon
Peggy's withers. And as if all this had not been enough, he presented me
with a roll of comfits for my sister Annie, whose gentle face and pretty
manners won the love of everybody.

There was still some daylight here and there as I rose the hill above
Porlock, wondering whether my mother would be in a fright, or would not
know it. The two great packages of powder, slung behind my back, knocked
so hard against one another that I feared they must either spill or blow
up, and hurry me over Peggy's ears from the woollen cloth I rode
upon. For father always liked a horse to have some wool upon his loins
whenever he went far from home, and had to stand about, where one
pleased, hot, and wet, and panting. And father always said that saddles
were meant for men full-grown and heavy, and losing their activity; and
no boy or young man on our farm durst ever get into a saddle, because
they all knew that the master would chuck them out pretty quickly. As
for me, I had tried it once, from a kind of curiosity; and I could not
walk for two or three days, the leather galled my knees so. But now, as
Peggy bore me bravely, snorting every now and then into a cloud of air,
for the night was growing frosty, presently the moon arose over the
shoulder of a hill, and the pony and I were half glad to see her, and
half afraid of the shadows she threw, and the images all around us. I
was ready at any moment to shoot at anybody, having great faith in my
blunderbuss, but hoping not to prove it. And as I passed the narrow
place where the Doones had killed my father, such a fear broke out upon
me that I leaned upon the neck of Peggy, and shut my eyes, and was cold
all over. However, there was not a soul to be seen, until we came home
to the old farmyard, and there was my mother crying sadly, and Betty
Muxworthy scolding.

'Come along, now,' I whispered to Annie, the moment supper was over;
'and if you can hold your tongue, Annie, I will show you something.'

She lifted herself on the bench so quickly, and flushed so rich with
pleasure, that I was obliged to stare hard away, and make Betty look
beyond us. Betty thought I had something hid in the closet beyond the
clock-case, and she was the more convinced of it by reason of my denial.
Not that Betty Muxworthy, or any one else, for that matter, ever found
me in a falsehood, because I never told one, not even to my mother--or,
which is still a stronger thing, not even to my sweetheart (when I grew
up to have one)--but that Betty being wronged in the matter of marriage,
a generation or two agone, by a man who came hedging and ditching, had
now no mercy, except to believe that men from cradle to grave are liars,
and women fools to look at them.

When Betty could find no crime of mine, she knocked me out of the way in
a minute, as if I had been nobody; and then she began to coax 'Mistress
Annie,' as she always called her, and draw the soft hair down her hands,
and whisper into the little ears. Meanwhile, dear mother was falling
asleep, having been troubled so much about me; and Watch, my father's
pet dog, was nodding closer and closer up into her lap.

'Now, Annie, will you come?' I said, for I wanted her to hold the ladle
for melting of the lead; 'will you come at once, Annie? or must I go for
Lizzie, and let her see the whole of it?'

'Indeed, then, you won't do that,' said Annie; 'Lizzie to come before
me, John; and she can't stir a pot of brewis, and scarce knows a tongue
from a ham, John, and says it makes no difference, because both are
good to eat! Oh, Betty, what do you think of that to come of all her
book-learning?'

'Thank God he can't say that of me,' Betty answered shortly, for she
never cared about argument, except on her own side; 'thank he, I says,
every marning a'most, never to lead me astray so. Men is desaving and so
is galanies; but the most desaving of all is books, with their heads
and tails, and the speckots in 'em, lik a peg as have taken the maisles.
Some folk purtends to laugh and cry over them. God forgive them for
liars!'

It was part of Betty's obstinacy that she never would believe in reading
or the possibility of it, but stoutly maintained to the very last that
people first learned things by heart, and then pretended to make them
out from patterns done upon paper, for the sake of astonishing honest
folk just as do the conjurers. And even to see the parson and clerk was
not enough to convince her; all she said was, 'It made no odds, they
were all the same as the rest of us.' And now that she had been on
the farm nigh upon forty years, and had nursed my father, and made his
clothes, and all that he had to eat, and then put him in his coffin, she
was come to such authority, that it was not worth the wages of the best
man on the place to say a word in answer to Betty, even if he would face
the risk to have ten for one, or twenty.

Annie was her love and joy. For Annie she would do anything, even so far
as to try to smile, when the little maid laughed and danced to her. And
in truth I know not how it was, but every one was taken with Annie at
the very first time of seeing her. She had such pretty ways and manners,
and such a look of kindness, and a sweet soft light in her long blue
eyes full of trustful gladness. Everybody who looked at her seemed to
grow the better for it, because she knew no evil. And then the turn she
had for cooking, you never would have expected it; and how it was her
richest mirth to see that she had pleased you. I have been out on the
world a vast deal as you will own hereafter, and yet have I never seen
Annie's equal for making a weary man comfortable.



CHAPTER VII

HARD IT IS TO CLIMB

So many a winter night went by in a hopeful and pleasant manner, with
the hissing of the bright round bullets, cast into the water, and the
spluttering of the great red apples which Annie was roasting for me. We
always managed our evening's work in the chimney of the back-kitchen,
where there was room to set chairs and table, in spite of the fire
burning. On the right-hand side was a mighty oven, where Betty
threatened to bake us; and on the left, long sides of bacon, made of
favoured pigs, and growing very brown and comely. Annie knew the names
of all, and ran up through the wood-smoke, every now and then, when a
gentle memory moved her, and asked them how they were getting on, and
when they would like to be eaten. Then she came back with foolish tears,
at thinking of that necessity; and I, being soft in a different way,
would make up my mind against bacon.

But, Lord bless you! it was no good. Whenever it came to breakfast-time,
after three hours upon the moors, I regularly forgot the pigs, but paid
good heed to the rashers. For ours is a hungry county, if such there
be in England; a place, I mean, where men must eat, and are quick to
discharge the duty. The air of the moors is so shrewd and wholesome,
stirring a man's recollection of the good things which have betided him,
and whetting his hope of something still better in the future, that by
the time he sits down to a cloth, his heart and stomach are tuned too
well to say 'nay' to one another.

Almost everybody knows, in our part of the world at least, how pleasant
and soft the fall of the land is round about Plover's Barrows farm. All
above it is strong dark mountain, spread with heath, and desolate, but
near our house the valleys cove, and open warmth and shelter. Here are
trees, and bright green grass, and orchards full of contentment, and
a man may scarce espy the brook, although he hears it everywhere. And
indeed a stout good piece of it comes through our farm-yard, and swells
sometimes to a rush of waves, when the clouds are on the hill-tops. But
all below, where the valley bends, and the Lynn stream comes along with
it, pretty meadows slope their breast, and the sun spreads on the water.
And nearly all of this is ours, till you come to Nicholas Snowe's land.

But about two miles below our farm, the Bagworthy water runs into
the Lynn, and makes a real river of it. Thence it hurries away, with
strength and a force of wilful waters, under the foot of a barefaced
hill, and so to rocks and woods again, where the stream is covered over,
and dark, heavy pools delay it. There are plenty of fish all down this
way, and the farther you go the larger they get, having deeper grounds
to feed in; and sometimes in the summer months, when mother could spare
me off the farm, I came down here, with Annie to help (because it was so
lonely), and caught well-nigh a basketful of little trout and minnows,
with a hook and a bit of worm on it, or a fern-web, or a blow-fly, hung
from a hazel pulse-stick. For of all the things I learned at Blundell's,
only two abode with me, and one of these was the knack of fishing, and
the other the art of swimming. And indeed they have a very rude manner
of teaching children to swim there; for the big boys take the little
boys, and put them through a certain process, which they grimly call
'sheep-washing.' In the third meadow from the gate of the school, going
up the river, there is a fine pool in the Lowman, where the Taunton
brook comes in, and they call it the Taunton Pool. The water runs down
with a strong sharp stickle, and then has a sudden elbow in it, where
the small brook trickles in; and on that side the bank is steep, four or
it may be five feet high, overhanging loamily; but on the other side it
is flat, pebbly, and fit to land upon. Now the large boys take the small
boys, crying sadly for mercy, and thinking mayhap, of their mothers,
with hands laid well at the back of their necks, they bring them up to
the crest of the bank upon the eastern side, and make them strip their
clothes off. Then the little boys, falling on their naked knees, blubber
upwards piteously; but the large boys know what is good for them, and
will not be entreated. So they cast them down, one after other into the
splash of the water, and watch them go to the bottom first, and then
come up and fight for it, with a blowing and a bubbling. It is a very
fair sight to watch when you know there is little danger, because,
although the pool is deep, the current is sure to wash a boy up on the
stones, where the end of the depth is. As for me, they had no need to
throw me more than once, because I jumped of my own accord, thinking
small things of the Lowman, after the violent Lynn. Nevertheless, I
learnt to swim there, as all the other boys did; for the greatest point
in learning that is to find that you must do it. I loved the water
naturally, and could not long be out of it; but even the boys who hated
it most, came to swim in some fashion or other, after they had been
flung for a year or two into the Taunton pool.

But now, although my sister Annie came to keep me company, and was not
to be parted from me by the tricks of the Lynn stream, because I put her
on my back and carried her across, whenever she could not leap it, or
tuck up her things and take the stones; yet so it happened that neither
of us had been up the Bagworthy water. We knew that it brought a good
stream down, as full of fish as of pebbles; and we thought that it must
be very pretty to make a way where no way was, nor even a bullock came
down to drink. But whether we were afraid or not, I am sure I cannot
tell, because it is so long ago; but I think that had something to do
with it. For Bagworthy water ran out of Doone valley, a mile or so from
the mouth of it.

But when I was turned fourteen years old, and put into good
small-clothes, buckled at the knee, and strong blue worsted hosen,
knitted by my mother, it happened to me without choice, I may say, to
explore the Bagworthy water. And it came about in this wise.

My mother had long been ailing, and not well able to eat much; and there
is nothing that frightens us so much as for people to have no love of
their victuals. Now I chanced to remember that once at the time of
the holidays I had brought dear mother from Tiverton a jar of pickled
loaches, caught by myself in the Lowman river, and baked in the kitchen
oven, with vinegar, a few leaves of bay, and about a dozen pepper-corns.
And mother had said that in all her life she had never tasted anything
fit to be compared with them. Whether she said so good a thing out of
compliment to my skill in catching the fish and cooking them, or whether
she really meant it, is more than I can tell, though I quite believe
the latter, and so would most people who tasted them; at any rate, I
now resolved to get some loaches for her, and do them in the self-same
manner, just to make her eat a bit.

There are many people, even now, who have not come to the right
knowledge what a loach is, and where he lives, and how to catch and
pickle him. And I will not tell them all about it, because if I did,
very likely there would be no loaches left ten or twenty years after the
appearance of this book. A pickled minnow is very good if you catch him
in a stickle, with the scarlet fingers upon him; but I count him no more
than the ropes in beer compared with a loach done properly.

Being resolved to catch some loaches, whatever trouble it cost me, I set
forth without a word to any one, in the forenoon of St. Valentine's
day, 1675-6, I think it must have been. Annie should not come with me,
because the water was too cold; for the winter had been long, and snow
lay here and there in patches in the hollow of the banks, like a lady's
gloves forgotten. And yet the spring was breaking forth, as it always
does in Devonshire, when the turn of the days is over; and though there
was little to see of it, the air was full of feeling.

It puzzles me now, that I remember all those young impressions so,
because I took no heed of them at the time whatever; and yet they
come upon me bright, when nothing else is evident in the gray fog
of experience. I am like an old man gazing at the outside of his
spectacles, and seeing, as he rubs the dust, the image of his grandson
playing at bo-peep with him.

But let me be of any age, I never could forget that day, and how bitter
cold the water was. For I doffed my shoes and hose, and put them into
a bag about my neck; and left my little coat at home, and tied my
shirt-sleeves back to my shoulders. Then I took a three-pronged fork
firmly bound to a rod with cord, and a piece of canvas kerchief, with
a lump of bread inside it; and so went into the pebbly water, trying to
think how warm it was. For more than a mile all down the Lynn stream,
scarcely a stone I left unturned, being thoroughly skilled in the tricks
of the loach, and knowing how he hides himself. For being gray-spotted,
and clear to see through, and something like a cuttle-fish, only more
substantial, he will stay quite still where a streak of weed is in the
rapid water, hoping to be overlooked, not caring even to wag his tail.
Then being disturbed he flips away, like whalebone from the finger, and
hies to a shelf of stone, and lies with his sharp head poked in under
it; or sometimes he bellies him into the mud, and only shows his
back-ridge. And that is the time to spear him nicely, holding the fork
very gingerly, and allowing for the bent of it, which comes to pass, I
know not how, at the tickle of air and water.

Or if your loach should not be abroad when first you come to look for
him, but keeping snug in his little home, then you may see him come
forth amazed at the quivering of the shingles, and oar himself and look
at you, and then dart up-stream, like a little grey streak; and then you
must try to mark him in, and follow very daintily. So after that, in a
sandy place, you steal up behind his tail to him, so that he cannot set
eyes on you, for his head is up-stream always, and there you see him
abiding still, clear, and mild, and affable. Then, as he looks so
innocent, you make full sure to prog him well, in spite of the wry of
the water, and the sun making elbows to everything, and the trembling
of your fingers. But when you gird at him lovingly, and have as good as
gotten him, lo! in the go-by of the river he is gone as a shadow goes,
and only a little cloud of mud curls away from the points of the fork.

A long way down that limpid water, chill and bright as an iceberg, went
my little self that day on man's choice errand--destruction. All
the young fish seemed to know that I was one who had taken out God's
certificate, and meant to have the value of it; every one of them was
aware that we desolate more than replenish the earth. For a cow
might come and look into the water, and put her yellow lips down; a
kingfisher, like a blue arrow, might shoot through the dark alleys over
the channel, or sit on a dipping withy-bough with his beak sunk into his
breast-feathers; even an otter might float downstream likening himself
to a log of wood, with his flat head flush with the water-top, and his
oily eyes peering quietly; and yet no panic would seize other life, as
it does when a sample of man comes.

Now let not any one suppose that I thought of these things when I was
young, for I knew not the way to do it. And proud enough in truth I
was at the universal fear I spread in all those lonely places, where I
myself must have been afraid, if anything had come up to me. It is
all very pretty to see the trees big with their hopes of another year,
though dumb as yet on the subject, and the waters murmuring gaiety,
and the banks spread out with comfort; but a boy takes none of this to
heart; unless he be meant for a poet (which God can never charge upon
me), and he would liefer have a good apple, or even a bad one, if he
stole it.

When I had travelled two miles or so, conquered now and then with cold,
and coming out to rub my legs into a lively friction, and only fishing
here and there, because of the tumbling water; suddenly, in an open
space, where meadows spread about it, I found a good stream flowing
softly into the body of our brook. And it brought, so far as I could
guess by the sweep of it under my knee-caps, a larger power of clear
water than the Lynn itself had; only it came more quietly down, not
being troubled with stairs and steps, as the fortune of the Lynn is, but
gliding smoothly and forcibly, as if upon some set purpose.

Hereupon I drew up and thought, and reason was much inside me; because
the water was bitter cold, and my little toes were aching. So on the
bank I rubbed them well with a sprout of young sting-nettle, and having
skipped about awhile, was kindly inclined to eat a bit.

Now all the turn of all my life hung upon that moment. But as I sat
there munching a crust of Betty Muxworthy's sweet brown bread, and a bit
of cold bacon along with it, and kicking my little red heels against the
dry loam to keep them warm, I knew no more than fish under the fork what
was going on over me. It seemed a sad business to go back now and tell
Annie there were no loaches; and yet it was a frightful thing, knowing
what I did of it, to venture, where no grown man durst, up the Bagworthy
water. And please to recollect that I was only a boy in those days, fond
enough of anything new, but not like a man to meet it.

However, as I ate more and more, my spirit arose within me, and I
thought of what my father had been, and how he had told me a hundred
times never to be a coward. And then I grew warm, and my little heart
was ashamed of its pit-a-patting, and I said to myself, 'now if father
looks, he shall see that I obey him.' So I put the bag round my back
again, and buckled my breeches far up from the knee, expecting deeper
water, and crossing the Lynn, went stoutly up under the branches which
hang so dark on the Bagworthy river.

I found it strongly over-woven, turned, and torn with thicket-wood, but
not so rocky as the Lynn, and more inclined to go evenly. There were
bars of chafed stakes stretched from the sides half-way across the
current, and light outriders of pithy weed, and blades of last year's
water-grass trembling in the quiet places, like a spider's threads, on
the transparent stillness, with a tint of olive moving it. And here and
there the sun came in, as if his light was sifted, making dance upon the
waves, and shadowing the pebbles.

Here, although affrighted often by the deep, dark places, and feeling
that every step I took might never be taken backward, on the whole I
had very comely sport of loaches, trout, and minnows, forking some, and
tickling some, and driving others to shallow nooks, whence I could bail
them ashore. Now, if you have ever been fishing, you will not wonder
that I was led on, forgetting all about danger, and taking no heed of
the time, but shouting in a childish way whenever I caught a 'whacker'
(as we called a big fish at Tiverton); and in sooth there were very
fine loaches here, having more lie and harbourage than in the rough Lynn
stream, though not quite so large as in the Lowman, where I have even
taken them to the weight of half a pound.

But in answer to all my shouts there never was any sound at all, except
of a rocky echo, or a scared bird hustling away, or the sudden dive of a
water-vole; and the place grew thicker and thicker, and the covert grew
darker above me, until I thought that the fishes might have good chance
of eating me, instead of my eating the fishes.

For now the day was falling fast behind the brown of the hill-tops, and
the trees, being void of leaf and hard, seemed giants ready to beat me.
And every moment as the sky was clearing up for a white frost, the cold
of the water got worse and worse, until I was fit to cry with it. And
so, in a sorry plight, I came to an opening in the bushes, where a great
black pool lay in front of me, whitened with snow (as I thought) at the
sides, till I saw it was only foam-froth.

Now, though I could swim with great ease and comfort, and feared no
depth of water, when I could fairly come to it, yet I had no desire to
go over head and ears into this great pool, being so cramped and weary,
and cold enough in all conscience, though wet only up to the middle,
not counting my arms and shoulders. And the look of this black pit was
enough to stop one from diving into it, even on a hot summer's day with
sunshine on the water; I mean, if the sun ever shone there. As it was, I
shuddered and drew back; not alone at the pool itself and the black
air there was about it, but also at the whirling manner, and wisping of
white threads upon it in stripy circles round and round; and the centre
still as jet.

But soon I saw the reason of the stir and depth of that great pit, as
well as of the roaring sound which long had made me wonder. For skirting
round one side, with very little comfort, because the rocks were high
and steep, and the ledge at the foot so narrow, I came to a sudden sight
and marvel, such as I never dreamed of. For, lo! I stood at the foot of
a long pale slide of water, coming smoothly to me, without any break or
hindrance, for a hundred yards or more, and fenced on either side with
cliff, sheer, and straight, and shining. The water neither ran nor fell,
nor leaped with any spouting, but made one even slope of it, as if it
had been combed or planed, and looking like a plank of deal laid down a
deep black staircase. However, there was no side-rail, nor any place to
walk upon, only the channel a fathom wide, and the perpendicular walls
of crag shutting out the evening.

The look of this place had a sad effect, scaring me very greatly, and
making me feel that I would give something only to be at home again,
with Annie cooking my supper, and our dog Watch sniffing upward. But
nothing would come of wishing; that I had long found out; and it only
made one the less inclined to work without white feather. So I laid the
case before me in a little council; not for loss of time, but only that
I wanted rest, and to see things truly.

Then says I to myself--'John Ridd, these trees, and pools, and lonesome
rocks, and setting of the sunlight are making a gruesome coward of thee.
Shall I go back to my mother so, and be called her fearless boy?'

Nevertheless, I am free to own that it was not any fine sense of shame
which settled my decision; for indeed there was nearly as much of danger
in going back as in going on, and perhaps even more of labour, the
journey being so roundabout. But that which saved me from turning back
was a strange inquisitive desire, very unbecoming in a boy of little
years; in a word, I would risk a great deal to know what made the water
come down like that, and what there was at the top of it.

Therefore, seeing hard strife before me, I girt up my breeches anew,
with each buckle one hole tighter, for the sodden straps were stretching
and giving, and mayhap my legs were grown smaller from the coldness
of it. Then I bestowed my fish around my neck more tightly, and not
stopping to look much, for fear of fear, crawled along over the fork of
rocks, where the water had scooped the stone out, and shunning thus the
ledge from whence it rose like the mane of a white horse into the broad
black pool, softly I let my feet into the dip and rush of the torrent.

And here I had reckoned without my host, although (as I thought) so
clever; and it was much but that I went down into the great black pool,
and had never been heard of more; and this must have been the end of me,
except for my trusty loach-fork. For the green wave came down like great
bottles upon me, and my legs were gone off in a moment, and I had not
time to cry out with wonder, only to think of my mother and Annie, and
knock my head very sadly, which made it go round so that brains were
no good, even if I had any. But all in a moment, before I knew aught,
except that I must die out of the way, with a roar of water upon me, my
fork, praise God stuck fast in the rock, and I was borne up upon it. I
felt nothing except that here was another matter to begin upon; and it
might be worth while, or again it might not, to have another fight for
it. But presently the dash of the water upon my face revived me, and my
mind grew used to the roar of it, and meseemed I had been worse off than
this, when first flung into the Lowman.

Therefore I gathered my legs back slowly, as if they were fish to be
landed, stopping whenever the water flew too strongly off my shin-bones,
and coming along without sticking out to let the wave get hold of
me. And in this manner I won a footing, leaning well forward like a
draught-horse, and balancing on my strength as it were, with the ashen
stake set behind me. Then I said to my self, 'John Ridd, the sooner you
get yourself out by the way you came, the better it will be for you.'
But to my great dismay and affright, I saw that no choice was left me
now, except that I must climb somehow up that hill of water, or else be
washed down into the pool and whirl around it till it drowned me. For
there was no chance of fetching back by the way I had gone down into
it, and further up was a hedge of rock on either side of the waterway,
rising a hundred yards in height, and for all I could tell five hundred,
and no place to set a foot in.

Having said the Lord's Prayer (which was all I knew), and made a very
bad job of it, I grasped the good loach-stick under a knot, and steadied
me with my left hand, and so with a sigh of despair began my course up
the fearful torrent-way. To me it seemed half a mile at least of sliding
water above me, but in truth it was little more than a furlong, as I
came to know afterwards. It would have been a hard ascent even without
the slippery slime and the force of the river over it, and I had scanty
hope indeed of ever winning the summit. Nevertheless, my terror left
me, now I was face to face with it, and had to meet the worst; and I set
myself to do my best with a vigour and sort of hardness which did not
then surprise me, but have done so ever since.

The water was only six inches deep, or from that to nine at the utmost,
and all the way up I could see my feet looking white in the gloom of
the hollow, and here and there I found resting-place, to hold on by the
cliff and pant awhile. And gradually as I went on, a warmth of courage
breathed in me, to think that perhaps no other had dared to try that
pass before me, and to wonder what mother would say to it. And then came
thought of my father also, and the pain of my feet abated.

How I went carefully, step by step, keeping my arms in front of me, and
never daring to straighten my knees is more than I can tell clearly, or
even like now to think of, because it makes me dream of it. Only I must
acknowledge that the greatest danger of all was just where I saw no
jeopardy, but ran up a patch of black ooze-weed in a very boastful
manner, being now not far from the summit.

Here I fell very piteously, and was like to have broken my knee-cap, and
the torrent got hold of my other leg while I was indulging the bruised
one. And then a vile knotting of cramp disabled me, and for awhile I
could only roar, till my mouth was full of water, and all of my body was
sliding. But the fright of that brought me to again, and my elbow caught
in a rock-hole; and so I managed to start again, with the help of more
humility.

Now being in the most dreadful fright, because I was so near the top,
and hope was beating within me, I laboured hard with both legs and arms,
going like a mill and grunting. At last the rush of forked water, where
first it came over the lips of the fall, drove me into the middle, and
I stuck awhile with my toe-balls on the slippery links of the pop-weed,
and the world was green and gliddery, and I durst not look behind me.
Then I made up my mind to die at last; for so my legs would ache no
more, and my breath not pain my heart so; only it did seem such a pity
after fighting so long to give in, and the light was coming upon me, and
again I fought towards it; then suddenly I felt fresh air, and fell into
it headlong.



CHAPTER VIII

A BOY AND A GIRL When I came to myself again, my hands were full of
young grass and mould, and a little girl kneeling at my side was rubbing
my forehead tenderly with a dock-leaf and a handkerchief.

'Oh, I am so glad,' she whispered softly, as I opened my eyes and looked
at her; 'now you will try to be better, won't you?'

I had never heard so sweet a sound as came from between her bright red
lips, while there she knelt and gazed at me; neither had I ever seen
anything so beautiful as the large dark eyes intent upon me, full of
pity and wonder. And then, my nature being slow, and perhaps, for that
matter, heavy, I wandered with my hazy eyes down the black shower of
her hair, as to my jaded gaze it seemed; and where it fell on the turf,
among it (like an early star) was the first primrose of the season. And
since that day I think of her, through all the rough storms of my life,
when I see an early primrose. Perhaps she liked my countenance, and
indeed I know she did, because she said so afterwards; although at the
time she was too young to know what made her take to me. Not that I had
any beauty, or ever pretended to have any, only a solid healthy face,
which many girls have laughed at.

Thereupon I sate upright, with my little trident still in one hand, and
was much afraid to speak to her, being conscious of my country-brogue,
lest she should cease to like me. But she clapped her hands, and made a
trifling dance around my back, and came to me on the other side, as if I
were a great plaything.

'What is your name?' she said, as if she had every right to ask me; 'and
how did you come here, and what are these wet things in this great bag?'

'You had better let them alone,' I said; 'they are loaches for my
mother. But I will give you some, if you like.'

'Dear me, how much you think of them! Why, they are only fish. But how
your feet are bleeding! oh, I must tie them up for you. And no shoes nor
stockings! Is your mother very poor, poor boy?'

'No,' I said, being vexed at this; 'we are rich enough to buy all this
great meadow, if we chose; and here my shoes and stockings be.'

'Why, they are quite as wet as your feet; and I cannot bear to see your
feet. Oh, please to let me manage them; I will do it very softly.'

'Oh, I don't think much of that,' I replied; 'I shall put some
goose-grease to them. But how you are looking at me! I never saw any one
like you before. My name is John Ridd. What is your name?'

'Lorna Doone,' she answered, in a low voice, as if afraid of it, and
hanging her head so that I could see only her forehead and eyelashes;
'if you please, my name is Lorna Doone; and I thought you must have
known it.'

Then I stood up and touched her hand, and tried to make her look at me;
but she only turned away the more. Young and harmless as she was, her
name alone made guilt of her. Nevertheless I could not help looking at
her tenderly, and the more when her blushes turned into tears, and her
tears to long, low sobs.

'Don't cry,' I said, 'whatever you do. I am sure you have never done any
harm. I will give you all my fish Lorna, and catch some more for mother;
only don't be angry with me.'

She flung her little soft arms up in the passion of her tears, and
looked at me so piteously, that what did I do but kiss her. It seemed to
be a very odd thing, when I came to think of it, because I hated kissing
so, as all honest boys must do. But she touched my heart with a sudden
delight, like a cowslip-blossom (although there were none to be seen
yet), and the sweetest flowers of spring.

She gave me no encouragement, as my mother in her place would have done;
nay, she even wiped her lips (which methought was rather rude of her),
and drew away, and smoothed her dress, as if I had used a freedom. Then
I felt my cheeks grow burning red, and I gazed at my legs and was
sorry. For although she was not at all a proud child (at any rate in her
countenance), yet I knew that she was by birth a thousand years in front
of me. They might have taken and framed me, or (which would be more to
the purpose) my sisters, until it was time for us to die, and then have
trained our children after us, for many generations; yet never could we
have gotten that look upon our faces which Lorna Doone had naturally, as
if she had been born to it.

Here was I, a yeoman's boy, a yeoman every inch of me, even where I was
naked; and there was she, a lady born, and thoroughly aware of it, and
dressed by people of rank and taste, who took pride in her beauty and
set it to advantage. For though her hair was fallen down by reason of
her wildness, and some of her frock was touched with wet where she had
tended me so, behold her dress was pretty enough for the queen of all
the angels. The colours were bright and rich indeed, and the substance
very sumptuous, yet simple and free from tinsel stuff, and matching most
harmoniously. All from her waist to her neck was white, plaited in close
like a curtain, and the dark soft weeping of her hair, and the shadowy
light of her eyes (like a wood rayed through with sunset), made it seem
yet whiter, as if it were done on purpose. As for the rest, she knew
what it was a great deal better than I did, for I never could look far
away from her eyes when they were opened upon me.

Now, seeing how I heeded her, and feeling that I had kissed her,
although she was such a little girl, eight years old or thereabouts, she
turned to the stream in a bashful manner, and began to watch the water,
and rubbed one leg against the other.

I, for my part, being vexed at her behaviour to me, took up all my
things to go, and made a fuss about it; to let her know I was going.
But she did not call me back at all, as I had made sure she would do;
moreover, I knew that to try the descent was almost certain death to
me, and it looked as dark as pitch; and so at the mouth I turned round
again, and came back to her, and said, 'Lorna.'

'Oh, I thought you were gone,' she answered; 'why did you ever come
here? Do you know what they would do to us, if they found you here with
me?'

'Beat us, I dare say, very hard; or me, at least. They could never beat
you.'

'No. They would kill us both outright, and bury us here by the water;
and the water often tells me that I must come to that.'

'But what should they kill me for?'

'Because you have found the way up here, and they never could believe
it. Now, please to go; oh, please to go. They will kill us both in
a moment. Yes, I like you very much'--for I was teasing her to say
it--'very much indeed, and I will call you John Ridd, if you like; only
please to go, John. And when your feet are well, you know, you can come
and tell me how they are.'

'But I tell you, Lorna, I like you very much indeed--nearly as much as
Annie, and a great deal more than Lizzie. And I never saw any one like
you, and I must come back again to-morrow, and so must you, to see me;
and I will bring you such lots of things--there are apples still, and
a thrush I caught with only one leg broken, and our dog has just had
puppies--'

'Oh, dear, they won't let me have a dog. There is not a dog in the
valley. They say they are such noisy things--'

'Only put your hand in mine--what little things they are, Lorna! And I
will bring you the loveliest dog; I will show you just how long he is.'

'Hush!' A shout came down the valley, and all my heart was trembling,
like water after sunset, and Lorna's face was altered from pleasant play
to terror. She shrank to me, and looked up at me, with such a power of
weakness, that I at once made up my mind to save her or to die with her.
A tingle went through all my bones, and I only longed for my carbine.
The little girl took courage from me, and put her cheek quite close to
mine.

'Come with me down the waterfall. I can carry you easily; and mother
will take care of you.'

'No, no,' she cried, as I took her up: 'I will tell you what to do. They
are only looking for me. You see that hole, that hole there?'

She pointed to a little niche in the rock which verged the meadow, about
fifty yards away from us. In the fading of the twilight I could just
descry it.

'Yes, I see it; but they will see me crossing the grass to get there.'

'Look! look!' She could hardly speak. 'There is a way out from the top
of it; they would kill me if I told it. Oh, here they come, I can see
them.'

The little maid turned as white as the snow which hung on the rocks
above her, and she looked at the water and then at me, and she cried,
'Oh dear! oh dear!' And then she began to sob aloud, being so young and
unready. But I drew her behind the withy-bushes, and close down to the
water, where it was quiet and shelving deep, ere it came to the lip of
the chasm. Here they could not see either of us from the upper valley,
and might have sought a long time for us, even when they came quite
near, if the trees had been clad with their summer clothes. Luckily I
had picked up my fish and taken my three-pronged fork away.

Crouching in that hollow nest, as children get together in ever so
little compass, I saw a dozen fierce men come down, on the other side of
the water, not bearing any fire-arms, but looking lax and jovial, as if
they were come from riding and a dinner taken hungrily. 'Queen, queen!'
they were shouting, here and there, and now and then: 'where the pest is
our little queen gone?'

'They always call me "queen," and I am to be queen by-and-by,' Lorna
whispered to me, with her soft cheek on my rough one, and her little
heart beating against me: 'oh, they are crossing by the timber there,
and then they are sure to see us.'

'Stop,' said I; 'now I see what to do. I must get into the water, and
you must go to sleep.'

'To be sure, yes, away in the meadow there. But how bitter cold it will
be for you!'

She saw in a moment the way to do it, sooner than I could tell her; and
there was no time to lose.

'Now mind you never come again,' she whispered over her shoulder, as she
crept away with a childish twist hiding her white front from me; 'only I
shall come sometimes--oh, here they are, Madonna!'

Daring scarce to peep, I crept into the water, and lay down bodily
in it, with my head between two blocks of stone, and some flood-drift
combing over me. The dusk was deepening between the hills, and a white
mist lay on the river; but I, being in the channel of it, could see
every ripple, and twig, and rush, and glazing of twilight above it, as
bright as in a picture; so that to my ignorance there seemed no chance
at all but what the men must find me. For all this time they were
shouting and swearing, and keeping such a hullabaloo, that the rocks all
round the valley rang, and my heart quaked, so (what with this and
the cold) that the water began to gurgle round me, and to lap upon the
pebbles.

Neither in truth did I try to stop it, being now so desperate, between
the fear and the wretchedness; till I caught a glimpse of the little
maid, whose beauty and whose kindliness had made me yearn to be with
her. And then I knew that for her sake I was bound to be brave and hide
myself. She was lying beneath a rock, thirty or forty yards from me,
feigning to be fast asleep, with her dress spread beautifully, and her
hair drawn over her.

Presently one of the great rough men came round a corner upon her; and
there he stopped and gazed awhile at her fairness and her innocence.
Then he caught her up in his arms, and kissed her so that I heard him;
and if I had only brought my gun, I would have tried to shoot him.

'Here our queen is! Here's the queen, here's the captain's daughter!'
he shouted to his comrades; 'fast asleep, by God, and hearty! Now I have
first claim to her; and no one else shall touch the child. Back to the
bottle, all of you!'

He set her dainty little form upon his great square shoulder, and her
narrow feet in one broad hand; and so in triumph marched away, with the
purple velvet of her skirt ruffling in his long black beard, and the
silken length of her hair fetched out, like a cloud by the wind behind
her. This way of her going vexed me so, that I leaped upright in the
water, and must have been spied by some of them, but for their haste to
the wine-bottle. Of their little queen they took small notice, being in
this urgency; although they had thought to find her drowned; but trooped
away after one another with kindly challenge to gambling, so far as I
could make them out; and I kept sharp watch, I assure you.

Going up that darkened glen, little Lorna, riding still the largest and
most fierce of them, turned and put up a hand to me, and I put up a hand
to her, in the thick of the mist and the willows.

She was gone, my little dear (though tall of her age and healthy); and
when I got over my thriftless fright, I longed to have more to say to
her. Her voice to me was so different from all I had ever heard before,
as might be a sweet silver bell intoned to the small chords of a harp.
But I had no time to think about this, if I hoped to have any supper.

I crept into a bush for warmth, and rubbed my shivering legs on
bark, and longed for mother's fagot. Then as daylight sank below the
forget-me-not of stars, with a sorrow to be quit, I knew that now must
be my time to get away, if there were any.

Therefore, wringing my sodden breaches, I managed to crawl from the bank
to the niche in the cliff which Lorna had shown me.

Through the dusk I had trouble to see the mouth, at even the five
land-yards of distance; nevertheless, I entered well, and held on by
some dead fern-stems, and did hope that no one would shoot me.

But while I was hugging myself like this, with a boyish manner of
reasoning, my joy was like to have ended in sad grief both to myself
and my mother, and haply to all honest folk who shall love to read
this history. For hearing a noise in front of me, and like a coward not
knowing where, but afraid to turn round or think of it, I felt myself
going down some deep passage into a pit of darkness. It was no good to
catch the sides, the whole thing seemed to go with me. Then, without
knowing how, I was leaning over a night of water.

This water was of black radiance, as are certain diamonds, spanned
across with vaults of rock, and carrying no image, neither showing marge
nor end, but centred (at it might be) with a bottomless indrawal.

With that chill and dread upon me, and the sheer rock all around, and
the faint light heaving wavily on the silence of this gulf, I must have
lost my wits and gone to the bottom, if there were any.

But suddenly a robin sang (as they will do after dark, towards spring)
in the brown fern and ivy behind me. I took it for our little Annie's
voice (for she could call any robin), and gathering quick warm comfort,
sprang up the steep way towards the starlight. Climbing back, as the
stones glid down, I heard the cold greedy wave go japping, like a blind
black dog, into the distance of arches and hollow depths of darkness.



CHAPTER IX

THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME

I can assure you, and tell no lie (as John Fry always used to say, when
telling his very largest), that I scrambled back to the mouth of that
pit as if the evil one had been after me. And sorely I repented now of
all my boyish folly, or madness it might well be termed, in venturing,
with none to help, and nothing to compel me, into that accursed valley.
Once let me get out, thinks I, and if ever I get in again, without being
cast in by neck and by crop, I will give our new-born donkey leave to
set up for my schoolmaster.

How I kept that resolution we shall see hereafter. It is enough for me
now to tell how I escaped from the den that night. First I sat down
in the little opening which Lorna had pointed out to me, and wondered
whether she had meant, as bitterly occurred to me, that I should run
down into the pit, and be drowned, and give no more trouble. But in less
than half a minute I was ashamed of that idea, and remembered how she
was vexed to think that even a loach should lose his life. And then
I said to myself, 'Now surely she would value me more than a thousand
loaches; and what she said must be quite true about the way out of this
horrible place.'

Therefore I began to search with the utmost care and diligence, although
my teeth were chattering, and all my bones beginning to ache with the
chilliness and the wetness. Before very long the moon appeared, over the
edge of the mountain, and among the trees at the top of it; and then I
espied rough steps, and rocky, made as if with a sledge-hammer, narrow,
steep, and far asunder, scooped here and there in the side of the
entrance, and then round a bulge of the cliff, like the marks upon a
great brown loaf, where a hungry child has picked at it. And higher
up, where the light of the moon shone broader upon the precipice, there
seemed to be a rude broken track, like the shadow of a crooked stick
thrown upon a house-wall.

Herein was small encouragement; and at first I was minded to lie down
and die; but it seemed to come amiss to me. God has His time for all
of us; but He seems to advertise us when He does not mean to do it.
Moreover, I saw a movement of lights at the head of the valley, as if
lanthorns were coming after me, and the nimbleness given thereon to my
heels was in front of all meditation.

Straightway I set foot in the lowest stirrup (as I might almost call
it), and clung to the rock with my nails, and worked to make a jump into
the second stirrup. And I compassed that too, with the aid of my stick;
although, to tell you the truth, I was not at that time of life so agile
as boys of smaller frame are, for my size was growing beyond my years,
and the muscles not keeping time with it, and the joints of my bones not
closely hinged, with staring at one another. But the third step-hole was
the hardest of all, and the rock swelled out on me over my breast, and
there seemed to be no attempting it, until I espied a good stout rope
hanging in a groove of shadow, and just managed to reach the end of it.

How I clomb up, and across the clearing, and found my way home through
the Bagworthy forest, is more than I can remember now, for I took all
the rest of it then as a dream, by reason of perfect weariness. And
indeed it was quite beyond my hopes to tell so much as I have told, for
at first beginning to set it down, it was all like a mist before me.
Nevertheless, some parts grew clearer, as one by one I remembered them,
having taken a little soft cordial, because the memory frightens me.

For the toil of the water, and danger of labouring up the long cascade
or rapids, and then the surprise of the fair young maid, and terror of
the murderers, and desperation of getting away--all these are much to
me even now, when I am a stout churchwarden, and sit by the side of my
fire, after going through many far worse adventures, which I will tell,
God willing. Only the labour of writing is such (especially so as to
construe, and challenge a reader on parts of speech, and hope to be even
with him); that by this pipe which I hold in my hand I ever expect to be
beaten, as in the days when old Doctor Twiggs, if I made a bad stroke
in my exercise, shouted aloud with a sour joy, 'John Ridd, sirrah, down
with your small-clothes!'

Let that be as it may, I deserved a good beating that night, after
making such a fool of myself, and grinding good fustian to pieces. But
when I got home, all the supper was in, and the men sitting at the white
table, and mother and Annie and Lizzie near by, all eager, and offering
to begin (except, indeed, my mother, who was looking out at the
doorway), and by the fire was Betty Muxworthy, scolding, and cooking,
and tasting her work, all in a breath, as a man would say. I looked
through the door from the dark by the wood-stack, and was half of a mind
to stay out like a dog, for fear of the rating and reckoning; but the
way my dear mother was looking about and the browning of the sausages
got the better of me.

But nobody could get out of me where I had been all the day and evening;
although they worried me never so much, and longed to shake me to
pieces, especially Betty Muxworthy, who never could learn to let well
alone. Not that they made me tell any lies, although it would have
served them right almost for intruding on other people's business; but
that I just held my tongue, and ate my supper rarely, and let them try
their taunts and jibes, and drove them almost wild after supper, by
smiling exceeding knowingly. And indeed I could have told them things,
as I hinted once or twice; and then poor Betty and our little Lizzie
were so mad with eagerness, that between them I went into the fire,
being thoroughly overcome with laughter and my own importance.

Now what the working of my mind was (if, indeed it worked at all, and
did not rather follow suit of body) it is not in my power to say; only
that the result of my adventure in the Doone Glen was to make me dream
a good deal of nights, which I had never done much before, and to drive
me, with tenfold zeal and purpose, to the practice of bullet-shooting.
Not that I ever expected to shoot the Doone family, one by one, or even
desired to do so, for my nature is not revengeful; but that it seemed
to be somehow my business to understand the gun, as a thing I must be at
home with.

I could hit the barn-door now capitally well with the Spanish
match-lock, and even with John Fry's blunderbuss, at ten good land-yards
distance, without any rest for my fusil. And what was very wrong of me,
though I did not see it then, I kept John Fry there, to praise my shots,
from dinner-time often until the grey dusk, while he all the time should
have been at work spring-ploughing upon the farm. And for that matter so
should I have been, or at any rate driving the horses; but John was
by no means loath to be there, instead of holding the plough-tail. And
indeed, one of our old sayings is,--

For pleasure's sake I would liefer wet, Than ha' ten lumps of gold for
each one of my sweat.

And again, which is not a bad proverb, though unthrifty and unlike a
Scotsman's,--

God makes the wheat grow greener, While farmer be at his dinner.

And no Devonshire man, or Somerset either (and I belong to both of
them), ever thinks of working harder than God likes to see him.

Nevertheless, I worked hard at the gun, and by the time that I had
sent all the church-roof gutters, so far as I honestly could cut them,
through the red pine-door, I began to long for a better tool that would
make less noise and throw straighter. But the sheep-shearing came and
the hay-season next, and then the harvest of small corn, and the digging
of the root called 'batata' (a new but good thing in our neighbourhood,
which our folk have made into 'taties'), and then the sweating of the
apples, and the turning of the cider-press, and the stacking of the
firewood, and netting of the woodcocks, and the springles to be
minded in the garden and by the hedgerows, where blackbirds hop to the
molehills in the white October mornings, and grey birds come to look for
snails at the time when the sun is rising.

It is wonderful how time runs away, when all these things and a great
many others come in to load him down the hill and prevent him from
stopping to look about. And I for my part can never conceive how people
who live in towns and cities, where neither lambs nor birds are (except
in some shop windows), nor growing corn, nor meadow-grass, nor even so
much as a stick to cut or a stile to climb and sit down upon--how these
poor folk get through their lives without being utterly weary of them,
and dying from pure indolence, is a thing God only knows, if His mercy
allows Him to think of it.

How the year went by I know not, only that I was abroad all day,
shooting, or fishing, or minding the farm, or riding after some stray
beast, or away by the seaside below Glenthorne, wondering at the great
waters, and resolving to go for a sailor. For in those days I had a firm
belief, as many other strong boys have, of being born for a seaman. And
indeed I had been in a boat nearly twice; but the second time mother
found it out, and came and drew me back again; and after that she cried
so badly, that I was forced to give my word to her to go no more without
telling her.

But Betty Muxworthy spoke her mind quite in a different way about it,
the while she was wringing my hosen, and clattering to the drying-horse.

'Zailor, ees fai! ay and zarve un raight. Her can't kape out o' the
watter here, whur a' must goo vor to vaind un, zame as a gurt to-ad
squalloping, and mux up till I be wore out, I be, wi' the very saight of
's braiches. How wil un ever baide aboard zhip, wi' the watter zinging
out under un, and comin' up splash when the wind blow. Latt un goo,
missus, latt un goo, zay I for wan, and old Davy wash his clouts for
un.'

And this discourse of Betty's tended more than my mother's prayers,
I fear, to keep me from going. For I hated Betty in those days, as
children always hate a cross servant, and often get fond of a false
one. But Betty, like many active women, was false by her crossness only;
thinking it just for the moment perhaps, and rushing away with a bucket;
ready to stick to it, like a clenched nail, if beaten the wrong way with
argument; but melting over it, if you left her, as stinging soap, left
along in a basin, spreads all abroad without bubbling.

But all this is beyond the children, and beyond me too for that matter,
even now in ripe experience; for I never did know what women mean, and
never shall except when they tell me, if that be in their power. Now let
that question pass. For although I am now in a place of some authority,
I have observed that no one ever listens to me, when I attempt to lay
down the law; but all are waiting with open ears until I do enforce it.
And so methinks he who reads a history cares not much for the wisdom or
folly of the writer (knowing well that the former is far less than his
own, and the latter vastly greater), but hurries to know what the people
did, and how they got on about it. And this I can tell, if any one can,
having been myself in the thick of it.

The fright I had taken that night in Glen Doone satisfied me for a long
time thereafter; and I took good care not to venture even in the fields
and woods of the outer farm, without John Fry for company. John was
greatly surprised and pleased at the value I now set upon him; until,
what betwixt the desire to vaunt and the longing to talk things over,
I gradually laid bare to him nearly all that had befallen me; except,
indeed, about Lorna, whom a sort of shame kept me from mentioning. Not
that I did not think of her, and wish very often to see her again; but
of course I was only a boy as yet, and therefore inclined to despise
young girls, as being unable to do anything, and only meant to listen to
orders. And when I got along with the other boys, that was how we always
spoke of them, if we deigned to speak at all, as beings of a lower
order, only good enough to run errands for us, and to nurse boy-babies.

And yet my sister Annie was in truth a great deal more to me than all
the boys of the parish, and of Brendon, and Countisbury, put together;
although at the time I never dreamed it, and would have laughed if told
so. Annie was of a pleasing face, and very gentle manner, almost like
a lady some people said; but without any airs whatever, only trying to
give satisfaction. And if she failed, she would go and weep, without
letting any one know it, believing the fault to be all her own, when
mostly it was of others. But if she succeeded in pleasing you, it was
beautiful to see her smile, and stroke her soft chin in a way of her
own, which she always used when taking note how to do the right thing
again for you. And then her cheeks had a bright clear pink, and her eyes
were as blue as the sky in spring, and she stood as upright as a young
apple-tree, and no one could help but smile at her, and pat her brown
curls approvingly; whereupon she always curtseyed. For she never tried
to look away when honest people gazed at her; and even in the court-yard
she would come and help to take your saddle, and tell (without your
asking her) what there was for dinner.

And afterwards she grew up to be a very comely maiden, tall, and with a
well-built neck, and very fair white shoulders, under a bright cloud
of curling hair. Alas! poor Annie, like most of the gentle maidens--but
tush, I am not come to that yet; and for the present she seemed to me
little to look at, after the beauty of Lorna Doone.



CHAPTER X

A BRAVE RESCUE AND A ROUGH RIDE

It happened upon a November evening (when I was about fifteen years old,
and out-growing my strength very rapidly, my sister Annie being turned
thirteen, and a deal of rain having fallen, and all the troughs in the
yard being flooded, and the bark from the wood-ricks washed down the
gutters, and even our water-shoot going brown) that the ducks in the
court made a terrible quacking, instead of marching off to their pen,
one behind another. Thereupon Annie and I ran out to see what might be
the sense of it. There were thirteen ducks, and ten lily-white (as the
fashion then of ducks was), not I mean twenty-three in all, but ten
white and three brown-striped ones; and without being nice about their
colour, they all quacked very movingly. They pushed their gold-coloured
bills here and there (yet dirty, as gold is apt to be), and they jumped
on the triangles of their feet, and sounded out of their nostrils; and
some of the over-excited ones ran along low on the ground, quacking
grievously with their bills snapping and bending, and the roof of their
mouths exhibited.

Annie began to cry 'Dilly, dilly, einy, einy, ducksey,' according to
the burden of a tune they seem to have accepted as the national duck's
anthem; but instead of being soothed by it, they only quacked three
times as hard, and ran round till we were giddy. And then they shook
their tails together, and looked grave, and went round and round
again. Now I am uncommonly fond of ducks, both roasted and roasting and
roystering; and it is a fine sight to behold them walk, poddling one
after other, with their toes out, like soldiers drilling, and their
little eyes cocked all ways at once, and the way that they dib with
their bills, and dabble, and throw up their heads and enjoy something,
and then tell the others about it. Therefore I knew at once, by the way
they were carrying on, that there must be something or other gone wholly
amiss in the duck-world. Sister Annie perceived it too, but with a
greater quickness; for she counted them like a good duck-wife, and could
only tell thirteen of them, when she knew there ought to be fourteen.

And so we began to search about, and the ducks ran to lead us aright,
having come that far to fetch us; and when we got down to the foot of
the court-yard where the two great ash-trees stand by the side of the
little water, we found good reason for the urgence and melancholy of the
duck-birds. Lo! the old white drake, the father of all, a bird of high
manners and chivalry, always the last to help himself from the pan of
barley-meal, and the first to show fight to a dog or cock intruding upon
his family, this fine fellow, and pillar of the state, was now in a sad
predicament, yet quacking very stoutly. For the brook, wherewith he
had been familiar from his callow childhood, and wherein he was wont to
quest for water-newts, and tadpoles, and caddis-worms, and other game,
this brook, which afforded him very often scanty space to dabble in,
and sometimes starved the cresses, was now coming down in a great brown
flood, as if the banks never belonged to it. The foaming of it, and the
noise, and the cresting of the corners, and the up and down, like a wave
of the sea, were enough to frighten any duck, though bred upon stormy
waters, which our ducks never had been.

There is always a hurdle six feet long and four and a half in depth,
swung by a chain at either end from an oak laid across the channel. And
the use of this hurdle is to keep our kine at milking time from straying
away there drinking (for in truth they are very dainty) and to fence
strange cattle, or Farmer Snowe's horses, from coming along the bed of
the brook unknown, to steal our substance. But now this hurdle, which
hung in the summer a foot above the trickle, would have been dipped more
than two feet deep but for the power against it. For the torrent came
down so vehemently that the chains at full stretch were creaking, and
the hurdle buffeted almost flat, and thatched (so to say) with the
drift-stuff, was going see-saw, with a sulky splash on the dirty red
comb of the waters. But saddest to see was between two bars, where a
fog was of rushes, and flood-wood, and wild-celery haulm, and dead
crowsfoot, who but our venerable mallard jammed in by the joint of his
shoulder, speaking aloud as he rose and fell, with his top-knot full of
water, unable to comprehend it, with his tail washed far away from him,
but often compelled to be silent, being ducked very harshly against his
will by the choking fall-to of the hurdle.

For a moment I could not help laughing, because, being borne up high and
dry by a tumult of the torrent, he gave me a look from his one little
eye (having lost one in fight with the turkey-cock), a gaze of appealing
sorrow, and then a loud quack to second it. But the quack came out of
time, I suppose, for his throat got filled with water, as the hurdle
carried him back again. And then there was scarcely the screw of his
tail to be seen until he swung up again, and left small doubt by the
way he sputtered, and failed to quack, and hung down his poor crest, but
what he must drown in another minute, and frogs triumph over his body.

Annie was crying, and wringing her hands, and I was about to rush into
the water, although I liked not the look of it, but hoped to hold on by
the hurdle, when a man on horseback came suddenly round the corner of
the great ash-hedge on the other side of the stream, and his horse's
feet were in the water.

'Ho, there,' he cried; 'get thee back, boy. The flood will carry thee
down like a straw. I will do it for thee, and no trouble.'

With that he leaned forward, and spoke to his mare--she was just of the
tint of a strawberry, a young thing, very beautiful--and she arched up
her neck, as misliking the job; yet, trusting him, would attempt it. She
entered the flood, with her dainty fore-legs sloped further and further
in front of her, and her delicate ears pricked forward, and the size of
her great eyes increasing, but he kept her straight in the turbid rush,
by the pressure of his knee on her. Then she looked back, and wondered
at him, as the force of the torrent grew stronger, but he bade her go
on; and on she went, and it foamed up over her shoulders; and she tossed
up her lip and scorned it, for now her courage was waking. Then as the
rush of it swept her away, and she struck with her forefeet down the
stream, he leaned from his saddle in a manner which I never could have
thought possible, and caught up old Tom with his left hand, and set him
between his holsters, and smiled at his faint quack of gratitude. In a
moment all these were carried downstream, and the rider lay flat on his
horse, and tossed the hurdle clear from him, and made for the bend of
smooth water.

They landed some thirty or forty yards lower, in the midst of our
kitchen-garden, where the winter-cabbage was; but though Annie and I
crept in through the hedge, and were full of our thanks and admiring
him, he would answer us never a word, until he had spoken in full to the
mare, as if explaining the whole to her.

'Sweetheart, I know thou couldst have leaped it,' he said, as he patted
her cheek, being on the ground by this time, and she was nudging up to
him, with the water pattering off her; 'but I had good reason, Winnie
dear, for making thee go through it.'

She answered him kindly with her soft eyes, and smiled at him very
lovingly, and they understood one another. Then he took from his
waistcoat two peppercorns, and made the old drake swallow them, and
tried him softly upon his legs, where the leading gap in the hedge was.
Old Tom stood up quite bravely, and clapped his wings, and shook off the
wet from his tail-feathers; and then away into the court-yard, and his
family gathered around him, and they all made a noise in their throats,
and stood up, and put their bills together, to thank God for this great
deliverance.

Having taken all this trouble, and watched the end of that adventure,
the gentleman turned round to us with a pleasant smile on his face, as
if he were lightly amused with himself; and we came up and looked at
him. He was rather short, about John Fry's height, or may be a little
taller, but very strongly built and springy, as his gait at every step
showed plainly, although his legs were bowed with much riding, and he
looked as if he lived on horseback. To a boy like me he seemed very old,
being over twenty, and well-found in beard; but he was not more than
four-and-twenty, fresh and ruddy looking, with a short nose and keen
blue eyes, and a merry waggish jerk about him, as if the world were not
in earnest. Yet he had a sharp, stern way, like the crack of a pistol,
if anything misliked him; and we knew (for children see such things)
that it was safer to tickle than buffet him.

'Well, young uns, what be gaping at?' He gave pretty Annie a chuck on
the chin, and took me all in without winking.

'Your mare,' said I, standing stoutly up, being a tall boy now; 'I never
saw such a beauty, sir. Will you let me have a ride of her?'

'Think thou couldst ride her, lad? She will have no burden but mine.
Thou couldst never ride her. Tut! I would be loath to kill thee.'

'Ride her!' I cried with the bravest scorn, for she looked so kind and
gentle; 'there never was horse upon Exmoor foaled, but I could tackle in
half an hour. Only I never ride upon saddle. Take them leathers off of
her.'

He looked at me with a dry little whistle, and thrust his hands into his
breeches-pockets, and so grinned that I could not stand it. And Annie
laid hold of me in such a way that I was almost mad with her. And he
laughed, and approved her for doing so. And the worst of all was--he
said nothing.

'Get away, Annie, will you? Do you think I'm a fool, good sir! Only
trust me with her, and I will not override her.'

'For that I will go bail, my son. She is liker to override thee. But the
ground is soft to fall upon, after all this rain. Now come out into the
yard, young man, for the sake of your mother's cabbages. And the mellow
straw-bed will be softer for thee, since pride must have its fall. I
am thy mother's cousin, boy, and am going up to house. Tom Faggus is my
name, as everybody knows; and this is my young mare, Winnie.'

What a fool I must have been not to know it at once! Tom Faggus, the
great highwayman, and his young blood-mare, the strawberry! Already her
fame was noised abroad, nearly as much as her master's; and my longing
to ride her grew tenfold, but fear came at the back of it. Not that I
had the smallest fear of what the mare could do to me, by fair play and
horse-trickery, but that the glory of sitting upon her seemed to be too
great for me; especially as there were rumours abroad that she was not a
mare after all, but a witch. However, she looked like a filly all over,
and wonderfully beautiful, with her supple stride, and soft slope of
shoulder, and glossy coat beaded with water, and prominent eyes full of
docile fire. Whether this came from her Eastern blood of the Arabs newly
imported, and whether the cream-colour, mixed with our bay, led to
that bright strawberry tint, is certainly more than I can decide, being
chiefly acquaint with farm-horses. And these come of any colour and
form; you never can count what they will be, and are lucky to get four
legs to them.

Mr. Faggus gave his mare a wink, and she walked demurely after him, a
bright young thing, flowing over with life, yet dropping her soul to a
higher one, and led by love to anything; as the manner is of females,
when they know what is the best for them. Then Winnie trod lightly upon
the straw, because it had soft muck under it, and her delicate feet came
back again.

'Up for it still, boy, be ye?' Tom Faggus stopped, and the mare stopped
there; and they looked at me provokingly.

'Is she able to leap, sir? There is good take-off on this side of the
brook.'

Mr. Faggus laughed very quietly, turning round to Winnie so that she
might enter into it. And she, for her part, seemed to know exactly where
the fun lay.

'Good tumble-off, you mean, my boy. Well, there can be small harm to
thee. I am akin to thy family, and know the substance of their skulls.'

'Let me get up,' said I, waxing wroth, for reasons I cannot tell you,
because they are too manifold; 'take off your saddle-bag things. I will
try not to squeeze her ribs in, unless she plays nonsense with me.'

Then Mr. Faggus was up on his mettle, at this proud speech of mine; and
John Fry was running up all the while, and Bill Dadds, and half a dozen.
Tom Faggus gave one glance around, and then dropped all regard for me.
The high repute of his mare was at stake, and what was my life compared
to it? Through my defiance, and stupid ways, here was I in a duello,
and my legs not come to their strength yet, and my arms as limp as a
herring.

Something of this occurred to him even in his wrath with me, for he
spoke very softly to the filly, who now could scarce subdue herself;
but she drew in her nostrils, and breathed to his breath and did all she
could to answer him.

'Not too hard, my dear,' he said: 'led him gently down on the mixen.
That will be quite enough.' Then he turned the saddle off, and I was
up in a moment. She began at first so easily, and pricked her ears so
lovingly, and minced about as if pleased to find so light a weight upon
her, that I thought she knew I could ride a little, and feared to show
any capers. 'Gee wug, Polly!' cried I, for all the men were now looking
on, being then at the leaving-off time: 'Gee wug, Polly, and show what
thou be'est made of.' With that I plugged my heels into her, and Billy
Dadds flung his hat up.

Nevertheless, she outraged not, though her eyes were frightening Annie,
and John Fry took a pick to keep him safe; but she curbed to and fro
with her strong forearms rising like springs ingathered, waiting and
quivering grievously, and beginning to sweat about it. Then her master
gave a shrill clear whistle, when her ears were bent towards him, and I
felt her form beneath me gathering up like whalebone, and her hind-legs
coming under her, and I knew that I was in for it.

First she reared upright in the air, and struck me full on the nose with
her comb, till I bled worse than Robin Snell made me; and then down
with her fore-feet deep in the straw, and her hind-feet going to heaven.
Finding me stick to her still like wax, for my mettle was up as hers
was, away she flew with me swifter than ever I went before, or since, I
trow. She drove full-head at the cobwall--'Oh, Jack, slip off,' screamed
Annie--then she turned like light, when I thought to crush her, and
ground my left knee against it. 'Mux me,' I cried, for my breeches were
broken, and short words went the furthest--'if you kill me, you shall
die with me.' Then she took the court-yard gate at a leap, knocking my
words between my teeth, and then right over a quick set hedge, as if the
sky were a breath to her; and away for the water-meadows, while I lay
on her neck like a child at the breast and wished I had never been
born. Straight away, all in the front of the wind, and scattering clouds
around her, all I knew of the speed we made was the frightful flash of
her shoulders, and her mane like trees in a tempest. I felt the earth
under us rushing away, and the air left far behind us, and my breath
came and went, and I prayed to God, and was sorry to be so late of it.

All the long swift while, without power of thought, I clung to her crest
and shoulders, and dug my nails into her creases, and my toes into her
flank-part, and was proud of holding on so long, though sure of being
beaten. Then in her fury at feeling me still, she rushed at another
device for it, and leaped the wide water-trough sideways across, to and
fro, till no breath was left in me. The hazel-boughs took me too hard
in the face, and the tall dog-briers got hold of me, and the ache of
my back was like crimping a fish; till I longed to give up, thoroughly
beaten, and lie there and die in the cresses. But there came a shrill
whistle from up the home-hill, where the people had hurried to watch us;
and the mare stopped as if with a bullet, then set off for home with
the speed of a swallow, and going as smoothly and silently. I never had
dreamed of such delicate motion, fluent, and graceful, and ambient,
soft as the breeze flitting over the flowers, but swift as the summer
lightning. I sat up again, but my strength was all spent, and no time
left to recover it, and though she rose at our gate like a bird, I
tumbled off into the mixen.



CHAPTER XI

TOM DESERVES HIS SUPPER

'Well done, lad,' Mr. Faggus said good naturedly; for all were now
gathered round me, as I rose from the ground, somewhat tottering, and
miry, and crest-fallen, but otherwise none the worse (having fallen
upon my head, which is of uncommon substance); nevertheless John Fry was
laughing, so that I longed to clout his ears for him; 'Not at all bad
work, my boy; we may teach you to ride by-and-by, I see; I thought not
to see you stick on so long--'

'I should have stuck on much longer, sir, if her sides had not been wet.
She was so slippery--'

'Boy, thou art right. She hath given many the slip. Ha, ha! Vex not,
Jack, that I laugh at thee. She is like a sweetheart to me, and better,
than any of them be. It would have gone to my heart if thou hadst
conquered. None but I can ride my Winnie mare.'

'Foul shame to thee then, Tom Faggus,' cried mother, coming up suddenly,
and speaking so that all were amazed, having never seen her wrathful;
'to put my boy, my boy, across her, as if his life were no more than
thine! The only son of his father, an honest man, and a quiet man, not
a roystering drunken robber! A man would have taken thy mad horse and
thee, and flung them both into horse-pond--ay, and what's more, I'll
have it done now, if a hair of his head is injured. Oh, my boy, my boy!
What could I do without thee? Put up the other arm, Johnny.' All the
time mother was scolding so, she was feeling me, and wiping me; while
Faggus tried to look greatly ashamed, having sense of the ways of women.

'Only look at his jacket, mother!' cried Annie; 'and a shillingsworth
gone from his small-clothes!'

'What care I for his clothes, thou goose? Take that, and heed thine own
a bit.' And mother gave Annie a slap which sent her swinging up against
Mr. Faggus, and he caught her, and kissed and protected her, and she
looked at him very nicely, with great tears in her soft blue eyes. 'Oh,
fie upon thee, fie upon thee!' cried mother (being yet more vexed with
him, because she had beaten Annie); 'after all we have done for thee,
and saved thy worthless neck--and to try to kill my son for me! Never
more shall horse of thine enter stable here, since these be thy returns
to me. Small thanks to you, John Fry, I say, and you Bill Dadds, and you
Jem Slocomb, and all the rest of your coward lot; much you care for your
master's son! Afraid of that ugly beast yourselves, and you put a boy
just breeched upon him!'

'Wull, missus, what could us do?' began John; 'Jan wudd goo, now wudd't
her, Jem? And how was us--'

'Jan indeed! Master John, if you please, to a lad of his years and
stature. And now, Tom Faggus, be off, if you please, and think yourself
lucky to go so; and if ever that horse comes into our yard, I'll
hamstring him myself if none of my cowards dare do it.'

Everybody looked at mother, to hear her talk like that, knowing how
quiet she was day by day and how pleasant to be cheated. And the men
began to shoulder their shovels, both so as to be away from her, and
to go and tell their wives of it. Winnie too was looking at her, being
pointed at so much, and wondering if she had done amiss. And then she
came to me, and trembled, and stooped her head, and asked my pardon, if
she had been too proud with me.

'Winnie shall stop here to-night,' said I, for Tom Faggus still said
never a word all the while; but began to buckle his things on, for he
knew that women are to be met with wool, as the cannon-balls were at the
siege of Tiverton Castle; 'mother, I tell you, Winnie shall stop; else
I will go away with her, I never knew what it was, till now, to ride a
horse worth riding.'

'Young man,' said Tom Faggus, still preparing sternly to depart, 'you
know more about a horse than any man on Exmoor. Your mother may well be
proud of you, but she need have had no fear. As if I, Tom Faggus, your
father's cousin--and the only thing I am proud of--would ever have let
you mount my mare, which dukes and princes have vainly sought, except
for the courage in your eyes, and the look of your father about you. I
knew you could ride when I saw you, and rarely you have conquered. But
women don't understand us. Good-bye, John; I am proud of you, and I
hoped to have done you pleasure. And indeed I came full of some courtly
tales, that would have made your hair stand up. But though not a crust
have I tasted since this time yesterday, having given my meat to a
widow, I will go and starve on the moor far sooner than eat the best
supper that ever was cooked, in a place that has forgotten me.' With
that he fetched a heavy sigh, as if it had been for my father; and
feebly got upon Winnie's back, and she came to say farewell to me. He
lifted his hat to my mother, with a glance of sorrow, but never a word;
and to me he said, 'Open the gate, Cousin John, if you please. You have
beaten her so, that she cannot leap it, poor thing.'

But before he was truly gone out of our yard, my mother came softly
after him, with her afternoon apron across her eyes, and one hand ready
to offer him. Nevertheless, he made as if he had not seen her, though he
let his horse go slowly.

'Stop, Cousin Tom,' my mother said, 'a word with you, before you go.'

'Why, bless my heart!' Tom Faggus cried, with the form of his
countenance so changed, that I verily thought another man must have
leaped into his clothes--'do I see my Cousin Sarah? I thought every one
was ashamed of me, and afraid to offer me shelter, since I lost my best
cousin, John Ridd. 'Come here,' he used to say, 'Tom, come here, when
you are worried, and my wife shall take good care of you.' 'Yes, dear
John,' I used to answer, 'I know she promised my mother so; but people
have taken to think against me, and so might Cousin Sarah.' Ah, he was a
man, a man! If you only heard how he answered me. But let that go, I am
nothing now, since the day I lost Cousin Ridd.' And with that he began
to push on again; but mother would not have it so.

'Oh, Tom, that was a loss indeed. And I am nothing either. And you
should try to allow for me; though I never found any one that did.' And
mother began to cry, though father had been dead so long; and I looked
on with a stupid surprise, having stopped from crying long ago.

'I can tell you one that will,' cried Tom, jumping off Winnie, in a
trice, and looking kindly at mother; 'I can allow for you, Cousin Sarah,
in everything but one. I am in some ways a bad man myself; but I know
the value of a good one; and if you gave me orders, by God--' And he
shook his fists towards Bagworthy Wood, just heaving up black in the
sundown.

'Hush, Tom, hush, for God's sake!' And mother meant me, without pointing
at me; at least I thought she did. For she ever had weaned me from
thoughts of revenge, and even from longings for judgment. 'God knows
best, boy,' she used to say, 'let us wait His time, without wishing
it.' And so, to tell the truth, I did; partly through her teaching, and
partly through my own mild temper, and my knowledge that father, after
all, was killed because he had thrashed them.

'Good-night, Cousin Sarah, good-night, Cousin Jack,' cried Tom, taking
to the mare again; 'many a mile I have to ride, and not a bit inside of
me. No food or shelter this side of Exeford, and the night will be black
as pitch, I trow. But it serves me right for indulging the lad, being
taken with his looks so.'

'Cousin Tom,' said mother, and trying to get so that Annie and I could
not hear her; 'it would be a sad and unkinlike thing for you to despise
our dwelling-house. We cannot entertain you, as the lordly inns on the
road do; and we have small change of victuals. But the men will go home,
being Saturday; and so you will have the fireside all to yourself and
the children. There are some few collops of red deer's flesh, and a ham
just down from the chimney, and some dried salmon from Lynmouth weir,
and cold roast-pig, and some oysters. And if none of those be to your
liking, we could roast two woodcocks in half an hour, and Annie would
make the toast for them. And the good folk made some mistake last week,
going up the country, and left a keg of old Holland cordial in the
coving of the wood-rick, having borrowed our Smiler, without asking
leave. I fear there is something unrighteous about it. But what can a
poor widow do? John Fry would have taken it, but for our Jack. Our Jack
was a little too sharp for him.'

Ay, that I was; John Fry had got it, like a billet under his apron,
going away in the gray of the morning, as if to kindle his fireplace.
'Why, John,' I said, 'what a heavy log! Let me have one end of it.'
'Thank'e, Jan, no need of thiccy,' he answered, turning his back to
me; 'waife wanteth a log as will last all day, to kape the crock a
zimmerin.' And he banged his gate upon my heels to make me stop and rub
them. 'Why, John,' said I, 'you'm got a log with round holes in the end
of it. Who has been cutting gun-wads? Just lift your apron, or I will.'

But, to return to Tom Faggus--he stopped to sup that night with us, and
took a little of everything; a few oysters first, and then dried salmon,
and then ham and eggs, done in small curled rashers, and then a few
collops of venison toasted, and next to that a little cold roast-pig,
and a woodcock on toast to finish with, before the Scheidam and hot
water. And having changed his wet things first, he seemed to be in fair
appetite, and praised Annie's cooking mightily, with a kind of noise
like a smack of his lips, and a rubbing of his hands together, whenever
he could spare them.

He had gotten John Fry's best small-clothes on, for he said he was not
good enough to go into my father's (which mother kept to look at), nor
man enough to fill them. And in truth my mother was very glad that he
refused, when I offered them. But John was over-proud to have it in his
power to say that such a famous man had ever dwelt in any clothes of
his; and afterwards he made show of them. For Mr. Faggus's glory, then,
though not so great as now it is, was spreading very fast indeed all
about our neighbourhood, and even as far as Bridgewater.

Tom Faggus was a jovial soul, if ever there has been one, not making
bones of little things, nor caring to seek evil. There was about him
such a love of genuine human nature, that if a traveller said a good
thing, he would give him back his purse again. It is true that he took
people's money more by force than fraud; and the law (being used to the
inverse method) was bitterly moved against him, although he could quote
precedent. These things I do not understand; having seen so much of
robbery (some legal, some illegal), that I scarcely know, as here we
say, one crow's foot from the other. It is beyond me and above me, to
discuss these subjects; and in truth I love the law right well, when it
doth support me, and when I can lay it down to my liking, with prejudice
to nobody. Loyal, too, to the King am I, as behoves churchwarden; and
ready to make the best of him, as he generally requires. But after
all, I could not see (until I grew much older, and came to have some
property) why Tom Faggus, working hard, was called a robber and felon of
great; while the King, doing nothing at all (as became his dignity), was
liege-lord, and paramount owner; with everybody to thank him kindly for
accepting tribute.

For the present, however, I learned nothing more as to what our cousin's
profession was; only that mother seemed frightened, and whispered to
him now and then not to talk of something, because of the children being
there; whereupon he always nodded with a sage expression, and applied
himself to hollands.

'Now let us go and see Winnie, Jack,' he said to me after supper; 'for
the most part I feed her before myself; but she was so hot from the
way you drove her. Now she must be grieving for me, and I never let her
grieve long.'

I was too glad to go with him, and Annie came slyly after us. The filly
was walking to and fro on the naked floor of the stable (for he would
not let her have any straw, until he should make a bed for her), and
without so much as a headstall on, for he would not have her fastened.
'Do you take my mare for a dog?' he had said when John Fry brought him a
halter. And now she ran to him like a child, and her great eyes shone at
the lanthorn.

'Hit me, Jack, and see what she will do. I will not let her hurt thee.'
He was rubbing her ears all the time he spoke, and she was leaning
against him. Then I made believe to strike him, and in a moment she
caught me by the waistband, and lifted me clean from the ground, and was
casting me down to trample upon me, when he stopped her suddenly.

'What think you of that, boy? Have you horse or dog that would do that
for you? Ay, and more than that she will do. If I were to whistle,
by-and-by, in the tone that tells my danger, she would break this
stable-door down, and rush into the room to me. Nothing will keep her
from me then, stone-wall or church-tower. Ah, Winnie, Winnie, you little
witch, we shall die together.'

Then he turned away with a joke, and began to feed her nicely, for she
was very dainty. Not a husk of oat would she touch that had been under
the breath of another horse, however hungry she might be. And with her
oats he mixed some powder, fetching it from his saddle-bags. What this
was I could not guess, neither would he tell me, but laughed and called
it 'star-shavings.' He watched her eat every morsel of it, with two or
three drinks of pure water, ministered between whiles; and then he made
her bed in a form I had never seen before, and so we said 'Good-night'
to her.

Afterwards by the fireside he kept us very merry, sitting in the great
chimney-corner, and making us play games with him. And all the while he
was smoking tobacco in a manner I never had seen before, not using any
pipe for it, but having it rolled in little sticks about as long as my
finger, blunt at one end and sharp at the other. The sharp end he would
put in his mouth, and lay a brand of wood to the other, and then draw
a white cloud of curling smoke, and we never tired of watching him. I
wanted him to let me do it, but he said, 'No, my son; it is not meant
for boys.' Then Annie put up her lips and asked, with both hands on his
knees (for she had taken to him wonderfully), 'Is it meant for girls
then cousin Tom?' But she had better not have asked, for he gave it her
to try, and she shut both eyes, and sucked at it. One breath, however,
was quite enough, for it made her cough so violently that Lizzie and
I must thump her back until she was almost crying. To atone for that,
cousin Tom set to, and told us whole pages of stories, not about his own
doings at all, but strangely enough they seemed to concern almost every
one else we had ever heard of. Without halting once for a word or a
deed, his tales flowed onward as freely and brightly as the flames of
the wood up the chimney, and with no smaller variety. For he spoke with
the voices of twenty people, giving each person the proper manner, and
the proper place to speak from; so that Annie and Lizzie ran all about,
and searched the clock and the linen-press. And he changed his face
every moment so, and with such power of mimicry that without so much as
a smile of his own, he made even mother laugh so that she broke her new
tenpenny waistband; and as for us children, we rolled on the floor, and
Betty Muxworthy roared in the wash-up.



CHAPTER XII

A MAN JUSTLY POPULAR

Now although Mr. Faggus was so clever, and generous, and celebrated,
I know not whether, upon the whole, we were rather proud of him as a
member of our family, or inclined to be ashamed of him. And indeed I
think that the sway of the balance hung upon the company we were in. For
instance, with the boys at Brendon--for there is no village at Oare--I
was exceeding proud to talk of him, and would freely brag of my Cousin
Tom. But with the rich parsons of the neighbourhood, or the justices
(who came round now and then, and were glad to ride up to a warm
farm-house), or even the well-to-do tradesmen of Porlock--in a word, any
settled power, which was afraid of losing things--with all of them we
were very shy of claiming our kinship to that great outlaw.

And sure, I should pity, as well as condemn him though our ways in the
world were so different, knowing as I do his story; which knowledge,
methinks, would often lead us to let alone God's prerogative--judgment,
and hold by man's privilege--pity. Not that I would find excuse for
Tom's downright dishonesty, which was beyond doubt a disgrace to him,
and no credit to his kinsfolk; only that it came about without his
meaning any harm or seeing how he took to wrong; yet gradually knowing
it. And now, to save any further trouble, and to meet those who
disparage him (without allowance for the time or the crosses laid upon
him), I will tell the history of him, just as if he were not my cousin,
and hoping to be heeded. And I defy any man to say that a word of this
is either false, or in any way coloured by family. Much cause he had
to be harsh with the world; and yet all acknowledged him very pleasant,
when a man gave up his money. And often and often he paid the toll for
the carriage coming after him, because he had emptied their pockets, and
would not add inconvenience. By trade he had been a blacksmith, in the
town of Northmolton, in Devonshire, a rough rude place at the end of
Exmoor, so that many people marvelled if such a man was bred there. Not
only could he read and write, but he had solid substance; a piece of
land worth a hundred pounds, and right of common for two hundred sheep,
and a score and a half of beasts, lifting up or lying down. And being
left an orphan (with all these cares upon him) he began to work right
early, and made such a fame at the shoeing of horses, that the farriers
of Barum were like to lose their custom. And indeed he won a golden
Jacobus for the best-shod nag in the north of Devon, and some say that
he never was forgiven.

As to that, I know no more, except that men are jealous. But whether
it were that, or not, he fell into bitter trouble within a month of his
victory; when his trade was growing upon him, and his sweetheart ready
to marry him. For he loved a maid of Southmolton (a currier's daughter
I think she was, and her name was Betsy Paramore), and her father had
given consent; and Tom Faggus, wishing to look his best, and be clean of
course, had a tailor at work upstairs for him, who had come all the way
from Exeter. And Betsy's things were ready too--for which they accused
him afterwards, as if he could help that--when suddenly, like a
thunderbolt, a lawyer's writ fell upon him.

This was the beginning of a law-suit with Sir Robert Bampfylde, a
gentleman of the neighbourhood, who tried to oust him from his common,
and drove his cattle and harassed them. And by that suit of law poor Tom
was ruined altogether, for Sir Robert could pay for much swearing; and
then all his goods and his farm were sold up, and even his smithery
taken. But he saddled his horse, before they could catch him, and rode
away to Southmolton, looking more like a madman than a good farrier,
as the people said who saw him. But when he arrived there, instead of
comfort, they showed him the face of the door alone; for the news of his
loss was before him, and Master Paramore was a sound, prudent man, and
a high member of the town council. It is said that they even gave him
notice to pay for Betsy's wedding-clothes, now that he was too poor to
marry her. This may be false, and indeed I doubt it; in the first place,
because Southmolton is a busy place for talking; and in the next, that
I do not think the action would have lain at law, especially as the
maid lost nothing, but used it all for her wedding next month with Dick
Vellacott, of Mockham.

All this was very sore upon Tom; and he took it to heart so grievously,
that he said, as a better man might have said, being loose of mind and
property, 'The world hath preyed on me like a wolf. God help me now to
prey on the world.'

And in sooth it did seem, for a while, as if Providence were with him;
for he took rare toll on the highway, and his name was soon as good as
gold anywhere this side of Bristowe. He studied his business by night
and by day, with three horses all in hard work, until he had made a fine
reputation; and then it was competent to him to rest, and he had plenty
left for charity. And I ought to say for society too, for he truly
loved high society, treating squires and noblemen (who much affected his
company) to the very best fare of the hostel. And they say that once
the King's Justitiaries, being upon circuit, accepted his invitation,
declaring merrily that if never true bill had been found against him,
mine host should now be qualified to draw one. And so the landlords did;
and he always paid them handsomely, so that all of them were kind to
him, and contended for his visits. Let it be known in any township that
Mr. Faggus was taking his leisure at the inn, and straightway all the
men flocked thither to drink his health without outlay, and all the
women to admire him; while the children were set at the cross-roads to
give warning of any officers. One of his earliest meetings was with Sir
Robert Bampfylde himself, who was riding along the Barum road with only
one serving-man after him. Tom Faggus put a pistol to his head, being
then obliged to be violent, through want of reputation; while the
serving-man pretended to be along way round the corner. Then the baronet
pulled out his purse, quite trembling in the hurry of his politeness.
Tom took the purse, and his ring, and time-piece, and then handed them
back with a very low bow, saying that it was against all usage for him
to rob a robber. Then he turned to the unfaithful knave, and trounced
him right well for his cowardice, and stripped him of all his property.

But now Mr. Faggus kept only one horse, lest the Government should steal
them; and that one was the young mare Winnie. How he came by her he
never would tell, but I think that she was presented to him by a certain
Colonel, a lover of sport, and very clever in horseflesh, whose life Tom
had saved from some gamblers. When I have added that Faggus as yet
had never been guilty of bloodshed (for his eyes, and the click of
his pistol at first, and now his high reputation made all his wishes
respected), and that he never robbed a poor man, neither insulted a
woman, but was very good to the Church, and of hot patriotic opinions,
and full of jest and jollity, I have said as much as is fair for him,
and shown why he was so popular. Everybody cursed the Doones, who lived
apart disdainfully. But all good people liked Mr. Faggus--when he had
not robbed them--and many a poor sick man or woman blessed him for other
people's money; and all the hostlers, stable-boys, and tapsters entirely
worshipped him.

I have been rather long, and perhaps tedious, in my account of him, lest
at any time hereafter his character should be misunderstood, and his
good name disparaged; whereas he was my second cousin, and the lover of
my--But let that bide. 'Tis a melancholy story.

He came again about three months afterwards, in the beginning of the
spring-time, and brought me a beautiful new carbine, having learned my
love of such things, and my great desire to shoot straight. But mother
would not let me have the gun, until he averred upon his honour that he
had bought it honestly. And so he had, no doubt, so far as it is honest
to buy with money acquired rampantly. Scarce could I stop to make my
bullets in the mould which came along with it, but must be off to the
Quarry Hill, and new target I had made there. And he taught me then
how to ride bright Winnie, who was grown since I had seen her, but
remembered me most kindly. After making much of Annie, who had a
wondrous liking for him--and he said he was her godfather, but God knows
how he could have been, unless they confirmed him precociously--away he
went, and young Winnie's sides shone like a cherry by candlelight.

Now I feel that of those boyish days I have little more to tell, because
everything went quietly, as the world for the most part does with us. I
began to work at the farm in earnest, and tried to help my mother, and
when I remembered Lorna Doone, it seemed no more than the thought of a
dream, which I could hardly call to mind. Now who cares to know how many
bushels of wheat we grew to the acre, or how the cattle milched till we
ate them, or what the turn of the seasons was? But my stupid self seemed
like to be the biggest of all the cattle; for having much to look after
the sheep, and being always in kind appetite, I grew four inches longer
in every year of my farming, and a matter of two inches wider; until
there was no man of my size to be seen elsewhere upon Exmoor. Let that
pass: what odds to any how tall or wide I be? There is no Doone's door
at Plover's Barrows and if there were I could never go through it. They
vexed me so much about my size, long before I had completed it, girding
at me with paltry jokes whose wit was good only to stay at home, that
I grew shame-faced about the matter, and feared to encounter a
looking-glass. But mother was very proud, and said she never could have
too much of me.

The worst of all to make me ashamed of bearing my head so high--a thing
I saw no way to help, for I never could hang my chin down, and my back
was like a gatepost whenever I tried to bend it--the worst of all was
our little Eliza, who never could come to a size herself, though she had
the wine from the Sacrament at Easter and Allhallowmas, only to be small
and skinny, sharp, and clever crookedly. Not that her body was out of
the straight (being too small for that perhaps), but that her wit was
full of corners, jagged, and strange, and uncomfortable. You never could
tell what she might say next; and I like not that kind of women. Now God
forgive me for talking so of my own father's daughter, and so much the
more by reason that my father could not help it. The right way is
to face the matter, and then be sorry for every one. My mother fell
grievously on a slide, which John Fry had made nigh the apple-room door,
and hidden with straw from the stable, to cover his own great idleness.
My father laid John's nose on the ice, and kept him warm in spite of it;
but it was too late for Eliza. She was born next day with more mind than
body--the worst thing that can befall a man.

But Annie, my other sister, was now a fine fair girl, beautiful to
behold. I could look at her by the fireside, for an hour together, when
I was not too sleepy, and think of my dear father. And she would do the
same thing by me, only wait the between of the blazes. Her hair was done
up in a knot behind, but some would fall over her shoulders; and the
dancing of the light was sweet to see through a man's eyelashes. There
never was a face that showed the light or the shadow of feeling, as if
the heart were sun to it, more than our dear Annie's did. To look at her
carefully, you might think that she was not dwelling on anything; and
then she would know you were looking at her, and those eyes would tell
all about it. God knows that I try to be simple enough, to keep to His
meaning in me, and not make the worst of His children. Yet often have I
been put to shame, and ready to bite my tongue off, after speaking amiss
of anybody, and letting out my littleness, when suddenly mine eyes have
met the pure soft gaze of Annie.

As for the Doones, they were thriving still, and no one to come against
them; except indeed by word of mouth, to which they lent no heed
whatever. Complaints were made from time to time, both in high and low
quarters (as the rank might be of the people robbed), and once or twice
in the highest of all, to wit, the King himself. But His Majesty made
a good joke about it (not meaning any harm, I doubt), and was so much
pleased with himself thereupon, that he quite forgave the mischief.
Moreover, the main authorities were a long way off; and the Chancellor
had no cattle on Exmoor; and as for my lord the Chief Justice, some
rogue had taken his silver spoons; whereupon his lordship swore that
never another man would he hang until he had that one by the neck.
Therefore the Doones went on as they listed, and none saw fit to meddle
with them. For the only man who would have dared to come to close
quarters with them, that is to say Tom Faggus, himself was a quarry for
the law, if ever it should be unhooded. Moreover, he had transferred his
business to the neighbourhood of Wantage, in the county of Berks, where
he found the climate drier, also good downs and commons excellent for
galloping, and richer yeomen than ours be, and better roads to rob them
on.

Some folk, who had wiser attended to their own affairs, said that I
(being sizeable now, and able to shoot not badly) ought to do something
against those Doones, and show what I was made of. But for a time I was
very bashful, shaking when called upon suddenly, and blushing as deep as
a maiden; for my strength was not come upon me, and mayhap I had grown
in front of it. And again, though I loved my father still, and would
fire at a word about him, I saw not how it would do him good for me to
harm his injurers. Some races are of revengeful kind, and will for years
pursue their wrong, and sacrifice this world and the next for a
moment's foul satisfaction, but methinks this comes of some black blood,
perverted and never purified. And I doubt but men of true English birth
are stouter than so to be twisted, though some of the women may take
that turn, if their own life runs unkindly.

Let that pass--I am never good at talking of things beyond me. All I
know is, that if I had met the Doone who had killed my father, I would
gladly have thrashed him black and blue, supposing I were able; but
would never have fired a gun at him, unless he began that game with me,
or fell upon more of my family, or were violent among women. And to
do them justice, my mother and Annie were equally kind and gentle, but
Eliza would flame and grow white with contempt, and not trust herself to
speak to us.

Now a strange thing came to pass that winter, when I was twenty-one
years old, a very strange thing, which affrighted the rest, and made me
feel uncomfortable. Not that there was anything in it, to do harm to any
one, only that none could explain it, except by attributing it to the
devil. The weather was very mild and open, and scarcely any snow fell;
at any rate, none lay on the ground, even for an hour, in the highest
part of Exmoor; a thing which I knew not before nor since, as long as
I can remember. But the nights were wonderfully dark, as though with no
stars in the heaven; and all day long the mists were rolling upon
the hills and down them, as if the whole land were a wash-house. The
moorland was full of snipes and teal, and curlews flying and crying, and
lapwings flapping heavily, and ravens hovering round dead sheep; yet no
redshanks nor dottrell, and scarce any golden plovers (of which we have
great store generally) but vast lonely birds, that cried at night, and
moved the whole air with their pinions; yet no man ever saw them. It was
dismal as well as dangerous now for any man to go fowling (which of late
I loved much in the winter) because the fog would come down so thick
that the pan of the gun was reeking, and the fowl out of sight ere the
powder kindled, and then the sound of the piece was so dead, that the
shooter feared harm, and glanced over his shoulder. But the danger of
course was far less in this than in losing of the track, and falling
into the mires, or over the brim of a precipice.

Nevertheless, I must needs go out, being young and very stupid, and
feared of being afraid; a fear which a wise man has long cast by, having
learned of the manifold dangers which ever and ever encompass us. And
beside this folly and wildness of youth, perchance there was something,
I know not what, of the joy we have in uncertainty. Mother, in fear
of my missing home--though for that matter, I could smell supper, when
hungry, through a hundred land-yards of fog--my dear mother, who thought
of me ten times for one thought about herself, gave orders to ring the
great sheep-bell, which hung above the pigeon-cote, every ten minutes of
the day, and the sound came through the plaits of fog, and I was vexed
about it, like the letters of a copy-book. It reminded me, too, of
Blundell's bell, and the grief to go into school again.

But during those two months of fog (for we had it all the winter), the
saddest and the heaviest thing was to stand beside the sea. To be upon
the beach yourself, and see the long waves coming in; to know that they
are long waves, but only see a piece of them; and to hear them lifting
roundly, swelling over smooth green rocks, plashing down in the hollow
corners, but bearing on all the same as ever, soft and sleek and
sorrowful, till their little noise is over.

One old man who lived at Lynmouth, seeking to be buried there, having
been more than half over the world, though shy to speak about it, and
fain to come home to his birthplace, this old Will Watcombe (who dwelt
by the water) said that our strange winter arose from a thing he called
the 'Gulf-stream', rushing up Channel suddenly. He said it was hot
water, almost fit for a man to shave with, and it threw all our cold
water out, and ruined the fish and the spawning-time, and a cold spring
would come after it. I was fond of going to Lynmouth on Sunday to hear
this old man talk, for sometimes he would discourse with me, when nobody
else could move him. He told me that this powerful flood set in upon our
west so hard sometimes once in ten years, and sometimes not for fifty,
and the Lord only knew the sense of it; but that when it came, therewith
came warmth and clouds, and fog, and moisture, and nuts, and fruit, and
even shells; and all the tides were thrown abroad. As for nuts he winked
awhile, and chewed a piece of tobacco; yet did I not comprehend him.
Only afterwards I heard that nuts with liquid kernels came, travelling
on the Gulf stream; for never before was known so much foreign cordial
landed upon our coast, floating ashore by mistake in the fog, and (what
with the tossing and the mist) too much astray to learn its duty.

Folk, who are ever too prone to talk, said that Will Watcombe himself
knew better than anybody else about this drift of the Gulf-stream,
and the places where it would come ashore, and the caves that took the
in-draught. But De Whichehalse, our great magistrate, certified that
there was no proof of unlawful importation; neither good cause to
suspect it, at a time of Christian charity. And we knew that it was a
foul thing for some quarrymen to say that night after night they had
been digging a new cellar at Ley Manor to hold the little marks of
respect found in the caverns at high-water weed. Let that be, it is none
of my business to speak evil of dignities; duly we common people joked
of the 'Gulp-stream,' as we called it.

But the thing which astonished and frightened us so, was not, I do
assure you, the landing of foreign spirits, nor the loom of a lugger at
twilight in the gloom of the winter moonrise. That which made as crouch
in by the fire, or draw the bed-clothes over us, and try to think of
something else, was a strange mysterious sound.

At grey of night, when the sun was gone, and no red in the west
remained, neither were stars forthcoming, suddenly a wailing voice rose
along the valleys, and a sound in the air, as of people running. It
mattered not whether you stood on the moor, or crouched behind rocks
away from it, or down among reedy places; all as one the sound would
come, now from the heart of the earth beneath, now overhead bearing
down on you. And then there was rushing of something by, and melancholy
laughter, and the hair of a man would stand on end before he could
reason properly.

God, in His mercy, knows that I am stupid enough for any man, and very
slow of impression, nor ever could bring myself to believe that our
Father would let the evil one get the upper hand of us. But when I had
heard that sound three times, in the lonely gloom of the evening fog,
and the cold that followed the lines of air, I was loath to go abroad by
night, even so far as the stables, and loved the light of a candle more,
and the glow of a fire with company.

There were many stories about it, of course, all over the breadth of the
moorland. But those who had heard it most often declared that it must be
the wail of a woman's voice, and the rustle of robes fleeing horribly,
and fiends in the fog going after her. To that, however, I paid no heed,
when anybody was with me; only we drew more close together, and barred
the doors at sunset.



CHAPTER XIII

MASTER HUCKABACK COMES IN

Mr. Reuben Huckaback, whom many good folk in Dulverton will remember
long after my time, was my mother's uncle, being indeed her mother's
brother. He owned the very best shop in the town, and did a fine
trade in soft ware, especially when the pack-horses came safely in at
Christmas-time. And we being now his only kindred (except indeed his
granddaughter, little Ruth Huckaback, of whom no one took any heed),
mother beheld it a Christian duty to keep as well as could be with him,
both for love of a nice old man, and for the sake of her children. And
truly, the Dulverton people said that he was the richest man in their
town, and could buy up half the county armigers; 'ay, and if it came to
that, they would like to see any man, at Bampton, or at Wivelscombe,
and you might say almost Taunton, who could put down golden Jacobus and
Carolus against him.

Now this old gentleman--so they called him, according to his money;
and I have seen many worse ones, more violent and less wealthy--he must
needs come away that time to spend the New Year-tide with us; not that
he wanted to do it (for he hated country-life), but because my mother
pressing, as mothers will do to a good bag of gold, had wrung a promise
from him; and the only boast of his life was that never yet had he
broken his word, at least since he opened business.

Now it pleased God that Christmas-time (in spite of all the fogs) to
send safe home to Dulverton, and what was more, with their loads quite
safe, a goodly string of packhorses. Nearly half of their charge was
for Uncle Reuben, and he knew how to make the most of it. Then having
balanced his debits and credits, and set the writs running against
defaulters, as behoves a good Christian at Christmas-tide, he saddled
his horse, and rode off towards Oare, with a good stout coat upon him,
and leaving Ruth and his head man plenty to do, and little to eat, until
they should see him again.

It had been settled between us that we should expect him soon after noon
on the last day of December. For the Doones being lazy and fond of bed,
as the manner is of dishonest folk, the surest way to escape them was
to travel before they were up and about, to-wit, in the forenoon of
the day. But herein we reckoned without our host: for being in high
festivity, as became good Papists, the robbers were too lazy, it seems,
to take the trouble of going to bed; and forth they rode on the Old
Year-morning, not with any view of business, but purely in search of
mischief.

We had put off our dinner till one o'clock (which to me was a sad
foregoing), and there was to be a brave supper at six of the clock, upon
New Year's-eve; and the singers to come with their lanthorns, and do
it outside the parlour-window, and then have hot cup till their heads
should go round, after making away with the victuals. For although there
was nobody now in our family to be churchwarden of Oare, it was well
admitted that we were the people entitled alone to that dignity; and
though Nicholas Snowe was in office by name, he managed it only by
mother's advice; and a pretty mess he made of it, so that every one
longed for a Ridd again, soon as ever I should be old enough. This
Nicholas Snowe was to come in the evening, with his three tall comely
daughters, strapping girls, and well skilled in the dairy; and the
story was all over the parish, on a stupid conceit of John Fry's, that
I should have been in love with all three, if there had been but one of
them. These Snowes were to come, and come they did, partly because Mr.
Huckaback liked to see fine young maidens, and partly because none but
Nicholas Snowe could smoke a pipe now all around our parts, except of
the very high people, whom we durst never invite. And Uncle Ben, as we
all knew well, was a great hand at his pipe, and would sit for hours
over it, in our warm chimney-corner, and never want to say a word,
unless it were inside him; only he liked to have somebody there over
against him smoking.

Now when I came in, before one o'clock, after seeing to the cattle--for
the day was thicker than ever, and we must keep the cattle close at
home, if we wished to see any more of them--I fully expected to find
Uncle Ben sitting in the fireplace, lifting one cover and then another,
as his favourite manner was, and making sweet mouths over them; for he
loved our bacon rarely, and they had no good leeks at Dulverton; and
he was a man who always would see his business done himself. But there
instead of my finding him with his quaint dry face pulled out at me,
and then shut up sharp not to be cheated--who should run out but Betty
Muxworthy, and poke me with a saucepan lid.

