Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor
R. D. Blackmore
Part 12 out of 17
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
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
'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 he 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 he 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
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
'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.
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
'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 doubted much about being fit for
heaven; where no ploughs are, and no cattle, unless
sacrificed bulls went thither.
Therefore I said, 'Now kiss me, Lorna; and don't talk
any nonsense.' And the darling came and did it; being
kindly obedient, as the other world often makes us.
'You sweet love,' I said at this, being slave to her
soft obedience; 'do you suppose I should be content to
leave you until Elysium?'
'How on earth can I tell, dear John, what you will be
'You, and only you,' said I; 'the whole of it lies in a
syllable. Now you know my entire want; and want must
be my comfort.'
'But surely if I have money, sir, and birth, and rank,
and all sorts of grandeur, you would never dare to
think of me.'
She drew herself up with an air of pride, as she
gravely pronounced these words, and gave me a scornful
glance, or tried; and turned away as if to enter some
grand coach or palace; while I was so amazed and
grieved in my raw simplicity especially after the way
in which she had first received my news, so loving and
warm-hearted, that I never said a word, but stared and
thought, 'How does she mean it?'
She saw the pain upon my forehead, and the wonder in my
eyes, and leaving coach and palace too, back she flew
to me in a moment, as simple as simplest milkmaid.
'Oh, you fearful stupid, John, you inexpressibly
stupid, John,' she cried with both arms round my neck,
and her lips upon my forehead; 'you have called
yourself thick-headed, John, and I never would believe
it. But now I do with all my heart. Will you never
know what I am, love?'
'No, Lorna, that I never shall. I can understand my
mother well, and one at least of my sisters, and both
the Snowe girls very easily, but you I never
understand; only love you all the more for it.'
'Then never try to understand me, if the result is
that, dear John. And yet I am the very simplest of all
foolish simple creatures. Nay, I am wrong; therein I
yield the palm to you, my dear. To think that I can
act so! No wonder they want me in London, as an
ornament for the stage, John.'
Now in after days, when I heard of Lorna as the
richest, and noblest, and loveliest lady to be found in
London, I often remembered that little scene, and
recalled every word and gesture, wondering what lay
under it. Even now, while it was quite impossible once
to doubt those clear deep eyes, and the bright lips
trembling so; nevertheless I felt how much the world
would have to do with it; and that the best and truest
people cannot shake themselves quite free. However,
for the moment, I was very proud and showed it.
And herein differs fact from fancy, things as they
befall us from things as we would have them, human ends
from human hopes; that the first are moved by a
thousand and the last on two wheels only, which (being
named) are desire and fear. Hope of course is nothing
more than desire with a telescope, magnifying distant
matters, overlooking near ones; opening one eye on the
objects, closing the other to all objections. And if
hope be the future tense of desire, the future of fear
is religion--at least with too many of us.
Whether I am right or wrong in these small moralities,
one thing is sure enough, to wit, that hope is the
fastest traveller, at any rate, in the time of youth.
And so I hoped that Lorna might be proved of blameless
family, and honourable rank and fortune; and yet none
the less for that, love me and belong to me. So I led
her into the house, and she fell into my mother's arms;
and I left them to have a good cry of it, with Annie
ready to help them.
If Master Stickles should not mend enough to gain his
speech a little, and declare to us all he knew, I was
to set out for Watchett, riding upon horseback, and
there to hire a cart with wheels, such as we had not
begun, as yet, to use on Exmoor. For all our work went
on broad wood, with runners and with earthboards; and
many of us still looked upon wheels (though mentioned
in the Bible) as the invention of the evil one, and
Pharoah's especial property.
Now, instead of getting better, Colonel Stickles grew
worse and worse, in spite of all our tendance of him,
with simples and with nourishment, and no poisonous
medicine, such as doctors would have given him. And
the fault of this lay not with us, but purely with
himself and his unquiet constitution. For he roused
himself up to a perfect fever, when through Lizzie's
giddiness he learned the very thing which mother and
Annie were hiding from him, with the utmost care;
namely, that Sergeant Bloxham had taken upon himself to
send direct to London by the Chancery officers, a full
report of what had happened, and of the illness of his
chief, together with an urgent prayer for a full
battalion of King's troops, and a plenary commander.
This Sergeant Bloxham, being senior of the surviving
soldiers, and a very worthy man in his way, but a
trifle over-zealous, had succeeded to the captaincy
upon his master's disablement. Then, with desire to
serve his country and show his education, he sat up
most part of three nights, and wrote this very
wonderful report by the aid of our stable lanthorn. It
was a very fine piece of work, as three men to whom he
read it (but only one at a time) pronounced, being
under seal of secrecy. And all might have gone well
with it, if the author could only have