'Get out of that now, Betty,' I said in my politest manner, for really
Betty was now become a great domestic evil. She would have her own
way so, and of all things the most distressful was for a man to try to
reason.

'Zider-press,' cried Betty again, for she thought it a fine joke to call
me that, because of my size, and my hatred of it; 'here be a rare get
up, anyhow.'

'A rare good dinner, you mean, Betty. Well, and I have a rare good
appetite.' With that I wanted to go and smell it, and not to stop for
Betty.

'Troost thee for thiccy, Jan Ridd. But thee must keep it bit langer, I
reckon. Her baint coom, Maister Ziderpress. Whatt'e mak of that now?'

'Do you mean to say that Uncle Ben has not arrived yet, Betty?'

'Raived! I knaws nout about that, whuther a hath of noo. Only I tell 'e,
her baint coom. Rackon them Dooneses hath gat 'un.'

And Betty, who hated Uncle Ben, because he never gave her a groat,
and she was not allowed to dine with him, I am sorry to say that
Betty Muxworthy grinned all across, and poked me again with the greasy
saucepan cover. But I misliking so to be treated, strode through the
kitchen indignantly, for Betty behaved to me even now, as if I were only
Eliza.

'Oh, Johnny, Johnny,' my mother cried, running out of the grand
show-parlour, where the case of stuffed birds was, and peacock-feathers,
and the white hare killed by grandfather; 'I am so glad you are come at
last. There is something sadly amiss, Johnny.'

Mother had upon her wrists something very wonderful, of the nature of
fal-lal as we say, and for which she had an inborn turn, being of good
draper family, and polished above the yeomanry. Nevertheless I could
never bear it, partly because I felt it to be out of place in our good
farm-house, partly because I hate frippery, partly because it seemed to
me to have nothing to do with father, and partly because I never could
tell the reason of my hating it. And yet the poor soul had put them on,
not to show her hands off (which were above her station) but simply
for her children's sake, because Uncle Ben had given them. But another
thing, I never could bear for man or woman to call me, 'Johnny,'
'Jack,' or 'John,' I cared not which; and that was honest enough, and no
smallness of me there, I say.

'Well, mother, what is the matter, then?'

'I am sure you need not be angry, Johnny. I only hope it is nothing to
grieve about, instead of being angry. You are very sweet-tempered, I
know, John Ridd, and perhaps a little too sweet at times'--here she
meant the Snowe girls, and I hanged my head--'but what would you say if
the people there'--she never would call them 'Doones'--'had gotten your
poor Uncle Reuben, horse, and Sunday coat, and all?'

'Why, mother, I should be sorry for them. He would set up a shop by the
river-side, and come away with all their money.'

'That all you have to say, John! And my dinner done to a very turn, and
the supper all fit to go down, and no worry, only to eat and be done
with it! And all the new plates come from Watchett, with the Watchett
blue upon them, at the risk of the lives of everybody, and the capias
from good Aunt Jane for stuffing a curlew with onion before he begins to
get cold, and make a woodcock of him, and the way to turn the flap over
in the inside of a roasting pig--'

'Well, mother dear, I am very sorry. But let us have our dinner. You
know we promised not to wait for him after one o'clock; and you only
make us hungry. Everything will be spoiled, mother, and what a pity to
think of! After that I will go to seek for him in the thick of the fog,
like a needle in a hay-band. That is to say, unless you think'--for she
looked very grave about it--'unless you really think, mother, that I
ought to go without dinner.'

'Oh no, John, I never thought that, thank God! Bless Him for my
children's appetites; and what is Uncle Ben to them?'

So we made a very good dinner indeed, though wishing that he could have
some of it, and wondering how much to leave for him; and then, as no
sound of his horse had been heard, I set out with my gun to look for
him.

I followed the track on the side of the hill, from the farm-yard, where
the sledd-marks are--for we have no wheels upon Exmoor yet, nor ever
shall, I suppose; though a dunder-headed man tried it last winter, and
broke his axle piteously, and was nigh to break his neck--and after
that I went all along on the ridge of the rabbit-cleve, with the brook
running thin in the bottom; and then down to the Lynn stream and leaped
it, and so up the hill and the moor beyond. The fog hung close all
around me then, when I turned the crest of the highland, and the gorse
both before and behind me looked like a man crouching down in ambush.
But still there was a good cloud of daylight, being scarce three of the
clock yet, and when a lead of red deer came across, I could tell them
from sheep even now. I was half inclined to shoot at them, for the
children did love venison; but they drooped their heads so, and looked
so faithful, that it seemed hard measure to do it. If one of them had
bolted away, no doubt I had let go at him.

After that I kept on the track, trudging very stoutly, for nigh upon
three miles, and my beard (now beginning to grow at some length) was
full of great drops and prickly, whereat I was very proud. I had not so
much as a dog with me, and the place was unkind and lonesome, and the
rolling clouds very desolate; and now if a wild sheep ran across he was
scared at me as an enemy; and I for my part could not tell the meaning
of the marks on him. We called all this part Gibbet-moor, not being in
our parish; but though there were gibbets enough upon it, most part
of the bodies was gone for the value of the chains, they said, and the
teaching of young chirurgeons. But of all this I had little fear, being
no more a schoolboy now, but a youth well-acquaint with Exmoor, and
the wise art of the sign-posts, whereby a man, who barred the road, now
opens it up both ways with his finger-bones, so far as rogues allow him.
My carbine was loaded and freshly primed, and I knew myself to be
even now a match in strength for any two men of the size around our
neighbourhood, except in the Glen Doone. 'Girt Jan Ridd,' I was called
already, and folk grew feared to wrestle with me; though I was tired of
hearing about it, and often longed to be smaller. And most of all upon
Sundays, when I had to make way up our little church, and the maidens
tittered at me.

The soft white mist came thicker around me, as the evening fell; and the
peat ricks here and there, and the furze-hucks of the summer-time, were
all out of shape in the twist of it. By-and-by, I began to doubt where
I was, or how come there, not having seen a gibbet lately; and then I
heard the draught of the wind up a hollow place with rocks to it; and
for the first time fear broke out (like cold sweat) upon me. And yet I
knew what a fool I was, to fear nothing but a sound! But when I stopped
to listen, there was no sound, more than a beating noise, and that was
all inside me. Therefore I went on again, making company of myself, and
keeping my gun quite ready.

Now when I came to an unknown place, where a stone was set up endwise,
with a faint red cross upon it, and a polish from some conflict, I
gathered my courage to stop and think, having sped on the way too hotly.
Against that stone I set my gun, trying my spirit to leave it so,
but keeping with half a hand for it; and then what to do next was the
wonder. As for finding Uncle Ben that was his own business, or at any
rate his executor's; first I had to find myself, and plentifully would
thank God to find myself at home again, for the sake of all our family.

The volumes of the mist came rolling at me (like great logs of wood,
pillowed out with sleepiness), and between them there was nothing more
than waiting for the next one. Then everything went out of sight, and
glad was I of the stone behind me, and view of mine own shoes. Then a
distant noise went by me, as of many horses galloping, and in my fright
I set my gun and said, 'God send something to shoot at.' Yet nothing
came, and my gun fell back, without my will to lower it.

But presently, while I was thinking 'What a fool I am!' arose as if from
below my feet, so that the great stone trembled, that long, lamenting
lonesome sound, as of an evil spirit not knowing what to do with it. For
the moment I stood like a root, without either hand or foot to help me,
and the hair of my head began to crawl, lifting my hat, as a snail lifts
his house; and my heart like a shuttle went to and fro. But finding
no harm to come of it, neither visible form approaching, I wiped my
forehead, and hoped for the best, and resolved to run every step of the
way, till I drew our own latch behind me.

Yet here again I was disappointed, for no sooner was I come to the
cross-ways by the black pool in the hole, but I heard through the patter
of my own feet a rough low sound very close in the fog, as of a hobbled
sheep a-coughing. I listened, and feared, and yet listened again, though
I wanted not to hear it. For being in haste of the homeward road, and
all my heart having heels to it, loath I was to stop in the dusk for the
sake of an aged wether. Yet partly my love of all animals, and partly
my fear of the farmer's disgrace, compelled me to go to the succour, and
the noise was coming nearer. A dry short wheezing sound it was, barred
with coughs and want of breath; but thus I made the meaning of it.

'Lord have mercy upon me! O Lord, upon my soul have mercy! An if I
cheated Sam Hicks last week, Lord knowest how well he deserved it, and
lied in every stocking's mouth--oh Lord, where be I a-going?'

These words, with many jogs between them, came to me through the
darkness, and then a long groan and a choking. I made towards the sound,
as nigh as ever I could guess, and presently was met, point-blank, by
the head of a mountain-pony. Upon its back lay a man bound down, with
his feet on the neck and his head to the tail, and his arms falling
down like stirrups. The wild little nag was scared of its life by the
unaccustomed burden, and had been tossing and rolling hard, in desire to
get ease of it.

Before the little horse could turn, I caught him, jaded as he was, by
his wet and grizzled forelock, and he saw that it was vain to struggle,
but strove to bite me none the less, until I smote him upon the nose.

'Good and worthy sir,' I said to the man who was riding so roughly;
'fear nothing; no harm shall come to thee.'

'Help, good friend, whoever thou art,' he gasped, but could not look at
me, because his neck was jerked so; 'God hath sent thee, and not to rob
me, because it is done already.'

'What, Uncle Ben!' I cried, letting go the horse in amazement, that
the richest man in Dulverton--'Uncle Ben here in this plight! What, Mr.
Reuben Huckaback!'

'An honest hosier and draper, serge and longcloth warehouseman'--he
groaned from rib to rib--'at the sign of the Gartered Kitten in the
loyal town of Dulverton. For God's sake, let me down, good fellow, from
this accursed marrow-bone; and a groat of good money will I pay thee,
safe in my house to Dulverton; but take notice that the horse is mine,
no less than the nag they robbed from me.'

'What, Uncle Ben, dost thou not know me, thy dutiful nephew John Ridd?'

Not to make a long story of it, I cut the thongs that bound him, and
set him astride on the little horse; but he was too weak to stay so.
Therefore I mounted him on my back, turning the horse into horse-steps,
and leading the pony by the cords which I fastened around his nose, set
out for Plover's Barrows.

Uncle Ben went fast asleep on my back, being jaded and shaken beyond his
strength, for a man of three-score and five; and as soon he felt assured
of safety he would talk no more. And to tell the truth he snored so
loudly, that I could almost believe that fearful noise in the fog every
night came all the way from Dulverton.

Now as soon as ever I brought him in, we set him up in the
chimney-corner, comfortable and handsome; and it was no little delight
to me to get him off my back; for, like his own fortune, Uncle Ben was
of a good round figure. He gave his long coat a shake or two, and he
stamped about in the kitchen, until he was sure of his whereabouts, and
then he fell asleep again until supper should be ready.

'He shall marry Ruth,' he said by-and-by to himself, and not to me; 'he
shall marry Ruth for this, and have my little savings, soon as they be
worth the having. Very little as yet, very little indeed; and ever so
much gone to-day along of them rascal robbers.'

My mother made a dreadful stir, of course, about Uncle Ben being in such
a plight as this; so I left him to her care and Annie's, and soon they
fed him rarely, while I went out to see to the comfort of the captured
pony. And in truth he was worth the catching, and served us very well
afterwards, though Uncle Ben was inclined to claim him for his business
at Dulverton, where they have carts and that like. 'But,' I said, 'you
shall have him, sir, and welcome, if you will only ride him home as
first I found you riding him.' And with that he dropped it.

A very strange old man he was, short in his manner, though long of body,
glad to do the contrary things to what any one expected of him, and
always looking sharp at people, as if he feared to be cheated. This
surprised me much at first, because it showed his ignorance of what we
farmers are--an upright race, as you may find, scarcely ever cheating
indeed, except upon market-day, and even then no more than may be helped
by reason of buyers expecting it. Now our simple ways were a puzzle to
him, as I told him very often; but he only laughed, and rubbed his mouth
with the back of his dry shining hand, and I think he shortly began to
languish for want of some one to higgle with. I had a great mind to give
him the pony, because he thought himself cheated in that case; only he
would conclude that I did it with some view to a legacy.

Of course, the Doones, and nobody else, had robbed good Uncle Reuben;
and then they grew sportive, and took his horse, an especially sober
nag, and bound the master upon the wild one, for a little change as they
told him. For two or three hours they had fine enjoyment chasing him
through the fog, and making much sport of his groanings; and then
waxing hungry, they went their way, and left him to opportunity. Now
Mr. Huckaback growing able to walk in a few days' time, became thereupon
impatient, and could not be brought to understand why he should have
been robbed at all.

'I have never deserved it,' he said to himself, not knowing much of
Providence, except with a small p to it; 'I have never deserved it, and
will not stand it in the name of our lord the King, not I!' At other
times he would burst forth thus: 'Three-score years and five have I
lived an honest and laborious life, yet never was I robbed before. And
now to be robbed in my old age, to be robbed for the first time now!'

Thereupon of course we would tell him how truly thankful he ought to be
for never having been robbed before, in spite of living so long in this
world, and that he was taking a very ungrateful, not to say ungracious,
view, in thus repining, and feeling aggrieved; when anyone else would
have knelt and thanked God for enjoying so long an immunity. But say
what we would, it was all as one. Uncle Ben stuck fast to it, that he
had nothing to thank God for.



CHAPTER XIV

A MOTION WHICH ENDS IN A MULL

Instead of minding his New-Year pudding, Master Huckaback carried on so
about his mighty grievance, that at last we began to think there must be
something in it, after all; especially as he assured us that choice and
costly presents for the young people of our household were among the
goods divested. But mother told him her children had plenty, and wanted
no gold and silver, and little Eliza spoke up and said, 'You can give us
the pretty things, Uncle Ben, when we come in the summer to see you.'

Our mother reproved Eliza for this, although it was the heel of her
own foot; and then to satisfy our uncle, she promised to call Farmer
Nicholas Snowe, to be of our council that evening, 'And if the young
maidens would kindly come, without taking thought to smoothe themselves,
why it would be all the merrier, and who knew but what Uncle Huckaback
might bless the day of his robbery, etc., etc.--and thorough good honest
girls they were, fit helpmates either for shop or farm.' All of which
was meant for me; but I stuck to my platter and answered not.

In the evening Farmer Snowe came up, leading his daughters after him,
like fillies trimmed for a fair; and Uncle Ben, who had not seen them on
the night of his mishap (because word had been sent to stop them), was
mightily pleased and very pleasant, according to his town bred ways.
The damsels had seen good company, and soon got over their fear of his
wealth, and played him a number of merry pranks, which made our mother
quite jealous for Annie, who was always shy and diffident. However, when
the hot cup was done, and before the mulled wine was ready, we packed
all the maidens in the parlour and turned the key upon them; and then we
drew near to the kitchen fire to hear Uncle Ben's proposal. Farmer Snowe
sat up in the corner, caring little to bear about anything, but smoking
slowly, and nodding backward like a sheep-dog dreaming. Mother was in
the settle, of course, knitting hard, as usual; and Uncle Ben took to
a three-legged stool, as if all but that had been thieved from him.
Howsoever, he kept his breath from speech, giving privilege, as was due,
to mother.

'Master Snowe, you are well assured,' said mother, colouring like the
furze as it took the flame and fell over, 'that our kinsman here hath
received rough harm on his peaceful journey from Dulverton. The times
are bad, as we all know well, and there is no sign of bettering them,
and if I could see our Lord the King I might say things to move him!
nevertheless, I have had so much of my own account to vex for--'

'You are flying out of the subject, Sarah,' said Uncle Ben, seeing tears
in her eyes, and tired of that matter.

'Zettle the pralimbinaries,' spoke Farmer Snowe, on appeal from us,
'virst zettle the pralimbinaries; and then us knows what be drivin' at.'

'Preliminaries be damned, sir,' cried Uncle Ben, losing his temper.
'What preliminaries were there when I was robbed; I should like to know?
Robbed in this parish as I can prove, to the eternal disgrace of Oare
and the scandal of all England. And I hold this parish to answer for it,
sir; this parish shall make it good, being a nest of foul thieves as it
is; ay, farmers, and yeomen, and all of you. I will beggar every man
in this parish, if they be not beggars already, ay, and sell your old
church up before your eyes, but what I will have back my tarlatan,
time-piece, saddle, and dove-tailed nag.'

Mother looked at me, and I looked at Farmer Snowe, and we all were sorry
for Master Huckaback, putting our hands up one to another, that nobody
should browbeat him; because we all knew what our parish was, and none
the worse for strong language, however rich the man might be. But Uncle
Ben took it in a different way. He thought that we all were afraid of
him, and that Oare parish was but as Moab or Edom, for him to cast his
shoe over.

'Nephew Jack,' he cried, looking at me when I was thinking what to say,
and finding only emptiness, 'you are a heavy lout, sir; a bumpkin, a
clodhopper; and I shall leave you nothing, unless it be my boots to
grease.'

'Well, uncle,' I made answer, 'I will grease your boots all the same for
that, so long as you be our guest, sir.'

Now, that answer, made without a thought, stood me for two thousand
pounds, as you shall see, by-and-by, perhaps.

'As for the parish,' my mother cried, being too hard set to contain
herself, 'the parish can defend itself, and we may leave it to do so.
But our Jack is not like that, sir; and I will not have him spoken of.
Leave him indeed! Who wants you to do more than to leave him alone, sir;
as he might have done you the other night; and as no one else would
have dared to do. And after that, to think so meanly of me, and of my
children!'

'Hoity, toity, Sarah! Your children, I suppose, are the same as other
people's.'

'That they are not; and never will be; and you ought to know it, Uncle
Reuben, if any one in the world ought. Other people's children!'

'Well, well!' Uncle Reuben answered, 'I know very little of children;
except my little Ruth, and she is nothing wonderful.'

'I never said that my children were wonderful Uncle Ben; nor did I ever
think it. But as for being good--'

Here mother fetched out her handkerchief, being overcome by our
goodness; and I told her, with my hand to my mouth, not to notice him;
though he might be worth ten thousand times ten thousand pounds.

But Farmer Snowe came forward now, for he had some sense sometimes; and
he thought it was high time for him to say a word for the parish.

'Maister Huckaback,' he began, pointing with his pipe at him, the end
that was done in sealing-wax, 'tooching of what you was plaized to zay
'bout this here parish, and no oother, mind me no oother parish but
thees, I use the vreedom, zur, for to tell 'e, that thee be a laiar.'

Then Farmer Nicholas Snowe folded his arms across with the bowl of his
pipe on the upper one, and gave me a nod, and then one to mother, to
testify how he had done his duty, and recked not what might come of it.
However, he got little thanks from us; for the parish was nothing at all
to my mother, compared with her children's interests; and I thought it
hard that an uncle of mine, and an old man too, should be called a liar,
by a visitor at our fireplace. For we, in our rude part of the world,
counted it one of the worst disgraces that could befall a man, to
receive the lie from any one. But Uncle Ben, as it seems was used to
it, in the way of trade, just as people of fashion are, by a style of
courtesy.

Therefore the old man only looked with pity at Farmer Nicholas; and
with a sort of sorrow too, reflecting how much he might have made in a
bargain with such a customer, so ignorant and hot-headed.

'Now let us bandy words no more,' said mother, very sweetly; 'nothing is
easier than sharp words, except to wish them unspoken; as I do many and
many's the time, when I think of my good husband. But now let us hear
from Uncle Reuben what he would have us do to remove this disgrace from
amongst us, and to satisfy him of his goods.'

'I care not for my goods, woman,' Master Huckaback answered grandly;
'although they were of large value, about them I say nothing. But what I
demand is this, the punishment of those scoundrels.'

'Zober, man, zober!' cried Farmer Nicholas; 'we be too naigh Badgery
'ood, to spake like that of they Dooneses.'

'Pack of cowards!' said Uncle Reuben, looking first at the door,
however; 'much chance I see of getting redress from the valour of this
Exmoor! And you, Master Snowe, the very man whom I looked to to raise
the country, and take the lead as churchwarden--why, my youngest shopman
would match his ell against you. Pack of cowards,' cried Uncle Ben,
rising and shaking his lappets at us; 'don't pretend to answer me. Shake
you all off, that I do--nothing more to do with you!'

We knew it useless to answer him, and conveyed our knowledge to one
another, without anything to vex him. However, when the mulled wine
was come, and a good deal of it gone (the season being Epiphany),
Uncle Reuben began to think that he might have been too hard with us.
Moreover, he was beginning now to respect Farmer Nicholas bravely,
because of the way he had smoked his pipes, and the little noise made
over them. And Lizzie and Annie were doing their best--for now we had
let the girls out--to wake more lightsome uproar; also young Faith Snowe
was toward to keep the old men's cups aflow, and hansel them to their
liking.

So at the close of our entertainment, when the girls were gone away
to fetch and light their lanthorns (over which they made rare noise,
blowing each the other's out for counting of the sparks to come), Master
Huckaback stood up, without much aid from the crock-saw, and looked at
mother and all of us.

'Let no one leave this place,' said he, 'until I have said what I
want to say; for saving of ill-will among us; and growth of cheer and
comfort. May be I have carried things too far, even to the bounds of
churlishness, and beyond the bounds of good manners. I will not unsay
one word I have said, having never yet done so in my life; but I would
alter the manner of it, and set it forth in this light. If you folks
upon Exmoor here are loath and wary at fighting, yet you are brave
at better stuff; the best and kindest I ever knew, in the matter of
feeding.'

Here he sat down with tears in his eyes, and called for a little mulled
bastard. All the maids, who were now come back, raced to get it for him,
but Annie of course was foremost. And herein ended the expedition, a
perilous and a great one, against the Doones of Bagworthy; an enterprise
over which we had all talked plainly more than was good for us. For my
part, I slept well that night, feeling myself at home again, now that
the fighting was put aside, and the fear of it turned to the comfort of
talking what we would have done.



CHAPTER XV

MASTER HUCKABACK FAILS OF WARRANT

On the following day Master Huckaback, with some show of mystery,
demanded from my mother an escort into a dangerous part of the world, to
which his business compelled him. My mother made answer to this that
he was kindly welcome to take our John Fry with him; at which the good
clothier laughed, and said that John was nothing like big enough, but
another John must serve his turn, not only for his size, but because if
he were carried away, no stone would be left unturned upon Exmoor, until
he should be brought back again. Hereupon my mother grew very pale, and
found fifty reasons against my going, each of them weightier than the
true one, as Eliza (who was jealous of me) managed to whisper to
Annie. On the other hand, I was quite resolved (directly the thing was
mentioned) to see Uncle Reuben through with it; and it added much to my
self-esteem to be the guard of so rich a man. Therefore I soon persuaded
mother, with her head upon my breast, to let me go and trust in God; and
after that I was greatly vexed to find that this dangerous enterprise
was nothing more than a visit to the Baron de Whichehalse, to lay
an information, and sue a warrant against the Doones, and a posse to
execute it.

Stupid as I always have been, and must ever be no doubt, I could well
have told Uncle Reuben that his journey was no wiser than that of
the men of Gotham; that he never would get from Hugh de Whichehalse a
warrant against the Doones; moreover, that if he did get one, his own
wig would be singed with it. But for divers reasons I held my peace,
partly from youth and modesty, partly from desire to see whatever please
God I should see, and partly from other causes.

We rode by way of Brendon town, Illford Bridge, and Babbrook, to avoid
the great hill above Lynmouth; and the day being fine and clear again, I
laughed in my sleeve at Uncle Reuben for all his fine precautions. When
we arrived at Ley Manor, we were shown very civilly into the hall, and
refreshed with good ale and collared head, and the back of a Christmas
pudding. I had never been under so fine a roof (unless it were of a
church) before; and it pleased me greatly to be so kindly entreated by
high-born folk. But Uncle Reuben was vexed a little at being set down
side by side with a man in a very small way of trade, who was come
upon some business there, and who made bold to drink his health after
finishing their horns of ale.

'Sir,' said Uncle Ben, looking at him, 'my health would fare much
better, if you would pay me three pounds and twelve shillings, which you
have owed me these five years back; and now we are met at the Justice's,
the opportunity is good, sir.'

After that, we were called to the Justice-room, where the Baron himself
was sitting with Colonel Harding, another Justiciary of the King's
peace, to help him. I had seen the Baron de Whichehalse before, and was
not at all afraid of him, having been at school with his son as he knew,
and it made him very kind to me. And indeed he was kind to everybody,
and all our people spoke well of him; and so much the more because we
knew that the house was in decadence. For the first De Whichehalse had
come from Holland, where he had been a great nobleman, some hundred and
fifty years agone. Being persecuted for his religion, when the Spanish
power was everything, he fled to England with all he could save, and
bought large estates in Devonshire. Since then his descendants had
intermarried with ancient county families, Cottwells, and Marwoods, and
Walronds, and Welses of Pylton, and Chichesters of Hall; and several of
the ladies brought them large increase of property. And so about fifty
years before the time of which I am writing, there were few names in the
West of England thought more of than De Whichehalse. But now they had
lost a great deal of land, and therefore of that which goes with land,
as surely as fame belongs to earth--I mean big reputation. How they had
lost it, none could tell; except that as the first descendants had
a manner of amassing, so the later ones were gifted with a power of
scattering. Whether this came of good Devonshire blood opening the
sluice of Low Country veins, is beyond both my province and my power to
inquire. Anyhow, all people loved this last strain of De Whichehalse far
more than the name had been liked a hundred years agone.

Hugh de Whichehalse, a white-haired man, of very noble presence, with
friendly blue eyes and a sweet smooth forehead, and aquiline nose
quite beautiful (as you might expect in a lady of birth), and thin lips
curving delicately, this gentleman rose as we entered the room; while
Colonel Harding turned on his chair, and struck one spur against the
other. I am sure that, without knowing aught of either, we must have
reverenced more of the two the one who showed respect to us. And yet
nine gentleman out of ten make this dull mistake when dealing with the
class below them!

Uncle Reuben made his very best scrape, and then walked up to the table,
trying to look as if he did not know himself to be wealthier than both
the gentlemen put together. Of course he was no stranger to them, any
more than I was; and, as it proved afterwards, Colonel Harding owed him
a lump of money, upon very good security. Of him Uncle Reuben took no
notice, but addressed himself to De Whichehalse.

The Baron smiled very gently, so soon as he learned the cause of this
visit, and then he replied quite reasonably.

'A warrant against the Doones, Master Huckaback. Which of the Doones, so
please you; and the Christian names, what be they?'

'My lord, I am not their godfather; and most like they never had any.
But we all know old Sir Ensor's name, so that may be no obstacle.'

'Sir Ensor Doone and his sons--so be it. How many sons, Master
Huckaback, and what is the name of each one?'

'How can I tell you, my lord, even if I had known them all as well as my
own shop-boys? Nevertheless there were seven of them, and that should be
no obstacle.'

'A warrant against Sir Ensor Doone, and seven sons of Sir Ensor Doone,
Christian names unknown, and doubted if they have any. So far so good
Master Huckaback. I have it all down in writing. Sir Ensor himself was
there, of course, as you have given in evidence--'

'No, no, my lord, I never said that: I never said--'

'If he can prove that he was not there, you may be indicted for perjury.
But as for those seven sons of his, of course you can swear that they
were his sons and not his nephews, or grandchildren, or even no Doones
at all?'

'My lord, I can swear that they were Doones. Moreover, I can pay for any
mistake I make. Therein need be no obstacle.'

'Oh, yes, he can pay; he can pay well enough,' said Colonel Harding
shortly.

'I am heartily glad to hear it,' replied the Baron pleasantly; 'for it
proves after all that this robbery (if robbery there has been) was not
so very ruinous. Sometimes people think they are robbed, and then it is
very sweet afterwards to find that they have not been so; for it adds
to their joy in their property. Now, are you quite convinced, good sir,
that these people (if there were any) stole, or took, or even borrowed
anything at all from you?'

'My lord, do you think that I was drunk?'

'Not for a moment, Master Huckaback. Although excuse might be made for
you at this time of the year. But how did you know that your visitors
were of this particular family?'

'Because it could be nobody else. Because, in spite of the fog--'

'Fog!' cried Colonel Harding sharply.

'Fog!' said the Baron, with emphasis. 'Ah, that explains the whole
affair. To be sure, now I remember, the weather has been too thick for a
man to see the head of his own horse. The Doones (if still there be any
Doones) could never have come abroad; that is as sure as simony. Master
Huckaback, for your good sake, I am heartily glad that this charge has
miscarried. I thoroughly understand it now. The fog explains the whole
of it.'

'Go back, my good fellow,' said Colonel Harding; 'and if the day is
clear enough, you will find all your things where you left them. I know,
from my own experience, what it is to be caught in an Exmoor fog.'

Uncle Reuben, by this time, was so put out, that he hardly knew what he
was saying.

'My lord, Sir Colonel, is this your justice! If I go to London myself
for it, the King shall know how his commission--how a man may be robbed,
and the justices prove that he ought to be hanged at back of it; that in
his good shire of Somerset--'

'Your pardon a moment, good sir,' De Whichehalse interrupted him; 'but I
was about (having heard your case) to mention what need be an obstacle,
and, I fear, would prove a fatal one, even if satisfactory proof were
afforded of a felony. The mal-feasance (if any) was laid in Somerset;
but we, two humble servants of His Majesty, are in commission of his
peace for the county of Devon only, and therefore could never deal with
it.'

'And why, in the name of God,' cried Uncle Reuben now carried at last
fairly beyond himself, 'why could you not say as much at first, and save
me all this waste of time and worry of my temper? Gentlemen, you are
all in league; all of you stick together. You think it fair sport for an
honest trader, who makes no shams as you do, to be robbed and wellnigh
murdered, so long as they who did it won the high birthright of felony.
If a poor sheep stealer, to save his children from dying of starvation,
had dared to look at a two-month lamb, he would swing on the Manor
gallows, and all of you cry "Good riddance!" But now, because good birth
and bad manners--' Here poor Uncle Ben, not being so strong as before
the Doones had played with him, began to foam at the mouth a little, and
his tongue went into the hollow where his short grey whiskers were.

I forget how we came out of it, only I was greatly shocked at bearding
of the gentry so, and mother scarce could see her way, when I told her
all about it. 'Depend upon it you were wrong, John,' was all I could get
out of her; though what had I done but listen, and touch my forelock,
when called upon. 'John, you may take my word for it, you have not done
as you should have done. Your father would have been shocked to think of
going to Baron de Whichehalse, and in his own house insulting him! And
yet it was very brave of you John. Just like you, all over. And (as none
of the men are here, dear John) I am proud of you for doing it.'

All throughout the homeward road, Uncle Ben had been very silent,
feeling much displeased with himself and still more so with other
people. But before he went to bed that night, he just said to me,
'Nephew Jack, you have not behaved so badly as the rest to me. And
because you have no gift of talking, I think that I may trust you.
Now, mark my words, this villain job shall not have ending here. I have
another card to play.'

'You mean, sir, I suppose, that you will go to the justices of this
shire, Squire Maunder, or Sir Richard Blewitt, or--'

'Oaf, I mean nothing of the sort; they would only make a laughing-stock,
as those Devonshire people did, of me. No, I will go to the King
himself, or a man who is bigger than the King, and to whom I have ready
access. I will not tell thee his name at present, only if thou art
brought before him, never wilt thou forget it.' That was true enough,
by the bye, as I discovered afterwards, for the man he meant was Judge
Jeffreys.

'And when are you likely to see him, sir?'

'Maybe in the spring, maybe not until summer, for I cannot go to London
on purpose, but when my business takes me there. Only remember my words,
Jack, and when you see the man I mean, look straight at him, and tell
no lie. He will make some of your zany squires shake in their shoes, I
reckon. Now, I have been in this lonely hole far longer than I intended,
by reason of this outrage; yet I will stay here one day more upon a
certain condition.'

'Upon what condition, Uncle Ben? I grieve that you find it so lonely. We
will have Farmer Nicholas up again, and the singers, and--'

'The fashionable milkmaids. I thank you, let me be. The wenches are too
loud for me. Your Nanny is enough. Nanny is a good child, and she shall
come and visit me.' Uncle Reuben would always call her 'Nanny'; he said
that 'Annie' was too fine and Frenchified for us. 'But my condition is
this, Jack--that you shall guide me to-morrow, without a word to any
one, to a place where I may well descry the dwelling of these scoundrel
Doones, and learn the best way to get at them, when the time shall come.
Can you do this for me? I will pay you well, boy.'

I promised very readily to do my best to serve him, but, of course,
would take no money for it, not being so poor as that came to.
Accordingly, on the day following, I managed to set the men at work on
the other side of the farm, especially that inquisitive and busybody
John Fry, who would pry out almost anything for the pleasure of telling
his wife; and then, with Uncle Reuben mounted on my ancient Peggy, I
made foot for the westward, directly after breakfast. Uncle Ben refused
to go unless I would take a loaded gun, and indeed it was always wise
to do so in those days of turbulence; and none the less because of late
more than usual of our sheep had left their skins behind them. This, as
I need hardly say, was not to be charged to the appetite of the Doones,
for they always said that they were not butchers (although upon that
subject might well be two opinions); and their practice was to make the
shepherds kill and skin, and quarter for them, and sometimes carry to
the Doone-gate the prime among the fatlings, for fear of any bruising,
which spoils the look at table. But the worst of it was that ignorant
folk, unaware of their fastidiousness, scored to them the sheep they
lost by lower-born marauders, and so were afraid to speak of it: and the
issue of this error was that a farmer, with five or six hundred sheep,
could never command, on his wedding-day, a prime saddle of mutton for
dinner.

To return now to my Uncle Ben--and indeed he would not let me go more
than three land-yards from him--there was very little said between us
along the lane and across the hill, although the day was pleasant. I
could see that he was half amiss with his mind about the business,
and not so full of security as an elderly man should keep himself.
Therefore, out I spake, and said,--

'Uncle Reuben, have no fear. I know every inch of the ground, sir; and
there is no danger nigh us.'

'Fear, boy! Who ever thought of fear? 'Tis the last thing would come
across me. Pretty things those primroses.'

At once I thought of Lorna Doone, the little maid of six years back, and
how my fancy went with her. Could Lorna ever think of me? Was I not a
lout gone by, only fit for loach-sticking? Had I ever seen a face fit to
think of near her? The sudden flash, the quickness, the bright desire to
know one's heart, and not withhold her own from it, the soft withdrawal
of rich eyes, the longing to love somebody, anybody, anything, not
imbrued with wickedness--

My uncle interrupted me, misliking so much silence now, with the
naked woods falling over us. For we were come to Bagworthy forest, the
blackest and the loneliest place of all that keep the sun out. Even
now, in winter-time, with most of the wood unriddled, and the rest of it
pinched brown, it hung around us like a cloak containing little comfort.
I kept quite close to Peggy's head, and Peggy kept quite close to me,
and pricked her ears at everything. However, we saw nothing there,
except a few old owls and hawks, and a magpie sitting all alone, until
we came to the bank of the hill, where the pony could not climb it.
Uncle Ben was very loath to get off, because the pony seemed company,
and he thought he could gallop away on her, if the worst came to
the worst, but I persuaded him that now he must go to the end of it.
Therefore he made Peggy fast, in a place where we could find her, and
speaking cheerfully as if there was nothing to be afraid of, he took his
staff, and I my gun, to climb the thick ascent.

There was now no path of any kind; which added to our courage all it
lessened of our comfort, because it proved that the robbers were not in
the habit of passing there. And we knew that we could not go astray,
so long as we breasted the hill before us; inasmuch as it formed the
rampart, or side-fence of Glen Doone. But in truth I used the right word
there for the manner of our ascent, for the ground came forth so steep
against us, and withal so woody, that to make any way we must throw
ourselves forward, and labour as at a breast-plough. Rough and loamy
rungs of oak-root bulged here and there above our heads; briers needs
must speak with us, using more of tooth than tongue; and sometimes bulks
of rugged stone, like great sheep, stood across us. At last, though very
loath to do it, I was forced to leave my gun behind, because I required
one hand to drag myself up the difficulty, and one to help Uncle Reuben.
And so at last we gained the top, and looked forth the edge of the
forest, where the ground was very stony and like the crest of a quarry;
and no more trees between us and the brink of cliff below, three hundred
yards below it might be, all strong slope and gliddery. And now far the
first time I was amazed at the appearance of the Doones's stronghold,
and understood its nature. For when I had been even in the valley, and
climbed the cliffs to escape from it, about seven years agone, I was no
more than a stripling boy, noting little, as boys do, except for their
present purpose, and even that soon done with. But now, what with
the fame of the Doones, and my own recollections, and Uncle Ben's
insistence, all my attention was called forth, and the end was simple
astonishment.

The chine of highland, whereon we stood, curved to the right and left
of us, keeping about the same elevation, and crowned with trees and
brushwood. At about half a mile in front of us, but looking as if we
could throw a stone to strike any man upon it, another crest just like
our own bowed around to meet it; but failed by reason of two narrow
clefts of which we could only see the brink. One of these clefts was the
Doone-gate, with a portcullis of rock above it, and the other was the
chasm by which I had once made entrance. Betwixt them, where the hills
fell back, as in a perfect oval, traversed by the winding water, lay a
bright green valley, rimmed with sheer black rock, and seeming to have
sunken bodily from the bleak rough heights above. It looked as if no
frost could enter neither wind go ruffling; only spring, and hope, and
comfort, breathe to one another. Even now the rays of sunshine dwelt and
fell back on one another, whenever the clouds lifted; and the pale blue
glimpse of the growing day seemed to find young encouragement.

But for all that, Uncle Reuben was none the worse nor better. He looked
down into Glen Doone first, and sniffed as if he were smelling it, like
a sample of goods from a wholesale house; and then he looked at the
hills over yonder, and then he stared at me.

'See what a pack of fools they be?'

'Of course I do, Uncle Ben. "All rogues are fools," was my first copy,
beginning of the alphabet.'

'Pack of stuff lad. Though true enough, and very good for young people.
But see you not how this great Doone valley may be taken in half an
hour?'

'Yes, to be sure I do, uncle; if they like to give it up, I mean.'

'Three culverins on yonder hill, and three on the top of this one, and
we have them under a pestle. Ah, I have seen the wars, my lad, from
Keinton up to Naseby; and I might have been a general now, if they had
taken my advice--'

But I was not attending to him, being drawn away on a sudden by a sight
which never struck the sharp eyes of our General. For I had long ago
descried that little opening in the cliff through which I made my exit,
as before related, on the other side of the valley. No bigger than a
rabbit-hole it seemed from where we stood; and yet of all the scene
before me, that (from my remembrance perhaps) had the most attraction.
Now gazing at it with full thought of all that it had cost me, I saw a
little figure come, and pause, and pass into it. Something very light
and white, nimble, smooth, and elegant, gone almost before I knew that
any one had been there. And yet my heart came to my ribs, and all my
blood was in my face, and pride within me fought with shame, and vanity
with self-contempt; for though seven years were gone, and I from my
boyhood come to manhood, and all must have forgotten me, and I had
half-forgotten; at that moment, once for all, I felt that I was face to
face with fate (however poor it might be), weal or woe, in Lorna Doone.



CHAPTER XVI

LORNA GROWING FORMIDABLE

Having reconnoitred thus the position of the enemy, Master Huckaback, on
the homeward road, cross-examined me in a manner not at all desirable.
For he had noted my confusion and eager gaze at something unseen by
him in the valley, and thereupon he made up his mind to know everything
about it. In this, however, he partly failed; for although I was no hand
at fence, and would not tell him a falsehood, I managed so to hold my
peace that he put himself upon the wrong track, and continued thereon
with many vaunts of his shrewdness and experience, and some chuckles at
my simplicity. Thus much however, he learned aright, that I had been in
the Doone valley several years before, and might be brought upon strong
inducement to venture there again. But as to the mode of my getting in,
the things I saw, and my thoughts upon them, he not only failed to learn
the truth, but certified himself into an obstinacy of error, from which
no after-knowledge was able to deliver him. And this he did, not only
because I happened to say very little, but forasmuch as he disbelieved
half of the truth I told him, through his own too great sagacity.

Upon one point, however, he succeeded more easily than he expected,
viz. in making me promise to visit the place again, as soon as occasion
offered, and to hold my own counsel about it. But I could not help
smiling at one thing, that according to his point of view my own counsel
meant my own and Master Reuben Huckaback's.

Now he being gone, as he went next day, to his favourite town of
Dulverton, and leaving behind him shadowy promise of the mountains he
would do for me, my spirit began to burn and pant for something to go on
with; and nothing showed a braver hope of movement and adventure than a
lonely visit to Glen Doone, by way of the perilous passage discovered in
my boyhood. Therefore I waited for nothing more than the slow arrival of
new small-clothes made by a good tailor at Porlock, for I was wishful
to look my best; and when they were come and approved, I started,
regardless of the expense, and forgetting (like a fool) how badly they
would take the water.

What with urging of the tailor, and my own misgivings, the time was now
come round again to the high-day of St. Valentine, when all our maids
were full of lovers, and all the lads looked foolish. And none of them
more sheepish or innocent than I myself, albeit twenty-one years old,
and not afraid of men much, but terrified of women, at least, if they
were comely. And what of all things scared me most was the thought of
my own size, and knowledge of my strength, which came like knots upon
me daily. In honest truth I tell this thing, (which often since hath
puzzled me, when I came to mix with men more), I was to that degree
ashamed of my thickness and my stature, in the presence of a woman,
that I would not put a trunk of wood on the fire in the kitchen, but
let Annie scold me well, with a smile to follow, and with her own plump
hands lift up a little log, and fuel it. Many a time I longed to be no
bigger than John Fry was; whom now (when insolent) I took with my left
hand by the waist-stuff, and set him on my hat, and gave him little
chance to tread it; until he spoke of his family, and requested to come
down again.

Now taking for good omen this, that I was a seven-year Valentine, though
much too big for a Cupidon, I chose a seven-foot staff of ash, and fixed
a loach-fork in it, to look as I had looked before; and leaving word
upon matters of business, out of the back door I went, and so through
the little orchard, and down the brawling Lynn-brook. Not being now
so much afraid, I struck across the thicket land between the meeting
waters, and came upon the Bagworthy stream near the great black
whirlpool. Nothing amazed me so much as to find how shallow the stream
now looked to me, although the pool was still as black and greedy as it
used to be. And still the great rocky slide was dark and difficult to
climb; though the water, which once had taken my knees, was satisfied
now with my ankles. After some labour, I reached the top; and halted to
look about me well, before trusting to broad daylight.

The winter (as I said before) had been a very mild one; and now the
spring was toward so that bank and bush were touched with it. The valley
into which I gazed was fair with early promise, having shelter from the
wind and taking all the sunshine. The willow-bushes over the stream
hung as if they were angling with tasseled floats of gold and silver,
bursting like a bean-pod. Between them came the water laughing, like
a maid at her own dancing, and spread with that young blue which never
lives beyond the April. And on either bank, the meadow ruffled as
the breeze came by, opening (through new tuft, of green) daisy-bud or
celandine, or a shy glimpse now and then of the love-lorn primrose.

Though I am so blank of wit, or perhaps for that same reason, these
little things come and dwell with me, and I am happy about them, and
long for nothing better. I feel with every blade of grass, as if it had
a history; and make a child of every bud as though it knew and loved me.
And being so, they seem to tell me of my own delusions, how I am no more
than they, except in self-importance.

While I was forgetting much of many things that harm one, and letting of
my thoughts go wild to sounds and sights of nature, a sweeter note than
thrush or ouzel ever wooed a mate in, floated on the valley breeze at
the quiet turn of sundown. The words were of an ancient song, fit to
laugh or cry at.

Love, an if there be one, Come my love to be, My love is for the one
Loving unto me.

Not for me the show, love, Of a gilded bliss; Only thou must know, love,
What my value is.

If in all the earth, love, Thou hast none but me, This shall be my
worth, love: To be cheap to thee.

But, if so thou ever Strivest to be free, 'Twill be my endeavour To be
dear to thee.

So shall I have plea, love, Is thy heart andbreath Clinging still to
thee, love, In the doom of death.

All this I took in with great eagerness, not for the sake of the meaning
(which is no doubt an allegory), but for the power and richness, and
softness of the singing, which seemed to me better than we ever had even
in Oare church. But all the time I kept myself in a black niche of the
rock, where the fall of the water began, lest the sweet singer (espying
me) should be alarmed, and flee away. But presently I ventured to look
forth where a bush was; and then I beheld the loveliest sight--one
glimpse of which was enough to make me kneel in the coldest water.

By the side of the stream she was coming to me, even among the
primroses, as if she loved them all; and every flower looked the
brighter, as her eyes were on them, I could not see what her face was,
my heart so awoke and trembled; only that her hair was flowing from
a wreath of white violets, and the grace of her coming was like the
appearance of the first wind-flower. The pale gleam over the western
cliffs threw a shadow of light behind her, as if the sun were lingering.
Never do I see that light from the closing of the west, even in these my
aged days, without thinking of her. Ah me, if it comes to that, what do
I see of earth or heaven, without thinking of her?

The tremulous thrill of her song was hanging on her open lips; and she
glanced around, as if the birds were accustomed to make answer. To me it
was a thing of terror to behold such beauty, and feel myself the while
to be so very low and common. But scarcely knowing what I did, as if
a rope were drawing me, I came from the dark mouth of the chasm; and
stood, afraid to look at her.

She was turning to fly, not knowing me, and frightened, perhaps, at
my stature, when I fell on the grass (as I fell before her seven years
agone that day), and I just said, 'Lorna Doone!'

She knew me at once, from my manner and ways, and a smile broke through
her trembling, as sunshine comes through aspen-leaves; and being so
clever, she saw, of course, that she needed not to fear me.

'Oh, indeed,' she cried, with a feint of anger (because she had shown
her cowardice, and yet in her heart she was laughing); 'oh, if you
please, who are you, sir, and how do you know my name?'

'I am John Ridd,' I answered; 'the boy who gave you those beautiful
fish, when you were only a little thing, seven years ago to-day.'

'Yes, the poor boy who was frightened so, and obliged to hide here in
the water.'

'And do you remember how kind you were, and saved my life by your
quickness, and went away riding upon a great man's shoulder, as if you
had never seen me, and yet looked back through the willow-trees?'

'Oh, yes, I remember everything; because it was so rare to see any
except--I mean because I happen to remember. But you seem not to
remember, sir, how perilous this place is.'

For she had kept her eyes upon me; large eyes of a softness, a
brightness, and a dignity which made me feel as if I must for ever love
and yet for ever know myself unworthy. Unless themselves should fill
with love, which is the spring of all things. And so I could not answer
her, but was overcome with thinking and feeling and confusion. Neither
could I look again; only waited for the melody which made every word
like a poem to me, the melody of her voice. But she had not the least
idea of what was going on with me, any more than I myself had.

'I think, Master Ridd, you cannot know,' she said, with her eyes taken
from me, 'what the dangers of this place are, and the nature of the
people.'

'Yes, I know enough of that; and I am frightened greatly, all the time,
when I do not look at you.'

She was too young to answer me in the style some maidens would have
used; the manner, I mean, which now we call from a foreign word
'coquettish.' And more than that, she was trembling from real fear of
violence, lest strong hands might be laid on me, and a miserable end
of it. And to tell the truth, I grew afraid; perhaps from a kind of
sympathy, and because I knew that evil comes more readily than good to
us.

Therefore, without more ado, or taking any advantage--although I would
have been glad at heart, if needs had been, to kiss her (without any
thought of rudeness)--it struck me that I had better go, and have no
more to say to her until next time of coming. So would she look the more
for me and think the more about me, and not grow weary of my words and
the want of change there is in me. For, of course, I knew what a churl I
was compared to her birth and appearance; but meanwhile I might improve
myself and learn a musical instrument. 'The wind hath a draw after
flying straw' is a saying we have in Devonshire, made, peradventure, by
somebody who had seen the ways of women.

'Mistress Lorna, I will depart'--mark you, I thought that a powerful
word--'in fear of causing disquiet. If any rogue shot me it would grieve
you; I make bold to say it, and it would be the death of mother. Few
mothers have such a son as me. Try to think of me now and then, and I
will bring you some new-laid eggs, for our young blue hen is beginning.'

'I thank you heartily,' said Lorna; 'but you need not come to see me.
You can put them in my little bower, where I am almost always--I mean
whither daily I repair to read and to be away from them.'

'Only show me where it is. Thrice a day I will come and stop--'

'Nay, Master Ridd, I would never show thee--never, because of
peril--only that so happens it thou hast found the way already.'

And she smiled with a light that made me care to cry out for no other
way, except to her dear heart. But only to myself I cried for anything
at all, having enough of man in me to be bashful with young maidens. So
I touched her white hand softly when she gave it to me, and (fancying
that she had sighed) was touched at heart about it, and resolved to
yield her all my goods, although my mother was living; and then grew
angry with myself (for a mile or more of walking) to think she would
condescend so; and then, for the rest of the homeward road, was mad with
every man in the world who would dare to think of having her.



CHAPTER XVII

JOHN IS CLEARLY BEWITCHED

To forget one's luck of life, to forget the cark of care and withering
of young fingers; not to feel, or not be moved by, all the change of
thought and heart, from large young heat to the sinewy lines and dry
bones of old age--this is what I have to do ere ever I can make you
know (even as a dream is known) how I loved my Lorna. I myself can never
know; never can conceive, or treat it as a thing of reason, never can
behold myself dwelling in the midst of it, and think that this was I;
neither can I wander far from perpetual thought of it. Perhaps I have
two farrows of pigs ready for the chapman; perhaps I have ten stones
of wool waiting for the factor. It is all the same. I look at both, and
what I say to myself is this: 'Which would Lorna choose of them?' Of
course, I am a fool for this; any man may call me so, and I will not
quarrel with him, unless he guess my secret. Of course, I fetch my wit,
if it be worth the fetching, back again to business. But there my heart
is and must be; and all who like to try can cheat me, except upon parish
matters.

That week I could do little more than dream and dream and rove about,
seeking by perpetual change to find the way back to myself. I cared
not for the people round me, neither took delight in victuals; but made
believe to eat and drink and blushed at any questions. And being called
the master now, head-farmer, and chief yeoman, it irked me much that any
one should take advantage of me; yet everybody did so as soon as ever it
was known that my wits were gone moon-raking. For that was the way
they looked at it, not being able to comprehend the greatness and the
loftiness. Neither do I blame them much; for the wisest thing is to
laugh at people when we cannot understand them. I, for my part, took no
notice; but in my heart despised them as beings of a lesser nature, who
never had seen Lorna. Yet I was vexed, and rubbed myself, when John Fry
spread all over the farm, and even at the shoeing forge, that a mad dog
had come and bitten me, from the other side of Mallond.

This seems little to me now; and so it might to any one; but, at the
time, it worked me up to a fever of indignity. To make a mad dog of
Lorna, to compare all my imaginings (which were strange, I do assure
you--the faculty not being apt to work), to count the raising of my soul
no more than hydrophobia! All this acted on me so, that I gave John Fry
the soundest threshing that ever a sheaf of good corn deserved, or a
bundle of tares was blessed with. Afterwards he went home, too tired
to tell his wife the meaning of it; but it proved of service to both of
them, and an example for their children.

Now the climate of this country is--so far as I can make of it--to throw
no man into extremes; and if he throw himself so far, to pluck him
back by change of weather and the need of looking after things. Lest we
should be like the Southerns, for whom the sky does everything, and men
sit under a wall and watch both food and fruit come beckoning. Their sky
is a mother to them; but ours a good stepmother to us--fearing to
hurt by indulgence, and knowing that severity and change of mood are
wholesome.

The spring being now too forward, a check to it was needful; and in the
early part of March there came a change of weather. All the young growth
was arrested by a dry wind from the east, which made both face
and fingers burn when a man was doing ditching. The lilacs and the
woodbines, just crowding forth in little tufts, close kernelling their
blossom, were ruffled back, like a sleeve turned up, and nicked with
brown at the corners. In the hedges any man, unless his eyes were very
dull, could see the mischief doing. The russet of the young elm-bloom
was fain to be in its scale again; but having pushed forth, there must
be, and turn to a tawny colour. The hangers of the hazel, too, having
shed their dust to make the nuts, did not spread their little combs and
dry them, as they ought to do; but shrivelled at the base and fell, as
if a knife had cut them. And more than all to notice was (at least about
the hedges) the shuddering of everything and the shivering sound among
them toward the feeble sun; such as we make to a poor fireplace when
several doors are open. Sometimes I put my face to warm against the
soft, rough maple-stem, which feels like the foot of a red deer; but the
pitiless east wind came through all, and took and shook the caved
hedge aback till its knees were knocking together, and nothing could
be shelter. Then would any one having blood, and trying to keep at home
with it, run to a sturdy tree and hope to eat his food behind it, and
look for a little sun to come and warm his feet in the shelter. And if
it did he might strike his breast, and try to think he was warmer.

But when a man came home at night, after long day's labour, knowing
that the days increased, and so his care should multiply; still he found
enough of light to show him what the day had done against him in
his garden. Every ridge of new-turned earth looked like an old man's
muscles, honeycombed, and standing out void of spring, and powdery.
Every plant that had rejoiced in passing such a winter now was cowering,
turned away, unfit to meet the consequence. Flowing sap had stopped its
course; fluted lines showed want of food, and if you pinched the topmost
spray, there was no rebound or firmness.

We think a good deal, in a quiet way, when people ask us about them--of
some fine, upstanding pear-trees, grafted by my grandfather, who had
been very greatly respected. And he got those grafts by sheltering a
poor Italian soldier, in the time of James the First, a man who never
could do enough to show his grateful memories. How he came to our place
is a very difficult story, which I never understood rightly, having
heard it from my mother. At any rate, there the pear-trees were, and
there they are to this very day; and I wish every one could taste their
fruit, old as they are, and rugged.

Now these fine trees had taken advantage of the west winds, and the
moisture, and the promise of the spring time, so as to fill the tips of
the spray-wood and the rowels all up the branches with a crowd of eager
blossom. Not that they were yet in bloom, nor even showing whiteness,
only that some of the cones were opening at the side of the cap which
pinched them; and there you might count perhaps, a dozen nobs, like very
little buttons, but grooved, and lined, and huddling close, to make room
for one another. And among these buds were gray-green blades, scarce
bigger than a hair almost, yet curving so as if their purpose was to
shield the blossom.

Other of the spur-points, standing on the older wood where the sap was
not so eager, had not burst their tunic yet, but were flayed and flaked
with light, casting off the husk of brown in three-cornered patches, as
I have seen a Scotchman's plaid, or as his legs shows through it. These
buds, at a distance, looked as if the sky had been raining cream upon
them.

Now all this fair delight to the eyes, and good promise to the palate,
was marred and baffled by the wind and cutting of the night-frosts. The
opening cones were struck with brown, in between the button buds, and
on the scapes that shielded them; while the foot part of the cover hung
like rags, peeled back, and quivering. And there the little stalk of
each, which might have been a pear, God willing, had a ring around its
base, and sought a chance to drop and die. The others which had not
opened comb, but only prepared to do it, were a little better off, but
still very brown and unkid, and shrivelling in doubt of health, and
neither peart nor lusty.

Now this I have not told because I know the way to do it, for that I do
not, neither yet have seen a man who did know. It is wonderful how
we look at things, and never think to notice them; and I am as bad as
anybody, unless the thing to be observed is a dog, or a horse, or a
maiden. And the last of those three I look at, somehow, without knowing
that I take notice, and greatly afraid to do it, only I knew afterwards
(when the time of life was in me), not indeed, what the maiden was like,
but how she differed from others.

Yet I have spoken about the spring, and the failure of fair promise,
because I took it to my heart as token of what would come to me in the
budding of my years and hope. And even then, being much possessed, and
full of a foolish melancholy, I felt a sad delight at being doomed to
blight and loneliness; not but that I managed still (when mother
was urgent upon me) to eat my share of victuals, and cuff a man for
laziness, and see that a ploughshare made no leaps, and sleep of a night
without dreaming. And my mother half-believing, in her fondness and
affection, that what the parish said was true about a mad dog having
bitten me, and yet arguing that it must be false (because God would have
prevented him), my mother gave me little rest, when I was in the room
with her. Not that she worried me with questions, nor openly regarded
me with any unusual meaning, but that I knew she was watching slyly
whenever I took a spoon up; and every hour or so she managed to place a
pan of water by me, quite as if by accident, and sometimes even to spill
a little upon my shoe or coat-sleeve. But Betty Muxworthy was worst;
for, having no fear about my health, she made a villainous joke of it,
and used to rush into the kitchen, barking like a dog, and panting,
exclaiming that I had bitten her, and justice she would have on me, if
it cost her a twelvemonth's wages. And she always took care to do this
thing just when I had crossed my legs in the corner after supper, and
leaned my head against the oven, to begin to think of Lorna.

However, in all things there is comfort, if we do not look too hard
for it; and now I had much satisfaction, in my uncouth state, from
labouring, by the hour together, at the hedging and the ditching,
meeting the bitter wind face to face, feeling my strength increase, and
hoping that some one would be proud of it. In the rustling rush of
every gust, in the graceful bend of every tree, even in the 'lords and
ladies,' clumped in the scoops of the hedgerow, and most of all in the
soft primrose, wrung by the wind, but stealing back, and smiling when
the wrath was passed--in all of these, and many others there was aching
ecstasy, delicious pang of Lorna.

But however cold the weather was, and however hard the wind blew, one
thing (more than all the rest) worried and perplexed me. This was, that
I could not settle, turn and twist as I might, how soon I ought to go
again upon a visit to Glen Doone. For I liked not at all the falseness
of it (albeit against murderers), the creeping out of sight, and hiding,
and feeling as a spy might. And even more than this. I feared how Lorna
might regard it; whether I might seem to her a prone and blunt intruder,
a country youth not skilled in manners, as among the quality, even when
they rob us. For I was not sure myself, but that it might be very bad
manners to go again too early without an invitation; and my hands and
face were chapped so badly by the bitter wind, that Lorna might count
them unsightly things, and wish to see no more of them.

However, I could not bring myself to consult any one upon this point, at
least in our own neighbourhood, nor even to speak of it near home. But
the east wind holding through the month, my hands and face growing worse
and worse, and it having occurred to me by this time that possibly Lorna
might have chaps, if she came abroad at all, and so might like to talk
about them and show her little hands to me, I resolved to take another
opinion, so far as might be upon this matter, without disclosing the
circumstances.

Now the wisest person in all our parts was reckoned to be a certain wise
woman, well known all over Exmoor by the name of Mother Melldrum. Her
real name was Maple Durham, as I learned long afterwards; and she came
of an ancient family, but neither of Devon nor Somerset. Nevertheless
she was quite at home with our proper modes of divination; and knowing
that we liked them best--as each man does his own religion--she would
always practise them for the people of the country. And all the while,
she would let us know that she kept a higher and nobler mode for those
who looked down upon this one, not having been bred and born to it.

Mother Melldrum had two houses, or rather she had none at all, but two
homes wherein to find her, according to the time of year. In summer she
lived in a pleasant cave, facing the cool side of the hill, far inland
near Hawkridge and close above Tarr-steps, a wonderful crossing of Barle
river, made (as everybody knows) by Satan, for a wager. But throughout
the winter, she found sea-air agreeable, and a place where things could
be had on credit, and more occasion of talking. Not but what she could
have credit (for every one was afraid of her) in the neighbourhood of
Tarr-steps; only there was no one handy owning things worth taking.

Therefore, at the fall of the leaf, when the woods grew damp and
irksome, the wise woman always set her face to the warmer cliffs of the
Channel; where shelter was, and dry fern bedding, and folk to be seen in
the distance, from a bank upon which the sun shone. And there, as I
knew from our John Fry (who had been to her about rheumatism, and sheep
possessed with an evil spirit, and warts on the hand of his son, young
John), any one who chose might find her, towards the close of a winter
day, gathering sticks and brown fern for fuel, and talking to herself
the while, in a hollow stretch behind the cliffs; which foreigners, who
come and go without seeing much of Exmoor, have called the Valley of
Rocks.

This valley, or goyal, as we term it, being small for a valley, lies to
the west of Linton, about a mile from the town perhaps, and away towards
Ley Manor. Our homefolk always call it the Danes, or the Denes, which is
no more, they tell me, than a hollow place, even as the word 'den' is.
However, let that pass, for I know very little about it; but the place
itself is a pretty one, though nothing to frighten anybody, unless he
hath lived in a gallipot. It is a green rough-sided hollow, bending
at the middle, touched with stone at either crest, and dotted here and
there with slabs in and out the brambles. On the right hand is an upward
crag, called by some the Castle, easy enough to scale, and giving great
view of the Channel. Facing this, from the inland side and the elbow of
the valley, a queer old pile of rock arises, bold behind one another,
and quite enough to affright a man, if it only were ten times larger.
This is called the Devil's Cheese-ring, or the Devil's Cheese-knife,
which mean the same thing, as our fathers were used to eat their cheese
from a scoop; and perhaps in old time the upmost rock (which has fallen
away since I knew it) was like to such an implement, if Satan eat cheese
untoasted.

But all the middle of this valley was a place to rest in; to sit and
think that troubles were not, if we would not make them. To know the sea
outside the hills, but never to behold it; only by the sound of waves to
pity sailors labouring. Then to watch the sheltered sun, coming warmly
round the turn, like a guest expected, full of gentle glow and gladness,
casting shadow far away as a thing to hug itself, and awakening life
from dew, and hope from every spreading bud. And then to fall asleep and
dream that the fern was all asparagus.

Alas, I was too young in those days much to care for creature comforts,
or to let pure palate have things that would improve it. Anything went
down with me, as it does with most of us. Too late we know the good from
bad; the knowledge is no pleasure then; being memory's medicine rather
than the wine of hope.

Now Mother Melldrum kept her winter in this vale of rocks, sheltering
from the wind and rain within the Devil's Cheese-ring, which added
greatly to her fame because all else, for miles around, were afraid to
go near it after dark, or even on a gloomy day. Under eaves of lichened
rock she had a winding passage, which none that ever I knew of durst
enter but herself. And to this place I went to seek her, in spite of all
misgivings, upon a Sunday in Lenten season, when the sheep were folded.

Our parson (as if he had known my intent) had preached a beautiful
sermon about the Witch of Endor, and the perils of them that meddle
wantonly with the unseen Powers; and therein he referred especially to
the strange noise in the neighbourhood, and upbraided us for want of
faith, and many other backslidings. We listened to him very earnestly,
for we like to hear from our betters about things that are beyond us,
and to be roused up now and then, like sheep with a good dog after them,
who can pull some wool without biting. Nevertheless we could not see how
our want of faith could have made that noise, especially at night time,
notwithstanding which we believed it, and hoped to do a little better.

And so we all came home from church; and most of the people dined with
us, as they always do on Sundays, because of the distance to go home,
with only words inside them. The parson, who always sat next to mother,
was afraid that he might have vexed us, and would not have the best
piece of meat, according to his custom. But soon we put him at his ease,
and showed him we were proud of him; and then he made no more to do, but
accepted the best of the sirloin.



CHAPTER XVIII

WITCHERY LEADS TO WITCHCRAFT

Although wellnigh the end of March, the wind blew wild and piercing,
as I went on foot that afternoon to Mother Melldrum's dwelling. It was
safer not to take a horse, lest (if anything vexed her) she should put
a spell upon him; as had been done to Farmer Snowe's stable by the wise
woman of Simonsbath.

The sun was low on the edge of the hills by the time I entered the
valley, for I could not leave home till the cattle were tended, and
the distance was seven miles or more. The shadows of rocks fell far and
deep, and the brown dead fern was fluttering, and brambles with their
sere leaves hanging, swayed their tatters to and fro, with a red look on
them. In patches underneath the crags, a few wild goats were browsing;
then they tossed their horns, and fled, and leaped on ledges, and stared
at me. Moreover, the sound of the sea came up, and went the length of
the valley, and there it lapped on a butt of rocks, and murmured like a
shell.

Taking things one with another, and feeling all the lonesomeness, and
having no stick with me, I was much inclined to go briskly back,
and come at a better season. And when I beheld a tall grey shape, of
something or another, moving at the lower end of the valley, where the
shade was, it gave me such a stroke of fear, after many others, that my
thumb which lay in mother's Bible (brought in my big pocket for the sake
of safety) shook so much that it came out, and I could not get it in
again. 'This serves me right,' I said to myself, 'for tampering with
Beelzebub. Oh that I had listened to parson!'

And thereupon I struck aside; not liking to run away quite, as some
people might call it; but seeking to look like a wanderer who was come
to see the valley, and had seen almost enough of it. Herein I should
have succeeded, and gone home, and then been angry at my want of
courage, but that on the very turn and bending of my footsteps, the
woman in the distance lifted up her staff to me, so that I was bound to
stop.

And now, being brought face to face, by the will of God (as one might
say) with anything that might come of it, I kept myself quite straight
and stiff, and thrust away all white feather, trusting in my Bible
still, hoping that it would protect me, though I had disobeyed it. But
upon that remembrance, my conscience took me by the leg, so that I could
not go forward.

All this while, the fearful woman was coming near and more near to me;
and I was glad to sit down on a rock because my knees were shaking so. I
tried to think of many things, but none of them would come to me; and I
could not take my eyes away, though I prayed God to be near me.

But when she was come so nigh to me that I could descry her features,
there was something in her countenance that made me not dislike her. She
looked as if she had been visited by many troubles, and had felt them
one by one, yet held enough of kindly nature still to grieve for others.
Long white hair, on either side, was falling down below her chin; and
through her wrinkles clear bright eyes seemed to spread themselves upon
me. Though I had plenty of time to think, I was taken by surprise no
less, and unable to say anything; yet eager to hear the silence broken,
and longing for a noise or two.

'Thou art not come to me,' she said, looking through my simple face, as
if it were but glass, 'to be struck for bone-shave, nor to be blessed
for barn-gun. Give me forth thy hand, John Ridd; and tell why thou art
come to me.'

But I was so much amazed at her knowing my name and all about me, that I
feared to place my hand in her power, or even my tongue by speaking.

'Have no fear of me, my son; I have no gift to harm thee; and if I had,
it should be idle. Now, if thou hast any wit, tell me why I love thee.'

'I never had any wit, mother,' I answered in our Devonshire way; 'and
never set eyes on thee before, to the furthest of my knowledge.'

'And yet I know thee as well, John, as if thou wert my grandson.
Remember you the old Oare oak, and the bog at the head of Exe, and the
child who would have died there, but for thy strength and courage, and
most of all thy kindness? That was my granddaughter, John; and all I
have on earth to love.'

Now that she came to speak of it, with the place and that, so clearly, I
remembered all about it (a thing that happened last August), and thought
how stupid I must have been not to learn more of the little girl who had
fallen into the black pit, with a basketful of whortleberries, and
who might have been gulfed if her little dog had not spied me in the
distance. I carried her on my back to mother; and then we dressed her
all anew, and took her where she ordered us; but she did not tell us
who she was, nor anything more than her Christian name, and that she was
eight years old, and fond of fried batatas. And we did not seek to ask
her more; as our manner is with visitors.

But thinking of this little story, and seeing how she looked at me, I
lost my fear of Mother Melldrum, and began to like her; partly because I
had helped her grandchild, and partly that if she were so wise, no need
would have been for me to save the little thing from drowning. Therefore
I stood up and said, though scarcely yet established in my power against
hers,--

'Good mother, the shoe she lost was in the mire, and not with us. And we
could not match it, although we gave her a pair of sister Lizzie's.'

'My son, what care I for her shoe? How simple thou art, and foolish!
according to the thoughts of some. Now tell me, for thou canst not lie,
what has brought thee to me.'

Being so ashamed and bashful, I was half-inclined to tell her a lie,
until she said that I could not do it; and then I knew that I could not.

'I am come to know,' I said, looking at a rock the while, to keep my
voice from shaking, 'when I may go to see Lorna Doone.'

No more could I say, though my mind was charged to ask fifty other
questions. But although I looked away, it was plain that I had asked
enough. I felt that the wise woman gazed at me in wrath as well as
sorrow; and then I grew angry that any one should seem to make light of
Lorna.

'John Ridd,' said the woman, observing this (for now I faced her
bravely), 'of whom art thou speaking? Is it a child of the men who slew
your father?'

'I cannot tell, mother. How should I know? And what is that to thee?'

'It is something to thy mother, John, and something to thyself, I trow;
and nothing worse could befall thee.'

I waited for her to speak again, because she had spoken so sadly that it
took my breath away.

'John Ridd, if thou hast any value for thy body or thy soul, thy mother,
or thy father's name, have nought to do with any Doone.'

She gazed at me in earnest so, and raised her voice in saying it, until
the whole valley, curving like a great bell echoed 'Doone,' that it
seemed to me my heart was gone for every one and everything. If it were
God's will for me to have no more of Lorna, let a sign come out of the
rocks, and I would try to believe it. But no sign came, and I turned to
the woman, and longed that she had been a man.

'You poor thing, with bones and blades, pails of water, and door-keys,
what know you about the destiny of a maiden such as Lorna? Chilblains
you may treat, and bone-shave, ringworm, and the scaldings; even scabby
sheep may limp the better for your strikings. John the Baptist and his
cousins, with the wool and hyssop, are for mares, and ailing dogs, and
fowls that have the jaundice. Look at me now, Mother Melldrum, am I like
a fool?'

'That thou art, my son. Alas that it were any other! Now behold the end
of that; John Ridd, mark the end of it.'

She pointed to the castle-rock, where upon a narrow shelf, betwixt us
and the coming stars, a bitter fight was raging. A fine fat sheep, with
an honest face, had clomb up very carefully to browse on a bit of juicy
grass, now the dew of the land was upon it. To him, from an upper crag,
a lean black goat came hurrying, with leaps, and skirmish of the horns,
and an angry noise in his nostrils. The goat had grazed the place
before, to the utmost of his liking, cropping in and out with jerks, as
their manner is of feeding. Nevertheless he fell on the sheep with fury
and great malice.

The simple wether was much inclined to retire from the contest, but
looked around in vain for any way to peace and comfort. His enemy stood
between him and the last leap he had taken; there was nothing left him
but to fight, or be hurled into the sea, five hundred feet below.

'Lie down, lie down!' I shouted to him, as if he were a dog, for I had
seen a battle like this before, and knew that the sheep had no chance of
life except from his greater weight, and the difficulty of moving him.

'Lie down, lie down, John Ridd!' cried Mother Melldrum, mocking me, but
without a sign of smiling.

The poor sheep turned, upon my voice, and looked at me so piteously that
I could look no longer; but ran with all my speed to try and save him
from the combat. He saw that I could not be in time, for the goat was
bucking to leap at him, and so the good wether stooped his forehead,
with the harmless horns curling aside of it; and the goat flung his
heels up, and rushed at him, with quick sharp jumps and tricks of
movement, and the points of his long horns always foremost, and his
little scut cocked like a gun-hammer.

As I ran up the steep of the rock, I could not see what they were doing,
but the sheep must have fought very bravely at last, and yielded his
ground quite slowly, and I hoped almost to save him. But just as my head
topped the platform of rock, I saw him flung from it backward, with a
sad low moan and a gurgle. His body made quite a short noise in the air,
like a bucket thrown down a well shaft, and I could not tell when it
struck the water, except by the echo among the rocks. So wroth was I
with the goat at the moment (being somewhat scant of breath and unable
to consider), that I caught him by the right hind-leg, before he could
turn from his victory, and hurled him after the sheep, to learn how he
liked his own compulsion.



CHAPTER XIX

ANOTHER DANGEROUS INTERVIEW

Although I left the Denes at once, having little heart for further
questions of the wise woman, and being afraid to visit her house under
the Devil's Cheese-ring (to which she kindly invited me), and although
I ran most part of the way, it was very late for farm-house time upon
a Sunday evening before I was back at Plover's Barrows. My mother had
great desire to know all about the matter; but I could not reconcile it
with my respect so to frighten her. Therefore I tried to sleep it off,
keeping my own counsel; and when that proved of no avail, I strove to
work it away, it might be, by heavy outdoor labour, and weariness, and
good feeding. These indeed had some effect, and helped to pass a week or
two, with more pain of hand than heart to me.

But when the weather changed in earnest, and the frost was gone, and
the south-west wind blew softly, and the lambs were at play with the
daisies, it was more than I could do to keep from thought of Lorna.
For now the fields were spread with growth, and the waters clad with
sunshine, and light and shadow, step by step, wandered over the furzy
cleves. All the sides of the hilly wood were gathered in and out with
green, silver-grey, or russet points, according to the several manner of
the trees beginning. And if one stood beneath an elm, with any heart to
look at it, lo! all the ground was strewn with flakes (too small to know
their meaning), and all the sprays above were rasped and trembling with
a redness. And so I stopped beneath the tree, and carved L.D. upon it,
and wondered at the buds of thought that seemed to swell inside me.

The upshot of it all was this, that as no Lorna came to me, except in
dreams or fancy, and as my life was not worth living without constant
sign of her, forth I must again to find her, and say more than a man can
tell. Therefore, without waiting longer for the moving of the spring,
dressed I was in grand attire (so far as I had gotten it), and thinking
my appearance good, although with doubts about it (being forced to
dress in the hay-tallat), round the corner of the wood-stack went I very
knowingly--for Lizzie's eyes were wondrous sharp--and then I was sure of
meeting none who would care or dare to speak of me.

It lay upon my conscience often that I had not made dear Annie secret to
this history; although in all things I could trust her, and she loved me
like a lamb. Many and many a time I tried, and more than once began the
thing; but there came a dryness in my throat, and a knocking under the
roof of my mouth, and a longing to put it off again, as perhaps might be
the wisest. And then I would remember too that I had no right to speak
of Lorna as if she were common property.

This time I longed to take my gun, and was half resolved to do so;
because it seemed so hard a thing to be shot at and have no chance of
shooting; but when I came to remember the steepness and the slippery
nature of the waterslide, there seemed but little likelihood of keeping
dry the powder. Therefore I was armed with nothing but a good stout
holly staff, seasoned well for many a winter in our back-kitchen
chimney.

Although my heart was leaping high with the prospect of some adventure,
and the fear of meeting Lorna, I could not but be gladdened by the
softness of the weather, and the welcome way of everything. There was
that power all round, that power and that goodness, which make us come,
as it were, outside our bodily selves, to share them. Over and beside us
breathes the joy of hope and promise; under foot are troubles past; in
the distance bowering newness tempts us ever forward. We quicken with
largesse of life, and spring with vivid mystery.

And, in good sooth, I had to spring, and no mystery about it, ere ever I
got to the top of the rift leading into Doone-glade. For the stream was
rushing down in strength, and raving at every corner; a mort of rain
having fallen last night and no wind come to wipe it. However, I reached
the head ere dark with more difficulty than danger, and sat in a place
which comforted my back and legs desirably.

Hereupon I grew so happy at being on dry land again, and come to look
for Lorna, with pretty trees around me, that what did I do but fall
asleep with the holly-stick in front of me, and my best coat sunk in a
bed of moss, with water and wood-sorrel. Mayhap I had not done so, nor
yet enjoyed the spring so much, if so be I had not taken three parts of
a gallon of cider at home, at Plover's Barrows, because of the lowness
and sinking ever since I met Mother Melldrum.

There was a little runnel going softly down beside me, falling from the
upper rock by the means of moss and grass, as if it feared to make a
noise, and had a mother sleeping. Now and then it seemed to stop, in
fear of its own dropping, and wait for some orders; and the blades of
grass that straightened to it turned their points a little way, and
offered their allegiance to wind instead of water. Yet before their
carkled edges bent more than a driven saw, down the water came again
with heavy drops and pats of running, and bright anger at neglect.

This was very pleasant to me, now and then, to gaze at, blinking as the
water blinked, and falling back to sleep again. Suddenly my sleep was
broken by a shade cast over me; between me and the low sunlight Lorna
Doone was standing.

'Master Ridd, are you mad?' she said, and took my hand to move me.

'Not mad, but half asleep,' I answered, feigning not to notice her, that
so she might keep hold of me.

'Come away, come away, if you care for life. The patrol will be here
directly. Be quick, Master Ridd, let me hide thee.'

'I will not stir a step,' said I, though being in the greatest fright
that might be well imagined,' unless you call me "John."'

'Well, John, then--Master John Ridd, be quick, if you have any to care
for you.'

'I have many that care for me,' I said, just to let her know; 'and I
will follow you, Mistress Lorna, albeit without any hurry, unless there
be peril to more than me.'

Without another word she led me, though with many timid glances towards
the upper valley, to, and into, her little bower, where the inlet
through the rock was. I am almost sure that I spoke before (though I
cannot now go seek for it, and my memory is but a worn-out tub) of
a certain deep and perilous pit, in which I was like to drown myself
through hurry and fright of boyhood. And even then I wondered greatly,
and was vexed with Lorna for sending me in that heedless manner into
such an entrance. But now it was clear that she had been right and the
fault mine own entirely; for the entrance to the pit was only to be
found by seeking it. Inside the niche of native stone, the plainest
thing of all to see, at any rate by day light, was the stairway hewn
from rock, and leading up the mountain, by means of which I had escaped,
as before related. To the right side of this was the mouth of the pit,
still looking very formidable; though Lorna laughed at my fear of it,
for she drew her water thence. But on the left was a narrow crevice,
very difficult to espy, and having a sweep of grey ivy laid, like a
slouching beaver, over it. A man here coming from the brightness of the
outer air, with eyes dazed by the twilight, would never think of seeing
this and following it to its meaning.

Lorna raised the screen for me, but I had much ado to pass, on account
of bulk and stature. Instead of being proud of my size (as it seemed to
me she ought to be) Lorna laughed so quietly that I was ready to knock
my head or elbows against anything, and say no more about it. However,
I got through at last without a word of compliment, and broke into the
pleasant room, the lone retreat of Lorna.

The chamber was of unhewn rock, round, as near as might be, eighteen
or twenty feet across, and gay with rich variety of fern and moss
and lichen. The fern was in its winter still, or coiling for the
spring-tide; but moss was in abundant life, some feathering, and some
gobleted, and some with fringe of red to it. Overhead there was no
ceiling but the sky itself, flaked with little clouds of April whitely
wandering over it. The floor was made of soft low grass, mixed with moss
and primroses; and in a niche of shelter moved the delicate wood-sorrel.
Here and there, around the sides, were 'chairs of living stone,' as some
Latin writer says, whose name has quite escaped me; and in the midst a
tiny spring arose, with crystal beads in it, and a soft voice as of
a laughing dream, and dimples like a sleeping babe. Then, after going
round a little, with surprise of daylight, the water overwelled the
edge, and softly went through lines of light to shadows and an untold
bourne.

While I was gazing at all these things with wonder and some sadness,
Lorna turned upon me lightly (as her manner was) and said,--

'Where are the new-laid eggs, Master Ridd? Or hath blue hen ceased
laying?'

I did not altogether like the way in which she said it with a sort of
dialect, as if my speech could be laughed at.

'Here be some,' I answered, speaking as if in spite of her. 'I would
have brought thee twice as many, but that I feared to crush them in the
narrow ways, Mistress Lorna.'

And so I laid her out two dozen upon the moss of the rock-ledge,
unwinding the wisp of hay from each as it came safe out of my pocket.
Lorna looked with growing wonder, as I added one to one; and when I
had placed them side by side, and bidden her now to tell them, to my
amazement what did she do but burst into a flood of tears.

'What have I done?' I asked, with shame, scarce daring even to look
at her, because her grief was not like Annie's--a thing that could be
coaxed away, and left a joy in going--'oh, what have I done to vex you
so?'

'It is nothing done by you, Master Ridd,' she answered, very proudly, as
if nought I did could matter; 'it is only something that comes upon me
with the scent of the pure true clover-hay. Moreover, you have been too
kind; and I am not used to kindness.'

Some sort of awkwardness was on me, at her words and weeping, as if I
would like to say something, but feared to make things worse perhaps
than they were already. Therefore I abstained from speech, as I would
in my own pain. And as it happened, this was the way to make her tell me
more about it. Not that I was curious, beyond what pity urged me and
the strange affairs around her; and now I gazed upon the floor, lest I
should seem to watch her; but none the less for that I knew all that she
was doing.

Lorna went a little way, as if she would not think of me nor care for
one so careless; and all my heart gave a sudden jump, to go like a mad
thing after her; until she turned of her own accord, and with a little
sigh came back to me. Her eyes were soft with trouble's shadow, and
the proud lift of her neck was gone, and beauty's vanity borne down by
woman's want of sustenance.

'Master Ridd,' she said in the softest voice that ever flowed between
two lips, 'have I done aught to offend you?'

Hereupon it went hard with me, not to catch her up and kiss her, in the
manner in which she was looking; only it smote me suddenly that this
would be a low advantage of her trust and helplessness. She seemed to
know what I would be at, and to doubt very greatly about it, whether
as a child of old she might permit the usage. All sorts of things went
through my head, as I made myself look away from her, for fear of being
tempted beyond what I could bear. And the upshot of it was that I said,
within my heart and through it, 'John Ridd, be on thy very best manners
with this lonely maiden.'

Lorna liked me all the better for my good forbearance; because she did
not love me yet, and had not thought about it; at least so far as I
knew. And though her eyes were so beauteous, so very soft and kindly,
there was (to my apprehension) some great power in them, as if she would
not have a thing, unless her judgment leaped with it.

But now her judgment leaped with me, because I had behaved so well; and
being of quick urgent nature--such as I delight in, for the change
from mine own slowness--she, without any let or hindrance, sitting over
against me, now raising and now dropping fringe over those sweet
eyes that were the road-lights of her tongue, Lorna told me all about
everything I wished to know, every little thing she knew, except indeed
that point of points, how Master Ridd stood with her.

Although it wearied me no whit, it might be wearisome for folk who
cannot look at Lorna, to hear the story all in speech, exactly as she
told it; therefore let me put it shortly, to the best of my remembrance.

Nay, pardon me, whosoever thou art, for seeming fickle and rude to thee;
I have tried to do as first proposed, to tell the tale in my own words,
as of another's fortune. But, lo! I was beset at once with many heavy
obstacles, which grew as I went onward, until I knew not where I was,
and mingled past and present. And two of these difficulties only were
enough to stop me; the one that I must coldly speak without the force of
pity, the other that I, off and on, confused myself with Lorna, as might
be well expected.

Therefore let her tell the story, with her own sweet voice and manner;
and if ye find it wearisome, seek in yourselves the weariness.



CHAPTER XX

LORNA BEGINS HER STORY

'I cannot go through all my thoughts so as to make them clear to you,
nor have I ever dwelt on things, to shape a story of them. I know not
where the beginning was, nor where the middle ought to be, nor even how
at the present time I feel, or think, or ought to think. If I look for
help to those around me, who should tell me right and wrong (being older
and much wiser), I meet sometimes with laughter, and at other times with
anger.

'There are but two in the world who ever listen and try to help me; one
of them is my grandfather, and the other is a man of wisdom, whom we
call the Counsellor. My grandfather, Sir Ensor Doone, is very old and
harsh of manner (except indeed to me); he seems to know what is right
and wrong, but not to want to think of it. The Counsellor, on the other
hand, though full of life and subtleties, treats my questions as of
play, and not gravely worth his while to answer, unless he can make wit
of them.

'And among the women there are none with whom I can hold converse, since
my Aunt Sabina died, who took such pains to teach me. She was a lady of
high repute and lofty ways, and learning, but grieved and harassed more
and more by the coarseness, and the violence, and the ignorance around
her. In vain she strove, from year to year, to make the young men
hearken, to teach them what became their birth, and give them sense of
honour. It was her favourite word, poor thing! and they called her "Old
Aunt Honour." Very often she used to say that I was her only comfort,
and I am sure she was my only one; and when she died it was more to me
than if I had lost a mother.

'For I have no remembrance now of father or of mother, although they say
that my father was the eldest son of Sir Ensor Doone, and the bravest
and the best of them. And so they call me heiress to this little realm
of violence; and in sorry sport sometimes, I am their Princess or their
Queen.

'Many people living here, as I am forced to do, would perhaps be
very happy, and perhaps I ought to be so. We have a beauteous valley,
sheltered from the cold of winter and power of the summer sun,
untroubled also by the storms and mists that veil the mountains;
although I must acknowledge that it is apt to rain too often. The grass
moreover is so fresh, and the brook so bright and lively, and flowers
of so many hues come after one another that no one need be dull, if only
left alone with them.

'And so in the early days perhaps, when morning breathes around me, and
the sun is going upward, and light is playing everywhere, I am not so
far beside them all as to live in shadow. But when the evening gathers
down, and the sky is spread with sadness, and the day has spent itself;
then a cloud of lonely trouble falls, like night, upon me. I cannot see
the things I quest for of a world beyond me; I cannot join the peace
and quiet of the depth above me; neither have I any pleasure in the
brightness of the stars.

'What I want to know is something none of them can tell me--what am
I, and why set here, and when shall I be with them? I see that you are
surprised a little at this my curiosity. Perhaps such questions never
spring in any wholesome spirit. But they are in the depths of mine, and
I cannot be quit of them.

'Meantime, all around me is violence and robbery, coarse delight and
savage pain, reckless joke and hopeless death. Is it any wonder that I
cannot sink with these, that I cannot so forget my soul, as to live the
life of brutes, and die the death more horrible because it dreams of
waking? There is none to lead me forward, there is none to teach me
right; young as I am, I live beneath a curse that lasts for ever.'

Here Lorna broke down for awhile, and cried so very piteously, that
doubting of my knowledge, and of any power to comfort, I did my best to
hold my peace, and tried to look very cheerful. Then thinking that might
be bad manners, I went to wipe her eyes for her.

'Master Ridd,' she began again, 'I am both ashamed and vexed at my own
childish folly. But you, who have a mother, who thinks (you say) so
much of you, and sisters, and a quiet home; you cannot tell (it is not
likely) what a lonely nature is. How it leaps in mirth sometimes, with
only heaven touching it; and how it falls away desponding, when the
dreary weight creeps on.

'It does not happen many times that I give way like this; more shame
now to do so, when I ought to entertain you. Sometimes I am so full of
anger, that I dare not trust to speech, at things they cannot hide from
me; and perhaps you would be much surprised that reckless men would care
so much to elude a young girl's knowledge. They used to boast to Aunt
Sabina of pillage and of cruelty, on purpose to enrage her; but they
never boast to me. It even makes me smile sometimes to see how
awkwardly they come and offer for temptation to me shining packets,
half concealed, of ornaments and finery, of rings, or chains, or jewels,
lately belonging to other people.

'But when I try to search the past, to get a sense of what befell me ere
my own perception formed; to feel back for the lines of childhood, as
a trace of gossamer, then I only know that nought lives longer than God
wills it. So may after sin go by, for we are children always, as the
Counsellor has told me; so may we, beyond the clouds, seek this infancy
of life, and never find its memory.

'But I am talking now of things which never come across me when any work
is toward. It might have been a good thing for me to have had a father
to beat these rovings out of me; or a mother to make a home, and teach
me how to manage it. For, being left with none--I think; and nothing
ever comes of it. Nothing, I mean, which I can grasp and have with any
surety; nothing but faint images, and wonderment, and wandering. But
often, when I am neither searching back into remembrance, nor asking of
my parents, but occupied by trifles, something like a sign, or message,
or a token of some meaning, seems to glance upon me. Whether from the
rustling wind, or sound of distant music, or the singing of a bird, like
the sun on snow it strikes me with a pain of pleasure.

'And often when I wake at night, and listen to the silence, or wander
far from people in the grayness of the evening, or stand and look at
quiet water having shadows over it, some vague image seems to hover on
the skirt of vision, ever changing place and outline, ever flitting as I
follow. This so moves and hurries me, in the eagerness and longing, that
straightway all my chance is lost; and memory, scared like a wild bird,
flies. Or am I as a child perhaps, chasing a flown cageling, who among
the branches free plays and peeps at the offered cage (as a home not to
be urged on him), and means to take his time of coming, if he comes at
all?

'Often too I wonder at the odds of fortune, which made me (helpless as
I am, and fond of peace and reading) the heiress of this mad domain, the
sanctuary of unholiness. It is not likely that I shall have much power
of authority; and yet the Counsellor creeps up to be my Lord of the
Treasury; and his son aspires to my hand, as of a Royal alliance. Well,
"honour among thieves," they say; and mine is the first honour: although
among decent folk perhaps, honesty is better.

'We should not be so quiet here, and safe from interruption but that I
have begged one privilege rather than commanded it. This was that the
lower end, just this narrowing of the valley, where it is most hard to
come at, might be looked upon as mine, except for purposes of guard.
Therefore none beside the sentries ever trespass on me here, unless it
be my grandfather, or the Counsellor or Carver.

'By your face, Master Ridd, I see that you have heard of Carver Doone.
For strength and courage and resource he bears the first repute among
us, as might well be expected from the son of the Counsellor. But he
differs from his father, in being very hot and savage, and quite free
from argument. The Counsellor, who is my uncle, gives his son the best
advice; commending all the virtues, with eloquence and wisdom; yet
himself abstaining from them accurately and impartially.

'You must be tired of this story, and the time I take to think, and
the weakness of my telling; but my life from day to day shows so little
variance. Among the riders there is none whose safe return I watch
for--I mean none more than other--and indeed there seems no risk, all
are now so feared of us. Neither of the old men is there whom I
can revere or love (except alone my grandfather, whom I love with
trembling): neither of the women any whom I like to deal with, unless it
be a little maiden whom I saved from starving.

'A little Cornish girl she is, and shaped in western manner, not so very
much less in width than if you take her lengthwise. Her father seems to
have been a miner, a Cornishman (as she declares) of more than average
excellence, and better than any two men to be found in Devonshire, or
any four in Somerset. Very few things can have been beyond his power of
performance, and yet he left his daughter to starve upon a peat-rick.
She does not know how this was done, and looks upon it as a mystery,
the meaning of which will some day be clear, and redound to her father's
honour. His name was Simon Carfax, and he came as the captain of a gang
from one of the Cornish stannaries. Gwenny Carfax, my young maid, well
remembers how her father was brought up from Cornwall. Her mother had
been buried, just a week or so before; and he was sad about it, and had
been off his work, and was ready for another job. Then people came to
him by night, and said that he must want a change, and everybody lost
their wives, and work was the way to mend it. So what with grief,
and over-thought, and the inside of a square bottle, Gwenny says they
brought him off, to become a mighty captain, and choose the country
round. The last she saw of him was this, that he went down a ladder
somewhere on the wilds of Exmoor, leaving her with bread and cheese, and
his travelling-hat to see to. And from that day to this he never came
above the ground again; so far as we can hear of.

'But Gwenny, holding to his hat, and having eaten the bread and cheese
(when he came no more to help her), dwelt three days near the mouth of
the hole; and then it was closed over, the while that she was sleeping.
With weakness and with want of food, she lost herself distressfully, and
went away for miles or more, and lay upon a peat-rick, to die before the
ravens.

'That very day I chanced to return from Aunt Sabina's dying-place; for
she would not die in Glen Doone, she said, lest the angels feared to
come for her; and so she was taken to a cottage in a lonely valley. I
was allowed to visit her, for even we durst not refuse the wishes of the
dying; and if a priest had been desired, we should have made bold with
him. Returning very sorrowful, and caring now for nothing, I found this
little stray thing lying, her arms upon her, and not a sign of life,
except the way that she was biting. Black root-stuff was in her mouth,
and a piece of dirty sheep's wool, and at her feet an old egg-shell of
some bird of the moorland.

'I tried to raise her, but she was too square and heavy for me; and so
I put food in her mouth, and left her to do right with it. And this she
did in a little time; for the victuals were very choice and rare, being
what I had taken over to tempt poor Aunt Sabina. Gwenny ate them without
delay, and then was ready to eat the basket and the ware that contained
them.

'Gwenny took me for an angel--though I am little like one, as you see,
Master Ridd; and she followed me, expecting that I would open wings and
fly when we came to any difficulty. I brought her home with me, so far
as this can be a home, and she made herself my sole attendant, without
so much as asking me. She has beaten two or three other girls, who used
to wait upon me, until they are afraid to come near the house of my
grandfather. She seems to have no kind of fear even of our roughest men;
and yet she looks with reverence and awe upon the Counsellor. As for the
wickedness, and theft, and revelry around her, she says it is no concern
of hers, and they know their own business best. By this way of regarding
men she has won upon our riders, so that she is almost free from all
control of place and season, and is allowed to pass where none even of
the youths may go. Being so wide, and short, and flat, she has none to
pay her compliments; and, were there any, she would scorn them, as not
being Cornishmen. Sometimes she wanders far, by moonlight, on the moors
and up the rivers, to give her father (as she says) another chance of
finding her, and she comes back not a wit defeated, or discouraged, or
depressed, but confident that he is only waiting for the proper time.

'Herein she sets me good example of a patience and contentment hard for
me to imitate. Oftentimes I am vexed by things I cannot meddle with, yet
which cannot be kept from me, that I am at the point of flying from this
dreadful valley, and risking all that can betide me in the unknown outer
world. If it were not for my grandfather, I would have done so long ago;
but I cannot bear that he should die with no gentle hand to comfort him;
and I fear to think of the conflict that must ensue for the government,
if there be a disputed succession.

'Ah me! We are to be pitied greatly, rather than condemned, by people
whose things we have taken from them; for I have read, and seem almost
to understand about it, that there are places on the earth where gentle
peace, and love of home, and knowledge of one's neighbours prevail, and
are, with reason, looked for as the usual state of things. There honest
folk may go to work in the glory of the sunrise, with hope of coming
home again quite safe in the quiet evening, and finding all their
children; and even in the darkness they have no fear of lying down, and
dropping off to slumber, and hearken to the wind of night, not as to an
enemy trying to find entrance, but a friend who comes to tell the value
of their comfort.

'Of all this golden ease I hear, but never saw the like of it; and,
haply, I shall never do so, being born to turbulence. Once, indeed, I
had the offer of escape, and kinsman's aid, and high place in the gay,
bright world; and yet I was not tempted much, or, at least, dared not to
trust it. And it ended very sadly, so dreadfully that I even shrink from
telling you about it; for that one terror changed my life, in a moment,
at a blow, from childhood and from thoughts of play and commune with the
flowers and trees, to a sense of death and darkness, and a heavy weight
of earth. Be content now, Master Ridd ask me nothing more about it, so
your sleep be sounder.'

But I, John Ridd, being young and new, and very fond of hearing things
to make my blood to tingle, had no more of manners than to urge poor
Lorna onwards, hoping, perhaps, in depth of heart, that she might have
to hold by me, when the worst came to the worst of it. Therefore she
went on again.



CHAPTER XXI

LORNA ENDS HER STORY

'It is not a twelvemonth yet, although it seems ten years agone, since
I blew the downy globe to learn the time of day, or set beneath my
chin the veinings of the varnished buttercup, or fired the fox-glove
cannonade, or made a captive of myself with dandelion fetters; for then
I had not very much to trouble me in earnest, but went about, romancing
gravely, playing at bo-peep with fear, making for myself strong heroes
of gray rock or fir-tree, adding to my own importance, as the children
love to do.

'As yet I had not truly learned the evil of our living, the scorn of
law, the outrage, and the sorrow caused to others. It even was a point
with all to hide the roughness from me, to show me but the gallant side,
and keep in shade the other. My grandfather, Sir Ensor Doone, had given
strictest order, as I discovered afterwards, that in my presence all
should be seemly, kind, and vigilant. Nor was it very difficult to
keep most part of the mischief from me, for no Doone ever robs at home,
neither do they quarrel much, except at times of gambling. And though
Sir Ensor Doone is now so old and growing feeble, his own way he will
have still, and no one dare deny him. Even our fiercest and most mighty
swordsmen, seared from all sense of right or wrong, yet have plentiful
sense of fear, when brought before that white-haired man. Not that he is
rough with them, or querulous, or rebukeful; but that he has a strange
soft smile, and a gaze they cannot answer, and a knowledge deeper far
than they have of themselves. Under his protection, I am as safe from
all those men (some of whom are but little akin to me) as if I slept
beneath the roof of the King's Lord Justiciary.

'But now, at the time I speak of, one evening of last summer, a horrible
thing befell, which took all play of childhood from me. The fifteenth
day of last July was very hot and sultry, long after the time of
sundown; and I was paying heed of it, because of the old saying that if
it rain then, rain will fall on forty days thereafter. I had been long
by the waterside at this lower end of the valley, plaiting a little
crown of woodbine crocketed with sprigs of heath--to please my
grandfather, who likes to see me gay at supper-time. Being proud of my
tiara, which had cost some trouble, I set it on my head at once, to save
the chance of crushing, and carrying my gray hat, ventured by a path not
often trod. For I must be home at the supper-time, or grandfather
would be exceeding wrath; and the worst of his anger is that he never
condescends to show it.

'Therefore, instead of the open mead, or the windings of the river, I
made short cut through the ash-trees covert which lies in the middle of
our vale, with the water skirting or cleaving it. You have never been
up so far as that--at least to the best of my knowledge--but you see it
like a long gray spot, from the top of the cliffs above us. Here I was
not likely to meet any of our people because the young ones are afraid
of some ancient tale about it, and the old ones have no love of trees
where gunshots are uncertain.

'It was more almost than dusk, down below the tree-leaves, and I was
eager to go through, and be again beyond it. For the gray dark hung
around me, scarcely showing shadow; and the little light that glimmered
seemed to come up from the ground. For the earth was strown with the
winter-spread and coil of last year's foliage, the lichened claws
of chalky twigs, and the numberless decay which gives a light in its
decaying. I, for my part, hastened shyly, ready to draw back and run
from hare, or rabbit, or small field-mouse.

'At a sudden turn of the narrow path, where it stopped again to the
river, a man leaped out from behind a tree, and stopped me, and seized
hold of me. I tried to shriek, but my voice was still; I could only hear
my heart.

'"Now, Cousin Lorna, my good cousin," he said, with ease and calmness;
"your voice is very sweet, no doubt, from all that I can see of you. But
I pray you keep it still, unless you would give to dusty death your very
best cousin and trusty guardian, Alan Brandir of Loch Awe."

'"You my guardian!" I said, for the idea was too ludicrous; and
ludicrous things always strike me first, through some fault of nature.

'"I have in truth that honour, madam," he answered, with a sweeping bow;
"unless I err in taking you for Mistress Lorna Doone."

'"You have not mistaken me. My name is Lorna Doone."

'He looked at me, with gravity, and was inclined to make some claim to
closer consideration upon the score of kinship; but I shrunk back, and
only said, "Yes, my name is Lorna Doone."

'"Then I am your faithful guardian, Alan Brandir of Loch Awe; called
Lord Alan Brandir, son of a worthy peer of Scotland. Now will you
confide in me?"

'"I confide in you!" I cried, looking at him with amazement; "why, you
are not older than I am!"

'"Yes I am, three years at least. You, my ward, are not sixteen. I, your
worshipful guardian, am almost nineteen years of age."

'Upon hearing this I looked at him, for that seemed then a venerable
age; but the more I looked the more I doubted, although he was dressed
quite like a man. He led me in a courtly manner, stepping at his tallest
to an open place beside the water; where the light came as in channel,
and was made the most of by glancing waves and fair white stones.

'"Now am I to your liking, cousin?" he asked, when I had gazed at him,
until I was almost ashamed, except at such a stripling. "Does my Cousin
Lorna judge kindly of her guardian, and her nearest kinsman? In a word,
is our admiration mutual?"

'"Truly I know not," I said; "but you seem good-natured, and to have no
harm in you. Do they trust you with a sword?"

'For in my usage among men of stature and strong presence, this pretty
youth, so tricked and slender, seemed nothing but a doll to me. Although
he scared me in the wood, now that I saw him in good twilight, lo! he
was but little greater than my little self; and so tasselled and so
ruffled with a mint of bravery, and a green coat barred with red, and
a slim sword hanging under him, it was the utmost I could do to look at
him half-gravely.

'"I fear that my presence hath scarce enough of ferocity about it,"
(he gave a jerk to his sword as he spoke, and clanked it on the
brook-stones); "yet do I assure you, cousin, that I am not without
some prowess; and many a master of defence hath this good sword of mine
disarmed. Now if the boldest and biggest robber in all this charming
valley durst so much as breathe the scent of that flower coronal, which
doth not adorn but is adorned"--here he talked some nonsense--"I would
cleave him from head to foot, ere ever he could fly or cry."

'"Hush!" I said; "talk not so loudly, or thou mayst have to do both
thyself, and do them both in vain."

'For he was quite forgetting now, in his bravery before me, where he
stood, and with whom he spoke, and how the summer lightning shone above
the hills and down the hollow. And as I gazed on this slight fair youth,
clearly one of high birth and breeding (albeit over-boastful), a chill
of fear crept over me; because he had no strength or substance, and
would be no more than a pin-cushion before the great swords of the
Doones.

'"I pray you be not vexed with me," he answered, in a softer voice;
"for I have travelled far and sorely, for the sake of seeing you. I know
right well among whom I am, and that their hospitality is more of the
knife than the salt-stand. Nevertheless I am safe enough, for my foot is
the fleetest in Scotland, and what are these hills to me? Tush! I have
seen some border forays among wilder spirits and craftier men than these
be. Once I mind some years agone, when I was quite a stripling lad--"

'"Worshipful guardian," I said, "there is no time now for history. If
thou art in no haste, I am, and cannot stay here idling. Only tell me
how I am akin and under wardship to thee, and what purpose brings thee
here."

'"In order, cousin--all things in order, even with fair ladies. First,
I am thy uncle's son, my father is thy mother's brother, or at least thy
grandmother's--unless I am deceived in that which I have guessed, and no
other man. For my father, being a leading lord in the councils of
King Charles the Second, appointed me to learn the law, not for my
livelihood, thank God, but because he felt the lack of it in affairs
of state. But first your leave, young Mistress Lorna; I cannot lay down
legal maxims, without aid of smoke."

'He leaned against a willow-tree, and drawing from a gilded box a little
dark thing like a stick, placed it between his lips, and then striking
a flint on steel made fire and caught it upon touchwood. With this he
kindled the tip of the stick, until it glowed with a ring of red, and
then he breathed forth curls of smoke, blue and smelling on the air
like spice. I had never seen this done before, though acquainted with
tobacco-pipes; and it made me laugh, until I thought of the peril that
must follow it.

'"Cousin, have no fear," he said; "this makes me all the safer; they
will take me for a glow-worm, and thee for the flower it shines upon.
But to return--of law I learned as you may suppose, but little; although
I have capacities. But the thing was far too dull for me. All I care for
is adventure, moving chance, and hot encounter; therefore all of law I
learned was how to live without it. Nevertheless, for amusement's sake,
as I must needs be at my desk an hour or so in the afternoon, I took to
the sporting branch of the law, the pitfalls, and the ambuscades; and
of all the traps to be laid therein, pedigrees are the rarest. There is
scarce a man worth a cross of butter, but what you may find a hole in
his shield within four generations. And so I struck our own escutcheon,
and it sounded hollow. There is a point--but heed not that; enough that
being curious now, I followed up the quarry, and I am come to this at
last--we, even we, the lords of Loch Awe, have an outlaw for our cousin,
and I would we had more, if they be like you."

'"Sir," I answered, being amused by his manner, which was new to me (for
the Doones are much in earnest), "surely you count it no disgrace to be
of kin to Sir Ensor Doone, and all his honest family!"

'"If it be so, it is in truth the very highest honour and would heal ten
holes in our escutcheon. What noble family but springs from a captain
among robbers? Trade alone can spoil our blood; robbery purifies it. The
robbery of one age is the chivalry of the next. We may start anew, and
vie with even the nobility of France, if we can once enrol but half the
Doones upon our lineage."

'"I like not to hear you speak of the Doones, as if they were no more
than that," I exclaimed, being now unreasonable; "but will you tell me,
once for all, sir, how you are my guardian?"

'"That I will do. You are my ward because you were my father's ward,
under the Scottish law; and now my father being so deaf, I have
succeeded to that right--at least in my own opinion--under which claim I
am here to neglect my trust no longer, but to lead you away from scenes
and deeds which (though of good repute and comely) are not the best for
young gentlewomen. There spoke I not like a guardian? After that can you
mistrust me?"

'"But," said I, "good Cousin Alan (if I may so call you), it is not
meet for young gentlewomen to go away with young gentlemen, though fifty
times their guardians. But if you will only come with me, and explain
your tale to my grandfather, he will listen to you quietly, and take no
advantage of you."

'"I thank you much, kind Mistress Lorna, to lead the goose into the
fox's den! But, setting by all thought of danger, I have other reasons
against it. Now, come with your faithful guardian, child. I will pledge
my honour against all harm, and to bear you safe to London. By the law
of the realm, I am now entitled to the custody of your fair person, and
of all your chattels."

'"But, sir, all that you have learned of law, is how to live without
it."

'"Fairly met, fair cousin mine! Your wit will do me credit, after a
little sharpening. And there is none to do that better than your aunt,
my mother. Although she knows not of my coming, she is longing to
receive you. Come, and in a few months' time you shall set the mode at
Court, instead of pining here, and weaving coronals of daisies."

'I turned aside, and thought a little. Although he seemed so light of
mind, and gay in dress and manner, I could not doubt his honesty; and
saw, beneath his jaunty air, true mettle and ripe bravery. Scarce had I
thought of his project twice, until he spoke of my aunt, his mother, but
then the form of my dearest friend, my sweet Aunt Sabina, seemed to come
and bid me listen, for this was what she prayed for. Moreover I felt
(though not as now) that Doone Glen was no place for me or any proud
young maiden. But while I thought, the yellow lightning spread behind a
bulk of clouds, three times ere the flash was done, far off and void of
thunder; and from the pile of cloud before it, cut as from black paper,
and lit to depths of blackness by the blaze behind it, a form as of an
aged man, sitting in a chair loose-mantled, seemed to lift a hand and
warn.

'This minded me of my grandfather, and all the care I owed him.
Moreover, now the storm was rising and I began to grow afraid; for of
all things awful to me thunder is the dreadfulest. It doth so growl,
like a lion coming, and then so roll, and roar, and rumble, out of a
thickening darkness, then crack like the last trump overhead through
cloven air and terror, that all my heart lies low and quivers, like a
weed in water. I listened now for the distant rolling of the great black
storm, and heard it, and was hurried by it. But the youth before me
waved his rolled tobacco at it, and drawled in his daintiest tone and
manner,--

'"The sky is having a smoke, I see, and dropping sparks, and grumbling.
I should have thought these Exmoor hills too small to gather thunder."

'"I cannot go, I will not go with you, Lord Alan Brandir," I answered,
being vexed a little by those words of his. "You are not grave enough
for me, you are not old enough for me. My Aunt Sabina would not
have wished it; nor would I leave my grandfather, without his full
permission. I thank you much for coming, sir; but be gone at once by the
way you came; and pray how did you come, sir?"

'"Fair cousin, you will grieve for this; you will mourn, when you cannot
mend it. I would my mother had been here, soon would she have persuaded
you. And yet," he added, with the smile of his accustomed gaiety, "it
would have been an unco thing, as we say in Scotland, for her ladyship
to have waited upon you, as her graceless son has done, and hopes to do
again ere long. Down the cliffs I came, and up them I must make way back
again. Now adieu, fair Cousin Lorna, I see you are in haste tonight;
but I am right proud of my guardianship. Give me just one flower for
token"--here he kissed his hand to me, and I threw him a truss of
woodbine--"adieu, fair cousin, trust me well, I will soon be here
again."

'"That thou never shalt, sir," cried a voice as loud as a culverin; and
Carver Doone had Alan Brandir as a spider hath a fly. The boy made a
little shriek at first, with the sudden shock and the terror; then he
looked, methought, ashamed of himself, and set his face to fight for
it. Very bravely he strove and struggled, to free one arm and grasp
his sword; but as well might an infant buried alive attempt to lift his
gravestone. Carver Doone, with his great arms wrapped around the slim
gay body, smiled (as I saw by the flash from heaven) at the poor young
face turned up to him; then (as a nurse bears off a child, who is loath
to go to bed), he lifted the youth from his feet, and bore him away into
the darkness.

'I was young then. I am older now; older by ten years, in thought,
although it is not a twelvemonth since. If that black deed were done
again, I could follow, and could combat it, could throw weak arms on
the murderer, and strive to be murdered also. I am now at home with
violence; and no dark death surprises me.

'But, being as I was that night, the horror overcame me. The crash of
thunder overhead, the last despairing look, the death-piece framed with
blaze of lightning--my young heart was so affrighted that I could not
gasp. My breath went from me, and I knew not where I was, or who, or
what. Only that I lay, and cowered, under great trees full of thunder;
and could neither count, nor moan, nor have my feet to help me.

'Yet hearkening, as a coward does, through the brushing of the wind,
and echo of far noises, I heard a sharp sound as of iron, and a fall
of heavy wood. No unmanly shriek came with it, neither cry for mercy.
Carver Doone knows what it was; and so did Alan Brandir.'

Here Lorna Doone could tell no more, being overcome with weeping. Only
through her tears she whispered, as a thing too bad to tell, that she
had seen that giant Carver, in a few days afterwards, smoking a little
round brown stick, like those of her poor cousin. I could not press her
any more with questions, or for clearness; although I longed very
much to know whether she had spoken of it to her grandfather or the
Counsellor. But she was now in such condition, both of mind and body,
from the force of her own fear multiplied by telling it, that I did
nothing more than coax her, at a distance humbly; and so that she could
see that some one was at least afraid of her. This (although I knew
not women in those days, as now I do, and never shall know much of it),
this, I say, so brought her round, that all her fear was now for me,
and how to get me safely off, without mischance to any one. And sooth to
say, in spite of longing just to see if Master Carver could have served
me such a trick--as it grew towards the dusk, I was not best pleased
to be there; for it seemed a lawless place, and some of Lorna's fright
stayed with me as I talked it away from her.



CHAPTER XXII

After hearing that tale from Lorna, I went home in sorry spirits, having
added fear for her, and misery about, to all my other ailments. And was
it not quite certain now that she, being owned full cousin to a peer and
lord of Scotland (although he was a dead one), must have nought to do
with me, a yeoman's son, and bound to be the father of more yeomen? I
had been very sorry when first I heard about that poor young popinjay,
and would gladly have fought hard for him; but now it struck me that
after all he had no right to be there, prowling (as it were) for Lorna,
without any invitation: and we farmers love not trespass. Still, if I
had seen the thing, I must have tried to save him.

Moreover, I was greatly vexed with my own hesitation, stupidity, or
shyness, or whatever else it was, which had held me back from saying,
ere she told her story, what was in my heart to say, videlicet, that I
must die unless she let me love her. Not that I was fool enough to think
that she would answer me according to my liking, or begin to care about
me for a long time yet; if indeed she ever should, which I hardly dared
to hope. But that I had heard from men more skillful in the matter that
it is wise to be in time, that so the maids may begin to think, when
they know that they are thought of. And, to tell the truth, I had bitter
fears, on account of her wondrous beauty, lest some young fellow of
higher birth and finer parts, and finish, might steal in before poor me,
and cut me out altogether. Thinking of which, I used to double my great
fist, without knowing it, and keep it in my pocket ready.

But the worst of all was this, that in my great dismay and anguish
to see Lorna weeping so, I had promised not to cause her any further
trouble from anxiety and fear of harm. And this, being brought to
practice, meant that I was not to show myself within the precincts of
Glen Doone, for at least another month. Unless indeed (as I contrived to
edge into the agreement) anything should happen to increase her present
trouble and every day's uneasiness. In that case, she was to throw a
dark mantle, or covering of some sort, over a large white stone which
hung within the entrance to her retreat--I mean the outer entrance--and
which, though unseen from the valley itself, was (as I had observed)
conspicuous from the height where I stood with Uncle Reuben.

Now coming home so sad and weary, yet trying to console myself with the
thought that love o'erleapeth rank, and must still be lord of all, I
found a shameful thing going on, which made me very angry. For it needs
must happen that young Marwood de Whichehalse, only son of the Baron,
riding home that very evening, from chasing of the Exmoor bustards,
with his hounds and serving-men, should take the short cut through
our farmyard, and being dry from his exercise, should come and ask for
drink. And it needs must happen also that there should be none to give
it to him but my sister Annie. I more than suspect that he had heard
some report of our Annie's comeliness, and had a mind to satisfy
himself upon the subject. Now, as he took the large ox-horn of our
quarantine-apple cider (which we always keep apart from the rest, being
too good except for the quality), he let his fingers dwell on Annie's,
by some sort of accident, while he lifted his beaver gallantly, and
gazed on her face in the light from the west. Then what did Annie do (as
she herself told me afterwards) but make her very best curtsey to him,
being pleased that he was pleased with her, while she thought what a
fine young man he was and so much breeding about him! And in truth he
was a dark, handsome fellow, hasty, reckless, and changeable, with a
look of sad destiny in his black eyes that would make any woman pity
him. What he was thinking of our Annie is not for me to say, although I
may think that you could not have found another such maiden on Exmoor,
except (of course) my Lorna.

Though young Squire Marwood was so thirsty, he spent much time over his
cider, or at any rate over the ox-horn, and he made many bows to Annie,
and drank health to all the family, and spoke of me as if I had been his
very best friend at Blundell's; whereas he knew well enough all the time
that we had nought to say to one another; he being three years older,
and therefore of course disdaining me. But while he was casting about
perhaps for some excuse to stop longer, and Annie was beginning to fear
lest mother should come after her, or Eliza be at the window, or Betty
up in pigs' house, suddenly there came up to them, as if from the very
heart of the earth, that long, low, hollow, mysterious sound which I
spoke of in winter.

The young man started in his saddle, let the horn fall on the
horse-steps, and gazed all around in wonder; while as for Annie, she
turned like a ghost, and tried to slam the door, but failed through the
violence of her trembling; (for never till now had any one heard it so
close at hand as you might say) or in the mere fall of the twilight. And
by this time there was no man, at least in our parish, but knew--for the
Parson himself had told us so--that it was the devil groaning because
the Doones were too many for him.

Marwood de Whichehalse was not so alarmed but what he saw a fine
opportunity. He leaped from his horse, and laid hold of dear Annie in a
highly comforting manner; and she never would tell us about it (being
so shy and modest), whether in breathing his comfort to her he tried
to take some from her pure lips. I hope he did not, because that to me
would seem not the deed of a gentleman, and he was of good old family.

At this very moment, who should come into the end of the passage upon
them but the heavy writer of these doings I, John Ridd myself, and
walking the faster, it may be, on account of the noise I mentioned. I
entered the house with some wrath upon me at seeing the gazehounds in
the yard; for it seems a cruel thing to me to harass the birds in the
breeding-time. And to my amazement there I saw Squire Marwood among the
milk-pans with his arm around our Annie's waist, and Annie all blushing
and coaxing him off, for she was not come to scold yet.

Perhaps I was wrong; God knows, and if I was, no doubt I shall pay for
it; but I gave him the flat of my hand on his head, and down he went in
the thick of the milk-pans. He would have had my fist, I doubt, but for
having been at school with me; and after that it is like enough he would
never have spoken another word. As it was, he lay stunned, with the
cream running on him; while I took poor Annie up and carried her in to
mother, who had heard the noise and was frightened.

Concerning this matter I asked no more, but held myself ready to bear it
out in any form convenient, feeling that I had done my duty, and
cared not for the consequence; only for several days dear Annie seemed
frightened rather than grateful. But the oddest result of it was that
Eliza, who had so despised me, and made very rude verses about me, now
came trying to sit on my knee, and kiss me, and give me the best of the
pan. However, I would not allow it, because I hate sudden changes.

Another thing also astonished me--namely, a beautiful letter from
Marwood de Whichehalse himself (sent by a groom soon afterwards), in
which he apologised to me, as if I had been his equal, for his rudeness
to my sister, which was not intended in the least, but came of their
common alarm at the moment, and his desire to comfort her. Also he
begged permission to come and see me, as an old schoolfellow, and set
everything straight between us, as should be among honest Blundellites.

All this was so different to my idea of fighting out a quarrel, when
once it is upon a man, that I knew not what to make of it, but bowed to
higher breeding. Only one thing I resolved upon, that come when he would
he should not see Annie. And to do my sister justice, she had no desire
to see him.

However, I am too easy, there is no doubt of that, being very quick to
forgive a man, and very slow to suspect, unless he hath once lied to
me. Moreover, as to Annie, it had always seemed to me (much against my
wishes) that some shrewd love of a waiting sort was between her and Tom
Faggus: and though Tom had made his fortune now, and everybody
respected him, of course he was not to be compared, in that point of
respectability, with those people who hanged the robbers when fortune
turned against them.

So young Squire Marwood came again, as though I had never smitten
him, and spoke of it in as light a way as if we were still at school
together. It was not in my nature, of course, to keep any anger against
him; and I knew what a condescension it was for him to visit us. And
it is a very grievous thing, which touches small landowners, to see an
ancient family day by day decaying: and when we heard that Ley Barton
itself, and all the Manor of Lynton were under a heavy mortgage debt to
John Lovering of Weare-Gifford, there was not much, in our little way,
that we would not gladly do or suffer for the benefit of De Whichehalse.

Meanwhile the work of the farm was toward, and every day gave us
more ado to dispose of what itself was doing. For after the long dry
skeltering wind of March and part of April, there had been a fortnight
of soft wet; and when the sun came forth again, hill and valley, wood
and meadow, could not make enough of him. Many a spring have I seen
since then, but never yet two springs alike, and never one so beautiful.
Or was it that my love came forth and touched the world with beauty?

The spring was in our valley now; creeping first for shelter shyly in
the pause of the blustering wind. There the lambs came bleating to her,
and the orchis lifted up, and the thin dead leaves of clover lay for the
new ones to spring through. There the stiffest things that sleep, the
stubby oak, and the saplin'd beech, dropped their brown defiance to her,
and prepared for a soft reply.

While her over-eager children (who had started forth to meet her,
through the frost and shower of sleet), catkin'd hazel, gold-gloved
withy, youthful elder, and old woodbine, with all the tribe of good
hedge-climbers (who must hasten while haste they may)--was there one of
them that did not claim the merit of coming first?

There she stayed and held her revel, as soon as the fear of frost was
gone; all the air was a fount of freshness, and the earth of gladness,
and the laughing waters prattled of the kindness of the sun.

But all this made it much harder for us, plying the hoe and rake, to
keep the fields with room upon them for the corn to tiller. The winter
wheat was well enough, being sturdy and strong-sided; but the spring
wheat and the barley and the oats were overrun by ill weeds growing
faster. Therefore, as the old saying is,--

Farmer, that thy wife may thrive, Let not burr and burdock wive; And if
thou wouldst keep thy son, See that bine and gith have none.

So we were compelled to go down the field and up it, striking in and out
with care where the green blades hung together, so that each had space
to move in and to spread its roots abroad. And I do assure you now,
though you may not believe me, it was harder work to keep John Fry, Bill
Dadds, and Jem Slocomb all in a line and all moving nimbly to the tune
of my own tool, than it was to set out in the morning alone, and hoe
half an acre by dinner-time. For, instead of keeping the good ash
moving, they would for ever be finding something to look at or to speak
of, or at any rate, to stop with; blaming the shape of their tools
perhaps, or talking about other people's affairs; or, what was most
irksome of all to me, taking advantage as married men, and whispering
jokes of no excellence about my having, or having not, or being ashamed
of a sweetheart. And this went so far at last that I was forced to take
two of them and knock their heads together; after which they worked with
a better will.

When we met together in the evening round the kitchen chimney-place,
after the men had had their supper and their heavy boots were gone, my
mother and Eliza would do their very utmost to learn what I was thinking
of. Not that we kept any fire now, after the crock was emptied; but that
we loved to see the ashes cooling, and to be together. At these times
Annie would never ask me any crafty questions (as Eliza did), but would
sit with her hair untwined, and one hand underneath her chin, sometimes
looking softly at me, as much as to say that she knew it all and I was
no worse off than she. But strange to say my mother dreamed not, even
for an instant, that it was possible for Annie to be thinking of such
a thing. She was so very good and quiet, and careful of the linen, and
clever about the cookery and fowls and bacon-curing, that people used
to laugh, and say she would never look at a bachelor until her mother
ordered her. But I (perhaps from my own condition and the sense of what
it was) felt no certainty about this, and even had another opinion, as
was said before.

Often I was much inclined to speak to her about it, and put her on her
guard against the approaches of Tom Faggus; but I could not find how to
begin, and feared to make a breach between us; knowing that if her
mind was set, no words of mine would alter it; although they needs must
grieve her deeply. Moreover, I felt that, in this case, a certain
homely Devonshire proverb would come home to me; that one, I mean, which
records that the crock was calling the kettle smutty. Not, of course,
that I compared my innocent maid to a highwayman; but that Annie might
think her worse, and would be too apt to do so, if indeed she loved Tom
Faggus. And our Cousin Tom, by this time, was living a quiet and godly
life; having retired almost from the trade (except when he needed
excitement, or came across public officers), and having won the esteem
of all whose purses were in his power.

Perhaps it is needless for me to say that all this time while my month
was running--or rather crawling, for never month went so slow as
that with me--neither weed, nor seed, nor cattle, nor my own mother's
anxiety, nor any care for my sister, kept me from looking once every
day, and even twice on a Sunday, for any sign of Lorna. For my heart was
ever weary; in the budding valleys, and by the crystal waters, looking
at the lambs in fold, or the heifers on the mill, labouring in trickled
furrows, or among the beaded blades; halting fresh to see the sun lift
over the golden-vapoured ridge; or doffing hat, from sweat of brow, to
watch him sink in the low gray sea; be it as it would of day, of work,
or night, or slumber, it was a weary heart I bore, and fear was on the
brink of it.

All the beauty of the spring went for happy men to think of; all the
increase of the year was for other eyes to mark. Not a sign of any
sunrise for me from my fount of life, not a breath to stir the dead
leaves fallen on my heart's Spring.



CHAPTER XXIII

A ROYAL INVITATION

Although I had, for the most part, so very stout an appetite, that none
but mother saw any need of encouraging me to eat, I could only manage
one true good meal in a day, at the time I speak of. Mother was in
despair at this, and tempted me with the whole of the rack, and even
talked of sending to Porlock for a druggist who came there twice in
a week; and Annie spent all her time in cooking, and even Lizzie sang
songs to me; for she could sing very sweetly. But my conscience told me
that Betty Muxworthy had some reason upon her side.

'Latt the young ozebird aloun, zay I. Makk zuch ado about un, wi'
hogs'-puddens, and hock-bits, and lambs'-mate, and whaten bradd indade,
and brewers' ale avore dinner-time, and her not to zit wi' no winder
aupen--draive me mad 'e doo, the ov'ee, zuch a passel of voouls. Do 'un
good to starve a bit; and takk zome on's wackedness out ov un.'

But mother did not see it so; and she even sent for Nicholas Snowe
to bring his three daughters with him, and have ale and cake in the
parlour, and advise about what the bees were doing, and when a swarm
might be looked for. Being vexed about this and having to stop at home
nearly half the evening, I lost good manners so much as to ask him (even
in our own house!) what he meant by not mending the swing-hurdle where
the Lynn stream flows from our land into his, and which he is bound to
maintain. But he looked at me in a superior manner, and said, 'Business,
young man, in business time.'

I had other reason for being vexed with Farmer Nicholas just now, viz.
that I had heard a rumour, after church one Sunday--when most of all we
sorrow over the sins of one another--that Master Nicholas Snowe had
been seen to gaze tenderly at my mother, during a passage of the sermon,
wherein the parson spoke well and warmly about the duty of Christian
love. Now, putting one thing with another, about the bees, and about
some ducks, and a bullock with a broken knee-cap, I more than suspected
that Farmer Nicholas was casting sheep's eyes at my mother; not only to
save all further trouble in the matter of the hurdle, but to override me
altogether upon the difficult question of damming. And I knew quite well
that John Fry's wife never came to help at the washing without declaring
that it was a sin for a well-looking woman like mother, with plenty
to live on, and only three children, to keep all the farmers for miles
around so unsettled in their minds about her. Mother used to answer 'Oh
fie, Mistress Fry! be good enough to mind your own business.' But we
always saw that she smoothed her apron, and did her hair up afterwards,
and that Mistress Fry went home at night with a cold pig's foot or a
bowl of dripping.

Therefore, on that very night, as I could not well speak to mother
about it, without seeming undutiful, after lighting the three young
ladies--for so in sooth they called themselves--all the way home with
our stable-lanthorn, I begged good leave of Farmer Nicholas (who had
hung some way behind us) to say a word in private to him, before he
entered his own house.

'Wi' all the plaisure in laife, my zon,' he answered very graciously,
thinking perhaps that I was prepared to speak concerning Sally.

'Now, Farmer Nicholas Snowe,' I said, scarce knowing how to begin it,
'you must promise not to be vexed with me, for what I am going to say to
you.'

'Vaxed wi' thee! Noo, noo, my lad. I 'ave a knowed thee too long for
that. And thy veyther were my best friend, afore thee. Never wronged his
neighbours, never spak an unkind word, never had no maneness in him.
Tuk a vancy to a nice young 'ooman, and never kep her in doubt about it,
though there wadn't mooch to zettle on her. Spak his maind laike a man,
he did, and right happy he were wi' her. Ah, well a day! Ah, God knoweth
best. I never shall zee his laike again. And he were the best judge of a
dung-heap anywhere in this county.'

'Well, Master Snowe,' I answered him, 'it is very handsome of you to
say so. And now I am going to be like my father, I am going to speak my
mind.'

'Raight there, lad; raight enough, I reckon. Us has had enough of
pralimbinary.'

'Then what I want to say is this--I won't have any one courting my
mother.'

'Coortin' of thy mother, lad?' cried Farmer Snowe, with as much
amazement as if the thing were impossible; 'why, who ever hath been
dooin' of it?'

'Yes, courting of my mother, sir. And you know best who comes doing it.'

'Wull, wull! What will boys be up to next? Zhud a' thought herzelf wor
the proper judge. No thank 'ee, lad, no need of thy light. Know the wai
to my own door, at laste; and have a raight to goo there.' And he shut
me out without so much as offering me a drink of cider.

The next afternoon, when work was over, I had seen to the horses, for
now it was foolish to trust John Fry, because he had so many children,
and his wife had taken to scolding; and just as I was saying to myself
that in five days more my month would be done, and myself free to seek
Lorna, a man came riding up from the ford where the road goes through
the Lynn stream. As soon as I saw that it was not Tom Faggus, I went no
farther to meet him, counting that it must be some traveller bound
for Brendon or Cheriton, and likely enough he would come and beg for a
draught of milk or cider; and then on again, after asking the way.

But instead of that, he stopped at our gate, and stood up from his
saddle, and halloed as if he were somebody; and all the time he was
flourishing a white thing in the air, like the bands our parson weareth.
So I crossed the court-yard to speak with him.

'Service of the King!' he saith; 'service of our lord the King! Come
hither, thou great yokel, at risk of fine and imprisonment.'

Although not pleased with this, I went to him, as became a loyal man;
quite at my leisure, however, for there is no man born who can hurry me,
though I hasten for any woman.

'Plover Barrows farm!' said he; 'God only knows how tired I be. Is there
any where in this cursed county a cursed place called Plover Barrows
farm? For last twenty mile at least they told me 'twere only half a mile
farther, or only just round corner. Now tell me that, and I fain would
thwack thee if thou wert not thrice my size.'

'Sir,' I replied, 'you shall not have the trouble. This is Plover's
Barrows farm, and you are kindly welcome. Sheep's kidneys is for supper,
and the ale got bright from the tapping. But why do you think ill of us?
We like not to be cursed so.'

'Nay, I think no ill,' he said; 'sheep's kidneys is good, uncommon good,
if they do them without burning. But I be so galled in the saddle ten
days, and never a comely meal of it. And when they hear "King's service"
cried, they give me the worst of everything. All the way down from
London, I had a rogue of a fellow in front of me, eating the fat of
the land before me, and every one bowing down to him. He could go three
miles to my one though he never changed his horse. He might have robbed
me at any minute, if I had been worth the trouble. A red mare he rideth,
strong in the loins, and pointed quite small in the head. I shall live
to see him hanged yet.'

All this time he was riding across the straw of our courtyard, getting
his weary legs out of the leathers, and almost afraid to stand yet. A
coarse-grained, hard-faced man he was, some forty years of age or so,
and of middle height and stature. He was dressed in a dark brown riding
suit, none the better for Exmoor mud, but fitting him very differently
from the fashion of our tailors. Across the holsters lay his cloak,
made of some red skin, and shining from the sweating of the horse. As I
looked down on his stiff bright head-piece, small quick eyes and black
needly beard, he seemed to despise me (too much, as I thought) for a
mere ignoramus and country bumpkin.

'Annie, have down the cut ham,' I shouted, for my sister was come to the
door by chance, or because of the sound of a horse in the road, 'and
cut a few rashers of hung deer's meat. There is a gentleman come to sup,
Annie. And fetch the hops out of the tap with a skewer that it may run
more sparkling.'

'I wish I may go to a place never meant for me,' said my new friend, now
wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his brown riding coat, 'if ever I
fell among such good folk. You are the right sort, and no error therein.
All this shall go in your favour greatly, when I make deposition. At
least, I mean, if it be as good in the eating as in the hearing. 'Tis
a supper quite fit for Tom Faggus himself, the man who hath stolen
my victuals so. And that hung deer's meat, now is it of the red deer
running wild in these parts?'

'To be sure it is, sir,' I answered; 'where should we get any other?'

'Right, right, you are right, my son. I have heard that the flavour
is marvellous. Some of them came and scared me so, in the fog of the
morning, that I hungered for them ever since. Ha, ha, I saw their
haunches. But the young lady will not forget--art sure she will not
forget it?'

'You may trust her to forget nothing, sir, that may tempt a guest to his
comfort.'

'In faith, then, I will leave my horse in your hands, and be off for
it. Half the pleasure of the mouth is in the nose beforehand. But stay,
almost I forgot my business, in the hurry which thy tongue hath spread
through my lately despairing belly. Hungry I am, and sore of body, from
my heels right upward, and sorest in front of my doublet, yet may I not
rest nor bite barley-bread, until I have seen and touched John Ridd. God
grant that he be not far away; I must eat my saddle, if it be so.'

'Have no fear, good sir,' I answered; 'you have seen and touched John
Ridd. I am he, and not one likely to go beneath a bushel.'

'It would take a large bushel to hold thee, John Ridd. In the name of
the King, His Majesty, Charles the Second, these presents!'

He touched me with the white thing which I had first seen him waving,
and which I now beheld to be sheepskin, such as they call parchment.
It was tied across with cord, and fastened down in every corner
with unsightly dabs of wax. By order of the messenger (for I was
over-frightened now to think of doing anything), I broke enough of seals
to keep an Easter ghost from rising; and there I saw my name in large;
God grant such another shock may never befall me in my old age.

'Read, my son; read, thou great fool, if indeed thou canst read,' said
the officer to encourage me; 'there is nothing to kill thee, boy, and
my supper will be spoiling. Stare not at me so, thou fool; thou art big
enough to eat me; read, read, read.'

'If you please, sir, what is your name?' I asked; though why I asked him
I know not, except from fear of witchcraft.

'Jeremy Stickles is my name, lad, nothing more than a poor apparitor of
the worshipful Court of King's Bench. And at this moment a starving one,
and no supper for me unless thou wilt read.'

Being compelled in this way, I read pretty nigh as follows; not that I
give the whole of it, but only the gist and the emphasis,--

'To our good subject, John Ridd, etc.'--describing me ever so much
better than I knew myself--'by these presents, greeting. These are to
require thee, in the name of our lord the King, to appear in person
before the Right Worshipful, the Justices of His Majesty's Bench at
Westminster, laying aside all thine own business, and there to deliver
such evidence as is within thy cognisance, touching certain matters
whereby the peace of our said lord the King, and the well-being of this
realm, is, are, or otherwise may be impeached, impugned, imperilled, or
otherwise detrimented. As witness these presents.' And then there were
four seals, and then a signature I could not make out, only that it
began with a J, and ended with some other writing, done almost in a
circle. Underneath was added in a different handwriting 'Charges will be
borne. The matter is full urgent.'

The messenger watched me, while I read so much as I could read of it;
and he seemed well pleased with my surprise, because he had expected it.
Then, not knowing what else to do, I looked again at the cover, and
on the top of it I saw, 'Ride, Ride, Ride! On His Gracious Majesty's
business; spur and spare not.'

It may be supposed by all who know me, that I was taken hereupon with
such a giddiness in my head and noisiness in my ears, that I was forced
to hold by the crook driven in below the thatch for holding of the
hay-rakes. There was scarcely any sense left in me, only that the thing
was come by power of Mother Melldrum, because I despised her warning,
and had again sought Lorna. But the officer was grieved for me, and the
danger to his supper.

'My son, be not afraid,' he said; 'we are not going to skin thee. Only
thou tell all the truth, and it shall be--but never mind, I will tell
thee all about it, and how to come out harmless, if I find thy victuals
good, and no delay in serving them.'

'We do our best, sir, without bargain,' said I, 'to please our
visitors.'

But when my mother saw that parchment (for we could not keep it from
her) she fell away into her favourite bed of stock gilly-flowers, which
she had been tending; and when we brought her round again, did nothing
but exclaim against the wickedness of the age and people. 'It was
useless to tell her; she knew what it was, and so should all the parish
know. The King had heard what her son was, how sober, and quiet, and
diligent, and the strongest young man in England; and being himself such
a reprobate--God forgive her for saying so--he could never rest till
he got poor Johnny, and made him as dissolute as himself. And if he did
that'--here mother went off into a fit of crying; and Annie minded her
face, while Lizzie saw that her gown was in comely order.

But the character of the King improved, when Master Jeremy Stickles
(being really moved by the look of it, and no bad man after all) laid it
clearly before my mother that the King on his throne was unhappy, until
he had seen John Ridd. That the fame of John had gone so far, and his
size, and all his virtues--that verily by the God who made him, the King
was overcome with it.

Then mother lay back in her garden chair, and smiled upon the whole of
us, and most of all on Jeremy; looking only shyly on me, and speaking
through some break of tears. 'His Majesty shall have my John; His
Majesty is very good: but only for a fortnight. I want no titles for
him. Johnny is enough for me; and Master John for the working men.'

Now though my mother was so willing that I should go to London,
expecting great promotion and high glory for me, I myself was deeply
gone into the pit of sorrow. For what would Lorna think of me? Here was
the long month just expired, after worlds of waiting; there would be her
lovely self, peeping softly down the glen, and fearing to encourage me;
yet there would be nobody else, and what an insult to her! Dwelling upon
this, and seeing no chance of escape from it, I could not find one wink
of sleep; though Jeremy Stickles (who slept close by) snored loud enough
to spare me some. For I felt myself to be, as it were, in a place of
some importance; in a situation of trust, I may say; and bound not to
depart from it. For who could tell what the King might have to say to
me about the Doones--and I felt that they were at the bottom of this
strange appearance--or what His Majesty might think, if after receiving
a message from him (trusty under so many seals) I were to violate
his faith in me as a churchwarden's son, and falsely spread his words
abroad?

Perhaps I was not wise in building such a wall of scruples.
Nevertheless, all that was there, and weighed upon me heavily. And at
last I made up my mind to this, that even Lorna must not know the reason
of my going, neither anything about it; but that she might know I was
gone a long way from home, and perhaps be sorry for it. Now how was I to
let her know even that much of the matter, without breaking compact?

Puzzling on this, I fell asleep, after the proper time to get up; nor
was I to be seen at breakfast time; and mother (being quite strange to
that) was very uneasy about it. But Master Stickles assured her that the
King's writ often had that effect, and the symptom was a good one.

'Now, Master Stickles, when must we start?' I asked him, as he lounged
in the yard gazing at our turkey poults picking and running in the sun
to the tune of their father's gobble. 'Your horse was greatly foundered,
sir, and is hardly fit for the road to-day; and Smiler was sledding
yesterday all up the higher Cleve; and none of the rest can carry me.'

'In a few more years,' replied the King's officer, contemplating me with
much satisfaction; ''twill be a cruelty to any horse to put thee on his
back, John.'

Master Stickles, by this time, was quite familiar with us, calling
me 'Jack,' and Eliza 'Lizzie,' and what I liked the least of all, our
pretty Annie 'Nancy.'

'That will be as God pleases, sir,' I answered him, rather sharply; 'and
the horse that suffers will not be thine. But I wish to know when we
must start upon our long travel to London town. I perceive that the
matter is of great despatch and urgency.'

'To be sure, so it is, my son. But I see a yearling turkey there, him
I mean with the hop in his walk, who (if I know aught of fowls) would
roast well to-morrow. Thy mother must have preparation: it is no more
than reasonable. Now, have that turkey killed to-night (for his fatness
makes me long for him), and we will have him for dinner to-morrow, with,
perhaps, one of his brethren; and a few more collops of red deer's flesh
for supper, and then on the Friday morning, with the grace of God, we
will set our faces to the road, upon His Majesty's business.'

'Nay, but good sir,' I asked with some trembling, so eager was I to see
Lorna; 'if His Majesty's business will keep till Friday, may it not keep
until Monday? We have a litter of sucking-pigs, excellently choice and
white, six weeks old, come Friday. There be too many for the sow, and
one of them needeth roasting. Think you not it would be a pity to leave
the women to carve it?'

'My son Jack,' replied Master Stickles, 'never was I in such quarters
yet: and God forbid that I should be so unthankful to Him as to hurry
away. And now I think on it, Friday is not a day upon which pious people
love to commence an enterprise. I will choose the young pig to-morrow at
noon, at which time they are wont to gambol; and we will celebrate his
birthday by carving him on Friday. After that we will gird our loins,
and set forth early on Saturday.'

Now this was little better to me than if we had set forth at once.
Sunday being the very first day upon which it would be honourable for me
to enter Glen Doone. But though I tried every possible means with Master
Jeremy Stickles, offering him the choice for dinner of every beast
that was on the farm, he durst not put off our departure later than the
Saturday. And nothing else but love of us and of our hospitality would
have so persuaded him to remain with us till then. Therefore now my only
chance of seeing Lorna, before I went, lay in watching from the cliff
and espying her, or a signal from her.

This, however, I did in vain, until my eyes were weary and often would
delude themselves with hope of what they ached for. But though I lay
hidden behind the trees upon the crest of the stony fall, and waited
so quiet that the rabbits and squirrels played around me, and even the
keen-eyed weasel took me for a trunk of wood--it was all as one; no cast
of colour changed the white stone, whose whiteness now was hateful to
me; nor did wreath or skirt of maiden break the loneliness of the vale.



CHAPTER XXIV

A SAFE PASS FOR KING'S MESSENGER

A journey to London seemed to us in those bygone days as hazardous and
dark an adventure as could be forced on any man. I mean, of course,
a poor man; for to a great nobleman, with ever so many outriders,
attendants, and retainers, the risk was not so great, unless the
highwaymen knew of their coming beforehand, and so combined against
them. To a poor man, however, the risk was not so much from those
gentlemen of the road as from the more ignoble footpads, and the
landlords of the lesser hostels, and the loose unguarded soldiers, over
and above the pitfalls and the quagmires of the way; so that it was hard
to settle, at the first outgoing whether a man were wise to pray more
for his neck or for his head.

But nowadays it is very different. Not that highway-men are scarce, in
this the reign of our good Queen Anne; for in truth they thrive as
well as ever, albeit they deserve it not, being less upright and
courteous--but that the roads are much improved, and the growing use
of stage-waggons (some of which will travel as much as forty miles in a
summer day) has turned our ancient ideas of distance almost upside down;
and I doubt whether God be pleased with our flying so fast away from
Him. However, that is not my business; nor does it lie in my mouth to
speak very strongly upon the subject, seeing how much I myself have done
towards making of roads upon Exmoor.

To return to my story (and, in truth, I lose that road too often), it
would have taken ten King's messengers to get me away from Plover's
Barrows without one goodbye to Lorna, but for my sense of the trust
and reliance which His Majesty had reposed in me. And now I felt most
bitterly how the very arrangements which seemed so wise, and indeed
ingenious, may by the force of events become our most fatal obstacles.
For lo! I was blocked entirely from going to see Lorna; whereas
we should have fixed it so that I as well might have the power of
signalling my necessity.

It was too late now to think of that; and so I made up my mind at last
to keep my honour on both sides, both to the King and to the maiden,
although I might lose everything except a heavy heart for it. And
indeed, more hearts than mine were heavy; for when it came to the tug of
parting, my mother was like, and so was Annie, to break down altogether.
But I bade them be of good cheer, and smiled in the briskest manner upon
them, and said that I should be back next week as one of His Majesty's
greatest captains, and told them not to fear me then. Upon which they
smiled at the idea of ever being afraid of me, whatever dress I might
have on; and so I kissed my hand once more, and rode away very bravely.
But bless your heart, I could no more have done so than flown all the
way to London if Jeremy Stickles had not been there.

And not to take too much credit to myself in this matter, I must confess
that when we were come to the turn in the road where the moor begins,
and whence you see the last of the yard, and the ricks and the poultry
round them and can (by knowing the place) obtain a glance of the kitchen
window under the walnut-tree, it went so hard with me just here that I
even made pretence of a stone in ancient Smiler's shoe, to dismount, and
to bend my head awhile. Then, knowing that those I had left behind would
be watching to see the last of me, and might have false hopes of my
coming back, I mounted again with all possible courage, and rode after
Jeremy Stickles.

Jeremy, seeing how much I was down, did his best to keep me up with
jokes, and tales, and light discourse, until, before we had ridden a
league, I began to long to see the things he was describing. The air,
the weather, and the thoughts of going to a wondrous place, added to
the fine company--at least so Jeremy said it was--of a man who knew all
London, made me feel that I should be ungracious not to laugh a little.
And being very simple then I laughed no more a little, but something
quite considerable (though free from consideration) at the strange
things Master Stickles told me, and his strange way of telling them.
And so we became very excellent friends, for he was much pleased with my
laughing.

Not wishing to thrust myself more forward than need be in this
narrative, I have scarcely thought it becoming or right to speak of my
own adornments. But now, what with the brave clothes I had on, and the
better ones still that were packed up in the bag behind the saddle,
it is almost beyond me to forbear saying that I must have looked very
pleasing. And many a time I wished, going along, that Lorna could only
be here and there, watching behind a furze-bush, looking at me, and
wondering how much my clothes had cost. For mother would have no
stint in the matter, but had assembled at our house, immediately upon
knowledge of what was to be about London, every man known to be a good
stitcher upon our side of Exmoor. And for three days they had
worked their best, without stint of beer or cider, according to the
constitution of each. The result, so they all declared, was such as to
create admiration, and defy competition in London. And to me it seemed
that they were quite right; though Jeremy Stickles turned up his nose,
and feigned to be deaf in the business.

Now be that matter as you please--for the point is not worth
arguing--certain it is that my appearance was better than it had been
before. For being in the best clothes, one tries to look and to act
(so far as may be) up to the quality of them. Not only for the fear of
soiling them, but that they enlarge a man's perception of his value. And
it strikes me that our sins arise, partly from disdain of others, but
mainly from contempt of self, both working the despite of God. But men
of mind may not be measured by such paltry rule as this.

By dinner-time we arrived at Porlock, and dined with my old friend,
Master Pooke, now growing rich and portly. For though we had plenty of
victuals with us we were not to begin upon them, until all chance of
victualling among our friends was left behind. And during that first day
we had no need to meddle with our store at all; for as had been settled
before we left home, we lay that night at Dunster in the house of
a worthy tanner, first cousin to my mother, who received us very
cordially, and undertook to return old Smiler to his stable at Plover's
Barrows, after one day's rest.

Thence we hired to Bridgwater; and from Bridgwater on to Bristowe,
breaking the journey between the two. But although the whole way was so
new to me, and such a perpetual source of conflict, that the remembrance
still abides with me, as if it were but yesterday, I must not be so long
in telling as it was in travelling, or you will wish me farther;
both because Lorna was nothing there, and also because a man in our
neighbourhood had done the whole of it since my time, and feigns to
think nothing of it. However, one thing, in common justice to a person
who has been traduced, I am bound to mention. And this is, that being
two of us, and myself of such magnitude, we never could have made our
journey without either fight or running, but for the free pass which
dear Annie, by some means (I know not what), had procured from Master
Faggus. And when I let it be known, by some hap, that I was the own
cousin of Tom Faggus, and honoured with his society, there was not
a house upon the road but was proud to entertain me, in spite of my
fellow-traveller, bearing the red badge of the King.

'I will keep this close, my son Jack,' he said, having stripped it off
with a carving-knife; 'your flag is the best to fly. The man who starved
me on the way down, the same shall feed me fat going home.'

Therefore we pursued our way, in excellent condition, having thriven
upon the credit of that very popular highwayman, and being surrounded
with regrets that he had left the profession, and sometimes begged to
intercede that he might help the road again. For all the landlords on
the road declared that now small ale was drunk, nor much of spirits
called for, because the farmers need not prime to meet only common
riders, neither were these worth the while to get drunk with afterwards.
Master Stickles himself undertook, as an officer of the King's Justices
to plead this case with Squire Faggus (as everybody called him now), and
to induce him, for the general good, to return to his proper ministry.

It was a long and weary journey, although the roads are wondrous good on
the farther side of Bristowe, and scarcely any man need be bogged, if he
keeps his eyes well open, save, perhaps, in Berkshire. In consequence
of the pass we had, and the vintner's knowledge of it, we only met
two public riders, one of whom made off straightway when he saw my
companion's pistols and the stout carbine I bore; and the other came to
a parley with us, and proved most kind and affable, when he knew
himself in the presence of the cousin of Squire Faggus. 'God save you,
gentlemen,' he cried, lifting his hat politely; 'many and many a happy
day I have worked this road with him. Such times will never be again.
But commend me to his love and prayers. King my name is, and King my
nature. Say that, and none will harm you.' And so he made off down the
hill, being a perfect gentleman, and a very good horse he was riding.

The night was falling very thick by the time we were come to Tyburn, and
here the King's officer decided that it would be wise to halt, because
the way was unsafe by night across the fields to Charing village. I for
my part was nothing loth, and preferred to see London by daylight.

And after all, it was not worth seeing, but a very hideous and dirty
place, not at all like Exmoor. Some of the shops were very fine, and
the signs above them finer still, so that I was never weary of standing
still to look at them. But in doing this there was no ease; for before
one could begin almost to make out the meaning of them, either some
of the wayfarers would bustle and scowl, and draw their swords, or the
owner, or his apprentice boys, would rush out and catch hold of me,
crying, 'Buy, buy, buy! What d'ye lack, what d'ye lack? Buy, buy, buy!'
At first I mistook the meaning of this--for so we pronounce the word
'boy' upon Exmoor--and I answered with some indignation, 'Sirrah, I am
no boy now, but a man of one-and-twenty years; and as for lacking, I
lack naught from thee, except what thou hast not--good manners.'

The only things that pleased me much, were the river Thames, and the
hall and church of Westminster, where there are brave things to be seen,
and braver still to think about. But whenever I wandered in the streets,
what with the noise the people made, the number of the coaches, the
running of the footmen, the swaggering of great courtiers, and the
thrusting aside of everybody, many and many a time I longed to be back
among the sheep again, for fear of losing temper. They were welcome to
the wall for me, as I took care to tell them, for I could stand without
the wall, which perhaps was more than they could do. Though I said this
with the best intention, meaning no discourtesy, some of them were vexed
at it; and one young lord, being flushed with drink, drew his sword and
made at me. But I struck it up with my holly stick, so that it flew on
the roof of a house, then I took him by the belt with one hand, and laid
him in the kennel. This caused some little disturbance; but none of the
rest saw fit to try how the matter might be with them.

Now this being the year of our Lord 1683, more than nine years and a
half since the death of my father, and the beginning of this history,
all London was in a great ferment about the dispute between the Court of
the King and the City. The King, or rather perhaps his party (for they
said that His Majesty cared for little except to have plenty of money
and spend it), was quite resolved to be supreme in the appointment of
the chief officers of the corporation. But the citizens maintained that
(under their charter) this right lay entirely with themselves; upon
which a writ was issued against them for forfeiture of their charter;
and the question was now being tried in the court of His Majesty's
bench.

This seemed to occupy all the attention of the judges, and my case
(which had appeared so urgent) was put off from time to time, while
the Court and the City contended. And so hot was the conflict and hate
between them, that a sheriff had been fined by the King in 100,000
pounds, and a former lord mayor had even been sentenced to the pillory,
because he would not swear falsely. Hence the courtiers and the citizens
scarce could meet in the streets with patience, or without railing and
frequent blows.

Now although I heard so much of this matter, for nothing else was talked
of, and it seeming to me more important even than the churchwardenship
of Oare, I could not for the life of me tell which side I should take
to. For all my sense of position, and of confidence reposed in me, and
of my father's opinions, lay heavily in one scale, while all my reason
and my heart went down plump against injustice, and seemed to win the
other scale. Even so my father had been, at the breaking out of the
civil war, when he was less than my age now, and even less skilled in
politics; and my mother told me after this, when she saw how I myself
was doubting, and vexed with myself for doing so, that my father used
to thank God often that he had not been called upon to take one side or
other, but might remain obscure and quiet. And yet he always considered
himself to be a good, sound Royalist.

But now as I stayed there, only desirous to be heard and to get away,
and scarcely even guessing yet what was wanted of me (for even Jeremy
Stickles knew not, or pretended not to know), things came to a dreadful
pass between the King and all the people who dared to have an opinion.
For about the middle of June, the judges gave their sentence, that the
City of London had forfeited its charter, and that its franchise should
be taken into the hands of the King. Scarcely was this judgment forth,
and all men hotly talking of it, when a far worse thing befell. News of
some great conspiracy was spread at every corner, and that a man in the
malting business had tried to take up the brewer's work, and lop the
King and the Duke of York. Everybody was shocked at this, for the King
himself was not disliked so much as his advisers; but everybody was more
than shocked, grieved indeed to the heart with pain, at hearing that
Lord William Russell and Mr. Algernon Sidney had been seized and sent to
the Tower of London, upon a charge of high treason.

Having no knowledge of these great men, nor of the matter how far it was
true, I had not very much to say about either of them or it; but this
silence was not shared (although the ignorance may have been) by the
hundreds of people around me. Such a commotion was astir, such universal
sense of wrong, and stern resolve to right it, that each man grasped his
fellow's hand, and led him into the vintner's. Even I, although at that
time given to excess in temperance, and afraid of the name of cordials,
was hard set (I do assure you) not to be drunk at intervals without
coarse discourtesy.

However, that (as Betty Muxworthy used to say, when argued down, and
ready to take the mop for it) is neither here nor there. I have naught
to do with great history and am sorry for those who have to write it;
because they are sure to have both friends and enemies in it, and cannot
act as they would towards them, without damage to their own consciences.

But as great events draw little ones, and the rattle of the churn
decides the uncertainty of the flies, so this movement of the town, and
eloquence, and passion had more than I guessed at the time, to do with
my own little fortunes. For in the first place it was fixed (perhaps
from down right contumely, because the citizens loved him so) that Lord
Russell should be tried neither at Westminster nor at Lincoln's Inn, but
at the Court of Old Bailey, within the precincts of the city. This kept
me hanging on much longer; because although the good nobleman was to be
tried by the Court of Common Pleas, yet the officers of King's Bench, to
whom I daily applied myself, were in counsel with their fellows, and put
me off from day to day.

Now I had heard of the law's delays, which the greatest of all great
poets (knowing much of the law himself, as indeed of everything) has
specially mentioned, when not expected, among the many ills of life. But
I never thought at my years to have such bitter experience of the evil;
and it seemed to me that if the lawyers failed to do their duty, they
ought to pay people for waiting upon them, instead of making them pay
for it. But here I was, now in the second month living at my own
charges in the house of a worthy fellmonger at the sign of the Seal and
Squirrel, abutting upon the Strand road which leads from Temple Bar
to Charing. Here I did very well indeed, having a mattress of good
skin-dressings, and plenty to eat every day of my life, but the butter
was something to cry 'but' thrice at (according to a conceit of our
school days), and the milk must have come from cows driven to water.
However, these evils were light compared with the heavy bill sent up to
me every Saturday afternoon; and knowing how my mother had pinched to
send me nobly to London, and had told me to spare for nothing, but live
bravely with the best of them, the tears very nearly came into my eyes,
as I thought, while I ate, of so robbing her.

At length, being quite at the end of my money, and seeing no other help
for it, I determined to listen to clerks no more, but force my way up to
the Justices, and insist upon being heard by them, or discharged from my
recognisance. For so they had termed the bond or deed which I had been
forced to execute, in the presence of a chief clerk or notary, the very
day after I came to London. And the purport of it was, that on pain of
a heavy fine or escheatment, I would hold myself ready and present, to
give evidence when called upon. Having delivered me up to sign this,
Jeremy Stickles was quit of me, and went upon other business, not but
what he was kind and good to me, when his time and pursuits allowed of
it.



CHAPTER XXV

A GREAT MAN ATTENDS TO BUSINESS

Having seen Lord Russell murdered in the fields of Lincoln's Inn, or
rather having gone to see it, but turned away with a sickness and a
bitter flood of tears--for a whiter and a nobler neck never fell
before low beast--I strode away towards Westminster, cured of half my
indignation at the death of Charles the First. Many people hurried past
me, chiefly of the more tender sort, revolting at the butchery. In their
ghastly faces, as they turned them back, lest the sight should be coming
after them, great sorrow was to be seen, and horror, and pity, and some
anger.

In Westminster Hall I found nobody; not even the crowd of crawling
varlets, who used to be craving evermore for employment or for payment.
I knocked at three doors, one after other, of lobbies going out of it,
where I had formerly seen some officers and people pressing in and out,
but for my trouble I took nothing, except some thumps from echo. And at
last an old man told me that all the lawyers were gone to see the result
of their own works, in the fields of Lincoln's Inn.

However, in a few days' time, I had better fortune; for the court was
sitting and full of business, to clear off the arrears of work, before
the lawyers' holiday. As I was waiting in the hall for a good occasion,
a man with horsehair on his head, and a long blue bag in his left hand,
touched me gently on the arm, and led me into a quiet place. I followed
him very gladly, being confident that he came to me with a message from
the Justiciaries. But after taking pains to be sure that none could
overhear us, he turned on me suddenly, and asked,--

'Now, John, how is your dear mother?'

'Worshipful sir' I answered him, after recovering from my surprise at
his knowledge of our affairs, and kindly interest in them, 'it is two
months now since I have seen her. Would to God that I only knew how she
is faring now, and how the business of the farm goes!'

'Sir, I respect and admire you,' the old gentleman replied, with a
bow very low and genteel; 'few young court-gallants of our time are so
reverent and dutiful. Oh, how I did love my mother!' Here he turned up
his eyes to heaven, in a manner that made me feel for him and yet with a
kind of wonder.

'I am very sorry for you, sir,' I answered most respectfully, not
meaning to trespass on his grief, yet wondering at his mother's age; for
he seemed to be at least threescore; 'but I am no court-gallant, sir; I
am only a farmer's son, and learning how to farm a little.'

'Enough, John; quite enough,' he cried, 'I can read it in thy
countenance. Honesty is written there, and courage and simplicity. But I
fear that, in this town of London, thou art apt to be taken in by people
of no principle. Ah me! Ah me! The world is bad, and I am too old to
improve it.'

Then finding him so good and kind, and anxious to improve the age, I
told him almost everything; how much I paid the fellmonger, and all the
things I had been to see; and how I longed to get away, before the corn
was ripening; yet how (despite of these desires) I felt myself bound to
walk up and down, being under a thing called 'recognisance.' In short,
I told him everything; except the nature of my summons (which I had no
right to tell), and that I was out of money.

My tale was told in a little archway, apart from other lawyers; and the
other lawyers seemed to me to shift themselves, and to look askew, like
sheep through a hurdle, when the rest are feeding.

'What! Good God!' my lawyer cried, smiting his breast indignantly with a
roll of something learned; 'in what country do we live? Under what
laws are we governed? No case before the court whatever; no primary
deposition, so far as we are furnished; not even a King's writ
issued--and here we have a fine young man dragged from his home and
adoring mother, during the height of agriculture, at his own cost and
charges! I have heard of many grievances; but this the very worst of
all. Nothing short of a Royal Commission could be warranty for it. This
is not only illegal, sir, but most gravely unconstitutional.'

'I had not told you, worthy sir,' I answered him, in a lower tone, 'if I
could have thought that your sense of right would be moved so painfully.
But now I must beg to leave you, sir--for I see that the door again is
open. I beg you, worshipful sir, to accept--'

Upon this he put forth his hand and said, 'Nay, nay, my son, not two,
not two:' yet looking away, that he might not scare me.

'To accept, kind sir, my very best thanks, and most respectful
remembrances.' And with that, I laid my hand in his. 'And if, sir, any
circumstances of business or of pleasure should bring you to our part
of the world, I trust you will not forget that my mother and myself (if
ever I get home again) will do our best to make you comfortable with our
poor hospitality.'

With this I was hasting away from him, but he held my hand and looked
round at me. And he spoke without cordiality.

'Young man, a general invitation is no entry for my fee book. I have
spent a good hour of business-time in mastering thy case, and stating
my opinion of it. And being a member of the bar, called six-and-thirty
years agone by the honourable society of the Inner Temple, my fee is
at my own discretion; albeit an honorarium. For the honour of the
profession, and my position in it, I ought to charge thee at least five
guineas, although I would have accepted one, offered with good will
and delicacy. Now I will enter it two, my son, and half a crown for my
clerk's fee.'

Saying this, he drew forth from his deep, blue bag, a red book having
clasps to it, and endorsed in gold letters 'Fee-book'; and before I
could speak (being frightened so) he had entered on a page of it, 'To
consideration of ease as stated by John Ridd, and advising thereupon,
two guineas.'

'But sir, good sir,' I stammered forth, not having two guineas left in
the world, yet grieving to confess it, 'I knew not that I was to pay,
learned sir. I never thought of it in that way.'

'Wounds of God! In what way thought you that a lawyer listened to your
rigmarole?'

'I thought that you listened from kindness, sir, and compassion of my
grievous case, and a sort of liking for me.'

'A lawyer like thee, young curmudgeon! A lawyer afford to feel
compassion gratis! Either thou art a very deep knave, or the greenest of
all greenhorns. Well, I suppose, I must let thee off for one guinea, and
the clerk's fee. A bad business, a shocking business!'

Now, if this man had continued kind and soft, as when he heard my story,
I would have pawned my clothes to pay him, rather than leave a debt
behind, although contracted unwittingly. But when he used harsh language
so, knowing that I did not deserve it, I began to doubt within myself
whether he deserved my money. Therefore I answered him with some
readiness, such as comes sometimes to me, although I am so slow.

'Sir, I am no curmudgeon: if a young man had called me so, it would not
have been well with him. This money shall be paid, if due, albeit I
had no desire to incur the debt. You have advised me that the Court
is liable for my expenses, so far as they be reasonable. If this be
a reasonable expense, come with me now to Lord Justice Jeffreys, and
receive from him the two guineas, or (it may be) five, for the counsel
you have given me to deny his jurisdiction.' With these words, I took
his arm to lead him, for the door was open still.

'In the name of God, boy, let me go. Worthy sir, pray let me go. My wife
is sick, and my daughter dying--in the name of God, sir, let me go.'

'Nay, nay,' I said, having fast hold of him, 'I cannot let thee go
unpaid, sir. Right is right; and thou shalt have it.'

'Ruin is what I shall have, boy, if you drag me before that devil. He
will strike me from the bar at once, and starve me, and all my family.
Here, lad, good lad, take these two guineas. Thou hast despoiled
the spoiler. Never again will I trust mine eyes for knowledge of a
greenhorn.'

He slipped two guineas into the hand which I had hooked through his
elbow, and spoke in an urgent whisper again, for the people came
crowding around us--'For God's sake let me go, boy; another moment will
be too late.'

'Learned sir,' I answered him, 'twice you spoke, unless I err, of the
necessity of a clerk's fee, as a thing to be lamented.'

'To be sure, to be sure, my son. You have a clerk as much as I have.
There it is. Now I pray thee, take to the study of the law. Possession
is nine points of it, which thou hast of me. Self-possession is the
tenth, and that thou hast more than the other nine.'

Being flattered by this, and by the feeling of the two guineas and
half-crown, I dropped my hold upon Counsellor Kitch (for he was no less
a man than that), and he was out of sight in a second of time, wig, blue
bag, and family. And before I had time to make up my mind what I should
do with his money (for of course I meant not to keep it) the crier of
the Court (as they told me) came out, and wanted to know who I was. I
told him, as shortly as I could, that my business lay with His Majesty's
bench, and was very confidential; upon which he took me inside with
warning, and showed me to an under-clerk, who showed me to a higher one,
and the higher clerk to the head one.

When this gentleman understood all about my business (which I told him
without complaint) he frowned at me very heavily, as if I had done him
an injury.

'John Ridd,' he asked me with a stern glance, 'is it your deliberate
desire to be brought into the presence of the Lord Chief Justice?'

'Surely, sir, it has been my desire for the last two months and more.'

'Then, John, thou shalt be. But mind one thing, not a word of thy long
detention, or thou mayst get into trouble.'

'How, sir? For being detained against my own wish?' I asked him; but he
turned away, as if that matter were not worth his arguing, as, indeed, I
suppose it was not, and led me through a little passage to a door with a
curtain across it.

'Now, if my Lord cross-question you,' the gentleman whispered to me,
'answer him straight out truth at once, for he will have it out of
thee. And mind, he loves not to be contradicted, neither can he bear a
hang-dog look. Take little heed of the other two; but note every word of
the middle one; and never make him speak twice.'

I thanked him for his good advice, as he moved the curtain and thrust me
in, but instead of entering withdrew, and left me to bear the brunt of
it.

The chamber was not very large, though lofty to my eyes, and dark, with
wooden panels round it. At the further end were some raised seats, such
as I have seen in churches, lined with velvet, and having broad elbows,
and a canopy over the middle seat. There were only three men sitting
here, one in the centre, and one on each side; and all three were done
up wonderfully with fur, and robes of state, and curls of thick gray
horsehair, crimped and gathered, and plaited down to their shoulders.
Each man had an oak desk before him, set at a little distance, and
spread with pens and papers. Instead of writing, however, they seemed
to be laughing and talking, or rather the one in the middle seemed to
be telling some good story, which the others received with approval. By
reason of their great perukes it was hard to tell how old they were; but
the one who was speaking seemed the youngest, although he was the chief
of them. A thick-set, burly, and bulky man, with a blotchy broad face,
and great square jaws, and fierce eyes full of blazes; he was one to be
dreaded by gentle souls, and to be abhorred by the noble.

Between me and the three lord judges, some few lawyers were gathering up
bags and papers and pens and so forth, from a narrow table in the middle
of the room, as if a case had been disposed of, and no other were called
on. But before I had time to look round twice, the stout fierce man
espied me, and shouted out with a flashing stare'--

'How now, countryman, who art thou?'

'May it please your worship,' I answered him loudly, 'I am John Ridd, of
Oare parish, in the shire of Somerset, brought to this London, some two
months back by a special messenger, whose name is Jeremy Stickles;
and then bound over to be at hand and ready, when called upon to give
evidence, in a matter unknown to me, but touching the peace of our lord
the King, and the well-being of his subjects. Three times I have met our
lord the King, but he hath said nothing about his peace, and only held
it towards me, and every day, save Sunday, I have walked up and down the
great hall of Westminster, all the business part of the day, expecting
to be called upon, yet no one hath called upon me. And now I desire to
ask your worship, whether I may go home again?'

'Well, done, John,' replied his lordship, while I was panting with all
this speech; 'I will go bail for thee, John, thou hast never made such
a long speech before; and thou art a spunky Briton, or thou couldst not
have made it now. I remember the matter well, and I myself will attend
to it, although it arose before my time'--he was but newly Chief
Justice--'but I cannot take it now, John. There is no fear of losing
thee, John, any more than the Tower of London. I grieve for His
Majesty's exchequer, after keeping thee two months or more.'

'Nay, my lord, I crave your pardon. My mother hath been keeping me. Not
a groat have I received.'

'Spank, is it so?' his lordship cried, in a voice that shook the
cobwebs, and the frown on his brow shook the hearts of men, and mine as
much as the rest of them,--'Spank, is His Majesty come to this, that he
starves his own approvers?'

'My lord, my lord,' whispered Mr. Spank, the chief-officer of evidence,
'the thing hath been overlooked, my lord, among such grave matters of
treason.'

'I will overlook thy head, foul Spank, on a spike from Temple Bar, if
ever I hear of the like again. Vile varlet, what art thou paid for? Thou
hast swindled the money thyself, foul Spank; I know thee, though thou
art new to me. Bitter is the day for thee that ever I came across thee.
Answer me not--one word more and I will have thee on a hurdle.' And he
swung himself to and fro on his bench, with both hands on his knees; and
every man waited to let it pass, knowing better than to speak to him.

'John Ridd,' said the Lord Chief Justice, at last recovering a sort of
dignity, yet daring Spank from the corners of his eyes to do so much as
look at him, 'thou hast been shamefully used, John Ridd. Answer me not
boy; not a word; but go to Master Spank, and let me know how he behaves
to thee;' here he made a glance at Spank, which was worth at least ten
pounds to me; 'be thou here again to-morrow, and before any other case
is taken, I will see justice done to thee. Now be off boy; thy name is
Ridd, and we are well rid of thee.'

I was only too glad to go, after all this tempest; as you may well
suppose. For if ever I saw a man's eyes become two holes for the devil
to glare from, I saw it that day; and the eyes were those of the Lord
Chief Justice Jeffreys.

Mr. Spank was in the lobby before me, and before I had recovered
myself--for I was vexed with my own terror--he came up sidling and
fawning to me, with a heavy bag of yellow leather.

'Good Master Ridd, take it all, take it all, and say a good word for me
to his lordship. He hath taken a strange fancy to thee; and thou must
make the most of it. We never saw man meet him eye to eye so, and yet
not contradict him, and that is just what he loveth. Abide in London,
Master Ridd, and he will make thy fortune. His joke upon thy name proves
that. And I pray you remember, Master Ridd, that the Spanks are sixteen
in family.'

But I would not take the bag from him, regarding it as a sort of bribe
to pay me such a lump of money, without so much as asking how great had
been my expenses. Therefore I only told him that if he would kindly keep
the cash for me until the morrow, I would spend the rest of the day in
counting (which always is sore work with me) how much it had stood me in
board and lodging, since Master Stickles had rendered me up; for until
that time he had borne my expenses. In the morning I would give Mr.
Spank a memorandum, duly signed, and attested by my landlord, including
the breakfast of that day, and in exchange for this I would take the
exact amount from the yellow bag, and be very thankful for it.

'If that is thy way of using opportunity,' said Spank, looking at me
with some contempt, 'thou wilt never thrive in these times, my lad. Even
the Lord Chief Justice can be little help to thee; unless thou knowest
better than that how to help thyself.'

It mattered not to me. The word 'approver' stuck in my gorge, as used
by the Lord Chief Justice; for we looked upon an approver as a very low
thing indeed. I would rather pay for every breakfast, and even every
dinner, eaten by me since here I came, than take money as an approver.
And indeed I was much disappointed at being taken in that light, having
understood that I was sent for as a trusty subject, and humble friend of
His Majesty.

In the morning I met Mr. Spank waiting for me at the entrance, and very
desirous to see me. I showed him my bill, made out in fair copy, and
he laughed at it, and said, 'Take it twice over, Master Ridd; once for
thine own sake, and once for His Majesty's; as all his loyal tradesmen
do, when they can get any. His Majesty knows and is proud of it, for
it shows their love of his countenance; and he says, "bis dat qui cito
dat," then how can I grumble at giving twice, when I give so slowly?'

'Nay, I will take it but once,' I said; 'if His Majesty loves to be
robbed, he need not lack of his desire, while the Spanks are sixteen in
family.'

The clerk smiled cheerfully at this, being proud of his children's
ability; and then having paid my account, he whispered,--

'He is all alone this morning, John, and in rare good humour. He hath
been promised the handling of poor Master Algernon Sidney, and he
says he will soon make republic of him; for his state shall shortly be
headless. He is chuckling over his joke, like a pig with a nut; and that
always makes him pleasant. John Ridd, my lord!' With that he swung up
the curtain bravely, and according to special orders, I stood, face to
face, and alone with Judge Jeffreys.



CHAPTER XXVI

JOHN IS DRAINED AND CAST ASIDE

His lordship was busy with some letters, and did not look up for a
minute or two, although he knew that I was there. Meanwhile I stood
waiting to make my bow; afraid to begin upon him, and wondering at his
great bull-head. Then he closed his letters, well-pleased with their
import, and fixed his bold broad stare on me, as if I were an oyster
opened, and he would know how fresh I was.

'May it please your worship,' I said, 'here I am according to order,
awaiting your good pleasure.'

'Thou art made to weight, John, more than order. How much dost thou tip
the scales to?'

'Only twelvescore pounds, my lord, when I be in wrestling trim. And sure
I must have lost weight here, fretting so long in London.'

'Ha, ha! Much fret is there in thee! Hath His Majesty seen thee?'

'Yes, my lord, twice or even thrice; and he made some jest concerning
me.'

'A very bad one, I doubt not. His humour is not so dainty as mine, but
apt to be coarse and unmannerly. Now John, or Jack, by the look of thee,
thou art more used to be called.'

'Yes, your worship, when I am with old Molly and Betty Muxworthy.'

'Peace, thou forward varlet! There is a deal too much of thee. We shall
have to try short commons with thee, and thou art a very long common.
Ha, ha! Where is that rogue Spank? Spank must hear that by-and-by. It is
beyond thy great thick head, Jack.'

'Not so, my lord; I have been at school, and had very bad jokes made
upon me.'

'Ha, ha! It hath hit thee hard. And faith, it would be hard to miss
thee, even with harpoon. And thou lookest like to blubber, now. Capital,
in faith! I have thee on every side, Jack, and thy sides are manifold;
many-folded at any rate. Thou shalt have double expenses, Jack, for the
wit thou hast provoked in me.'

'Heavy goods lack heavy payment, is a proverb down our way, my lord.'

'Ah, I hurt thee, I hurt thee, Jack. The harpoon hath no tickle for
thee. Now, Jack Whale, having hauled thee hard, we will proceed to
examine thee.' Here all his manner was changed, and he looked with his
heavy brows bent upon me, as if he had never laughed in his life, and
would allow none else to do so.

'I am ready to answer, my lord,' I replied, 'if he asks me nought beyond
my knowledge, or beyond my honour.'

'Hadst better answer me everything, lump. What hast thou to do with
honour? Now is there in thy neighbourhood a certain nest of robbers,
miscreants, and outlaws, whom all men fear to handle?'

'Yes, my lord. At least, I believe some of them be robbers, and all of
them are outlaws.'

'And what is your high sheriff about, that he doth not hang them all? Or
send them up for me to hang, without more to do about them?'

'I reckon that he is afraid, my lord; it is not safe to meddle with
them. They are of good birth, and reckless; and their place is very
strong.'

'Good birth! What was Lord Russell of, Lord Essex, and this Sidney? 'Tis
the surest heirship to the block to be the chip of a good one. What is
the name of this pestilent race, and how many of them are there?'

'They are the Doones of Bagworthy forest, may it please your worship.
And we reckon there be about forty of them, beside the women and
children.'

'Forty Doones, all forty thieves! and women and children! Thunder of
God! How long have they been there then?'

'They may have been there thirty years, my lord; and indeed they may
have been forty. Before the great war broke out they came, longer back
than I can remember.'

'Ay, long before thou wast born, John. Good, thou speakest plainly.
Woe betide a liar, whenso I get hold of him. Ye want me on the Western
Circuit; by God, and ye shall have me, when London traitors are spun and
swung. There is a family called De Whichehalse living very nigh thee,
John?'

This he said in a sudden manner, as if to take me off my guard, and
fixed his great thick eyes on me. And in truth I was much astonished.

'Yes, my lord, there is. At least, not so very far from us. Baron de
Whichehalse, of Ley Manor.'

'Baron, ha! of the Exchequer--eh, lad? And taketh dues instead of His
Majesty. Somewhat which halts there ought to come a little further, I
trow. It shall be seen to, as well as the witch which makes it so to
halt. Riotous knaves in West England, drunken outlaws, you shall dance,
if ever I play pipe for you. John Ridd, I will come to Oare parish, and
rout out the Oare of Babylon.'

'Although your worship is so learned,' I answered seeing that now he
was beginning to make things uneasy; 'your worship, though being Chief
Justice, does little justice to us. We are downright good and loyal
folk; and I have not seen, since here I came to this great town of
London, any who may better us, or even come anigh us, in honesty, and
goodness, and duty to our neighbours. For we are very quiet folk, not
prating our own virtues--'

'Enough, good John, enough! Knowest thou not that modesty is the
maidenhood of virtue, lost even by her own approval? Now hast thou ever
heard or thought that De Whichehalse is in league with the Doones of
Bagworthy?'

Saying these words rather slowly, he skewered his great eyes into mine,
so that I could not think at all, neither look at him, nor yet away.
The idea was so new to me that it set my wits all wandering; and looking
into me, he saw that I was groping for the truth.

'John Ridd, thine eyes are enough for me. I see thou hast never dreamed
of it. Now hast thou ever seen a man whose name is Thomas Faggus?'

'Yes, sir, many and many a time. He is my own worthy cousin; and I fear
he that hath intentions'--here I stopped, having no right there to speak
about our Annie.

'Tom Faggus is a good man,' he said; and his great square face had a
smile which showed me he had met my cousin; 'Master Faggus hath made
mistakes as to the title to property, as lawyers oftentimes may do; but
take him all for all, he is a thoroughly straightforward man; presents
his bill, and has it paid, and makes no charge for drawing it.
Nevertheless, we must tax his costs, as of any other solicitor.'

'To be sure, to be sure, my lord!' was all that I could say, not
understanding what all this meant.

'I fear he will come to the gallows,' said the Lord Chief Justice,
sinking his voice below the echoes; 'tell him this from me, Jack. He
shall never be condemned before me; but I cannot be everywhere, and some
of our Justices may keep short memory of his dinners. Tell him to change
his name, turn parson, or do something else, to make it wrong to hang
him. Parson is the best thing, he hath such command of features, and he
might take his tithes on horseback. Now a few more things, John Ridd;
and for the present I have done with thee.'

All my heart leaped up at this, to get away from London so: and yet I
could hardly trust to it.

'Is there any sound round your way of disaffection to His Majesty, His
most gracious Majesty?'

'No, my lord: no sign whatever. We pray for him in church perhaps,
and we talk about him afterwards, hoping it may do him good, as it is
intended. But after that we have naught to say, not knowing much about
him--at least till I get home again.'

'That is as it should be, John. And the less you say the better. But I
have heard of things in Taunton, and even nearer to you in Dulverton,
and even nigher still upon Exmoor; things which are of the pillory
kind, and even more of the gallows. I see that you know naught of them.
Nevertheless, it will not be long before all England hears of them. Now,
John, I have taken a liking to thee, for never man told me the truth,
without fear or favour, more thoroughly and truly than thou hast done.
Keep thou clear of this, my son. It will come to nothing; yet many shall
swing high for it. Even I could not save thee, John Ridd, if thou wert
mixed in this affair. Keep from the Doones, keep from De Whichehalse,
keep from everything which leads beyond the sight of thy knowledge. I
meant to use thee as my tool; but I see thou art too honest and simple.
I will send a sharper down; but never let me find thee, John, either a
tool for the other side, or a tube for my words to pass through.'

Here the Lord Justice gave me such a glare that I wished myself well
rid of him, though thankful for his warnings; and seeing how he had
made upon me a long abiding mark of fear, he smiled again in a jocular
manner, and said,--

'Now, get thee gone, Jack. I shall remember thee; and I trow, thou
wilt'st not for many a day forget me.'

'My lord, I was never so glad to go; for the hay must be in, and the
ricks unthatched, and none of them can make spars like me, and two men
to twist every hay-rope, and mother thinking it all right, and listening
right and left to lies, and cheated at every pig she kills, and even the
skins of the sheep to go--'

'John Ridd, I thought none could come nigh your folk in honesty, and
goodness, and duty to their neighbours!'

'Sure enough, my lord; but by our folk, I mean ourselves, not the men
nor women neither--'

'That will do, John. Go thy way. Not men, nor women neither, are better
than they need be.'

I wished to set this matter right; but his worship would not hear me,
and only drove me out of court, saying that men were thieves and liars,
no more in one place than another, but all alike all over the world,
and women not far behind them. It was not for me to dispute this point
(though I was not yet persuaded of it), both because my lord was a
Judge, and must know more about it, and also that being a man myself I
might seem to be defending myself in an unbecoming manner. Therefore I
made a low bow, and went; in doubt as to which had the right of it.

But though he had so far dismissed me, I was not yet quite free to
go, inasmuch as I had not money enough to take me all the way to Oare,
unless indeed I should go afoot, and beg my sustenance by the way, which
seemed to be below me. Therefore I got my few clothes packed, and my few
debts paid, all ready to start in half an hour, if only they would give
me enough to set out upon the road with. For I doubted not, being young
and strong, that I could walk from London to Oare in ten days or in
twelve at most, which was not much longer than horse-work; only I had
been a fool, as you will say when you hear it. For after receiving from
Master Spank the amount of the bill which I had delivered--less indeed
by fifty shillings than the money my mother had given me, for I had
spent fifty shillings, and more, in seeing the town and treating people,
which I could not charge to His Majesty--I had first paid all my debts
thereout, which were not very many, and then supposing myself to be an
established creditor of the Treasury for my coming needs, and already
scenting the country air, and foreseeing the joy of my mother, what had
I done but spent half my balance, ay and more than three-quarters of it,
upon presents for mother, and Annie, and Lizzie, John Fry, and his wife,
and Betty Muxworthy, Bill Dadds, Jim Slocombe, and, in a word, half of
the rest of the people at Oare, including all the Snowe family, who must
have things good and handsome? And if I must while I am about it, hide
nothing from those who read me, I had actually bought for Lorna a thing
the price of which quite frightened me, till the shopkeeper said it was
nothing at all, and that no young man, with a lady to love him, could
dare to offer her rubbish, such as the Jew sold across the way. Now the
mere idea of beautiful Lorna ever loving me, which he talked about as
patly (though of course I never mentioned her) as if it were a settled
thing, and he knew all about it, that mere idea so drove me abroad,
that if he had asked three times as much, I could never have counted the
money.

Now in all this I was a fool of course--not for remembering my friends
and neighbours, which a man has a right to do, and indeed is bound to
do, when he comes from London--but for not being certified first what
cash I had to go on with. And to my great amazement, when I went with
another bill for the victuals of only three days more, and a week's
expense on the homeward road reckoned very narrowly, Master Spank not
only refused to grant me any interview, but sent me out a piece of blue
paper, looking like a butcher's ticket, and bearing these words and no
more, 'John Ridd, go to the devil. He who will not when he may, when he
will, he shall have nay.' From this I concluded that I had lost favour
in the sight of Chief Justice Jeffreys. Perhaps because my evidence had
not proved of any value! perhaps because he meant to let the matter lie,
till cast on him.

Anyhow, it was a reason of much grief, and some anger to me, and very
great anxiety, disappointment, and suspense. For here was the time of
the hay gone past, and the harvest of small corn coming on, and the
trout now rising at the yellow Sally, and the blackbirds eating our
white-heart cherries (I was sure, though I could not see them), and who
was to do any good for mother, or stop her from weeping continually? And
more than this, what was become of Lorna? Perhaps she had cast me away
altogether, as a flouter and a changeling; perhaps she had drowned
herself in the black well; perhaps (and that was worst of all) she was
even married, child as she was, to that vile Carver Doone, if the Doones
ever cared about marrying! That last thought sent me down at once to
watch for Mr. Spank again, resolved that if I could catch him, spank him
I would to a pretty good tune, although sixteen in family.

However, there was no such thing as to find him; and the usher vowed
(having orders I doubt) that he was gone to the sea for the good of his
health, having sadly overworked himself; and that none but a poor devil
like himself, who never had handling of money, would stay in London this
foul, hot weather; which was likely to bring the plague with it. Here
was another new terror for me, who had heard of the plagues of London,
and the horrible things that happened; and so going back to my lodgings
at once, I opened my clothes and sought for spots, especially as being
so long at a hairy fellmonger's; but finding none, I fell down and
thanked God for that same, and vowed to start for Oare to-morrow, with
my carbine loaded, come weal come woe, come sun come shower; though all
the parish should laugh at me, for begging my way home again, after the
brave things said of my going, as if I had been the King's cousin.

But I was saved in some degree from this lowering of my pride, and what
mattered more, of mother's; for going to buy with my last crown-piece
(after all demands were paid) a little shot and powder, more needful on
the road almost than even shoes or victuals, at the corner of the street
I met my good friend Jeremy Stickles, newly come in search of me. I took
him back to my little room--mine at least till to-morrow morning--and
told him all my story, and how much I felt aggrieved by it. But he
surprised me very much, by showing no surprise at all.

'It is the way of the world, Jack. They have gotten all they can from
thee, and why should they feed thee further? We feed not a dead pig, I
trow, but baste him well with brine and rue. Nay, we do not victual him
upon the day of killing; which they have done to thee. Thou art a lucky
man, John; thou hast gotten one day's wages, or at any rate half a day,
after thy work was rendered. God have mercy on me, John! The things I
see are manifold; and so is my regard of them. What use to insist on
this, or make a special point of that, or hold by something said of old,
when a different mood was on? I tell thee, Jack, all men are liars; and
he is the least one who presses not too hard on them for lying.'

This was all quite dark to me, for I never looked at things like that,
and never would own myself a liar, not at least to other people, nor
even to myself, although I might to God sometimes, when trouble was upon
me. And if it comes to that, no man has any right to be called a 'liar'
for smoothing over things unwitting, through duty to his neighbour.

'Five pounds thou shalt have, Jack,' said Jeremy Stickles suddenly,
while I was all abroad with myself as to being a liar or not; 'five
pounds, and I will take my chance of wringing it from that great rogue
Spank. Ten I would have made it, John, but for bad luck lately. Put back
your bits of paper, lad; I will have no acknowledgment. John Ridd, no
nonsense with me!'

For I was ready to kiss his hand, to think that any man in London (the
meanest and most suspicious place, upon all God's earth) should trust me
with five pounds, without even a receipt for it! It overcame me so that
I sobbed; for, after all, though big in body, I am but a child at heart.
It was not the five pounds that moved me, but the way of giving it; and
after so much bitter talk, the great trust in my goodness.



CHAPTER XXVII

HOME AGAIN AT LAST

It was the beginning of wheat-harvest, when I came to Dunster town,
having walked all the way from London, and being somewhat footsore. For
though five pounds was enough to keep me in food and lodging upon the
road, and leave me many a shilling to give to far poorer travellers, it
would have been nothing for horse-hire, as I knew too well by the prices
Jeremy Stickles had paid upon our way to London. Now I never saw a
prettier town than Dunster looked that evening; for sooth to say, I had
almost lost all hope of reaching it that night, although the castle was
long in view. But being once there, my troubles were gone, at least as
regarded wayfaring; for mother's cousin, the worthy tanner (with whom we
had slept on the way to London), was in such indignation at the plight
in which I came back to him, afoot, and weary, and almost shoeless--not
to speak of upper things--that he swore then, by the mercy of God, that
if the schemes abrewing round him, against those bloody Papists, should
come to any head or shape, and show good chance of succeeding, he would
risk a thousand pounds, as though it were a penny.

I told him not to do it, because I had heard otherwise, but was not at
liberty to tell one-tenth of what I knew, and indeed had seen in London
town. But of this he took no heed, because I only nodded at him; and
he could not make it out. For it takes an old man, or at least a
middle-aged one, to nod and wink, with any power on the brains of other
men. However, I think I made him know that the bad state in which I came
to his town, and the great shame I had wrought for him among the folk
round the card-table at the Luttrell Arms, was not to be, even there,
attributed to King Charles the Second, nor even to his counsellors, but
to my own speed of travelling, which had beat post-horses. For being
much distraught in mind, and desperate in body, I had made all the way
from London to Dunster in six days, and no more. It may be one hundred
and seventy miles, I cannot tell to a furlong or two, especially as I
lost my way more than a dozen times; but at any rate there in six days
I was, and most kindly they received me. The tanner had some excellent
daughters, I forget how many; very pretty damsels, and well set up, and
able to make good pastry. But though they asked me many questions, and
made a sort of lord of me, and offered to darn my stockings (which in
truth required it), I fell asleep in the midst of them, although I would
not acknowledge it; and they said, 'Poor cousin! he is weary', and led
me to a blessed bed, and kissed me all round like swan's down.

In the morning all the Exmoor hills, the thought of which had frightened
me at the end of each day's travel, seemed no more than bushels to me,
as I looked forth the bedroom window, and thanked God for the sight of
them. And even so, I had not to climb them, at least by my own labour.
For my most worthy uncle (as we oft call a parent's cousin), finding it
impossible to keep me for the day, and owning indeed that I was right
in hastening to my mother, vowed that walk I should not, even though he
lost his Saturday hides from Minehead and from Watchett. Accordingly he
sent me forth on the very strongest nag he had, and the maidens came
to wish me God-speed, and kissed their hands at the doorway. It made
me proud and glad to think that after seeing so much of the world, and
having held my own with it, I was come once more among my own people,
and found them kinder, and more warm-hearted, ay and better looking too,
than almost any I had happened upon in the mighty city of London.

But how shall I tell you the things I felt, and the swelling of my heart
within me, as I drew nearer, and more near, to the place of all I loved
and owned, to the haunt of every warm remembrance, the nest of all the
fledgling hopes--in a word, to home? The first sheep I beheld on the
moor with a great red J.R. on his side (for mother would have them
marked with my name, instead of her own as they should have been), I do
assure you my spirit leaped, and all my sight came to my eyes. I shouted
out, 'Jem, boy!'--for that was his name, and a rare hand he was at
fighting--and he knew me in spite of the stranger horse; and I leaned
over and stroked his head, and swore he should never be mutton. And when
I was passed he set off at full gallop, to call the rest of the J.R.'s
together, and tell them young master was come home at last.

But bless your heart, and my own as well, it would take me all the
afternoon to lay before you one-tenth of the things which came home to
me in that one half-hour, as the sun was sinking, in the real way he
ought to sink. I touched my horse with no spur nor whip, feeling that my
slow wits would go, if the sights came too fast over them. Here was
the pool where we washed the sheep, and there was the hollow that oozed
away, where I had shot three wild ducks. Here was the peat-rick that hid
my dinner, when I could not go home for it, and there was the bush with
the thyme growing round it, where Annie had found a great swarm of our
bees. And now was the corner of the dry stone wall, where the moor gave
over in earnest, and the partridges whisked from it into the corn lands,
and called that their supper was ready, and looked at our house and the
ricks as they ran, and would wait for that comfort till winter.

And there I saw--but let me go--Annie was too much for me. She nearly
pulled me off my horse, and kissed the very mouth of the carbine.

'I knew you would come. Oh John! Oh John! I have waited here every
Saturday night; and I saw you for the last mile or more, but I would not
come round the corner, for fear that I should cry, John, and then not
cry when I got you. Now I may cry as much as I like, and you need
not try to stop me, John, because I am so happy. But you mustn't cry
yourself, John; what will mother think of you? She will be so jealous of
me.'

What mother thought I cannot tell; and indeed I doubt if she thought at
all for more than half an hour, but only managed to hold me tight, and
cry, and thank God now and then, but with some fear of His taking me,
if she should be too grateful. Moreover she thought it was my own
doing, and I ought to have the credit of it, and she even came down very
sharply upon John's wife, Mrs. Fry, for saying that we must not be too
proud, for all of it was the Lord's doing. However, dear mother was
ashamed of that afterwards, and asked Mrs. Fry's humble pardon; and
perhaps I ought not to have mentioned it.

Old Smiler had told them that I was coming--all the rest, I mean, except
Annie--for having escaped from his halter-ring, he was come out to graze
in the lane a bit; when what should he see but a strange horse coming
with young master and mistress upon him, for Annie must needs get up
behind me, there being only sheep to look at her. Then Smiler gave us
a stare and a neigh, with his tail quite stiff with amazement, and then
(whether in joy or through indignation) he flung up his hind feet and
galloped straight home, and set every dog wild with barking.

Now, methinks, quite enough has been said concerning this mighty return
of the young John Ridd (which was known up at Cosgate that evening), and
feeling that I cannot describe it, how can I hope that any one else will
labour to imagine it, even of the few who are able? For very few can
have travelled so far, unless indeed they whose trade it is, or very
unsettled people. And even of those who have done so, not one in a
hundred can have such a home as I had to come home to.

Mother wept again, with grief and some wrath, and so did Annie also, and
even little Eliza, and all were unsettled in loyalty, and talked about
a republic, when I told them how I had been left without money for
travelling homeward, and expected to have to beg my way, which Farmer
Snowe would have heard of. And though I could see they were disappointed
at my failure of any promotion, they all declared how glad they were,
and how much better they liked me to be no more than what they were
accustomed to. At least, my mother and Annie said so, without waiting
to hear any more; but Lizzie did not answer to it, until I had opened my
bag and shown the beautiful present I had for her. And then she kissed
me, almost like Annie, and vowed that she thought very little of
captains.

For Lizzie's present was the best of all, I mean, of course, except
Lorna's (which I carried in my breast all the way, hoping that it might
make her love me, from having lain so long, close to my heart). For I
had brought Lizzie something dear, and a precious heavy book it was,
and much beyond my understanding; whereas I knew well that to both the
others my gifts would be dear, for mine own sake. And happier people
could not be found than the whole of us were that evening.



CHAPTER XXVIII

JOHN HAS HOPE OF LORNA

Much as I longed to know more about Lorna, and though all my heart was
yearning, I could not reconcile it yet with my duty to mother and Annie,
to leave them on the following day, which happened to be a Sunday. For
lo, before breakfast was out of our mouths, there came all the men of
the farm, and their wives, and even the two crow-boys, dressed as if
going to Barnstaple fair, to inquire how Master John was, and whether
it was true that the King had made him one of his body-guard; and if
so, what was to be done with the belt for the championship of the
West-Counties wrestling, which I had held now for a year or more, and
none were ready to challenge it. Strange to say, this last point seemed
the most important of all to them; and none asked who was to manage the
farm, or answer for their wages; but all asked who was to wear the belt.

To this I replied, after shaking hands twice over all round with all
of them, that I meant to wear the belt myself, for the honour of
Oare parish, so long as ever God gave me strength and health to meet
all-comers; for I had never been asked to be body-guard, and if asked
I would never have done it. Some of them cried that the King must be
mazed, not to keep me for his protection, in these violent times of
Popery. I could have told them that the King was not in the least afraid
of Papists, but on the contrary, very fond of them; however, I held my
tongue, remembering what Judge Jeffreys bade me.

In church, the whole congregation, man, woman, and child (except,
indeed, the Snowe girls, who only looked when I was not watching),
turned on me with one accord, and stared so steadfastly, to get some
reflection of the King from me, that they forgot the time to kneel down
and the parson was forced to speak to them. If I coughed, or moved
my book, or bowed, or even said 'Amen,' glances were exchanged which
meant--'That he hath learned in London town, and most likely from His
Majesty.'

However, all this went off in time, and people became even angry with
me for not being sharper (as they said), or smarter, or a whit more
fashionable, for all the great company I had seen, and all the wondrous
things wasted upon me.

But though I may have been none the wiser by reason of my stay in
London, at any rate I was much the better in virtue of coming home
again. For now I had learned the joy of quiet, and the gratitude for
good things round us, and the love we owe to others (even those who must
be kind), for their indulgence to us. All this, before my journey, had
been too much as a matter of course to me; but having missed it now I
knew that it was a gift, and might be lost. Moreover, I had pined so
much, in the dust and heat of that great town, for trees, and fields,
and running waters, and the sounds of country life, and the air
of country winds, that never more could I grow weary of those soft
enjoyments; or at least I thought so then.

To awake as the summer sun came slanting over the hill-tops, with hope
on every beam adance to the laughter of the morning; to see the leaves
across the window ruffling on the fresh new air, and the tendrils of the
powdery vine turning from their beaded sleep. Then the lustrous meadows
far beyond the thatch of the garden-wall, yet seen beneath the hanging
scollops of the walnut-tree, all awaking, dressed in pearl, all amazed
at their own glistening, like a maid at her own ideas. Down them troop
the lowing kine, walking each with a step of character (even as men and
women do), yet all alike with toss of horns, and spread of udders ready.
From them without a word, we turn to the farm-yard proper, seen on the
right, and dryly strawed from the petty rush of the pitch-paved runnel.
Round it stand the snug out-buildings, barn, corn-chamber, cider-press,
stables, with a blinker'd horse in every doorway munching, while his
driver tightens buckles, whistles and looks down the lane, dallying
to begin his labour till the milkmaids be gone by. Here the cock
comes forth at last;--where has he been lingering?--eggs may tell
to-morrow--he claps his wings and shouts 'cock-a-doodle'; and no other
cock dare look at him. Two or three go sidling off, waiting till their
spurs be grown; and then the crowd of partlets comes, chattering how
their lord has dreamed, and crowed at two in the morning, and praying
that the old brown rat would only dare to face him. But while the cock
is crowing still, and the pullet world admiring him, who comes up but
the old turkey-cock, with all his family round him. Then the geese
at the lower end begin to thrust their breasts out, and mum their
down-bits, and look at the gander and scream shrill joy for the
conflict; while the ducks in pond show nothing but tail, in proof of
their strict neutrality.

While yet we dread for the coming event, and the fight which would jar
on the morning, behold the grandmother of sows, gruffly grunting right
and left with muzzle which no ring may tame (not being matrimonial),
hulks across between the two, moving all each side at once, and then all
of the other side as if she were chined down the middle, and afraid
of spilling the salt from her. As this mighty view of lard hides each
combatant from the other, gladly each retires and boasts how he would
have slain his neighbour, but that old sow drove the other away, and no
wonder he was afraid of her, after all the chicks she had eaten.

And so it goes on; and so the sun comes, stronger from his drink of dew;
and the cattle in the byres, and the horses from the stable, and the men
from cottage-door, each has had his rest and food, all smell alike of
hay and straw, and every one must hie to work, be it drag, or draw, or
delve.

So thought I on the Monday morning; while my own work lay before me,
and I was plotting how to quit it, void of harm to every one, and let my
love have work a little--hardest perhaps of all work, and yet as sure as
sunrise. I knew that my first day's task on the farm would be strictly
watched by every one, even by my gentle mother, to see what I had
learned in London. But could I let still another day pass, for Lorna to
think me faithless?

I felt much inclined to tell dear mother all about Lorna, and how I
loved her, yet had no hope of winning her. Often and often, I had
longed to do this, and have done with it. But the thought of my father's
terrible death, at the hands of the Doones, prevented me. And it seemed
to me foolish and mean to grieve mother, without any chance of my suit
ever speeding. If once Lorna loved me, my mother should know it; and it
would be the greatest happiness to me to have no concealment from her,
though at first she was sure to grieve terribly. But I saw no more
chance of Lorna loving me, than of the man in the moon coming down; or
rather of the moon coming down to the man, as related in old mythology.

Now the merriment of the small birds, and the clear voice of the waters,
and the lowing of cattle in meadows, and the view of no houses (except
just our own and a neighbour's), and the knowledge of everybody around,
their kindness of heart and simplicity, and love of their neighbour's
doings,--all these could not help or please me at all, and many of them
were much against me, in my secret depth of longing and dark tumult of
the mind. Many people may think me foolish, especially after coming from
London, where many nice maids looked at me (on account of my bulk and
stature), and I might have been fitted up with a sweetheart, in spite of
my west-country twang, and the smallness of my purse; if only I had
said the word. But nay; I have contempt for a man whose heart is like
a shirt-stud (such as I saw in London cards), fitted into one to-day,
sitting bravely on the breast; plucked out on the morrow morn, and the
place that knew it, gone.

Now, what did I do but take my chance; reckless whether any one heeded
me or not, only craving Lorna's heed, and time for ten words to her.
Therefore I left the men of the farm as far away as might be, after
making them work with me (which no man round our parts could do, to his
own satisfaction), and then knowing them to be well weary, very unlike
to follow me--and still more unlike to tell of me, for each had his
London present--I strode right away, in good trust of my speed, without
any more misgivings; but resolved to face the worst of it, and to try to
be home for supper.

And first I went, I know not why, to the crest of the broken highland,
whence I had agreed to watch for any mark or signal. And sure enough at
last I saw (when it was too late to see) that the white stone had been
covered over with a cloth or mantle,--the sign that something had arisen
to make Lorna want me. For a moment I stood amazed at my evil fortune;
that I should be too late, in the very thing of all things on which my
heart was set! Then after eyeing sorrowfully every crick and cranny to
be sure that not a single flutter of my love was visible, off I set,
with small respect either for my knees or neck, to make the round of the
outer cliffs, and come up my old access.

Nothing could stop me; it was not long, although to me it seemed an
age, before I stood in the niche of rock at the head of the slippery
watercourse, and gazed into the quiet glen, where my foolish heart was
dwelling. Notwithstanding doubts of right, notwithstanding sense of
duty, and despite all manly striving, and the great love of my home,
there my heart was ever dwelling, knowing what a fool it was, and
content to know it.

Many birds came twittering round me in the gold of August; many trees
showed twinkling beauty, as the sun went lower; and the lines of water
fell, from wrinkles into dimples. Little heeding, there I crouched;
though with sense of everything that afterwards should move me, like a
picture or a dream; and everything went by me softly, while my heart was
gazing.

At last, a little figure came, not insignificant (I mean), but looking
very light and slender in the moving shadows, gently here and softly
there, as if vague of purpose, with a gloss of tender movement, in and
out the wealth of trees, and liberty of the meadow. Who was I to crouch,
or doubt, or look at her from a distance; what matter if they killed me
now, and one tear came to bury me? Therefore I rushed out at once, as if
shot-guns were unknown yet; not from any real courage, but from prisoned
love burst forth.

I know not whether my own Lorna was afraid of what I looked, or what I
might say to her, or of her own thoughts of me; all I know is that she
looked frightened, when I hoped for gladness. Perhaps the power of my
joy was more than maiden liked to own, or in any way to answer to; and
to tell the truth, it seemed as if I might now forget myself; while she
would take good care of it. This makes a man grow thoughtful; unless, as
some low fellows do, he believe all women hypocrites.

Therefore I went slowly towards her, taken back in my impulse; and said
all I could come to say, with some distress in doing it.

'Mistress Lorna, I had hope that you were in need of me.'

'Oh, yes; but that was long ago; two months ago, or more, sir.' And
saying this she looked away, as if it all were over. But I was now
so dazed and frightened, that it took my breath away, and I could not
answer, feeling sure that I was robbed and some one else had won her.
And I tried to turn away, without another word, and go.

But I could not help one stupid sob, though mad with myself for allowing
it, but it came too sharp for pride to stay it, and it told a world
of things. Lorna heard it, and ran to me, with her bright eyes full of
wonder, pity, and great kindness, as if amazed that I had more than a
simple liking for her. Then she held out both hands to me; and I took
and looked at them.

'Master Ridd, I did not mean,' she whispered, very softly, 'I did not
mean to vex you.'

'If you would be loath to vex me, none else in this world can do it,' I
answered out of my great love, but fearing yet to look at her, mine eyes
not being strong enough.

'Come away from this bright place,' she answered, trembling in her turn;
'I am watched and spied of late. Come beneath the shadows, John.'

I would have leaped into the valley of the shadow of death (as described
by the late John Bunyan), only to hear her call me 'John'; though
Apollyon were lurking there, and Despair should lock me in.

She stole across the silent grass; but I strode hotly after her; fear
was all beyond me now, except the fear of losing her. I could not but
behold her manner, as she went before me, all her grace, and lovely
sweetness, and her sense of what she was.

She led me to her own rich bower, which I told of once before; and if
in spring it were a sight, what was it in summer glory? But although my
mind had notice of its fairness and its wonder, not a heed my heart took
of it, neither dwelt it in my presence more than flowing water. All
that in my presence dwelt, all that in my heart was felt, was the maiden
moving gently, and afraid to look at me.

For now the power of my love was abiding on her, new to her, unknown to
her; not a thing to speak about, nor even to think clearly; only just to
feel and wonder, with a pain of sweetness. She could look at me no more,
neither could she look away, with a studied manner--only to let fall her
eyes, and blush, and be put out with me, and still more with herself.

I left her quite alone; though close, though tingling to have hold of
her. Even her right hand was dropped and lay among the mosses. Neither
did I try to steal one glimpse below her eyelids. Life and death to me
were hanging on the first glance I should win; yet I let it be so.

After long or short--I know not, yet ere I was weary, ere I yet began
to think or wish for any answer--Lorna slowly raised her eyelids, with
a gleam of dew below them, and looked at me doubtfully. Any look with so
much in it never met my gaze before.

'Darling, do you love me?' was all that I could say to her.

'Yes, I like you very much,' she answered, with her eyes gone from me,
and her dark hair falling over, so as not to show me things.

'But do you love me, Lorna, Lorna; do you love me more than all the
world?'

'No, to be sure not. Now why should I?'

'In truth, I know not why you should. Only I hoped that you did, Lorna.
Either love me not at all, or as I love you for ever.'

'John I love you very much; and I would not grieve you. You are the
bravest, and the kindest, and the simplest of all men--I mean of all
people--I like you very much, Master Ridd, and I think of you almost
every day.'

'That will not do for me, Lorna. Not almost every day I think, but every
instant of my life, of you. For you I would give up my home, my love of
all the world beside, my duty to my dearest ones, for you I would give
up my life, and hope of life beyond it. Do you love me so?'

'Not by any means,' said Lorna; 'no, I like you very much, when you do
not talk so wildly; and I like to see you come as if you would fill our
valley up, and I like to think that even Carver would be nothing in
your hands--but as to liking you like that, what should make it likely?
especially when I have made the signal, and for some two months or more
you have never even answered it! If you like me so ferociously, why do
you leave me for other people to do just as they like with me?'

'To do as they liked! Oh, Lorna, not to make you marry Carver?'

'No, Master Ridd, be not frightened so; it makes me fear to look at
you.'

'But you have not married Carver yet? Say quick! Why keep me waiting
so?'

'Of course I have not, Master Ridd. Should I be here if I had, think
you, and allowing you to like me so, and to hold my hand, and make me
laugh, as I declare you almost do sometimes? And at other times you
frighten me.'

'Did they want you to marry Carver? Tell me all the truth of it.'

'Not yet, not yet. They are not half so impetuous as you are, John. I am
only just seventeen, you know, and who is to think of marrying? But
they wanted me to give my word, and be formally betrothed to him in the
presence of my grandfather. It seems that something frightened them.
There is a youth named Charleworth Doone, every one calls him "Charlie";
a headstrong and a gay young man, very gallant in his looks and manner;
and my uncle, the Counsellor, chose to fancy that Charlie looked at me
too much, coming by my grandfather's cottage.'

Here Lorna blushed so that I was frightened, and began to hate this
Charlie more, a great deal more, than even Carver Doone.

'He had better not,' said I; 'I will fling him over it, if he dare. He
shall see thee through the roof, Lorna, if at all he see thee.'

'Master Ridd, you are worse than Carver! I thought you were so
kind-hearted. Well, they wanted me to promise, and even to swear a
solemn oath (a thing I have never done in my life) that I would wed
my eldest cousin, this same Carver Doone, who is twice as old as I am,
being thirty-five and upwards. That was why I gave the token that I
wished to see you, Master Ridd. They pointed out how much it was for
the peace of all the family, and for mine own benefit; but I would not
listen for a moment, though the Counsellor was most eloquent, and my
grandfather begged me to consider, and Carver smiled his pleasantest,
which is a truly frightful thing. Then both he and his crafty father
were for using force with me; but Sir Ensor would not hear of it; and
they have put off that extreme until he shall be past its knowledge,
or, at least, beyond preventing it. And now I am watched, and spied, and
followed, and half my little liberty seems to be taken from me. I could
not be here speaking with you, even in my own nook and refuge, but for
the aid, and skill, and courage of dear little Gwenny Carfax. She is
now my chief reliance, and through her alone I hope to baffle all my
enemies, since others have forsaken me.'

Tears of sorrow and reproach were lurking in her soft dark eyes, until
in fewest words I told her that my seeming negligence was nothing but
my bitter loss and wretched absence far away; of which I had so vainly
striven to give any tidings without danger to her. When she heard all
this, and saw what I had brought from London (which was nothing less
than a ring of pearls with a sapphire in the midst of them, as pretty as
could well be found), she let the gentle tears flow fast, and came
and sat so close beside me, that I trembled like a folded sheep at the
bleating of her lamb. But recovering comfort quickly, without more ado,
I raised her left hand and observed it with a nice regard, wondering at
the small blue veins, and curves, and tapering whiteness, and the points
it finished with. My wonder seemed to please her much, herself so well
accustomed to it, and not fond of watching it. And then, before she
could say a word, or guess what I was up to, as quick as ever I turned
hand in a bout of wrestling, on her finger was my ring--sapphire for the
veins of blue, and pearls to match white fingers.

'Oh, you crafty Master Ridd!' said Lorna, looking up at me, and blushing
now a far brighter blush than when she spoke of Charlie; 'I thought that
you were much too simple ever to do this sort of thing. No wonder you
can catch the fish, as when first I saw you.'

'Have I caught you, little fish? Or must all my life be spent in
hopeless angling for you?'

'Neither one nor the other, John! You have not caught me yet altogether,
though I like you dearly John; and if you will only keep away, I shall
like you more and more. As for hopeless angling, John--that all others
shall have until I tell you otherwise.'

With the large tears in her eyes--tears which seemed to me to rise
partly from her want to love me with the power of my love--she put her
pure bright lips, half smiling, half prone to reply to tears, against my
forehead lined with trouble, doubt, and eager longing. And then she drew
my ring from off that snowy twig her finger, and held it out to me; and
then, seeing how my face was falling, thrice she touched it with her
lips, and sweetly gave it back to me. 'John, I dare not take it now;
else I should be cheating you. I will try to love you dearly, even as
you deserve and wish. Keep it for me just till then. Something tells me
I shall earn it in a very little time. Perhaps you will be sorry then,
sorry when it is all too late, to be loved by such as I am.'

What could I do at her mournful tone, but kiss a thousand times the hand
which she put up to warn me, and vow that I would rather die with one
assurance of her love, than without it live for ever with all beside
that the world could give? Upon this she looked so lovely, with her dark
eyelashes trembling, and her soft eyes full of light, and the colour of
clear sunrise mounting on her cheeks and brow, that I was forced to turn
away, being overcome with beauty.

'Dearest darling, love of my life,' I whispered through her clouds of
hair; 'how long must I wait to know, how long must I linger doubting
whether you can ever stoop from your birth and wondrous beauty to a
poor, coarse hind like me, an ignorant unlettered yeoman--'

'I will not have you revile yourself,' said Lorna, very tenderly--just
as I had meant to make her. 'You are not rude and unlettered, John. You
know a great deal more than I do; you have learned both Greek and Latin,
as you told me long ago, and you have been at the very best school in
the West of England. None of us but my grandfather, and the Counsellor
(who is a great scholar), can compare with you in this. And though I
have laughed at your manner of speech, I only laughed in fun, John; I
never meant to vex you by it, nor knew that it had done so.'

'Naught you say can vex me, dear,' I answered, as she leaned towards
me in her generous sorrow; 'unless you say "Begone, John Ridd; I love
another more than you."'

'Then I shall never vex you, John. Never, I mean, by saying that. Now,
John, if you please, be quiet--'

For I was carried away so much by hearing her calling me 'John' so
often, and the music of her voice, and the way she bent toward me, and
the shadow of soft weeping in the sunlight of her eyes, that some of
my great hand was creeping in a manner not to be imagined, and far
less explained, toward the lithesome, wholesome curving underneath her
mantle-fold, and out of sight and harm, as I thought; not being her
front waist. However, I was dashed with that, and pretended not to mean
it; only to pluck some lady-fern, whose elegance did me no good.

'Now, John,' said Lorna, being so quick that not even a lover could
cheat her, and observing my confusion more intently than she need have
done. 'Master John Ridd, it is high time for you to go home to your
mother. I love your mother very much from what you have told me about
her, and I will not have her cheated.'

'If you truly love my mother,' said I, very craftily 'the only way to
show it is by truly loving me.'

Upon that she laughed at me in the sweetest manner, and with such
provoking ways, and such come-and-go of glances, and beginning of quick
blushes, which she tried to laugh away, that I knew, as well as if she
herself had told me, by some knowledge (void of reasoning, and the surer
for it), I knew quite well, while all my heart was burning hot within
me, and mine eyes were shy of hers, and her eyes were shy of mine; for
certain and for ever this I knew--as in a glory--that Lorna Doone had
now begun and would go on to love me.



CHAPTER XXIX

REAPING LEADS TO REVELLING

Although I was under interdict for two months from my darling--'one for
your sake, one for mine,' she had whispered, with her head withdrawn,
yet not so very far from me--lighter heart was not on Exmoor than I bore
for half the time, and even for three quarters. For she was safe; I knew
that daily by a mode of signals well-contrived between us now, on the
strength of our experience. 'I have nothing now to fear, John,' she had
said to me, as we parted; 'it is true that I am spied and watched, but
Gwenny is too keen for them. While I have my grandfather to prevent all
violence; and little Gwenny to keep watch on those who try to watch me;
and you, above all others, John, ready at a moment, if the worst comes
to the worst--this neglected Lorna Doone was never in such case before.
Therefore do not squeeze my hand, John; I am safe without it, and you do
not know your strength.'

Ah, I knew my strength right well. Hill and valley scarcely seemed to be
step and landing for me; fiercest cattle I would play with, making them
go backward, and afraid of hurting them, like John Fry with his terrier;
even rooted trees seemed to me but as sticks I could smite down, except
for my love of everything. The love of all things was upon me, and a
softness to them all, and a sense of having something even such as they
had.

Then the golden harvest came, waving on the broad hill-side, and
nestling in the quiet nooks scooped from out the fringe of wood. A
wealth of harvest such as never gladdened all our country-side since my
father ceased to reap, and his sickle hung to rust. There had not been
a man on Exmoor fit to work that reaping-hook since the time its owner
fell, in the prime of life and strength, before a sterner reaper. But
now I took it from the wall, where mother proudly stored it, while she
watched me, hardly knowing whether she should smile or cry.

All the parish was assembled in our upper courtyard; for we were to open
the harvest that year, as had been settled with Farmer Nicholas, and
with Jasper Kebby, who held the third or little farm. We started in
proper order, therefore, as our practice is: first, the parson Josiah
Bowden, wearing his gown and cassock, with the parish Bible in his hand,
and a sickle strapped behind him. As he strode along well and stoutly,
being a man of substance, all our family came next, I leading mother
with one hand, in the other bearing my father's hook, and with a loaf
of our own bread and a keg of cider upon my back. Behind us Annie and
Lizzie walked, wearing wreaths of corn-flowers, set out very prettily,
such as mother would have worn if she had been a farmer's wife, instead
of a farmer's widow. Being as she was, she had no adornment, except that
her widow's hood was off, and her hair allowed to flow, as if she had
been a maiden; and very rich bright hair it was, in spite of all her
troubles.

After us, the maidens came, milkmaids and the rest of them, with Betty
Muxworthy at their head, scolding even now, because they would not walk
fitly. But they only laughed at her; and she knew it was no good to
scold, with all the men behind them.

Then the Snowes came trooping forward; Farmer Nicholas in the middle,
walking as if he would rather walk to a wheatfield of his own, yet
content to follow lead, because he knew himself the leader; and signing
every now and then to the people here and there, as if I were nobody.
But to see his three great daughters, strong and handsome wenches,
making upon either side, as if somebody would run off with them--this
was the very thing that taught me how to value Lorna, and her pure
simplicity.

After the Snowes came Jasper Kebby, with his wife, new-married; and a
very honest pair they were, upon only a hundred acres, and a right of
common. After these the men came hotly, without decent order, trying to
spy the girls in front, and make good jokes about them, at which their
wives laughed heartily, being jealous when alone perhaps. And after
these men and their wives came all the children toddling, picking
flowers by the way, and chattering and asking questions, as the children
will. There must have been threescore of us, take one with another, and
the lane was full of people. When we were come to the big field-gate,
where the first sickle was to be, Parson Bowden heaved up the rail with
the sleeves of his gown done green with it; and he said that everybody
might hear him, though his breath was short, 'In the name of the Lord,
Amen!'

'Amen! So be it!' cried the clerk, who was far behind, being only a
shoemaker.

Then Parson Bowden read some verses from the parish Bible, telling us to
lift up our eyes, and look upon the fields already white to harvest;
and then he laid the Bible down on the square head of the gate-post,
and despite his gown and cassock, three good swipes he cut off corn,
and laid them right end onwards. All this time the rest were huddling
outside the gate, and along the lane, not daring to interfere with
parson, but whispering how well he did it.

When he had stowed the corn like that, mother entered, leaning on me,
and we both said, 'Thank the Lord for all His mercies, and these the
first-fruits of His hand!' And then the clerk gave out a psalm verse by
verse, done very well; although he sneezed in the midst of it, from a
beard of wheat thrust up his nose by the rival cobbler at Brendon. And
when the psalm was sung, so strongly that the foxgloves on the bank were
shaking, like a chime of bells, at it, Parson took a stoop of cider, and
we all fell to at reaping.

Of course I mean the men, not women; although I know that up the
country, women are allowed to reap; and right well they reap it, keeping
row for row with men, comely, and in due order, yet, meseems, the men
must ill attend to their own reaping-hooks, in fear lest the other cut
themselves, being the weaker vessel. But in our part, women do what
seems their proper business, following well behind the men, out of harm
of the swinging hook, and stooping with their breasts and arms up they
catch the swathes of corn, where the reapers cast them, and tucking them
together tightly with a wisp laid under them, this they fetch around and
twist, with a knee to keep it close; and lo, there is a goodly sheaf,
ready to set up in stooks! After these the children come, gathering each
for his little self, if the farmer be right-minded; until each hath a
bundle made as big as himself and longer, and tumbles now and again with
it, in the deeper part of the stubble.

We, the men, kept marching onwards down the flank of the yellow wall,
with knees bent wide, and left arm bowed and right arm flashing steel.
Each man in his several place, keeping down the rig or chine, on the
right side of the reaper in front, and the left of the man that followed
him, each making farther sweep and inroad into the golden breadth and
depth, each casting leftwards his rich clearance on his foregoer's
double track.

So like half a wedge of wildfowl, to and fro we swept the field; and
when to either hedge we came, sickles wanted whetting, and throats
required moistening, and backs were in need of easing, and every man had
much to say, and women wanted praising. Then all returned to the other
end, with reaping-hooks beneath our arms, and dogs left to mind jackets.

But now, will you believe me well, or will you only laugh at me? For
even in the world of wheat, when deep among the varnished crispness of
the jointed stalks, and below the feathered yielding of the graceful
heads, even as I gripped the swathes and swept the sickle round them,
even as I flung them by to rest on brother stubble, through the whirling
yellow world, and eagerness of reaping, came the vision of my love, as
with downcast eyes she wondered at my power of passion. And then the
sweet remembrance glowed brighter than the sun through wheat, through my
very depth of heart, of how she raised those beaming eyes, and ripened
in my breast rich hope. Even now I could descry, like high waves in the
distance, the rounded heads and folded shadows of the wood of Bagworthy.
Perhaps she was walking in the valley, and softly gazing up at them. Oh,
to be a bird just there! I could see a bright mist hanging just above
the Doone Glen. Perhaps it was shedding its drizzle upon her. Oh, to
be a drop of rain! The very breeze which bowed the harvest to my bosom
gently, might have come direct from Lorna, with her sweet voice laden.
Ah, the flaws of air that wander where they will around her, fan her
bright cheek, play with lashes, even revel in her hair and reveal her
beauties--man is but a breath, we know, would I were such breath as
that!

But confound it, while I ponder, with delicious dreams suspended, with
my right arm hanging frustrate and the giant sickle drooped, with my
left arm bowed for clasping something more germane than wheat, and my
eyes not minding business, but intent on distant woods--confound it,
what are the men about, and why am I left vapouring? They have taken
advantage of me, the rogues! They are gone to the hedge for the
cider-jars; they have had up the sledd of bread and meat, quite softly
over the stubble, and if I can believe my eyes (so dazed with Lorna's
image), they are sitting down to an excellent dinner, before the church
clock has gone eleven!

'John Fry, you big villain!' I cried, with John hanging up in the air by
the scruff of his neck-cloth, but holding still by his knife and fork,
and a goose-leg in between his lips, 'John Fry, what mean you by this,
sir?'

'Latt me dowun, or I can't tell 'e,' John answered with some difficulty.
So I let him come down, and I must confess that he had reason on his
side. 'Plaise your worship'--John called me so, ever since I returned
from London, firmly believing that the King had made me a magistrate at
least; though I was to keep it secret--'us zeed as how your worship were
took with thinkin' of King's business, in the middle of the whate-rigg:
and so uz zed, "Latt un coom to his zell, us had better zave taime, by
takking our dinner"; and here us be, praise your worship, and hopps no
offence with thick iron spoon full of vried taties.'

I was glad enough to accept the ladle full of fried batatas, and to make
the best of things, which is generally done by letting men have their
own way. Therefore I managed to dine with them, although it was so
early.

For according to all that I can find, in a long life and a varied one,
twelve o'clock is the real time for a man to have his dinner. Then the
sun is at his noon, calling halt to look around, and then the plants and
leaves are turning, each with a little leisure time, before the work of
the afternoon. Then is the balance of east and west, and then the right
and left side of a man are in due proportion, and contribute fairly
with harmonious fluids. And the health of this mode of life, and its
reclaiming virtue are well set forth in our ancient rhyme,--

Sunrise, breakfast; sun high, dinner; Sundown, sup; makes a saint of a
sinner.

Whish, the wheat falls! Whirl again; ye have had good dinners; give your
master and mistress plenty to supply another year. And in truth we did
reap well and fairly, through the whole of that afternoon, I not only
keeping lead, but keeping the men up to it. We got through a matter of
ten acres, ere the sun between the shocks broke his light on wheaten
plumes, then hung his red cloak on the clouds, and fell into grey
slumber.

Seeing this we wiped our sickles, and our breasts and foreheads, and
soon were on the homeward road, looking forward to good supper.

Of course all the reapers came at night to the harvest-supper, and
Parson Bowden to say the grace as well as to help to carve for us. And
some help was needed there, I can well assure you; for the reapers had
brave appetites, and most of their wives having babies were forced to
eat as a duty. Neither failed they of this duty; cut and come again was
the order of the evening, as it had been of the day; and I had no time
to ask questions, but help meat and ladle gravy. All the while our
darling Annie, with her sleeves tucked up, and her comely figure
panting, was running about with a bucket of taties mashed with lard and
cabbage. Even Lizzie had left her books, and was serving out beer and
cider; while mother helped plum-pudding largely on pewter-plates with
the mutton. And all the time, Betty Muxworthy was grunting in and out
everywhere, not having space to scold even, but changing the dishes,
serving the meat, poking the fire, and cooking more. But John Fry would
not stir a peg, except with his knife and fork, having all the airs of a
visitor, and his wife to keep him eating, till I thought there would be
no end of it.

Then having eaten all they could, they prepared themselves, with one
accord, for the business now of drinking. But first they lifted the neck
of corn, dressed with ribbons gaily, and set it upon the mantelpiece,
each man with his horn a-froth; and then they sang a song about it,
every one shouting in the chorus louder than harvest thunderstorm. Some
were in the middle of one verse, and some at the end of the next one;
yet somehow all managed to get together in the mighty roar of the
burden. And if any farmer up the country would like to know Exmoor
harvest-song as sung in my time and will be sung long after I am
garnered home, lo, here I set it down for him, omitting only the
dialect, which perchance might puzzle him.


       EXMOOR HARVEST-SONG

       1

     The corn, oh the corn, 'tis the ripening of the corn!
     Go unto the door, my lad, and look beneath the moon,
     Thou canst see, beyond the woodrick, how it is yelloon:
     'Tis the harvesting of wheat, and the barley must be shorn.

       (Chorus)

     The corn, oh the corn, and the yellow, mellow corn!
     Here's to the corn, with the cups upon the board!
     We've been reaping all the day, and we'll reap again the morn
     And fetch it home to mow-yard, and then we'll thank the Lord.

       2

     The wheat, oh the wheat, 'tis the ripening of the wheat!
     All the day it has been hanging down its heavy head,
     Bowing over on our bosoms with a beard of red:
     'Tis the harvest, and the value makes the labour sweet.

       (Chorus)

     The wheat, oh the wheat, and the golden, golden wheat!
     Here's to the wheat, with the loaves upon the board!
     We've been reaping all the day, and we never will be beat,
     But fetch it all to mow-yard, and then we'll thank the Lord.

       3

     The barley, oh the barley, and the barley is in prime!
     All the day it has been rustling, with its bristles brown,
     Waiting with its beard abowing, till it can be mown!
     'Tis the harvest and the barley must abide its time.

       (Chorus)

     The barley, oh the barley, and the barley ruddy brown!
     Here's to the barley, with the beer upon the board!
     We'll go amowing, soon as ever all the wheat is down;
     When all is in the mow-yard, we'll stop, and thank the Lord.

       4

     The oats, oh the oats, 'tis the ripening of the oats!
     All the day they have been dancing with their flakes of white,
     Waiting for the girding-hook, to be the nags' delight:
     'Tis the harvest, let them dangle in their skirted coats.

       (Chorus)

     The oats, oh the oats, and the silver, silver oats!
     Here's to the oats with the blackstone on the board!
     We'll go among them, when the barley has been laid in rotes:
     When all is home to mow-yard, we'll kneel and thank the Lord.

       5

     The corn, oh the corn, and the blessing of the corn!
     Come unto the door, my lads, and look beneath the moon,
     We can see, on hill and valley, how it is yelloon,
     With a breadth of glory, as when our Lord was born.

       (Chorus)

     The corn, oh the corn, and the yellow, mellow corn!
     Thanks for the corn, with our bread upon the board!
     So shall we acknowledge it, before we reap the morn,
     With our hands to heaven, and our knees unto the Lord.


Now we sang this song very well the first time, having the parish choir
to lead us, and the clarionet, and the parson to give us the time with
his cup; and we sang it again the second time, not so but what you might
praise it (if you had been with us all the evening), although the parson
was gone then, and the clerk not fit to compare with him in the matter
of keeping time. But when that song was in its third singing, I defy any
man (however sober) to have made out one verse from the other, or even
the burden from the verses, inasmuch as every man present, ay, and woman
too, sang as became convenient to them, in utterance both of words and
tune.

And in truth, there was much excuse for them; because it was a noble
harvest, fit to thank the Lord for, without His thinking us hypocrites.
For we had more land in wheat, that year, than ever we had before,
and twice the crop to the acre; and I could not help now and then
remembering, in the midst of the merriment, how my father in the
churchyard yonder would have gloried to behold it. And my mother, who
had left us now, happening to return just then, being called to have her
health drunk (for the twentieth time at least), I knew by the sadness
in her eyes that she was thinking just as I was. Presently, therefore,
I slipped away from the noise, and mirth, and smoking (although of that
last there was not much, except from Farmer Nicholas), and crossing the
courtyard in the moonlight, I went, just to cool myself, as far as my
father's tombstone.



CHAPTER XXX

ANNIE GETS THE BEST OF IT

I had long outgrown unwholesome feeling as to my father's death, and
so had Annie; though Lizzie (who must have loved him least) still
entertained some evil will, and longing for a punishment. Therefore I
was surprised (and indeed, startled would not be too much to say,
the moon being somewhat fleecy), to see our Annie sitting there as
motionless as the tombstone, and with all her best fallals upon her,
after stowing away the dishes.

My nerves, however, are good and strong, except at least in love
matters, wherein they always fail me, and when I meet with witches; and
therefore I went up to Annie, although she looked so white and pure;
for I had seen her before with those things on, and it struck me who she
was.

"What are you doing here, Annie?" I inquired rather sternly, being vexed
with her for having gone so very near to frighten me.

"Nothing at all," said our Annie shortly. And indeed it was truth enough
for a woman. Not that I dare to believe that women are such liars as men
say; only that I mean they often see things round the corner, and know
not which is which of it. And indeed I never have known a woman
(though right enough in their meaning) purely and perfectly true and
transparent, except only my Lorna; and even so, I might not have loved
her, if she had been ugly.

'Why, how so?' said I; 'Miss Annie, what business have you here, doing
nothing at this time of night? And leaving me with all the trouble to
entertain our guests!'

'You seem not to me to be doing it, John,' Annie answered softly; 'what
business have you here doing nothing, at this time of night?'

I was taken so aback with this, and the extreme impertinence of it, from
a mere young girl like Annie, that I turned round to march away and
have nothing more to say to her. But she jumped up, and caught me by the
hand, and threw herself upon my bosom, with her face all wet with tears.

'Oh, John, I will tell you. I will tell you. Only don't be angry, John.'

'Angry! no indeed,' said I; 'what right have I to be angry with you,
because you have your secrets? Every chit of a girl thinks now that she
has a right to her secrets.'

'And you have none of your own, John; of course you have none of your
own? All your going out at night--'

'We will not quarrel here, poor Annie,' I answered, with some loftiness;
'there are many things upon my mind, which girls can have no notion of.'

'And so there are upon mine, John. Oh, John, I will tell you everything,
if you will look at me kindly, and promise to forgive me. Oh, I am so
miserable!'

Now this, though she was behaving so badly, moved me much towards her;
especially as I longed to know what she had to tell me. Therefore I
allowed her to coax me, and to kiss me, and to lead me away a little, as
far as the old yew-tree; for she would not tell me where she was.

But even in the shadow there, she was very long before beginning, and
seemed to have two minds about it, or rather perhaps a dozen; and she
laid her cheek against the tree, and sobbed till it was pitiful; and I
knew what mother would say to her for spoiling her best frock so.

'Now will you stop?' I said at last, harder than I meant it, for I knew
that she would go on all night, if any one encouraged her: and though
not well acquainted with women, I understood my sisters; or else I must
be a born fool--except, of course, that I never professed to understand
Eliza.

'Yes, I will stop,' said Annie, panting; 'you are very hard on me, John;
but I know you mean it for the best. If somebody else--I am sure I don't
know who, and have no right to know, no doubt, but she must be a wicked
thing--if somebody else had been taken so with a pain all round the
heart, John, and no power of telling it, perhaps you would have coaxed,
and kissed her, and come a little nearer, and made opportunity to be
very loving.'

Now this was so exactly what I had tried to do to Lorna, that my breath
was almost taken away at Annie's so describing it. For a while I could
not say a word, but wondered if she were a witch, which had never been
in our family: and then, all of a sudden, I saw the way to beat her,
with the devil at my elbow.

'From your knowledge of these things, Annie, you must have had them done
to you. I demand to know this very moment who has taken such liberties.'

'Then, John, you shall never know, if you ask in that manner. Besides,
it was no liberty in the least at all, Cousins have a right to do
things--and when they are one's godfather--' Here Annie stopped quite
suddenly having so betrayed herself; but met me in the full moonlight,
being resolved to face it out, with a good face put upon it.

'Alas, I feared it would come to this,' I answered very sadly; 'I know
he has been here many a time, without showing himself to me. There is
nothing meaner than for a man to sneak, and steal a young maid's heart,
without her people knowing it.'

'You are not doing anything of that sort yourself then, dear John, are
you?'

'Only a common highwayman!' I answered, without heeding her; 'a man
without an acre of his own, and liable to hang upon any common, and no
other right of common over it--'

'John,' said my sister, 'are the Doones privileged not to be hanged upon
common land?'

At this I was so thunderstruck, that I leaped in the air like a shot
rabbit, and rushed as hard as I could through the gate and across the
yard, and back into the kitchen; and there I asked Farmer Nicholas Snowe
to give me some tobacco, and to lend me a spare pipe.

This he did with a grateful manner, being now some five-fourths gone;
and so I smoked the very first pipe that ever had entered my lips till
then; and beyond a doubt it did me good, and spread my heart at leisure.

Meanwhile the reapers were mostly gone, to be up betimes in the morning;
and some were led by their wives; and some had to lead their wives
themselves, according to the capacity of man and wife respectively. But
Betty was as lively as ever, bustling about with every one, and looking
out for the chance of groats, which the better off might be free with.
And over the kneading-pan next day, she dropped three and sixpence out
of her pocket; and Lizzie could not tell for her life how much more
might have been in it.

Now by this time I had almost finished smoking that pipe of tobacco, and
wondering at myself for having so despised it hitherto, and making up my
mind to have another trial to-morrow night, it began to occur to me that
although dear Annie had behaved so very badly and rudely, and almost
taken my breath away with the suddenness of her allusion, yet it was not
kind of me to leave her out there at that time of night, all alone, and
in such distress. Any of the reapers going home might be gotten so far
beyond fear of ghosts as to venture into the churchyard; and although
they would know a great deal better than to insult a sister of mine when
sober, there was no telling what they might do in their present state of
rejoicing. Moreover, it was only right that I should learn, for Lorna's
sake, how far Annie, or any one else, had penetrated our secret.

Therefore, I went forth at once, bearing my pipe in a skilful manner, as
I had seen Farmer Nicholas do; and marking, with a new kind of pleasure,
how the rings and wreaths of smoke hovered and fluttered in the
moonlight, like a lark upon his carol. Poor Annie was gone back again
to our father's grave, and there she sat upon the turf, sobbing very
gently, and not wishing to trouble any one. So I raised her tenderly,
and made much of her, and consoled her, for I could not scold her there;
and perhaps after all she was not to be blamed so much as Tom Faggus
himself was. Annie was very grateful to me, and kissed me many times,
and begged my pardon ever so often for her rudeness to me. And then
having gone so far with it, and finding me so complaisant, she must
needs try to go a little further, and to lead me away from her own
affairs, and into mine concerning Lorna. But although it was clever
enough of her she was not deep enough for me there; and I soon
discovered that she knew nothing, not even the name of my darling; but
only suspected from things she had seen, and put together like a woman.
Upon this I brought her back again to Tom Faggus and his doings.

'My poor Annie, have you really promised him to be his wife?'

'Then after all you have no reason, John, no particular reason, I mean,
for slighting poor Sally Snowe so?'

'Without even asking mother or me! Oh, Annie, it was wrong of you!'

'But, darling, you know that mother wishes you so much to marry Sally;
and I am sure you could have her to-morrow. She dotes on the very
ground--'

'I dare say he tells you that, Annie, that he dotes on the ground you
walk upon--but did you believe him, child?'

'You may believe me, I assure you, John, and half the farm to be settled
upon her, after the old man's time; and though she gives herself little
airs, it is only done to entice you; she has the very best hand in the
dairy John, and the lightest at a turn-over cake--'

'Now, Annie, don't talk nonsense so. I wish just to know the truth about
you and Tom Faggus. Do you mean to marry him?'

'I to marry before my brother, and leave him with none to take care of
him! Who can do him a red deer collop, except Sally herself, as I can?
Come home, dear, at once, and I will do you one; for you never ate a
morsel of supper, with all the people you had to attend upon.'

This was true enough; and seeing no chance of anything more than cross
questions and crooked purposes, at which a girl was sure to beat me,
I even allowed her to lead me home, with the thoughts of the collop
uppermost. But I never counted upon being beaten so thoroughly as I was;
for knowing me now to be off my guard, the young hussy stopped at
the farmyard gate, as if with a brier entangling her, and while I
was stooping to take it away, she looked me full in the face by the
moonlight, and jerked out quite suddenly,--

'Can your love do a collop, John?'

'No, I should hope not,' I answered rashly; 'she is not a mere cook-maid
I should hope.'

'She is not half so pretty as Sally Snowe; I will answer for that,' said
Annie.

'She is ten thousand times as pretty as ten thousand Sally Snowes,' I
replied with great indignation.

'Oh, but look at Sally's eyes!' cried my sister rapturously.

'Look at Lorna Doone's,' said I; 'and you would never look again at
Sally's.'

'Oh Lorna Doone. Lorna Doone!' exclaimed our Annie half-frightened, yet
clapping her hands with triumph, at having found me out so: 'Lorna Doone
is the lovely maiden, who has stolen poor somebody's heart so. Ah, I
shall remember it; because it is so queer a name. But stop, I had better
write it down. Lend me your hat, poor boy, to write on.'

'I have a great mind to lend you a box on the ear,' I answered her in
my vexation, 'and I would, if you had not been crying so, you sly
good-for-nothing baggage. As it is, I shall keep it for Master Faggus,
and add interest for keeping.'

'Oh no, John; oh no, John,' she begged me earnestly, being sobered in
a moment. 'Your hand is so terribly heavy, John; and he never would
forgive you; although he is so good-hearted, he cannot put up with an
insult. Promise me, dear John, that you will not strike him; and I will
promise you faithfully to keep your secret, even from mother, and even
from Cousin Tom himself.'

'And from Lizzie; most of all, from Lizzie,' I answered very eagerly,
knowing too well which of my relations would be hardest with me.

'Of course from little Lizzie,' said Annie, with some contempt; 'a
young thing like her cannot be kept too long, in my opinion, from the
knowledge of such subjects. And besides, I should be very sorry if
Lizzie had the right to know your secrets, as I have, dearest John. Not
a soul shall be the wiser for your having trusted me, John; although
I shall be very wretched when you are late away at night, among those
dreadful people.'

'Well,' I replied, 'it is no use crying over spilt milk Annie. You have
my secret, and I have yours; and I scarcely know which of the two is
likely to have the worst time of it, when it comes to mother's ears. I
could put up with perpetual scolding but not with mother's sad silence.'

'That is exactly how I feel, John.' and as Annie said it she brightened
up, and her soft eyes shone upon me; 'but now I shall be much happier,
dear; because I shall try to help you. No doubt the young lady deserves
it, John. She is not after the farm, I hope?'

'She!' I exclaimed; and that was enough, there was so much scorn in my
voice and face.

'Then, I am sure, I am very glad,' Annie always made the best of things;
'for I do believe that Sally Snowe has taken a fancy to our dairy-place,
and the pattern of our cream-pans; and she asked so much about our
meadows, and the colour of the milk--'

'Then, after all, you were right, dear Annie; it is the ground she dotes
upon.'

'And the things that walk upon it,' she answered me with another kiss;
'Sally has taken a wonderful fancy to our best cow, "Nipple-pins." But
she never shall have her now; what a consolation!'

We entered the house quite gently thus, and found Farmer Nicholas Snowe
asleep, little dreaming how his plans had been overset between us. And
then Annie said to me very slyly, between a smile and a blush,--

'Don't you wish Lorna Doone was here, John, in the parlour along with
mother; instead of those two fashionable milkmaids, as Uncle Ben will
call them, and poor stupid Mistress Kebby?'

'That indeed I do, Annie. I must kiss you for only thinking of it. Dear
me, it seems as if you had known all about us for a twelvemonth.'

'She loves you, with all her heart, John. No doubt about that of
course.' And Annie looked up at me, as much as to say she would like to
know who could help it.

'That's the very thing she won't do,' said I, knowing that Annie would
love me all the more for it, 'she is only beginning to like me, Annie;
and as for loving, she is so young that she only loves her grandfather.
But I hope she will come to it by-and-by.'

'Of course she must,' replied my sister, 'it will be impossible for her
to help it.'

'Ah well! I don't know,' for I wanted more assurance of it. 'Maidens are
such wondrous things!''

'Not a bit of it,' said Annie, casting her bright eyes downwards: 'love
is as simple as milking, when people know how to do it. But you must not
let her alone too long; that is my advice to you. What a simpleton you
must have been not to tell me long ago. I would have made Lorna wild
about you, long before this time, Johnny. But now you go into the
parlour, dear, while I do your collop. Faith Snowe is not come, but
Polly and Sally. Sally has made up her mind to conquer you this very
blessed evening, John. Only look what a thing of a scarf she has on; I
should be quite ashamed to wear it. But you won't strike poor Tom, will
you?'

'Not I, my darling, for your sweet sake.'

And so dear Annie, having grown quite brave, gave me a little push into
the parlour, where I was quite abashed to enter after all I had heard
about Sally. And I made up my mind to examine her well, and try a little
courting with her, if she should lead me on, that I might be in practice
for Lorna. But when I perceived how grandly and richly both the
young damsels were apparelled; and how, in their curtseys to me, they
retreated, as if I were making up to them, in a way they had learned
from Exeter; and how they began to talk of the Court, as if they had
been there all their lives, and the latest mode of the Duchess of this,
and the profile of the Countess of that, and the last good saying of my
Lord something; instead of butter, and cream, and eggs, and things
which they understood; I knew there must be somebody in the room besides
Jasper Kebby to talk at.

And so there was; for behind the curtain drawn across the window-seat no
less a man than Uncle Ben was sitting half asleep and weary; and by his
side a little girl very quiet and very watchful. My mother led me to
Uncle Ben, and he took my hand without rising, muttering something not
over-polite, about my being bigger than ever. I asked him heartily how
he was, and he said, 'Well enough, for that matter; but none the better
for the noise you great clods have been making.'

'I am sorry if we have disturbed you, sir,' I answered very civilly;
'but I knew not that you were here even; and you must allow for harvest
time.'

'So it seems,' he replied; 'and allow a great deal, including waste
and drunkenness. Now (if you can see so small a thing, after emptying
flagons much larger) this is my granddaughter, and my heiress'--here he
glanced at mother--'my heiress, little Ruth Huckaback.'

'I am very glad to see you, Ruth,' I answered, offering her my hand,
which she seemed afraid to take, 'welcome to Plover's Barrows, my good
cousin Ruth.'

However, my good cousin Ruth only arose, and made me a curtsey, and
lifted her great brown eyes at me, more in fear, as I thought, than
kinship. And if ever any one looked unlike the heiress to great
property, it was the little girl before me.

'Come out to the kitchen, dear, and let me chuck you to the ceiling,' I
said, just to encourage her; 'I always do it to little girls; and then
they can see the hams and bacon.' But Uncle Reuben burst out laughing;
and Ruth turned away with a deep rich colour.

'Do you know how old she is, you numskull?' said Uncle Ben, in his
dryest drawl; 'she was seventeen last July, sir.'

'On the first of July, grandfather,' Ruth whispered, with her back still
to me; 'but many people will not believe it.'

Here mother came up to my rescue, as she always loved to do; and she
said, 'If my son may not dance Miss Ruth, at any rate he may dance with
her. We have only been waiting for you, dear John, to have a little
harvest dance, with the kitchen door thrown open. You take Ruth; Uncle
Ben take Sally; Master Debby pair off with Polly; and neighbour Nicholas
will be good enough, if I can awake him, to stand up with fair Mistress
Kebby. Lizzie will play us the virginal. Won't you, Lizzie dear?'

'But who is to dance with you, madam?' Uncle Ben asked, very politely.
'I think you must rearrange your figure. I have not danced for a score
of years; and I will not dance now, while the mistress and the owner of
the harvest sits aside neglected.'

'Nay, Master Huckaback,' cried Sally Snowe, with a saucy toss of her
hair; 'Mistress Ridd is too kind a great deal, in handing you over to
me. You take her; and I will fetch Annie to be my partner this evening.
I like dancing very much better with girls, for they never squeeze and
rumple one. Oh, it is so much nicer!'

'Have no fear for me, my dears,' our mother answered smiling: 'Parson
Bowden promised to come back again; I expect him every minute; and he
intends to lead me off, and to bring a partner for Annie too, a very
pretty young gentleman. Now begin; and I will join you.'

There was no disobeying her, without rudeness; and indeed the girls'
feet were already jigging; and Lizzie giving herself wonderful airs with
a roll of learned music; and even while Annie was doing my collop,
her pretty round instep was arching itself, as I could see from the
parlour-door. So I took little Ruth, and I spun her around, as the sound
of the music came lively and ringing; and after us came all the rest
with much laughter, begging me not to jump over her; and anon my grave
partner began to smile sweetly, and look up at me with the brightest of
eyes, and drop me the prettiest curtseys; till I thought what a great
stupe I must have been to dream of putting her in the cheese-rack. But
one thing I could not at all understand; why mother, who used to do
all in her power to throw me across Sally Snowe, should now do the very
opposite; for she would not allow me one moment with Sally, not even to
cross in the dance, or whisper, or go anywhere near a corner (which as I
said, I intended to do, just by way of practice), while she kept me, all
the evening, as close as possible with Ruth Huckaback, and came up
and praised me so to Ruth, times and again, that I declare I was quite
ashamed. Although of course I knew that I deserved it all, but I could
not well say that.

Then Annie came sailing down the dance, with her beautiful hair flowing
round her; the lightest figure in all the room, and the sweetest, and
the loveliest. She was blushing, with her fair cheeks red beneath
her dear blue eyes, as she met my glance of surprise and grief at the
partner she was leaning on. It was Squire Marwood de Whichehalse. I
would sooner have seen her with Tom Faggus, as indeed I had expected,
when I heard of Parson Bowden. And to me it seemed that she had no
right to be dancing so with any other; and to this effect I contrived to
whisper; but she only said, 'See to yourself, John. No, but let us both
enjoy ourselves. You are not dancing with Lorna, John. But you seem
uncommonly happy.'

'Tush,' I said; 'could I flip about so, if I had my love with me?'



CHAPTER XXXI

JOHN FRY'S ERRAND

We kept up the dance very late that night, mother being in such
wonderful spirits, that she would not hear of our going to bed: while
she glanced from young Squire Marwood, very deep in his talk with our
Annie, to me and Ruth Huckaback who were beginning to be very pleasant
company. Alas, poor mother, so proud as she was, how little she dreamed
that her good schemes already were hopelessly going awry!

Being forced to be up before daylight next day, in order to begin right
early, I would not go to my bedroom that night for fear of disturbing my
mother, but determined to sleep in the tallat awhile, that place being
cool, and airy, and refreshing with the smell of sweet hay. Moreover,
after my dwelling in town, where I had felt like a horse on a lime-kiln,
I could not for a length of time have enough of country life. The mooing
of a calf was music, and the chuckle of a fowl was wit, and the snore of
the horses was news to me.

'Wult have thee own wai, I reckon,' said Betty, being cross with
sleepiness, for she had washed up everything; 'slape in hog-pound, if
thee laikes, Jan.'

Letting her have the last word of it (as is the due of women) I stood in
the court, and wondered awhile at the glory of the harvest moon, and the
yellow world it shone upon. Then I saw, as sure as ever I was standing
there in the shadow of the stable, I saw a short wide figure glide
across the foot of the courtyard, between me and the six-barred gate.
Instead of running after it, as I should have done, I began to consider
who it could be, and what on earth was doing there, when all our people
were in bed, and the reapers gone home, or to the linhay close against
the wheatfield.

Having made up my mind at last, that it could be none of our
people--though not a dog was barking--and also that it must have been
either a girl or a woman, I ran down with all speed to learn what might
be the meaning of it. But I came too late to learn, through my own
hesitation, for this was the lower end of the courtyard, not the
approach from the parish highway, but the end of the sledd-way, across
the fields where the brook goes down to the Lynn stream, and where
Squire Faggus had saved the old drake. And of course the dry channel
of the brook, being scarcely any water now, afforded plenty of place to
hide, leading also to a little coppice, beyond our cabbage-garden, and
so further on to the parish highway.

I saw at once that it was vain to make any pursuit by moonlight; and
resolving to hold my own counsel about it (though puzzled not a
little) and to keep watch there another night, back I returned to the
tallatt-ladder, and slept without leaving off till morning.

Now many people may wish to know, as indeed I myself did very greatly,
what had brought Master Huckaback over from Dulverton, at that time of
year, when the clothing business was most active on account of harvest
wages, and when the new wheat was beginning to sample from the early
parts up the country (for he meddled as well in corn-dealing) and when
we could not attend to him properly by reason of our occupation. And
yet more surprising it seemed to me that he should have brought his
granddaughter also, instead of the troop of dragoons, without which
he had vowed he would never come here again. And how he had managed to
enter the house together with his granddaughter, and be sitting quite at
home in the parlour there, without any knowledge or even suspicion on
my part. That last question was easily solved, for mother herself had
admitted them by means of the little passage, during a chorus of the
harvest-song which might have drowned an earthquake: but as for his
meaning and motive, and apparent neglect of his business, none but
himself could interpret them; and as he did not see fit to do so, we
could not be rude enough to inquire.

He seemed in no hurry to take his departure, though his visit was so
inconvenient to us, as himself indeed must have noticed: and presently
Lizzie, who was the sharpest among us, said in my hearing that she
believed he had purposely timed his visit so that he might have liberty
to pursue his own object, whatsoever it were, without interruption
from us. Mother gazed hard upon Lizzie at this, having formed a very
different opinion; but Annie and myself agreed that it was worth looking
into.

Now how could we look into it, without watching Uncle Reuben, whenever
he went abroad, and trying to catch him in his speech, when he was
taking his ease at night. For, in spite of all the disgust with which
he had spoken of harvest wassailing, there was not a man coming into
our kitchen who liked it better than he did; only in a quiet way, and
without too many witnesses. Now to endeavour to get at the purpose of
any guest, even a treacherous one (which we had no right to think Uncle
Reuben) by means of observing him in his cups, is a thing which even the
lowest of people would regard with abhorrence. And to my mind it was not
clear whether it would be fair-play at all to follow a visitor even at a
distance from home and clear of our premises; except for the purpose of
fetching him back, and giving him more to go on with. Nevertheless we
could not but think, the times being wild and disjointed, that Uncle
Ben was not using fairly the part of a guest in our house, to make long
expeditions we knew not whither, and involve us in trouble we knew not
what.

For his mode was directly after breakfast to pray to the Lord a little
(which used not to be his practice), and then to go forth upon Dolly,
the which was our Annie's pony, very quiet and respectful, with a bag of
good victuals hung behind him, and two great cavalry pistols in front.
And he always wore his meanest clothes as if expecting to be robbed,
or to disarm the temptation thereto; and he never took his golden
chronometer neither his bag of money. So much the girls found out and
told me (for I was never at home myself by day); and they very craftily
spurred me on, having less noble ideas perhaps, to hit upon Uncle
Reuben's track, and follow, and see what became of him. For he never
returned until dark or more, just in time to be in before us, who were
coming home from the harvest. And then Dolly always seemed very weary,
and stained with a muck from beyond our parish.

But I refused to follow him, not only for the loss of a day's work to
myself, and at least half a day to the other men, but chiefly because I
could not think that it would be upright and manly. It was all very
well to creep warily into the valley of the Doones, and heed everything
around me, both because they were public enemies, and also because I
risked my life at every step I took there. But as to tracking a feeble
old man (however subtle he might be), a guest moreover of our own, and
a relative through my mother.--'Once for all,' I said, 'it is below me,
and I won't do it.'

Thereupon, the girls, knowing my way, ceased to torment me about it: but
what was my astonishment the very next day to perceive that instead of
fourteen reapers, we were only thirteen left, directly our breakfast
was done with--or mowers rather I should say, for we were gone into the
barley now.

'Who has been and left his scythe?' I asked; 'and here's a tin cup never
been handled!'

'Whoy, dudn't ee knaw, Maister Jan,' said Bill Dadds, looking at me
queerly, 'as Jan Vry wur gane avore braxvass.'

'Oh, very well,' I answered, 'John knows what he is doing.' For John
Fry was a kind of foreman now, and it would not do to say anything that
might lessen his authority. However, I made up my mind to rope him, when
I should catch him by himself, without peril to his dignity.

But when I came home in the evening, late and almost weary, there was no
Annie cooking my supper, nor Lizzie by the fire reading, nor even little
Ruth Huckaback watching the shadows and pondering. Upon this, I went to
the girls' room, not in the very best of tempers, and there I found all
three of them in the little place set apart for Annie, eagerly listening
to John Fry, who was telling some great adventure. John had a great jug
of ale beside him, and a horn well drained; and he clearly looked upon
himself as a hero, and the maids seemed to be of the same opinion.

'Well done, John,' my sister was saying, 'capitally done, John Fry. How
very brave you have been, John. Now quick, let us hear the rest of it.'

'What does all this nonsense mean?' I said, in a voice which frightened
them, as I could see by the light of our own mutton candles: 'John Fry,
you be off to your wife at once, or you shall have what I owe you now,
instead of to-morrow morning.'

John made no answer, but scratched his head, and looked at the maidens
to take his part.

'It is you that must be off, I think,' said Lizzie, looking straight at
me with all the impudence in the world; 'what right have you to come in
here to the young ladies' room, without an invitation even?'

'Very well, Miss Lizzie, I suppose mother has some right here.' And with
that, I was going away to fetch her, knowing that she always took my
side, and never would allow the house to be turned upside down in that
manner. But Annie caught hold of me by the arm, and little Ruth stood in
the doorway; and Lizzie said, 'Don't be a fool, John. We know things of
you, you know; a great deal more than you dream of.'

Upon this I glanced at Annie, to learn whether she had been telling,
but her pure true face reassured me at once, and then she said very
gently,--

'Lizzie, you talk too fast, my child. No one knows anything of our John
which he need be ashamed of; and working as he does from light to dusk,
and earning the living of all of us, he is entitled to choose his own
good time for going out and for coming in, without consulting a little
girl five years younger than himself. Now, John, sit down, and you shall
know all that we have done, though I doubt whether you will approve of
it.'

Upon this I kissed Annie, and so did Ruth; and John Fry looked a deal
more comfortable, but Lizzie only made a face at us. Then Annie began as
follows:--

'You must know, dear John, that we have been extremely curious, ever
since Uncle Reuben came, to know what he was come for, especially at
this time of year, when he is at his busiest. He never vouchsafed any
explanation, neither gave any reason, true or false, which shows his
entire ignorance of all feminine nature. If Ruth had known, and refused
to tell us, we should have been much easier, because we must have got it
out of Ruth before two or three days were over. But darling Ruth knew no
more than we did, and indeed I must do her the justice to say that she
has been quite as inquisitive. Well, we might have put up with it, if it
had not been for his taking Dolly, my own pet Dolly, away every morning,
quite as if she belonged to him, and keeping her out until close upon
dark, and then bringing her home in a frightful condition. And he even
had the impudence, when I told him that Dolly was my pony, to say that
we owed him a pony, ever since you took from him that little horse upon
which you found him strapped so snugly; and he means to take Dolly to
Dulverton with him, to run in his little cart. If there is law in the
land he shall not. Surely, John, you will not let him?'

'That I won't,' said I, 'except upon the conditions which I offered him
once before. If we owe him the pony, we owe him the straps.'

Sweet Annie laughed, like a bell, at this, and then she went on with her
story.

'Well, John, we were perfectly miserable. You cannot understand it, of
course; but I used to go every evening, and hug poor Dolly, and kiss
her, and beg her to tell me where she had been, and what she had seen,
that day. But never having belonged to Balaam, darling Dolly was quite
unsuccessful, though often she strove to tell me, with her ears down,
and both eyes rolling. Then I made John Fry tie her tail in a knot, with
a piece of white ribbon, as if for adornment, that I might trace her
among the hills, at any rate for a mile or two. But Uncle Ben was too
deep for that; he cut off the ribbon before he started, saying he
would have no Doones after him. And then, in despair, I applied to you,
knowing how quick of foot you are, and I got Ruth and Lizzie to help me,
but you answered us very shortly; and a very poor supper you had that
night, according to your deserts.

'But though we were dashed to the ground for a time, we were not wholly
discomfited. Our determination to know all about it seemed to increase
with the difficulty. And Uncle Ben's manner last night was so dry,
when we tried to romp and to lead him out, that it was much worse than
Jamaica ginger grated into a poor sprayed finger. So we sent him to
bed at the earliest moment, and held a small council upon him. If
you remember you, John, having now taken to smoke (which is a hateful
practice), had gone forth grumbling about your bad supper and not taking
it as a good lesson.'

'Why, Annie,' I cried, in amazement at this, 'I will never trust you
again for a supper. I thought you were so sorry.'

'And so I was, dear; very sorry. But still we must do our duty. And when
we came to consider it, Ruth was the cleverest of us all; for she said
that surely we must have some man we could trust about the farm to go
on a little errand; and then I remembered that old John Fry would do
anything for money.'

'Not for money, plaize, miss,' said John Fry, taking a pull at the beer;
'but for the love of your swate face.'

'To be sure, John; with the King's behind it. And so Lizzie ran for John
Fry at once, and we gave him full directions, how he was to slip out of
the barley in the confusion of the breakfast, so that none might miss
him; and to run back to the black combe bottom, and there he would find
the very same pony which Uncle Ben had been tied upon, and there is no
faster upon the farm. And then, without waiting for any breakfast unless
he could eat it either running or trotting, he was to travel all up the
black combe, by the track Uncle Reuben had taken, and up at the top to
look forward carefully, and so to trace him without being seen.'

'Ay; and raight wull a doo'd un,' John cried, with his mouth in the
bullock's horn.

'Well, and what did you see, John?' I asked, with great anxiety; though
I meant to have shown no interest.

'John was just at the very point of it,' Lizzie answered me sharply,
'when you chose to come in and stop him.'

'Then let him begin again,' said I; 'things being gone so far, it is now
my duty to know everything, for the sake of you girls and mother.'

'Hem!' cried Lizzie, in a nasty way; but I took no notice of her, for
she was always bad to deal with. Therefore John Fry began again, being
heartily glad to do so, that his story might get out of the tumble which
all our talk had made in it. But as he could not tell a tale in
the manner of my Lorna (although he told it very well for those who
understood him) I will take it from his mouth altogether, and state in
brief what happened.

When John, upon his forest pony, which he had much ado to hold (its
mouth being like a bucket), was come to the top of the long black combe,
two miles or more from Plover's Barrows, and winding to the southward,
he stopped his little nag short of the crest, and got off and looked
ahead of him, from behind a tump of whortles. It was a long flat sweep
of moorland over which he was gazing, with a few bogs here and there,
and brushy places round them. Of course, John Fry, from his shepherd
life and reclaiming of strayed cattle, knew as well as need be where he
was, and the spread of the hills before him, although it was beyond our
beat, or, rather, I should say, beside it. Not but what we might have
grazed there had it been our pleasure, but that it was not worth our
while, and scarcely worth Jasper Kebby's even; all the land being
cropped (as one might say) with desolation. And nearly all our knowledge
of it sprang from the unaccountable tricks of cows who have young calves
with them; at which time they have wild desire to get away from the
sight of man, and keep calf and milk for one another, although it be
in a barren land. At least, our cows have gotten this trick, and I have
heard other people complain of it.

John Fry, as I said, knew the place well enough, but he liked it none
the more for that, neither did any of our people; and, indeed, all
the neighbourhood of Thomshill and Larksborough, and most of all Black
Barrow Down lay under grave imputation of having been enchanted with a
very evil spell. Moreover, it was known, though folk were loath to speak
of it, even on a summer morning, that Squire Thom, who had been murdered
there, a century ago or more, had been seen by several shepherds, even
in the middle day, walking with his severed head carried in his left
hand, and his right arm lifted towards the sun.

Therefore it was very bold in John (as I acknowledged) to venture across
that moor alone, even with a fast pony under him, and some whisky by
his side. And he would never have done so (of that I am quite certain),
either for the sake of Annie's sweet face, or of the golden guinea,
which the three maidens had subscribed to reward his skill and valour.
But the truth was that he could not resist his own great curiosity. For,
carefully spying across the moor, from behind the tuft of whortles, at
first he could discover nothing having life and motion, except three or
four wild cattle roving in vain search for nourishment, and a diseased
sheep banished hither, and some carrion crows keeping watch on her. But
when John was taking his very last look, being only too glad to go
home again, and acknowledge himself baffled, he thought he saw a figure
moving in the farthest distance upon Black Barrow Down, scarcely a thing
to be sure of yet, on account of the want of colour. But as he watched,
the figure passed between him and a naked cliff, and appeared to be a
man on horseback, making his way very carefully, in fear of bogs and
serpents. For all about there it is adders' ground, and large black
serpents dwell in the marshes, and can swim as well as crawl.

John knew that the man who was riding there could be none but Uncle
Reuben, for none of the Doones ever passed that way, and the shepherds
were afraid of it. And now it seemed an unkind place for an unarmed man
to venture through, especially after an armed one who might not like
to be spied upon, and must have some dark object in visiting such drear
solitudes. Nevertheless John Fry so ached with unbearable curiosity to
know what an old man, and a stranger, and a rich man, and a peaceable
could possibly be after in that mysterious manner. Moreover, John so
throbbed with hope to find some wealthy secret, that come what would of
it he resolved to go to the end of the matter.

Therefore he only waited awhile for fear of being discovered, till
Master Huckaback turned to the left and entered a little gully, whence
he could not survey the moor. Then John remounted and crossed the rough
land and the stony places, and picked his way among the morasses as fast
as ever he dared to go; until, in about half an hour, he drew nigh the
entrance of the gully. And now it behoved him to be most wary; for Uncle
Ben might have stopped in there, either to rest his horse or having
reached the end of his journey. And in either case, John had little
doubt that he himself would be pistolled, and nothing more ever heard
of him. Therefore he made his pony come to the mouth of it sideways,
and leaned over and peered in around the rocky corner, while the little
horse cropped at the briars.

But he soon perceived that the gully was empty, so far at least as its
course was straight; and with that he hastened into it, though his heart
was not working easily. When he had traced the winding hollow for half
a mile or more, he saw that it forked, and one part led to the left up
a steep red bank, and the other to the right, being narrow and slightly
tending downwards. Some yellow sand lay here and there between the
starving grasses, and this he examined narrowly for a trace of Master
Huckaback.

At last he saw that, beyond all doubt, the man he was pursuing had taken
the course which led down hill; and down the hill he must follow him.
And this John did with deep misgivings, and a hearty wish that he had
never started upon so perilous an errand. For now he knew not where he
was, and scarcely dared to ask himself, having heard of a horrible hole,
somewhere in this neighbourhood, called the Wizard's Slough. Therefore
John rode down the slope, with sorrow, and great caution. And these grew
more as he went onward, and his pony reared against him, being scared,
although a native of the roughest moorland. And John had just made up
his mind that God meant this for a warning, as the passage seemed darker
and deeper, when suddenly he turned a corner, and saw a scene which
stopped him.

For there was the Wizard's Slough itself, as black as death, and
bubbling, with a few scant yellow reeds in a ring around it. Outside
these, bright water-grass of the liveliest green was creeping, tempting
any unwary foot to step, and plunge, and founder. And on the marge
were blue campanula, sundew, and forget-me-not, such as no child could
resist. On either side, the hill fell back, and the ground was
broken with tufts of rush, and flag, and mares-tail, and a few rough
alder-trees overclogged with water. And not a bird was seen or heard,
neither rail nor water-hen, wag-tail nor reed-warbler.

Of this horrible quagmire, the worst upon all Exmoor, John had heard
from his grandfather, and even from his mother, when they wanted to keep
him quiet; but his father had feared to speak of it to him, being a man
of piety, and up to the tricks of the evil one. This made John the more
desirous to have a good look at it now, only with his girths well up,
to turn away and flee at speed, if anything should happen. And now
he proved how well it is to be wary and wide-awake, even in lonesome
places. For at the other side of the Slough, and a few land-yards beyond
it, where the ground was less noisome, he had observed a felled tree
lying over a great hole in the earth, with staves of wood, and slabs of
stone, and some yellow gravel around it. But the flags of reeds around
the morass partly screened it from his eyes, and he could not make
out the meaning of it, except that it meant no good, and probably was
witchcraft. Yet Dolly seemed not to be harmed by it, for there she was
as large as life, tied to a stump not far beyond, and flipping the flies
away with her tail.

While John was trembling within himself, lest Dolly should get scent of
his pony, and neigh and reveal their presence, although she could not
see them, suddenly to his great amazement something white arose out of
the hole, under the brown trunk of the tree. Seeing this his blood went
back within him, yet he was not able to turn and flee, but rooted his
face in among the loose stones, and kept his quivering shoulders back,
and prayed to God to protect him. However, the white thing itself was
not so very awful, being nothing more than a long-coned night-cap with a
tassel on the top, such as criminals wear at hanging-time. But when John
saw a man's face under it, and a man's neck and shoulders slowly rising
out of the pit, he could not doubt that this was the place where the
murderers come to life again, according to the Exmoor story. He knew
that a man had been hanged last week, and that this was the ninth day
after it.

Therefore he could bear no more, thoroughly brave as he had been,
neither did he wait to see what became of the gallows-man; but climbed
on his horse with what speed he might, and rode away at full gallop.
Neither did he dare go back by the way he came, fearing to face Black
Barrow Down! therefore he struck up the other track leading away towards
Cloven Rocks, and after riding hard for an hour and drinking all
his whisky, he luckily fell in with a shepherd, who led him on to a
public-house somewhere near Exeford. And here he was so unmanned, the
excitement being over, that nothing less than a gallon of ale and half
a gammon of bacon, brought him to his right mind again. And he took good
care to be home before dark, having followed a well-known sheep track.

When John Fry finished his story at last, after many exclamations from
Annie, and from Lizzie, and much praise of his gallantry, yet some
little disappointment that he had not stayed there a little longer,
while he was about it, so as to be able to tell us more, I said to him
very sternly,--

'Now, John, you have dreamed half this, my man. I firmly believe that
you fell asleep at the top of the black combe, after drinking all your
whisky, and never went on the moor at all. You know what a liar you are,
John.'

The girls were exceedingly angry at this, and laid their hands before
my mouth; but I waited for John to answer, with my eyes fixed upon him
steadfastly.

'Bain't for me to denai,' said John, looking at me very honestly, 'but
what a maight tull a lai, now and awhiles, zame as other men doth, and
most of arl them as spaks again it; but this here be no lai, Maister
Jan. I wush to God it wor, boy: a maight slape this naight the better.'

'I believe you speak the truth, John; and I ask your pardon. Now not a
word to any one, about this strange affair. There is mischief brewing, I
can see; and it is my place to attend to it. Several things come across
me now--only I will not tell you.'


They were not at all contented with this; but I would give them no
better; except to say, when they plagued me greatly, and vowed to sleep
at my door all night,--

'Now, my dears, this is foolish of you. Too much of this matter is known
already. It is for your own dear sakes that I am bound to be cautious.
I have an opinion of my own; but it may be a very wrong one; I will not
ask you to share it with me; neither will I make you inquisitive.'

Annie pouted, and Lizzie frowned, and Ruth looked at me with her eyes
wide open, but no other mark of regarding me. And I saw that if any one
of the three (for John Fry was gone home with the trembles) could be
trusted to keep a secret, that one was Ruth Huckaback.



CHAPTER XXXII

FEEDING OF THE PIGS

The story told by John Fry that night, and my conviction of its truth,
made me very uneasy, especially as following upon the warning of Judge
Jeffreys, and the hints received from Jeremy Stickles, and the outburst
of the tanner at Dunster, as well as sundry tales and rumours, and signs
of secret understanding, seen and heard on market-days, and at places of
entertainment. We knew for certain that at Taunton, Bridgwater, and even
Dulverton, there was much disaffection towards the King, and regret for
the days of the Puritans. Albeit I had told the truth, and the pure and
simple truth, when, upon my examination, I had assured his lordship,
that to the best of my knowledge there was nothing of the sort with us.

But now I was beginning to doubt whether I might not have been mistaken;
especially when we heard, as we did, of arms being landed at Lynmouth,
in the dead of the night, and of the tramp of men having reached some
one's ears, from a hill where a famous echo was. For it must be plain to
any conspirator (without the example of the Doones) that for the secret
muster of men and the stowing of unlawful arms, and communication by
beacon lights, scarcely a fitter place could be found than the wilds
of Exmoor, with deep ravines running far inland from an unwatched and
mostly a sheltered sea. For the Channel from Countisbury Foreland up
to Minehead, or even farther, though rocky, and gusty, and full of
currents, is safe from great rollers and the sweeping power of the
south-west storms, which prevail with us more than all the others, and
make sad work on the opposite coast.

But even supposing it probable that something against King Charles
the Second (or rather against his Roman advisers, and especially his
brother) were now in preparation amongst us, was it likely that Master
Huckaback, a wealthy man, and a careful one, known moreover to the Lord
Chief Justice, would have anything to do with it? To this I could
make no answer; Uncle Ben was so close a man, so avaricious, and so
revengeful, that it was quite impossible to say what course he
might pursue, without knowing all the chances of gain, or rise, or
satisfaction to him. That he hated the Papists I knew full well, though
he never spoke much about them; also that he had followed the march of
Oliver Cromwell's army, but more as a suttler (people said) than as a
real soldier; and that he would go a long way, and risk a great deal
of money, to have his revenge on the Doones; although their name never
passed his lips during the present visit.

But how was it likely to be as to the Doones themselves? Which side
would they probably take in the coming movement, if movement indeed it
would be? So far as they had any religion at all, by birth they were
Roman Catholics--so much I knew from Lorna; and indeed it was well known
all around, that a priest had been fetched more than once to the valley,
to soothe some poor outlaw's departure. On the other hand, they were
not likely to entertain much affection for the son of the man who had
banished them and confiscated their property. And it was not at all
impossible that desperate men, such as they were, having nothing to
lose, but estates to recover, and not being held by religion much,
should cast away all regard for the birth from which they had been cast
out, and make common cause with a Protestant rising, for the chance of
revenge and replacement.

However I do not mean to say that all these things occurred to me as
clearly as I have set them down; only that I was in general doubt, and
very sad perplexity. For mother was so warm, and innocent, and kind
so to every one, that knowing some little by this time of the English
constitution, I feared very greatly lest she should be punished for
harbouring malcontents. As well as possible I knew, that if any poor man
came to our door, and cried, 'Officers are after me; for God's sake take
and hide me,' mother would take him in at once, and conceal, and feed
him, even though he had been very violent; and, to tell the truth, so
would both my sisters, and so indeed would I do. Whence it will be clear
that we were not the sort of people to be safe among disturbances.

Before I could quite make up my mind how to act in this difficulty, and
how to get at the rights of it (for I would not spy after Uncle Reuben,
though I felt no great fear of the Wizard's Slough, and none of the man
with the white night-cap), a difference came again upon it, and a change
of chances. For Uncle Ben went away as suddenly as he first had come to
us, giving no reason for his departure, neither claiming the pony, and
indeed leaving something behind him of great value to my mother. For
he begged her to see to his young grand-daughter, until he could find
opportunity of fetching her safely to Dulverton. Mother was overjoyed
at this, as she could not help displaying; and Ruth was quite as much
delighted, although she durst not show it. For at Dulverton she had
to watch and keep such ward on the victuals, and the in and out of the
shopmen, that it went entirely against her heart, and she never could
enjoy herself. Truly she was an altered girl from the day she came to
us; catching our unsuspicious manners, and our free goodwill, and hearty
noise of laughing.

By this time, the harvest being done, and the thatching of the ricks
made sure against south-western tempests, and all the reapers being
gone, with good money and thankfulness, I began to burn in spirit for
the sight of Lorna. I had begged my sister Annie to let Sally Snowe
know, once for all, that it was not in my power to have any thing more
to do with her. Of course our Annie was not to grieve Sally, neither to
let it appear for a moment that I suspected her kind views upon me, and
her strong regard for our dairy: only I thought it right upon our part
not to waste Sally's time any longer, being a handsome wench as she was,
and many young fellows glad to marry her.

And Annie did this uncommonly well, as she herself told me afterwards,
having taken Sally in the sweetest manner into her pure confidence, and
opened half her bosom to her, about my very sad love affair. Not that
she let Sally know, of course, who it was, or what it was; only that she
made her understand, without hinting at any desire of it, that there was
no chance now of having me. Sally changed colour a little at this, and
then went on about a red cow which had passed seven needles at milking
time.

Inasmuch as there are two sorts of month well recognised by the
calendar, to wit the lunar and the solar, I made bold to regard both
my months, in the absence of any provision, as intended to be strictly
lunar. Therefore upon the very day when the eight weeks were expiring
forth I went in search of Lorna, taking the pearl ring hopefully, and
all the new-laid eggs I could find, and a dozen and a half of small
trout from our brook. And the pleasure it gave me to catch those trout,
thinking as every one came forth and danced upon the grass, how much
she would enjoy him, is more than I can now describe, although I well
remember it. And it struck me that after accepting my ring, and saying
how much she loved me, it was possible that my Queen might invite
me even to stay and sup with her: and so I arranged with dear Annie
beforehand, who was now the greatest comfort to me, to account for my
absence if I should be late.

But alas, I was utterly disappointed; for although I waited and waited
for hours, with an equal amount both of patience and peril, no Lorna
ever appeared at all, nor even the faintest sign of her. And another
thing occurred as well, which vexed me more than it need have done, for
so small a matter. And this was that my little offering of the trout
and the new-laid eggs was carried off in the coolest manner by that vile
Carver Doone. For thinking to keep them the fresher and nicer, away from
so much handling, I laid them in a little bed of reeds by the side of
the water, and placed some dog-leaves over them. And when I had quite
forgotten about them, and was watching from my hiding-place beneath
the willow-tree (for I liked not to enter Lorna's bower, without her
permission; except just to peep that she was not there), and while I was
turning the ring in my pocket, having just seen the new moon, I
became aware of a great man coming eisurely down the valley. He had a
broad-brimmed hat, and a leather jerkin, and heavy jack-boots to his
middle thigh, and what was worst of all for me, on his shoulder he bore
a long carbine. Having nothing to meet him withal but my staff, and
desiring to avoid disturbance, I retired promptly into the chasm,
keeping the tree betwixt us that he might not descry me, and watching
from behind the jut of a rock, where now I had scraped myself a neat
little hole for the purpose.

Presently the great man reappeared, being now within fifty yards of me,
and the light still good enough, as he drew nearer for me to descry
his features: and though I am not a judge of men's faces, there was
something in his which turned me cold, as though with a kind of horror.
Not that it was an ugly face; nay, rather it seemed a handsome one, so
far as mere form and line might go, full of strength, and vigour, and
will, and steadfast resolution. From the short black hair above the
broad forehead, to the long black beard descending below the curt, bold
chin, there was not any curve or glimpse of weakness or of afterthought.
Nothing playful, nothing pleasant, nothing with a track of smiles;
nothing which a friend could like, and laugh at him for having. And
yet he might have been a good man (for I have known very good men so
fortified by their own strange ideas of God): I say that he might
have seemed a good man, but for the cold and cruel hankering of his
steel-blue eyes.

Now let no one suppose for a minute that I saw all this in a moment; for
I am very slow, and take a long time to digest things; only I like to
set down, and have done with it, all the results of my knowledge, though
they be not manifold. But what I said to myself, just then, was no more
than this: 'What a fellow to have Lorna!' Having my sense of right so
outraged (although, of course, I would never allow her to go so far as
that), I almost longed that he might thrust his head in to look after
me. For there I was, with my ash staff clubbed, ready to have at him,
and not ill inclined to do so; if only he would come where strength, not
firearms, must decide it. However, he suspected nothing of my dangerous
neighbourhood, but walked his round like a sentinel, and turned at the
brink of the water.

Then as he marched back again, along the margin of the stream, he espied
my little hoard, covered up with dog-leaves. He saw that the leaves were
upside down, and this of course drew his attention. I saw him stoop,
and lay bare the fish, and the eggs set a little way from them and in
my simple heart, I thought that now he knew all about me. But to my
surprise, he seemed well-pleased; and his harsh short laughter came to
me without echo,--

'Ha, ha! Charlie boy! Fisherman Charlie, have I caught thee setting
bait for Lorna? Now, I understand thy fishings, and the robbing of
Counsellor's hen roost. May I never have good roasting, if I have it not
to-night and roast thee, Charlie, afterwards!'

With this he calmly packed up my fish, and all the best of dear Annie's
eggs; and went away chuckling steadfastly, to his home, if one may
call it so. But I was so thoroughly grieved and mortified by this most
impudent robbery, that I started forth from my rocky screen with the
intention of pursuing him, until my better sense arrested me, barely
in time to escape his eyes. For I said to myself, that even supposing
I could contend unarmed with him, it would be the greatest folly in the
world to have my secret access known, and perhaps a fatal barrier placed
between Lorna and myself, and I knew not what trouble brought upon her,
all for the sake of a few eggs and fishes. It was better to bear this
trifling loss, however ignominious and goading to the spirit, than to
risk my love and Lorna's welfare, and perhaps be shot into the bargain.
And I think that all will agree with me, that I acted for the wisest, in
withdrawing to my shelter, though deprived of eggs and fishes.

Having waited (as I said) until there was no chance whatever of my love
appearing, I hastened homeward very sadly; and the wind of early autumn
moaned across the moorland. All the beauty of the harvest, all the
gaiety was gone, and the early fall of dusk was like a weight upon
me. Nevertheless, I went every evening thenceforward for a fortnight;
hoping, every time in vain to find my hope and comfort. And meanwhile,
what perplexed me most was that the signals were replaced, in order as
agreed upon, so that Lorna could scarcely be restrained by any rigour.

One time I had a narrow chance of being shot and settled with; and
it befell me thus. I was waiting very carelessly, being now a little
desperate, at the entrance to the glen, instead of watching through my
sight-hole, as the proper practice was. Suddenly a ball went by me, with
a whizz and whistle, passing through my hat and sweeping it away all
folded up. My soft hat fluttered far down the stream, before I had time
to go after it, and with the help of both wind and water, was fifty
yards gone in a moment. At this I had just enough mind left to shrink
back very suddenly, and lurk very still and closely; for I knew what
a narrow escape it had been, as I heard the bullet, hard set by the
powder, sing mournfully down the chasm, like a drone banished out of the
hive. And as I peered through my little cranny, I saw a wreath of smoke
still floating where the thickness was of the withy-bed; and presently
Carver Doone came forth, having stopped to reload his piece perhaps, and
ran very swiftly to the entrance to see what he had shot.

Sore trouble had I to keep close quarters, from the slipperiness of the
stone beneath me with the water sliding over it. My foe came quite to
the verge of the fall, where the river began to comb over; and there he
stopped for a minute or two, on the utmost edge of dry land, upon the
very spot indeed where I had fallen senseless when I clomb it in my
boyhood. I could hear him breathing hard and grunting, as in doubt and
discontent, for he stood within a yard of me, and I kept my right
fist ready for him, if he should discover me. Then at the foot of the
waterslide, my black hat suddenly appeared, tossing in white foam, and
fluttering like a raven wounded. Now I had doubted which hat to take,
when I left home that day; till I thought that the black became me best,
and might seem kinder to Lorna.

'Have I killed thee, old bird, at last?' my enemy cried in triumph;
''tis the third time I have shot at thee, and thou wast beginning to
mock me. No more of thy cursed croaking now, to wake me in the morning.
Ha, ha! there are not many who get three chances from Carver Doone; and
none ever go beyond it.'

I laughed within myself at this, as he strode away in his triumph; for
was not this his third chance of me, and he no whit the wiser? And then
I thought that perhaps the chance might some day be on the other side.

For to tell the truth, I was heartily tired of lurking and playing
bo-peep so long; to which nothing could have reconciled me, except
my fear for Lorna. And here I saw was a man of strength fit for me to
encounter, such as I had never met, but would be glad to meet with;
having found no man of late who needed not my mercy at wrestling, or at
single-stick. And growing more and more uneasy, as I found no Lorna, I
would have tried to force the Doone Glen from the upper end, and take my
chance of getting back, but for Annie and her prayers.

Now that same night I think it was, or at any rate the next one, that I
noticed Betty Muxworthy going on most strangely. She made the queerest
signs to me, when nobody was looking, and laid her fingers on her lips,
and pointed over her shoulder. But I took little heed of her, being in
a kind of dudgeon, and oppressed with evil luck; believing too that all
she wanted was to have some little grumble about some petty grievance.

But presently she poked me with the heel of a fire-bundle, and passing
close to my ear whispered, so that none else could hear her, 'Larna
Doo-un.'

By these words I was so startled, that I turned round and stared at her;
but she pretended not to know it, and began with all her might to scour
an empty crock with a besom.

'Oh, Betty, let me help you! That work is much too hard for you,' I
cried with a sudden chivalry, which only won rude answer.

'Zeed me adooing of thic, every naight last ten year, Jan, wiout vindin'
out how hard it wor. But if zo bee thee wants to help, carr peg's bucket
for me. Massy, if I ain't forgotten to fade the pegs till now.'

Favouring me with another wink, to which I now paid the keenest heed,
Betty went and fetched the lanthorn from the hook inside the door. Then
when she had kindled it, not allowing me any time to ask what she was
after, she went outside, and pointed to the great bock of wash, and
riddlings, and brown hulkage (for we ground our own corn always), and
though she knew that Bill Dadds and Jem Slocombe had full work to carry
it on a pole (with another to help to sling it), she said to me as
quietly as a maiden might ask one to carry a glove, 'Jan Ridd, carr thic
thing for me.'

So I carried it for her, without any words; wondering what she was up
to next, and whether she had ever heard of being too hard on the willing
horse. And when we came to hog-pound, she turned upon me suddenly, with
the lanthorn she was bearing, and saw that I had the bock by one hand
very easily.

'Jan Ridd,' she said, 'there be no other man in England cud a' dood it.
Now thee shalt have Larna.'

While I was wondering how my chance of having Lorna could depend upon
my power to carry pig's wash, and how Betty could have any voice in the
matter (which seemed to depend upon her decision), and in short, while
I was all abroad as to her knowledge and everything, the pigs, who had
been fast asleep and dreaming in their emptiness, awoke with one accord
at the goodness of the smell around them. They had resigned themselves,
as even pigs do, to a kind of fast, hoping to break their fast more
sweetly on the morrow morning. But now they tumbled out all headlong,
pigs below and pigs above, pigs point-blank and pigs across, pigs
courant and pigs rampant, but all alike prepared to eat, and all in good
cadence squeaking.

'Tak smarl boocket, and bale un out; wad 'e waste sich stoof as thic
here be?' So Betty set me to feed the pigs, while she held the lanthorn;
and knowing what she was, I saw that she would not tell me another word
until all the pigs were served. And in truth no man could well look at
them, and delay to serve them, they were all expressing appetite in so
forcible a manner; some running to and fro, and rubbing, and squealing
as if from starvation, some rushing down to the oaken troughs, and
poking each other away from them; and the kindest of all putting up
their fore-feet on the top-rail on the hog-pound, and blinking their
little eyes, and grunting prettily to coax us; as who would say, 'I
trust you now; you will be kind, I know, and give me the first and the
very best of it.'

'Oppen ge-at now, wull 'e, Jan? Maind, young sow wi' the baible back
arlway hath first toorn of it, 'cos I brought her up on my lap, I did.
Zuck, zuck, zuck! How her stickth her tail up; do me good to zee un! Now
thiccy trough, thee zany, and tak thee girt legs out o' the wai. Wish
they wud gie thee a good baite, mak thee hop a bit vaster, I reckon. Hit
that there girt ozebird over's back wi' the broomstick, he be robbing
of my young zow. Choog, choog, choog! and a drap more left in the
dripping-pail.'

'Come now, Betty,' I said, when all the pigs were at it sucking,
swilling, munching, guzzling, thrusting, and ousting, and spilling
the food upon the backs of their brethren (as great men do with their
charity), 'come now, Betty, how much longer am I to wait for your
message? Surely I am as good as a pig.'

'Dunno as thee be, Jan. No straikiness in thy bakkon. And now I come to
think of it, Jan, thee zed, a wake agone last Vriday, as how I had got a
girt be-ard. Wull 'e stick to that now, Maister Jan?'

'No, no, Betty, certainly not; I made a mistake about it. I should have
said a becoming mustachio, such as you may well be proud of.'

'Then thee be a laiar, Jan Ridd. Zay so, laike a man, lad.'

'Not exactly that, Betty; but I made a great mistake; and I humbly ask
your pardon; and if such a thing as a crown-piece, Betty'--

'No fai, no fai!' said Betty, however she put it into her pocket; 'now
tak my advice, Jan; thee marry Zally Snowe.'

'Not with all England for her dowry. Oh, Betty, you know better.'

'Ah's me! I know much worse, Jan. Break thy poor mother's heart it will.
And to think of arl the danger! Dost love Larna now so much?'

'With all the strength of my heart and soul. I will have her, or I will
die, Betty.'

'Wull. Thee will die in either case. But it baint for me to argify. And
do her love thee too, Jan?'

'I hope she does, Betty I hope she does. What do you think about it?'

'Ah, then I may hold my tongue to it. Knaw what boys and maidens be, as
well as I knew young pegs. I myzell been o' that zort one taime every
bit so well as you be.' And Betty held the lanthorn up, and defied me to
deny it; and the light through the horn showed a gleam in her eyes, such
as I had never seer there before. 'No odds, no odds about that,'
she continued; 'mak a fool of myzell to spake of it. Arl gone into
churchyard. But it be a lucky foolery for thee, my boy, I can tull 'ee.
For I love to see the love in thee. Coom'th over me as the spring do,
though I be naigh three score. Now, Jan, I will tell thee one thing,
can't abear to zee thee vretting so. Hould thee head down, same as they
pegs do.'

So I bent my head quite close to her; and she whispered in my ear, 'Goo
of a marning, thee girt soft. Her can't get out of an avening now, her
hath zent word to me, to tull 'ee.'

In the glory of my delight at this, I bestowed upon Betty a chaste
salute, with all the pigs for witnesses; and she took it not amiss,
considering how long she had been out of practice. But then she fell
back, like a broom on its handle, and stared at me, feigning anger.

'Oh fai, oh fai! Lunnon impudence, I doubt. I vear thee hast gone on
zadly, Jan.'



CHAPTER XXXIII

AN EARLY MORNING CALL

Of course I was up the very next morning before the October sunrise, and
away through the wild and the woodland towards the Bagworthy water, at
the foot of the long cascade. The rising of the sun was noble in the
cold and warmth of it; peeping down the spread of light, he raised his
shoulder heavily over the edge of grey mountain, and wavering length of
upland. Beneath his gaze the dew-fogs dipped, and crept to the hollow
places; then stole away in line and column, holding skirts, and clinging
subtly at the sheltering corners, where rock hung over grass-land; while
the brave lines of the hills came forth, one beyond other gliding.

Then the woods arose in folds, like drapery of awakened mountains,
stately with a depth of awe, and memory of the tempests. Autumn's mellow
hand was on them, as they owned already, touched with gold, and red,
and olive; and their joy towards the sun was less to a bridegroom than a
father.

Yet before the floating impress of the woods could clear itself,
suddenly the gladsome light leaped over hill and valley, casting amber,
blue, and purple, and a tint of rich red rose; according to the scene
they lit on, and the curtain flung around; yet all alike dispelling fear
and the cloven hoof of darkness, all on the wings of hope advancing,
and proclaiming, 'God is here.' Then life and joy sprang reassured
from every crouching hollow; every flower, and bud, and bird, had a
fluttering sense of them; and all the flashing of God's gaze merged into
soft beneficence.

So perhaps shall break upon us that eternal morning, when crag and chasm
shall be no more, neither hill and valley, nor great unvintaged ocean;
when glory shall not scare happiness, neither happiness envy glory;
but all things shall arise and shine in the light of the Father's
countenance, because itself is risen.

Who maketh His sun to rise upon both the just and the unjust. And surely
but for the saving clause, Doone Glen had been in darkness. Now, as I
stood with scanty breath--for few men could have won that climb--at
the top of the long defile, and the bottom of the mountain gorge all of
myself, and the pain of it, and the cark of my discontent fell away
into wonder and rapture. For I cannot help seeing things now and then,
slow-witted as I have a right to be; and perhaps because it comes so
rarely, the sight dwells with me like a picture.

The bar of rock, with the water-cleft breaking steeply through it, stood
bold and bare, and dark in shadow, grey with red gullies down it. But
the sun was beginning to glisten over the comb of the eastern highland,
and through an archway of the wood hung with old nests and ivy. The
lines of many a leaning tree were thrown, from the cliffs of the
foreland, down upon the sparkling grass at the foot of the western
crags. And through the dewy meadow's breast, fringed with shade, but
touched on one side with the sun-smile, ran the crystal water, curving
in its brightness like diverted hope.

On either bank, the blades of grass, making their last autumn growth,
pricked their spears and crisped their tuftings with the pearly purity.
The tenderness of their green appeared under the glaucous mantle; while
that grey suffusion, which is the blush of green life, spread its damask
chastity. Even then my soul was lifted, worried though my mind was: who
can see such large kind doings, and not be ashamed of human grief?

Not only unashamed of grief, but much abashed with joy, was I, when
I saw my Lorna coming, purer than the morning dew, than the sun more
bright and clear. That which made me love her so, that which lifted my
heart to her, as the Spring wind lifts the clouds, was the gayness of
her nature, and its inborn playfulness. And yet all this with maiden
shame, a conscious dream of things unknown, and a sense of fate about
them.

Down the valley still she came, not witting that I looked at her, having
ceased (through my own misprison) to expect me yet awhile; or at least
she told herself so. In the joy of awakened life and brightness of
the morning, she had cast all care away, and seemed to float upon the
sunrise, like a buoyant silver wave. Suddenly at sight of me, for I
leaped forth at once, in fear of seeming to watch her unawares, the
bloom upon her cheeks was deepened, and the radiance of her eyes; and
she came to meet me gladly.

'At last then, you are come, John. I thought you had forgotten me. I
could not make you understand--they have kept me prisoner every evening:
but come into my house; you are in danger here.'

Meanwhile I could not answer, being overcome with joy, but followed
to her little grotto, where I had been twice before. I knew that the
crowning moment of my life was coming--that Lorna would own her love for
me.

She made for awhile as if she dreamed not of the meaning of my gaze,
but tried to speak of other things, faltering now and then, and mantling
with a richer damask below her long eyelashes.

'This is not what I came to know,' I whispered very softly, 'you know
what I am come to ask.'

'If you are come on purpose to ask anything, why do you delay so?' She
turned away very bravely, but I saw that her lips were trembling.

'I delay so long, because I fear; because my whole life hangs in balance
on a single word; because what I have near me now may never more be near
me after, though more than all the world, or than a thousand worlds,
to me.' As I spoke these words of passion in a low soft voice, Lorna
trembled more and more; but she made no answer, neither yet looked up at
me.

'I have loved you long and long,' I pursued, being reckless now, 'when
you were a little child, as a boy I worshipped you: then when I saw
you a comely girl, as a stripling I adored you: now that you are a
full-grown maiden all the rest I do, and more--I love you more than
tongue can tell, or heart can hold in silence. I have waited long and
long; and though I am so far below you I can wait no longer; but must
have my answer.'

'You have been very faithful, John,' she murmured to the fern and moss;
'I suppose I must reward you.'

'That will not do for me,' I said; 'I will not have reluctant liking,
nor assent for pity's sake; which only means endurance. I must have all
love, or none, I must have your heart of hearts; even as you have mine,
Lorna.'

While I spoke, she glanced up shyly through her fluttering lashes,
to prolong my doubt one moment, for her own delicious pride. Then she
opened wide upon me all the glorious depth and softness of her loving
eyes, and flung both arms around my neck, and answered with her heart on
mine,--

'Darling, you have won it all. I shall never be my own again. I am
yours, my own one, for ever and for ever.'

I am sure I know not what I did, or what I said thereafter, being
overcome with transport by her words and at her gaze. Only one thing I
remember, when she raised her bright lips to me, like a child, for me to
kiss, such a smile of sweet temptation met me through her flowing hair,
that I almost forgot my manners, giving her no time to breathe.

'That will do,' said Lorna gently, but violently blushing; 'for the
present that will do, John. And now remember one thing, dear. All the
kindness is to be on my side; and you are to be very distant, as behoves
to a young maiden; except when I invite you. But you may kiss my hand,
John; oh, yes, you may kiss my hand, you know. Ah to be sure! I had
forgotten; how very stupid of me!'

For by this time I had taken one sweet hand and gazed on it, with the
pride of all the world to think that such a lovely thing was mine; and
then I slipped my little ring upon the wedding finger; and this time
Lorna kept it, and looked with fondness on its beauty, and clung to me
with a flood of tears.

'Every time you cry,' said I, drawing her closer to me 'I shall consider
it an invitation not to be too distant. There now, none shall make you
weep. Darling, you shall sigh no more, but live in peace and happiness,
with me to guard and cherish you: and who shall dare to vex you?' But
she drew a long sad sigh, and looked at the ground with the great tears
rolling, and pressed one hand upon the trouble of her pure young breast.

'It can never, never be,' she murmured to herself alone: 'Who am I, to
dream of it? Something in my heart tells me it can be so never, never.'



CHAPTER XXXIV

TWO NEGATIVES MAKE AN AFFIRMATIVE

There was, however, no possibility of depressing me at such a time. To
be loved by Lorna, the sweet, the pure, the playful one, the fairest
creature on God's earth and the most enchanting, the lady of high birth
and mind; that I, a mere clumsy, blundering yeoman, without wit, or
wealth, or lineage, should have won that loving heart to be my own for
ever, was a thought no fears could lessen, and no chance could steal
from me.

Therefore at her own entreaty taking a very quick adieu, and by her own
invitation an exceeding kind one, I hurried home with deep exulting, yet
some sad misgivings, for Lorna had made me promise now to tell my mother
everything; as indeed I always meant to do, when my suit should be gone
too far to stop. I knew, of course, that my dear mother would be greatly
moved and vexed, the heirship of Glen Doone not being a very desirable
dower, but in spite of that, and all disappointment as to little Ruth
Huckaback, feeling my mother's tenderness and deep affection to me, and
forgiving nature, I doubted not that before very long she would view the
matter as I did. Moreover, I felt that if once I could get her only to
look at Lorna, she would so love and glory in her, that I should obtain
all praise and thanks, perchance without deserving them.

Unluckily for my designs, who should be sitting down at breakfast with
my mother and the rest but Squire Faggus, as everybody now began to
entitle him. I noticed something odd about him, something uncomfortable
in his manner, and a lack of that ease and humour which had been wont to
distinguish him. He took his breakfast as it came, without a single
joke about it, or preference of this to that; but with sly soft looks
at Annie, who seemed unable to sit quiet, or to look at any one
steadfastly. I feared in my heart what was coming on, and felt truly
sorry for poor mother. After breakfast it became my duty to see to the
ploughing of a barley-stubble ready for the sowing of a French grass,
and I asked Tom Faggus to come with me, but he refused, and I knew the
reason. Being resolved to allow him fair field to himself, though with
great displeasure that a man of such illegal repute should marry into
our family, which had always been counted so honest, I carried my dinner
upon my back, and spent the whole day with the furrows.

When I returned, Squire Faggus was gone; which appeared to me but
a sorry sign, inasmuch as if mother had taken kindly to him and his
intentions, she would surely have made him remain awhile to celebrate
the occasion. And presently no doubt was left: for Lizzie came running
to meet me, at the bottom of the woodrick, and cried,--

'Oh, John, there is such a business. Mother is in such a state of mind,
and Annie crying her eyes out. What do you think? You would never guess,
though I have suspected it, ever so long.'

'No need for me to guess,' I replied, as though with some indifference,
because of her self-important air; 'I knew all about it long ago. You
have not been crying much, I see. I should like you better if you had.'

'Why should I cry? I like Tom Faggus. He is the only one I ever see with
the spirit of a man.'

This was a cut, of course, at me. Mr. Faggus had won the goodwill of
Lizzie by his hatred of the Doones, and vows that if he could get a
dozen men of any courage to join him, he would pull their stronghold
about their ears without any more ado. This malice of his seemed strange
to me, as he had never suffered at their hands, so far at least as I
knew; was it to be attributed to his jealousy of outlaws who excelled
him in his business? Not being good at repartee, I made no answer to
Lizzie, having found this course more irksome to her than the very best
invective: and so we entered the house together; and mother sent at once
for me, while I was trying to console my darling sister Annie.

'Oh, John! speak one good word for me,' she cried with both hands laid
in mine, and her tearful eyes looking up at me.

'Not one, my pet, but a hundred,' I answered, kindly embracing her:
'have no fear, little sister: I am going to make your case so bright, by
comparison, I mean, that mother will send for you in five minutes, and
call you her best, her most dutiful child, and praise Cousin Tom to the
skies, and send a man on horseback after him; and then you will have a
harder task to intercede for me, my dear.'

'Oh, John, dear John, you won't tell her about Lorna--oh, not to-day,
dear.'

'Yes, to-day, and at once, Annie. I want to have it over, and be done
with it.'

'Oh, but think of her, dear. I am sure she could not bear it, after this
great shock already.'

'She will bear it all the better,' said I; 'the one will drive the other
out. I know exactly what mother is. She will be desperately savage first
with you, and then with me, and then for a very little while with both
of us together; and then she will put one against the other (in her mind
I mean) and consider which was most to blame; and in doing that she will
be compelled to find the best in either's case, that it may beat the
other; and so as the pleas come before her mind, they will gain upon the
charges, both of us being her children, you know: and before very long
(particularly if we both keep out of the way) she will begin to think
that after all she has been a little too hasty, and then she will
remember how good we have always been to her; and how like our father.
Upon that, she will think of her own love-time, and sigh a good bit,
and cry a little, and then smile, and send for both of us, and beg our
pardon, and call us her two darlings.'

'Now, John, how on earth can you know all that?' exclaimed my sister,
wiping her eyes, and gazing at me with a soft bright smile. 'Who on
earth can have told you, John? People to call you stupid indeed! Why,
I feel that all you say is quite true, because you describe so exactly
what I should do myself; I mean--I mean if I had two children, who had
behaved as we have done. But tell me, darling John, how you learned all
this.'

'Never you mind,' I replied, with a nod of some conceit, I fear: 'I must
be a fool if I did not know what mother is by this time.'

Now inasmuch as the thing befell according to my prediction, what need
for me to dwell upon it, after saying how it would be? Moreover, I would
regret to write down what mother said about Lorna, in her first surprise
and tribulation; not only because I was grieved by the gross injustice
of it, and frightened mother with her own words (repeated deeply after
her); but rather because it is not well, when people repent of hasty
speech, to enter it against them.

That is said to be the angels' business; and I doubt if they can attend
to it much, without doing injury to themselves.

However, by the afternoon, when the sun began to go down upon us, our
mother sat on the garden bench, with her head on my great otter-skin
waistcoat (which was waterproof), and her right arm round our Annie's
waist, and scarcely knowing which of us she ought to make the most of,
or which deserved most pity. Not that she had forgiven yet the rivals to
her love--Tom Faggus, I mean, and Lorna--but that she was beginning to
think a tattle better of them now, and a vast deal better of her own
children.

And it helped her much in this regard, that she was not thinking half
so well as usual of herself, or rather of her own judgment; for in good
truth she had no self, only as it came home to her, by no very distant
road, but by way of her children. A better mother never lived; and can
I, after searching all things, add another word to that?

And indeed poor Lizzie was not so very bad; but behaved (on the whole)
very well for her. She was much to be pitied, poor thing, and great
allowances made for her, as belonging to a well-grown family, and a very
comely one; and feeling her own shortcomings. This made her leap to the
other extreme, and reassert herself too much, endeavouring to exalt the
mind at the expense of the body; because she had the invisible one (so
far as can be decided) in better share than the visible. Not but what
she had her points, and very comely points of body; lovely eyes to wit,
and very beautiful hands and feet (almost as good as Lorna's), and a
neck as white as snow; but Lizzie was not gifted with our gait and port,
and bounding health.

Now, while we sat on the garden bench, under the great ash-tree, we left
dear mother to take her own way, and talk at her own pleasure. Children
almost always are more wide-awake than their parents. The fathers and
the mothers laugh; but the young ones have the best of them. And now
both Annie knew, and I, that we had gotten the best of mother; and
therefore we let her lay down the law, as if we had been two dollies.

'Darling John,' my mother said, 'your case is a very hard one. A young
and very romantic girl--God send that I be right in my charitable
view of her--has met an equally simple boy, among great dangers and
difficulties, from which my son has saved her, at the risk of his life
at every step. Of course, she became attached to him, and looked up to
him in every way, as a superior being'--

'Come now, mother,' I said; 'if you only saw Lorna, you would look upon
me as the lowest dirt'--

'No doubt I should,' my mother answered; 'and the king and queen, and
all the royal family. Well, this poor angel, having made up her mind to
take compassion upon my son, when he had saved her life so many times,
persuades him to marry her out of pure pity, and throw his poor mother
overboard. And the saddest part of it all is this--'

'That my mother will never, never, never understand the truth,' said I.

'That is all I wish,' she answered; 'just to get at the simple truth
from my own perception of it. John, you are very wise in kissing me;
but perhaps you would not be so wise in bringing Lorna for an afternoon,
just to see what she thinks of me. There is a good saddle of mutton now;
and there are some very good sausages left, on the blue dish with the
anchor, Annie, from the last little sow we killed.'

'As if Lorna would eat sausages!' said I, with appearance of high
contempt, though rejoicing all the while that mother seemed to have her
name so pat; and she pronounced it in a manner which made my heart leap
to my ears: 'Lorna to eat sausages!'

'I don't see why she shouldn't,' my mother answered smiling, 'if she
means to be a farmer's wife, she must take to farmer's ways, I think.
What do you say, Annie?'

'She will eat whatever John desires, I should hope,' said Annie gravely;
'particularly as I made them.'

'Oh that I could only get the chance of trying her!' I answered, 'if you
could once behold her, mother, you would never let her go again. And she
would love you with all her heart, she is so good and gentle.'

'That is a lucky thing for me'; saying this my mother wept, as she had
been doing off and on, when no one seemed to look at her; 'otherwise I
suppose, John, she would very soon turn me out of the farm, having you
so completely under her thumb, as she seems to have. I see now that my
time is over. Lizzie and I will seek our fortunes. It is wiser so.'

'Now, mother,' I cried; 'will you have the kindness not to talk any
nonsense? Everything belongs to you; and so, I hope, your children do.
And you, in turn, belong to us; as you have proved ever since--oh, ever
since we can remember. Why do you make Annie cry so? You ought to know
better than that.'

Mother upon this went over all the things she had done before; how many
times I know not; neither does it matter. Only she seemed to enjoy it
more, every time of doing it. And then she said she was an old fool; and
Annie (like a thorough girl) pulled her one grey hair out.



CHAPTER XXXV

RUTH IS NOT LIKE LORNA

Although by our mother's reluctant consent a large part of the obstacles
between Annie and her lover appeared to be removed, on the other hand
Lorna and myself gained little, except as regarded comfort of mind, and
some ease to the conscience. Moreover, our chance of frequent meetings
and delightful converse was much impaired, at least for the present;
because though mother was not aware of my narrow escape from Carver
Doone, she made me promise never to risk my life by needless visits.
And upon this point, that is to say, the necessity of the visit, she was
well content, as she said, to leave me to my own good sense and honour;
only begging me always to tell her of my intention beforehand. This
pledge, however, for her own sake, I declined to give; knowing how
wretched she would be during all the time of my absence; and, on that
account, I promised instead, that I would always give her a full account
of my adventure upon returning.

Now my mother, as might be expected, began at once to cast about for
some means of relieving me from all further peril, and herself from
great anxiety. She was full of plans for fetching Lorna, in some
wonderful manner, out of the power of the Doones entirely, and into her
own hands, where she was to remain for at least a twelve-month, learning
all mother and Annie could teach her of dairy business, and farm-house
life, and the best mode of packing butter. And all this arose from my
happening to say, without meaning anything, how the poor dear had longed
for quiet, and a life of simplicity, and a rest away from violence!
Bless thee, mother--now long in heaven, there is no need to bless thee;
but it often makes a dimness now in my well-worn eyes, when I think of
thy loving-kindness, warmth, and romantic innocence.

As to stealing my beloved from that vile Glen Doone, the deed itself was
not impossible, nor beyond my daring; but in the first place would she
come, leaving her old grandfather to die without her tendence? And
even if, through fear of Carver and that wicked Counsellor, she should
consent to fly, would it be possible to keep her without a regiment of
soldiers? Would not the Doones at once ride forth to scour the country
for their queen, and finding her (as they must do), burn our house, and
murder us, and carry her back triumphantly?

All this I laid before my mother, and to such effect that she
acknowledged, with a sigh that nothing else remained for me (in the
present state of matters) except to keep a careful watch upon Lorna from
safe distance, observe the policy of the Doones, and wait for a tide in
their affairs. Meanwhile I might even fall in love (as mother unwisely
hinted) with a certain more peaceful heiress, although of inferior
blood, who would be daily at my elbow. I am not sure but what dear
mother herself would have been disappointed, had I proved myself so
fickle; and my disdain and indignation at the mere suggestion did not so
much displease her; for she only smiled and answered,--

'Well, it is not for me to say; God knows what is good for us. Likings
will not come to order; otherwise I should not be where I am this day.
And of one thing I am rather glad; Uncle Reuben well deserves that his
pet scheme should miscarry. He who called my boy a coward, an ignoble
coward, because he would not join some crack-brained plan against the
valley which sheltered his beloved one! And all the time this dreadful
"coward" risking his life daily there, without a word to any one! How
glad I am that you will not have, for all her miserable money, that
little dwarfish granddaughter of the insolent old miser!'

She turned, and by her side was standing poor Ruth Huckaback herself,
white, and sad, and looking steadily at my mother's face, which became
as red as a plum while her breath deserted her.

'If you please, madam,' said the little maiden, with her large calm eyes
unwavering, 'it is not my fault, but God Almighty's, that I am a little
dwarfish creature. I knew not that you regarded me with so much contempt
on that account; neither have you told my grandfather, at least
within my hearing, that he was an insolent old miser. When I return to
Dulverton, which I trust to do to-morrow (for it is too late to-day),
I shall be careful not to tell him your opinion of him, lest I should
thwart any schemes you may have upon his property. I thank you all for
your kindness to me, which has been very great, far more than a little
dwarfish creature could, for her own sake, expect. I will only add for
your further guidance one more little truth. It is by no means certain
that my grandfather will settle any of his miserable money upon me. If
I offend him, as I would in a moment, for the sake of a brave and
straightforward man'--here she gave me a glance which I scarcely knew
what to do with--'my grandfather, upright as he is, would leave me
without a shilling. And I often wish it were so. So many miseries come
upon me from the miserable money--' Here she broke down, and burst out
crying, and ran away with a faint good-bye; while we three looked at one
another, and felt that we had the worst of it.

'Impudent little dwarf!' said my mother, recovering her breath after
ever so long. 'Oh, John, how thankful you ought to be! What a life she
would have led you!'

'Well, I am sure!' said Annie, throwing her arms around poor mother:
'who could have thought that little atomy had such an outrageous spirit!
For my part I cannot think how she can have been sly enough to hide it
in that crafty manner, that John might think her an angel!'

'Well, for my part,' I answered, laughing, 'I never admired Ruth
Huckaback half, or a quarter so much before. She is rare stuff. I would
have been glad to have married her to-morrow, if I had never seen my
Lorna.'

'And a nice nobody I should have been, in my own house!' cried mother:
'I never can be thankful enough to darling Lorna for saving me. Did you
see how her eyes flashed?'

'That I did; and very fine they were. Now nine maidens out of ten would
have feigned not to have heard one word that was said, and have borne
black malice in their hearts. Come, Annie, now, would not you have done
so?'

'I think,' said Annie, 'although of course I cannot tell, you know,
John, that I should have been ashamed at hearing what was never meant
for me, and should have been almost as angry with myself as anybody.'

'So you would,' replied my mother; 'so any daughter of mine would have
done, instead of railing and reviling. However, I am very sorry that any
words of mine which the poor little thing chose to overhear should have
made her so forget herself. I shall beg her pardon before she goes, and
I shall expect her to beg mine.'

'That she will never do,' said I; 'a more resolute little maiden never
yet had right upon her side; although it was a mere accident. I might
have said the same thing myself, and she was hard upon you, mother
dear.'

After this, we said no more, at least about that matter; and little
Ruth, the next morning, left us, in spite of all that we could do. She
vowed an everlasting friendship to my younger sister Eliza; but she
looked at Annie with some resentment, when they said good-bye, for being
so much taller. At any rate so Annie fancied, but she may have been
quite wrong. I rode beside the little maid till far beyond Exeford, when
all danger of the moor was past, and then I left her with John Fry, not
wishing to be too particular, after all the talk about her money. She
had tears in her eyes when she bade me farewell, and she sent a kind
message home to mother, and promised to come again at Christmas, if she
could win permission.

Upon the whole, my opinion was that she had behaved uncommonly well for
a maid whose self-love was outraged, with spirit, I mean, and proper
pride; and yet with a great endeavour to forgive, which is, meseems, the
hardest of all things to a woman, outside of her own family.

After this, for another month, nothing worthy of notice happened, except
of course that I found it needful, according to the strictest good sense
and honour, to visit Lorna immediately after my discourse with mother,
and to tell her all about it. My beauty gave me one sweet kiss with all
her heart (as she always did, when she kissed at all), and I begged for
one more to take to our mother, and before leaving, I obtained it. It
is not for me to tell all she said, even supposing (what is not likely)
that any one cared to know it, being more and more peculiar to ourselves
and no one else. But one thing that she said was this, and I took good
care to carry it, word for word, to my mother and Annie:--

'I never can believe, dear John, that after all the crime and outrage
wrought by my reckless family, it ever can be meant for me to settle
down to peace and comfort in a simple household. With all my heart I
long for home; any home, however dull and wearisome to those used to
it, would seem a paradise to me, if only free from brawl and tumult,
and such as I could call my own. But even if God would allow me this, in
lieu of my wild inheritance, it is quite certain that the Doones never
can and never will.'

Again, when I told her how my mother and Annie, as well as myself,
longed to have her at Plover's Barrows, and teach her all the quiet
duties in which she was sure to take such delight, she only answered
with a bright blush, that while her grandfather was living she would
never leave him; and that even if she were free, certain ruin was all
she should bring to any house that received her, at least within the
utmost reach of her amiable family. This was too plain to be denied,
and seeing my dejection at it, she told me bravely that we must hope for
better times, if possible, and asked how long I would wait for her.

'Not a day if I had my will,' I answered very warmly; at which she
turned away confused, and would not look at me for awhile; 'but all my
life,' I went on to say, 'if my fortune is so ill. And how long would
you wait for me, Lorna?'

'Till I could get you,' she answered slyly, with a smile which
was brighter to me than the brightest wit could be. 'And now,' she
continued, 'you bound me, John, with a very beautiful ring to you, and
when I dare not wear it, I carry it always on my heart. But I will bind
you to me, you dearest, with the very poorest and plainest thing that
ever you set eyes on. I could give you fifty fairer ones, but they would
not be honest; and I love you for your honesty, and nothing else of
course, John; so don't you be conceited. Look at it, what a queer
old thing! There are some ancient marks upon it, very grotesque and
wonderful; it looks like a cat in a tree almost, but never mind what it
looks like. This old ring must have been a giant's; therefore it will
fit you perhaps, you enormous John. It has been on the front of my old
glass necklace (which my grandfather found them taking away, and very
soon made them give back again) ever since I can remember; and long
before that, as some woman told me. Now you seem very greatly amazed;
pray what thinks my lord of it?'

'That is worth fifty of the pearl thing which I gave you, you darling;
and that I will not take it from you.'

'Then you will never take me, that is all. I will have nothing to do
with a gentleman'--

'No gentleman, dear--a yeoman.'

'Very well, a yeoman--nothing to do with a yeoman who will not accept my
love-gage. So, if you please, give it back again, and take your lovely
ring back.'

She looked at me in such a manner, half in earnest, half in jest, and
three times three in love, that in spite of all good resolutions, and
her own faint protest, I was forced to abandon all firm ideas, and kiss
her till she was quite ashamed, and her head hung on my bosom, with the
night of her hair shed over me. Then I placed the pearl ring back on the
soft elastic bend of the finger she held up to scold me; and on my own
smallest finger drew the heavy hoop she had given me. I considered this
with satisfaction, until my darling recovered herself; and then I began
very gravely about it, to keep her (if I could) from chiding me:--

'Mistress Lorna, this is not the ring of any giant. It is nothing more
nor less than a very ancient thumb-ring, such as once in my father's
time was ploughed up out of the ground in our farm, and sent to learned
doctors, who told us all about it, but kept the ring for their trouble.
I will accept it, my own one love; and it shall go to my grave with
me.' And so it shall, unless there be villains who would dare to rob the
dead.

Now I have spoken about this ring (though I scarcely meant to do so,
and would rather keep to myself things so very holy) because it holds an
important part in the history of my Lorna. I asked her where the glass
necklace was from which the ring was fastened, and which she had worn
in her childhood, and she answered that she hardly knew, but remembered
that her grandfather had begged her to give it up to him, when she was
ten years old or so, and had promised to keep it for her until she
could take care of it; at the same time giving her back the ring, and
fastening it from her pretty neck, and telling her to be proud of it.
And so she always had been, and now from her sweet breast she took it,
and it became John Ridd's delight.

All this, or at least great part of it, I told my mother truly,
according to my promise; and she was greatly pleased with Lorna for
having been so good to me, and for speaking so very sensibly; and then
she looked at the great gold ring, but could by no means interpret it.
Only she was quite certain, as indeed I myself was, that it must have
belonged to an ancient race of great consideration, and high rank,
in their time. Upon which I was for taking it off, lest it should be
degraded by a common farmer's finger. But mother said 'No,' with tears
in her eyes; 'if the common farmer had won the great lady of the ancient
race, what were rings and old-world trinkets, when compared to the
living jewel?' Being quite of her opinion in this, and loving the ring
(which had no gem in it) as the token of my priceless gem, I resolved to
wear it at any cost, except when I should be ploughing, or doing things
likely to break it; although I must own that it felt very queer (for I
never had throttled a finger before), and it looked very queer, for a
length of time, upon my great hard-working hand.

And before I got used to my ring, or people could think that it belonged
to me (plain and ungarnished though it was), and before I went to see
Lorna again, having failed to find any necessity, and remembering my
duty to mother, we all had something else to think of, not so pleasant,
and more puzzling.



CHAPTER XXXVI

JOHN RETURNS TO BUSINESS

Now November was upon us, and we had kept Allhallowmass, with roasting
of skewered apples (like so many shuttlecocks), and after that the day
of Fawkes, as became good Protestants, with merry bonfires and burned
batatas, and plenty of good feeding in honour of our religion; and then
while we were at wheat-sowing, another visitor arrived.

This was Master Jeremy Stickles, who had been a good friend to me (as
described before) in London, and had earned my mother's gratitude, so
far as ever he chose to have it. And he seemed inclined to have it all;
for he made our farm-house his headquarters, and kept us quite at his
beck and call, going out at any time of the evening, and coming back at
any time of the morning, and always expecting us to be ready, whether
with horse, or man, or maiden, or fire, or provisions. We knew that he
was employed somehow upon the service of the King, and had at different
stations certain troopers and orderlies quite at his disposal; also
we knew that he never went out, nor even slept in his bedroom, without
heavy firearms well loaded, and a sharp sword nigh his hand; and that
he held a great commission, under royal signet, requiring all good
subjects, all officers of whatever degree, and especially justices of
the peace, to aid him to the utmost, with person, beast, and chattel, or
to answer it at their peril.

Now Master Jeremy Stickles, of course, knowing well what women are,
durst not open to any of them the nature of his instructions. But, after
awhile, perceiving that I could be relied upon, and that it was a great
discomfort not to have me with him, he took me aside in a lonely place,
and told me nearly everything; having bound me first by oath, not to
impart to any one, without his own permission, until all was over.

But at this present time of writing, all is over long ago; ay and
forgotten too, I ween, except by those who suffered. Therefore may I
tell the whole without any breach of confidence. Master Stickles was
going forth upon his usual night journey, when he met me coming home,
and I said something half in jest, about his zeal and secrecy; upon
which he looked all round the yard, and led me to an open space in the
clover field adjoining.

'John,' he said, 'you have some right to know the meaning of all this,
being trusted as you were by the Lord Chief Justice. But he found you
scarcely supple enough, neither gifted with due brains.'

'Thank God for that same,' I answered, while he tapped his head, to
signify his own much larger allowance. Then he made me bind myself,
which in an evil hour I did, to retain his secret; and after that he
went on solemnly, and with much importance,--

'There be some people fit to plot, and others to be plotted against,
and others to unravel plots, which is the highest gift of all. This last
hath fallen to my share, and a very thankless gift it is, although a
rare and choice one. Much of peril too attends it; daring courage and
great coolness are as needful for the work as ready wit and spotless
honour. Therefore His Majesty's advisers have chosen me for this high
task, and they could not have chosen a better man. Although you have
been in London, Jack, much longer than you wished it, you are wholly
ignorant, of course, in matters of state, and the public weal.'

'Well,' said I, 'no doubt but I am, and all the better for me. Although
I heard a deal of them; for everybody was talking, and ready to come to
blows; if only it could be done without danger. But one said this, and
one said that; and they talked so much about Birminghams, and Tantivies,
and Whigs and Tories, and Protestant flails and such like, that I was
only too glad to have my glass and clink my spoon for answer.'

'Right, John, thou art right as usual. Let the King go his own gait. He
hath too many mistresses to be ever England's master. Nobody need fear
him, for he is not like his father: he will have his own way, 'tis true,
but without stopping other folk of theirs: and well he knows what women
are, for he never asks them questions. Now heard you much in London town
about the Duke of Monmouth?'

'Not so very much,' I answered; 'not half so much as in Devonshire: only
that he was a hearty man, and a very handsome one, and now was banished
by the Tories; and most people wished he was coming back, instead of the
Duke of York, who was trying boots in Scotland.'

'Things are changed since you were in town. The Whigs are getting up
again, through the folly of the Tories killing poor Lord Russell; and
now this Master Sidney (if my Lord condemns him) will make it worse
again. There is much disaffection everywhere, and it must grow to an
outbreak. The King hath many troops in London, and meaneth to bring
more from Tangier; but he cannot command these country places; and the
trained bands cannot help him much, even if they would. Now, do you
understand me, John?'

'In truth, not I. I see not what Tangier hath to do with Exmoor; nor the
Duke of Monmouth with Jeremy Stickles.'

'Thou great clod, put it the other way. Jeremy Stickles may have much to
do about the Duke of Monmouth. The Whigs having failed of Exclusion, and
having been punished bitterly for the blood they shed, are ripe for any
violence. And the turn of the balance is now to them. See-saw is the
fashion of England always; and the Whigs will soon be the top-sawyers.'

'But,' said I, still more confused, '"The King is the top-sawyer,"
according to our proverb. How then can the Whigs be?'

'Thou art a hopeless ass, John. Better to sew with a chestnut than to
teach thee the constitution. Let it be so, let it be. I have seen a
boy of five years old more apt at politics than thou. Nay, look not
offended, lad. It is my fault for being over-deep to thee. I should have
considered thy intellect.'

'Nay, Master Jeremy, make no apologies. It is I that should excuse
myself; but, God knows, I have no politics.'

'Stick to that, my lad,' he answered; 'so shalt thou die easier. Now,
in ten words (without parties, or trying thy poor brain too much), I am
here to watch the gathering of a secret plot, not so much against the
King as against the due succession.'

'Now I understand at last. But, Master Stickles, you might have said all
that an hour ago almost.'

'It would have been better, if I had, to thee,' he replied with much
compassion; 'thy hat is nearly off thy head with the swelling of brain I
have given thee. Blows, blows, are thy business, Jack. There thou art in
thine element. And, haply, this business will bring thee plenty even
for thy great head to take. Now hearken to one who wishes thee well,
and plainly sees the end of it--stick thou to the winning side, and have
naught to do with the other one.'

'That,' said I, in great haste and hurry, 'is the very thing I want
to do, if I only knew which was the winning side, for the sake of
Lorna--that is to say, for the sake of my dear mother and sisters, and
the farm.'

'Ha!' cried Jeremy Stickles, laughing at the redness of my face--'Lorna,
saidst thou; now what Lorna? Is it the name of a maiden, or a
light-o'-love?'

'Keep to your own business,' I answered, very proudly; 'spy as much as
e'er thou wilt, and use our house for doing it, without asking leave or
telling; but if I ever find thee spying into my affairs, all the King's
lifeguards in London, and the dragoons thou bringest hither, shall not
save thee from my hand--or one finger is enough for thee.'

Being carried beyond myself by his insolence about Lorna, I looked
at Master Stickles so, and spake in such a voice, that all his daring
courage and his spotless honour quailed within him, and he shrank--as if
I would strike so small a man.

Then I left him, and went to work at the sacks upon the corn-floor, to
take my evil spirit from me before I should see mother. For (to tell the
truth) now my strength was full, and troubles were gathering round me,
and people took advantage so much of my easy temper, sometimes when
I was over-tried, a sudden heat ran over me, and a glowing of all
my muscles, and a tingling for a mighty throw, such as my utmost
self-command, and fear of hurting any one, could but ill refrain.
Afterwards, I was always very sadly ashamed of myself, knowing how poor
a thing bodily strength is, as compared with power of mind, and that it
is a coward's part to misuse it upon weaker folk. For the present there
was a little breach between Master Stickles and me, for which I blamed
myself very sorely. But though, in full memory of his kindness and
faithfulness in London, I asked his pardon many times for my foolish
anger with him, and offered to undergo any penalty he would lay upon me,
he only said it was no matter, there was nothing to forgive. When people
say that, the truth often is that they can forgive nothing.

So for the present a breach was made between Master Jeremy and myself,
which to me seemed no great loss, inasmuch as it relieved me from any
privity to his dealings, for which I had small liking. All I feared was
lest I might, in any way, be ungrateful to him; but when he would have
no more of me, what could I do to help it? However, in a few days' time
I was of good service to him, as you shall see in its proper place.

But now my own affairs were thrown into such disorder that I could
think of nothing else, and had the greatest difficulty in hiding my
uneasiness. For suddenly, without any warning, or a word of message,
all my Lorna's signals ceased, which I had been accustomed to watch for
daily, and as it were to feed upon them, with a glowing heart. The first
time I stood on the wooded crest, and found no change from yesterday, I
could hardly believe my eyes, or thought at least that it must be some
great mistake on the part of my love. However, even that oppressed me
with a heavy heart, which grew heavier, as I found from day to day no
token.

Three times I went and waited long at the bottom of the valley, where
now the stream was brown and angry with the rains of autumn, and the
weeping trees hung leafless. But though I waited at every hour of day,
and far into the night, no light footstep came to meet me, no sweet
voice was in the air; all was lonely, drear, and drenched with sodden
desolation. It seemed as if my love was dead, and the winds were at her
funeral.

Once I sought far up the valley, where I had never been before, even
beyond the copse where Lorna had found and lost her brave young cousin.
Following up the river channel, in shelter of the evening fog, I gained
a corner within stone's throw of the last outlying cot. This was a
gloomy, low, square house, without any light in the windows, roughly
built of wood and stone, as I saw when I drew nearer. For knowing it
to be Carver's dwelling (or at least suspecting so, from some words of
Lorna's), I was led by curiosity, and perhaps by jealousy, to have a
closer look at it. Therefore, I crept up the stream, losing half my
sense of fear, by reason of anxiety. And in truth there was not much to
fear, the sky being now too dark for even a shooter of wild fowl to make
good aim. And nothing else but guns could hurt me, as in the pride of my
strength I thought, and in my skill of single-stick.

Nevertheless, I went warily, being now almost among this nest of
cockatrices. The back of Carver's house abutted on the waves of the
rushing stream; and seeing a loop-hole, vacant for muskets, I looked in,
but all was quiet. So far as I could judge by listening, there was no
one now inside, and my heart for a moment leaped with joy, for I
had feared to find Lorna there. Then I took a careful survey of the
dwelling, and its windows, and its door, and aspect, as if I had been
a robber meaning to make privy entrance. It was well for me that I did
this, as you will find hereafter.

Having impressed upon my mind (a slow but, perhaps retentive mind), all
the bearings of the place, and all its opportunities, and even the
curve of the stream along it, and the bushes near the door, I was much
inclined to go farther up, and understand all the village. But a bar of
red light across the river, some forty yards on above me, and crossing
from the opposite side like a chain, prevented me. In that second house
there was a gathering of loud and merry outlaws, making as much noise as
if they had the law upon their side. Some, indeed, as I approached, were
laying down both right and wrong, as purely, and with as high a sense,
as if they knew the difference. Cold and troubled as I was, I could
hardly keep from laughing.

Before I betook myself home that night, and eased dear mother's heart
so much, and made her pale face spread with smiles, I had resolved to
penetrate Glen Doone from the upper end, and learn all about my Lorna.
Not but what I might have entered from my unsuspected channel, as so
often I had done; but that I saw fearful need for knowing something more
than that. Here was every sort of trouble gathering upon me, here was
Jeremy Stickles stealing upon every one in the dark; here was
Uncle Reuben plotting Satan only could tell what; here was a white
night-capped man coming bodily from the grave; here was my own sister
Annie committed to a highwayman, and mother in distraction; most of
all--here, there, and where--was my Lorna stolen, dungeoned, perhaps
outraged. It was no time for shilly shally, for the balance of this and
that, or for a man with blood and muscle to pat his nose and ponder.
If I left my Lorna so; if I let those black-soul'd villains work their
pleasure on my love; if the heart that clave to mine could find no
vigour in it--then let maidens cease from men, and rest their faith in
tabby-cats.

Rudely rolling these ideas in my heavy head and brain I resolved to let
the morrow put them into form and order, but not contradict them. And
then, as my constitution willed (being like that of England), I slept,
and there was no stopping me.



CHAPTER XXXVII

A VERY DESPERATE VENTURE

That the enterprise now resolved upon was far more dangerous than any
hitherto attempted by me, needs no further proof than this:--I went and
made my will at Porlock, with a middling honest lawyer there; not that I
had much to leave, but that none could say how far the farm, and all the
farming stock, might depend on my disposition. It makes me smile when I
remember how particular I was, and how for the life of me I was puzzled
to bequeath most part of my clothes, and hats, and things altogether
my own, to Lorna, without the shrewd old lawyer knowing who she was and
where she lived. At last, indeed, I flattered myself that I had baffled
old Tape's curiosity; but his wrinkled smile and his speech at parting
made me again uneasy.

'A very excellent will, young sir. An admirably just and virtuous will;
all your effects to your nearest of kin; filial and fraternal duty
thoroughly exemplified; nothing diverted to alien channels, except a
small token of esteem and reverence to an elderly lady, I presume: and
which may or may not be valid, or invalid, on the ground of uncertainty,
or the absence of any legal status on the part of the legatee. Ha, ha!
Yes, yes! Few young men are so free from exceptionable entanglements.
Two guineas is my charge, sir: and a rare good will for the money. Very
prudent of you, sir. Does you credit in every way. Well, well; we all
must die; and often the young before the old.'

Not only did I think two guineas a great deal too much money for a
quarter of an hour's employment, but also I disliked particularly the
words with which he concluded; they sounded, from his grating voice,
like the evil omen of a croaking raven. Nevertheless I still abode in my
fixed resolve to go, and find out, if I died for it, what was become of
Lorna. And herein I lay no claim to courage; the matter being simply
a choice between two evils, of which by far the greater one was, of
course, to lose my darling.

The journey was a great deal longer to fetch around the Southern hills,
and enter by the Doone-gate, than to cross the lower land and steal in
by the water-slide. However, I durst not take a horse (for fear of
the Doones who might be abroad upon their usual business), but started
betimes in the evening, so as not to hurry, or waste any strength upon
the way. And thus I came to the robbers' highway, walking circumspectly,
scanning the sky-line of every hill, and searching the folds of every
valley, for any moving figure.

Although it was now well on towards dark, and the sun was down an hour
or so, I could see the robbers' road before me, in a trough of the
winding hills, where the brook ploughed down from the higher barrows,
and the coving banks were roofed with furze. At present, there was no
one passing, neither post nor sentinel, so far as I could descry; but
I thought it safer to wait a little, as twilight melted into night;
and then I crept down a seam of the highland, and stood upon the
Doone-track.

As the road approached the entrance, it became more straight and strong,
like a channel cut from rock, with the water brawling darkly along the
naked side of it. Not a tree or bush was left, to shelter a man from
bullets: all was stern, and stiff, and rugged, as I could not help
perceiving, even through the darkness, and a smell as of churchyard
mould, a sense of being boxed in and cooped, made me long to be out
again.

And here I was, or seemed to be, particularly unlucky; for as I drew
near the very entrance, lightly of foot and warily, the moon (which had
often been my friend) like an enemy broke upon me, topping the eastward
ridge of rock, and filling all the open spaces with the play of wavering
light. I shrank back into the shadowy quarter on the right side of the
road; and gloomily employed myself to watch the triple entrance, on
which the moonlight fell askew.

All across and before the three rude and beetling archways hung a
felled oak overhead, black, and thick, and threatening. This, as I heard
before, could be let fall in a moment, so as to crush a score of men,
and bar the approach of horses. Behind this tree, the rocky mouth was
spanned, as by a gallery with brushwood and piled timber, all upon a
ledge of stone, where thirty men might lurk unseen, and fire at any
invader. From that rampart it would be impossible to dislodge them,
because the rock fell sheer below them twenty feet, or it may be more;
while overhead it towered three hundred, and so jutted over that nothing
could be cast upon them; even if a man could climb the height. And
the access to this portcullis place--if I may so call it, being no
portcullis there--was through certain rocky chambers known to the
tenants only.

But the cleverest of their devices, and the most puzzling to an enemy,
was that, instead of one mouth only, there were three to choose from,
with nothing to betoken which was the proper access; all being pretty
much alike, and all unfenced and yawning. And the common rumour was
that in times of any danger, when any force was known to be on muster in
their neighbourhood, they changed their entrance every day, and diverted
the other two, by means of sliding doors to the chasms and dark abysses.

Now I could see those three rough arches, jagged, black, and terrible;
and I knew that only one of them could lead me to the valley; neither
gave the river now any further guidance; but dived underground with a
sullen roar, where it met the cross-bar of the mountain. Having no means
at all of judging which was the right way of the three, and knowing that
the other two would lead to almost certain death, in the ruggedness and
darkness,--for how could a man, among precipices and bottomless depths
of water, without a ray of light, have any chance to save his life?--I
do declare that I was half inclined to go away, and have done with it.

However, I knew one thing for certain, to wit, that the longer I stayed
debating the more would the enterprise pall upon me, and the less my
relish be. And it struck me that, in times of peace, the middle way was
the likeliest; and the others diverging right and left in their farther
parts might be made to slide into it (not far from the entrance), at the
pleasure of the warders. Also I took it for good omen that I remembered
(as rarely happened) a very fine line in the Latin grammar, whose
emphasis and meaning is 'middle road is safest.'

Therefore, without more hesitation, I plunged into the middle way,
holding a long ash staff before me, shodden at the end with iron.
Presently I was in black darkness groping along the wall, and feeling a
deal more fear than I wished to feel; especially when upon looking back
I could no longer see the light, which I had forsaken. Then I stumbled
over something hard, and sharp, and very cold, moreover so grievous to
my legs that it needed my very best doctrine and humour to forbear from
swearing, in the manner they use in London. But when I arose and felt
it, and knew it to be a culverin, I was somewhat reassured thereby,
inasmuch as it was not likely that they would plant this engine except
in the real and true entrance.

Therefore I went on again, more painfully and wearily, and presently
found it to be good that I had received that knock, and borne it with
such patience; for otherwise I might have blundered full upon the
sentries, and been shot without more ado. As it was, I had barely time
to draw back, as I turned a corner upon them; and if their lanthorn had
been in its place, they could scarce have failed to descry me, unless
indeed I had seen the gleam before I turned the corner.

There seemed to be only two of them, of size indeed and stature as all
the Doones must be, but I need not have feared to encounter them both,
had they been unarmed, as I was. It was plain, however, that each had a
long and heavy carbine, not in his hands (as it should have been), but
standing close beside him. Therefore it behoved me now to be exceedingly
careful, and even that might scarce avail, without luck in proportion.
So I kept well back at the corner, and laid one cheek to the rock
face, and kept my outer eye round the jut, in the wariest mode I could
compass, watching my opportunity: and this is what I saw.

The two villains looked very happy--which villains have no right to be,
but often are, meseemeth--they were sitting in a niche of rock, with
the lanthorn in the corner, quaffing something from glass measures, and
playing at push-pin, or shepherd's chess, or basset; or some trivial
game of that sort. Each was smoking a long clay pipe, quite of new
London shape, I could see, for the shadow was thrown out clearly; and
each would laugh from time to time, as he fancied he got the better of
it. One was sitting with his knees up, and left hand on his thigh; and
this one had his back to me, and seemed to be the stouter. The other
leaned more against the rock, half sitting and half astraddle, and
wearing leathern overalls, as if newly come from riding. I could see his
face quite clearly by the light of the open lanthorn, and a handsomer
or a bolder face I had seldom, if ever, set eyes upon; insomuch that it
made me very unhappy to think of his being so near my Lorna.

'How long am I to stand crouching here?' I asked of myself, at last,
being tired of hearing them cry, 'score one,' 'score two,' 'No, by
--, Charlie,' 'By --, I say it is, Phelps.' And yet my only chance of
slipping by them unperceived was to wait till they quarrelled more, and
came to blows about it. Presently, as I made up my mind to steal along
towards them (for the cavern was pretty wide, just there), Charlie, or
Charleworth Doone, the younger and taller man, reached forth his hand
to seize the money, which he swore he had won that time. Upon this,
the other jerked his arm, vowing that he had no right to it; whereupon
Charlie flung at his face the contents of the glass he was sipping,
but missed him and hit the candle, which sputtered with a flare of
blue flame (from the strength perhaps of the spirit) and then went out
completely. At this, one swore, and the other laughed; and before they
had settled what to do, I was past them and round the corner.

And then, like a giddy fool as I was, I needs must give them a
startler--the whoop of an owl, done so exactly, as John Fry had taught
me, and echoed by the roof so fearfully, that one of them dropped the
tinder box; and the other caught up his gun and cocked it, at least as
I judged by the sounds they made. And then, too late, I knew my madness,
for if either of them had fired, no doubt but what all the village would
have risen and rushed upon me. However, as the luck of the matter went,
it proved for my advantage; for I heard one say to the other,--

'Curse it, Charlie, what was that? It scared me so, I have dropped my
box; my flint is gone, and everything. Will the brimstone catch from
your pipe, my lad?'

'My pipe is out, Phelps, ever so long. Damn it, I am not afraid of an
owl, man. Give me the lanthorn, and stay here. I'm not half done with
you yet, my friend.'

'Well said, my boy, well said! Go straight to Carver's, mind you. The
other sleepy heads be snoring, as there is nothing up to-night. No
dallying now under Captain's window. Queen will have nought to say to
you; and Carver will punch your head into a new wick for your lanthorn.'

'Will he though? Two can play at that.' And so after some rude jests,
and laughter, and a few more oaths, I heard Charlie (or at any rate
somebody) coming toward me, with a loose and not too sober footfall. As
he reeled a little in his gait, and I would not move from his way one
inch, after his talk of Lorna, but only longed to grasp him (if common
sense permitted it), his braided coat came against my thumb, and his
leathern gaiters brushed my knee. If he had turned or noticed it, he
would have been a dead man in a moment; but his drunkenness saved him.

So I let him reel on unharmed; and thereupon it occurred to me that I
could have no better guide, passing as he would exactly where I wished
to be; that is to say under Lorna's window. Therefore I followed him
without any especial caution; and soon I had the pleasure of seeing
his form against the moonlit sky. Down a steep and winding path, with
a handrail at the corners (such as they have at Ilfracombe), Master
Charlie tripped along--and indeed there was much tripping, and he must
have been an active fellow to recover as he did--and after him walked I,
much hoping (for his own poor sake) that he might not turn and espy me.

But Bacchus (of whom I read at school, with great wonder about his
meaning--and the same I may say of Venus) that great deity preserved
Charlie, his pious worshipper, from regarding consequences. So he led
me very kindly to the top of the meadow land, where the stream from
underground broke forth, seething quietly with a little hiss of bubbles.
Hence I had fair view and outline of the robbers' township, spread
with bushes here and there, but not heavily overshadowed. The moon,
approaching now the full, brought the forms in manner forth, clothing
each with character, as the moon (more than the sun) does, to an eye
accustomed.

I knew that the Captain's house was first, both from what Lorna had
said of it, and from my mother's description, and now again from seeing
Charlie halt there for a certain time, and whistle on his fingers, and
hurry on, fearing consequence. The tune that he whistled was strange to
me, and lingered in my ears, as having something very new and striking,
and fantastic in it. And I repeated it softly to myself, while I marked
the position of the houses and the beauty of the village. For the
stream, in lieu of any street, passing between the houses, and affording
perpetual change, and twinkling, and reflections moreover by its sleepy
murmur soothing all the dwellers there, this and the snugness of the
position, walled with rock and spread with herbage, made it look, in the
quiet moonlight, like a little paradise. And to think of all the inmates
there, sleeping with good consciences, having plied their useful trade
of making others work for them, enjoying life without much labour, yet
with great renown.

Master Charlie went down the village, and I followed him carefully,
keeping as much as possible in the shadowy places, and watching the
windows of every house, lest any light should be burning. As I passed
Sir Ensor's house, my heart leaped up, for I spied a window, higher than
the rest above the ground, and with a faint light moving. This could
hardly fail to be the room wherein my darling lay; for here that
impudent young fellow had gazed while he was whistling. And here my
courage grew tenfold, and my spirit feared no evil--for lo, if Lorna had
been surrendered to that scoundrel, Carver, she would not have been at
her grandfather's house, but in Carver's accursed dwelling.

Warm with this idea, I hurried after Charleworth Doone, being resolved
not to harm him now, unless my own life required it. And while I watched
from behind a tree, the door of the farthest house was opened; and sure
enough it was Carver's self, who stood bareheaded, and half undressed in
the doorway. I could see his great black chest, and arms, by the light
of the lamp he bore.

'Who wants me this time of night?' he grumbled, in a deep gruff voice;
'any young scamp prowling after the maids shall have sore bones for his
trouble.'

'All the fair maids are for thee, are they, Master Carver?' Charlie
answered, laughing; 'we young scamps must be well-content with coarser
stuff than thou wouldst have.'

'Would have? Ay, and will have,' the great beast muttered angrily. 'I
bide my time; but not very long. Only one word for thy good, Charlie. I
will fling thee senseless into the river, if ever I catch thy girl-face
there again.'

'Mayhap, Master Carver, it is more than thou couldst do. But I will not
keep thee; thou art not pleasant company to-night. All I want is a light
for my lanthorn, and a glass of schnapps, if thou hast it.'

'What is become of thy light, then? Good for thee I am not on duty.'

'A great owl flew between me and Phelps, as we watched beside the
culvern, and so scared was he at our fierce bright eyes that he fell and
knocked the light out.'

'Likely tale, or likely lie, Charles! We will have the truth to-morrow.
Here take thy light, and be gone with thee. All virtuous men are in bed
now.'

'Then so will I be, and why art thou not? Ha, have I earned my schnapps
now?'

'If thou hast, thou hast paid a bad debt; there is too much in thee
already. Be off! my patience is done with.'

Then he slammed the door in the young man's face, having kindled his
lanthorn by this time: and Charlie went up to the watchplace again,
muttering as he passed me, 'Bad look-out for all of us, when that surly
old beast is Captain. No gentle blood in him, no hospitality, not even
pleasant language, nor a good new oath in his frowsy pate! I've a mind
to cut the whole of it; and but for the girls I would so.'

My heart was in my mouth, as they say, when I stood in the shade by
Lorna's window, and whispered her name gently. The house was of one
story only, as the others were, with pine-ends standing forth the stone,
and only two rough windows upon that western side of it, and perhaps
both of them were Lorna's. The Doones had been their own builders, for
no one should know their ins and outs; and of course their work was
clumsy. As for their windows, they stole them mostly from the houses
round about. But though the window was not very close, I might have
whispered long enough, before she would have answered me; frightened as
she was, no doubt by many a rude overture. And I durst not speak
aloud because I saw another watchman posted on the western cliff, and
commanding all the valley. And now this man (having no companion for
drinking or for gambling) espied me against the wall of the house, and
advanced to the brink, and challenged me.

'Who are you there? Answer! One, two, three; and I fire at thee.'

The nozzle of his gun was pointed full upon me, as I could see, with the
moonlight striking on the barrel; he was not more than fifty yards off,
and now he began to reckon. Being almost desperate about it, I began to
whistle, wondering how far I should get before I lost my windpipe:
and as luck would have it, my lips fell into that strange tune I
had practised last; the one I had heard from Charlie. My mouth would
scarcely frame the notes, being parched with terror; but to my surprise,
the man fell back, dropped his gun, and saluted. Oh, sweetest of all
sweet melodies!

That tune was Carver Doone's passport (as I heard long afterwards),
which Charleworth Doone had imitated, for decoy of Lorna. The sentinel
took me for that vile Carver; who was like enough to be prowling there,
for private talk with Lorna; but not very likely to shout forth his
name, if it might be avoided. The watchman, perceiving the danger
perhaps of intruding on Carver's privacy, not only retired along the
cliff, but withdrew himself to good distance.

Meanwhile he had done me the kindest service; for Lorna came to the
window at once, to see what the cause of the shout was, and drew back
the curtain timidly. Then she opened the rough lattice; and then she
watched the cliff and trees; and then she sighed very sadly.

'Oh, Lorna, don't you know me?' I whispered from the side, being afraid
of startling her by appearing over suddenly.

Quick though she always was of thought, she knew me not from my whisper,
and was shutting the window hastily when I caught it back, and showed
myself.

'John!' she cried, yet with sense enough not to speak aloud: 'oh, you
must be mad, John.'

'As mad as a March hare,' said I, 'without any news of my darling. You
knew I would come: of course you did.'

'Well, I thought, perhaps--you know: now, John, you need not eat my
hand. Do you see they have put iron bars across?'

'To be sure. Do you think I should be contented, even with this lovely
hand, but for these vile iron bars. I will have them out before I go.
Now, darling, for one moment--just the other hand, for a change, you
know.'

So I got the other, but was not honest; for I kept them both, and felt
their delicate beauty trembling, as I laid them to my heart.

'Oh, John, you will make me cry directly'--she had been crying long
ago--'if you go on in that way. You know we can never have one another;
every one is against it. Why should I make you miserable? Try not to
think of me any more.'

'And will you try the same of me, Lorna?'

'Oh yes, John; if you agree to it. At least I will try to try it.'

'Then you won't try anything of the sort,' I cried with great
enthusiasm, for her tone was so nice and melancholy: 'the only thing
we will try to try, is to belong to one another. And if we do our best,
Lorna, God alone can prevent us.'

She crossed herself, with one hand drawn free as I spoke so boldly;
and something swelled in her little throat, and prevented her from
answering.

'Now tell me,' I said; 'what means all this? Why are you so pent up
here? Why have you given me no token? Has your grandfather turned
against you? Are you in any danger?'

'My poor grandfather is very ill: I fear that he will not live long. The
Counsellor and his son are now the masters of the valley; and I dare
not venture forth, for fear of anything they might do to me. When I went
forth, to signal for you, Carver tried to seize me; but I was too quick
for him. Little Gwenny is not allowed to leave the valley now; so that
I could send no message. I have been so wretched, dear, lest you should
think me false to you. The tyrants now make sure of me. You must watch
this house, both night and day, if you wish to save me. There is nothing
they would shrink from; if my poor grandfather--oh, I cannot bear to
think of myself, when I ought to think of him only; dying without a son
to tend him, or a daughter to shed a tear.'

'But surely he has sons enough; and a deal too many,' I was going to
say, but stopped myself in time: 'why do none of them come to him?'

'I know not. I cannot tell. He is a very strange old man; and few have
ever loved him. He was black with wrath at the Counsellor, this very
afternoon--but I must not keep you here--you are much too brave, John;
and I am much too selfish: there, what was that shadow?'

'Nothing more than a bat, darling, come to look for his sweetheart. I
will not stay long; you tremble so: and yet for that very reason, how
can I leave you, Lorna?'

'You must--you must,' she answered; 'I shall die if they hurt you. I
hear the old nurse moving. Grandfather is sure to send for me. Keep back
from the window.'

However, it was only Gwenny Carfax, Lorna's little handmaid: my darling
brought her to the window and presented her to me, almost laughing
through her grief.

'Oh, I am so glad, John; Gwenny, I am so glad you came. I have wanted
long to introduce you to my "young man," as you call him. It is rather
dark, but you can see him. I wish you to know him again, Gwenny.'

'Whoy!' cried Gwenny, with great amazement, standing on tiptoe to look
out, and staring as if she were weighing me: 'her be bigger nor any
Doone! Heared as her have bate our Cornish champion awrastling. 'Twadn't
fair play nohow: no, no; don't tell me, 'twadn't fair play nohow.'

'True enough, Gwenny,' I answered her; for the play had been very unfair
indeed on the side of the Bodmin champion; 'it was not a fair bout,
little maid; I am free to acknowledge that.' By that answer, or rather
by the construction she put upon it, the heart of the Cornish girl was
won, more than by gold and silver.

'I shall knoo thee again, young man; no fear of that,' she answered,
nodding with an air of patronage. 'Now, missis, gae on coortin', and
I wall gae outside and watch for 'ee.' Though expressed not over
delicately, this proposal arose, no doubt, from Gwenny's sense of
delicacy; and I was very thankful to her for taking her departure.

'She is the best little thing in the world,' said Lorna, softly
laughing; 'and the queerest, and the truest. Nothing will bribe her
against me. If she seems to be on the other side, never, never doubt
her. Now no more of your "coortin'," John! I love you far too well for
that. Yes, yes, ever so much! If you will take a mean advantage of me.
And as much as ever you like to imagine; and then you may double it,
after that. Only go, do go, good John; kind, dear, darling John; if you
love me, go.'

'How can I go without settling anything?' I asked very sensibly. 'How
shall I know of your danger now? Hit upon something; you are so quick.
Anything you can think of; and then I will go, and not frighten you.'

'I have been thinking long of something,' Lorna answered rapidly, with
that peculiar clearness of voice which made every syllable ring like
music of a several note, 'you see that tree with the seven rooks' nests
bright against the cliffs there? Can you count them, from above, do you
think? From a place where you will be safe, dear'--

'No doubt, I can; or if I cannot, it will not take me long to find a
spot, whence I can do it.'

'Gwenny can climb like any cat. She has been up there in the summer,
watching the young birds, day by day, and daring the boys to touch them.
There are neither birds, nor eggs there now, of course, and nothing
doing. If you see but six rooks' nests; I am in peril and want you. If
you see but five, I am carried off by Carver.'

'Good God!' said I, at the mere idea; in a tone which frightened Lorna.

'Fear not, John,' she whispered sadly, and my blood grew cold at it:
'I have means to stop him; or at least to save myself. If you can come
within one day of that man's getting hold of me, you will find me quite
unharmed. After that you will find me dead, or alive, according to
circumstances, but in no case such that you need blush to look at me.'

Her dear sweet face was full of pride, as even in the gloom I saw: and I
would not trespass on her feelings by such a thing, at such a moment, as
an attempt at any caress. I only said, 'God bless you, darling!' and
she said the same to me, in a very low sad voice. And then I stole below
Carver's house, in the shadow from the eastern cliff; and knowing
enough of the village now to satisfy all necessity, betook myself to my
well-known track in returning from the valley; which was neither down
the waterslide (a course I feared in the darkness) nor up the cliffs at
Lorna's bower; but a way of my own inventing, which there is no need to
dwell upon.

A weight of care was off my mind; though much of trouble hung there
still. One thing was quite certain--if Lorna could not have John Ridd,
no one else should have her. And my mother, who sat up for me, and with
me long time afterwards, agreed that this was comfort.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

A GOOD TURN FOR JEREMY

John Fry had now six shillings a week of regular and permanent wage,
besides all harvest and shearing money, as well as a cottage rent-free,
and enough of garden-ground to rear pot-herbs for his wife and all
his family. Now the wages appointed by our justices, at the time of
sessions, were four-and-sixpence a week for summer, and a shilling less
for the winter-time; and we could be fined, and perhaps imprisoned, for
giving more than the sums so fixed. Therefore John Fry was looked upon
as the richest man upon Exmoor, I mean of course among labourers, and
there were many jokes about robbing him, as if he were the mint of the
King; and Tom Faggus promised to try his hand, if he came across John
on the highway, although he had ceased from business, and was seeking a
Royal pardon.

Now is it according to human nature, or is it a thing contradictory
(as I would fain believe)? But anyhow, there was, upon Exmoor, no more
discontented man, no man more sure that he had not his worth, neither
half so sore about it, than, or as, John Fry was. And one thing he did
which I could not wholly (or indeed I may say, in any measure)
reconcile with my sense of right, much as I laboured to do John justice,
especially because of his roguery; and this was, that if we said too
much, or accused him at all of laziness (which he must have known to be
in him), he regularly turned round upon us, and quite compelled us
to hold our tongues, by threatening to lay information against us for
paying him too much wages!

Now I have not mentioned all this of John Fry, from any disrespect for
his memory (which is green and honest amongst us), far less from any
desire to hurt the feelings of his grandchildren; and I will do them the
justice, once for all, to avow, thus publicly, that I have known a great
many bigger rogues, and most of themselves in the number. But I have
referred, with moderation, to this little flaw in a worthy character (or
foible, as we call it, when a man is dead) for this reason only--that
without it there was no explaining John's dealings with Jeremy Stickles.

Master Jeremy, being full of London and Norwich experience, fell into
the error of supposing that we clods and yokels were the simplest of the
simple, and could be cheated at his good pleasure. Now this is not so:
when once we suspect that people have that idea of us, we indulge them
in it to the top of their bent, and grieve that they should come out of
it, as they do at last in amazement, with less money than before, and
the laugh now set against them.

Ever since I had offended Jeremy, by threatening him (as before related)
in case of his meddling with my affairs, he had more and more allied
himself with simple-minded John, as he was pleased to call him. John
Fry was everything: it was 'run and fetch my horse, John'--'John, are my
pistols primed well?'--'I want you in the stable, John, about something
very particular', until except for the rudeness of it, I was longing
to tell Master Stickles that he ought to pay John's wages. John for
his part was not backward, but gave himself the most wonderful airs of
secrecy and importance, till half the parish began to think that the
affairs of the nation were in his hand, and he scorned the sight of a
dungfork.

It was not likely that this should last; and being the only man in the
parish with any knowledge of politics, I gave John Fry to understand
that he must not presume to talk so freely, as if he were at least a
constable, about the constitution; which could be no affair of his, and
might bring us all into trouble. At this he only tossed his nose, as if
he had been in London at least three times for my one; which vexed me so
that I promised him the thick end of the plough-whip if even the name of
a knight of the shire should pass his lips for a fortnight.

Now I did not suspect in my stupid noddle that John Fry would ever tell
Jeremy Stickles about the sight at the Wizard's Slough and the man in
the white nightcap; because John had sworn on the blade of his knife not
to breathe a word to any soul, without my full permission. However, it
appears that John related, for a certain consideration, all that he
had seen, and doubtless more which had accrued to it. Upon this Master
Stickles was much astonished at Uncle Reuben's proceedings, having
always accounted him a most loyal, keen, and wary subject.

All this I learned upon recovering Jeremy's good graces, which came to
pass in no other way than by the saving of his life. Being bound to keep
the strictest watch upon the seven rooks' nests, and yet not bearing
to be idle and to waste my mother's stores, I contrived to keep my work
entirely at the western corner of our farm, which was nearest to Glen
Doone, and whence I could easily run to a height commanding the view I
coveted.

One day Squire Faggus had dropped in upon us, just in time for dinner;
and very soon he and King's messenger were as thick as need be. Tom had
brought his beloved mare to show her off to Annie, and he mounted his
pretty sweetheart upon her, after giving Winnie notice to be on her
very best behaviour. The squire was in great spirits, having just
accomplished a purchase of land which was worth ten times what he gave
for it; and this he did by a merry trick upon old Sir Roger Bassett, who
never supposed him to be in earnest, as not possessing the money. The
whole thing was done on a bumper of claret in a tavern where they met;
and the old knight having once pledged his word, no lawyers could
hold him back from it. They could only say that Master Faggus, being
attainted of felony, was not a capable grantee. 'I will soon cure that,'
quoth Tom, 'my pardon has been ready for months and months, so soon as I
care to sue it.'

And now he was telling our Annie, who listened very rosily, and believed
every word he said, that, having been ruined in early innocence by the
means of lawyers, it was only just, and fair turn for turn, that having
become a match for them by long practice upon the highway, he should
reinstate himself, at their expense, in society. And now he would go
to London at once, and sue out his pardon, and then would his lovely
darling Annie, etc., etc.--things which I had no right to hear, and in
which I was not wanted.

Therefore I strode away up the lane to my afternoon's employment, sadly
comparing my love with theirs (which now appeared so prosperous), yet
heartily glad for Annie's sake; only remembering now and then the old
proverb 'Wrong never comes right.'

I worked very hard in the copse of young ash, with my billhook and a
shearing-knife; cutting out the saplings where they stooled too close
together, making spars to keep for thatching, wall-crooks to drive into
the cob, stiles for close sheep hurdles, and handles for rakes, and
hoes, and two-bills, of the larger and straighter stuff. And all the
lesser I bound in faggots, to come home on the sledd to the woodrick.
It is not to be supposed that I did all this work, without many peeps at
the seven rooks' nests, which proved my Lorna's safety. Indeed, whenever
I wanted a change, either from cleaving, or hewing too hard, or stooping
too much at binding, I was up and away to the ridge of the hill, instead
of standing and doing nothing.

Soon I forgot about Tom and Annie; and fell to thinking of Lorna only;
and how much I would make of her; and what I should call our children;
and how I would educate them, to do honour to her rank; yet all the time
I worked none the worse, by reason of meditation. Fresh-cut spars are
not so good as those of a little seasoning; especially if the sap
was not gone down at the time of cutting. Therefore we always find it
needful to have plenty still in stock.

It was very pleasant there in the copse, sloping to the west as it was,
and the sun descending brightly, with rocks and banks to dwell upon. The
stems of mottled and dimpled wood, with twigs coming out like elbows,
hung and clung together closely, with a mode of bending in, as children
do at some danger; overhead the shrunken leaves quivered and rustled
ripely, having many points like stars, and rising and falling
delicately, as fingers play sad music. Along the bed of the slanting
ground, all between the stools of wood, there were heaps of dead brown
leaves, and sheltered mats of lichen, and drifts of spotted stick gone
rotten, and tufts of rushes here and there, full of fray and feathering.

All by the hedge ran a little stream, a thing that could barely name
itself, flowing scarce more than a pint in a minute, because of the
sunny weather. Yet had this rill little crooks and crannies dark and
bravely bearded, and a gallant rush through a reeden pipe--the stem of
a flag that was grounded; and here and there divided threads, from the
points of a branching stick, into mighty pools of rock (as large as a
grown man's hat almost) napped with moss all around the sides and hung
with corded grasses. Along and down the tiny banks, and nodding into one
another, even across main channel, hung the brown arcade of ferns; some
with gold tongues languishing; some with countless ear-drops jerking,
some with great quilled ribs uprising and long saws aflapping; others
cupped, and fanning over with the grace of yielding, even as a hollow
fountain spread by winds that have lost their way.

Deeply each beyond other, pluming, stooping, glancing, glistening,
weaving softest pillow lace, coying to the wind and water, when their
fleeting image danced, or by which their beauty moved,--God has made no
lovelier thing; and only He takes heed of them.

It was time to go home to supper now, and I felt very friendly towards
it, having been hard at work for some hours, with only the voice of the
little rill, and some hares and a pheasant for company. The sun was gone
down behind the black wood on the farther cliffs of Bagworthy, and the
russet of the tufts and spear-beds was becoming gray, while the greyness
of the sapling ash grew brown against the sky; the hollow curves of
the little stream became black beneath the grasses and the fairy fans
innumerable, while outside the hedge our clover was crimping its leaves
in the dewfall, like the cocked hats of wood-sorrel,--when, thanking God
for all this scene, because my love had gifted me with the key to all
things lovely, I prepared to follow their example, and to rest from
labour.

Therefore I wiped my bill-hook and shearing-knife very carefully, for
I hate to leave tools dirty; and was doubting whether I should try for
another glance at the seven rooks' nests, or whether it would be too
dark for it. It was now a quarter of an hour mayhap, since I had made
any chopping noise, because I had been assorting my spars, and tying
them in bundles, instead of plying the bill-hook; and the gentle tinkle
of the stream was louder than my doings. To this, no doubt, I owe my
life, which then (without my dreaming it) was in no little jeopardy.

For, just as I was twisting the bine of my very last faggot, before
tucking the cleft tongue under, there came three men outside the hedge,
where the western light was yellow; and by it I could see that all three
of them carried firearms. These men were not walking carelessly, but
following down the hedge-trough, as if to stalk some enemy: and for a
moment it struck me cold to think it was I they were looking for. With
the swiftness of terror I concluded that my visits to Glen Doone were
known, and now my life was the forfeit.

It was a most lucky thing for me, that I heard their clothes catch in
the brambles, and saw their hats under the rampart of ash, which is made
by what we call 'splashing,' and lucky, for me that I stood in a goyal,
and had the dark coppice behind me. To this I had no time to fly, but
with a sort of instinct, threw myself flat in among the thick fern, and
held my breath, and lay still as a log. For I had seen the light gleam
on their gun-barrels, and knowing the faults of the neighbourhood, would
fain avoid swelling their number. Then the three men came to the gap
in the hedge, where I had been in and out so often; and stood up, and
looked in over.

It is all very well for a man to boast that, in all his life, he has
never been frightened, and believes that he never could be so. There
may be men of that nature--I will not dare to deny it; only I have
never known them. The fright I was now in was horrible, and all my bones
seemed to creep inside me; when lying there helpless, with only a billet
and the comb of fern to hide me, in the dusk of early evening, I saw
three faces in the gap; and what was worse, three gun-muzzles.

'Somebody been at work here--' it was the deep voice of Carver Doone;
'jump up, Charlie, and look about; we must have no witnesses.'

'Give me a hand behind,' said Charlie, the same handsome young Doone I
had seen that night; 'this bank is too devilish steep for me.'

'Nonsense, man!' cried Marwood de Whichehalse, who to my amazement was
the third of the number; 'only a hind cutting faggots; and of course he
hath gone home long ago. Blind man's holiday, as we call it. I can see
all over the place; and there is not even a rabbit there.'

At that I drew my breath again, and thanked God I had gotten my coat on.

'Squire is right,' said Charlie, who was standing up high (on a root
perhaps), 'there is nobody there now, captain; and lucky for the poor
devil that he keepeth workman's hours. Even his chopper is gone, I see.'

'No dog, no man, is the rule about here, when it comes to coppice work,'
continued young de Whichehalse; there is not a man would dare work
there, without a dog to scare the pixies.'

'There is a big young fellow upon this farm,' Carver Doone muttered
sulkily, 'with whom I have an account to settle, if ever I come across
him. He hath a cursed spite to us, because we shot his father. He was
going to bring the lumpers upon us, only he was afeared, last winter.
And he hath been in London lately, for some traitorous job, I doubt.'

'Oh, you mean that fool, John Ridd,' answered the young squire; 'a very
simple clod-hopper. No treachery in him I warrant; he hath not the head
for it. All he cares about is wrestling. As strong as a bull, and with
no more brains.'

'A bullet for that bull,' said Carver; and I could see the grin on his
scornful face; 'a bullet for ballast to his brain, the first time I come
across him.'

'Nonsense, captain! I won't have him shot, for he is my old
school-fellow, and hath a very pretty sister. But his cousin is of a
different mould, and ten times as dangerous.'

'We shall see, lads, we shall see,' grumbled the great black-bearded
man. 'Ill bodes for the fool that would hinder me. But come, let us
onward. No lingering, or the viper will be in the bush from us. Body and
soul, if he give us the slip, both of you shall answer it.'

'No fear, captain, and no hurry,' Charlie answered gallantly, 'would I
were as sure of living a twelvemonth as he is of dying within the hour!
Extreme unction for him in my bullet patch. Remember, I claim to be his
confessor, because he hath insulted me.'

'Thou art welcome to the job for me,' said Marwood, as they turned away,
and kept along the hedge-row; 'I love to meet a man sword to sword; not
to pop at him from a foxhole.'

What answer was made I could not hear, for by this time the stout ashen
hedge was between us, and no other gap to be found in it, until at the
very bottom, where the corner of the copse was. Yet I was not quit of
danger now; for they might come through that second gap, and then would
be sure to see me, unless I crept into the uncut thicket, before they
could enter the clearing. But in spite of all my fear, I was not wise
enough to do that. And in truth the words of Carver Doone had filled me
with such anger, knowing what I did about him and his pretence to Lorna;
and the sight of Squire Marwood, in such outrageous company, had so
moved my curiosity, and their threats against some unknown person so
aroused my pity, that much of my prudence was forgotten, or at least the
better part of courage, which loves danger at long distance.

Therefore, holding fast my bill-hook, I dropped myself very quietly
into the bed of the runnel, being resolved to take my chance of their
entrance at the corner, where the water dived through the hedge-row. And
so I followed them down the fence, as gently as a rabbit goes, only I
was inside it, and they on the outside; but yet so near that I heard the
branches rustle as they pushed them.

Perhaps I had never loved ferns so much as when I came to the end of
that little gully, and stooped betwixt two patches of them, now my
chiefest shelter, for cattle had been through the gap just there, in
quest of fodder and coolness, and had left but a mound of trodden earth
between me and the outlaws. I mean at least on my left hand (upon which
side they were), for in front where the brook ran out of the copse was a
good stiff hedge of holly. And now I prayed Heaven to lead them straight
on; for if they once turned to their right, through the gap, the muzzles
of their guns would come almost against my forehead.

I heard them, for I durst not look; and could scarce keep still for
trembling--I heard them trampling outside the gap, uncertain which track
they should follow. And in that fearful moment, with my soul almost
looking out of my body, expecting notice to quit it, what do you think
I did? I counted the threads in a spider's web, and the flies he had
lately eaten, as their skeletons shook in the twilight.

'We shall see him better in there,' said Carver, in his horrible gruff
voice, like the creaking of the gallows chain; 'sit there, behind holly
hedge, lads, while he cometh down yonder hill; and then our good-evening
to him; one at his body, and two at his head; and good aim, lest we
baulk the devil.'

'I tell you, captain, that will not do,' said Charlie, almost
whispering: 'you are very proud of your skill, we know, and can hit a
lark if you see it: but he may not come until after dark, and we cannot
be too nigh to him. This holly hedge is too far away. He crosses down
here from Slocomslade, not from Tibbacot, I tell you; but along that
track to the left there, and so by the foreland to Glenthorne, where his
boat is in the cove. Do you think I have tracked him so many evenings,
without knowing his line to a hair? Will you fool away all my trouble?'

'Come then, lad, we will follow thy lead. Thy life for his, if we fail
of it.'

'After me then, right into the hollow; thy legs are growing stiff,
captain.'

'So shall thy body be, young man, if thou leadest me astray in this.'

I heard them stumbling down the hill, which was steep and rocky in that
part; and peering through the hedge, I saw them enter a covert, by the
side of the track which Master Stickles followed, almost every evening,
when he left our house upon business. And then I knew who it was they
were come on purpose to murder--a thing which I might have guessed long
before, but for terror and cold stupidity.

'Oh that God,' I thought for a moment, waiting for my blood to flow; 'Oh
that God had given me brains, to meet such cruel dastards according to
their villainy! The power to lie, and the love of it; the stealth to
spy, and the glory in it; above all, the quiet relish for blood, and joy
in the death of an enemy--these are what any man must have, to contend
with the Doones upon even terms. And yet, I thank God that I have not
any of these.'

It was no time to dwell upon that, only to try, if might be, to prevent
the crime they were bound upon. To follow the armed men down the hill
would have been certain death to me, because there was no covert there,
and the last light hung upon it. It seemed to me that my only chance to
stop the mischief pending was to compass the round of the hill, as fast
as feet could be laid to ground; only keeping out of sight from the
valley, and then down the rocks, and across the brook, to the track from
Slocombslade: so as to stop the King's messenger from travelling any
farther, if only I could catch him there.

And this was exactly what I did; and a terrible run I had for it,
fearing at every step to hear the echo of shots in the valley, and
dropping down the scrubby rocks with tearing and violent scratching.
Then I crossed Bagworthy stream, not far below Doone-valley, and
breasted the hill towards Slocombslade, with my heart very heavily
panting. Why Jeremy chose to ride this way, instead of the more direct
one (which would have been over Oare-hill), was more than I could account
for: but I had nothing to do with that; all I wanted was to save his
life.

And this I did by about a minute; and (which was the hardest thing of
all) with a great horse-pistol at my head as I seized upon his bridle.

'Jeremy, Jerry,' was all I could say, being so fearfully short of
breath; for I had crossed the ground quicker than any horse could.

'Spoken just in time, John Ridd!' cried Master Stickles, still however
pointing the pistol at me: 'I might have known thee by thy size, John.
What art doing here?'

'Come to save your life. For God's sake, go no farther. Three men in the
covert there, with long guns, waiting for thee.'

'Ha! I have been watched of late. That is why I pointed at thee, John.
Back round this corner, and get thy breath, and tell me all about it. I
never saw a man so hurried. I could beat thee now, John.'

Jeremy Stickles was a man of courage, and presence of mind, and much
resource: otherwise he would not have been appointed for this business;
nevertheless he trembled greatly when he heard what I had to tell
him. But I took good care to keep back the name of young Marwood de
Whichehalse; neither did I show my knowledge of the other men; for
reasons of my own not very hard to conjecture.

'We will let them cool their heels, John Ridd,' said Jeremy, after
thinking a little. 'I cannot fetch my musketeers either from Glenthorne
or Lynmouth, in time to seize the fellows. And three desperate Doones,
well-armed, are too many for you and me. One result this attempt will
have, it will make us attack them sooner than we had intended. And one
more it will have, good John, it will make me thy friend for ever. Shake
hands my lad, and forgive me freely for having been so cold to thee.
Mayhap, in the troubles coming, it will help thee not a little to have
done me this good turn.'

Upon this he shook me by the hand, with a pressure such as we feel not
often; and having learned from me how to pass quite beyond view of his
enemies, he rode on to his duty, whatever it might be. For my part I was
inclined to stay, and watch how long the three fusiliers would have the
patience to lie in wait; but seeing less and less use in that, as I
grew more and more hungry, I swung my coat about me, and went home to
Plover's Barrows.



CHAPTER XXXIX

TROUBLED STATE AND A FOOLISH JOKE

Stickles took me aside the next day, and opened all his business to me,
whether I would or not. But I gave him clearly to understand that he was
not to be vexed with me, neither to regard me as in any way dishonest,
if I should use for my own purpose, or for the benefit of my friends,
any part of the knowledge and privity thus enforced upon me. To this he
agreed quite readily; but upon the express provision that I should
do nothing to thwart his schemes, neither unfold them to any one; but
otherwise be allowed to act according to my own conscience, and as
consisted with the honour of a loyal gentleman--for so he was pleased to
term me. Now what he said lay in no great compass and may be summed in
smaller still; especially as people know the chief part of it already.
Disaffection to the King, or rather dislike to his brother James, and
fear of Roman ascendancy, had existed now for several years, and of late
were spreading rapidly; partly through the downright arrogance of
the Tory faction, the cruelty and austerity of the Duke of York, the
corruption of justice, and confiscation of ancient rights and charters;
partly through jealousy of the French king, and his potent voice in our
affairs; and partly (or perhaps one might even say, mainly) through that
natural tide in all political channels, which verily moves as if it had
the moon itself for its mistress. No sooner is a thing done and fixed,
being set far in advance perhaps of all that was done before (like a new
mole in the sea), but immediately the waters retire, lest they should
undo it; and every one says how fine it is, but leaves other people to
walk on it. Then after awhile, the vague endless ocean, having retired
and lain still without a breeze or murmur, frets and heaves again with
impulse, or with lashes laid on it, and in one great surge advances over
every rampart.

And so there was at the time I speak of, a great surge in England, not
rolling yet, but seething; and one which a thousand Chief Justices,
and a million Jeremy Stickles, should never be able to stop or turn,
by stringing up men in front of it; any more than a rope of onions can
repulse a volcano. But the worst of it was that this great movement took
a wrong channel at first; not only missing legitimate line, but roaring
out that the back ditchway was the true and established course of it.

Against this rash and random current nearly all the ancient mariners of
the State were set; not to allow the brave ship to drift there, though
some little boats might try it. For the present there seemed to be
a pause, with no open onset, but people on the shore expecting, each
according to his wishes, and the feel of his own finger, whence the rush
of wind should come which might direct the water.

Now,--to reduce high figures of speech into our own little
numerals,--all the towns of Somersetshire and half the towns of
Devonshire were full of pushing eager people, ready to swallow anything,
or to make others swallow it. Whether they believed the folly about the
black box, and all that stuff, is not for me to say; only one thing
I know, they pretended to do so, and persuaded the ignorant rustics.
Taunton, Bridgwater, Minehead, and Dulverton took the lead of the other
towns in utterance of their discontent, and threats of what they meant
to do if ever a Papist dared to climb the Protestant throne of England.
On the other hand, the Tory leaders were not as yet under apprehension
of an immediate outbreak, and feared to damage their own cause by
premature coercion, for the struggle was not very likely to begin in
earnest during the life of the present King; unless he should (as some
people hoped) be so far emboldened as to make public profession of
the faith which he held (if any). So the Tory policy was to watch, not
indeed permitting their opponents to gather strength, and muster in
armed force or with order, but being well apprised of all their schemes
and intended movements, to wait for some bold overt act, and then to
strike severely. And as a Tory watchman--or spy, as the Whigs would call
him--Jeremy Stickles was now among us; and his duty was threefold.

First, and most ostensibly, to see to the levying of poundage in the
little haven of Lynmouth, and farther up the coast, which was now
becoming a place of resort for the folk whom we call smugglers, that is
to say, who land their goods without regard to King's revenue as by
law established. And indeed there had been no officer appointed to take
toll, until one had been sent to Minehead, not so very long before.
The excise as well (which had been ordered in the time of the Long
Parliament) had been little heeded by the people hereabouts.

Second, his duty was (though only the Doones had discovered it) to watch
those outlaws narrowly, and report of their manners (which were scanty),
doings (which were too manifold), reputation (which was execrable), and
politics, whether true to the King and the Pope, or otherwise.

Jeremy Stickles' third business was entirely political; to learn the
temper of our people and the gentle families, to watch the movements of
the trained bands (which could not always be trusted), to discover any
collecting of arms and drilling of men among us, to prevent (if need
were, by open force) any importation of gunpowder, of which there had
been some rumour; in a word, to observe and forestall the enemy.

Now in providing for this last-mentioned service, the Government had
made a great mistake, doubtless through their anxiety to escape any
public attention. For all the disposable force at their emissary's
command amounted to no more than a score of musketeers, and these
so divided along the coast as scarcely to suffice for the duty of
sentinels. He held a commission, it is true, for the employment of the
train-bands, but upon the understanding that he was not to call upon
them (except as a last resource), for any political object; although
he might use them against the Doones as private criminals, if found
needful; and supposing that he could get them.

'So you see, John,' he said in conclusion, 'I have more work than tools
to do it with. I am heartily sorry I ever accepted such a mixed and
meagre commission. At the bottom of it lies (I am well convinced) not
only the desire to keep things quiet, but the paltry jealousy of the
military people. Because I am not a Colonel, forsooth, or a Captain in
His Majesty's service, it would never do to trust me with a company of
soldiers! And yet they would not send either Colonel or Captain, for
fear of a stir in the rustic mind. The only thing that I can do with
any chance of success, is to rout out these vile Doone fellows, and burn
their houses over their heads. Now what think you of that, John Ridd?'

'Destroy the town of the Doones,' I said, 'and all the Doones inside it!
Surely, Jeremy, you would never think of such a cruel act as that!'

'A cruel act, John! It would be a mercy for at least three counties. No
doubt you folk, who live so near, are well accustomed to them, and would
miss your liveliness in coming home after nightfall, and the joy of
finding your sheep and cattle right, when you not expected it. But after
awhile you might get used to the dullness of being safe in your beds,
and not losing your sisters and sweethearts. Surely, on the whole, it is
as pleasant not to be robbed as to be robbed.'

'I think we should miss them very much,' I answered after consideration;
for the possibility of having no Doones had never yet occurred to me,
and we all were so thoroughly used to them, and allowed for it in
our year's reckoning; 'I am sure we should miss them very sadly; and
something worse would come of it.'

'Thou art the staunchest of all staunch Tories,' cried Stickles,
laughing, as he shook my hand; 'thou believest in the divine right of
robbers, who are good enough to steal thy own fat sheep. I am a jolly
Tory, John, but thou art ten times jollier: oh! the grief in thy face at
the thought of being robbed no longer!'

He laughed in a very unseemly manner; while I descried nothing to laugh
about. For we always like to see our way; and a sudden change upsets us.
And unless it were in the loss of the farm, or the death of the King, or
of Betty Muxworthy, there was nothing that could so unsettle our minds
as the loss of the Doones of Bagworthy.

And beside all this, I was thinking, of course, and thinking more than
all the rest, about the troubles that might ensue to my own beloved
Lorna. If an attack of Glen Doone were made by savage soldiers and
rude train-bands, what might happen, or what might not, to my delicate,
innocent darling? Therefore, when Jeremy Stickles again placed the
matter before me, commending my strength and courage and skill (to
flatter me of the highest), and finished by saying that I would be worth
at least four common men to him, I cut him short as follows:--

'Master Stickles, once for all, I will have naught to do with it. The
reason why is no odds of thine, nor in any way disloyal. Only in thy
plans remember that I will not strike a blow, neither give any counsel,
neither guard any prisoners.'

'Not strike a blow,' cried Jeremy, 'against thy father's murderers,
John!'

'Not a single blow, Jeremy; unless I knew the man who did it, and he
gloried in his sin. It was a foul and dastard deed, yet not done in cold
blood; neither in cold blood will I take God's task of avenging it.'

'Very well, John,' answered Master Stickles, 'I know thine obstinacy.
When thy mind is made up, to argue with thee is pelting a rock with
peppercorns. But thou hast some other reason, lad, unless I am much
mistaken, over and above thy merciful nature and Christian forgiveness.
Anyhow, come and see it, John. There will be good sport, I reckon;
especially when we thrust our claws into the nest of the ravens. Many
a yeoman will find his daughter, and some of the Porlock lads their
sweethearts. A nice young maiden, now, for thee, John; if indeed, any--'

'No more of this!' I answered very sternly: 'it is no business of thine,
Jeremy; and I will have no joking upon this matter.'

'Good, my lord; so be it. But one thing I tell thee in earnest. We will
have thy old double-dealing uncle, Huckaback of Dulverton, and march him
first to assault Doone Castle, sure as my name is Stickles. I hear that
he hath often vowed to storm the valley himself, if only he could find a
dozen musketeers to back him. Now, we will give him chance to do it, and
prove his loyalty to the King, which lies under some suspicion of late.'

With regard to this, I had nothing to say; for it seemed to me very
reasonable that Uncle Reuben should have first chance of recovering his
stolen goods, about which he had made such a sad to-do, and promised
himself such vengeance. I made bold, however, to ask Master Stickles at
what time he intended to carry out this great and hazardous attempt. He
answered that he had several things requiring first to be set in order,
and that he must make an inland Journey, even as far as Tiverton, and
perhaps Crediton and Exeter, to collect his forces and ammunition
for them. For he meant to have some of the yeomanry as well as of the
trained bands, so that if the Doones should sally forth, as perhaps they
would, on horseback, cavalry might be there to meet them, and cut them
off from returning.

All this made me very uncomfortable, for many and many reasons, the
chief and foremost being of course my anxiety about Lorna. If the attack
succeeded, what was to become of her? Who would rescue her from the
brutal soldiers, even supposing that she escaped from the hands of her
own people, during the danger and ferocity? And in smaller ways, I was
much put out; for instance, who would ensure our corn-ricks, sheep, and
cattle, ay, and even our fat pigs, now coming on for bacon, against the
spreading all over the country of unlicensed marauders? The Doones
had their rights, and understood them, and took them according to
prescription, even as the parsons had, and the lords of manors, and the
King himself, God save him! But how were these low soldiering fellows
(half-starved at home very likely, and only too glad of the fat of the
land, and ready, according to our proverb, to burn the paper they
fried in), who were they to come hectoring and heroing over us, and
Heliogabalising, with our pretty sisters to cook for them, and be
chucked under chin perhaps afterwards? There is nothing England hates
so much, according to my sense of it, as that fellows taken from
plough-tail, cart-tail, pot-houses and parish-stocks, should be hoisted
and foisted upon us (after a few months' drilling, and their lying
shaped into truckling) as defenders of the public weal, and heroes of
the universe.

In another way I was vexed, moreover--for after all we must consider the
opinions of our neighbours--namely, that I knew quite well how everybody
for ten miles round (for my fame must have been at least that wide,
after all my wrestling), would lift up hands and cry out thus--'Black
shame on John Ridd, if he lets them go without him!'

Putting all these things together, as well as many others, which our
own wits will suggest to you, it is impossible but what you will freely
acknowledge that this unfortunate John Ridd was now in a cloven stick.
There was Lorna, my love and life, bound by her duty to that old
vil--nay, I mean to her good grandfather, who could now do little
mischief, and therefore deserved all praise--Lorna bound, at any rate,
by her womanly feelings, if not by sense of duty, to remain in the thick
danger, with nobody to protect her, but everybody to covet her, for
beauty and position. Here was all the country roused with violent
excitement, at the chance of snapping at the Doones; and not only
getting tit for tat; but every young man promising his sweetheart a
gold chain, and his mother at least a shilling. And here was our own
mow-yard, better filled than we could remember, and perhaps every sheaf
in it destined to be burned or stolen, before we had finished the bread
we had baked.

Among all these troubles, there was, however, or seemed to be, one
comfort. Tom Faggus returned from London very proudly and very happily,
with a royal pardon in black and white, which everybody admired the
more, because no one could read a word of it. The Squire himself
acknowledged cheerfully that he could sooner take fifty purses than read
a single line of it. Some people indeed went so far as to say that the
parchment was made from a sheep Tom had stolen, and that was why it
prevaricated so in giving him a character. But I, knowing something by
this time, of lawyers, was able to contradict them; affirming that the
wolf had more than the sheep to do with this matter.

For, according to our old saying, the three learned professions live by
roguery on the three parts of a man. The doctor mauls our bodies; the
parson starves our souls, but the lawyer must be the adroitest knave,
for he has to ensnare our minds. Therefore he takes a careful delight in
covering his traps and engines with a spread of dead-leaf words, whereof
himself knows little more than half the way to spell them.

But now Tom Faggus, although having wit to gallop away on his strawberry
mare, with the speed of terror, from lawyers (having paid them with
money too honest to stop), yet fell into a reckless adventure, ere ever
he came home, from which any lawyer would have saved him, although he
ought to have needed none beyond common thought for dear Annie. Now I
am, and ever have been, so vexed about this story that I cannot tell it
pleasantly (as I try to write in general) in my own words and manner.
Therefore I will let John Fry (whom I have robbed of another story,
to which he was more entitled, and whom I have robbed of many speeches
(which he thought very excellent), lest I should grieve any one with his
lack of education,--the last lack he ever felt, by the bye), now with
your good leave, I will allow poor John to tell this tale, in his own
words and style; which he has a perfect right to do, having been the
first to tell us. For Squire Faggus kept it close; not trusting even
Annie with it (or at least she said so); because no man knows much of
his sweetheart's tongue, until she has borne him a child or two.

Only before John begins his story, this I would say, in duty to him, and
in common honesty,--that I dare not write down some few of his words,
because they are not convenient, for dialect or other causes; and that I
cannot find any way of spelling many of the words which I do repeat, so
that people, not born on Exmoor, may know how he pronounced them; even
if they could bring their lips and their legs to the proper attitude.
And in this I speak advisedly; having observed some thousand times that
the manner a man has of spreading his legs, and bending his knees,
or stiffening, and even the way he will set his heel, make all the
difference in his tone, and time of casting his voice aright, and power
of coming home to you.

We always liked John's stories, not for any wit in them; but because we
laughed at the man, rather than the matter. The way he held his head was
enough, with his chin fixed hard like a certainty (especially during his
biggest lie), not a sign of a smile in his lips or nose, but a power of
not laughing; and his eyes not turning to anybody, unless somebody had
too much of it (as young girls always do) and went over the brink of
laughter. Thereupon it was good to see John Fry; how he looked gravely
first at the laughter, as much as to ask, 'What is it now?' then if
the fool went laughing more, as he or she was sure to do upon that dry
inquiry, John would look again, to be sure of it, and then at somebody
else to learn whether the laugh had company; then if he got another
grin, all his mirth came out in glory, with a sudden break; and he wiped
his lips, and was grave again.

Now John, being too much encouraged by the girls (of which I could never
break them), came into the house that December evening, with every inch
of him full of a tale. Annie saw it, and Lizzie, of course; and even I,
in the gloom of great evils, perceived that John was a loaded gun; but I
did not care to explode him. Now nothing primed him so hotly as this: if
you wanted to hear all John Fry had heard, the surest of all sure ways
to it was, to pretend not to care for a word of it.

'I wor over to Exeford in the morning,' John began from the
chimney-corner, looking straight at Annie; 'for to zee a little calve,
Jan, as us cuddn't get thee to lave houze about. Meesus have got a quare
vancy vor un, from wutt her have heer'd of the brade. Now zit quite,
wull 'e Miss Luzzie, or a 'wunt goo on no vurder. Vaine little tayl I'll
tull' ee, if so be thee zits quite. Wull, as I coom down the hill, I
zeed a saight of volks astapping of the ro-udwai. Arl on 'em wi' girt
goons, or two men out of dree wi' 'em. Rackon there wor dree score
on 'em, tak smarl and beg togather laike; latt aloun the women and
chillers; zum on em wi' matches blowing, tothers wi' flint-lacks. "Wutt
be up now?" I says to Bill Blacksmith, as had knowledge of me: "be the
King acoomin? If her be, do 'ee want to shutt 'un?"

'"Thee not knaw!" says Bill Blacksmith, just the zame as I be a tullin
of it: "whai, man, us expex Tam Faggus, and zum on us manes to shutt
'un."

'"Shutt 'un wi'out a warrant!" says I: "sure 'ee knaws better nor thic,
Bill! A man mayn't shutt to another man, wi'out have a warrant, Bill.
Warship zed so, last taime I zeed un, and nothing to the contrairy."

'"Haw, haw! Never frout about that," saith Bill, zame as I be tullin
you; "us has warrants and warships enow, dree or vour on 'em. And more
nor a dizzen warranties; fro'ut I know to contrairy. Shutt 'un, us
manes; and shutt 'un, us will--" Whai, Miss Annie, good Lord, whuttiver
maks 'ee stear so?'

'Nothing at all, John,' our Annie answered; 'only the horrible ferocity
of that miserable blacksmith.'

'That be nayther here nor there,' John continued, with some wrath at
his own interruption: 'Blacksmith knawed whutt the Squire had been; and
veared to lose his own custom, if Squire tuk to shooin' again. Shutt any
man I would myzell as intervared wi' my trade laike. "Lucky for thee,"
said Bill Blacksmith, "as thee bee'st so shart and fat, Jan. Dree on us
wor a gooin' to shutt 'ee, till us zeed how fat thee waz, Jan."

'"Lor now, Bill!" I answered 'un, wi' a girt cold swat upon me: "shutt
me, Bill; and my own waife niver drame of it!"'

Here John Fry looked round the kitchen; for he had never said anything
of the kind, I doubt; but now made it part of his discourse, from
thinking that Mistress Fry was come, as she generally did, to fetch him.

'Wull done then, Jan Vry,' said the woman, who had entered quietly, but
was only our old Molly. 'Wutt handsome manners thee hast gat, Jan, to
spake so well of thy waife laike; after arl the laife she leads thee!'

'Putt thee pot on the fire, old 'ooman, and bile thee own bakkon,' John
answered her, very sharply: 'nobody no raight to meddle wi' a man's bad
ooman but himzell. Wull, here was all these here men awaitin', zum wi'
harses, zum wi'out; the common volk wi' long girt guns, and tha quarlity
wi' girt broad-swords. Who wor there? Whay latt me zee. There wor Squire
Maunder,' here John assumed his full historical key, 'him wi' the pot to
his vittle-place; and Sir Richard Blewitt shaking over the zaddle, and
Squaire Sandford of Lee, him wi' the long nose and one eye, and Sir
Gronus Batchildor over to Ninehead Court, and ever so many more on 'em,
tulling up how they was arl gooin' to be promoted, for kitching of Tom
Faggus.

'"Hope to God," says I to myzell, "poor Tom wun't coom here to-day: arl
up with her, if 'a doeth: and who be there to suckzade 'un?" Mark me
now, all these charps was good to shutt 'un, as her coom crass the
watter; the watter be waide enow there and stony, but no deeper than my
knee-place.

'"Thee cas'n goo no vurder," Bill Blacksmith saith to me: "nawbody
'lowed to crass the vord, until such time as Faggus coom; plaise God us
may mak sure of 'un."

'"Amen, zo be it," says I; "God knoweth I be never in any hurry, and
would zooner stop nor goo on most taimes."

'Wi' that I pulled my vittles out, and zat a horsebarck, atin' of 'em,
and oncommon good they was. "Won't us have 'un this taime just," saith
Tim Potter, as keepeth the bull there; "and yet I be zorry for 'un. But
a man must kape the law, her must; zo be her can only learn it. And now
poor Tom will swing as high as the tops of they girt hashes there."

'"Just thee kitch 'un virst," says I; "maisure rope, wi' the body to
maisure by."

'"Hurrah! here be another now," saith Bill Blacksmith, grinning;
"another coom to help us. What a grave gentleman! A warship of the pace,
at laste!"

'For a gentleman, on a cue-ball horse, was coming slowly down the hill
on tother zide of watter, looking at us in a friendly way, and with a
long papper standing forth the lining of his coat laike. Horse stapped
to drink in the watter, and gentleman spak to 'un kindly, and then they
coom raight on to ussen, and the gentleman's face wor so long and so
grave, us veared 'a wor gooin' to prache to us.

'"Coort o' King's Bench," saith one man; "Checker and Plays," saith
another; "Spishal Commission, I doubt," saith Bill Blacksmith; "backed
by the Mayor of Taunton."

'"Any Justice of the King's Peace, good people, to be found near here?"
said the gentleman, lifting his hat to us, and very gracious in his
manner.

'"Your honour," saith Bill, with his hat off his head; "there be sax or
zeven warships here: arl on 'em very wise 'uns. Squaire Maunder there be
the zinnyer."

'So the gentleman rode up to Squire Maunder, and raised his cocked hat
in a manner that took the Squire out of countenance, for he could not do
the like of it.

'"Sir," said he, "good and worshipful sir, I am here to claim your
good advice and valour; for purposes of justice. I hold His Majesty's
commission, to make to cease a notorious rogue, whose name is Thomas
Faggus." With that he offered his commission; but Squire Maunder told
the truth, that he could not rade even words in print, much less written
karakters.* Then the other magistrates rode up, and put their heads
together, how to meet the London gentleman without loss of importance.
There wor one of 'em as could rade purty vair, and her made out King's
mark upon it: and he bowed upon his horse to the gentleman, and he laid
his hand on his heart and said, "Worshipful sir, we, as has the honour
of His Gracious Majesty's commission, are entirely at your service, and
crave instructions from you."

     * Lest I seem to under-rate the erudition of Devonshire
     magistrates, I venture to offer copy of a letter from a
     Justice of the Peace to his bookseller, circa 1810 A.D., now
     in my possession:--

     'Sur. 'plez to zen me the aks relatting to A-GUSTUS-PAKS,'
     --Ed. of L. D.

'Then a waving of hats began, and a bowing, and making of legs to wan
anather, sich as nayver wor zeed afore; but none of 'em arl, for air and
brading, cud coom anaigh the gentleman with the long grave face.

'"Your warships have posted the men right well," saith he with anather
bow all round; "surely that big rogue will have no chance left among so
many valiant musketeers. Ha! what see I there, my friend? Rust in the
pan of your gun! That gun would never go off, sure as I am the King's
Commissioner. And I see another just as bad; and lo, there the
third! Pardon me, gentlemen, I have been so used to His Majesty's
Ordnance-yards. But I fear that bold rogue would ride through all of
you, and laugh at your worship's beards, by George."

'"But what shall us do?" Squire Maunder axed; "I vear there be no oil
here."

'"Discharge your pieces, gentlemen, and let the men do the same; or at
least let us try to discharge them, and load again with fresh powder. It
is the fog of the morning hath spoiled the priming. That rogue is not
in sight yet: but God knows we must not be asleep with him, or what will
His Majesty say to me, if we let him slip once more?"

'"Excellent, wondrous well said, good sir," Squire Maunder answered him;
"I never should have thought of that now. Bill Blacksmith, tell all the
men to be ready to shoot up into the air, directly I give the word. Now,
are you ready there, Bill?"

'"All ready, your worship," saith Bill, saluting like a soldier.

'"Then, one, two, dree, and shutt!" cries Squire Maunder, standing up in
the irons of his stirrups.

'Thereupon they all blazed out, and the noise of it went all round the
hills; with a girt thick cloud arising, and all the air smelling of
powder. Before the cloud was gone so much as ten yards on the wind,
the gentleman on the cue-bald horse shuts up his face like a pair of
nut-cracks, as wide as it was long before, and out he pulls two girt
pistols longside of zaddle, and clap'th one to Squire Maunder's head,
and tother to Sir Richard Blewitt's.

'"Hand forth your money and all your warrants," he saith like a clap of
thunder; "gentlemen, have you now the wit to apprehend Tom Faggus?"

'Squire Maunder swore so that he ought to be fined; but he pulled out
his purse none the slower for that, and so did Sir Richard Blewitt.

'"First man I see go to load a gun, I'll gi'e 'un the bullet to do it
with," said Tom; for you see it was him and no other, looking quietly
round upon all of them. Then he robbed all the rest of their warships,
as pleasant as might be; and he saith, "Now, gentlemen, do your duty:
serve your warrants afore you imprison me;" with that he made them give
up all the warrants, and he stuck them in the band of his hat, and then
he made a bow with it.

'"Good morning to your warships now, and a merry Christmas all of
you! And the merrier both for rich and poor, when gentlemen see their
almsgiving. Lest you deny yourselves the pleasure, I will aid your
warships. And to save you the trouble of following me, when your guns be
loaded--this is my strawberry mare, gentlemen, only with a little cream
on her. Gentlemen all, in the name of the King, I thank you."

'All this while he was casting their money among the poor folk by the
handful; and then he spak kaindly to the red mare, and wor over the back
of the hill in two zeconds, and best part of two maile away, I reckon,
afore ever a gun wor loaded.'*

     * The truth of this story is well established by first-rate
     tradition.



CHAPTER XL

TWO FOOLS TOGETHER

That story of John Fry's, instead of causing any amusement, gave us
great disquietude; not only because it showed that Tom Faggus could not
resist sudden temptation and the delight of wildness, but also that we
greatly feared lest the King's pardon might be annulled, and all his
kindness cancelled, by a reckless deed of that sort. It was true (as
Annie insisted continually, even with tears, to wear in her arguments)
that Tom had not brought away anything, except the warrants, which were
of no use at all, after receipt of the pardon; neither had he used any
violence, except just to frighten people; but could it be established,
even towards Christmas-time, that Tom had a right to give alms, right
and left, out of other people's money?

Dear Annie appeared to believe that it could; saying that if the rich
continually chose to forget the poor, a man who forced them to remember,
and so to do good to themselves and to others, was a public benefactor,
and entitled to every blessing. But I knew, and so Lizzie knew--John Fry
being now out of hearing--that this was not sound argument. For, if it
came to that, any man might take the King by the throat, and make him
cast away among the poor the money which he wanted sadly for Her Grace
the Duchess, and the beautiful Countess, of this, and of that. Lizzie,
of course, knew nothing about His Majesty's diversions, which were not
fit for a young maid's thoughts; but I now put the form of the argument
as it occurred to me.

Therefore I said, once for all (and both my sisters always listened when
I used the deep voice from my chest):

'Tom Faggus hath done wrong herein; wrong to himself, and to our Annie.
All he need have done was to show his pardon, and the magistrates would
have rejoiced with him. He might have led a most godly life, and have
been respected by everybody; and knowing how brave Tom is, I thought
that he would have done as much. Now if I were in love with a maid'--I
put it thus for the sake of poor Lizzie--'never would I so imperil my
life, and her fortune in life along with me, for the sake of a poor
diversion. A man's first duty is to the women, who are forced to hang
upon him'--

'Oh, John, not that horrible word,' cried Annie, to my great surprise,
and serious interruption; 'oh, John, any word but that!' And she burst
forth crying terribly.

'What word, Lizzie? What does the wench mean?' I asked, in the saddest
vexation; seeing no good to ask Annie at all, for she carried on most
dreadfully.

'Don't you know, you stupid lout?' said Lizzie, completing my
wonderment, by the scorn of her quicker intelligence; 'if you don't
know, axe about?'

And with that, I was forced to be content; for Lizzie took Annie in such
a manner (on purpose to vex me, as I could see) with her head drooping
down, and her hair coming over, and tears and sobs rising and falling,
to boot, without either order or reason, that seeing no good for a
man to do (since neither of them was Lorna), I even went out into the
courtyard, and smoked a pipe, and wondered what on earth is the meaning
of women.

Now in this I was wrong and unreasonable (as all women will
acknowledge); but sometimes a man is so put out, by the way they take
on about nothing, that he really cannot help thinking, for at least
a minute, that women are a mistake for ever, and hence are for ever
mistaken. Nevertheless I could not see that any of these great thoughts
and ideas applied at all to my Lorna; but that she was a different
being; not woman enough to do anything bad, yet enough of a woman for
man to adore.

And now a thing came to pass which tested my adoration pretty sharply,
inasmuch as I would far liefer faced Carver Doone and his father, nay,
even the roaring lion himself with his hoofs and flaming nostrils, than
have met, in cold blood, Sir Ensor Doone, the founder of all the colony,
and the fear of the very fiercest.

But that I was forced to do at this time, and in the manner following.
When I went up one morning to look for my seven rooks' nests, behold
there were but six to be seen; for the topmost of them all was gone,
and the most conspicuous. I looked, and looked, and rubbed my eyes, and
turned to try them by other sights; and then I looked again; yes, there
could be no doubt about it; the signal was made for me to come, because
my love was in danger. For me to enter the valley now, during the broad
daylight, could have brought no comfort, but only harm to the maiden,
and certain death to myself. Yet it was more than I could do to keep
altogether at distance; therefore I ran to the nearest place where I
could remain unseen, and watched the glen from the wooded height, for
hours and hours, impatiently.

However, no impatience of mine made any difference in the scene upon
which I was gazing. In the part of the valley which I could see, there
was nothing moving, except the water, and a few stolen cows, going sadly
along, as if knowing that they had no honest right there. It sank very
heavily into my heart, with all the beds of dead leaves around it, and
there was nothing I cared to do, except blow on my fingers, and long for
more wit.

For a frost was beginning, which made a great difference to Lorna and to
myself, I trow; as well as to all the five million people who dwell in
this island of England; such a frost as never I saw before,* neither
hope ever to see again; a time when it was impossible to milk a cow for
icicles, or for a man to shave some of his beard (as I liked to do for
Lorna's sake, because she was so smooth) without blunting his razor
on hard gray ice. No man could 'keep yatt' (as we say), even though he
abandoned his work altogether, and thumped himself, all on the chest and
the front, till his frozen hands would have been bleeding except for the
cold that kept still all his veins.

     * If John Ridd lived until the year 1740 (as so strong a man
     was bound to do), he must have seen almost a harder frost;
     and perhaps it put an end to him; for then he would be some
     fourscore years old.  But tradition makes him 'keep yatt,'
     as he says, up to fivescore years.--ED.

However, at present there was no frost, although for a fortnight
threatening; and I was too young to know the meaning of the way the dead
leaves hung, and the worm-casts prickling like women's combs, and
the leaden tone upon everything, and the dead weight of the sky. Will
Watcombe, the old man at Lynmouth, who had been half over the world
almost, and who talked so much of the Gulf-stream, had (as I afterwards
called to mind) foretold a very bitter winter this year. But no one
would listen to him because there were not so many hips and haws as
usual; whereas we have all learned from our grandfathers that Providence
never sends very hard winters, without having furnished a large supply
of berries for the birds to feed upon.

It was lucky for me, while I waited here, that our very best sheep-dog,
old Watch, had chosen to accompany me that day. For otherwise I must
have had no dinner, being unpersuaded, even by that, to quit my survey
of the valley. However, by aid of poor Watch, I contrived to obtain a
supply of food; for I sent him home with a note to Annie fastened upon
his chest; and in less than an hour back he came, proud enough to wag
his tail off, with his tongue hanging out from the speed of his journey,
and a large lump of bread and of bacon fastened in a napkin around his
neck. I had not told my sister, of course, what was toward; for why
should I make her anxious?

When it grew towards dark, I was just beginning to prepare for my
circuit around the hills; but suddenly Watch gave a long low growl; I
kept myself close as possible, and ordered the dog to be silent, and
presently saw a short figure approaching from a thickly-wooded hollow on
the left side of my hiding-place. It was the same figure I had seen once
before in the moonlight, at Plover's Barrows; and proved, to my great
delight, to be the little maid Gwenny Carfax. She started a moment, at
seeing me, but more with surprise than fear; and then she laid both her
hands upon mine, as if she had known me for twenty years.

'Young man,' she said, 'you must come with me. I was gwain' all the
way to fetch thee. Old man be dying; and her can't die, or at least her
won't, without first considering thee.'

'Considering me!' I cried; 'what can Sir Ensor Doone want with
considering me? Has Mistress Lorna told him?'

'All concerning thee, and thy doings; when she knowed old man were so
near his end. That vexed he was about thy low blood, a' thought her
would come to life again, on purpose for to bate 'ee. But after all,
there can't be scarcely such bad luck as that. Now, if her strook thee,
thou must take it; there be no denaying of un. Fire I have seen afore,
hot and red, and raging; but I never seen cold fire afore, and it maketh
me burn and shiver.'

And in truth, it made me both burn and shiver, to know that I must
either go straight to the presence of Sir Ensor Doone, or give up Lorna,
once for all, and rightly be despised by her. For the first time of my
life, I thought that she had not acted fairly. Why not leave the old man
in peace, without vexing him about my affair? But presently I saw again
that in this matter she was right; that she could not receive the old
man's blessing (supposing that he had one to give, which even a worse
man might suppose), while she deceived him about herself, and the life
she had undertaken.

Therefore, with great misgiving of myself, but no ill thought of my
darling, I sent Watch home, and followed Gwenny; who led me along very
rapidly, with her short broad form gliding down the hollow, from which
she had first appeared. Here at the bottom, she entered a thicket of
gray ash stubs and black holly, with rocks around it gnarled with roots,
and hung with masks of ivy. Here in a dark and lonely corner, with a
pixie ring before it, she came to a narrow door, very brown and solid,
looking like a trunk of wood at a little distance. This she opened,
without a key, by stooping down and pressing it, where the threshold met
the jamb; and then she ran in very nimbly, but I was forced to be
bent in two, and even so without comfort. The passage was close and
difficult, and as dark as any black pitch; but it was not long (be it as
it might), and in that there was some comfort. We came out soon at the
other end, and were at the top of Doone valley. In the chilly dusk air,
it looked most untempting, especially during that state of mind under
which I was labouring. As we crossed towards the Captain's house, we
met a couple of great Doones lounging by the waterside. Gwenny said
something to them, and although they stared very hard at me, they let me
pass without hindrance. It is not too much to say that when the little
maid opened Sir Ensor's door, my heart thumped, quite as much with
terror as with hope of Lorna's presence.

But in a moment the fear was gone, for Lorna was trembling in my arms,
and my courage rose to comfort her. The darling feared, beyond all
things else, lest I should be offended with her for what she had said to
her grandfather, and for dragging me into his presence; but I told her
almost a falsehood (the first, and the last, that ever I did tell her),
to wit, that I cared not that much--and showed her the tip of my thumb
as I said it--for old Sir Ensor, and all his wrath, so long as I had his
granddaughter's love.

Now I tried to think this as I said it, so as to save it from being a
lie; but somehow or other it did not answer, and I was vexed with myself
both ways. But Lorna took me by the hand as bravely as she could, and
led me into a little passage where I could hear the river moaning and
the branches rustling.

Here I passed as long a minute as fear ever cheated time of, saying
to myself continually that there was nothing to be frightened at, yet
growing more and more afraid by reason of so reasoning. At last my Lorna
came back very pale, as I saw by the candle she carried, and whispered,
'Now be patient, dearest. Never mind what he says to you; neither
attempt to answer him. Look at him gently and steadfastly, and, if you
can, with some show of reverence; but above all things, no compassion;
it drives him almost mad. Now come; walk very quietly.'

She led me into a cold, dark room, rough and very gloomy, although with
two candles burning. I took little heed of the things in it, though I
marked that the window was open. That which I heeded was an old man,
very stern and comely, with death upon his countenance; yet not lying in
his bed, but set upright in a chair, with a loose red cloak thrown over
him. Upon this his white hair fell, and his pallid fingers lay in a
ghastly fashion without a sign of life or movement or of the power that
kept him up; all rigid, calm, and relentless. Only in his great black
eyes, fixed upon me solemnly, all the power of his body dwelt, all the
life of his soul was burning.

I could not look at him very nicely, being afeared of the death in his
face, and most afeared to show it. And to tell the truth, my poor
blue eyes fell away from the blackness of his, as if it had been my
coffin-plate. Therefore I made a low obeisance, and tried not to shiver.
Only I groaned that Lorna thought it good manners to leave us two
together.

'Ah,' said the old man, and his voice seemed to come from a cavern of
skeletons; 'are you that great John Ridd?'

'John Ridd is my name, your honour,' was all that I could answer; 'and I
hope your worship is better.'

'Child, have you sense enough to know what you have been doing?'

'Yes, I knew right well,' I answered, 'that I have set mine eyes far
above my rank.'

'Are you ignorant that Lorna Doone is born of the oldest families
remaining in North Europe?'

'I was ignorant of that, your worship; yet I knew of her high descent
from the Doones of Bagworthy.'

The old man's eyes, like fire, probed me whether I was jesting; then
perceiving how grave I was, and thinking that I could not laugh (as many
people suppose of me), he took on himself to make good the deficiency
with a very bitter smile.

'And know you of your own low descent from the Ridds of Oare?'

'Sir,' I answered, being as yet unaccustomed to this style of speech,
'the Ridds, of Oare, have been honest men twice as long as the Doones
have been rogues.'

'I would not answer for that, John,' Sir Ensor replied, very quietly,
when I expected fury. 'If it be so, thy family is the very oldest in
Europe. Now hearken to me, boy, or clown, or honest fool, or whatever
thou art; hearken to an old man's words, who has not many hours to live.
There is nothing in this world to fear, nothing to revere or trust,
nothing even to hope for; least of all, is there aught to love.'

'I hope your worship is not quite right,' I answered, with great
misgivings; 'else it is a sad mistake for anybody to live, sir.'

'Therefore,' he continued, as if I had never spoken, 'though it may seem
hard for a week or two, like the loss of any other toy, I deprive you of
nothing, but add to your comfort, and (if there be such a thing) to your
happiness, when I forbid you ever to see that foolish child again. All
marriage is a wretched farce, even when man and wife belong to the same
rank of life, have temper well assorted, similar likes and dislikes, and
about the same pittance of mind. But when they are not so matched,
the farce would become a long, dull tragedy, if anything were worth
lamenting. There, I have reasoned enough with you; I am not in the habit
of reasoning. Though I have little confidence in man's honour, I have
some reliance in woman's pride. You will pledge your word in Lorna's
presence never to see or to seek her again; never even to think of her
more. Now call her, for I am weary.'

He kept his great eyes fixed upon me with their icy fire (as if he
scorned both life and death), and on his haughty lips some slight
amusement at my trouble; and then he raised one hand (as if I were a
poor dumb creature), and pointed to the door. Although my heart rebelled
and kindled at his proud disdain, I could not disobey him freely; but
made a low salute, and went straightway in search of Lorna.

I found my love (or not my love; according as now she should behave; for
I was very desperate, being put upon so sadly); Lorna Doone was crying
softly at a little window, and listening to the river's grief. I laid
my heavy arm around her, not with any air of claiming or of forcing
her thoughts to me, but only just to comfort her, and ask what she was
thinking of. To my arm she made no answer, neither to my seeking eyes;
but to my heart, once for all, she spoke with her own upon it. Not a
word, nor sound between us; not even a kiss was interchanged; but man,
or maid, who has ever loved hath learned our understanding.

Therefore it came to pass, that we saw fit to enter Sir Ensor's room in
the following manner. Lorna, with her right hand swallowed entirely by
the palm of mine, and her waist retired from view by means of my left
arm. All one side of her hair came down, in a way to be remembered, upon
the left and fairest part of my favourite otter-skin waistcoat; and
her head as well would have lain there doubtless, but for the danger
of walking so. I, for my part, was too far gone to lag behind in the
matter; but carried my love bravely, fearing neither death nor hell,
while she abode beside me.

Old Sir Ensor looked much astonished. For forty years he had been obeyed
and feared by all around him; and he knew that I had feared him vastly,
before I got hold of Lorna. And indeed I was still afraid of him; only
for loving Lorna so, and having to protect her.

Then I made him a bow, to the very best of all I had learned both at
Tiverton and in London; after that I waited for him to begin, as became
his age and rank in life.

'Ye two fools!' he said at last, with a depth of contempt which no words
may express; 'ye two fools!'

'May it please your worship,' I answered softly; 'maybe we are not such
fools as we look. But though we be, we are well content, so long as we
may be two fools together.'

'Why, John,' said the old man, with a spark, as of smiling in his eyes;
'thou art not altogether the clumsy yokel, and the clod, I took thee
for.'

'Oh, no, grandfather; oh, dear grandfather,' cried Lorna, with such zeal
and flashing, that her hands went forward; 'nobody knows what John Ridd
is, because he is so modest. I mean, nobody except me, dear.' And here
she turned to me again, and rose upon tiptoe, and kissed me.

'I have seen a little o' the world,' said the old man, while I was half
ashamed, although so proud of Lorna; 'but this is beyond all I have
seen, and nearly all I have heard of. It is more fit for southern
climates than for the fogs of Exmoor.'

'It is fit for all the world, your worship; with your honour's good
leave, and will,' I answered in humility, being still ashamed of it;
'when it happens so to people, there is nothing that can stop it, sir.'

Now Sir Ensor Doone was leaning back upon his brown chair-rail, which
was built like a triangle, as in old farmhouses (from one of which it
had come, no doubt, free from expense or gratitude); and as I spoke he
coughed a little; and he sighed a good deal more; and perhaps his dying
heart desired to open time again, with such a lift of warmth and hope as
he descried in our eyes, and arms. I could not understand him then; any
more than a baby playing with his grandfather's spectacles; nevertheless
I wondered whether, at his time of life, or rather on the brink of
death, he was thinking of his youth and pride.

'Fools you are; be fools for ever,' said Sir Ensor Doone, at last; while
we feared to break his thoughts, but let each other know our own, with
little ways of pressure; 'it is the best thing I can wish you; boy and
girl, be boy and girl, until you have grandchildren.'

Partly in bitterness he spoke, and partly in pure weariness, and then
he turned so as not to see us; and his white hair fell, like a shroud,
around him.



CHAPTER XLI

COLD COMFORT

All things being full of flaw, all things being full of holes, the
strength of all things is in shortness. If Sir Ensor Doone had dwelled
for half an hour upon himself, and an hour perhaps upon Lorna and me,
we must both have wearied of him, and required change of air. But now
I longed to see and know a great deal more about him, and hoped that he
might not go to Heaven for at least a week or more. However, he was too
good for this world (as we say of all people who leave it); and I verily
believe his heart was not a bad one, after all.

Evil he had done, no doubt, as evil had been done to him; yet how many
have done evil, while receiving only good! Be that as it may; and not
vexing a question (settled for ever without our votes), let us own that
he was, at least, a brave and courteous gentleman.

And his loss aroused great lamentation, not among the Doones alone, and
the women they had carried off, but also of the general public, and many
even of the magistrates, for several miles round Exmoor. And this,
not only from fear lest one more wicked might succeed him (as appeared
indeed too probable), but from true admiration of his strong will, and
sympathy with his misfortunes.

I will not deceive any one, by saying that Sir Ensor Doone gave (in so
many words) his consent to my resolve about Lorna. This he never did,
except by his speech last written down; from which as he mentioned
grandchildren, a lawyer perhaps might have argued it. Not but what he
may have meant to bestow on us his blessing; only that he died next day,
without taking the trouble to do it.

He called indeed for his box of snuff, which was a very high thing to
take; and which he never took without being in very good humour, at
least for him. And though it would not go up his nostrils, through the
failure of his breath, he was pleased to have it there, and not to think
of dying.

'Will your honour have it wiped?' I asked him very softly, for the
brown appearance of it spoiled (to my idea) his white mostacchio; but
he seemed to shake his head; and I thought it kept his spirits up. I had
never before seen any one do, what all of us have to do some day; and it
greatly kept my spirits down, although it did not so very much frighten
me.

For it takes a man but a little while, his instinct being of death
perhaps, at least as much as of life (which accounts for his slaying his
fellow men so, and every other creature), it does not take a man very
long to enter into another man's death, and bring his own mood to suit
it. He knows that his own is sure to come; and nature is fond of the
practice. Hence it came to pass that I, after easing my mother's fears,
and seeing a little to business, returned (as if drawn by a polar
needle) to the death-bed of Sir Ensor.

There was some little confusion, people wanting to get away, and people
trying to come in, from downright curiosity (of all things the most
hateful), and others making great to-do, and talking of their own time
to come, telling their own age, and so on. But every one seemed to
think, or feel, that I had a right to be there; because the women took
that view of it. As for Carver and Counsellor, they were minding their
own affairs, so as to win the succession; and never found it in their
business (at least so long as I was there) to come near the dying man.

He, for his part, never asked for any one to come near him, not even
a priest, nor a monk or friar; but seemed to be going his own way,
peaceful, and well contented. Only the chief of the women said that from
his face she believed and knew that he liked to have me at one side of
his bed, and Lorna upon the other. An hour or two ere the old man died,
when only we two were with him, he looked at us both very dimly and
softly, as if he wished to do something for us, but had left it now too
late. Lorna hoped that he wanted to bless us; but he only frowned at
that, and let his hand drop downward, and crooked one knotted finger.

'He wants something out of the bed, dear,' Lorna whispered to me; 'see
what it is, upon your side, there.'

I followed the bent of his poor shrunken hand, and sought among the
pilings; and there I felt something hard and sharp, and drew it forth
and gave it to him. It flashed, like the spray of a fountain upon us, in
the dark winter of the room. He could not take it in his hand, but let
it hang, as daisies do; only making Lorna see that he meant her to have
it.

'Why, it is my glass necklace!' Lorna cried, in great surprise; 'my
necklace he always promised me; and from which you have got the ring,
John. But grandfather kept it, because the children wanted to pull it
from my neck. May I have it now, dear grandfather? Not unless you wish,
dear.'

Darling Lorna wept again, because the old man could not tell her (except
by one very feeble nod) that she was doing what he wished. Then she gave
to me the trinket, for the sake of safety; and I stowed it in my breast.
He seemed to me to follow this, and to be well content with it.

Before Sir Ensor Doone was buried, the greatest frost of the century
had set in, with its iron hand, and step of stone, on everything. How
it came is not my business, nor can I explain it; because I never have
watched the skies; as people now begin to do, when the ground is not to
their liking. Though of all this I know nothing, and less than nothing I
may say (because I ought to know something); I can hear what people tell
me; and I can see before my eyes.

The strong men broke three good pickaxes, ere they got through the hard
brown sod, streaked with little maps of gray where old Sir Ensor was to
lie, upon his back, awaiting the darkness of the Judgment-day. It was in
the little chapel-yard; I will not tell the name of it; because we are
now such Protestants, that I might do it an evil turn; only it was the
little place where Lorna's Aunt Sabina lay.

Here was I, remaining long, with a little curiosity; because some people
told me plainly that I must be damned for ever by a Papist funeral; and
here came Lorna, scarcely breathing through the thick of stuff around
her, yet with all her little breath steaming on the air, like frost.

I stood apart from the ceremony, in which of course I was not entitled,
either by birth or religion, to bear any portion; and indeed it would
have been wiser in me to have kept away altogether; for now there was no
one to protect me among those wild and lawless men; and both Carver
and the Counsellor had vowed a fearful vengeance on me, as I heard from
Gwenny. They had not dared to meddle with me while the chief lay dying;
nor was it in their policy, for a short time after that, to endanger
their succession by an open breach with Lorna, whose tender age and
beauty held so many of the youths in thrall.

The ancient outlaw's funeral was a grand and moving sight; more perhaps
from the sense of contrast than from that of fitness. To see those dark
and mighty men, inured to all of sin and crime, reckless both of man and
God, yet now with heads devoutly bent, clasped hands, and downcast eyes,
following the long black coffin of their common ancestor, to the place
where they must join him when their sum of ill was done; and to see the
feeble priest chanting, over the dead form, words the living would
have laughed at, sprinkling with his little broom drops that could not
purify; while the children, robed in white, swung their smoking censers
slowly over the cold and twilight grave; and after seeing all, to ask,
with a shudder unexpressed, 'Is this the end that God intended for a man
so proud and strong?'

Not a tear was shed upon him, except from the sweetest of all sweet
eyes; not a sigh pursued him home. Except in hot anger, his life had
been cold, and bitter, and distant; and now a week had exhausted all
the sorrow of those around him, a grief flowing less from affection than
fear. Aged men will show his tombstone; mothers haste with their infants
by it; children shrink from the name upon it, until in time his history
shall lapse and be forgotten by all except the great Judge and God.

After all was over, I strode across the moors very sadly; trying to
keep the cold away by virtue of quick movement. Not a flake of snow had
fallen yet; all the earth was caked and hard, with a dry brown crust
upon it; all the sky was banked with darkness, hard, austere, and
frowning. The fog of the last three weeks was gone, neither did any
rime remain; but all things had a look of sameness, and a kind of furzy
colour. It was freezing hard and sharp, with a piercing wind to back it;
and I had observed that the holy water froze upon Sir Ensor's coffin.

One thing struck me with some surprise, as I made off for our fireside
(with a strong determination to heave an ash-tree up the chimney-place),
and that was how the birds were going, rather than flying as they used
to fly. All the birds were set in one direction, steadily journeying
westward, not with any heat of speed, neither flying far at once; but
all (as if on business bound), partly running, partly flying, partly
fluttering along; silently, and without a voice, neither pricking head
nor tail. This movement of the birds went on, even for a week or more;
every kind of thrushes passed us, every kind of wild fowl, even plovers
went away, and crows, and snipes and wood-cocks. And before half the
frost was over, all we had in the snowy ditches were hares so tame that
we could pat them; partridges that came to hand, with a dry noise in
their crops; heath-poults, making cups of snow; and a few poor hopping
redwings, flipping in and out the hedge, having lost the power to fly.
And all the time their great black eyes, set with gold around them,
seemed to look at any man, for mercy and for comfort.

Annie took a many of them, all that she could find herself, and all the
boys would bring her; and she made a great hutch near the fire, in the
back-kitchen chimney-place. Here, in spite of our old Betty (who sadly
wanted to roast them), Annie kept some fifty birds, with bread and milk,
and raw chopped meat, and all the seed she could think of, and lumps of
rotten apples, placed to tempt them, in the corners. Some got on, and
some died off; and Annie cried for all that died, and buried them under
the woodrick; but, I do assure you, it was a pretty thing to see, when
she went to them in the morning. There was not a bird but knew her well,
after one day of comforting; and some would come to her hand, and sit,
and shut one eye, and look at her. Then she used to stroke their heads,
and feel their breasts, and talk to them; and not a bird of them all was
there but liked to have it done to him. And I do believe they would eat
from her hand things unnatural to them, lest she should he grieved and
hurt by not knowing what to do for them. One of them was a noble bird,
such as I never had seen before, of very fine bright plumage, and larger
than a missel-thrush. He was the hardest of all to please: and yet he
tried to do his best. I have heard since then, from a man who knows all
about birds, and beasts, and fishes, that he must have been a Norwegian
bird, called in this country a Roller, who never comes to England but in
the most tremendous winters.

Another little bird there was, whom I longed to welcome home, and
protect from enemies, a little bird no native to us, but than any
native dearer. But lo, in the very night which followed old Sir Ensor's
funeral, such a storm of snow began as never have I heard nor read of,
neither could have dreamed it. At what time of night it first began is
more than I can say, at least from my own knowledge, for we all went to
bed soon after supper, being cold and not inclined to talk. At that time
the wind was moaning sadly, and the sky as dark as a wood, and the straw
in the yard swirling round and round, and the cows huddling into the
great cowhouse, with their chins upon one another. But we, being blinder
than they, I suppose, and not having had a great snow for years, made
no preparation against the storm, except that the lambing ewes were in
shelter.

It struck me, as I lay in bed, that we were acting foolishly; for an
ancient shepherd had dropped in and taken supper with us, and foretold a
heavy fall and great disaster to live stock. He said that he had known
a frost beginning, just as this had done, with a black east wind, after
days of raw cold fog, and then on the third night of the frost, at this
very time of year (to wit on the 15th of December) such a snow set in
as killed half of the sheep and many even of the red deer and the forest
ponies. It was three-score years agone,* he said; and cause he had to
remember it, inasmuch as two of his toes had been lost by frost-nip,
while he dug out his sheep on the other side of the Dunkery. Hereupon
mother nodded at him, having heard from her father about it, and how
three men had been frozen to death, and how badly their stockings came
off from them.

     * The frost of 1625.

Remembering how the old man looked, and his manner of listening to the
wind and shaking his head very ominously (when Annie gave him a glass
of schnapps), I grew quite uneasy in my bed, as the room got colder and
colder; and I made up my mind, if it only pleased God not to send the
snow till the morning, that every sheep, and horse, and cow, ay, and
even the poultry, should be brought in snug, and with plenty to eat, and
fodder enough to roast them.

Alas what use of man's resolves, when they come a day too late; even if
they may avail a little, when they are most punctual!

In the bitter morning I arose, to follow out my purpose, knowing the
time from the force of habit, although the room was so dark and gray.
An odd white light was on the rafters, such as I never had seen before;
while all the length of the room was grisly, like the heart of a mouldy
oat-rick. I went to the window at once, of course; and at first I could
not understand what was doing outside of it. It faced due east (as I may
have said), with the walnut-tree partly sheltering it; and generally I
could see the yard, and the woodrick, and even the church beyond.

But now, half the lattice was quite blocked up, as if plastered with
gray lime; and little fringes, like ferns, came through, where the
joining of the lead was; and in the only undarkened part, countless dots
came swarming, clustering, beating with a soft, low sound, then gliding
down in a slippery manner, not as drops of rain do, but each distinct
from his neighbour. Inside the iron frame (which fitted, not to say too
comfortably, and went along the stonework), at least a peck of snow had
entered, following its own bend and fancy; light as any cobweb.

With some trouble, and great care, lest the ancient frame should yield,
I spread the lattice open; and saw at once that not a moment must be
lost, to save our stock. All the earth was flat with snow, all the air
was thick with snow; more than this no man could see, for all the world
was snowing.

I shut the window and dressed in haste; and when I entered the kitchen,
not even Betty, the earliest of all early birds, was there. I raked the
ashes together a little, just to see a spark of warmth; and then set
forth to find John Fry, Jem Slocombe, and Bill Dadds. But this was
easier thought than done; for when I opened the courtyard door, I
was taken up to my knees at once, and the power of the drifting cloud
prevented sight of anything. However, I found my way to the woodrick,
and there got hold of a fine ash-stake, cut by myself not long ago. With
this I ploughed along pretty well, and thundered so hard at John
Fry's door, that he thought it was the Doones at least, and cocked his
blunderbuss out of the window.

John was very loth to come down, when he saw the meaning of it; for he
valued his life more than anything else; though he tried to make out
that his wife was to blame. But I settled his doubts by telling him,
that I would have him on my shoulder naked, unless he came in five
minutes; not that he could do much good, but because the other men would
be sure to skulk, if he set them the example. With spades, and shovels,
and pitch-forks, and a round of roping, we four set forth to dig out the
sheep; and the poor things knew that it was high time.



CHAPTER XLII

THE GREAT WINTER

It must have snowed most wonderfully to have made that depth of covering
in about eight hours. For one of Master Stickles' men, who had been out
all the night, said that no snow began to fall until nearly midnight.
And here it was, blocking up the doors, stopping the ways, and the water
courses, and making it very much worse to walk than in a saw-pit newly
used. However, we trudged along in a line; I first, and the other men
after me; trying to keep my track, but finding legs and strength not
up to it. Most of all, John Fry was groaning; certain that his time was
come, and sending messages to his wife, and blessings to his children.
For all this time it was snowing harder than it ever had snowed before,
so far as a man might guess at it; and the leaden depth of the sky came
down, like a mine turned upside down on us. Not that the flakes were
so very large; for I have seen much larger flakes in a shower of March,
while sowing peas; but that there was no room between them, neither any
relaxing, nor any change of direction.

Watch, like a good and faithful dog, followed us very cheerfully,
leaping out of the depth, which took him over his back and ears already,
even in the level places; while in the drifts he might have sunk to any
distance out of sight, and never found his way up again. However, we
helped him now and then, especially through the gaps and gateways; and
so after a deal of floundering, some laughter, and a little swearing, we
came all safe to the lower meadow, where most of our flock was hurdled.

But behold, there was no flock at all! None, I mean, to be seen
anywhere; only at one corner of the field, by the eastern end, where the
snow drove in, a great white billow, as high as a barn, and as broad as
a house. This great drift was rolling and curling beneath the violent
blast, tufting and combing with rustling swirls, and carved (as in
patterns of cornice) where the grooving chisel of the wind swept round.
Ever and again the tempest snatched little whiffs from the channelled
edges, twirled them round and made them dance over the chime of the
monster pile, then let them lie like herring-bones, or the seams of sand
where the tide has been. And all the while from the smothering sky, more
and more fiercely at every blast, came the pelting, pitiless arrows,
winged with murky white, and pointed with the barbs of frost.

But although for people who had no sheep, the sight was a very fine one
(so far at least as the weather permitted any sight at all); yet for us,
with our flock beneath it, this great mount had but little charm. Watch
began to scratch at once, and to howl along the sides of it; he knew
that his charge was buried there, and his business taken from him. But
we four men set to in earnest, digging with all our might and main,
shovelling away at the great white pile, and fetching it into the
meadow. Each man made for himself a cave, scooping at the soft, cold
flux, which slid upon him at every stroke, and throwing it out behind
him, in piles of castled fancy. At last we drove our tunnels in (for
we worked indeed for the lives of us), and all converging towards the
middle, held our tools and listened.

The other men heard nothing at all; or declared that they heard nothing,
being anxious now to abandon the matter, because of the chill in their
feet and knees. But I said, 'Go, if you choose all of you. I will work
it out by myself, you pie-crusts,' and upon that they gripped their
shovels, being more or less of Englishmen; and the least drop of English
blood is worth the best of any other when it comes to lasting out.

But before we began again, I laid my head well into the chamber; and
there I hears a faint 'ma-a-ah,' coming through some ells of snow, like
a plaintive, buried hope, or a last appeal. I shouted aloud to cheer him
up, for I knew what sheep it was, to wit, the most valiant of all the
wethers, who had met me when I came home from London, and been so glad
to see me. And then we all fell to again; and very soon we hauled
him out. Watch took charge of him at once, with an air of the noblest
patronage, lying on his frozen fleece, and licking all his face and
feet, to restore his warmth to him. Then fighting Tom jumped up at once,
and made a little butt at Watch, as if nothing had ever ailed him, and
then set off to a shallow place, and looked for something to nibble at.

Further in, and close under the bank, where they had huddled themselves
for warmth, we found all the rest of the poor sheep packed, as closely
as if they were in a great pie. It was strange to observe how their
vapour and breath, and the moisture exuding from their wool had scooped,
as it were, a coved room for them, lined with a ribbing of deep yellow
snow. Also the churned snow beneath their feet was as yellow as gamboge.
Two or three of the weaklier hoggets were dead, from want of air, and
from pressure; but more than three-score were as lively as ever; though
cramped and stiff for a little while.

'However shall us get 'em home?' John Fry asked in great dismay, when
we had cleared about a dozen of them; which we were forced to do very
carefully, so as not to fetch the roof down. 'No manner of maning to
draive 'un, drough all they girt driftnesses.'

'You see to this place, John,' I replied, as we leaned on our shovels
a moment, and the sheep came rubbing round us; 'let no more of them out
for the present; they are better where they be. Watch, here boy, keep
them!'

Watch came, with his little scut of a tail cocked as sharp as duty, and
I set him at the narrow mouth of the great snow antre. All the sheep
sidled away, and got closer, that the other sheep might be bitten first,
as the foolish things imagine; whereas no good sheep-dog even so much as
lips a sheep to turn it.

Then of the outer sheep (all now snowed and frizzled like a lawyer's
wig) I took the two finest and heaviest, and with one beneath my right
arm, and the other beneath my left, I went straight home to the upper
sheppey, and set them inside and fastened them. Sixty and six I took
home in that way, two at a time on each joumey; and the work grew harder
and harder each time, as the drifts of the snow were deepening. No other
man should meddle with them; I was resolved to try my strength against
the strength of the elements; and try it I did, ay, and proved it. A
certain fierce delight burned in me, as the struggle grew harder; but
rather would I die than yield; and at last I finished it. People talk of
it to this day; but none can tell what the labour was, who have not felt
that snow and wind.

Of the sheep upon the mountain, and the sheep upon the western farm, and
the cattle on the upper barrows, scarcely one in ten was saved; do what
we would for them, and this was not through any neglect (now that our
wits were sharpened), but from the pure impossibility of finding them
at all. That great snow never ceased a moment for three days and nights;
and then when all the earth was filled, and the topmost hedges were
unseen, and the trees broke down with weight (wherever the wind had not
lightened them), a brilliant sun broke forth and showed the loss of all
our customs.

All our house was quite snowed up, except where we had purged a way, by
dint of constant shovellings. The kitchen was as dark and darker than
the cider-cellar, and long lines of furrowed scollops ran even up to the
chimney-stacks. Several windows fell right inwards, through the weight
of the snow against them; and the few that stood, bulged in, and bent
like an old bruised lanthorn. We were obliged to cook by candle-light;
we were forced to read by candle-light; as for baking, we could not do
it, because the oven was too chill; and a load of faggots only brought a
little wet down the sides of it.

For when the sun burst forth at last upon that world of white, what he
brought was neither warmth, nor cheer, nor hope of softening; only a
clearer shaft of cold, from the violet depths of sky. Long-drawn alleys
of white haze seemed to lead towards him, yet such as he could not come
down, with any warmth remaining. Broad white curtains of the frost-fog
looped around the lower sky, on the verge of hill and valley, and above
the laden trees. Only round the sun himself, and the spot of heaven he
claimed, clustered a bright purple-blue, clear, and calm, and deep.

That night such a frost ensued as we had never dreamed of, neither read
in ancient books, or histories of Frobisher. The kettle by the fire
froze, and the crock upon the hearth-cheeks; many men were killed, and
cattle rigid in their head-ropes. Then I heard that fearful sound, which
never I had heard before, neither since have heard (except during that
same winter), the sharp yet solemn sound of trees burst open by the
frost-blow. Our great walnut lost three branches, and has been dying
ever since; though growing meanwhile, as the soul does. And the ancient
oak at the cross was rent, and many score of ash trees. But why should
I tell all this? the people who have not seen it (as I have) will only
make faces, and disbelieve; till such another frost comes; which perhaps
may never be.

This terrible weather kept Tom Faggus from coming near our house for
weeks; at which indeed I was not vexed a quarter so much as Annie was;
for I had never half approved of him, as a husband for my sister; in
spite of his purchase from Squire Bassett, and the grant of the Royal
pardon. It may be, however, that Annie took the same view of my love for
Lorna, and could not augur well of it; but if so, she held her peace,
though I was not so sparing. For many things contributed to make me less
good-humoured now than my real nature was; and the very least of all
these things would have been enough to make some people cross, and rude,
and fractious. I mean the red and painful chapping of my face and hands,
from working in the snow all day, and lying in the frost all night. For
being of a fair complexion, and a ruddy nature, and pretty plump withal,
and fed on plenty of hot victuals, and always forced by my mother to sit
nearer the fire than I wished, it was wonderful to see how the cold ran
revel on my cheeks and knuckles. And I feared that Lorna (if it should
ever please God to stop the snowing) might take this for a proof of low
and rustic blood and breeding.

And this I say was the smallest thing; for it was far more serious that
we were losing half our stock, do all we would to shelter them. Even the
horses in the stables (mustered all together for the sake of breath and
steaming) had long icicles from their muzzles, almost every morning.
But of all things the very gravest, to my apprehension, was the
impossibility of hearing, or having any token of or from my loved one.
Not that those three days alone of snow (tremendous as it was) could
have blocked the country so; but that the sky had never ceased, for more
than two days at a time, for full three weeks thereafter, to pour fresh
piles of fleecy mantle; neither had the wind relaxed a single day from
shaking them. As a rule, it snowed all day, cleared up at night, and
froze intensely, with the stars as bright as jewels, earth spread out in
lustrous twilight, and the sounds in the air as sharp and crackling as
artillery; then in the morning, snow again; before the sun could come to
help.

It mattered not what way the wind was. Often and often the vanes went
round, and we hoped for change of weather; the only change was that it
seemed (if possible) to grow colder. Indeed, after a week or so, the
wind would regularly box the compass (as the sailors call it) in the
course of every day, following where the sun should be, as if to make
a mock of him. And this of course immensely added to the peril of the
drifts; because they shifted every day; and no skill or care might learn
them.

I believe it was on Epiphany morning, or somewhere about that period,
when Lizzie ran into the kitchen to me, where I was thawing my
goose-grease, with the dogs among the ashes--the live dogs, I mean, not
the iron ones, for them we had given up long ago,--and having caught
me, by way of wonder (for generally I was out shoveling long before my
'young lady' had her nightcap off), she positively kissed me, for the
sake of warming her lips perhaps, or because she had something proud to
say.

'You great fool, John,' said my lady, as Annie and I used to call her,
on account of her airs and graces; 'what a pity you never read, John!'

'Much use, I should think, in reading!' I answered, though pleased with
her condescension; 'read, I suppose, with roof coming in, and only this
chimney left sticking out of the snow!'

'The very time to read, John,' said Lizzie, looking grander; 'our worst
troubles are the need, whence knowledge can deliver us.'

'Amen,' I cried out; 'are you parson or clerk? Whichever you are,
good-morning.'

Thereupon I was bent on my usual round (a very small one nowadays), but
Eliza took me with both hands, and I stopped of course; for I could not
bear to shake the child, even in play, for a moment, because her back
was tender. Then she looked up at me with her beautiful eyes, so large,
unhealthy and delicate, and strangely shadowing outward, as if to spread
their meaning; and she said,--

'Now, John, this is no time to joke. I was almost frozen in bed last
night; and Annie like an icicle. Feel how cold my hands are. Now, will
you listen to what I have read about climates ten times worse than this;
and where none but clever men can live?'

'Impossible for me to listen now, I have hundreds of things to see to;
but I will listen after breakfast to your foreign climates, child. Now
attend to mother's hot coffee.'

She looked a little disappointed, but she knew what I had to do; and
after all she was not so utterly unreasonable; although she did
read books. And when I had done my morning's work, I listened to her
patiently; and it was out of my power to think that all she said was
foolish.

For I knew common sense pretty well, by this time, whether it happened
to be my own, or any other person's, if clearly laid before me. And
Lizzie had a particular way of setting forth very clearly whatever she
wished to express and enforce. But the queerest part of it all was this,
that if she could but have dreamed for a moment what would be the first
application made me by of her lesson, she would rather have bitten her
tongue off than help me to my purpose.

She told me that in the Arctic Regions, as they call some places, a long
way north, where the Great Bear lies all across the heavens, and no
sun is up, for whole months at a time, and yet where people will go
exploring, out of pure contradiction, and for the sake of novelty, and
love of being frozen--that here they always had such winters as we were
having now. It never ceased to freeze, she said; and it never ceased to
snow; except when it was too cold; and then all the air was choked with
glittering spikes; and a man's skin might come off of him, before he
could ask the reason. Nevertheless the people there (although the snow
was fifty feet deep, and all their breath fell behind them frozen, like
a log of wood dropped from their shoulders), yet they managed to
get along, and make the time of the year to each other, by a little
cleverness. For seeing how the snow was spread, lightly over everything,
covering up the hills and valleys, and the foreskin of the sea, they
contrived a way to crown it, and to glide like a flake along. Through
the sparkle of the whiteness, and the wreaths of windy tossings, and
the ups and downs of cold, any man might get along with a boat on either
foot, to prevent his sinking.

She told me how these boats were made; very strong and very light,
of ribs with skin across them; five feet long, and one foot wide; and
turned up at each end, even as a canoe is. But she did not tell me, nor
did I give it a moment's thought myself, how hard it was to walk upon
them without early practice. Then she told me another thing equally
useful to me; although I would not let her see how much I thought about
it. And this concerned the use of sledges, and their power of gliding,
and the lightness of their following; all of which I could see at once,
through knowledge of our own farm-sleds; which we employ in lieu of
wheels, used in flatter districts. When I had heard all this from her, a
mere chit of a girl as she was, unfit to make a snowball even, or to fry
snow pancakes, I looked down on her with amazement, and began to wish a
little that I had given more time to books.

But God shapes all our fitness, and gives each man his meaning, even as
he guides the wavering lines of snow descending. Our Eliza was meant for
books; our dear Annie for loving and cooking; I, John Ridd, for sheep,
and wrestling, and the thought of Lorna; and mother to love all three
of us, and to make the best of her children. And now, if I must tell
the truth, as at every page I try to do (though God knows it is hard
enough), I had felt through all this weather, though my life was
Lorna's, something of a satisfaction in so doing duty to my kindest and
best of mothers, and to none but her. For (if you come to think of it)
a man's young love is very pleasant, very sweet, and tickling; and takes
him through the core of heart; without his knowing how or why. Then he
dwells upon it sideways, without people looking, and builds up all sorts
of fancies, growing hot with working so at his own imaginings. So his
love is a crystal Goddess, set upon an obelisk; and whoever will not bow
the knee (yet without glancing at her), the lover makes it a sacred rite
either to kick or to stick him. I am not speaking of me and Lorna, but
of common people.

Then (if you come to think again) lo!--or I will not say lo! for no one
can behold it--only feel, or but remember, what a real mother is. Ever
loving, ever soft, ever turning sin to goodness, vices into virtues;
blind to all nine-tenths of wrong; through a telescope beholding (though
herself so nigh to them) faintest decimal of promise, even in her vilest
child. Ready to thank God again, as when her babe was born to her;
leaping (as at kingdom-come) at a wandering syllable of Gospel for her
lost one.

All this our mother was to us, and even more than all of this; and hence
I felt a pride and joy in doing my sacred duty towards her, now that the
weather compelled me. And she was as grateful and delighted as if she
had no more claim upon me than a stranger's sheep might have. Yet from
time to time I groaned within myself and by myself, at thinking of
my sad debarment from the sight of Lorna, and of all that might have
happened to her, now she had no protection.

Therefore, I fell to at once, upon that hint from Lizzie, and being used
to thatching-work, and the making of traps, and so on, before very long
I built myself a pair of strong and light snow-shoes, framed with ash
and ribbed of withy, with half-tanned calf-skin stretched across, and
an inner sole to support my feet. At first I could not walk at all, but
floundered about most piteously, catching one shoe in the other, and
both of them in the snow-drifts, to the great amusement of the girls,
who were come to look at me. But after a while I grew more expert,
discovering what my errors were, and altering the inclination of the
shoes themselves, according to a print which Lizzie found in a book of
adventures. And this made such a difference, that I crossed the farmyard
and came back again (though turning was the worst thing of all) without
so much as falling once, or getting my staff entangled.

But oh, the aching of my ankles, when I went to bed that night; I was
forced to help myself upstairs with a couple of mopsticks! and I rubbed
the joints with neatsfoot oil, which comforted them greatly. And likely
enough I would have abandoned any further trial, but for Lizzie's
ridicule, and pretended sympathy; asking if the strong John Ridd would
have old Betty to lean upon. Therefore I set to again, with a fixed
resolve not to notice pain or stiffness, but to warm them out of me.
And sure enough, before dark that day, I could get along pretty freely;
especially improving every time, after leaving off and resting. The
astonishment of poor John Fry, Bill Dadds, and Jem Slocombe, when they
saw me coming down the hill upon them, in the twilight, where they were
clearing the furze rick and trussing it for cattle, was more than I
can tell you; because they did not let me see it, but ran away with one
accord, and floundered into a snowdrift. They believed, and so did every
one else (especially when I grew able to glide along pretty rapidly),
that I had stolen Mother Melldrum's sieves, on which she was said to fly
over the foreland at midnight every Saturday.

Upon the following day, I held some council with my mother; not liking
to go without her permission, yet scarcely daring to ask for it. But
here she disappointed me, on the right side of disappointment; saying
that she had seen my pining (which she never could have done; because
I had been too hard at work), and rather than watch me grieving so,
for somebody or other, who now was all in all to me, I might go upon my
course, and God's protection go with me! At this I was amazed, because
it was not at all like mother; and knowing how well I had behaved, ever
since the time of our snowing up, I was a little moved to tell her that
she could not understand me. However my sense of duty kept me, and my
knowledge of the catechism, from saying such a thing as that, or even
thinking twice of it. And so I took her at her word, which she was
not prepared for; and telling her how proud I was of her trust in
Providence, and how I could run in my new snow-shoes, I took a short
pipe in my mouth, and started forth accordingly.



CHAPTER XLIII

NOT TOO SOON

When I started on my road across the hills and valleys (which now were
pretty much alike), the utmost I could hope to do was to gain the crest
of hills, and look into the Doone Glen. Hence I might at least descry
whether Lorna still was safe, by the six nests still remaining, and the
view of the Captain's house. When I was come to the open country, far
beyond the sheltered homestead, and in the full brunt of the wind, the
keen blast of the cold broke on me, and the mighty breadth of snow. Moor
and highland, field and common, cliff and vale, and watercourse, over
all the rolling folds of misty white were flung. There was nothing
square or jagged left, there was nothing perpendicular; all the rugged
lines were eased, and all the breaches smoothly filled. Curves, and
mounds, and rounded heavings, took the place of rock and stump; and all
the country looked as if a woman's hand had been on it.

Through the sparkling breadth of white, which seemed to glance my eyes
away, and outside the humps of laden trees, bowing their backs like a
woodman, I contrived to get along, half-sliding and half-walking, in
places where a plain-shodden man must have sunk, and waited freezing
till the thaw should come to him. For although there had been such
violent frost, every night, upon the snow, the snow itself, having never
thawed, even for an hour, had never coated over. Hence it was as soft
and light as if all had fallen yesterday. In places where no drift had
been, but rather off than on to them, three feet was the least of
depth; but where the wind had chased it round, or any draught led like a
funnel, or anything opposed it; there you might very safely say that
it ran up to twenty feet, or thirty, or even fifty, and I believe some
times a hundred.

At last I got to my spy-hill (as I had begun to call it), although I
never should have known it but for what it looked on. And even to
know this last again required all the eyes of love, soever sharp
and vigilant. For all the beautiful Glen Doone (shaped from out
the mountains, as if on purpose for the Doones, and looking in the
summer-time like a sharp cut vase of green) now was besnowed half up
the sides, and at either end so, that it was more like the white basins
wherein we boil plum-puddings. Not a patch of grass was there, not
a black branch of a tree; all was white; and the little river flowed
beneath an arch of snow; if it managed to flow at all.

Now this was a great surprise to me; not only because I believed Glen
Doone to be a place outside all frost, but also because I thought
perhaps that it was quite impossible to be cold near Lorna. And now it
struck me all at once that perhaps her ewer was frozen (as mine had been
for the last three weeks, requiring embers around it), and perhaps her
window would not shut, any more than mine would; and perhaps she wanted
blankets. This idea worked me up to such a chill of sympathy, that
seeing no Doones now about, and doubting if any guns would go off, in
this state of the weather, and knowing that no man could catch me up
(except with shoes like mine), I even resolved to slide the cliffs, and
bravely go to Lorna.

It helped me much in this resolve, that the snow came on again, thick
enough to blind a man who had not spent his time among it, as I had done
now for days and days. Therefore I took my neatsfoot oil, which now was
clogged like honey, and rubbed it hard into my leg-joints, so far as
I could reach them. And then I set my back and elbows well against a
snowdrift, hanging far adown the cliff, and saying some of the Lord's
Prayer, threw myself on Providence. Before there was time to think or
dream, I landed very beautifully upon a ridge of run-up snow in a quiet
corner. My good shoes, or boots, preserved me from going far beneath it;
though one of them was sadly strained, where a grub had gnawed the ash,
in the early summer-time. Having set myself aright, and being in good
spirits, I made boldly across the valley (where the snow was furrowed
hard), being now afraid of nobody.

If Lorna had looked out of the window she would not have known me, with
those boots upon my feet, and a well-cleaned sheepskin over me, bearing
my own (J.R.) in red, just between my shoulders, but covered now in
snow-flakes. The house was partly drifted up, though not so much as ours
was; and I crossed the little stream almost without knowing that it was
under me. At first, being pretty safe from interference from the other
huts, by virtue of the blinding snow and the difficulty of walking, I
examined all the windows; but these were coated so with ice, like ferns
and flowers and dazzling stars, that no one could so much as guess what
might be inside of them. Moreover I was afraid of prying narrowly into
them, as it was not a proper thing where a maiden might be; only I
wanted to know just this, whether she were there or not.

Taking nothing by this movement, I was forced, much against my will, to
venture to the door and knock, in a hesitating manner, not being sure
but what my answer might be the mouth of a carbine. However it was not
so, for I heard a pattering of feet and a whispering going on, and then
a shrill voice through the keyhole, asking, 'Who's there?'

'Only me, John Ridd,' I answered; upon which I heard a little laughter,
and a little sobbing, or something that was like it; and then the door
was opened about a couple of inches, with a bar behind it still; and
then the little voice went on,--

'Put thy finger in, young man, with the old ring on it. But mind thee,
if it be the wrong one, thou shalt never draw it back again.'

Laughing at Gwenny's mighty threat, I showed my finger in the opening;
upon which she let me in, and barred the door again like lightning.

'What is the meaning of all this, Gwenny?' I asked, as I slipped
about on the floor, for I could not stand there firmly with my great
snow-shoes on.

'Maning enough, and bad maning too,' the Cornish girl made answer. Us be
shut in here, and starving, and durstn't let anybody in upon us. I wish
thou wer't good to ate, young man: I could manage most of thee.'

I was so frightened by her eyes, full of wolfish hunger, that I could
only say 'Good God!' having never seen the like before. Then drew I
forth a large piece of bread, which I had brought in case of accidents,
and placed it in her hands. She leaped at it, as a starving dog leaps at
sight of his supper, and she set her teeth in it, and then withheld
it from her lips, with something very like an oath at her own vile
greediness; and then away round the corner with it, no doubt for her
young mistress. I meanwhile was occupied, to the best of my ability, in
taking my snow-shoes off, yet wondering much within myself why Lorna did
not come to me.

But presently I knew the cause, for Gwenny called me, and I ran, and
found my darling quite unable to say so much as, 'John, how are you?'
Between the hunger and the cold, and the excitement of my coming, she
had fainted away, and lay back on a chair, as white as the snow around
us. In betwixt her delicate lips, Gwenny was thrusting with all her
strength the hard brown crust of the rye-bread, which she had snatched
from me so.

'Get water, or get snow,' I said; 'don't you know what fainting is, you
very stupid child?'

'Never heerd on it, in Cornwall,' she answered, trusting still to the
bread; 'be un the same as bleeding?'

'It will be directly, if you go on squeezing away with that crust so.
Eat a piece: I have got some more. Leave my darling now to me.'

Hearing that I had some more, the starving girl could resist no longer,
but tore it in two, and had swallowed half before I had coaxed my Lorna
back to sense, and hope, and joy, and love.

'I never expected to see you again. I had made up my mind to die, John;
and to die without your knowing it.'

As I repelled this fearful thought in a manner highly fortifying, the
tender hue flowed back again into her famished cheeks and lips, and a
softer brilliance glistened from the depth of her dark eyes. She gave me
one little shrunken hand, and I could not help a tear for it.

'After all, Mistress Lorna,' I said, pretending to be gay, for a smile
might do her good; 'you do not love me as Gwenny does; for she even
wanted to eat me.'

'And shall, afore I have done, young man,' Gwenny answered laughing;
'you come in here with they red chakes, and make us think o' sirloin.'

'Eat up your bit of brown bread, Gwenny. It is not good enough for
your mistress. Bless her heart, I have something here such as she never
tasted the like of, being in such appetite. Look here, Lorna; smell it
first. I have had it ever since Twelfth Day, and kept it all the time
for you. Annie made it. That is enough to warrant it good cooking.'

And then I showed my great mince-pie in a bag of tissue paper, and I
told them how the mince-meat was made of golden pippins finely shred,
with the undercut of the sirloin, and spice and fruit accordingly and
far beyond my knowledge. But Lorna would not touch a morsel until she
had thanked God for it, and given me the kindest kiss, and put a piece
in Gwenny's mouth.

I have eaten many things myself, with very great enjoyment, and keen
perception of their merits, and some thanks to God for them. But I never
did enjoy a thing, that had found its way between my own lips, half, or
even a quarter as much as I now enjoyed beholding Lorna, sitting
proudly upwards (to show that she was faint no more) entering into
that mince-pie, and moving all her pearls of teeth (inside her little
mouth-place) exactly as I told her. For I was afraid lest she should be
too fast in going through it, and cause herself more damage so, than she
got of nourishment. But I had no need to fear at all, and Lorna could
not help laughing at me for thinking that she had no self-control.

Some creatures require a deal of food (I myself among the number), and
some can do with a very little; making, no doubt, the best of it. And I
have often noticed that the plumpest and most perfect women never eat so
hard and fast as the skinny and three-cornered ones. These last be often
ashamed of it, and eat most when the men be absent. Hence it came to
pass that Lorna, being the loveliest of all maidens, had as much as she
could do to finish her own half of pie; whereas Gwenny Carfax (though
generous more than greedy), ate up hers without winking, after finishing
the brown loaf; and then I begged to know the meaning of this state of
things.

'The meaning is sad enough,' said Lorna; 'and I see no way out of it. We
are both to be starved until I let them do what they like with me.

'That is to say until you choose to marry Carver Doone, and be slowly
killed by him?'

'Slowly! No, John, quickly. I hate him so intensely, that less than a
week would kill me.'

'Not a doubt of that,' said Gwenny; 'oh, she hates him nicely then; but
not half so much as I do.'

I told them that this state of things could be endured no longer, on
which point they agreed with me, but saw no means to help it. For
even if Lorna could make up her mind to come away with me and live at
Plover's Barrows farm, under my good mother's care, as I had urged so
often, behold the snow was all around us, heaped as high as mountains,
and how could any delicate maiden ever get across it?

Then I spoke with a strange tingle upon both sides of my heart, knowing
that this undertaking was a serious one for all, and might burn our farm
down,--

'If I warrant to take you safe, and without much fright or hardship,
Lorna, will you come with me?'

'To be sure I will, dear,' said my beauty, with a smile and a glance to
follow it; 'I have small alternative, to starve, or go with you, John.'

'Gwenny, have you courage for it? Will you come with your young
mistress?'

'Will I stay behind?' cried Gwenny, in a voice that settled it. And so
we began to arrange about it; and I was much excited. It was useless
now to leave it longer; if it could be done at all, it could not be too
quickly done. It was the Counsellor who had ordered, after all other
schemes had failed, that his niece should have no food until she would
obey him. He had strictly watched the house, taking turns with Carver,
to ensure that none came nigh it bearing food or comfort. But this
evening, they had thought it needless to remain on guard; and it
would have been impossible, because themselves were busy offering high
festival to all the valley, in right of their own commandership. And
Gwenny said that nothing made her so nearly mad with appetite as
the account she received from a woman of all the dishes preparing.
Nevertheless she had answered bravely,--

'Go and tell the Counsellor, and go and tell the Carver, who sent you to
spy upon us, that we shall have a finer dish than any set before them.'
And so in truth they did, although so little dreaming it; for no Doone
that was ever born, however much of a Carver, might vie with our Annie
for mince-meat.

Now while we sat reflecting much, and talking a good deal more, in spite
of all the cold--for I never was in a hurry to go, when I had Lorna with
me--she said, in her silvery voice, which always led me so along, as if
I were a slave to a beautiful bell,--

'Now, John, we are wasting time, dear. You have praised my hair, till it
curls with pride, and my eyes till you cannot see them, even if they are
brown diamonds which I have heard for the fiftieth time at least; though
I never saw such a jewel. Don't you think it is high time to put on your
snow-shoes, John?'

'Certainly not,' I answered, 'till we have settled something more. I was
so cold when I came in; and now I am as warm as a cricket. And so are
you, you lively soul; though you are not upon my hearth yet.'

'Remember, John,' said Lorna, nestling for a moment to me; 'the severity
of the weather makes a great difference between us. And you must never
take advantage.'

'I quite understand all that, dear. And the harder it freezes the
better, while that understanding continues. Now do try to be serious.'

'I try to be serious! And I have been trying fifty times, and could
not bring you to it, John! Although I am sure the situation, as the
Counsellor says at the beginning of a speech, the situation, to say the
least, is serious enough for anything. Come, Gwenny, imitate him.'

Gwenny was famed for her imitation of the Counsellor making a speech;
and she began to shake her hair, and mount upon a footstool; but I
really could not have this, though even Lorna ordered it. The truth
was that my darling maiden was in such wild spirits, at seeing me so
unexpected, and at the prospect of release, and of what she had never
known, quiet life and happiness, that like all warm and loving natures,
she could scarce control herself.

'Come to this frozen window, John, and see them light the stack-fire.
They will little know who looks at them. Now be very good, John. You
stay in that corner, dear, and I will stand on this side; and try to
breathe yourself a peep-hole through the lovely spears and banners. Oh,
you don't know how to do it. I must do it for you. Breathe three times,
like that, and that; and then you rub it with your fingers, before it
has time to freeze again.'

All this she did so beautifully, with her lips put up like cherries, and
her fingers bent half back, as only girls can bend them, and her little
waist thrown out against the white of the snowed-up window, that I made
her do it three times over; and I stopped her every time and let it
freeze again, that so she might be the longer. Now I knew that all her
love was mine, every bit as much as mine was hers; yet I must have her
to show it, dwelling upon every proof, lengthening out all certainty.
Perhaps the jealous heart is loath to own a life worth twice its own. Be
that as it may, I know that we thawed the window nicely.

And then I saw, far down the stream (or rather down the bed of it, for
there was no stream visible), a little form of fire arising, red, and
dark, and flickering. Presently it caught on something, and went upward
boldly; and then it struck into many forks, and then it fell, and rose
again.

'Do you know what all that is, John?' asked Lorna, smiling cleverly at
the manner of my staring.

'How on earth should I know? Papists burn Protestants in the flesh; and
Protestants burn Papists in effigy, as we mock them. Lorna, are they
going to burn any one to-night?'

'No, you dear. I must rid you of these things. I see that you are
bigoted. The Doones are firing Dunkery beacon, to celebrate their new
captain.'

'But how could they bring it here through the snow? If they have
sledges, I can do nothing.'

'They brought it before the snow began. The moment poor grandfather was
gone, even before his funeral, the young men, having none to check them,
began at once upon it. They had always borne a grudge against it; not
that it ever did them harm; but because it seemed so insolent. "Can't a
gentleman go home, without a smoke behind him?" I have often heard them
saying. And though they have done it no serious harm, since they threw
the firemen on the fire, many, many years ago, they have often promised
to bring it here for their candle; and now they have done it. Ah, now
look! The tar is kindled.'

Though Lorna took it so in joke, I looked upon it very gravely, knowing
that this heavy outrage to the feelings of the neighbourhood would cause
more stir than a hundred sheep stolen, or a score of houses sacked. Not
of course that the beacon was of the smallest use to any one, neither
stopped anybody from stealing, nay, rather it was like the parish knell,
which begins when all is over, and depresses all the survivors; yet
I knew that we valued it, and were proud, and spoke of it as a mighty
institution; and even more than that, our vestry had voted, within
the last two years, seven shillings and six-pence to pay for it, in
proportion with other parishes. And one of the men who attended to
it, or at least who was paid for doing so, was our Jem Slocombe's
grandfather.

However, in spite of all my regrets, the fire went up very merrily,
blazing red and white and yellow, as it leaped on different things.
And the light danced on the snow-drifts with a misty lilac hue. I was
astonished at its burning in such mighty depths of snow; but Gwenny said
that the wicked men had been three days hard at work, clearing, as it
were, a cock-pit, for their fire to have its way. And now they had a
mighty pile, which must have covered five land-yards square, heaped up
to a goodly height, and eager to take fire.

In this I saw great obstacle to what I wished to manage. For when this
pyramid should be kindled thoroughly, and pouring light and blazes
round, would not all the valley be like a white room full of candles?
Thinking thus, I was half inclined to abide my time for another night:
and then my second thoughts convinced me that I would be a fool in this.
For lo, what an opportunity! All the Doones would be drunk, of course,
in about three hours' time, and getting more and more in drink as the
night went on. As for the fire, it must sink in about three hours or
more, and only cast uncertain shadows friendly to my purpose. And then
the outlaws must cower round it, as the cold increased on them, helping
the weight of the liquor; and in their jollity any noise would be
cheered as a false alarm. Most of all, and which decided once for all my
action,--when these wild and reckless villains should be hot with ardent
spirits, what was door, or wall, to stand betwixt them and my Lorna?

This thought quickened me so much that I touched my darling reverently,
and told her in a few short words how I hoped to manage it.

'Sweetest, in two hours' time, I shall be again with you. Keep the bar
up, and have Gwenny ready to answer any one. You are safe while they are
dining, dear, and drinking healths, and all that stuff; and before they
have done with that, I shall be again with you. Have everything you care
to take in a very little compass, and Gwenny must have no baggage. I
shall knock loud, and then wait a little; and then knock twice, very
softly.'

With this I folded her in my arms; and she looked frightened at me; not
having perceived her danger; and then I told Gwenny over again what I
had told her mistress: but she only nodded her head and said, 'Young
man, go and teach thy grandmother.'



CHAPTER XLIV

BROUGHT HOME AT LAST

To my great delight I found that the weather, not often friendly to
lovers, and lately seeming so hostile, had in the most important matter
done me a signal service. For when I had promised to take my love from
the power of those wretches, the only way of escape apparent lay
through the main Doone-gate. For though I might climb the cliffs myself,
especially with the snow to aid me, I durst not try to fetch Lorna up
them, even if she were not half-starved, as well as partly frozen;
and as for Gwenny's door, as we called it (that is to say, the little
entrance from the wooded hollow), it was snowed up long ago to the level
of the hills around. Therefore I was at my wit's end how to get them
out; the passage by the Doone-gate being long, and dark, and difficult,
and leading to such a weary circuit among the snowy moors and hills.

But now, being homeward-bound by the shortest possible track, I slipped
along between the bonfire and the boundary cliffs, where I found a caved
way of snow behind a sort of avalanche: so that if the Doones had been
keeping watch (which they were not doing, but revelling), they could
scarcely have discovered me. And when I came to my old ascent, where I
had often scaled the cliff and made across the mountains, it struck me
that I would just have a look at my first and painful entrance, to wit,
the water-slide. I never for a moment imagined that this could help me
now; for I never had dared to descend it, even in the finest weather;
still I had a curiosity to know what my old friend was like, with so
much snow upon him. But, to my very great surprise, there was scarcely
any snow there at all, though plenty curling high overhead from the
cliff, like bolsters over it. Probably the sweeping of the north-east
wind up the narrow chasm had kept the showers from blocking it,
although the water had no power under the bitter grip of frost. All my
water-slide was now less a slide than path of ice; furrowed where the
waters ran over fluted ridges; seamed where wind had tossed and combed
them, even while congealing; and crossed with little steps wherever the
freezing torrent lingered. And here and there the ice was fibred with
the trail of sludge-weed, slanting from the side, and matted, so as to
make resting-place.

Lo it was easy track and channel, as if for the very purpose made, down
which I could guide my sledge with Lorna sitting in it. There were only
two things to be feared; one lest the rolls of snow above should fall in
and bury us; the other lest we should rush too fast, and so be carried
headlong into the black whirlpool at the bottom, the middle of which was
still unfrozen, and looking more horrible by the contrast. Against this
danger I made provision, by fixing a stout bar across; but of the other
we must take our chance, and trust ourselves to Providence.

I hastened home at my utmost speed, and told my mother for God's sake
to keep the house up till my return, and to have plenty of fire blazing,
and plenty of water boiling, and food enough hot for a dozen people, and
the best bed aired with the warming-pan. Dear mother smiled softly at my
excitement, though her own was not much less, I am sure, and enhanced by
sore anxiety. Then I gave very strict directions to Annie, and praised
her a little, and kissed her; and I even endeavoured to flatter Eliza,
lest she should be disagreeable.

After this I took some brandy, both within and about me; the former,
because I had sharp work to do; and the latter in fear of whatever might
happen, in such great cold, to my comrades. Also I carried some other
provisions, grieving much at their coldness: and then I went to the
upper linhay, and took our new light pony-sledd, which had been made
almost as much for pleasure as for business; though God only knows how
our girls could have found any pleasure in bumping along so. On the
snow, however, it ran as sweetly as if it had been made for it; yet I
durst not take the pony with it; in the first place, because his hoofs
would break through the ever-shifting surface of the light and piling
snow; and secondly, because these ponies, coming from the forest, have a
dreadful trick of neighing, and most of all in frosty weather.

Therefore I girded my own body with a dozen turns of hay-rope, twisting
both the ends in under at the bottom of my breast, and winding the hay
on the skew a little, that the hempen thong might not slip between, and
so cut me in the drawing. I put a good piece of spare rope in the sledd,
and the cross-seat with the back to it, which was stuffed with our
own wool, as well as two or three fur coats; and then, just as I was
starting, out came Annie, in spite of the cold, panting for fear of
missing me, and with nothing on her head, but a lanthorn in one hand.

'Oh, John, here is the most wonderful thing! Mother has never shown it
before; and I can't think how she could make up her mind. She had
gotten it in a great well of a cupboard, with camphor, and spirits, and
lavender. Lizzie says it is a most magnificent sealskin cloak, worth
fifty pounds, or a farthing.'

'At any rate it is soft and warm,' said I, very calmly flinging it into
the bottom of the sledd. 'Tell mother I will put it over Lorna's feet.'

'Lorna's feet! Oh, you great fool,' cried Annie, for the first time
reviling me; 'over her shoulders; and be proud, you very stupid John.'

'It is not good enough for her feet,' I answered, with strong emphasis;
'but don't tell mother I said so, Annie. Only thank her very kindly.'

With that I drew my traces hard, and set my ashen staff into the snow,
and struck out with my best foot foremost (the best one at snow-shoes, I
mean), and the sledd came after me as lightly as a dog might follow; and
Annie, with the lanthorn, seemed to be left behind and waiting like a
pretty lamp-post.

The full moon rose as bright behind me as a paten of pure silver,
casting on the snow long shadows of the few things left above, burdened
rock, and shaggy foreland, and the labouring trees. In the great white
desolation, distance was a mocking vision; hills looked nigh, and
valleys far; when hills were far and valleys nigh. And the misty breath
of frost, piercing through the ribs of rock, striking to the pith of
trees, creeping to the heart of man, lay along the hollow places, like a
serpent sloughing. Even as my own gaunt shadow (travestied as if I were
the moonlight's daddy-longlegs), went before me down the slope; even
I, the shadow's master, who had tried in vain to cough, when coughing
brought good liquorice, felt a pressure on my bosom, and a husking in my
throat.

However, I went on quietly, and at a very tidy speed; being only too
thankful that the snow had ceased, and no wind as yet arisen. And from
the ring of low white vapour girding all the verge of sky, and from the
rosy blue above, and the shafts of starlight set upon a quivering bow,
as well as from the moon itself and the light behind it, having learned
the signs of frost from its bitter twinges, I knew that we should have
a night as keen as ever England felt. Nevertheless, I had work enough to
keep me warm if I managed it. The question was, could I contrive to save
my darling from it?

Daring not to risk my sledd by any fall from the valley-cliffs, I
dragged it very carefully up the steep incline of ice, through the
narrow chasm, and so to the very brink and verge where first I had seen
my Lorna, in the fishing days of boyhood. As I then had a trident fork,
for sticking of the loaches, so I now had a strong ash stake, to lay
across from rock to rock, and break the speed of descending. With this I
moored the sledd quite safe, at the very lip of the chasm, where all was
now substantial ice, green and black in the moonlight; and then I set
off up the valley, skirting along one side of it.

The stack-fire still was burning strongly, but with more of heat than
blaze; and many of the younger Doones were playing on the verge of it,
the children making rings of fire, and their mothers watching them. All
the grave and reverend warriors having heard of rheumatism, were inside
of log and stone, in the two lowest houses, with enough of candles
burning to make our list of sheep come short.

All these I passed, without the smallest risk or difficulty, walking up
the channel of drift which I spoke of once before. And then I crossed,
with more of care, and to the door of Lorna's house, and made the sign,
and listened, after taking my snow-shoes off.

But no one came, as I expected, neither could I espy a light. And I
seemed to hear a faint low sound, like the moaning of the snow-wind.
Then I knocked again more loudly, with a knocking at my heart: and
receiving no answer, set all my power at once against the door. In a
moment it flew inwards, and I glided along the passage with my feet
still slippery. There in Lorna's room I saw, by the moonlight flowing
in, a sight which drove me beyond sense.

Lorna was behind a chair, crouching in the corner, with her hands up,
and a crucifix, or something that looked like it. In the middle of the
room lay Gwenny Carfax, stupid, yet with one hand clutching the ankle of
a struggling man. Another man stood above my Lorna, trying to draw the
chair away. In a moment I had him round the waist, and he went out of
the window with a mighty crash of glass; luckily for him that window had
no bars like some of them. Then I took the other man by the neck; and he
could not plead for mercy. I bore him out of the house as lightly as I
would bear a baby, yet squeezing his throat a little more than I fain
would do to an infant. By the bright moonlight I saw that I carried
Marwood de Whichehalse. For his father's sake I spared him, and because
he had been my schoolfellow; but with every muscle of my body strung
with indignation, I cast him, like a skittle, from me into a snowdrift,
which closed over him. Then I looked for the other fellow, tossed
through Lorna's window, and found him lying stunned and bleeding,
neither able to groan yet. Charleworth Doone, if his gushing blood did
not much mislead me.

It was no time to linger now; I fastened my shoes in a moment, and
caught up my own darling with her head upon my shoulder, where she
whispered faintly; and telling Gwenny to follow me, or else I would come
back for her, if she could not walk the snow, I ran the whole distance
to my sledd, caring not who might follow me. Then by the time I had set
up Lorna, beautiful and smiling, with the seal-skin cloak all over her,
sturdy Gwenny came along, having trudged in the track of my snow-shoes,
although with two bags on her back. I set her in beside her mistress,
to support her, and keep warm; and then with one look back at the glen,
which had been so long my home of heart, I hung behind the sledd, and
launched it down the steep and dangerous way.

Though the cliffs were black above us, and the road unseen in front, and
a great white grave of snow might at a single word come down, Lorna was
as calm and happy as an infant in its bed. She knew that I was with her;
and when I told her not to speak, she touched my hand in silence. Gwenny
was in a much greater fright, having never seen such a thing before,
neither knowing what it is to yield to pure love's confidence. I could
hardly keep her quiet, without making a noise myself. With my staff from
rock to rock, and my weight thrown backward, I broke the sledd's too
rapid way, and brought my grown love safely out, by the selfsame road
which first had led me to her girlish fancy, and my boyish slavery.

Unpursued, yet looking back as if some one must be after us, we skirted
round the black whirling pool, and gained the meadows beyond it. Here
there was hard collar work, the track being all uphill and rough; and
Gwenny wanted to jump out, to lighten the sledd and to push behind. But
I would not hear of it; because it was now so deadly cold, and I feared
that Lorna might get frozen, without having Gwenny to keep her warm. And
after all, it was the sweetest labour I had ever known in all my
life, to be sure that I was pulling Lorna, and pulling her to our own
farmhouse.

Gwenny's nose was touched with frost, before we had gone much farther,
because she would not keep it quiet and snug beneath the sealskin. And
here I had to stop in the moonlight (which was very dangerous) and rub
it with a clove of snow, as Eliza had taught me; and Gwenny scolding
all the time, as if myself had frozen it. Lorna was now so far oppressed
with all the troubles of the evening, and the joy that followed them, as
well as by the piercing cold and difficulty of breathing, that she lay
quite motionless, like fairest wax in the moonlight--when we stole a
glance at her, beneath the dark folds of the cloak; and I thought that
she was falling into the heavy snow-sleep, whence there is no awaking.

Therefore, I drew my traces tight, and set my whole strength to the
business; and we slipped along at a merry pace, although with many
joltings, which must have sent my darling out into the cold snowdrifts
but for the short strong arm of Gwenny. And so in about an hour's time,
in spite of many hindrances, we came home to the old courtyard, and all
the dogs saluted us. My heart was quivering, and my cheeks as hot as
the Doones' bonfire, with wondering both what Lorna would think of
our farm-yard, and what my mother would think of her. Upon the former
subject my anxiety was wasted, for Lorna neither saw a thing, nor even
opened her heavy eyes. And as to what mother would think of her, she was
certain not to think at all, until she had cried over her.

And so indeed it came to pass. Even at this length of time, I can hardly
tell it, although so bright before my mind, because it moves my heart
so. The sledd was at the open door, with only Lorna in it; for Gwenny
Carfax had jumped out, and hung back in the clearing, giving any reason
rather than the only true one--that she would not be intruding. At the
door were all our people; first, of course, Betty Muxworthy, teaching
me how to draw the sledd, as if she had been born in it, and flourishing
with a great broom, wherever a speck of snow lay. Then dear Annie,
and old Molly (who was very quiet, and counted almost for nobody), and
behind them, mother, looking as if she wanted to come first, but
doubted how the manners lay. In the distance Lizzie stood, fearful of
encouraging, but unable to keep out of it.

Betty was going to poke her broom right in under the sealskin cloak,
where Lorna lay unconscious, and where her precious breath hung frozen,
like a silver cobweb; but I caught up Betty's broom, and flung it clean
away over the corn chamber; and then I put the others by, and fetched my
mother forward.

'You shall see her first,' I said: 'is she not your daughter? Hold the
light there, Annie.'

Dear mother's hands were quick and trembling, as she opened the shining
folds; and there she saw my Lorna sleeping, with her black hair all
dishevelled, and she bent and kissed her forehead, and only said, 'God
bless her, John!' And then she was taken with violent weeping, and I was
forced to hold her.

'Us may tich of her now, I rackon,' said Betty in her most jealous way;
'Annie, tak her by the head, and I'll tak her by the toesen. No taime
to stand here like girt gawks. Don'ee tak on zo, missus. Ther be vainer
vish in the zea--Lor, but, her be a booty!'

With this, they carried her into the house, Betty chattering all the
while, and going on now about Lorna's hands, and the others crowding
round her, so that I thought I was not wanted among so many women, and
should only get the worst of it, and perhaps do harm to my darling.
Therefore I went and brought Gwenny in, and gave her a potful of
bacon and peas, and an iron spoon to eat it with, which she did right
heartily.

Then I asked her how she could have been such a fool as to let those two
vile fellows enter the house where Lorna was; and she accounted for it
so naturally, that I could only blame myself. For my agreement had been
to give one loud knock (if you happen to remember) and after that two
little knocks. Well these two drunken rogues had come; and one, being
very drunk indeed, had given a great thump; and then nothing more to
do with it; and the other, being three-quarters drunk, had followed his
leader (as one might say) but feebly, and making two of it. Whereupon up
jumped Lorna, and declared that her John was there.

All this Gwenny told me shortly, between the whiles of eating, and even
while she licked the spoon; and then there came a message for me that my
love was sensible, and was seeking all around for me. Then I told Gwenny
to hold her tongue (whatever she did among us), and not to trust to
women's words; and she told me they all were liars, as she had found
out long ago; and the only thing to believe in was an honest man, when
found. Thereupon I could have kissed her as a sort of tribute, liking to
be appreciated; yet the peas upon her lips made me think about it; and
thought is fatal to action. So I went to see my dear.

That sight I shall not forget; till my dying head falls back, and my
breast can lift no more. I know not whether I were then more blessed,
or harrowed by it. For in the settle was my Lorna, propped with
pillows round her, and her clear hands spread sometimes to the blazing
fireplace. In her eyes no knowledge was of anything around her, neither
in her neck the sense of leaning towards anything. Only both her lovely
hands were entreating something, to spare her, or to love her; and the
lines of supplication quivered in her sad white face.

'All go away, except my mother,' I said very quietly, but so that I
would be obeyed; and everybody knew it. Then mother came to me alone;
and she said, 'The frost is in her brain; I have heard of this before,
John.' 'Mother, I will have it out,' was all that I could answer her;
'leave her to me altogether; only you sit there and watch.' For I felt
that Lorna knew me, and no other soul but me; and that if not interfered
with, she would soon come home to me. Therefore I sat gently by her,
leaving nature, as it were, to her own good time and will. And presently
the glance that watched me, as at distance and in doubt, began to
flutter and to brighten, and to deepen into kindness, then to beam with
trust and love, and then with gathering tears to falter, and in shame
to turn away. But the small entreating hands found their way, as if by
instinct, to my great projecting palms; and trembled there, and rested
there.

For a little while we lingered thus, neither wishing to move away,
neither caring to look beyond the presence of the other; both alike so
full of hope, and comfort, and true happiness; if only the world would
let us be. And then a little sob disturbed us, and mother tried to make
believe that she was only coughing. But Lorna, guessing who she was,
jumped up so very rashly that she almost set her frock on fire from the
great ash log; and away she ran to the old oak chair, where mother was
by the clock-case pretending to be knitting, and she took the work from
mother's hands, and laid them both upon her head, kneeling humbly, and
looking up.

'God bless you, my fair mistress!' said mother, bending nearer, and then
as Lorna's gaze prevailed, 'God bless you, my sweet child!'

And so she went to mother's heart by the very nearest road, even as she
had come to mine; I mean the road of pity, smoothed by grace, and youth,
and gentleness.



CHAPTER XLV

A CHANGE LONG NEEDED

Jeremy Stickles was gone south, ere ever the frost set in, for the
purpose of mustering forces to attack the Doone Glen. But, of course,
this weather had put a stop to every kind of movement; for even if men
could have borne the cold, they could scarcely be brought to face the
perils of the snow-drifts. And to tell the truth I cared not how long
this weather lasted, so long as we had enough to eat, and could keep
ourselves from freezing. Not only that I did not want Master Stickles
back again, to make more disturbances; but also that the Doones could
not come prowling after Lorna while the snow lay piled between us, with
the surface soft and dry. Of course they would very soon discover where
their lawful queen was, although the track of sledd and snow-shoes had
been quite obliterated by another shower, before the revellers could
have grown half as drunk as they intended. But Marwood de Whichehalse,
who had been snowed up among them (as Gwenny said), after helping
to strip the beacon, that young Squire was almost certain to have
recognised me, and to have told the vile Carver. And it gave me no
little pleasure to think how mad that Carver must be with me, for
robbing him of the lovely bride whom he was starving into matrimony.
However, I was not pleased at all with the prospect of the consequences;
but set all hands on to thresh the corn, ere the Doones could come and
burn the ricks. For I knew that they could not come yet, inasmuch as
even a forest pony could not traverse the country, much less the heavy
horses needed to carry such men as they were. And hundreds of the forest
ponies died in this hard weather, some being buried in the snow, and
more of them starved for want of grass.

Going through this state of things, and laying down the law about
it (subject to correction), I very soon persuaded Lorna that for the
present she was safe, and (which made her still more happy) that she was
not only welcome, but as gladdening to our eyes as the flowers of May.
Of course, so far as regarded myself, this was not a hundredth part of
the real truth; and even as regarded others, I might have said it ten
times over. For Lorna had so won them all, by her kind and gentle ways,
and her mode of hearkening to everybody's trouble, and replying without
words, as well as by her beauty, and simple grace of all things, that
I could almost wish sometimes the rest would leave her more to me. But
mother could not do enough; and Annie almost worshipped her; and even
Lizzie could not keep her bitterness towards her; especially when she
found that Lorna knew as much of books as need be.

As for John Fry, and Betty, and Molly, they were a perfect plague when
Lorna came into the kitchen. For betwixt their curiosity to see a
live Doone in the flesh (when certain not to eat them), and their high
respect for birth (with or without honesty), and their intense desire to
know all about Master John's sweetheart (dropped, as they said, from the
snow-clouds), and most of all their admiration of a beauty such as never
even their angels could have seen--betwixt and between all this, I say,
there was no getting the dinner cooked, with Lorna in the kitchen.

And the worst of it was that Lorna took the strangest of all strange
fancies for this very kitchen; and it was hard to keep her out of it.
Not that she had any special bent for cooking, as our Annie had; rather
indeed the contrary, for she liked to have her food ready cooked; but
that she loved the look of the place, and the cheerful fire burning, and
the racks of bacon to be seen, and the richness, and the homeliness, and
the pleasant smell of everything. And who knows but what she may have
liked (as the very best of maidens do) to be admired, now and then,
between the times of business?

Therefore if you wanted Lorna (as I was always sure to do, God knows
how many times a day), the very surest place to find her was our own
old kitchen. Not gossiping, I mean, nor loitering, neither seeking into
things, but seeming to be quite at home, as if she had known it from a
child, and seeming (to my eyes at least) to light it up, and make life
and colour out of all the dullness; as I have seen the breaking sun do
among brown shocks of wheat.

But any one who wished to learn whether girls can change or not, as the
things around them change (while yet their hearts are steadfast, and for
ever anchored), he should just have seen my Lorna, after a fortnight
of our life, and freedom from anxiety. It is possible that my
company--although I am accounted stupid by folk who do not know my
way--may have had something to do with it; but upon this I will not say
much, lest I lose my character. And indeed, as regards company, I had
all the threshing to see to, and more than half to do myself (though any
one would have thought that even John Fry must work hard this weather),
else I could not hope at all to get our corn into such compass that a
good gun might protect it.

But to come back to Lorna again (which I always longed to do, and must
long for ever), all the change between night and day, all the shifts
of cloud and sun, all the difference between black death and brightsome
liveliness, scarcely may suggest or equal Lorna's transformation. Quick
she had always been and 'peart' (as we say on Exmoor) and gifted with a
leap of thought too swift for me to follow; and hence you may find fault
with much, when I report her sayings. But through the whole had always
run, as a black string goes through pearls, something dark and touched
with shadow, coloured as with an early end.

But, now, behold! there was none of this! There was no getting her, for
a moment, even to be serious. All her bright young wit was flashing,
like a newly-awakened flame, and all her high young spirits leaped, as
if dancing to its fire. And yet she never spoke a word which gave more
pain than pleasure.

And even in her outward look there was much of difference. Whether it
was our warmth, and freedom, and our harmless love of God, and trust
in one another; or whether it were our air, and water, and the pea-fed
bacon; anyhow my Lorna grew richer and more lovely, more perfect and
more firm of figure, and more light and buoyant, with every passing day
that laid its tribute on her cheeks and lips. I was allowed one kiss
a day; only one for manners' sake, because she was our visitor; and I
might have it before breakfast, or else when I came to say 'good-night!'
according as I decided. And I decided every night, not to take it in the
morning, but put it off till the evening time, and have the pleasure to
think about, through all the day of working. But when my darling came up
to me in the early daylight, fresher than the daystar, and with no one
looking; only her bright eyes smiling, and sweet lips quite ready, was
it likely I could wait, and think all day about it? For she wore a frock
of Annie's, nicely made to fit her, taken in at the waist and curved--I
never could explain it, not being a mantua-maker; but I know how her
figure looked in it, and how it came towards me.

But this is neither here nor there; and I must on with my story. Those
days are very sacred to me, and if I speak lightly of them, trust
me, 'tis with lip alone; while from heart reproach peeps sadly at the
flippant tricks of mind.

Although it was the longest winter ever known in our parts (never having
ceased to freeze for a single night, and scarcely for a single day, from
the middle of December till the second week in March), to me it was the
very shortest and the most delicious; and verily I do believe it was
the same to Lorna. But when the Ides of March were come (of which I
do remember something dim from school, and something clear from my
favourite writer) lo, there were increasing signals of a change of
weather.

One leading feature of that long cold, and a thing remarked by every one
(however unobservant) had been the hollow moaning sound ever present in
the air, morning, noon, and night-time, and especially at night, whether
any wind were stirring, or whether it were a perfect calm. Our people
said that it was a witch cursing all the country from the caverns by the
sea, and that frost and snow would last until we could catch and drown
her. But the land, being thoroughly blocked with snow, and the inshore
parts of the sea with ice (floating in great fields along), Mother
Melldrum (if she it were) had the caverns all to herself, for there
was no getting at her. And speaking of the sea reminds me of a thing
reported to us, and on good authority; though people might be found
hereafter who would not believe it, unless I told them that from what I
myself beheld of the channel I place perfect faith in it: and this is,
that a dozen sailors at the beginning of March crossed the ice, with the
aid of poles from Clevedon to Penarth, or where the Holm rocks barred
the flotage.

But now, about the tenth of March, that miserable moaning noise, which
had both foregone and accompanied the rigour, died away from out the
air; and we, being now so used to it, thought at first that we must be
deaf. And then the fog, which had hung about (even in full sunshine)
vanished, and the shrouded hills shone forth with brightness manifold.
And now the sky at length began to come to its true manner, which we
had not seen for months, a mixture (if I so may speak) of various
expressions. Whereas till now from Allhallows-tide, six weeks ere the
great frost set in, the heavens had worn one heavy mask of ashen gray
when clouded, or else one amethystine tinge with a hazy rim, when
cloudless. So it was pleasant to behold, after that monotony, the fickle
sky which suits our England, though abused by foreign folk.

And soon the dappled softening sky gave some earnest of its mood; for a
brisk south wind arose, and the blessed rain came driving, cold indeed,
yet most refreshing to the skin, all parched with snow, and the eyeballs
so long dazzled. Neither was the heart more sluggish in its thankfulness
to God. People had begun to think, and somebody had prophesied, that we
should have no spring this year, no seed-time, and no harvest; for that
the Lord had sent a judgment on this country of England, and the
nation dwelling in it, because of the wickedness of the Court, and the
encouragement shown to Papists. And this was proved, they said, by what
had happened in the town of London; where, for more than a fortnight,
such a chill of darkness lay that no man might behold his neighbour,
even across the narrowest street; and where the ice upon the Thames was
more than four feet thick, and crushing London Bridge in twain. Now
to these prophets I paid no heed, believing not that Providence would
freeze us for other people's sins; neither seeing how England could for
many generations have enjoyed good sunshine, if Popery meant frost and
fogs. Besides, why could not Providence settle the business once for
all by freezing the Pope himself; even though (according to our view) he
were destined to extremes of heat, together with all who followed him?

Not to meddle with that subject, being beyond my judgment, let me tell
the things I saw, and then you must believe me. The wind, of course, I
could not see, not having the powers of a pig; but I could see the laden
branches of the great oaks moving, hoping to shake off the load packed
and saddled on them. And hereby I may note a thing which some one may
explain perhaps in the after ages, when people come to look at things.
This is that in desperate cold all the trees were pulled awry, even
though the wind had scattered the snow burden from them. Of some sorts
the branches bended downwards, like an archway; of other sorts the
boughs curved upwards, like a red deer's frontlet. This I know no
reason* for; but am ready to swear that I saw it.

     * The reason is very simple, as all nature's reasons are;
     though the subject has not yet been investigated thoroughly.
     In some trees the vascular tissue is more open on the upper
     side, in others on the under side, of the spreading
     branches; according to the form of growth, and habit of the
     sap.  Hence in very severe cold, when the vessels
     (comparatively empty) are constricted, some have more power
     of contraction on the upper side, and some upon the under.

Now when the first of the rain began, and the old familiar softness
spread upon the window glass, and ran a little way in channels (though
from the coldness of the glass it froze before reaching the bottom),
knowing at once the difference from the short sharp thud of snow, we all
ran out, and filled our eyes and filled our hearts with gazing. True,
the snow was piled up now all in mountains round us; true, the air was
still so cold that our breath froze on the doorway, and the rain was
turned to ice wherever it struck anything; nevertheless that it was rain
there was no denying, as we watched it across black doorways, and could
see no sign of white. Mother, who had made up her mind that the farm
was not worth having after all those prophesies, and that all of us must
starve, and holes be scratched in the snow for us, and no use to put up
a tombstone (for our church had been shut up long ago) mother fell
upon my breast, and sobbed that I was the cleverest fellow ever born
of woman. And this because I had condemned the prophets for a pack of
fools; not seeing how business could go on, if people stopped to hearken
to them.

Then Lorna came and glorified me, for I had predicted a change of
weather, more to keep their spirits up, than with real hope of it; and
then came Annie blushing shyly, as I looked at her, and said that Winnie
would soon have four legs now. This referred to some stupid joke made
by John Fry or somebody, that in this weather a man had no legs, and a
horse had only two.

But as the rain came down upon us from the southwest wind, and we could
not have enough of it, even putting our tongues to catch it, as little
children might do, and beginning to talk of primroses; the very noblest
thing of all was to hear and see the gratitude of the poor beasts yet
remaining and the few surviving birds. From the cowhouse lowing came,
more than of fifty milking times; moo and moo, and a turn-up noise at
the end of every bellow, as if from the very heart of kine. Then the
horses in the stables, packed as closely as they could stick, at the
risk of kicking, to keep the warmth in one another, and their spirits
up by discoursing; these began with one accord to lift up their voices,
snorting, snaffling, whinnying, and neighing, and trotting to the door
to know when they should have work again. To whom, as if in answer, came
the feeble bleating of the sheep, what few, by dint of greatest care,
had kept their fleeces on their backs, and their four legs under them.

Neither was it a trifling thing, let whoso will say the contrary, to
behold the ducks and geese marching forth in handsome order from their
beds of fern and straw. What a goodly noise they kept, what a flapping
of their wings, and a jerking of their tails, as they stood right up and
tried with a whistling in their throats to imitate a cockscrow! And then
how daintily they took the wet upon their dusty plumes, and ducked their
shoulders to it, and began to dress themselves, and laid their grooved
bills on the snow, and dabbled for more ooziness!

Lorna had never seen, I dare say, anything like this before, and it was
all that we could do to keep her from rushing forth with only little
lambswool shoes on, and kissing every one of them. 'Oh, the dear things,
oh, the dear things!' she kept saying continually, 'how wonderfully
clever they are! Only look at that one with his foot up, giving orders
to the others, John!'

'And I must give orders to you, my darling,' I answered, gazing on her
face, so brilliant with excitement; 'and that is, that you come in at
once, with that worrisome cough of yours; and sit by the fire, and warm
yourself.'

'Oh, no, John! Not for a minute, if you please, good John. I want to see
the snow go away, and the green meadows coming forth. And here comes our
favourite robin, who has lived in the oven so long, and sang us a song
every morning. I must see what he thinks of it!'

'You will do nothing of the sort,' I answered very shortly, being only
too glad of a cause for having her in my arms again. So I caught her up,
and carried her in; and she looked and smiled so sweetly at me instead
of pouting (as I had feared) that I found myself unable to go very fast
along the passage. And I set her there in her favourite place, by the
sweet-scented wood-fire; and she paid me porterage without my even
asking her; and for all the beauty of the rain, I was fain to stay with
her; until our Annie came to say that my advice was wanted.

Now my advice was never much, as everybody knew quite well; but that was
the way they always put it, when they wanted me to work for them. And in
truth it was time for me to work; not for others, but myself, and (as I
always thought) for Lorna. For the rain was now coming down in earnest;
and the top of the snow being frozen at last, and glazed as hard as a
china cup, by means of the sun and frost afterwards, all the rain ran
right away from the steep inclines, and all the outlets being blocked
with ice set up like tables, it threatened to flood everything. Already
it was ponding up, like a tide advancing at the threshold of the door
from which we had watched the duck-birds; both because great piles of
snow trended in that direction, in spite of all our scraping, and also
that the gulley hole, where the water of the shoot went out (I mean when
it was water) now was choked with lumps of ice, as big as a man's body.
For the 'shoot,' as we called our little runnel of everlasting water,
never known to freeze before, and always ready for any man either to
wash his hands, or drink, where it spouted from a trough of bark, set
among white flint-stones; this at last had given in, and its music
ceased to lull us, as we lay in bed.

It was not long before I managed to drain off this threatening flood,
by opening the old sluice-hole; but I had much harder work to keep the
stables, and the cow-house, and the other sheds, from flooding. For we
have a sapient practice (and I never saw the contrary round about our
parts, I mean), of keeping all rooms underground, so that you step down
to them. We say that thus we keep them warmer, both for cattle and for
men, in the time of winter, and cooler in the summer-time. This I will
not contradict, though having my own opinion; but it seems to me to be
a relic of the time when people in the western countries lived in caves
beneath the ground, and blocked the mouths with neat-skins.

Let that question still abide, for men who study ancient times to inform
me, if they will; all I know is, that now we had no blessings for the
system. If after all their cold and starving, our weak cattle now should
have to stand up to their knees in water, it would be certain death to
them; and we had lost enough already to make us poor for a long time;
not to speak of our kind love for them. And I do assure you, I loved
some horses, and even some cows for that matter, as if they had been my
blood-relations; knowing as I did their virtues. And some of these were
lost to us; and I could not bear to think of them. Therefore I worked
hard all night to try and save the rest of them.



CHAPTER XLVI

SQUIRE FAGGUS MAKES SOME LUCKY HITS

Through that season of bitter frost the red deer of the forest, having
nothing to feed upon, and no shelter to rest in, had grown accustomed to
our ricks of corn, and hay, and clover. There we might see a hundred
of them almost any morning, come for warmth, and food, and comfort, and
scarce willing to move away. And many of them were so tame, that they
quietly presented themselves at our back door, and stood there with
their coats quite stiff, and their flanks drawn in and panting,
and icicles sometimes on their chins, and their great eyes fastened
wistfully upon any merciful person; craving for a bit of food, and a
drink of water; I suppose that they had not sense enough to chew the
snow and melt it; at any rate, all the springs being frozen, and rivers
hidden out of sight, these poor things suffered even more from thirst
than they did from hunger.

But now there was no fear of thirst, and more chance indeed of drowning;
for a heavy gale of wind arose, with violent rain from the south-west,
which lasted almost without a pause for three nights and two days. At
first the rain made no impression on the bulk of snow, but ran from
every sloping surface and froze on every flat one, through the coldness
of the earth; and so it became impossible for any man to keep his legs
without the help of a shodden staff. After a good while, however, the
air growing very much warmer, this state of things began to change, and
a worse one to succeed it; for now the snow came thundering down from
roof, and rock, and ivied tree, and floods began to roar and foam in
every trough and gulley. The drifts that had been so white and fair,
looked yellow, and smirched, and muddy, and lost their graceful curves,
and moulded lines, and airiness. But the strangest sight of all to me
was in the bed of streams, and brooks, and especially of the Lynn river.
It was worth going miles to behold such a thing, for a man might never
have the chance again.

Vast drifts of snow had filled the valley, and piled above the
river-course, fifty feet high in many places, and in some as much as a
hundred. These had frozen over the top, and glanced the rain away from
them, and being sustained by rock and tree, spanned the water mightily.
But meanwhile the waxing flood, swollen from every moorland hollow
and from every spouting crag, had dashed away all icy fetters, and
was rolling gloriously. Under white fantastic arches, and long tunnels
freaked and fretted, and between pellucid pillars jagged with nodding
architraves, the red impetuous torrent rushed, and the brown foam
whirled and flashed. I was half inclined to jump in and swim through
such glorious scenery; for nothing used to please me more than swimming
in a flooded river. But I thought of the rocks, and I thought of the
cramp, and more than all, of Lorna; and so, between one thing and
another, I let it roll on without me.

It was now high time to work very hard; both to make up for the
farm-work lost during the months of frost and snow, and also to be ready
for a great and vicious attack from the Doones, who would burn us in our
beds at the earliest opportunity. Of farm-work there was little yet for
even the most zealous man to begin to lay his hand to; because when the
ground appeared through the crust of bubbled snow (as at last it did,
though not as my Lorna had expected, at the first few drops of rain)
it was all so soaked and sodden, and as we call it, 'mucksy,' that to
meddle with it in any way was to do more harm than good. Nevertheless,
there was yard work, and house work, and tendence of stock, enough to
save any man from idleness.

As for Lorna, she would come out. There was no keeping her in the house.
She had taken up some peculiar notion that we were doing more for her
than she had any right to, and that she must earn her living by the
hard work of her hands. It was quite in vain to tell her that she was
expected to do nothing, and far worse than vain (for it made her cry
sadly) if any one assured her that she could do no good at all. She even
began upon mother's garden before the snow was clean gone from it, and
sowed a beautiful row of peas, every one of which the mice ate.

But though it was very pretty to watch her working for her very life,
as if the maintenance of the household hung upon her labours, yet I was
grieved for many reasons, and so was mother also. In the first place,
she was too fair and dainty for this rough, rude work; and though it
made her cheeks so bright, it surely must be bad for her to get her
little feet so wet. Moreover, we could not bear the idea that she should
labour for her keep; and again (which was the worst of all things)
mother's garden lay exposed to a dark deceitful coppice, where a man
might lurk and watch all the fair gardener's doings. It was true that
none could get at her thence, while the brook which ran between poured
so great a torrent. Still the distance was but little for a gun to
carry, if any one could be brutal enough to point a gun at Lorna. I
thought that none could be found to do it; but mother, having more
experience, was not so certain of mankind.

Now in spite of the floods, and the sloughs being out, and the state of
the roads most perilous, Squire Faggus came at last, riding his famous
strawberry mare. There was a great ado between him and Annie, as you
may well suppose, after some four months of parting. And so we left them
alone awhile, to coddle over their raptures. But when they were tired of
that, or at least had time enough to do so, mother and I went in to know
what news Tom had brought with him. Though he did not seem to want us
yet, he made himself agreeable; and so we sent Annie to cook the dinner
while her sweetheart should tell us everything.

Tom Faggus had very good news to tell, and he told it with such force of
expression as made us laugh very heartily. He had taken up his purchase
from old Sir Roger Bassett of a nice bit of land, to the south of the
moors, and in the parish of Molland. When the lawyers knew thoroughly
who he was, and how he had made his money, they behaved uncommonly well
to him, and showed great sympathy with his pursuits. He put them up to a
thing or two; and they poked him in the ribs, and laughed, and said that
he was quite a boy; but of the right sort, none the less. And so they
made old Squire Bassett pay the bill for both sides; and all he got for
three hundred acres was a hundred and twenty pounds; though Tom had paid
five hundred. But lawyers know that this must be so, in spite of all
their endeavours; and the old gentleman, who now expected to find a bill
for him to pay, almost thought himself a rogue, for getting anything out
of them.

It is true that the land was poor and wild, and the soil exceeding
shallow; lying on the slope of rock, and burned up in hot summers. But
with us, hot summers are things known by tradition only (as this great
winter may be); we generally have more moisture, especially in July,
than we well know what to do with. I have known a fog for a fortnight
at the summer solstice, and farmers talking in church about it when they
ought to be praying. But it always contrives to come right in the end,
as other visitations do, if we take them as true visits, and receive
them kindly.

Now this farm of Squire Faggus (as he truly now had a right to be
called) was of the very finest pasture, when it got good store of rain.
And Tom, who had ridden the Devonshire roads with many a reeking jacket,
knew right well that he might trust the climate for that matter. The
herbage was of the very sweetest, and the shortest, and the closest,
having perhaps from ten to eighteen inches of wholesome soil between it
and the solid rock. Tom saw at once what it was fit for--the breeding of
fine cattle.

Being such a hand as he was at making the most of everything, both his
own and other people's (although so free in scattering, when the
humour lay upon him) he had actually turned to his own advantage that
extraordinary weather which had so impoverished every one around him.
For he taught his Winnie (who knew his meaning as well as any child
could, and obeyed not only his word of mouth, but every glance he
gave her) to go forth in the snowy evenings when horses are seeking
everywhere (be they wild or tame) for fodder and for shelter; and to
whinny to the forest ponies, miles away from home perhaps, and lead
them all with rare appetites and promise of abundance, to her master's
homestead. He shod good Winnie in such a manner that she could not sink
in the snow; and he clad her over the loins with a sheep-skin dyed to
her own colour, which the wild horses were never tired of coming up and
sniffing at; taking it for an especial gift, and proof of inspiration.
And Winnie never came home at night without at least a score of ponies
trotting shyly after her, tossing their heads and their tails in turn,
and making believe to be very wild, although hard pinched by famine. Of
course Tom would get them all into his pound in about five minutes,
for he himself could neigh in a manner which went to the heart of the
wildest horse. And then he fed them well, and turned them into his great
cattle pen, to abide their time for breaking, when the snow and frost
should be over.

He had gotten more than three hundred now, in this sagacious manner; and
he said it was the finest sight to see their mode of carrying on, how
they would snort, and stamp, and fume, and prick their ears, and rush
backwards, and lash themselves with their long rough tails, and shake
their jagged manes, and scream, and fall upon one another, if a strange
man came anigh them. But as for feeding time, Tom said it was better
than fifty plays to watch them, and the tricks they were up to, to cheat
their feeders, and one another. I asked him how on earth he had managed
to get fodder, in such impassable weather, for such a herd of horses;
but he said that they lived upon straw and sawdust; and he knew that I
did not believe him, any more than about his star-shavings. And this was
just the thing he loved--to mystify honest people, and be a great deal
too knowing. However, I may judge him harshly, because I myself tell
everything.

I asked him what he meant to do with all that enormous lot of horses,
and why he had not exerted his wits to catch the red deer as well. He
said that the latter would have been against the laws of venery, and
might have brought him into trouble, but as for disposing of his stud,
it would give him little difficulty. He would break them, when the
spring weather came on, and deal with them as they required, and keep
the handsomest for breeding. The rest he would despatch to London, where
he knew plenty of horse-dealers; and he doubted not that they would
fetch him as much as ten pounds apiece all round, being now in great
demand. I told him I wished that he might get it; but as it proved
afterwards, he did.

Then he pressed us both on another point, the time for his marriage to
Annie; and mother looked at me to say when, and I looked back at mother.
However, knowing something of the world, and unable to make any further
objection, by reason of his prosperity, I said that we must even do as
the fashionable people did, and allow the maid herself to settle, when
she would leave home and all. And this I spoke with a very bad grace,
being perhaps of an ancient cast, and over fond of honesty--I mean, of
course, among lower people.

But Tom paid little heed to this, knowing the world a great deal better
than ever I could pretend to do; and being ready to take a thing, upon
which he had set his mind, whether it came with a good grace, or whether
it came with a bad one. And seeing that it would be awkward to provoke
my anger, he left the room, before more words, to submit himself to
Annie.

Upon this I went in search of Lorna, to tell her of our cousin's
arrival, and to ask whether she would think fit to see him, or to dine
by herself that day; for she should do exactly as it pleased her in
everything, while remaining still our guest. But I rather wished that
she might choose not to sit in Tom's company, though she might be
introduced to him. Not but what he could behave quite as well as could,
and much better, as regarded elegance and assurance, only that his
honesty had not been as one might desire. But Lorna had some curiosity
to know what this famous man was like, and declared that she would by
all means have the pleasure of dining with him, if he did not object to
her company on the ground of the Doones' dishonesty; moreover, she said
that it would seem a most foolish air on her part, and one which would
cause the greatest pain to Annie, who had been so good to her, if she
should refuse to sit at table with a man who held the King's pardon, and
was now a pattern of honesty.

Against this I had not a word to say; and could not help acknowledging
in my heart that she was right, as well as wise, in her decision. And
afterwards I discovered that mother would have been much displeased, if
she had decided otherwise.

Accordingly she turned away, with one of her very sweetest smiles (whose
beauty none can describe) saying that she must not meet a man of such
fashion and renown, in her common gardening frock; but must try to look
as nice as she could, if only in honour of dear Annie. And truth to
tell, when she came to dinner, everything about her was the neatest
and prettiest that can possibly be imagined. She contrived to match
the colours so, to suit one another and her own, and yet with a certain
delicate harmony of contrast, and the shape of everything was so nice,
so that when she came into the room, with a crown of winning modesty
upon the consciousness of beauty, I was quite as proud as if the Queen
of England entered.

My mother could not help remarking, though she knew that it was not
mannerly, how like a princess Lorna looked, now she had her best things
on; but two things caught Squire Faggus's eyes, after he had made a
most gallant bow, and received a most graceful courtesy; and he kept his
bright bold gaze upon them, first on one, and then on the other, until
my darling was hot with blushes, and I was ready to knock him down if he
had not been our visitor. But here again I should have been wrong, as I
was apt to be in those days; for Tom intended no harm whatever, and his
gaze was of pure curiosity; though Annie herself was vexed with it. The
two objects of his close regard, were first, and most worthily, Lorna's
face, and secondly, the ancient necklace restored to her by Sir Ensor
Doone.

Now wishing to save my darling's comfort, and to keep things quiet, I
shouted out that dinner was ready, so that half the parish could hear
me; upon which my mother laughed, and chid me, and despatched her guests
before her. And a very good dinner we made, I remember, and a very
happy one; attending to the women first, as now is the manner of eating;
except among the workmen. With them, of course, it is needful that
the man (who has his hours fixed) should be served first, and make the
utmost of his time for feeding, while the women may go on, as much as
ever they please, afterwards. But with us, who are not bound to time,
there is no such reason to be quoted; and the women being the weaker
vessels, should be the first to begin to fill. And so we always arranged
it.

Now, though our Annie was a graceful maid, and Lizzie a very learned
one, you should have seen how differently Lorna managed her dining; she
never took more than about a quarter of a mouthful at a time, and she
never appeared to be chewing that, although she must have done so.
Indeed, she appeared to dine as if it were a matter of no consequence,
and as if she could think of other things more than of her business. All
this, and her own manner of eating, I described to Eliza once, when I
wanted to vex her for something very spiteful that she had said; and
I never succeeded so well before, for the girl was quite outrageous,
having her own perception of it, which made my observation ten times as
bitter to her. And I am not sure but what she ceased to like poor Lorna
from that day; and if so, I was quite paid out, as I well deserved, for
my bit of satire.

For it strikes me that of all human dealings, satire is the very lowest,
and most mean and common. It is the equivalent in words of what bullying
is in deeds; and no more bespeaks a clever man, than the other does a
brave one. These two wretched tricks exalt a fool in his own low esteem,
but never in his neighbour's; for the deep common sense of our nature
tells that no man of a genial heart, or of any spread of mind, can take
pride in either. And though a good man may commit the one fault or the
other, now and then, by way of outlet, he is sure to have compunctions
soon, and to scorn himself more than the sufferer.

Now when the young maidens were gone--for we had quite a high dinner of
fashion that day, with Betty Muxworthy waiting, and Gwenny Carfax at the
gravy--and only mother, and Tom, and I remained at the white deal table,
with brandy, and schnapps, and hot water jugs; Squire Faggus said quite
suddenly, and perhaps on purpose to take us aback, in case of our hiding
anything,--'What do you know of the history of that beautiful maiden,
good mother?'

'Not half so much as my son does,' mother answered, with a soft smile at
me; 'and when John does not choose to tell a thing, wild horses will not
pull it out of him.'

'That is not at all like me, mother,' I replied rather sadly; 'you know
almost every word about Lorna, quite as well as I do.'

'Almost every word, I believe, John; for you never tell a falsehood. But
the few unknown may be of all the most important to me.'

To this I made no answer, for fear of going beyond the truth, or else
of making mischief. Not that I had, or wished to have, any mystery with
mother; neither was there in purest truth, any mystery in the matter;
to the utmost of my knowledge. And the only things that I had kept back,
solely for mother's comfort, were the death of poor Lord Alan Brandir
(if indeed he were dead) and the connection of Marwood de Whichehalse
with the dealings of the Doones, and the threats of Carver Doone against
my own prosperity; and, may be, one or two little things harrowing more
than edifying.

'Come, come,' said Master Faggus, smiling very pleasantly, 'you two
understand each other, if any two on earth do. Ah, if I had only had a
mother, how different I might have been!' And with that he sighed,
in the tone which always overcame mother upon that subject, and had
something to do with his getting Annie; and then he produced his pretty
box, full of rolled tobacco, and offered me one, as I now had joined the
goodly company of smokers. So I took it, and watched what he did with
his own, lest I might go wrong about mine.

But when our cylinders were both lighted, and I enjoying mine
wonderfully, and astonishing mother by my skill, Tom Faggus told us that
he was sure he had seen my Lorna's face before, many and many years ago,
when she was quite a little child, but he could not remember where it
was, or anything more about it at present; though he would try to do so
afterwards. He could not be mistaken, he said, for he had noticed her
eyes especially; and had never seen such eyes before, neither
again, until this day. I asked him if he had ever ventured into the
Doone-valley; but he shook his head, and replied that he valued his life
a deal too much for that. Then we put it to him, whether anything might
assist his memory; but he said that he knew not of aught to do so,
unless it were another glass of schnapps.

This being provided, he grew very wise, and told us clearly and candidly
that we were both very foolish. For he said that we were keeping Lorna,
at the risk not only of our stock, and the house above our heads, but
also of our precious lives; and after all was she worth it, although so
very beautiful? Upon which I told him, with indignation, that her beauty
was the least part of her goodness, and that I would thank him for his
opinion when I had requested it.

'Bravo, our John Ridd!' he answered; 'fools will be fools till the end
of the chapter; and I might be as big a one, if I were in thy shoes,
John. Nevertheless, in the name of God, don't let that helpless child go
about with a thing worth half the county on her.'

'She is worth all the county herself,' said I, 'and all England put
together; but she has nothing worth half a rick of hay upon her; for the
ring I gave her cost only,'--and here I stopped, for mother was looking,
and I never would tell her how much it had cost me; though she had tried
fifty times to find out.

'Tush, the ring!' Tom Faggus cried, with a contempt that moved me: 'I
would never have stopped a man for that. But the necklace, you great
oaf, the necklace is worth all your farm put together, and your Uncle
Ben's fortune to the back of it; ay, and all the town of Dulverton.'

'What,' said I, 'that common glass thing, which she has had from her
childhood!'

'Glass indeed! They are the finest brilliants ever I set eyes on; and I
have handled a good many.'

'Surely,' cried mother, now flushing as red as Tom's own cheeks with
excitement, 'you must be wrong, or the young mistress would herself have
known it.'

I was greatly pleased with my mother, for calling Lorna 'the young
mistress'; it was not done for the sake of her diamonds, whether they
were glass or not; but because she felt as I had done, that Tom Faggus,
a man of no birth whatever, was speaking beyond his mark, in calling a
lady like Lorna a helpless child; as well as in his general tone, which
displayed no deference. He might have been used to the quality, in the
way of stopping their coaches, or roystering at hotels with them; but he
never had met a high lady before, in equality, and upon virtue; and we
both felt that he ought to have known it, and to have thanked us for the
opportunity, in a word, to have behaved a great deal more humbly than he
had even tried to do.

'Trust me,' answered Tom, in his loftiest manner, which Annie said
was 'so noble,' but which seemed to me rather flashy, 'trust me, good
mother, and simple John, for knowing brilliants, when I see them. I
would have stopped an eight-horse coach, with four carabined out-riders,
for such a booty as that. But alas, those days are over; those were days
worth living in. Ah, I never shall know the like again. How fine it was
by moonlight!'

'Master Faggus,' began my mother, with a manner of some dignity, such
as she could sometimes use, by right of her integrity, and thorough
kindness to every one, 'this is not the tone in which you have hitherto
spoken to me about your former pursuits and life, I fear that the
spirits'--but here she stopped, because the spirits were her own, and
Tom was our visitor,--'what I mean, Master Faggus, is this: you have
won my daughter's heart somehow; and you won my consent to the matter
through your honest sorrow, and manly undertaking to lead a different
life, and touch no property but your own. Annie is my eldest daughter,
and the child of a most upright man. I love her best of all on earth,
next to my boy John here'--here mother gave me a mighty squeeze, to be
sure that she would have me at least--'and I will not risk my Annie's
life with a man who yearns for the highway.'

Having made this very long speech (for her), mother came home upon my
shoulder, and wept so that (but for heeding her) I would have taken Tom
by the nose, and thrown him, and Winnie after him, over our farm-yard
gate. For I am violent when roused; and freely hereby acknowledge it;
though even my enemies will own that it takes a great deal to rouse me.
But I do consider the grief and tears (when justly caused) of my dearest
friends, to be a great deal to rouse me.



CHAPTER XLVII

JEREMY IN DANGER

Nothing very long abides, as the greatest of all writers (in whose
extent I am for ever lost in raptured wonder, and yet for ever quite at
home, as if his heart were mine, although his brains so different), in a
word as Mr. William Shakespeare, in every one of his works insists, with
a humoured melancholy. And if my journey to London led to nothing else
of advancement, it took me a hundred years in front of what I might else
have been, by the most simple accident.

Two women were scolding one another across the road, very violently,
both from upstair windows; and I in my hurry for quiet life, and not
knowing what might come down upon me, quickened my step for the nearest
corner. But suddenly something fell on my head; and at first I was
afraid to look, especially as it weighed heavily. But hearing no
breakage of ware, and only the other scold laughing heartily, I turned
me about and espied a book, which one had cast at the other, hoping to
break her window. So I took the book, and tendered it at the door of the
house from which it had fallen; but the watchman came along just then,
and the man at the door declared that it never came from their house,
and begged me to say no more. This I promised readily, never wishing to
make mischief; and I said, 'Good sir, now take the book; I will go on
to my business.' But he answered that he would do no such thing; for
the book alone, being hurled so hard, would convict his people of a lewd
assault; and he begged me, if I would do a good turn, to put the book
under my coat and go. And so I did: in part at least. For I did not put
the book under my coat, but went along with it openly, looking for any
to challenge it. Now this book, so acquired, has been not only the
joy of my younger days, and main delight of my manhood, but also the
comfort, and even the hope, of my now declining years. In a word, it is
next to my Bible to me, and written in equal English; and if you espy
any goodness whatever in my own loose style of writing, you must not
thank me, John Ridd, for it, but the writer who holds the champion's
belt in wit, as I once did in wrestling.

Now, as nothing very long abides, it cannot be expected that a woman's
anger should last very long, if she be at all of the proper sort. And
my mother, being one of the very best, could not long retain her wrath
against the Squire Faggus especially when she came to reflect, upon
Annie's suggestion, how natural, and one might say, how inevitable
it was that a young man fond of adventure and change and winning good
profits by jeopardy, should not settle down without some regrets to a
fixed abode and a life of sameness, however safe and respectable.
And even as Annie put the case, Tom deserved the greater credit for
vanquishing so nobly these yearnings of his nature; and it seemed very
hard to upbraid him, considering how good his motives were; neither
could Annie understand how mother could reconcile it with her knowledge
of the Bible, and the one sheep that was lost, and the hundredth piece
of silver, and the man that went down to Jericho.

Whether Annie's logic was good and sound, I am sure I cannot tell; but
it seemed to me that she ought to have let the Jericho traveller alone,
inasmuch as he rather fell among Tom Fagusses, than resembled them.
However, her reasoning was too much for mother to hold out against; and
Tom was replaced, and more than that, being regarded now as an injured
man. But how my mother contrived to know, that because she had been too
hard upon Tom, he must be right about the necklace, is a point which I
never could clearly perceive, though no doubt she could explain it.

To prove herself right in the conclusion, she went herself to fetch
Lorna, that the trinket might be examined, before the day grew dark. My
darling came in, with a very quick glance and smile at my cigarro (for I
was having the third by this time, to keep things in amity); and I waved
it towards her, as much as to say, 'you see that I can do it.' And then
mother led her up to the light, for Tom to examine her necklace.

On the shapely curve of her neck it hung, like dewdrops upon a white
hyacinth; and I was vexed that Tom should have the chance to see it
there. But even if she had read my thoughts, or outrun them with her
own, Lorna turned away, and softly took the jewels from the place which
so much adorned them. And as she turned away, they sparkled through
the rich dark waves of hair. Then she laid the glittering circlet in
my mother's hands; and Tom Faggus took it eagerly, and bore it to the
window.

'Don't you go out of sight,' I said; 'you cannot resist such things as
those, if they be what you think them.'

'Jack, I shall have to trounce thee yet. I am now a man of honour, and
entitled to the duello. What will you take for it, Mistress Lorna? At a
hazard, say now.'

'I am not accustomed to sell things, sir,' replied Lorna, who did not
like him much, else she would have answered sportively, 'What is it
worth, in your opinion?'

'Do you think it is worth five pounds, now?'

'Oh, no! I never had so much money as that in all my life. It is very
bright, and very pretty; but it cannot be worth five pounds, I am sure.'

'What a chance for a bargain! Oh, if it were not for Annie, I could make
my fortune.'

'But, sir, I would not sell it to you, not for twenty times five pounds.
My grandfather was so kind about it; and I think it belonged to my
mother.'

'There are twenty-five rose diamonds in it, and twenty-five large
brilliants that cannot be matched in London. How say you, Mistress
Lorna, to a hundred thousand pounds?'

My darling's eyes so flashed at this, brighter than any diamonds, that
I said to myself, 'Well, all have faults; and now I have found out
Lorna's--she is fond of money!' And then I sighed rather heavily; for of
all faults this seems to me one of the worst in a woman. But even before
my sigh was finished, I had cause to condemn myself. For Lorna took the
necklace very quietly from the hands of Squire Faggus, who had not half
done with admiring it, and she went up to my mother with the sweetest
smile I ever saw.

'Dear kind mother, I am so glad,' she said in a whisper, coaxing mother
out of sight of all but me; 'now you will have it, won't you, dear? And
I shall be so happy; for a thousandth part of your kindness to me no
jewels in the world can match.'

I cannot lay before you the grace with which she did it, all the air
of seeking favour, rather than conferring it, and the high-bred fear of
giving offence, which is of all fears the noblest. Mother knew not what
to say. Of course she would never dream of taking such a gift as that;
and yet she saw how sadly Lorna would be disappointed. Therefore, mother
did, from habit, what she almost always did, she called me to help her.
But knowing that my eyes were full--for anything noble moves me so,
quite as rashly as things pitiful--I pretended not to hear my mother,
but to see a wild cat in the dairy.

Therefore I cannot tell what mother said in reply to Lorna; for when I
came back, quite eager to let my love know how I worshipped her, and
how deeply I was ashamed of myself, for meanly wronging her in my heart,
behold Tom Faggus had gotten again the necklace which had such charms
for him, and was delivering all around (but especially to Annie, who was
wondering at his learning) a dissertation on precious stones, and his
sentiments about those in his hand. He said that the work was very
ancient, but undoubtedly very good; the cutting of every line was
true, and every angle was in its place. And this he said, made all the
difference in the lustre of the stone, and therefore in its value. For
if the facets were ill-matched, and the points of light so ever little
out of perfect harmony, all the lustre of the jewel would be loose
and wavering, and the central fire dulled; instead of answering, as it
should, to all possibilities of gaze, and overpowering any eye intent on
its deeper mysteries. We laughed at the Squire's dissertation; for how
should he know all these things, being nothing better, and indeed much
worse than a mere Northmolton blacksmith? He took our laughter with much
good nature; having Annie to squeeze his hand and convey her grief at
our ignorance: but he said that of one thing he was quite certain, and
therein I believed him. To wit, that a trinket of this kind never could
have belonged to any ignoble family, but to one of the very highest and
most wealthy in England. And looking at Lorna, I felt that she must have
come from a higher source than the very best of diamonds.

Tom Faggus said that the necklace was made, he would answer for it, in
Amsterdam, two or three hundred years ago, long before London jewellers
had begun to meddle with diamonds; and on the gold clasp he found some
letters, done in some inverted way, the meaning of which was beyond him;
also a bearing of some kind, which he believed was a mountain-cat. And
thereupon he declared that now he had earned another glass of schnapps,
and would Mistress Lorna mix it for him?

I was amazed at his impudence; and Annie, who thought this her business,
did not look best pleased; and I hoped that Lorna would tell him at once
to go and do it for himself. But instead of that she rose to do it with
a soft humility, which went direct to the heart of Tom; and he leaped up
with a curse at himself, and took the hot water from her, and would not
allow her to do anything except to put the sugar in; and then he bowed
to her grandly. I knew what Lorna was thinking of; she was thinking all
the time that her necklace had been taken by the Doones with violence
upon some great robbery; and that Squire Faggus knew it, though he would
not show his knowledge; and that this was perhaps the reason why mother
had refused it so.

We said no more about the necklace for a long time afterwards; neither
did my darling wear it, now that she knew its value, but did not know
its history. She came to me the very next day, trying to look cheerful,
and begged me if I loved her (never mind how little) to take charge of
it again, as I once had done before, and not even to let her know in
what place I stored it. I told her that this last request I could not
comply with; for having been round her neck so often, it was now a
sacred thing, more than a million pounds could be. Therefore it should
dwell for the present in the neighbourhood of my heart; and so could not
be far from her. At this she smiled her own sweet smile, and touched
my forehead with her lips, and wished that she could only learn how to
deserve such love as mine.

Tom Faggus took his good departure, which was a kind farewell to me,
on the very day I am speaking of, the day after his arrival. Tom was
a thoroughly upright man, according to his own standard; and you might
rely upon him always, up to a certain point I mean, to be there or
thereabouts. But sometimes things were too many for Tom, especially with
ardent spirits, and then he judged, perhaps too much, with only himself
for the jury. At any rate, I would trust him fully, for candour and
for honesty, in almost every case in which he himself could have no
interest. And so we got on very well together; and he thought me a fool;
and I tried my best not to think anything worse of him.

Scarcely was Tom clean out of sight, and Annie's tears not dry yet (for
she always made a point of crying upon his departure), when in came
Master Jeremy Stickles, splashed with mud from head to foot, and not in
the very best of humours, though happy to get back again.

'Curse those fellows!' he cried, with a stamp which sent the water
hissing from his boot upon the embers; 'a pretty plight you may call
this, for His Majesty's Commissioner to return to his headquarters in!
Annie, my dear,' for he was always very affable with Annie, 'will you
help me off with my overalls, and then turn your pretty hand to the
gridiron? Not a blessed morsel have I touched for more than twenty-four
hours.'

'Surely then you must be quite starving, sir,' my sister replied with
the greatest zeal; for she did love a man with an appetite; 'how glad I
am that the fire is clear!' But Lizzie, who happened to be there, said
with her peculiar smile,--

'Master Stickles must be used to it; for he never comes back without
telling us that.'

'Hush!' cried Annie, quite shocked with her; 'how would you like to
be used to it? Now, Betty, be quick with the things for me. Pork, or
mutton, or deer's meat, sir? We have some cured since the autumn.'

'Oh, deer's meat, by all means,' Jeremy Stickles answered; 'I have
tasted none since I left you, though dreaming of it often. Well, this
is better than being chased over the moors for one's life, John. All the
way from Landacre Bridge, I have ridden a race for my precious life, at
the peril of my limbs and neck. Three great Doones galloping after me,
and a good job for me that they were so big, or they must have overtaken
me. Just go and see to my horse, John, that's an excellent lad. He
deserves a good turn this day, from me; and I will render it to him.'

However he left me to do it, while he made himself comfortable: and
in truth the horse required care; he was blown so that he could hardly
stand, and plastered with mud, and steaming so that the stable was
quite full with it. By the time I had put the poor fellow to rights, his
master had finished dinner, and was in a more pleasant humour, having
even offered to kiss Annie, out of pure gratitude, as he said; but Annie
answered with spirit that gratitude must not be shown by increasing the
obligation. Jeremy made reply to this that his only way to be grateful
then was to tell us his story: and so he did, at greater length than
I can here repeat it; for it does not bear particularly upon Lorna's
fortunes.

It appears that as he was riding towards us from the town of Southmolton
in Devonshire, he found the roads very soft and heavy, and the floods
out in all directions; but met with no other difficulty until he came to
Landacre Bridge. He had only a single trooper with him, a man not of the
militia but of the King's army, whom Jeremy had brought from Exeter.
As these two descended towards the bridge they observed that both the
Kensford water and the River Barle were pouring down in mighty floods
from the melting of the snow. So great indeed was the torrent, after
they united, that only the parapets of the bridge could be seen above
the water, the road across either bank being covered and very deep on
the hither side. The trooper did not like the look of it, and proposed
to ride back again, and round by way of Simonsbath, where the stream is
smaller. But Stickles would not have it so, and dashing into the river,
swam his horse for the bridge, and gained it with some little trouble;
and there he found the water not more than up to his horse's knees
perhaps. On the crown of the bridge he turned his horse to watch the
trooper's passage, and to help him with directions; when suddenly he saw
him fall headlong into the torrent, and heard the report of a gun from
behind, and felt a shock to his own body, such as lifted him out of
the saddle. Turning round he beheld three men, risen up from behind the
hedge on one side of his onward road, two of them ready to load again,
and one with his gun unfired, waiting to get good aim at him. Then
Jeremy did a gallant thing, for which I doubt whether I should have had
the presence of mind in danger. He saw that to swim his horse back again
would be almost certain death; as affording such a target, where even
a wound must be fatal. Therefore he struck the spurs into the nag, and
rode through the water straight at the man who was pointing the long gun
at him. If the horse had been carried off his legs, there must have been
an end of Jeremy; for the other men were getting ready to have another
shot at him. But luckily the horse galloped right on without any need
for swimming, being himself excited, no doubt, by all he had seen and
heard of it. And Jeremy lay almost flat on his neck, so as to give
little space for good aim, with the mane tossing wildly in front of him.
Now if that young fellow with the gun had his brains as ready as his
flint was, he would have shot the horse at once, and then had Stickles
at his mercy; but instead of that he let fly at the man, and missed him
altogether, being scared perhaps by the pistol which Jeremy showed him
the mouth of. And galloping by at full speed, Master Stickles tried to
leave his mark behind him, for he changed the aim of his pistol to the
biggest man, who was loading his gun and cursing like ten cannons. But
the pistol missed fire, no doubt from the flood which had gurgled in
over the holsters; and Jeremy seeing three horses tethered at a gate
just up the hill, knew that he had not yet escaped, but had more of
danger behind him. He tried his other great pistol at one of the
horses tethered there, so as to lessen (if possible) the number of his
pursuers. But the powder again failed him; and he durst not stop to cut
the bridles, bearing the men coming up the hill. So he even made the
most of his start, thanking God that his weight was light, compared at
least to what theirs was.

And another thing he had noticed which gave him some hope of escaping,
to wit that the horses of the Doones, although very handsome animals,
were suffering still from the bitter effects of the late long frost, and
the scarcity of fodder. 'If they do not catch me up, or shoot me, in the
course of the first two miles, I may see my home again'; this was what
he said to himself as he turned to mark what they were about, from
the brow of the steep hill. He saw the flooded valley shining with the
breadth of water, and the trooper's horse on the other side, shaking
his drenched flanks and neighing; and half-way down the hill he saw the
three Doones mounting hastily. And then he knew that his only chance lay
in the stoutness of his steed.

The horse was in pretty good condition; and the rider knew him
thoroughly, and how to make the most of him; and though they had
travelled some miles that day through very heavy ground, the bath in
the river had washed the mud off, and been some refreshment. Therefore
Stickles encouraged his nag, and put him into a good hard gallop,
heading away towards Withycombe. At first he had thought of turning to
the right, and making off for Withypool, a mile or so down the valley;
but his good sense told him that no one there would dare to protect him
against the Doones, so he resolved to go on his way; yet faster than he
had intended.

The three villains came after him, with all the speed they could muster,
making sure from the badness of the road that he must stick fast ere
long, and so be at their mercy. And this was Jeremy's chiefest fear,
for the ground being soft and thoroughly rotten, after so much frost and
snow, the poor horse had terrible work of it, with no time to pick the
way; and even more good luck than skill was needed to keep him from
foundering. How Jeremy prayed for an Exmoor fog (such as he had often
sworn at), that he might turn aside and lurk, while his pursuers went
past him! But no fog came, nor even a storm to damp the priming of their
guns; neither was wood or coppice nigh, nor any place to hide in; only
hills, and moor, and valleys; with flying shadows over them, and great
banks of snow in the corners. At one time poor Stickles was quite in
despair; for after leaping a little brook which crosses the track at
Newland, be stuck fast in a 'dancing bog,' as we call them upon Exmoor.
The horse had broken through the crust of moss and sedge and marishweed,
and could do nothing but wallow and sink, with the black water spirting
over him. And Jeremy, struggling with all his might, saw the three
villains now topping the crest, less than a furlong behind him; and
heard them shout in their savage delight. With the calmness of despair,
he yet resolved to have one more try for it; and scrambling over the
horse's head, gained firm land, and tugged at the bridle. The poor nag
replied with all his power to the call upon his courage, and reared his
forefeet out of the slough, and with straining eyeballs gazed at him.
'Now,' said Jeremy, 'now, my fine fellow!' lifting him with the bridle,
and the brave beast gathered the roll of his loins, and sprang from his
quagmired haunches. One more spring, and he was on earth again, instead
of being under it; and Jeremy leaped on his back, and stooped, for he
knew that they would fire. Two bullets whistled over him, as the horse,
mad with fright, dashed forward; and in five minutes more he had come to
the Exe, and the pursuers had fallen behind him. The Exe, though a much
smaller stream than the Barle, now ran in a foaming torrent, unbridged,
and too wide for leaping. But Jeremy's horse took the water well; and
both he and his rider were lightened, as well as comforted by it. And as
they passed towards Lucott hill, and struck upon the founts of Lynn,
the horses of the three pursuers began to tire under them. Then Jeremy
Stickles knew that if he could only escape the sloughs, he was safe for
the present; and so he stood up in his stirrups, and gave them a loud
halloo, as if they had been so many foxes.

Their only answer was to fire the remaining charge at him; but the
distance was too great for any aim from horseback; and the dropping
bullet idly ploughed the sod upon one side of him. He acknowledged it
with a wave of his hat, and laid one thumb to his nose, in the manner
fashionable in London for expression of contempt. However, they followed
him yet farther; hoping to make him pay out dearly, if he should only
miss the track, or fall upon morasses. But the neighbourhood of our Lynn
stream is not so very boggy; and the King's messenger now knew his
way as well as any of his pursuers did; and so he arrived at Plover's
Barrows, thankful, and in rare appetite.

'But was the poor soldier drowned?' asked Annie; 'and you never went to
look for him! Oh, how very dreadful!'

'Shot, or drowned; I know not which. Thank God it was only a trooper.
But they shall pay for it, as dearly as if it had been a captain.'

'And how was it you were struck by a bullet, and only shaken in your
saddle? Had you a coat of mail on, or of Milanese chain-armour? Now,
Master Stickles, had you?'

'No, Mistress Lizzie; we do not wear things of that kind nowadays. You
are apt, I perceive, at romances. But I happened to have a little flat
bottle of the best stoneware slung beneath my saddle-cloak, and filled
with the very best eau de vie, from the George Hotel, at Southmolton.
The brand of it now is upon my back. Oh, the murderous scoundrels, what
a brave spirit they have spilled!'

'You had better set to and thank God,' said I, 'that they have not
spilled a braver one.'



CHAPTER XLVIII

EVERY MAN MUST DEFEND HIMSELF

It was only right in Jeremy Stickles, and of the simplest common sense,
that he would not tell, before our girls, what the result of his journey
was. But he led me aside in the course of the evening, and told me all
about it; saying that I knew, as well as he did, that it was not woman's
business. This I took, as it was meant, for a gentle caution that Lorna
(whom he had not seen as yet) must not be informed of any of his doings.
Herein I quite agreed with him; not only for his furtherance, but
because I always think that women, of whatever mind, are best when least
they meddle with the things that appertain to men.

Master Stickles complained that the weather had been against him
bitterly, closing all the roads around him; even as it had done with us.
It had taken him eight days, he said, to get from Exeter to Plymouth;
whither he found that most of the troops had been drafted off from
Exeter. When all were told, there was but a battalion of one of the
King's horse regiments, and two companies of foot soldiers; and their
commanders had orders, later than the date of Jeremy's commission, on
no account to quit the southern coast, and march inland. Therefore,
although they would gladly have come for a brush with the celebrated
Doones, it was more than they durst attempt, in the face of their
instructions. However, they spared him a single trooper, as a companion
of the road, and to prove to the justices of the county, and the lord
lieutenant, that he had their approval.

To these authorities Master Stickles now was forced to address himself,
although he would rather have had one trooper than a score from the
very best trained bands. For these trained bands had afforded very good
soldiers, in the time of the civil wars, and for some years afterwards;
but now their discipline was gone; and the younger generation had seen
no real fighting. Each would have his own opinion, and would want to
argue it; and if he were not allowed, he went about his duty in such a
temper as to prove that his own way was the best.

Neither was this the worst of it; for Jeremy made no doubt but what (if
he could only get the militia to turn out in force) he might manage,
with the help of his own men, to force the stronghold of the enemy; but
the truth was that the officers, knowing how hard it would be to collect
their men at that time of the year, and in that state of the weather,
began with one accord to make every possible excuse. And especially
they pressed this point, that Bagworthy was not in their county; the
Devonshire people affirming vehemently that it lay in the shire of
Somerset, and the Somersetshire folk averring, even with imprecations,
that it lay in Devonshire. Now I believe the truth to be that the
boundary of the two counties, as well as of Oare and Brendon parishes,
is defined by the Bagworthy river; so that the disputants on both sides
were both right and wrong.

Upon this, Master Stickles suggested, and as I thought very sensibly,
that the two counties should unite, and equally contribute to the
extirpation of this pest, which shamed and injured them both alike. But
hence arose another difficulty; for the men of Devon said they would
march when Somerset had taken the field; and the sons of Somerset
replied that indeed they were quite ready, but what were their cousins
of Devonshire doing? And so it came to pass that the King's Commissioner
returned without any army whatever; but with promise of two hundred men
when the roads should be more passable. And meanwhile, what were we to
do, abandoned as we were to the mercies of the Doones, with only our own
hands to help us? And herein I grieved at my own folly, in having let
Tom Faggus go, whose wit and courage would have been worth at least half
a dozen men to us. Upon this matter I held long council with my good
friend Stickles; telling him all about Lorna's presence, and what I knew
of her history. He agreed with me that we could not hope to escape an
attack from the outlaws, and the more especially now that they knew
himself to be returned to us. Also he praised me for my forethought
in having threshed out all our corn, and hidden the produce in such a
manner that they were not likely to find it. Furthermore, he recommended
that all the entrances to the house should at once be strengthened,
and a watch must be maintained at night; and he thought it wiser that
I should go (late as it was) to Lynmouth, if a horse could pass the
valley, and fetch every one of his mounted troopers, who might now be
quartered there. Also if any men of courage, though capable only of
handling a pitchfork, could be found in the neighbourhood, I was to try
to summon them. But our district is so thinly peopled, that I had little
faith in this; however my errand was given me, and I set forth upon it;
for John Fry was afraid of the waters.

Knowing how fiercely the floods were out, I resolved to travel the
higher road, by Cosgate and through Countisbury; therefore I swam my
horse through the Lynn, at the ford below our house (where sometimes you
may step across), and thence galloped up and along the hills. I could
see all the inland valleys ribbon'd with broad waters; and in every
winding crook, the banks of snow that fed them; while on my right the
turbid sea was flaked with April showers. But when I descended the hill
towards Lynmouth, I feared that my journey was all in vain.

For the East Lynn (which is our river) was ramping and roaring
frightfully, lashing whole trunks of trees on the rocks, and rending
them, and grinding them. And into it rushed, from the opposite side, a
torrent even madder; upsetting what it came to aid; shattering wave with
boiling billow, and scattering wrath with fury. It was certain death to
attempt the passage: and the little wooden footbridge had been carried
away long ago. And the men I was seeking must be, of course, on the
other side of this deluge, for on my side there was not a single house.

I followed the bank of the flood to the beach, some two or three hundred
yards below; and there had the luck to see Will Watcombe on the opposite
side, caulking an old boat. Though I could not make him hear a word,
from the deafening roar of the torrent, I got him to understand at last
that I wanted to cross over. Upon this he fetched another man, and the
two of them launched a boat; and paddling well out to sea, fetched round
the mouth of the frantic river. The other man proved to be Stickles's
chief mate; and so he went back and fetched his comrades, bringing their
weapons, but leaving their horses behind. As it happened there were
but four of them; however, to have even these was a help; and I started
again at full speed for my home; for the men must follow afoot, and
cross our river high up on the moorland.

This took them a long way round, and the track was rather bad to find,
and the sky already darkening; so that I arrived at Plover's Barrows
more than two hours before them. But they had done a sagacious thing,
which was well worth the delay; for by hoisting their flag upon the
hill, they fetched the two watchmen from the Foreland, and added them to
their number.

It was lucky that I came home so soon; for I found the house in a great
commotion, and all the women trembling. When I asked what the matter
was, Lorna, who seemed the most self-possessed, answered that it was all
her fault, for she alone had frightened them. And this in the following
manner. She had stolen out to the garden towards dusk, to watch some
favourite hyacinths just pushing up, like a baby's teeth, and just
attracting the fatal notice of a great house-snail at night-time. Lorna
at last had discovered the glutton, and was bearing him off in triumph
to the tribunal of the ducks, when she descried two glittering eyes
glaring at her steadfastly, from the elder-bush beyond the stream.
The elder was smoothing its wrinkled leaves, being at least two months
behind time; and among them this calm cruel face appeared; and she knew
it was the face of Carver Doone.

The maiden, although so used to terror (as she told me once before),
lost all presence of mind hereat, and could neither shriek nor fly, but
only gaze, as if bewitched. Then Carver Doone, with his deadly smile,
gloating upon her horror, lifted his long gun, and pointed full at
Lorna's heart. In vain she strove to turn away; fright had stricken her
stiff as stone. With the inborn love of life, she tried to cover the
vital part wherein the winged death must lodge--for she knew Carver's
certain aim--but her hands hung numbed, and heavy; in nothing but her
eyes was life.

With no sign of pity in his face, no quiver of relenting, but a
well-pleased grin at all the charming palsy of his victim, Carver Doone
lowered, inch by inch, the muzzle of his gun. When it pointed to the
ground, between her delicate arched insteps, he pulled the trigger,
and the bullet flung the mould all over her. It was a refinement of
bullying, for which I swore to God that night, upon my knees, in secret,
that I would smite down Carver Doone or else he should smite me down.
Base beast! what largest humanity, or what dreams of divinity, could
make a man put up with this?

My darling (the loveliest, and most harmless, in the world of maidens),
fell away on a bank of grass, and wept at her own cowardice; and
trembled, and wondered where I was; and what I would think of this. Good
God! What could I think of it? She over-rated my slow nature, to admit
the question.

While she leaned there, quite unable yet to save herself, Carver came
to the brink of the flood, which alone was between them; and then he
stroked his jet-black beard, and waited for Lorna to begin. Very likely,
he thought that she would thank him for his kindness to her. But she was
now recovering the power of her nimble limbs; and ready to be off like
hope, and wonder at her own cowardice.

'I have spared you this time,' he said, in his deep calm voice, 'only
because it suits my plans; and I never yield to temper. But unless you
come back to-morrow, pure, and with all you took away, and teach me
to destroy that fool, who has destroyed himself for you, your death is
here, your death is here, where it has long been waiting.'

Although his gun was empty, he struck the breech of it with his finger;
and then he turned away, not deigning even once to look back again; and
Lorna saw his giant figure striding across the meadow-land, as if the
Ridds were nobodies, and he the proper owner. Both mother and I were
greatly hurt at hearing of this insolence: for we had owned that meadow,
from the time of the great Alfred; and even when that good king lay in
the Isle of Athelney, he had a Ridd along with him.

Now I spoke to Lorna gently, seeing how much she had been tried; and
I praised her for her courage, in not having run away, when she was so
unable; and my darling was pleased with this, and smiled upon me for
saying it; though she knew right well that, in this matter, my judgment
was not impartial. But you may take this as a general rule, that a woman
likes praise from the man whom she loves, and cannot stop always to
balance it.

Now expecting a sharp attack that night--when Jeremy Stickles the more
expected, after the words of Carver, which seemed to be meant to mislead
us--we prepared a great quantity of knuckles of pork, and a ham in full
cut, and a fillet of hung mutton. For we would almost surrender rather
than keep our garrison hungry. And all our men were exceedingly brave;
and counted their rounds of the house in half-pints.

Before the maidens went to bed, Lorna made a remark which seemed to me a
very clever one, and then I wondered how on earth it had never occurred
to me before. But first she had done a thing which I could not in the
least approve of: for she had gone up to my mother, and thrown herself
into her arms, and begged to be allowed to return to Glen Doone.

'My child, are you unhappy here?' mother asked her, very gently, for she
had begun to regard her now as a daughter of her own.

'Oh, no! Too happy, by far too happy, Mrs. Ridd. I never knew rest or
peace before, or met with real kindness. But I cannot be so ungrateful,
I cannot be so wicked, as to bring you all into deadly peril, for
my sake alone. Let me go: you must not pay this great price for my
happiness.'

'Dear child, we are paying no price at all,' replied my mother,
embracing her; 'we are not threatened for your sake only. Ask John,
he will tell you. He knows every bit about politics, and this is a
political matter.'

Dear mother was rather proud in her heart, as well as terribly
frightened, at the importance now accruing to Plover's Barrows farm;
and she often declared that it would be as famous in history as the Rye
House, or the Meal-tub, or even the great black box, in which she was a
firm believer: and even my knowledge of politics could not move her upon
that matter. 'Such things had happened before,' she would say, shaking
her head with its wisdom, 'and why might they not happen again? Women
would be women, and men would be men, to the end of the chapter; and if
she had been in Lucy Water's place, she would keep it quiet, as she
had done'; and then she would look round, for fear, lest either of her
daughters had heard her; 'but now, can you give me any reason, why it
may not have been so? You are so fearfully positive, John: just as men
always are.' 'No,' I used to say; 'I can give you no reason, why it may
not have been so, mother. But the question is, if it was so, or not;
rather than what it might have been. And, I think, it is pretty good
proof against it, that what nine men of every ten in England would
only too gladly believe, if true, is nevertheless kept dark from them.'
'There you are again, John,' mother would reply, 'all about men, and not
a single word about women. If you had any argument at all, you would own
that marriage is a question upon which women are the best judges.' 'Oh!'
I would groan in my spirit, and go; leaving my dearest mother quite
sure, that now at last she must have convinced me. But if mother had
known that Jeremy Stickles was working against the black box, and its
issue, I doubt whether he would have fared so well, even though he was
a visitor. However, she knew that something was doing and something of
importance; and she trusted in God for the rest of it. Only she used te
tell me, very seriously, of an evening, 'The very least they can give
you, dear John, is a coat of arms. Be sure you take nothing less, dear;
and the farm can well support it.'

But lo! I have left Lorna ever so long, anxious to consult me upon
political matters. She came to me, and her eyes alone asked a hundred
questions, which I rather had answered upon her lips than troubled her
pretty ears with them. Therefore I told her nothing at all, save that
the attack (if any should be) would not be made on her account; and that
if she should hear, by any chance, a trifle of a noise in the night, she
was to wrap the clothes around her, and shut her beautiful eyes again.
On no account, whatever she did, was she to go to the window. She liked
my expression about her eyes, and promised to do the very best she could
and then she crept so very close, that I needs must have her closer; and
with her head on my breast she asked,--

'Can't you keep out of this fight, John?'

'My own one,' I answered, gazing through the long black lashes, at the
depths of radiant love; 'I believe there will be nothing: but what there
is I must see out.'

'Shall I tell you what I think, John? It is only a fancy of mine, and
perhaps it is not worth telling.'

'Let us have it, dear, by all means. You know so much about their ways.'

'What I believe is this, John. You know how high the rivers are, higher
than ever they were before, and twice as high, you have told me. I
believe that Glen Doone is flooded, and all the houses under water.'

'You little witch,' I answered; 'what a fool I must be not to think
of it! Of course it is: it must be. The torrent from all the Bagworthy
forest, and all the valleys above it, and the great drifts in the glen
itself, never could have outlet down my famous waterslide. The valley
must be under water twenty feet at least. Well, if ever there was a
fool, I am he, for not having thought of it.'

'I remember once before,' said Lorna, reckoning on her fingers, 'when
there was heavy rain, all through the autumn and winter, five or it may
be six years ago, the river came down with such a rush that the
water was two feet deep in our rooms, and we all had to camp by the
cliff-edge. But you think that the floods are higher now, I believe I
heard you say, John.'

'I don't think about it, my treasure,' I answered; 'you may trust me for
understanding floods, after our work at Tiverton. And I know that the
deluge in all our valleys is such that no living man can remember,
neither will ever behold again. Consider three months of snow, snow,
snow, and a fortnight of rain on the top of it, and all to be drained
in a few days away! And great barricades of ice still in the rivers
blocking them up, and ponding them. You may take my word for it,
Mistress Lorna, that your pretty bower is six feet deep.'

'Well, my bower has served its time', said Lorna, blushing as she
remembered all that had happened there; 'and my bower now is here, John.
But I am so sorry to think of all the poor women flooded out of their
houses and sheltering in the snowdrifts. However, there is one good of
it: they cannot send many men against us, with all this trouble upon
them.'

'You are right,' I replied; 'how clever you are! and that is why there
were only three to cut off Master Stickles. And now we shall beat them,
I make no doubt, even if they come at all. And I defy them to fire the
house: the thatch is too wet for burning.'

We sent all the women to bed quite early, except Gwenny Carfax and our
old Betty. These two we allowed to stay up, because they might be useful
to us, if they could keep from quarreling. For my part, I had little
fear, after what Lorna had told me, as to the result of the combat. It
was not likely that the Doones could bring more than eight or ten men
against us, while their homes were in such danger: and to meet these
we had eight good men, including Jeremy, and myself, all well armed and
resolute, besides our three farm-servants, and the parish-clerk, and the
shoemaker. These five could not be trusted much for any valiant conduct,
although they spoke very confidently over their cans of cider. Neither
were their weapons fitted for much execution, unless it were at close
quarters, which they would be likely to avoid. Bill Dadds had a sickle,
Jem Slocombe a flail, the cobbler had borrowed the constable's staff
(for the constable would not attend, because there was no warrant), and
the parish clerk had brought his pitch-pipe, which was enough to break
any man's head. But John Fry, of course, had his blunderbuss, loaded
with tin-tacks and marbles, and more likely to kill the man who
discharged it than any other person: but we knew that John had it only
for show, and to describe its qualities.

Now it was my great desire, and my chiefest hope, to come across Carver
Doone that night, and settle the score between us; not by any shot
in the dark, but by a conflict man to man. As yet, since I came to
full-grown power, I had never met any one whom I could not play teetotum
with: but now at last I had found a man whose strength was not to be
laughed at. I could guess it in his face, I could tell it in his arms, I
could see it in his stride and gait, which more than all the rest betray
the substance of a man. And being so well used to wrestling, and to
judge antagonists, I felt that here (if anywhere) I had found my match.

Therefore I was not content to abide within the house, or go the rounds
with the troopers; but betook myself to the rick yard, knowing that the
Doones were likely to begin their onset there. For they had a pleasant
custom, when they visited farm-houses, of lighting themselves towards
picking up anything they wanted, or stabbing the inhabitants, by first
creating a blaze in the rick yard. And though our ricks were all now of
mere straw (except indeed two of prime clover-hay), and although on
the top they were so wet that no firebrands might hurt them; I was both
unwilling to have them burned, and fearful that they might kindle, if
well roused up with fire upon the windward side.

By the bye, these Doones had got the worst of this pleasant trick
one time. For happening to fire the ricks of a lonely farm called
Yeanworthy, not far above Glenthorne, they approached the house to get
people's goods, and to enjoy their terror. The master of the farm was
lately dead, and had left, inside the clock-case, loaded, the great long
gun, wherewith he had used to sport at the ducks and the geese on the
shore. Now Widow Fisher took out this gun, and not caring much what
became of her (for she had loved her husband dearly), she laid it upon
the window-sill, which looked upon the rick-yard; and she backed up the
butt with a chest of oak drawers, and she opened the window a little
back, and let the muzzle out on the slope. Presently five or six fine
young Doones came dancing a reel (as their manner was) betwixt her and
the flaming rick. Upon which she pulled the trigger with all the force
of her thumb, and a quarter of a pound of duck-shot went out with a
blaze on the dancers. You may suppose what their dancing was, and their
reeling how changed to staggering, and their music none of the sweetest.
One of them fell into the rick, and was burned, and buried in a ditch
next day; but the others were set upon their horses, and carried home
on a path of blood. And strange to say, they never avenged this very
dreadful injury; but having heard that a woman had fired this desperate
shot among them, they said that she ought to be a Doone, and inquired
how old she was.

Now I had not been so very long waiting in our mow-yard, with my best
gun ready, and a big club by me, before a heaviness of sleep began to
creep upon me. The flow of water was in my ears, and in my eyes a hazy
spreading, and upon my brain a closure, as a cobbler sews a vamp up. So
I leaned back in the clover-rick, and the dust of the seed and the smell
came round me, without any trouble; and I dozed about Lorna, just once
or twice, and what she had said about new-mown hay; and then back went
my head, and my chin went up; and if ever a man was blest with slumber,
down it came upon me, and away went I into it.

Now this was very vile of me, and against all good resolutions, even
such as I would have sworn to an hour ago or less. But if you had been
in the water as I had, ay, and had long fight with it, after a good
day's work, and then great anxiety afterwards, and brain-work (which is
not fair for me), and upon that a stout supper, mayhap you would not be
so hard on my sleep; though you felt it your duty to wake me.



CHAPTER XLIX

MAIDEN SENTINELS ARE BEST

It was not likely that the outlaws would attack out premises until some
time after the moon was risen; because it would be too dangerous to
cross the flooded valleys in the darkness of the night. And but for this
consideration, I must have striven harder against the stealthy
approach of slumber. But even so, it was very foolish to abandon watch,
especially in such as I, who sleep like any dormouse. Moreover, I had
chosen the very worst place in the world for such employment, with a
goodly chance of awakening in a bed of solid fire.

And so it might have been, nay, it must have been, but for Lorna's
vigilance. Her light hand upon my arm awoke me, not too readily; and
leaping up, I seized my club, and prepared to knock down somebody.

'Who's that?' I cried; 'stand back, I say, and let me have fair chance
at you.'

'Are you going to knock me down, dear John?' replied the voice I loved
so well; 'I am sure I should never get up again, after one blow from
you, John.'

'My darling, is it you?' I cried; 'and breaking all your orders? Come
back into the house at once: and nothing on your head, dear!'

'How could I sleep, while at any moment you might be killed beneath my
window? And now is the time of real danger; for men can see to travel.'

I saw at once the truth of this. The moon was high and clearly lighting
all the watered valleys. To sleep any longer might be death, not only to
myself, but all.

'The man on guard at the back of the house is fast asleep,' she
continued; 'Gwenny, who let me out, and came with me, has heard him
snoring for two hours. I think the women ought to be the watch, because
they have had no travelling. Where do you suppose little Gwenny is?'

'Surely not gone to Glen Doone?' I was not sure, however: for I could
believe almost anything of the Cornish maiden's hardihood.

'No,' replied Lorna, 'although she wanted even to do that. But of course
I would not hear of it, on account of the swollen waters. But she is
perched on yonder tree, which commands the Barrow valley. She says that
they are almost sure to cross the streamlet there; and now it is so wide
and large, that she can trace it in the moonlight, half a mile beyond
her. If they cross, she is sure to see them, and in good time to let us
know.'

'What a shame,' I cried, 'that the men should sleep, and the maidens
be the soldiers! I will sit in that tree myself, and send little Gwenny
back to you. Go to bed, my best and dearest; I will take good care not
to sleep again.'

'Please not to send me away, dear John,' she answered very mournfully;
'you and I have been together through perils worse than this. I shall
only be more timid, and more miserable, indoors.'

'I cannot let you stay here,' I said; 'it is altogether impossible. Do
you suppose that I can fight, with you among the bullets, Lorna? If this
is the way you mean to take it, we had better go both to the apple-room,
and lock ourselves in, and hide under the tiles, and let them burn all
the rest of the premises.'

At this idea Lorna laughed, as I could see by the moonlight; and then
she said,--

'You are right, John. I should only do more harm than good: and of all
things I hate fighting most, and disobedience next to it. Therefore I
will go indoors, although I cannot go to bed. But promise me one thing,
dearest John. You will keep yourself out of the way, now won't you, as
much as you can, for my sake?'

'Of that you may be quite certain, Lorna. I will shoot them all through
the hay-ricks.'

'That is right, dear,' she answered, never doubting but what I could do
it; 'and then they cannot see you, you know. But don't think of climbing
that tree, John; it is a great deal too dangerous. It is all very well
for Gwenny; she has no bones to break.'

'None worth breaking, you mean, I suppose. Very well; I will not climb
the tree, for I should defeat my own purpose, I fear; being such a
conspicuous object. Now go indoors, darling, without more words. The
more you linger, the more I shall keep you.'

She laughed her own bright laugh at this, and only said, 'God keep you,
love!' and then away she tripped across the yard, with the step I loved
to watch so. And thereupon I shouldered arms, and resolved to tramp till
morning. For I was vexed at my own neglect, and that Lorna should have
to right it.

But before I had been long on duty, making the round of the ricks and
stables, and hailing Gwenny now and then from the bottom of her tree,
a short wide figure stole towards me, in and out the shadows, and I saw
that it was no other than the little maid herself, and that she bore
some tidings.

'Ten on 'em crossed the watter down yonner,' said Gwenny, putting her
hand to her mouth, and seeming to regard it as good news rather than
otherwise: 'be arl craping up by hedgerow now. I could shutt dree on 'em
from the bar of the gate, if so be I had your goon, young man.'

'There is no time to lose, Gwenny. Run to the house and fetch Master
Stickles, and all the men; while I stay here, and watch the rick-yard.'

Perhaps I was wrong in heeding the ricks at such a time as that;
especially as only the clover was of much importance. But it seemed
to me like a sort of triumph that they should be even able to boast of
having fired our mow-yard. Therefore I stood in a nick of the clover,
whence we had cut some trusses, with my club in hand, and gun close by.

The robbers rode into our yard as coolly as if they had been invited,
having lifted the gate from the hinges first on account of its being
fastened. Then they actually opened our stable-doors, and turned our
honest horses out, and put their own rogues in the place of them. At
this my breath was quite taken away; for we think so much of our horses.
By this time I could see our troopers, waiting in the shadow of the
house, round the corner from where the Doones were, and expecting the
order to fire. But Jeremy Stickles very wisely kept them in readiness,
until the enemy should advance upon them.

'Two of you lazy fellows go,' it was the deep voice of Carver Doone,
'and make us a light, to cut their throats by. Only one thing, once
again. If any man touches Lorna, I will stab him where he stands. She
belongs to me. There are two other young damsels here, whom you may take
away if you please. And the mother, I hear, is still comely. Now for our
rights. We have borne too long the insolence of these yokels. Kill every
man, and every child, and burn the cursed place down.'

As he spoke thus blasphemously, I set my gun against his breast; and
by the light buckled from his belt, I saw the little 'sight' of brass
gleaming alike upon either side, and the sleek round barrel glimmering.
The aim was sure as death itself. If I only drew the trigger (which
went very lighily) Carver Doone would breathe no more. And yet--will you
believe me?--I could not pull the trigger. Would to God that I had done
so!

For I never had taken human life, neither done bodily harm to man;
beyond the little bruises, and the trifling aches and pains, which
follow a good and honest bout in the wrestling ring. Therefore I
dropped my carbine, and grasped again my club, which seemed a more
straight-forward implement.

Presently two young men came towards me, bearing brands of resined hemp,
kindled from Carver's lamp. The foremost of them set his torch to the
rick within a yard of me, and smoke concealing me from him. I struck
him with a back-handed blow on the elbow, as he bent it; and I heard the
bone of his arm break, as clearly as ever I heard a twig snap. With a
roar of pain he fell on the ground, and his torch dropped there, and
singed him. The other man stood amazed at this, not having yet gained
sight of me; till I caught his firebrand from his hand, and struck it
into his countenance. With that he leaped at me; but I caught him, in a
manner learned from early wrestling, and snapped his collar-bone, as I
laid him upon the top of his comrade.

This little success so encouraged me, that I was half inclined to
advance, and challenge Carver Doone to meet me; but I bore in mind that
he would be apt to shoot me without ceremony; and what is the utmost of
human strength against the power of powder? Moreover, I remembered my
promise to sweet Lorna; and who would be left to defend her, if the
rogues got rid of me?

While I was hesitating thus (for I always continue to hesitate, except
in actual conflict), a blaze of fire lit up the house, and brown smoke
hung around it. Six of our men had let go at the Doones, by Jeremy
Stickles' order, as the villains came swaggering down in the moonlight
ready for rape or murder. Two of them fell, and the rest hung back, to
think at their leisure what this was. They were not used to this sort of
thing: it was neither just nor courteous.

Being unable any longer to contain myself, as I thought of Lorna's
excitement at all this noise of firing, I came across the yard,
expecting whether they would shoot at me. However, no one shot at me;
and I went up to Carver Doone, whom I knew by his size in the moonlight,
and I took him by the beard, and said, 'Do you call yourself a man?'

For a moment he was so astonished that he could not answer. None had
ever dared, I suppose, to look at him in that way; and he saw that he
had met his equal, or perhaps his master. And then he tried a pistol at
me, but I was too quick for him.

'Now, Carver Doone, take warning,' I said to him, very soberly; 'you
have shown yourself a fool by your contempt of me. I may not be your
match in craft; but I am in manhood. You are a despicable villain. Lie
low in your native muck.'

And with that word, I laid him flat upon his back in our straw-yard, by
a trick of the inner heel, which he could not have resisted (though his
strength had been twice as great as mine), unless he were a wrestler.
Seeing him down the others ran, though one of them made a shot at me,
and some of them got their horses, before our men came up; and some went
away without them. And among these last was Captain Carver who arose,
while I was feeling myself (for I had a little wound), and strode away
with a train of curses enough to poison the light of the moon.

We gained six very good horses, by this attempted rapine, as well as
two young prisoners, whom I had smitten by the clover-rick. And two
dead Doones were left behind, whom (as we buried them in the churchyard,
without any service over them), I for my part was most thankful that
I had not killed. For to have the life of a fellow-man laid upon one's
conscience--deserved he his death, or deserved it not--is to my sense of
right and wrong the heaviest of all burdens; and the one that wears most
deeply inwards, with the dwelling of the mind on this view and on that
of it.

I was inclined to pursue the enemy and try to capture more of them; but
Jeremy Stickles would not allow it, for he said that all the advantage
would be upon their side, if we went hurrying after them, with only the
moon to guide us. And who could tell but what there might be another
band of them, ready to fall upon the house, and burn it, and seize the
women, if we left them unprotected? When he put the case thus, I was
glad enough to abide by his decision. And one thing was quite certain,
that the Doones had never before received so rude a shock, and so
violent a blow to their supremacy, since first they had built up their
power, and become the Lords of Exmoor. I knew that Carver Doone would
gnash those mighty teeth of his, and curse the men around him, for
the blunder (which was in truth his own) of over-confidence and
carelessness. And at the same time, all the rest would feel that such a
thing had never happened, while old Sir Ensor was alive; and that it was
caused by nothing short of gross mismanagement.

I scarcely know who made the greatest fuss about my little wound,
mother, or Annie, or Lorna. I was heartily ashamed to be so treated like
a milksop; but most unluckily it had been impossible to hide it. For the
ball had cut along my temple, just above the eyebrow; and being fired so
near at hand, the powder too had scarred me. Therefore it seemed a great
deal worse than it really was; and the sponging, and the plastering,
and the sobbing, and the moaning, made me quite ashamed to look Master
Stickles in the face.

However, at last I persuaded them that I had no intention of giving up
the ghost that night; and then they all fell to, and thanked God with an
emphasis quite unknown in church. And hereupon Master Stickles said, in
his free and easy manner (for no one courted his observation), that I
was the luckiest of all mortals in having a mother, and a sister, and
a sweetheart, to make much of me. For his part, he said, he was just as
well off in not having any to care for him. For now he might go and get
shot, or stabbed, or knocked on the head, at his pleasure, without any
one being offended. I made bold, upon this, to ask him what was become
of his wife; for I had heard him speak of having one. He said that he
neither knew nor cared; and perhaps I should be like him some day.
That Lorna should hear such sentiments was very grievous to me. But she
looked at me with a smile, which proved her contempt for all such
ideas; and lest anything still more unfit might be said, I dismissed the
question.

But Master Stickles told me afterwards, when there was no one with us,
to have no faith in any woman, whatever she might seem to be. For he
assured me that now he possessed very large experience, for so small
a matter; being thoroughly acquainted with women of every class, from
ladies of the highest blood, to Bonarobas, and peasants' wives: and that
they all might be divided into three heads and no more; that is to
say as follows. First, the very hot and passionate, who were only
contemptible; second, the cold and indifferent, who were simply odious;
and third, the mixture of the other two, who had the bad qualities of
both. As for reason, none of them had it; it was like a sealed book to
them, which if they ever tried to open, they began at the back of the
cover.

Now I did not like to hear such things; and to me they appeared to be
insolent, as well as narrow-minded. For if you came to that, why might
not men, as well as women, be divided into the same three classes,
and be pronounced upon by women, as beings even more devoid than their
gentle judges of reason? Moreover, I knew, both from my own sense, and
from the greatest of all great poets, that there are, and always have
been, plenty of women, good, and gentle, warm-hearted, loving, and
lovable; very keen, moreover, at seeing the right, be it by reason, or
otherwise. And upon the whole, I prefer them much to the people of my
own sex, as goodness of heart is more important than to show good reason
for having it. And so I said to Jeremy,--

'You have been ill-treated, perhaps, Master Stickles, by some woman or
other?'

'Ah, that have I,' he replied with an oath; 'and the last on earth who
should serve me so, the woman who was my wife. A woman whom I never
struck, never wronged in any way, never even let her know that I like
another better. And yet when I was at Berwick last, with the regiment
on guard there against those vile moss-troopers, what does that woman
do but fly in the face of all authority, and of my especial business, by
running away herself with the biggest of all moss-troopers? Not that I
cared a groat about her; and I wish the fool well rid of her: but the
insolence of the thing was such that everybody laughed at me; and back
I went to London, losing a far better and safer job than this; and all
through her. Come, let's have another onion.'

Master Stickles's view of the matter was so entirely unromantic, that I
scarcely wondered at Mistress Stickles for having run away from him to
an adventurous moss-trooper. For nine women out of ten must have some
kind of romance or other, to make their lives endurable; and when their
love has lost this attractive element, this soft dew-fog (if such
it be), the love itself is apt to languish; unless its bloom be well
replaced by the budding hopes of children. Now Master Stickles neither
had, nor wished to have, any children.

Without waiting for any warrant, only saying something about 'captus in
flagrante delicto,'--if that be the way to spell it--Stickles sent our
prisoners off, bound and looking miserable, to the jail at Taunton. I
was desirous to let them go free, if they would promise amendment; but
although I had taken them, and surely therefore had every right to let
them go again, Master Stickles said, 'Not so.' He assured me that it was
a matter of public polity; and of course, not knowing what he meant,
I could not contradict him; but thought that surely my private rights
ought to be respected. For if I throw a man in wrestling, I expect to
get his stakes; and if I take a man prisoner--why, he ought, in common
justice, to belong to me, and I have a good right to let him go, if I
think proper to do so. However, Master Stickles said that I was quite
benighted, and knew nothing of the Constitution; which was the very
thing I knew, beyond any man in our parish!

Nevertheless, it was not for me to contradict a commissioner; and
therefore I let my prisoners go, and wished them a happy deliverance.
Stickles replied, with a merry grin, that if ever they got it, it would
be a jail deliverance, and the bliss of dancing; and he laid his hand to
his throat in a manner which seemed to me most uncourteous. However, his
foresight proved too correct; for both those poor fellows were executed,
soon after the next assizes. Lorna had done her very best to earn
another chance for them; even going down on her knees to that common
Jeremy, and pleading with great tears for them. However, although much
moved by her, he vowed that he durst do nothing else. To set them free
was more than his own life was worth; for all the country knew, by this
time, that two captive Doones were roped to the cider-press at Plover's
Barrows. Annie bound the broken arm of the one whom I had knocked down
with the club, and I myself supported it; and then she washed and
rubbed with lard the face of the other poor fellow, which the torch had
injured; and I fetched back his collar-bone to the best of my ability.
For before any surgeon could arrive, they were off with a well-armed
escort. That day we were reinforced so strongly from the stations along
the coast, even as far as Minehead, that we not only feared no further
attack, but even talked of assaulting Glen Doone, without waiting
for the train-bands. However, I thought that it would be mean to take
advantage of the enemy in the thick of the floods and confusion; and
several of the others thought so too, and did not like fighting in
water. Therefore it was resolved to wait and keep a watch upon the
valley, and let the floods go down again.



CHAPTER L

A MERRY MEETING A SAD ONE

Now the business I had most at heart (as every one knows by this time)
was to marry Lorna as soon as might be, if she had no objection, and
then to work the farm so well, as to nourish all our family. And herein
I saw no difficulty; for Annie would soon be off our hands, and somebody
might come and take a fancy to little Lizzie (who was growing up very
nicely now, though not so fine as Annie); moreover, we were almost sure
to have great store of hay and corn after so much snow, if there be any
truth in the old saying,--

"A foot deep of rain Will kill hay and grain; But three feet of snow
Will make them come mo'."

And although it was too true that we had lost a many cattle, yet even so
we had not lost money; for the few remaining fetched such prices as
were never known before. And though we grumbled with all our hearts,
and really believed, at one time, that starvation was upon us, I doubt
whether, on the whole, we were not the fatter, and the richer, and the
wiser for that winter. And I might have said the happier, except for the
sorrow which we felt at the failures among our neighbours. The Snowes
lost every sheep they had, and nine out of ten horned cattle; and poor
Jasper Kebby would have been forced to throw up the lease of his farm,
and perhaps to go to prison, but for the help we gave him.

However, my dear mother would have it that Lorna was too young, as yet,
to think of being married: and indeed I myself was compelled to admit
that her form was becoming more perfect and lovely; though I had not
thought it possible. And another difficulty was, that as we had all
been Protestants from the time of Queen Elizabeth, the maiden must be
converted first, and taught to hate all Papists. Now Lorna had not the
smallest idea of ever being converted. She said that she loved me truly,
but wanted not to convert me; and if I loved her equally, why should I
wish to convert her? With this I was tolerably content, not seeing so
very much difference between a creed and a credo, and believing God to
be our Father, in Latin as well as English. Moreover, my darling knew
but little of the Popish ways--whether excellent or otherwise--inasmuch
as the Doones, though they stole their houses, or at least the joiner's
work, had never been tempted enough by the devil to steal either church
or chapel.

Lorna came to our little church, when Parson Bowden reappeared after the
snow was over; and she said that all was very nice, and very like what
she had seen in the time of her Aunt Sabina, when they went far away to
the little chapel, with a shilling in their gloves. It made the tears
come into her eyes, by the force of memory, when Parson Bowden did the
things, not so gracefully nor so well, yet with pleasant imitation of
her old Priest's sacred rites.

'He is a worthy man,' she said, being used to talk in the service time,
and my mother was obliged to cough: 'I like him very much indeed: but I
wish he would let me put his things the right way on his shoulders.'

Everybody in our parish, who could walk at all, or hire a boy and a
wheelbarrow, ay, and half the folk from Countisbury, Brendon, and even
Lynmouth, was and were to be found that Sunday, in our little church
of Oare. People who would not come anigh us, when the Doones were
threatening with carbine and with fire-brand, flocked in their very best
clothes, to see a lady Doone go to church. Now all this came of that
vile John Fry; I knew it as well as possible; his tongue was worse than
the clacker of a charity-school bell, or the ladle in the frying-pan,
when the bees are swarming.

However, Lorna was not troubled; partly because of her natural dignity
and gentleness; partly because she never dreamed that the people were
come to look at her. But when we came to the Psalms of the day, with
some vague sense of being stared at more than ought to be, she dropped
the heavy black lace fringing of the velvet hat she wore, and concealed
from the congregation all except her bright red lips, and the oval
snowdrift of her chin. I touched her hand, and she pressed mine; and we
felt that we were close together, and God saw no harm in it.

As for Parson Bowden (as worthy a man as ever lived, and one who could
shoot flying), he scarcely knew what he was doing, without the clerk to
help him. He had borne it very well indeed, when I returned from London;
but to see a live Doone in his church, and a lady Doone, and a lovely
Doone, moreover one engaged to me, upon whom he almost looked as the
Squire of his parish (although not rightly an Armiger), and to feel that
this lovely Doone was a Papist, and therefore of higher religion--as all
our parsons think--and that she knew exactly how he ought to do all
the service, of which he himself knew little; I wish to express my firm
belief that all these things together turned Parson Bowden's head a
little, and made him look to me for orders.

My mother, the very best of women, was (as I could well perceive) a
little annoyed and vexed with things. For this particular occasion,
she had procured from Dulverton, by special message to Ruth Huckaback
(whereof more anon), a head-dress with a feather never seen before upon
Exmoor, to the best of every one's knowledge. It came from a bird
called a flaming something--a flaming oh, or a flaming ah, I will not be
positive--but I can assure you that it did flame; and dear mother had no
other thought, but that all the congregation would neither see nor think
of any other mortal thing, or immortal even, to the very end of the
sermon.

Herein she was so disappointed, that no sooner did she get home, but
upstairs she went at speed, not even stopping at the mirror in our
little parlour, and flung the whole thing into a cupboard, as I knew by
the bang of the door, having eased the lock for her lately. Lorna saw
there was something wrong; and she looked at Annie and Lizzie (as more
likely to understand it) with her former timid glance; which I knew so
well, and which had first enslaved me.

'I know not what ails mother,' said Annie, who looked very beautiful,
with lilac lute-string ribbons, which I saw the Snowe girls envying;
'but she has not attended to one of the prayers, nor said "Amen," all
the morning. Never fear, darling Lorna, it is nothing about you. It is
something about our John, I am sure; for she never worries herself very
much about anybody but him.' And here Annie made a look at me, such as I
had had five hundred of.

'You keep your opinions to yourself,' I replied; because I knew the
dear, and her little bits of jealousy; 'it happens that you are quite
wrong, this time. Lorna, come with me, my darling.'

'Oh yes, Lorna; go with him,' cried Lizzie, dropping her lip, in a way
which you must see to know its meaning; 'John wants nobody now but you;
and none can find fault with his taste, dear.'

'You little fool, I should think not,' I answered, very rudely; for,
betwixt the lot of them, my Lorna's eyelashes were quivering; 'now,
dearest angel, come with me; and snap your hands at the whole of them.'

My angel did come, with a sigh, and then with a smile, when we were
alone; but without any unangelic attempt at snapping her sweet white
fingers.

These little things are enough to show that while every one so admired
Lorna, and so kindly took to her, still there would, just now and then,
be petty and paltry flashes of jealousy concerning her; and perhaps
it could not be otherwise among so many women. However, we were always
doubly kind to her afterwards; and although her mind was so sensitive
and quick that she must have suffered, she never allowed us to perceive
it, nor lowered herself by resenting it.

Possibly I may have mentioned that little Ruth Huckaback had been asked,
and had even promised to spend her Christmas with us; and this was the
more desirable, because she had left us through some offence, or sorrow,
about things said of her. Now my dear mother, being the kindest and
best-hearted of all women, could not bear that poor dear Ruth (who would
some day have such a fortune), should be entirely lost to us. 'It is our
duty, my dear children,' she said more than once about it, 'to forgive
and forget, as freely as we hope to have it done to us. If dear little
Ruth has not behaved quite as we might have expected, great allowance
should be made for a girl with so much money. Designing people get hold
of her, and flatter her, and coax her, to obtain a base influence over
her; so that when she falls among simple folk, who speak the honest
truth of her, no wonder the poor child is vexed, and gives herself airs,
and so on. Ruth can be very useful to us in a number of little ways; and
I consider it quite a duty to pardon her freak of petulance.'

Now one of the little ways in which Ruth had been very useful, was the
purchase of the scarlet feathers of the flaming bird; and now that
the house was quite safe from attack, and the mark on my forehead was
healing, I was begged, over and over again, to go and see Ruth, and make
all things straight, and pay for the gorgeous plumage. This last I was
very desirous to do, that I might know the price of it, having made
a small bet on the subject with Annie; and having held counsel with
myself, whether or not it were possible to get something of the kind for
Lorna, of still more distinguished appearance. Of course she could not
wear scarlet as yet, even if I had wished it; but I believed that people
of fashion often wore purple for mourning; purple too was the royal
colour, and Lorna was by right a queen; therefore I was quite resolved
to ransack Uncle Reuben's stores, in search of some bright purple bird,
if nature had kindly provided one.

All this, however, I kept to myself, intending to trust Ruth Huckaback,
and no one else in the matter. And so, one beautiful spring morning,
when all the earth was kissed with scent, and all the air caressed with
song, up the lane I stoutly rode, well armed, and well provided.

Now though it is part of my life to heed, it is no part of my tale to
tell, how the wheat was coming on. I reckon that you, who read this
story, after I am dead and gone (and before that none shall read it),
will say, 'Tush! What is his wheat to us? We are not wheat: we are human
beings: and all we care for is human doings.' This may be very good
argument, and in the main, I believe that it is so. Nevertheless, if a
man is to tell only what he thought and did, and not what came around
him, he must not mention his own clothes, which his father and mother
bought for him. And more than my own clothes to me, ay, and as much as
my own skin, are the works of nature round about, whereof a man is the
smallest.

And now I will tell you, although most likely only to be laughed at,
because I cannot put it in the style of Mr. Dryden--whom to compare to
Shakespeare! but if once I begin upon that, you will never hear the last
of me--nevertheless, I will tell you this; not wishing to be rude, but
only just because I know it; the more a man can fling his arms (so
to say) round Nature's neck, the more he can upon her bosom, like an
infant, lie and suck,--the more that man shall earn the trust and love
of all his fellow men.

In this matter is no jealousy (when the man is dead); because thereafter
all others know how much of the milk be had; and he can suck no longer;
and they value him accordingly, for the nourishment he is to them. Even
as when we keep a roaster of the sucking-pigs, we choose, and praise at
table most, the favourite of its mother. Fifty times have I seen this,
and smiled, and praised our people's taste, and offered them more of the
vitals.

Now here am I upon Shakespeare (who died, of his own fruition, at the
age of fifty-two, yet lived more than fifty thousand men, within his
little span of life), when all the while I ought to be riding as hard as
I can to Dulverton. But, to tell the truth, I could not ride hard, being
held at every turn, and often without any turn at all, by the beauty
of things around me. These things grow upon a man if once he stops to
notice them.

It wanted yet two hours to noon, when I came to Master Huckaback's door,
and struck the panels smartly. Knowing nothing of their manners, only
that people in a town could not be expected to entertain (as we do in
farm-houses), having, moreover, keen expectation of Master Huckaback's
avarice, I had brought some stuff to eat, made by Annie, and packed by
Lorna, and requiring no thinking about it.

Ruth herself came and let me in, blushing very heartily; for which
colour I praised her health, and my praises heightened it. That little
thing had lovely eyes, and could be trusted thoroughly. I do like an
obstinate little woman, when she is sure that she is right. And indeed
if love had never sped me straight to the heart of Lorna (compared to
whom, Ruth was no more than the thief is to the candle), who knows but
what I might have yielded to the law of nature, that thorough trimmer of
balances, and verified the proverb that the giant loves the dwarf?

'I take the privilege, Mistress Ruth, of saluting you according to
kinship, and the ordering of the Canons.' And therewith I bussed her
well, and put my arm around her waist, being so terribly restricted in
the matter of Lorna, and knowing the use of practice. Not that I had any
warmth--all that was darling Lorna's--only out of pure gallantry, and my
knowledge of London fashions. Ruth blushed to such a pitch at this, and
looked up at me with such a gleam; as if I must have my own way; that
all my love of kissing sunk, and I felt that I was wronging her. Only
my mother had told me, when the girls were out of the way, to do all I
could to please darling Ruth, and I had gone about it accordingly.

Now Ruth as yet had never heard a word about dear Lorna; and when she
led me into the kitchen (where everything looked beautiful), and told me
not to mind, for a moment, about the scrubbing of my boots, because she
would only be too glad to clean it all up after me, and told me how glad
she was to see me, blushing more at every word, and recalling some of
them, and stooping down for pots and pans, when I looked at her too
ruddily--all these things came upon me so, without any legal notice,
that I could only look at Ruth, and think how very good she was, and how
bright her handles were; and wonder if I had wronged her. Once or twice,
I began--this I say upon my honour--to endeavour to explain exactly, how
we were at Plover's Barrows; how we all had been bound to fight, and had
defeated the enemy, keeping their queen amongst us. But Ruth would
make some great mistake between Lorna and Gwenny Carfax, and gave me no
chance to set her aright, and cared about nothing much, except some news
of Sally Snowe.

What could I do with this little thing? All my sense of modesty, and
value for my dinner, were against my over-pressing all the graceful
hints I had given about Lorna. Ruth was just a girl of that sort, who
will not believe one word, except from her own seeing; not so much
from any doubt, as from the practice of using eyes which have been in
business.

I asked Cousin Ruth (as we used to call her, though the cousinship was
distant) what was become of Uncle Ben, and how it was that we never
heard anything of or from him now. She replied that she hardly knew
what to make of her grandfather's manner of carrying on, for the last
half-year or more. He was apt to leave his home, she said, at any hour
of the day or night; going none knew whither, and returning no one
might say when. And his dress, in her opinion, was enough to frighten
a hodman, of a scavenger of the roads, instead of the decent suit
of kersey, or of Sabbath doeskins, such as had won the respect and
reverence of his fellow-townsmen. But the worst of all things was, as
she confessed with tears in her eyes, that the poor old gentleman had
something weighing heavily on his mind.

'It will shorten his days, Cousin Ridd,' she said, for she never would
call me Cousin John; 'he has no enjoyment of anything that he eats or
drinks, nor even in counting his money, as he used to do all Sunday;
indeed no pleasure in anything, unless it be smoking his pipe, and
thinking and staring at bits of brown stone, which he pulls, every now
and then, out of his pockets. And the business he used to take such
pride in is now left almost entirely to the foreman, and to me.'

'And what will become of you, dear Ruth, if anything happens to the old
man?'

'I am sure I know not,' she answered simply; 'and I cannot bear to think
of it. It must depend, I suppose, upon dear grandfather's pleasure about
me.'

'It must rather depend,' said I, though having no business to say it,
'upon your own good pleasure, Ruth; for all the world will pay court to
you.'

'That is the very thing which I never could endure. I have begged dear
grandfather to leave no chance of that. When he has threatened me with
poverty, as he does sometimes, I have always met him truly, with the
answer that I feared one thing a great deal worse than poverty; namely,
to be an heiress. But I cannot make him believe it. Only think how
strange, Cousin Ridd, I cannot make him believe it.'

'It is not strange at all,' I answered; 'considering how he values
money. Neither would any one else believe you, except by looking into
your true, and very pretty eyes, dear.'

Now I beg that no one will suspect for a single moment, either that I
did not mean exactly what I said, or meant a single atom more, or would
not have said the same, if Lorna had been standing by. What I had always
liked in Ruth, was the calm, straightforward gaze, and beauty of her
large brown eyes. Indeed I had spoken of them to Lorna, as the only ones
to be compared (though not for more than a moment) to her own, for truth
and light, but never for depth and softness. But now the little maiden
dropped them, and turned away, without reply.

'I will go and see to my horse,' I said; 'the boy that has taken him
seemed surprised at his having no horns on his forehead. Perhaps he will
lead him into the shop, and feed him upon broadcloth.'

'Oh, he is such a stupid boy,' Ruth answered with great sympathy: 'how
quick of you to observe that now: and you call yourself "Slow John
Ridd!" I never did see such a stupid boy: sometimes he spoils my temper.
But you must be back in half an hour, at the latest, Cousin Ridd. You
see I remember what you are; when once you get among horses, or cows, or
things of that sort.'

'Things of that sort! Well done, Ruth! One would think you were quite a
Cockney.'

Uncle Reuben did not come home to his dinner; and his granddaughter said
she had strictest orders never to expect him. Therefore we had none to
dine with us, except the foreman of the shop, a worthy man, named
Thomas Cockram, fifty years of age or so. He seemed to me to have strong
intentions of his own about little Ruth, and on that account to regard
me with a wholly undue malevolence. And perhaps, in order to justify
him, I may have been more attentive to her than otherwise need have
been; at any rate, Ruth and I were pleasant; and he the very opposite.

'My dear Cousin Ruth,' I said, on purpose to vex Master Cockram, because
he eyed us so heavily, and squinted to unluckily, 'we have long been
looking for you at our Plover's Barrows farm. You remember how you used
to love hunting for eggs in the morning, and hiding up in the tallat
with Lizzie, for me to seek you among the hay, when the sun was down.
Ah, Master Cockram, those are the things young people find
their pleasure in, not in selling a yard of serge, and giving
twopence-halfpenny change, and writing "settled" at the bottom, with a
pencil that has blacked their teeth. Now, Master Cockram, you ought to
come as far as our good farm, at once, and eat two new-laid eggs for
breakfast, and be made to look quite young again. Our good Annie would
cook for you; and you should have the hot new milk and the pope's eye
from the mutton; and every foot of you would become a yard in about a
fortnight.' And hereupon, I spread my chest, to show him an example.
Ruth could not keep her countenance: but I saw that she thought it wrong
of me; and would scold me, if ever I gave her the chance of taking those
little liberties. However, he deserved it all, according to my young
ideas, for his great impertinence in aiming at my cousin.

But what I said was far less grievous to a man of honest mind than
little Ruth's own behaviour. I could hardly have believed that so
thoroughly true a girl, and one so proud and upright, could have got rid
of any man so cleverly as she got rid of Master Thomas Cockram. She gave
him not even a glass of wine, but commended to his notice, with a sweet
and thoughtful gravity, some invoice which must be corrected, before her
dear grandfather should return; and to amend which three great ledgers
must be searched from first to last. Thomas Cockram winked at me, with
the worst of his two wrong eyes; as much as to say, 'I understand it;
but I cannot help myself. Only you look out, if ever'--and before he had
finished winking, the door was shut behind him. Then Ruth said to me in
the simplest manner, 'You have ridden far today, Cousin Ridd; and have
far to ride to get home again. What will dear Aunt Ridd say, if we send
you away without nourishment? All the keys are in my keeping, and
dear grandfather has the finest wine, not to be matched in the west of
England, as I have heard good judges say; though I know not wine from
cider. Do you like the wine of Oporto, or the wine of Xeres?'

'I know not one from the other, fair cousin, except by the colour,' I
answered: 'but the sound of Oporto is nobler, and richer. Suppose we try
wine of Oporto.'

The good little creature went and fetched a black bottle of an ancient
cast, covered with dust and cobwebs. These I was anxious to shake aside;
and indeed I thought that the wine would be better for being roused up a
little. Ruth, however, would not hear a single word to that purport;
and seeing that she knew more about it, I left her to manage it. And the
result was very fine indeed, to wit, a sparkling rosy liquor, dancing
with little flakes of light, and scented like new violets. With this I
was so pleased and gay, and Ruth so glad to see me gay, that we quite
forgot how the time went on; and though my fair cousin would not be
persuaded to take a second glass herself, she kept on filling mine so
fast that it was never empty, though I did my best to keep it so.

'What is a little drop like this to a man of your size and strength,
Cousin Ridd?' she said, with her cheeks just brushed with rose, which
made her look very beautiful; 'I have heard you say that your head is so
thick--or rather so clear, you ought to say--that no liquor ever moves
it.'

'That is right enough,' I answered; 'what a witch you must be, dear
Ruth, to have remembered that now!'

'Oh, I remember every word I have ever heard you say, Cousin Ridd;
because your voice is so deep, you know, and you talk so little. Now
it is useless to say "no". These bottles hold almost nothing. Dear
grandfather will not come home, I fear, until long after you are gone.
What will Aunt Ridd think of me, I am sure? You are all so dreadfully
hospitable. Now not another "no," Cousin Ridd. We must have another
bottle.'

'Well, must is must,' I answered, with a certain resignation. 'I cannot
bear bad manners, dear; and how old are you next birthday?'

'Eighteen, dear John;' said Ruth, coming over with the empty bottle;
and I was pleased at her calling me 'John,' and had a great mind to kiss
her. However, I thought of my Lorna suddenly, and of the anger I should
feel if a man went on with her so; therefore I lay back in my chair, to
wait for the other bottle.

'Do you remember how we danced that night?' I asked, while she was
opening it; 'and how you were afraid of me first, because I looked so
tall, dear?'

'Yes, and so very broad, Cousin Ridd. I thought that you would eat me.
But I have come to know, since then, how very kind and good you are.'

'And will you come and dance again, at my wedding, Cousin Ruth?'

She nearly let the bottle fall, the last of which she was sloping
carefully into a vessel of bright glass; and then she raised her hand
again, and finished it judiciously. And after that, she took the window,
to see that all her work was clear; and then she poured me out a glass
and said, with very pale cheeks, but else no sign of meaning about her,
'What did you ask me, Cousin Ridd?'

'Nothing of any importance, Ruth; only we are so fond of you. I mean to
be married as soon as I can. Will you come and help us?'

'To be sure I will, Cousin Ridd--unless, unless, dear grandfather cannot
spare me from the business.' She went away; and her breast was heaving,
like a rick of under-carried hay. And she stood at the window long,
trying to make yawns of sighs.

For my part, I knew not what to do. And yet I could think about it, as
I never could with Lorna; with whom I was always in a whirl, from the
power of my love. So I thought some time about it; and perceived that it
was the manliest way, just to tell her everything; except that I feared
she liked me. But it seemed to me unaccountable that she did not even
ask the name of my intended wife. Perhaps she thought that it must be
Sally; or perhaps she feared to trust her voice.

'Come and sit by me, dear Ruth; and listen to a long, long story, how
things have come about with me.'

'No, thank you, Cousin Ridd,' she answered; 'at least I mean that I
shall be happy--that I shall be ready to hear you--to listen to you, I
mean of course. But I would rather stay where I am, and have the air--or
rather be able to watch for dear grandfather coming home. He is so kind
and good to me. What should I do without him?'

Then I told her how, for years and years, I had been attached to Lorna,
and all the dangers and difficulties which had so long beset us, and
how I hoped that these were passing, and no other might come between
us, except on the score of religion; upon which point I trusted soon
to overcome my mother's objections. And then I told her how poor, and
helpless, and alone in the world, my Lorna was; and how sad all her
youth had been, until I brought her away at last. And many other little
things I mentioned, which there is no need for me again to dwell upon.
Ruth heard it all without a word, and without once looking at me; and
only by her attitude could I guess that she was weeping. Then when all
my tale was told, she asked in a low and gentle voice, but still without
showing her face to me,--

'And does she love you, Cousin Ridd? Does she say that she loves you
with--with all her heart?'

'Certainly, she does,' I answered. 'Do you think it impossible for one
like her to do so?'

She said no more; but crossed the room before I had time to look at her,
and came behind my chair, and kissed me gently on the forehead.

'I hope you may be very happy, with--I mean in your new life,' she
whispered very softly; 'as happy as you deserve to be, and as happy as
you can make others be. Now how I have been neglecting you! I am quite
ashamed of myself for thinking only of grandfather: and it makes me so
low-spirited. You have told me a very nice romance, and I have never
even helped you to a glass of wine. Here, pour it for yourself, dear
cousin; I shall be back again directly.'

With that she was out of the door in a moment; and when she came back,
you would not have thought that a tear had dimmed those large bright
eyes, or wandered down those pale clear cheeks. Only her hands were cold
and trembling: and she made me help myself.

Uncle Reuben did not appear at all; and Ruth, who had promised to come
and see us, and stay for a fortnight at our house (if her grandfather
could spare her), now discovered, before I left, that she must not think
of doing so. Perhaps she was right in deciding thus; at any rate it had
now become improper for me to press her. And yet I now desired tenfold
that she should consent to come, thinking that Lorna herself would work
the speediest cure of her passing whim.

For such, I tried to persuade myself, was the nature of Ruth's regard
for me: and upon looking back I could not charge myself with any
misconduct towards the little maiden. I had never sought her company, I
had never trifled with her (at least until that very day), and being so
engrossed with my own love, I had scarcely ever thought of her. And the
maiden would never have thought of me, except as a clumsy yokel, but for
my mother's and sister's meddling, and their wily suggestions. I believe
they had told the little soul that I was deeply in love with her;
although they both stoutly denied it. But who can place trust in a
woman's word, when it comes to a question of match-making?



CHAPTER LI

A VISIT FROM THE COUNSELLOR

Now while I was riding home that evening, with a tender conscience
about Ruth, although not a wounded one, I guessed but little that all
my thoughts were needed much for my own affairs. So however it proved
to be; for as I came in, soon after dark, my sister Eliza met me at
the corner of the cheese-room, and she said, 'Don't go in there, John,'
pointing to mother's room; 'until I have had a talk with you.'

'In the name of Moses,' I inquired, having picked up that phrase at
Dulverton; 'what are you at about me now? There is no peace for a quiet
fellow.'

'It is nothing we are at,' she answered; 'neither may you make light of
it. It is something very important about Mistress Lorna Doone.'

'Let us have it at once,' I cried; 'I can bear anything about Lorna,
except that she does not care for me.'

'It has nothing to do with that, John. And I am quite sure that
you never need fear anything of that sort. She perfectly wearies me
sometimes, although her voice is so soft and sweet, about your endless
perfections.'

'Bless her little heart!' I said; 'the subject is inexhaustible.'

'No doubt,' replied Lizzie, in the driest manner; 'especially to your
sisters. However this is no time to joke. I fear you will get the worst
of it, John. Do you know a man of about Gwenny's shape, nearly as broad
as he is long, but about six times the size of Gwenny, and with a
length of snow-white hair, and a thickness also; as the copses were last
winter. He never can comb it, that is quite certain, with any comb yet
invented.'

'Then you go and offer your services. There are few things you cannot
scarify. I know the man from your description, although I have never
seen him. Now where is my Lorna?'

'Your Lorna is with Annie, having a good cry, I believe; and Annie too
glad to second her. She knows that this great man is here, and knows
that he wants to see her. But she begged to defer the interview, until
dear John's return.'

'What a nasty way you have of telling the very commonest piece of news!'
I said, on purpose to pay her out. 'What man will ever fancy you, you
unlucky little snapper? Now, no more nursery talk for me. I will go and
settle this business. You had better go and dress your dolls; if you can
give them clothes unpoisoned.' Hereupon Lizzie burst into a perfect roar
of tears; feeling that she had the worst of it. And I took her up, and
begged her pardon; although she scarcely deserved it; for she knew that
I was out of luck, and she might have spared her satire.

I was almost sure that the man who was come must be the Counsellor
himself; of whom I felt much keener fear than of his son Carver. And
knowing that his visit boded ill to me and Lorna, I went and sought
my dear; and led her with a heavy heart, from the maiden's room to
mother's, to meet our dreadful visitor.

Mother was standing by the door, making curtseys now and then, and
listening to a long harangue upon the rights of state and land, which
the Counsellor (having found that she was the owner of her property, and
knew nothing of her title to it) was encouraged to deliver it. My dear
mother stood gazing at him, spell-bound by his eloquence, and only
hoping that he would stop. He was shaking his hair upon his shoulders,
in the power of his words, and his wrath at some little thing, which he
declared to be quite illegal.

Then I ventured to show myself, in the flesh, before him; although he
feigned not to see me; but he advanced with zeal to Lorna; holding out
both hands at once.

'My darling child, my dearest niece; how wonderfully well you look!
Mistress Ridd, I give you credit. This is the country of good things. I
never would have believed our Queen could have looked so royal. Surely
of all virtues, hospitality is the finest, and the most romantic.
Dearest Lorna, kiss your uncle; it is quite a privilege.'

'Perhaps it is to you, sir,' said Lorna, who could never quite check her
sense of oddity; 'but I fear that you have smoked tobacco, which spoils
reciprocity.'

'You are right, my child. How keen your scent is! It is always so with
us. Your grandfather was noted for his olfactory powers. Ah, a great
loss, dear Mrs. Ridd, a terrible loss to this neighbourhood! As one of
our great writers says--I think it must be Milton--"We ne'er shall look
upon his like again."'

'With your good leave sir,' I broke in, 'Master Milton could never
have written so sweet and simple a line as that. It is one of the great
Shakespeare.'

'Woe is me for my neglect!' said the Counsellor, bowing airily; 'this
must be your son, Mistress Ridd, the great John, the wrestler. And one
who meddles with the Muses! Ah, since I was young, how everything is
changed, madam! Except indeed the beauty of women, which seems to me to
increase every year.' Here the old villain bowed to my mother; and she
blushed, and made another curtsey, and really did look very nice.

'Now though I have quoted the poets amiss, as your son informs me (for
which I tender my best thanks, and must amend my reading), I can hardly
be wrong in assuming that this young armiger must be the too attractive
cynosure to our poor little maiden. And for my part, she is welcome to
him. I have never been one of those who dwell upon distinctions of rank,
and birth, and such like; as if they were in the heart of nature, and
must be eternal. In early youth, I may have thought so, and been full
of that little pride. But now I have long accounted it one of the first
axioms of political economy--you are following me, Mistress Ridd?'

'Well, sir, I am doing my best; but I cannot quite keep up with you.'

'Never mind, madam; I will be slower. But your son's intelligence is so
quick--'

'I see, sir; you thought that mine must be. But no; it all comes from
his father, sir. His father was that quick and clever--'

'Ah, I can well suppose it, madam. And a credit he is to both of you.
Now, to return to our muttons--a figure which you will appreciate--I may
now be regarded, I think, as this young lady's legal guardian; although
I have not had the honour of being formally appointed such. Her father
was the eldest son of Sir Ensor Doone; and I happened to be the second
son; and as young maidens cannot be baronets, I suppose I am "Sir
Counsellor." Is it so, Mistress Ridd, according to your theory of
genealogy?'

'I am sure I don't know, sir,' my mother answered carefully; 'I know not
anything of that name, sir, except in the Gospel of Matthew: but I see
not why it should be otherwise.'

'Good, madam! I may look upon that as your sanction and approval: and
the College of Heralds shall hear of it. And in return, as Lorna's
guardian, I give my full and ready consent to her marriage with your
son, madam.'

'Oh, how good of you, sir, how kind! Well, I always did say, that the
learnedest people were, almost always, the best and kindest, and the
most simple-hearted.'

'Madam, that is a great sentiment. What a goodly couple they will be!
and if we can add him to our strength--'

'Oh no, sir, oh no!' cried mother: 'you really must not think of it. He
has always been brought up so honest--'

'Hem! that makes a difference. A decided disqualification for domestic
life among the Doones. But, surely, he might get over those prejudices,
madam?'

'Oh no, sir! he never can: he never can indeed. When he was only that
high, sir, he could not steal even an apple, when some wicked boys tried
to mislead him.'

'Ah,' replied the Counsellor, shaking his white head gravely; 'then I
greatly fear that his case is quite incurable. I have known such cases;
violent prejudice, bred entirely of education, and anti-economical
to the last degree. And when it is so, it is desperate: no man, after
imbibing ideas of that sort, can in any way be useful.'

'Oh yes, sir, John is very useful. He can do as much work as three other
men; and you should see him load a sledd, sir.'

'I was speaking, madam, of higher usefulness,--power of the brain and
heart. The main thing for us upon earth is to take a large view of
things. But while we talk of the heart, what is my niece Lorna
doing, that she does not come and thank me, for my perhaps too prompt
concession to her youthful fancies? Ah, if I had wanted thanks, I should
have been more stubborn.'

Lorna, being challenged thus, came up and looked at her uncle, with
her noble eyes fixed full upon his, which beneath his white eyebrows
glistened, like dormer windows piled with snow.

'For what am I to thank you, uncle?'

'My dear niece, I have told you. For removing the heaviest obstacle,
which to a mind so well regulated could possibly have existed, between
your dutiful self and the object of your affections.'

'Well, uncle, I should be very grateful, if I thought that you did
so from love of me; or if I did not know that you have something yet
concealed from me.'

'And my consent,' said the Counsellor, 'is the more meritorious, the
more liberal, frank, and candid, in the face of an existing fact, and a
very clearly established one; which might have appeared to weaker minds
in the light of an impediment; but to my loftier view of matrimony seems
quite a recommendation.'

'What fact do you mean, sir? Is it one that I ought to know?'

'In my opinion it is, good niece. It forms, to my mind, so fine a basis
for the invariable harmony of the matrimonial state. To be brief--as I
always endeavour to be, without becoming obscure--you two young people
(ah, what a gift is youth! one can never be too thankful for it) you
will have the rare advantage of commencing married life, with a subject
of common interest to discuss, whenever you weary of--well, say of one
another; if you can now, by any means, conceive such a possibility. And
perfect justice meted out: mutual goodwill resulting, from the sense of
reciprocity.'

'I do not understand you, sir. Why can you not say what you mean, at
once?'

'My dear child, I prolong your suspense. Curiosity is the most powerful
of all feminine instincts; and therefore the most delightful, when not
prematurely satisfied. However, if you must have my strong realities,
here they are. Your father slew dear John's father, and dear John's
father slew yours.'

Having said thus much, the Counsellor leaned back upon his chair, and
shaded his calm white-bearded eyes from the rays of our tallow candles.
He was a man who liked to look, rather than to be looked at. But Lorna
came to me for aid; and I went up to Lorna and mother looked at both of
us.

Then feeling that I must speak first (as no one would begin it), I took
my darling round the waist, and led her up to the Counsellor; while she
tried to bear it bravely; yet must lean on me, or did.

'Now, Sir Counsellor Doone,' I said, with Lorna squeezing both my hands,
I never yet knew how (considering that she was walking all the time, or
something like it); 'you know right well, Sir Counsellor, that Sir Ensor
Doone gave approval.' I cannot tell what made me think of this: but so
it came upon me.

'Approval to what, good rustic John? To the slaughter so reciprocal?'

'No, sir, not to that; even if it ever happened; which I do not believe.
But to the love betwixt me and Lorna; which your story shall not break,
without more evidence than your word. And even so, shall never break; if
Lorna thinks as I do.'

The maiden gave me a little touch, as much as to say, 'You are right,
darling: give it to him, again, like that.' However, I held my peace,
well knowing that too many words do mischief.

Then mother looked at me with wonder, being herself too amazed to speak;
and the Counsellor looked, with great wrath in his eyes, which he tried
to keep from burning.

'How say you then, John Ridd,' he cried, stretching out one hand, like
Elijah; 'is this a thing of the sort you love? Is this what you are used
to?'

'So please your worship,' I answered; 'no kind of violence can surprise
us, since first came Doones upon Exmoor. Up to that time none heard
of harm; except of taking a purse, maybe, or cutting a strange sheep's
throat. And the poor folk who did this were hanged, with some benefit of
clergy. But ever since the Doones came first, we are used to anything.'

'Thou varlet,' cried the Counsellor, with the colour of his eyes quite
changed with the sparkles of his fury; 'is this the way we are to deal
with such a low-bred clod as thou? To question the doings of our people,
and to talk of clergy! What, dream you not that we could have clergy,
and of the right sort, too, if only we cared to have them? Tush! Am I to
spend my time arguing with a plough-tail Bob?'

'If your worship will hearken to me,' I answered very modestly, not
wishing to speak harshly, with Lorna looking up at me; 'there are many
things that might be said without any kind of argument, which I would
never wish to try with one of your worship's learning. And in the first
place it seems to me that if our fathers hated one another bitterly, yet
neither won the victory, only mutual discomfiture; surely that is but
a reason why we should be wiser than they, and make it up in this
generation by goodwill and loving'--

'Oh, John, you wiser than your father!' mother broke upon me here; 'not
but what you might be as wise, when you come to be old enough.'

'Young people of the present age,' said the Counsellor severely, 'have
no right feeling of any sort, upon the simplest matter. Lorna Doone,
stand forth from contact with that heir of parricide; and state in your
own mellifluous voice, whether you regard this slaughter as a pleasant
trifle.'

'You know, without any words of mine,' she answered very softly, yet not
withdrawing from my hand, 'that although I have been seasoned well to
every kind of outrage, among my gentle relatives, I have not yet so
purely lost all sense of right and wrong as to receive what you have
said, as lightly as you declared it. You think it a happy basis for our
future concord. I do not quite think that, my uncle; neither do I quite
believe that a word of it is true. In our happy valley, nine-tenths of
what is said is false; and you were always wont to argue that true
and false are but a blind turned upon a pivot. Without any failure of
respect for your character, good uncle, I decline politely to believe a
word of what you have told me. And even if it were proved to me, all I
can say is this, if my John will have me, I am his for ever.'

This long speech was too much for her; she had overrated her strength
about it, and the sustenance of irony. So at last she fell into my arms,
which had long been waiting for her; and there she lay with no other
sound, except a gurgling in her throat.

'You old villain,' cried my mother, shaking her fist at the Counsellor,
while I could do nothing else but hold, and bend across, my darling, and
whisper to deaf ears; 'What is the good of the quality; if this is
all that comes of it? Out of the way! You know the words that make the
deadly mischief; but not the ways that heal them. Give me that bottle,
if hands you have; what is the use of Counsellors?'

I saw that dear mother was carried away; and indeed I myself was
something like it; with the pale face upon my bosom, and the heaving of
the heart, and the heat and cold all through me, as my darling breathed
or lay. Meanwhile the Counsellor stood back, and seemed a little sorry;
although of course it was not in his power to be at all ashamed of
himself.

'My sweet love, my darling child,' our mother went on to Lorna, in a way
that I shall never forget, though I live to be a hundred; 'pretty pet,
not a word of it is true, upon that old liar's oath; and if every word
were true, poor chick, you should have our John all the more for it.
You and John were made by God and meant for one another, whatever falls
between you. Little lamb, look up and speak: here is your own John and
I; and the devil take the Counsellor.'

I was amazed at mother's words, being so unlike her; while I loved her
all the more because she forgot herself so. In another moment in ran
Annie, ay and Lizzie also, knowing by some mystic sense (which I have
often noticed, but never could explain) that something was astir,
belonging to the world of women, yet foreign to the eyes of men. And now
the Counsellor, being well-born, although such a heartless miscreant,
beckoned to me to come away; which I, being smothered with women, was
only too glad to do, as soon as my own love would let go of me.

'That is the worst of them,' said the old man; when I had led him into
our kitchen, with an apology at every step, and given him hot schnapps
and water, and a cigarro of brave Tom Faggus: 'you never can say much,
sir, in the way of reasoning (however gently meant and put) but what
these women will fly out. It is wiser to put a wild bird in a cage, and
expect him to sit and look at you, and chirp without a feather rumpled,
than it is to expect a woman to answer reason reasonably.' Saying this,
he looked at his puff of smoke as if it contained more reason.

'I am sure I do not know, sir,' I answered according to a phrase which
has always been my favourite, on account of its general truth: moreover,
he was now our guest, and had right to be treated accordingly: 'I am,
as you see, not acquainted with the ways of women, except my mother and
sisters.'

'Except not even them, my son, said the Counsellor, now having finished
his glass, without much consultation about it; 'if you once understand
your mother and sisters--why you understand the lot of them.'

He made a twist in his cloud of smoke, and dashed his finger through
it, so that I could not follow his meaning, and in manners liked not to
press him.

'Now of this business, John,' he said, after getting to the bottom of
the second glass, and having a trifle or so to eat, and praising our
chimney-corner; 'taking you on the whole, you know, you are wonderfully
good people; and instead of giving me up to the soldiers, as you might
have done, you are doing your best to make me drunk.'

'Not at all, sir,' I answered; 'not at all, your worship. Let me mix
you another glass. We rarely have a great gentleman by the side of our
embers and oven. I only beg your pardon, sir, that my sister Annie (who
knows where to find all the good pans and the lard) could not wait upon
you this evening; and I fear they have done it with dripping instead,
and in a pan with the bottom burned. But old Betty quite loses her head
sometimes, by dint of over-scolding.'

'My son,' replied the Counsellor, standing across the front of the fire,
to prove his strict sobriety: 'I meant to come down upon you to-night;
but you have turned the tables upon me. Not through any skill on your
part, nor through any paltry weakness as to love (and all that stuff,
which boys and girls spin tops at, or knock dolls' noses together), but
through your simple way of taking me, as a man to be believed; combined
with the comfort of this place, and the choice tobacco and cordials. I
have not enjoyed an evening so much, God bless me if I know when!'

'Your worship,' said I, 'makes me more proud than I well know what to
do with. Of all the things that please and lead us into happy sleep
at night, the first and chiefest is to think that we have pleased a
visitor.'

'Then, John, thou hast deserved good sleep; for I am not pleased easily.
But although our family is not so high now as it hath been, I have
enough of the gentleman left to be pleased when good people try me. My
father, Sir Ensor, was better than I in this great element of birth, and
my son Carver is far worse. Aetas parentum, what is it, my boy? I hear
that you have been at a grammar-school.'

'So I have, your worship, and at a very good one; but I only got far
enough to make more tail than head of Latin.'

'Let that pass,' said the Counsellor; 'John, thou art all the wiser.'
And the old man shook his hoary locks, as if Latin had been his ruin.
I looked at him sadly, and wondered whether it might have so ruined me,
but for God's mercy in stopping it.



CHAPTER LII

THE WAY TO MAKE THE CREAM RISE

That night the reverend Counsellor, not being in such state of mind as
ought to go alone, kindly took our best old bedstead, carved in panels,
well enough, with the woman of Samaria. I set him up, both straight
and heavy, so that he need but close both eyes, and keep his mouth just
open; and in the morning he was thankful for all that he could remember.

I, for my part, scarcely knew whether he really had begun to feel
goodwill towards us, and to see that nothing else could be of any use
to him; or whether he was merely acting, so as to deceive us. And it
had struck me, several times, that he had made a great deal more of the
spirit he had taken than the quantity would warrant, with a man so wise
and solid. Neither did I quite understand a little story which Lorna
told me, how that in the night awaking, she had heard, or seemed to
hear, a sound of feeling in her room; as if there had been some
one groping carefully among the things within her drawers or
wardrobe-closet. But the noise had ceased at once, she said, when she
sat up in bed and listened; and knowing how many mice we had, she took
courage and fell asleep again.

After breakfast, the Counsellor (who looked no whit the worse for
schnapps, but even more grave and venerable) followed our Annie into the
dairy, to see how we managed the clotted cream, of which he had eaten
a basinful. And thereupon they talked a little; and Annie thought him a
fine old gentleman, and a very just one; for he had nobly condemned the
people who spoke against Tom Faggus.

'Your honour must plainly understand,' said Annie, being now alone
with him, and spreading out her light quick hands over the pans, like
butterflies, 'that they are brought in here to cool, after being set in
the basin-holes, with the wood-ash under them, which I showed you in the
back-kitchen. And they must have very little heat, not enough to simmer
even; only just to make the bubbles rise, and the scum upon the top set
thick; and after that, it clots as firm--oh, as firm as my two hands
be.'

'Have you ever heard,' asked the Counsellor, who enjoyed this talk with
Annie, 'that if you pass across the top, without breaking the surface, a
string of beads, or polished glass, or anything of that kind, the cream
will set three times as solid, and in thrice the quantity?'

'No, sir; I have never heard that,' said Annie, staring with all her
simple eyes; 'what a thing it is to read books, and grow learned! But
it is very easy to try it: I will get my coral necklace; it will not be
witchcraft, will it, sir?'

'Certainly not,' the old man replied; 'I will make the experiment
myself; and you may trust me not to be hurt, my dear. But coral will not
do, my child, neither will anything coloured. The beads must be of plain
common glass; but the brighter they are the better.'

'Then I know the very thing,' cried Annie; 'as bright as bright can be,
and without any colour in it, except in the sun or candle light. Dearest
Lorna has the very thing, a necklace of some old glass-beads, or I think
they called them jewels: she will be too glad to lend it to us. I will
go for it, in a moment.'

'My dear, it cannot be half so bright as your own pretty eyes. But
remember one thing, Annie, you must not say what it is for; or even that
I am going to use it, or anything at all about it; else the charm will
be broken. Bring it here, without a word; if you know where she keeps
it.'

'To be sure I do,' she answered; 'John used to keep it for her. But
she took it away from him last week, and she wore it when--I mean when
somebody was here; and he said it was very valuable, and spoke with
great learning about it, and called it by some particular name, which I
forget at this moment. But valuable or not, we cannot hurt it, can we,
sir, by passing it over the cream-pan?'

'Hurt it!' cried the Counsellor: 'nay, we shall do it good, my dear.
It will help to raise the cream: and you may take my word for it, young
maiden, none can do good in this world, without in turn receiving it.'
Pronouncing this great sentiment, he looked so grand and benevolent,
that Annie (as she said afterwards) could scarce forbear from kissing
him, yet feared to take the liberty. Therefore, she only ran away to
fetch my Lorna's necklace.

Now as luck would have it--whether good luck or otherwise, you must not
judge too hastily,--my darling had taken it into her head, only a day or
two before, that I was far too valuable to be trusted with her necklace.
Now that she had some idea of its price and quality, she had begun to
fear that some one, perhaps even Squire Faggus (in whom her faith was
illiberal), might form designs against my health, to win the bauble from
me. So, with many pretty coaxings, she had led me to give it up; which,
except for her own sake, I was glad enough to do, misliking a charge of
such importance.

Therefore Annie found it sparkling in the little secret hole, near the
head of Lorna's bed, which she herself had recommended for its safer
custody; and without a word to any one she brought it down, and danced
it in the air before the Counsellor, for him to admire its lustre.

'Oh, that old thing!' said the gentleman, in a tone of some contempt; 'I
remember that old thing well enough. However, for want of a better, no
doubt it will answer our purpose. Three times three, I pass it over.
Crinkleum, crankum, grass and clover! What are you feared of, you silly
child?'

'Good sir, it is perfect witchcraft! I am sure of that, because it
rhymes. Oh, what would mother say to me? Shall I ever go to heaven
again? Oh, I see the cream already!'

'To be sure you do; but you must not look, or the whole charm will be
broken, and the devil will fly away with the pan, and drown every cow
you have got in it.'

'Oh, sir, it is too horrible. How could you lead me to such a sin? Away
with thee, witch of Endor!'

For the door began to creak, and a broom appeared suddenly in the
opening, with our Betty, no doubt, behind it. But Annie, in the greatest
terror, slammed the door, and bolted it, and then turned again to the
Counsellor; yet looking at his face, had not the courage to reproach
him. For his eyes rolled like two blazing barrels, and his white shagged
brows were knit across them, and his forehead scowled in black furrows,
so that Annie said that if she ever saw the devil, she saw him then, and
no mistake. Whether the old man wished to scare her, or whether he was
trying not to laugh, is more than I can tell you.

'Now,' he said, in a deep stern whisper; 'not a word of this to a living
soul; neither must you, nor any other enter this place for three hours
at least. By that time the charm will have done its work: the pan will
be cream to the bottom; and you will bless me for a secret which will
make your fortune. Put the bauble under this pannikin; which none must
lift for a day and a night. Have no fear, my simple wench; not a breath
of harm shall come to you, if you obey my orders.'

'Oh, that I will, sir, that I will: if you will only tell me what to
do.'

'Go to your room, without so much as a single word to any one. Bolt
yourself in, and for three hours now, read the Lord's Prayer backwards.'

Poor Annie was only too glad to escape, upon these conditions; and the
Counsellor kissed her upon the forehead and told her not to make her
eyes red, because they were much too sweet and pretty. She dropped them
at this, with a sob and a curtsey, and ran away to her bedroom; but as
for reading the Lord's Prayer backwards, that was much beyond her;
and she had not done three words quite right, before the three hours
expired.

Meanwhile the Counsellor was gone. He bade our mother adieu, with so
much dignity of bearing, and such warmth of gratitude, and the high-bred
courtesy of the old school (now fast disappearing), that when he was
gone, dear mother fell back on the chair which he had used last night,
as if it would teach her the graces. And for more than an hour she made
believe not to know what there was for dinner.

'Oh, the wickedness of the world! Oh, the lies that are told of
people--or rather I mean the falsehoods--because a man is better born,
and has better manners! Why, Lorna, how is it that you never speak about
your charming uncle? Did you notice, Lizzie, how his silver hair was
waving upon his velvet collar, and how white his hands were, and every
nail like an acorn; only pink like shell-fish, or at least like shells?
And the way he bowed, and dropped his eyes, from his pure respect for
me! And then, that he would not even speak, on account of his emotion;
but pressed my hand in silence! Oh, Lizzie, you have read me beautiful
things about Sir Gallyhead, and the rest; but nothing to equal Sir
Counsellor.'

'You had better marry him, madam,' said I, coming in very sternly;
though I knew I ought not to say it: 'he can repay your adoration. He
has stolen a hundred thousand pounds.'

'John,' cried my mother, 'you are mad!' And yet she turned as pale as
death; for women are so quick at turning; and she inkled what it was.

'Of course I am, mother; mad about the marvels of Sir Galahad. He has
gone off with my Lorna's necklace. Fifty farms like ours can never make
it good to Lorna.'

Hereupon ensued grim silence. Mother looked at Lizzie's face, for she
could not look at me; and Lizzie looked at me, to know: and as for me, I
could have stamped almost on the heart of any one. It was not the value
of the necklace--I am not so low a hound as that--nor was it even the
damned folly shown by every one of us--it was the thought of Lorna's
sorrow for her ancient plaything; and even more, my fury at the breach
of hospitality.

But Lorna came up to me softly, as a woman should always come; and she
laid one hand upon my shoulder; and she only looked at me. She even
seemed to fear to look, and dropped her eyes, and sighed at me. Without
a word, I knew by that, how I must have looked like Satan; and the evil
spirit left my heart; when she had made me think of it.

'Darling John, did you want me to think that you cared for my money,
more than for me?'

I led her away from the rest of them, being desirous of explaining
things, when I saw the depth of her nature opened, like an everlasting
well, to me. But she would not let me say a word, or do anything by
ourselves, as it were: she said, 'Your duty is to your mother: this blow
is on her, and not on me.'

I saw that she was right; though how she knew it is beyond me; and I
asked her just to go in front, and bring my mother round a little. For I
must let my passion pass: it may drop its weapons quickly; but it cannot
come and go, before a man has time to think.

Then Lorna went up to my mother, who was still in the chair of elegance;
and she took her by both hands, and said,--

'Dearest mother, I shall fret so, if I see you fretting. And to fret
will kill me, mother. They have always told me so.'

Poor mother bent on Lorna's shoulder, without thought of attitude, and
laid her cheek on Lorna's breast, and sobbed till Lizzie was jealous,
and came with two pocket-handkerchiefs. As for me, my heart was lighter
(if they would only dry their eyes, and come round by dinnertime) than
it had been since the day on which Tom Faggus discovered the value of
that blessed and cursed necklace. None could say that I wanted Lorna for
her money now. And perhaps the Doones would let me have her; now that
her property was gone.

But who shall tell of Annie's grief? The poor little thing would have
staked her life upon finding the trinket, in all its beauty, lying under
the pannikin. She proudly challenged me to lift it--which I had done,
long ere that, of course--if only I would take the risk of the spell for
my incredulity. I told her not to talk of spells, until she could spell
a word backwards; and then to look into the pan where the charmed cream
should be. She would not acknowledge that the cream was the same as all
the rest was: and indeed it was not quite the same, for the points of
poor Lorna's diamonds had made a few star-rays across the rich firm
crust of yellow.

But when we raised the pannikin, and there was nothing under it, poor
Annie fell against the wall, which had been whitened lately; and her
face put all the white to scorn. My love, who was as fond of her, as if
she had known her for fifty years, hereupon ran up and caught her, and
abused all diamonds. I will dwell no more upon Annie's grief, because we
felt it all so much. But I could not help telling her, if she wanted a
witch, to seek good Mother Melldrum, a legitimate performer.

That same night Master Jeremy Stickles (of whose absence the Counsellor
must have known) came back, with all equipment ready for the grand
attack. Now the Doones knew, quite as well as we did, that this attack
was threatening; and that but for the wonderful weather it would have
been made long ago. Therefore we, or at least our people (for I was
doubtful about going), were sure to meet with a good resistance, and due
preparation.

It was very strange to hear and see, and quite impossible to account
for, that now some hundreds of country people (who feared to whisper
so much as a word against the Doones a year ago, and would sooner have
thought of attacking a church, in service time, than Glen Doone) now
sharpened their old cutlasses, and laid pitch-forks on the grindstone,
and bragged at every village cross, as if each would kill ten Doones
himself, neither care to wipe his hands afterwards. And this fierce
bravery, and tall contempt, had been growing ever since the news of the
attack upon our premises had taken good people by surprise; at least as
concerned the issue.

Jeremy Stickles laughed heartily about Annie's new manner of charming
the cream; but he looked very grave at the loss of the jewels, so soon
as he knew their value.

'My son,' he exclaimed, 'this is very heavy. It will go ill with all of
you to make good this loss, as I fear that you will have to do.'

'What!' cried I, with my blood running cold. 'We make good the loss,
Master Stickles! Every farthing we have in the world, and the labour of
our lives to boot, will never make good the tenth of it.'

'It would cut me to the heart,' he answered, laying his hand on mine,
'to hear of such a deadly blow to you and your good mother. And this
farm; how long, John, has it been in your family?'

'For at least six hundred years,' I said, with a foolish pride that was
only too like to end in groans; 'and some people say, by a Royal grant,
in the time of the great King Alfred. At any rate, a Ridd was with him
throughout all his hiding-time. We have always held by the King and
crown: surely none will turn us out, unless we are guilty of treason?'

'My son,' replied Jeremy very gently, so that I could love him for
it, 'not a word to your good mother of this unlucky matter. Keep it to
yourself, my boy, and try to think but little of it. After all, I may be
wrong: at any rate, least said best mended.'

'But Jeremy, dear Jeremy, how can I bear to leave it so? Do you suppose
that I can sleep, and eat my food, and go about, and look at other
people, as if nothing at all had happened? And all the time have it on
my mind, that not an acre of all the land, nor even our old sheep-dog,
belongs to us, of right at all! It is more than I can do, Jeremy. Let me
talk, and know the worst of it.'

'Very well,' replied Master Stickles, seeing that both the doors were
closed; 'I thought that nothing could move you, John; or I never would
have told you. Likely enough I am quite wrong; and God send that I be
so. But what I guessed at some time back seems more than a guess, now
that you have told me about these wondrous jewels. Now will you keep, as
close as death, every word I tell you?'

'By the honour of a man, I will. Until you yourself release me.'

'That is quite enough, John. From you I want no oath; which, according
to my experience, tempts a man to lie the more, by making it more
important. I know you now too well to swear you, though I have the
power. Now, my lad, what I have to say will scare your mind in one way,
and ease it in another. I think that you have been hard pressed--I can
read you like a book, John--by something which that old villain said,
before he stole the necklace. You have tried not to dwell upon it; you
have even tried to make light of it for the sake of the women: but on
the whole it has grieved you more than even this dastard robbery.'

'It would have done so, Jeremy Stickles, if I could once have believed
it. And even without much belief, it is so against our manners, that it
makes me miserable. Only think of loving Lorna, only think of kissing
her; and then remembering that her father had destroyed the life of
mine!'

'Only think,' said Master Stickles, imitating my very voice, 'of Lorna
loving you, John, of Lorna kissing you, John; and all the while saying
to herself, "this man's father murdered mine." Now look at it in Lorna's
way as well as in your own way. How one-sided all men are!'

'I may look at it in fifty ways, and yet no good will come of it.
Jeremy, I confess to you, that I tried to make the best of it; partly to
baffle the Counsellor, and partly because my darling needed my help, and
bore it so, and behaved to me so nobly. But to you in secret, I am not
ashamed to say that a woman may look over this easier than a man may.'

'Because her nature is larger, my son, when she truly loves; although
her mind be smaller. Now, if I can ease you from this secret burden,
will you bear, with strength and courage, the other which I plant on
you?'

'I will do my best,' said I.

'No man can do more,' said he and so began his story.



CHAPTER LIII

JEREMY FINDS OUT SOMETHING

'You know, my son,' said Jeremy Stickles, with a good pull at his pipe,
because he was going to talk so much, and putting his legs well along
the settle; 'it has been my duty, for a wearier time than I care to
think of (and which would have been unbearable, except for your great
kindness), to search this neighbourhood narrowly, and learn everything
about everybody. Now the neighbourhood itself is queer; and people
have different ways of thinking from what we are used to in London. For
instance now, among your folk, when any piece of news is told, or any
man's conduct spoken of, the very first question that arises in your
mind is this--"Was this action kind and good?" Long after that, you say
to yourselves, "does the law enjoin or forbid this thing?" Now here
is your fundamental error: for among all truly civilised people the
foremost of all questions is, "how stands the law herein?" And if the
law approve, no need for any further questioning. That this is so, you
may take my word: for I know the law pretty thoroughly.

'Very well; I need not say any more about that, for I have shown that
you are all quite wrong. I only speak of this savage tendency, because
it explains so many things which have puzzled me among you, and most of
all your kindness to men whom you never saw before; which is an utterly
illegal thing. It also explains your toleration of these outlaw Doones
so long. If your views of law had been correct, and law an element of
your lives, these robbers could never have been indulged for so many
years amongst you: but you must have abated the nuisance.'

'Now, Stickles,' I cried, 'this is too bad!' he was delivering himself
so grandly. 'Why you yourself have been amongst us, as the balance, and
sceptre, and sword of law, for nigh upon a twelvemonth; and have you
abated the nuisance, or even cared to do it, until they began to shoot
at you?'

'My son,' he replied, 'your argument is quite beside the purpose, and
only tends to prove more clearly that which I have said of you. However,
if you wish to hear my story, no more interruptions. I may not have a
chance to tell you, perhaps for weeks, or I know not when, if once those
yellows and reds arrive, and be blessed to them, the lubbers! Well,
it may be six months ago, or it may be seven, at any rate a good while
before that cursed frost began, the mere name of which sends a shiver
down every bone of my body, when I was riding one afternoon from
Dulverton to Watchett'--

'Dulverton to Watchett!' I cried. 'Now what does that remind me of? I am
sure, I remember something--'

'Remember this, John, if anything--that another word from thee, and thou
hast no more of mine. Well, I was a little weary perhaps, having been
plagued at Dulverton with the grossness of the people. For they would
tell me nothing at all about their fellow-townsmen, your worthy Uncle
Huckaback, except that he was a God-fearing man, and they only wished
I was like him. I blessed myself for a stupid fool, in thinking to have
pumped them; for by this time I might have known that, through your
Western homeliness, every man in his own country is something more than
a prophet. And I felt, of course, that I had done more harm than good by
questioning; inasmuch as every soul in the place would run straightway
and inform him that the King's man from the other side of the forest had
been sifting out his ways and works.'

'Ah,' I cried, for I could not help it; 'you begin to understand at
last, that we are not quite such a set of oafs, as you at first believed
us.'

'I was riding on from Dulverton,' he resumed, with great severity, yet
threatening me no more, which checked me more than fifty threats: 'and
it was late in the afternoon, and I was growing weary. The road (if road
it could be called) 'turned suddenly down from the higher land to the
very brink of the sea; and rounding a little jut of cliff, I met the
roar of the breakers. My horse was scared, and leaped aside; for a
northerly wind was piping, and driving hunks of foam across, as children
scatter snow-balls. But he only sank to his fetlocks in the dry sand,
piled with pop-weed: and I tried to make him face the waves; and then I
looked about me.

'Watchett town was not to be seen, on account of a little foreland, a
mile or more upon my course, and standing to the right of me. There was
room enough below the cliffs (which are nothing there to yours, John),
for horse and man to get along, although the tide was running high with
a northerly gale to back it. But close at hand and in the corner, drawn
above the yellow sands and long eye-brows of rackweed, as snug a little
house blinked on me as ever I saw, or wished to see.

'You know that I am not luxurious, neither in any way given to the
common lusts of the flesh, John. My father never allowed his hair to
grow a fourth part of an inch in length, and he was a thoroughly godly
man; and I try to follow in his footsteps, whenever I think about it.
Nevertheless, I do assure you that my view of that little house and the
way the lights were twinkling, so different from the cold and darkness
of the rolling sea, moved the ancient Adam in me, if he could be found
to move. I love not a house with too many windows: being out of house
and doors some three-quarters of my time, when I get inside a house I
like to feel the difference. Air and light are good for people who have
any lack of them; and if a man once talks about them, 'tis enough to
prove his need of them. But, as you well know, John Ridd, the horse who
has been at work all day, with the sunshine in his eyes, sleeps better
in dark stables, and needs no moon to help him.

'Seeing therefore that this same inn had four windows, and no more,
I thought to myself how snug it was, and how beautiful I could sleep
there. And so I made the old horse draw hand, which he was only too glad
to do, and we clomb above the spring-tide mark, and over a little piece
of turf, and struck the door of the hostelry. Some one came and peeped
at me through the lattice overhead, which was full of bulls' eyes; and
then the bolt was drawn back, and a woman met me very courteously. A
dark and foreign-looking woman, very hot of blood, I doubt, but not
altogether a bad one. And she waited for me to speak first, which an
Englishwoman would not have done.

'"Can I rest here for the night?" I asked, with a lift of my hat to her;
for she was no provincial dame, who would stare at me for the courtesy;
"my horse is weary from the sloughs, and myself but little better:
beside that, we both are famished."

'"Yes, sir, you can rest and welcome. But of food, I fear, there is but
little, unless of the common order. Our fishers would have drawn the
nets, but the waves were violent. However, we have--what you call it? I
never can remember, it is so hard to say--the flesh of the hog salted."

'"Bacon!" said I; "what can be better? And half dozen of eggs with it,
and a quart of fresh-drawn ale. You make me rage with hunger, madam. Is
it cruelty, or hospitality?"

'"Ah, good!" she replied, with a merry smile, full of southern sunshine:
"you are not of the men round here; you can think, and you can laugh!"

'"And most of all, I can eat, good madam. In that way I shall astonish
you; even more than by my intellect."

'She laughed aloud, and swung her shoulders, as your natives cannot do;
and then she called a little maid to lead my horse to stable. However,
I preferred to see that matter done myself, and told her to send the
little maid for the frying-pan and the egg-box.

'Whether it were my natural wit and elegance of manner; or whether it
were my London freedom and knowledge of the world; or (which is perhaps
the most probable, because the least pleasing supposition) my ready and
permanent appetite, and appreciation of garlic--I leave you to decide,
John: but perhaps all three combined to recommend me to the graces of my
charming hostess. When I say "charming," I mean of course by manners
and by intelligence, and most of all by cooking; for as regards external
charms (most fleeting and fallacious) hers had ceased to cause distress,
for I cannot say how many years. She said that it was the climate--for
even upon that subject she requested my opinion--and I answered, "if
there be a change, let madam blame the seasons."

'However, not to dwell too much upon our little pleasantries (for I
always get on with these foreign women better than with your Molls and
Pegs), I became, not inquisitive, but reasonably desirous to know, by
what strange hap or hazard, a clever and a handsome woman, as she must
have been some day, a woman moreover with great contempt for the rustic
minds around her, could have settled here in this lonely inn, with
only the waves for company, and a boorish husband who slaved all day in
turning a potter's wheel at Watchett. And what was the meaning of the
emblem set above her doorway, a very unattractive cat sitting in a
ruined tree?

'However, I had not very long to strain my curiosity; for when she found
out who I was, and how I held the King's commission, and might be called
an officer, her desire to tell me all was more than equal to mine
of hearing it. Many and many a day, she had longed for some one both
skilful and trustworthy, most of all for some one bearing warrant from
a court of justice. But the magistrates of the neighbourhood would have
nothing to say to her, declaring that she was a crack-brained woman, and
a wicked, and even a foreign one.

'With many grimaces she assured me that never by her own free-will would
she have lived so many years in that hateful country, where the sky for
half the year was fog, and rain for nearly the other half. It was so
the very night when first her evil fortune brought her there; and so no
doubt it would be, long after it had killed her. But if I wished to know
the reason of her being there, she would tell me in few words, which I
will repeat as briefly.

'By birth she was an Italian, from the mountains of Apulia, who had
gone to Rome to seek her fortunes, after being badly treated in some
love-affair. Her Christian name was Benita; as for her surname, that
could make no difference to any one. Being a quick and active girl,
and resolved to work down her troubles, she found employment in a large
hotel; and rising gradually, began to send money to her parents. And
here she might have thriven well, and married well under sunny skies,
and been a happy woman, but that some black day sent thither a rich and
noble English family, eager to behold the Pope. It was not, however,
their fervent longing for the Holy Father which had brought them to St.
Peter's roof; but rather their own bad luck in making their home too
hot to hold them. For although in the main good Catholics, and pleasant
receivers of anything, one of their number had given offence, by the
folly of trying to think for himself. Some bitter feud had been among
them, Benita knew not how it was; and the sister of the nobleman who
had died quite lately was married to the rival claimant, whom they all
detested. It was something about dividing land; Benita knew not what it
was.

'But this Benita did know, that they were all great people, and rich,
and very liberal; so that when they offered to take her, to attend to
the children, and to speak the language for them, and to comfort the
lady, she was only too glad to go, little foreseeing the end of it.
Moreover, she loved the children so, from their pretty ways and that,
and the things they gave her, and the style of their dresses, that it
would have broken her heart almost never to see the dears again.

'And so, in a very evil hour, she accepted the service of the noble
Englishman, and sent her father an old shoe filled to the tongue with
money, and trusted herself to fortune. But even before she went, she
knew that it could not turn out well; for the laurel leaf which she
threw on the fire would not crackle even once, and the horn of the goat
came wrong in the twist, and the heel of her foot was shining. This made
her sigh at the starting-time; and after that what could you hope for?

'However, at first all things went well. My Lord was as gay as gay could
be: and never would come inside the carriage, when a decent horse could
be got to ride. He would gallop in front, at a reckless pace, without a
weapon of any kind, delighted with the pure blue air, and throwing his
heart around him. Benita had never seen any man so admirable, and so
childish. As innocent as an infant; and not only contented, but noisily
happy with anything. Only other people must share his joy; and the
shadow of sorrow scattered it, though it were but the shade of poverty.

'Here Benita wept a little; and I liked her none the less, and believed
her ten times more; in virtue of a tear or two.

'And so they travelled through Northern Italy, and throughout the south
of France, making their way anyhow; sometimes in coaches, sometimes in
carts, sometimes upon mule-back, sometimes even a-foot and weary; but
always as happy as could be. The children laughed, and grew, and throve
(especially the young lady, the elder of the two), and Benita began
to think that omens must not be relied upon. But suddenly her faith in
omens was confirmed for ever.

'My Lord, who was quite a young man still, and laughed at English
arrogance, rode on in front of his wife and friends, to catch the first
of a famous view, on the French side of the Pyrenee hills. He kissed his
hand to his wife, and said that he would save her the trouble of coming.
For those two were so one in one, that they could make each other know
whatever he or she had felt. And so my Lord went round the corner, with
a fine young horse leaping up at the steps.

'They waited for him, long and long; but he never came again; and within
a week, his mangled body lay in a little chapel-yard; and if the priests
only said a quarter of the prayers they took the money for, God knows
they can have no throats left; only a relaxation.

'My lady dwelled for six months more--it is a melancholy tale (what true
tale is not so?)--scarcely able to believe that all her fright was not a
dream. She would not wear a piece or shape of any mourning-clothes;
she would not have a person cry, or any sorrow among us. She simply
disbelieved the thing, and trusted God to right it. The Protestants, who
have no faith, cannot understand this feeling. Enough that so it was;
and so my Lady went to heaven.

'For when the snow came down in autumn on the roots of the Pyrenees, and
the chapel-yard was white with it, many people told the lady that it was
time for her to go. And the strongest plea of all was this, that now she
bore another hope of repeating her husband's virtues. So at the end of
October, when wolves came down to the farm-lands, the little English
family went home towards their England.

'They landed somewhere on the Devonshire coast, ten or eleven years
agone, and stayed some days at Exeter; and set out thence in a hired
coach, without any proper attendance, for Watchett, in the north of
Somerset. For the lady owned a quiet mansion in the neighbourhood of
that town, and her one desire was to find refuge there, and to meet her
lord, who was sure to come (she said) when he heard of his new infant.
Therefore with only two serving-men and two maids (including Benita),
the party set forth from Exeter, and lay the first night at Bampton.

'On the following morn they started bravely, with earnest hope of
arriving at their journey's end by daylight. But the roads were soft and
very deep, and the sloughs were out in places; and the heavy coach broke
down in the axle, and needed mending at Dulverton; and so they lost
three hours or more, and would have been wiser to sleep there. But her
ladyship would not hear of it; she must be home that night, she said,
and her husband would be waiting. How could she keep him waiting now,
after such a long, long time?

'Therefore, although it was afternoon, and the year now come to
December, the horses were put to again, and the heavy coach went up the
hill, with the lady and her two children, and Benita, sitting inside
of it; the other maid, and two serving-men (each man with a great
blunderbuss) mounted upon the outside; and upon the horses three Exeter
postilions. Much had been said at Dulverton, and even back at Bampton,
about some great freebooters, to whom all Exmoor owed suit and service,
and paid them very punctually. Both the serving-men were scared, even
over their ale, by this. But the lady only said, "Drive on; I know a
little of highwaymen: they never rob a lady."

'Through the fog and through the muck the coach went on, as best
it might; sometimes foundered in a slough, with half of the horses
splashing it, and some-times knuckled up on a bank, and straining across
the middle, while all the horses kicked at it. However, they went on
till dark as well as might be expected. But when they came, all thanking
God, to the pitch and slope of the sea-bank, leading on towards Watchett
town, and where my horse had shied so, there the little boy jumped up,
and clapped his hands at the water; and there (as Benita said) they met
their fate, and could not fly it.

'Although it was past the dusk of day, the silver light from the sea
flowed in, and showed the cliffs, and the gray sand-line, and the drifts
of wreck, and wrack-weed. It showed them also a troop of horsemen,
waiting under a rock hard by, and ready to dash upon them. The
postilions lashed towards the sea, and the horses strove in the depth of
sand, and the serving-men cocked their blunder-busses, and cowered away
behind them; but the lady stood up in the carriage bravely, and neither
screamed nor spoke, but hid her son behind her. Meanwhile the drivers
drove into the sea, till the leading horses were swimming.

'But before the waves came into the coach, a score of fierce men were
round it. They cursed the postilions for mad cowards, and cut the
traces, and seized the wheel-horses, all-wild with dismay in the wet and
the dark. Then, while the carriage was heeling over, and well-nigh upset
in the water, the lady exclaimed, "I know that man! He is our ancient
enemy;" and Benita (foreseeing that all their boxes would be turned
inside out, or carried away), snatched the most valuable of the jewels,
a magnificent necklace of diamonds, and cast it over the little girl's
head, and buried it under her travelling-cloak, hoping to save it. Then
a great wave, crested with foam, rolled in, and the coach was thrown
on its side, and the sea rushed in at the top and the windows, upon
shrieking, and clashing, and fainting away.

'What followed Benita knew not, as one might well suppose, herself being
stunned by a blow on the head, beside being palsied with terror. "See,
I have the mark now," she said, "where the jamb of the door came down on
me!" But when she recovered her senses, she found herself lying upon
the sand, the robbers were out of sight, and one of the serving-men was
bathing her forehead with sea water. For this she rated him well, having
taken already too much of that article; and then she arose and ran to
her mistress, who was sitting upright on a little rock, with her dead
boy's face to her bosom, sometimes gazing upon him, and sometimes
questing round for the other one.

'Although there were torches and links around, and she looked at her
child by the light of them, no one dared to approach the lady, or speak,
or try to help her. Each man whispered his fellow to go, but each hung
back himself, and muttered that it was too awful to meddle with. And
there she would have sat all night, with the fine little fellow stone
dead in her arms, and her tearless eyes dwelling upon him, and her heart
but not her mind thinking, only that the Italian women stole up softly
to her side, and whispered, "It is the will of God."

'"So it always seems to be," were all the words the mother' answered;
and then she fell on Benita's neck; and the men were ashamed to be near
her weeping; and a sailor lay down and bellowed. Surely these men are
the best.

'Before the light of the morning came along the tide to Watchett my Lady
had met her husband. They took her into the town that night, but not
to her own castle; and so the power of womanhood (which is itself
maternity) came over swiftly upon her. The lady, whom all people
loved (though at certain times particular), lies in Watchett little
churchyard, with son and heir at her right hand, and a little babe, of
sex unknown, sleeping on her bosom.

'This is a miserable tale,' said Jeremy Stickles brightly; 'hand me
over the schnapps, my boy. What fools we are to spoil our eyes for other
people's troubles! Enough of our own to keep them clean, although we
all were chimney-sweeps. There is nothing like good hollands, when a
man becomes too sensitive. Restore the action of the glands; that is
my rule, after weeping. Let me make you another, John. You are quite
low-spirited.'

But although Master Jeremy carried on so (as became his manhood), and
laughed at the sailor's bellowing; bless his heart, I knew as well that
tears were in his brave keen eyes, as if I had dared to look for them,
or to show mine own.

'And what was the lady's name?' I asked; 'and what became of the little
girl? And why did the woman stay there?'

'Well!' cried Jeremy Stickles, only too glad to be cheerful again: 'talk
of a woman after that! As we used to say at school--"Who dragged whom,
how many times, in what manner, round the wall of what?" But to begin,
last first, my John (as becomes a woman): Benita stayed in that blessed
place, because she could not get away from it. The Doones--if Doones
indeed they were, about which you of course know best--took every stiver
out of the carriage: wet or dry they took it. And Benita could never get
her wages: for the whole affair is in Chancery, and they have appointed
a receiver.'

'Whew!' said I, knowing something of London, and sorry for Benita's
chance.

'So the poor thing was compelled to drop all thought of Apulia, and
settle down on the brink of Exmoor, where you get all its evils, without
the good to balance them. She married a man who turned a wheel for
making the blue Watchett ware, partly because he could give her a house,
and partly because he proved himself a good soul towards my Lady. There
they are, and have three children; and there you may go and visit them.'

'I understand all that, Jeremy, though you do tell things too quickly,
and I would rather have John Fry's style; for he leaves one time for
his words to melt. Now for my second question. What became of the little
maid?'

'You great oaf!' cried Jeremy Stickles: 'you are rather more likely to
know, I should think, than any one else in all the kingdoms.'

'If I knew, I should not ask you. Jeremy Stickles, do try to be neither
conceited nor thick-headed.'

'I will when you are neither,' answered Master Jeremy; 'but you occupy
all the room, John. No one else can get in with you there.'

'Very well then, let me out. Take me down in both ways.'

'If ever you were taken down; you must have your double joints ready
now. And yet in other ways you will be as proud and set up as Lucifer.
As certain sure as I stand here, that little maid is Lorna Doone.'



CHAPTER LIV

MUTUAL DISCOMFITURE

It must not be supposed that I was altogether so thick-headed as Jeremy
would have made me out. But it is part of my character that I like other
people to think me slow, and to labour hard to enlighten me, while all
the time I can say to myself, 'This man is shallower than I am; it is
pleasant to see his shoals come up while he is sounding mine so!' Not
that I would so behave, God forbid, with anybody (be it man or woman)
who in simple heart approached me, with no gauge of intellect. But when
the upper hand is taken, upon the faith of one's patience, by a man of
even smaller wits (not that Jeremy was that, neither could he have lived
to be thought so), why, it naturally happens, that we knuckle under,
with an ounce of indignation.

Jeremy's tale would have moved me greatly both with sorrow and anger,
even without my guess at first, and now my firm belief, that the child
of those unlucky parents was indeed my Lorna. And as I thought of the
lady's troubles, and her faith in Providence, and her cruel, childless
death, and then imagined how my darling would be overcome to hear it,
you may well believe that my quick replies to Jeremy Stickles's banter
were but as the flourish of a drum to cover the sounds of pain.

For when he described the heavy coach and the persons in and upon it,
and the breaking down at Dulverton, and the place of their destination,
as well as the time and the weather, and the season of the year, my
heart began to burn within me, and my mind replaced the pictures, first
of the foreign lady's-maid by the pump caressing me, and then of the
coach struggling up the hill, and the beautiful dame, and the fine
little boy, with the white cockade in his hat; but most of all the
little girl, dark-haired and very lovely, and having even in those days
the rich soft look of Lorna.

But when he spoke of the necklace thrown over the head of the little
maiden, and of her disappearance, before my eyes arose at once the
flashing of the beacon-fire, the lonely moors embrowned with the light,
the tramp of the outlaw cavalcade, and the helpless child head-downward,
lying across the robber's saddle-bow.

Then I remembered my own mad shout of boyish indignation, and marvelled
at the strange long way by which the events of life come round. And
while I thought of my own return, and childish attempt to hide myself
from sorrow in the sawpit, and the agony of my mother's tears, it did
not fail to strike me as a thing of omen, that the selfsame day should
be, both to my darling and myself, the blackest and most miserable of
all youthful days.

The King's Commissioner thought it wise, for some good reason of his
own, to conceal from me, for the present, the name of the poor lady
supposed to be Lorna's mother; and knowing that I could easily now
discover it, without him, I let that question abide awhile. Indeed I was
half afraid to hear it, remembering that the nobler and the wealthier
she proved to be, the smaller was my chance of winning such a wife for
plain John Ridd. Not that she would give me up: that I never dreamed of.
But that others would interfere; or indeed I myself might find it only
honest to relinquish her. That last thought was a dreadful blow, and
took my breath away from me.

Jeremy Stickles was quite decided--and of course the discovery being
his, he had a right to be so--that not a word of all these things must
be imparted to Lorna herself, or even to my mother, or any one
whatever. 'Keep it tight as wax, my lad,' he cried, with a wink of
great expression; 'this belongs to me, mind; and the credit, ay, and the
premium, and the right of discount, are altogether mine. It would have
taken you fifty years to put two and two together so, as I did, like a
clap of thunder. Ah, God has given some men brains; and others have good
farms and money, and a certain skill in the lower beasts. Each must use
his special talent. You work your farm: I work my brains. In the end, my
lad, I shall beat you.'

'Then, Jeremy, what a fool you must be, if you cudgel your brains to
make money of this, to open the barn-door to me, and show me all your
threshing.'

'Not a whit, my son. Quite the opposite. Two men always thresh better
than one. And here I have you bound to use your flail, one two, with
mine, and yet in strictest honour bound not to bushel up, till I tell
you.'

'But,' said I, being much amused by a Londoner's brave, yet uncertain,
use of simplest rural metaphors, for he had wholly forgotten the
winnowing: 'surely if I bushel up, even when you tell me, I must take
half-measure.'

'So you shall, my boy,' he answered, 'if we can only cheat those
confounded knaves of Equity. You shall take the beauty, my son, and
the elegance, and the love, and all that--and, my boy, I will take the
money.'

This he said in a way so dry, and yet so richly unctuous, that being
gifted somehow by God, with a kind of sense of queerness, I fell back in
my chair, and laughed, though the underside of my laugh was tears.

'Now, Jeremy, how if I refuse to keep this half as tight as wax. You
bound me to no such partnership, before you told the story; and I am not
sure, by any means, of your right to do so afterwards.'

'Tush!' he replied: 'I know you too well, to look for meanness in you.
If from pure goodwill, John Ridd, and anxiety to relieve you, I made no
condition precedent, you are not the man to take advantage, as a lawyer
might. I do not even want your promise. As sure as I hold this glass,
and drink your health and love in another drop (forced on me by pathetic
words), so surely will you be bound to me, until I do release you. Tush!
I know men well by this time: a mere look of trust from one is worth
another's ten thousand oaths.'

'Jeremy, you are right,' I answered; 'at least as regards the issue.
Although perhaps you were not right in leading me into a bargain like
this, without my own consent or knowledge. But supposing that we should
both be shot in this grand attack on the valley (for I mean to go
with you now, heart and soul), is Lorna to remain untold of that which
changes all her life?'

'Both shot!' cried Jeremy Stickles: 'my goodness, boy, talk not like
that! And those Doones are cursed good shots too. Nay, nay, the yellows
shall go in front; we attack on the Somerset side, I think. I from a
hill will reconnoitre, as behoves a general, you shall stick behind a
tree, if we can only find one big enough to hide you. You and I to be
shot, John Ridd, with all this inferior food for powder anxious to be
devoured?'

I laughed, for I knew his cool hardihood, and never-flinching courage;
and sooth to say no coward would have dared to talk like that.

'But when one comes to think of it,' he continued, smiling at himself;
'some provision should be made for even that unpleasant chance. I will
leave the whole in writing, with orders to be opened, etc., etc.--Now no
more of that, my boy; a cigarro after schnapps, and go to meet my yellow
boys.'

His 'yellow boys,' as he called the Somersetshire trained bands, were
even now coming down the valley from the London Road, as every one since
I went up to town, grandly entitled the lane to the moors. There was one
good point about these men, that having no discipline at all, they made
pretence to none whatever. Nay, rather they ridiculed the thing, as
below men of any spirit. On the other hand, Master Stickles's troopers
looked down on these native fellows from a height which I hope they may
never tumble, for it would break the necks of all of them.

Now these fine natives came along, singing, for their very lives, a song
the like of which set down here would oust my book from modest
people, and make everybody say, 'this man never can have loved Lorna.'
Therefore, the less of that the better; only I thought, 'what a
difference from the goodly psalms of the ale house!'

Having finished their canticle, which contained more mirth than melody,
they drew themselves up, in a sort of way supposed by them to be
military, each man with heel and elbow struck into those of his
neighbour, and saluted the King's Commissioner. 'Why, where are your
officers?' asked Master Stickles; 'how is it that you have no officers?'
Upon this there arose a general grin, and a knowing look passed along
their faces, even up to the man by the gatepost. 'Are you going to tell
me, or not,' said Jeremy, 'what is become of your officers?'

'Plaise zur,' said one little fellow at last, being nodded at by the
rest to speak, in right of his known eloquence; 'hus tould Harfizers, as
a wor no nade of un, now King's man hiszell wor coom, a puppose vor to
command us laike.'

'And do you mean to say, you villains,' cried Jeremy, scarce knowing
whether to laugh, or to swear, or what to do; 'that your officers took
their dismissal thus, and let you come on without them?'

'What could 'em do?' asked the little man, with reason certainly on his
side: 'hus zent 'em about their business, and they was glad enough to
goo.'

'Well!' said poor Jeremy, turning to me; 'a pretty state of things,
John! Threescore cobblers, and farming men, plasterers, tailors, and
kettles-to-mend; and not a man to keep order among them, except my
blessed self, John! And I trow there is not one among them could hit all
in-door flying. The Doones will make riddles of all of us.'

However, he had better hopes when the sons of Devon appeared, as
they did in about an hour's time; fine fellows, and eager to prove
themselves. These had not discarded their officers, but marched in good
obedience to them, and were quite prepared to fight the men of Somerset
(if need be) in addition to the Doones. And there was scarcely a man
among them but could have trounced three of the yellow men, and would
have done it gladly too, in honour of the red facings.

'Do you mean to suppose, Master Jeremy Stickles,' said I, looking on
with amazement, beholding also all our maidens at the upstair windows
wondering; 'that we, my mother a widow woman, and I a young man of small
estate, can keep and support all these precious fellows, both yellow
ones, and red ones, until they have taken the Doone Glen?'

'God forbid it, my son!' he replied, laying a finger upon his lip:
'Nay, nay, I am not of the shabby order, when I have the strings of
government. Kill your sheep at famine prices, and knead your bread at
a figure expressing the rigours of last winter. Let Annie make out the
bill every day, and I at night will double it. You may take my word for
it, Master John, this spring-harvest shall bring you in three times
as much as last autumn's did. If they cheated you in town, my lad, you
shall have your change in the country. Take thy bill, and write down
quickly.'

However this did not meet my views of what an honest man should do; and
I went to consult my mother about it, as all the accounts would be made
in her name.

Dear mother thought that if the King paid only half again as much as
other people would have to pay, it would be perhaps the proper thing;
the half being due for loyalty: and here she quoted an ancient saying,--

The King and his staff. Be a man and a half:

which, according to her judgment, ruled beyond dispute the law of the
present question. To argue with her after that (which she brought up
with such triumph) would have been worse than useless. Therefore I just
told Annie to make the bills at a third below the current market prices;
so that the upshot would be fair. She promised me honestly that she
would; but with a twinkle in her bright blue eyes, which she must have
caught from Tom Faggus. It always has appeared to me that stern and
downright honesty upon money matters is a thing not understood of women;
be they as good as good can be.

The yellows and the reds together numbered a hundred and twenty men,
most of whom slept in our barns and stacks; and besides these we had
fifteen troopers of the regular army. You may suppose that all the
country was turned upside down about it; and the folk who came to see
them drill--by no means a needless exercise--were a greater plague
than the soldiers. The officers too of the Devonshire hand were such a
torment to us, that we almost wished their men had dismissed them, as
the Somerset troop had done with theirs. For we could not keep them out
of our house, being all young men of good family, and therefore not to
be met with bars. And having now three lovely maidens (for even Lizzie
might be called so, when she cared to please), mother and I were at
wit's ends, on account of those blessed officers. I never got a wink of
sleep; they came whistling under the window so; and directly I went out
to chase them, there was nothing but a cat to see.

Therefore all of us were right glad (except perhaps Farmer Snowe, from
whom we had bought some victuals at rare price), when Jeremy Stickles
gave orders to march, and we began to try to do it. A good deal of
boasting went overhead, as our men defiled along the lane; and the thick
broad patins of pennywort jutted out between the stones, ready to
heal their bruises. The parish choir came part of the way, and the
singing-loft from Countisbury; and they kept our soldiers' spirits up
with some of the most pugnacious Psalms. Parson Bowden marched ahead,
leading all our van and file, as against the Papists; and promising
to go with us, till we came to bullet distance. Therefore we marched
bravely on, and children came to look at us. And I wondered where Uncle
Reuben was, who ought to have led the culverins (whereof we had no less
than three), if Stickles could only have found him; and then I thought
of little Ruth; and without any fault on my part, my heart went down
within me.

The culverins were laid on bark; and all our horses pulling them, and
looking round every now and then, with their ears curved up like a
squirrel'd nut, and their noses tossing anxiously, to know what sort
of plough it was man had been pleased to put behind them--man, whose
endless whims and wildness they could never understand, any more than
they could satisfy. However, they pulled their very best--as all our
horses always do--and the culverins went up the hill, without smack
of whip, or swearing. It had been arranged, very justly, no doubt, and
quite in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution, but as it proved
not too wisely, that either body of men should act in its own county
only. So when we reached the top of the hill, the sons of Devon marched
on, and across the track leading into Doone-gate, so as to fetch round
the western side, and attack with their culverin from the cliffs, whence
the sentry had challenged me on the night of my passing the entrance.
Meanwhile the yellow lads were to stay upon the eastern highland, whence
Uncle Reuben and myself had reconnoitred so long ago; and whence I had
leaped into the valley at the time of the great snow-drifts. And here
they were not to show themselves; but keep their culverin in the woods,
until their cousins of Devon appeared on the opposite parapet of the
glen.

The third culverin was entrusted to the fifteen troopers; who, with ten
picked soldiers from either trained hand, making in all five-and-thirty
men, were to assault the Doone-gate itself, while the outlaws were
placed between two fires from the eastern cliff and the western. And
with this force went Jeremy Stickles, and with it went myself, as
knowing more about the passage than any other stranger did. Therefore,
if I have put it clearly, as I strive to do, you will see that the
Doones must repulse at once three simultaneous attacks, from an army
numbering in the whole one hundred and thirty-five men, not including
the Devonshire officers; fifty men on each side, I mean, and thirty-five
at the head of the valley.

The tactics of this grand campaign appeared to me so clever, and
beautifully ordered, that I commended Colonel Stickles, as everybody
now called him, for his great ability and mastery of the art of war. He
admitted that he deserved high praise; but said that he was not by any
means equally certain of success, so large a proportion of his forces
being only a raw militia, brave enough no doubt for anything, when they
saw their way to it; but knowing little of gunnery, and wholly unused
to be shot at. Whereas all the Doones were practised marksmen, being
compelled when lads (like the Balearic slingers) to strike down their
meals before tasting them. And then Colonel Stickles asked me, whether I
myself could stand fire; he knew that I was not a coward, but this was
a different question. I told him that I had been shot at, once or twice
before; but nevertheless disliked it, as much as almost anything. Upon
that he said that I would do; for that when a man got over the first
blush of diffidence, he soon began to look upon it as a puff of destiny.

I wish I could only tell what happened, in the battle of that day,
especially as nearly all the people round these parts, who never saw
gun-fire in it, have gotten the tale so much amiss; and some of them
will even stand in front of my own hearth, and contradict me to the
teeth; although at the time they were not born, nor their fathers put
into breeches. But in truth, I cannot tell, exactly, even the part in
which I helped, how then can I be expected, time by time, to lay before
you, all the little ins and outs of places, where I myself was not? Only
I can contradict things, which I know could not have been; and what I
plainly saw should not be controverted in my own house.

Now we five-and-thirty men lay back a little way round the corner,
in the hollow of the track which leads to the strong Doone-gate. Our
culverin was in amongst us, loaded now to the muzzle, and it was not
comfortable to know that it might go off at any time. Although the
yeomanry were not come (according to arrangement), some of us had horses
there; besides the horses who dragged the cannon, and now were sniffing
at it. And there were plenty of spectators to mind these horses for us,
as soon as we should charge; inasmuch as all our friends and neighbours,
who had so keenly prepared for the battle, now resolved to take no part,
but look on, and praise the winners.

At last we heard the loud bang-bang, which proved that Devon and
Somerset were pouring their indignation hot into the den of malefactors,
or at least so we supposed; therefore at double quick march we advanced
round the bend of the cliff which had hidden us, hoping to find the gate
undefended, and to blow down all barriers with the fire of our cannon.
And indeed it seemed likely at first to be so, for the wild and
mountainous gorge of rock appeared to be all in pure loneliness, except
where the coloured coats of our soldiers, and their metal trappings,
shone with the sun behind them. Therefore we shouted a loud hurrah, as
for an easy victory.

But while the sound of our cheer rang back among the crags above us, a
shrill clear whistle cleft the air for a single moment, and then a dozen
carbines bellowed, and all among us flew murderous lead. Several of our
men rolled over, but the rest rushed on like Britons, Jeremy and myself
in front, while we heard the horses plunging at the loaded gun behind
us. 'Now, my lads,' cried Jeremy, 'one dash, and we are beyond them!'
For he saw that the foe was overhead in the gallery of brushwood.

Our men with a brave shout answered him, for his courage was fine
example; and we leaped in under the feet of the foe, before they could
load their guns again. But here, when the foremost among us were past,
an awful crash rang behind us, with the shrieks of men, and the din of
metal, and the horrible screaming of horses. The trunk of the tree
had been launched overhead, and crashed into the very midst of us. Our
cannon was under it, so were two men, and a horse with his poor back
broken. Another horse vainly struggled to rise, with his thigh-bone
smashed and protruding.

Now I lost all presence of mind at this, for I loved both those good
horses, and shouting for any to follow me, dashed headlong into the
cavern. Some five or six men came after me, the foremost of whom was
Jeremy, when a storm of shot whistled and patted around me, with a blaze
of light and a thunderous roar. On I leaped, like a madman, and pounced
on one gunner, and hurled him across his culverin; but the others had
fled, and a heavy oak door fell to with a bang, behind them. So utterly
were my senses gone, and naught but strength remaining, that I caught up
the cannon with both hands, and dashed it, breech-first, at the doorway.
The solid oak burst with the blow, and the gun stuck fast, like a
builder's putlog.

But here I looked round in vain for any one to come and follow up my
success. The scanty light showed me no figure moving through the length
of the tunnel behind me; only a heavy groan or two went to my heart, and
chilled it. So I hurried back to seek Jeremy, fearing that he must be
smitten down.

And so indeed I found him, as well as three other poor fellows, struck
by the charge of the culverin, which had passed so close beside me. Two
of the four were as dead as stones, and growing cold already, but Jeremy
and the other could manage to groan, just now and then. So I turned my
attention to them, and thought no more of fighting.

Having so many wounded men, and so many dead among us, we loitered at
the cavern's mouth, and looked at one another, wishing only for somebody
to come and take command of us. But no one came; and I was griefed so
much about poor Jeremy, besides being wholly unused to any violence of
bloodshed, that I could only keep his head up, and try to stop him from
bleeding. And he looked up at me pitifully, being perhaps in a haze of
thought, as a calf looks at a butcher.

The shot had taken him in the mouth; about that no doubt could be, for
two of his teeth were in his beard, and one of his lips was wanting. I
laid his shattered face on my breast, and nursed him, as a woman might.
But he looked at me with a jerk at this; and I saw that he wanted
coolness.

While here we stayed, quite out of danger (for the fellows from the
gallery could by no means shoot us, even if they remained there, and the
oaken door whence the others fled was blocked up by the culverin), a boy
who had no business there (being in fact our clerk's apprentice to the
art of shoe-making) came round the corner upon us in the manner which
boys, and only boys, can use with grace and freedom; that is to say,
with a sudden rush, and a sidelong step, and an impudence,--

'Got the worst of it!' cried the boy; 'better be off all of you.
Zoomerzett and Devon a vighting; and the Doones have drashed 'em both.
Maister Ridd, even thee be drashed.'

We few, who yet remained of the force which was to have won the
Doone-gate, gazed at one another, like so many fools, and nothing more.
For we still had some faint hopes of winning the day, and recovering our
reputation, by means of what the other men might have done without us.
And we could not understand at all how Devonshire and Somerset, being
embarked in the same cause, should be fighting with one another.

Finding nothing more to be done in the way of carrying on the war, we
laid poor Master Stickles and two more of the wounded upon the carriage
of bark and hurdles, whereon our gun had lain; and we rolled the gun
into the river, and harnessed the horses yet alive, and put the others
out of their pain, and sadly wended homewards, feeling ourselves to be
thoroughly beaten, yet ready to maintain that it was no fault of ours
whatever. And in this opinion the women joined, being only too glad and
thankful to see us home alive again.

Now, this enterprise having failed so, I prefer not to dwell too long
upon it; only just to show the mischief which lay at the root of the
failure. And this mischief was the vile jealousy betwixt red and yellow
uniform. Now I try to speak impartially, belonging no more to Somerset
than I do to Devonshire, living upon the borders, and born of either
county. The tale was told me by one side first; and then quite to a
different tune by the other; and then by both together, with very hot
words of reviling, and a desire to fight it out again. And putting this
with that, the truth appears to be as follows:--

The men of Devon, who bore red facings, had a long way to go round the
hills, before they could get into due position on the western side of
the Doone Glen. And knowing that their cousins in yellow would claim the
whole of the glory, if allowed to be first with the firing, these worthy
fellows waited not to take good aim with their cannons, seeing the
others about to shoot; but fettled it anyhow on the slope, pointing in a
general direction; and trusting in God for aimworthiness, laid the rope
to the breech, and fired. Now as Providence ordained it, the shot,
which was a casual mixture of anything considered hard--for instance,
jug-bottoms and knobs of doors--the whole of this pernicious dose came
scattering and shattering among the unfortunate yellow men upon the
opposite cliff; killing one and wounding two.

Now what did the men of Somerset do, but instead of waiting for their
friends to send round and beg pardon, train their gun full mouth upon
them, and with a vicious meaning shoot. Not only this, but they loudly
cheered, when they saw four or five red coats lie low; for which savage
feeling not even the remarks of the Devonshire men concerning their
coats could entirely excuse them. Now I need not tell the rest of it,
for the tale makes a man discontented. Enough that both sides waxed
hotter and hotter with the fire of destruction. And but that the gorge
of the cliffs lay between, very few would have lived to tell of it; for
our western blood becomes stiff and firm, when churned with the sense of
wrong in it.

At last the Doones (who must have laughed at the thunder passing
overhead) recalling their men from the gallery, issued out of Gwenny's
gate (which had been wholly overlooked) and fell on the rear of
the Somerset men, and slew four beside their cannon. Then while the
survivors ran away, the outlaws took the hot culverin, and rolled it
down into their valley. Thus, of the three guns set forth that morning,
only one ever came home again, and that was the gun of the Devonshire
men, who dragged it home themselves, with the view of making a boast
about it.

This was a melancholy end of our brave setting out, and everybody blamed
every one else; and several of us wanted to have the whole thing over
again, as then we must have righted it. But upon one point all agreed,
by some reason not clear to me, that the root of the evil was to be
found in the way Parson Bowden went up the hill, with his hat on, and no
cassock.



CHAPTER LV

GETTING INTO CHANCERY

Two of the Devonshire officers (Captains Pyke and Dallan) now took
command of the men who were left, and ordered all to go home again,
commending much the bravery which had been displayed on all sides, and
the loyalty to the King, and the English constitution. This last word
always seems to me to settle everything when said, because nobody
understands it, and yet all can puzzle their neighbours. So the
Devonshire men, having beans to sow (which they ought to have done on
Good Friday) went home; and our Somerset friends only stayed for two
days more to backbite them.

To me the whole thing was purely grievous; not from any sense of defeat
(though that was bad enough) but from the pain and anguish caused by
death, and wounds, and mourning. 'Surely we have woes enough,' I used to
think of an evening, when the poor fellows could not sleep or rest, or
let others rest around them; 'surely all this smell of wounds is not
incense men should pay to the God who made them. Death, when it comes
and is done with, may be a bliss to any one; but the doubt of life or
death, when a man lies, as it were, like a trunk upon a sawpit and a
grisly head looks up at him, and the groans of pain are cleaving him,
this would be beyond all bearing--but for Nature's sap--sweet hope.'

Jeremy Stickles lay and tossed, and thrust up his feet in agony, and
bit with his lipless mouth the clothes, and was proud to see blood upon
them. He looked at us ever so many times, as much as to say, 'Fools, let
me die, then I shall have some comfort'; but we nodded at him sagely,
especially the women, trying to convey to him, on no account to die yet.
And then we talked to one another (on purpose for him to hear us), how
brave he was, and not the man to knock under in a hurry, and how he
should have the victory yet; and how well he looked, considering.

These things cheered him a little now, and a little more next time; and
every time we went on so, he took it with less impatience. Then once
when he had been very quiet, and not even tried to frown at us, Annie
leaned over, and kissed his forehead, and spread the pillows and sheet,
with a curve as delicate as his own white ears; and then he feebly
lifted hands, and prayed to God to bless her. And after that he came
round gently; though never to the man he had been, and never to speak
loud again.

For a time (as I may have implied before) Master Stickles's authority,
and manner of levying duties, had not been taken kindly by the people
round our neighbourhood. The manors of East Lynn and West Lynn, and even
that of Woolhanger--although just then all three were at issue about
some rights of wreck, and the hanging of a sheep-stealer (a man of no
great eminence, yet claimed by each for the sake of his clothes)--these
three, having their rights impugned, or even superseded, as they
declared by the quartering of soldiers in their neighbourhood, united
very kindly to oppose the King's Commissioner. However, Jeremy had
contrived to conciliate the whole of them, not so much by anything
engaging in his deportment or delicate address, as by holding out bright
hopes that the plunder of the Doone Glen might become divisible among
the adjoining manors. Now I have never discovered a thing which the
lords of manors (at least in our part of the world) do not believe to
belong to themselves, if only they could get their rights. And it
did seem natural enough that if the Doones were ousted, and a nice
collection of prey remained, this should be parted among the people
having ancient rights of plunder. Nevertheless, Master Jeremy knew that
the soldiers would have the first of it, and the King what they could
not carry.

And perhaps he was punished justly for language so misleading, by the
general indignation of the people all around us, not at his failure, but
at himself, for that which he could in no wise prevent. And the stewards
of the manors rode up to our house on purpose to reproach him, and were
greatly vexed with all of us, because he was too ill to see them.

To myself (though by rights the last to be thought of, among so much
pain and trouble) Jeremy's wound was a great misfortune, in more ways
than one. In the first place, it deferred my chance of imparting either
to my mother or to Mistress Lorna my firm belief that the maid I loved
was not sprung from the race which had slain my father; neither could
he in any way have offended against her family. And this discovery I was
yearning more and more to declare to them; being forced to see (even
in the midst of all our warlike troubles) that a certain difference was
growing betwixt them both, and betwixt them and me. For although the
words of the Counsellor had seemed to fail among us, being bravely
met and scattered, yet our courage was but as wind flinging wide the
tare-seeds, when the sower casts them from his bag. The crop may not
come evenly, many places may long lie bare, and the field be all in
patches; yet almost every vetch will spring, and tiller out, and stretch
across the scatterings where the wind puffed.

And so dear mother and darling Lorna now had been for many a day
thinking, worrying, and wearing, about the matter between us. Neither
liked to look at the other, as they used to do; with mother admiring
Lorna's eyes, and grace, and form of breeding; and Lorna loving mother's
goodness, softness, and simplicity. And the saddest and most hurtful
thing was that neither could ask the other of the shadow falling between
them. And so it went on, and deepened.

In the next place Colonel Stickles's illness was a grievous thing to
us, in that we had no one now to command the troopers. Ten of these were
still alive, and so well approved to us, that they could never fancy
aught, whether for dinner or supper, without its being forth-coming. If
they wanted trout they should have it; if colloped venison, or broiled
ham, or salmon from Lynmouth and Trentisoe, or truffles from the
woodside, all these were at the warriors' service, until they lusted for
something else. Even the wounded men ate nobly; all except poor Jeremy,
who was forced to have a young elder shoot, with the pith drawn, for to
feed him. And once, when they wanted pickled loach (from my description
of it), I took up my boyish sport again, and pronged them a good jarful.
Therefore, none of them could complain; and yet they were not satisfied;
perhaps for want of complaining.

Be that as it might, we knew that if they once resolved to go (as they
might do at any time, with only a corporal over them) all our house, and
all our goods, ay, and our own precious lives, would and must be at the
mercy of embittered enemies. For now the Doones, having driven back, as
every one said, five hundred men--though not thirty had ever fought with
them--were in such feather all round the country, that nothing was too
good for them. Offerings poured in at the Doone gate, faster than Doones
could away with them, and the sympathy both of Devon and Somerset became
almost oppressive. And perhaps this wealth of congratulation, and mutual
good feeling between plundered and victim, saved us from any piece of
spite; kindliness having won the day, and every one loving every one.

But yet another cause arose, and this the strongest one of all, to prove
the need of Stickles's aid, and calamity of his illness. And this came
to our knowledge first, without much time to think of it. For two men
appeared at our gate one day, stripped to their shirts, and void of
horses, and looking very sorrowful. Now having some fear of attack from
the Doones, and scarce knowing what their tricks might be, we received
these strangers cautiously, desiring to know who they were before we let
them see all our premises.

However, it soon became plain to us that although they might not be
honest fellows, at any rate they were not Doones; and so we took them
in, and fed, and left them to tell their business. And this they were
glad enough to do; as men who have been maltreated almost always are.
And it was not for us to contradict them, lest our victuals should go
amiss.

These two very worthy fellows--nay, more than that by their own account,
being downright martyrs--were come, for the public benefit, from the
Court of Chancery, sitting for everybody's good, and boldly redressing
evil. This court has a power of scent unknown to the Common-law
practitioners, and slowly yet surely tracks its game; even as the great
lumbering dogs, now introduced from Spain, and called by some people
'pointers,' differ from the swift gaze-hound, who sees his prey and runs
him down in the manner of the common lawyers. If a man's ill fate should
drive him to make a choice between these two, let him rather be chased
by the hounds of law, than tracked by the dogs of Equity.

Now, as it fell in a very black day (for all except the lawyers) His
Majesty's Court of Chancery, if that be what it called itself, gained
scent of poor Lorna's life, and of all that might be made of it. Whether
through that brave young lord who ran into such peril, or through any
of his friends, or whether through that deep old Counsellor, whose game
none might penetrate; or through any disclosures of the Italian woman,
or even of Jeremy himself; none just now could tell us; only this truth
was too clear--Chancery had heard of Lorna, and then had seen how
rich she was; and never delaying in one thing, had opened mouth, and
swallowed her.

The Doones, with a share of that dry humour which was in them
hereditary, had welcomed the two apparitors (if that be the proper name
for them) and led them kindly down the valley, and told them then to
serve their writ. Misliking the look of things, these poor men began to
fumble among their clothes; upon which the Doones cried, 'off with them!
Let us see if your message he on your skins.' And with no more manners
than that, they stripped, and lashed them out of the valley; only
bidding them come to us, if they wanted Lorna Doone; and to us they came
accordingly. Neither were they sure at first but that we should treat
them so; for they had no knowledge of the west country, and thought it
quite a godless place, wherein no writ was holy.

We however comforted and cheered them so considerably, that, in
gratitude, they showed their writs, to which they had stuck like
leeches. And these were twofold; one addressed to Mistress Lorna Doone,
so called, and bidding her keep in readiness to travel whenever called
upon, and commit herself to nobody, except the accredited messengers
of the right honourable Court; while the other was addressed to all
subjects of His Majesty, having custody of Lorna Doone, or any power
over her. And this last threatened and exhorted, and held out hopes
of recompense, if she were rendered truly. My mother and I held
consultation, over both these documents, with a mixture of some wrath
and fear, and a fork of great sorrow to stir them. And now having Jeremy
Stickles's leave, which he gave with a nod when I told him all, and at
last made him understand it, I laid bare to my mother as well what
I knew, as what I merely surmised, or guessed, concerning Lorna's
parentage. All this she received with great tears, and wonder, and
fervent thanks to God, and still more fervent praise of her son, who had
nothing whatever to do with it. However, now the question was, how to
act about these writs. And herein it was most unlucky that we could not
have Master Stickles, with his knowledge of the world, and especially
of the law-courts, to advise us what to do, and to help in doing it. And
firstly of the first I said, 'We have rogues to deal with; but try we
not to rogue them.'

To this, in some measure, dear mother agreed, though she could not see
the justice of it, yet thought that it might be wiser, because of our
want of practice. And then I said, 'Now we are bound to tell Lorna, and
to serve her citation upon her, which these good fellows have given us.'

'Then go, and do it thyself, my son,' mother replied with a mournful
smile, misdoubting what the end might be. So I took the slip of brown
parchment, and went to seek my darling.

Lorna was in her favourite place, the little garden which she tended
with such care and diligence. Seeing how the maiden loved it, and was
happy there, I had laboured hard to fence it from the dangers of the
wood. And here she had corrected me, with better taste, and sense of
pleasure, and the joys of musing. For I meant to shut out the brook, and
build my fence inside of it; but Lorna said no; if we must have a fence,
which could not but be injury, at any rate leave the stream inside,
and a pleasant bank beyond it. And soon I perceived that she was right,
though not so much as afterwards; for the fairest of all things in a
garden, and in summer-time most useful, is a brook of crystal water;
where a man may come and meditate, and the flowers may lean and see
themselves, and the rays of the sun are purfied. Now partly with her own
white hands, and partly with Gwenny's red ones, Lorna had made of this
sunny spot a haven of beauty to dwell in. It was not only that colours
lay in the harmony we would seek of them, neither was it the height of
plants, sloping to one another; nor even the delicate tone of foliage
following suit, and neighbouring. Even the breathing of the wind, soft
and gentle in and out, moving things that need not move, and passing
longer-stalked ones, even this was not enough among the flush of
fragrance, to tell a man the reason of his quiet satisfaction. But so it
shall for ever be. As the river we float upon (with wine, and flowers,
and music,) is nothing at the well-spring but a bubble without reason.

Feeling many things, but thinking without much to guide me, over the
grass-plats laid between, I went up to Lorna. She in a shower of damask
roses, raised her eyes and looked at me. And even now, in those sweet
eyes, so deep with loving-kindness, and soft maiden dreamings, there
seemed to be a slight unwilling, half confessed withdrawal; overcome by
love and duty, yet a painful thing to see.

'Darling,' I said, 'are your spirits good? Are you strong enough to-day,
to bear a tale of cruel sorrow; but which perhaps, when your tears are
shed, will leave you all the happier?'

'What can you mean?' she answered trembling, not having been vey strong
of late, and now surprised at my manner; 'are you come to give me up,
John?'

'Not very likely,' I replied; 'neither do I hope such a thing would
leave you all the happier. Oh, Lorna, if you can think that so quickly
as you seem to have done, now you have every prospect and strong
temptation to it. You are far, far above me in the world, and I have no
right to claim you. Perhaps, when you have heard these tidings you will
say, "John Ridd, begone; your life and mine are parted."'

'Will I?' cried Lorna, with all the brightness of her playful ways
returning: 'you very foolish and jealous John, how shall I punish you
for this? Am I to forsake every flower I have, and not even know that
the world goes round, while I look up at you, the whole day long and
say, "John, I love, love, love you?"'

During these words she leaned upon me, half in gay imitation of what
I had so often made her do, and half in depth of earnestness, as the
thrice-repeated word grew stronger, and grew warmer, with and to her
heart. And as she looked up at the finish, saying, 'you,' so musically,
I was much inclined to clasp her round; but remembering who she was,
forbore; at which she seemed surprised with me.

'Mistress Lorna, I replied, with I know not what temptation, making
little of her caresses, though more than all my heart to me: 'Mistress
Lorna, you must keep your rank and proper dignity. You must never look
at me with anything but pity now.'

'I shall look at you with pity, John,' said Lorna, trying to laugh it
off, yet not knowing what to make of me, 'if you talk any more of this
nonsense, knowing me as you ought to do. I shall even begin to think
that you, and your friends, are weary of me, and of so long supporting
me; and are only seeking cause to send me back to my old misery. If it
be so, I will go. My life matters little to any one.' Here the great
bright tears arose; but the maiden was too proud to sob.

'Sweetest of all sweet loves,' I cried, for the sign of a tear defeated
me; 'what possibility could make me ever give up Lorna?'

'Dearest of all dears,' she answered; 'if you dearly love me, what
possibility could ever make me give you up, dear?'

Upon that there was no more forbearing, but I kissed and clasped her,
whether she were Countess, or whether Queen of England; mine she was, at
least in heart; and mine she should be wholly. And she being of the same
opinion, nothing was said between us.

'Now, Lorna,' said I, as she hung on my arm, willing to trust me
anywhere, 'come to your little plant-house, and hear my moving story.'

'No story can move me much, dear,' she answered rather faintly, for any
excitement stayed with her; 'since I know your strength of kindness,
scarcely any tale can move me, unless it be of yourself, love; or of my
poor mother.'

'It is of your poor mother, darling. Can you bear to hear it?' And yet I
wondered why she did not say as much of her father.

'Yes, I can bear anything. But although I cannot see her, and have long
forgotten, I could not bear to hear ill of her.'

'There is no ill to hear, sweet child, except of evil done to her.
Lorna, you are of an ill-starred race.'

'Better that than a wicked race,' she answered with her usual quickness,
leaping at conclusion; 'tell me I am not a Doone, and I will--but I
cannot love you more.'

'You are not a Doone, my Lorna, for that, at least, I can answer; though
I know not what your name is.'

'And my father--your father--what I mean is--'

'Your father and mine never met one another. Your father was killed by
an accident in the Pyrenean mountains, and your mother by the Doones; or
at least they caused her death, and carried you away from her.'

All this, coming as in one breath upon the sensitive maiden, was more
than she could bear all at once; as any but a fool like me must of
course have known. She lay back on the garden bench, with her black hair
shed on the oaken bark, while her colour went and came and only by that,
and her quivering breath, could any one say that she lived and thought.
And yet she pressed my hand with hers, that I might tell her all of it.



CHAPTER LVI

JOHN BECOMES TOO POPULAR

No flower that I have ever seen, either in shifting of light and shade,
or in the pearly morning, may vie with a fair young woman's face when
tender thought and quick emotion vary, enrich, and beautify it. Thus my
Lorna hearkened softly, almost without word or gesture, yet with sighs
and glances telling, and the pressure of my hand, how each word was
moving her.

When at last my tale was done, she turned away, and wept bitterly for
the sad fate of her parents. But to my surprise she spoke not even a
word of wrath or rancour. She seemed to take it all as fate.

'Lorna, darling,' I said at length, for men are more impatient in trials
of time than women are, 'do you not even wish to know what your proper
name is?'

'How can it matter to me, John?' she answered, with a depth of grief
which made me seem a trifler. 'It can never matter now, when there are
none to share it.'

'Poor little soul!' was all I said in a tone of purest pity; and to my
surprise she turned upon me, caught me in her arms, and loved me as she
had never done before.

'Dearest, I have you,' she cried; 'you, and only you, love. Having you I
want no other. All my life is one with yours. Oh, John, how can I treat
you so?'

Blushing through the wet of weeping, and the gloom of pondering, yet she
would not hide her eyes, but folded me, and dwelled on me.

'I cannot believe,' in the pride of my joy, I whispered into one little
ear, 'that you could ever so love me, beauty, as to give up the world
for me.'

'Would you give up your farm for me, John?' cried Lorna, leaping back
and looking, with her wondrous power of light at me; 'would you give up
your mother, your sisters, your home, and all that you have in the world
and every hope of your life, John?'

'Of course I would. Without two thoughts. You know it; you know it,
Lorna.'

'It is true that I do, 'she answered in a tone of deepest sadness; 'and
it is this power of your love which has made me love you so. No good can
come of it, no good. God's face is set against selfishness.'

As she spoke in that low tone I gazed at the clear lines of her face
(where every curve was perfect) not with love and wonder only, but with
a strange new sense of awe.

'Darling,' I said, 'come nearer to me. Give me surety against that. For
God's sake never frighten me with the thought that He would part us.'

'Does it then so frighten you?' she whispered, coming close to me; 'I
know it, dear; I have known it long; but it never frightens me. It makes
me sad, and very lonely, till I can remember.'

'Till you can remember what?' I asked, with a long, deep shudder; for we
are so superstitious.

'Until I do remember, love, that you will soon come back to me, and be
my own for ever. This is what I always think of, this is what I hope
for.'

Although her eyes were so glorious, and beaming with eternity, this
distant sort of beatitude was not much to my liking. I wanted to have
my love on earth; and my dear wife in my own home; and children in good
time, if God should please to send us any. And then I would be to them,
exactly what my father was to me. And beside all this, I d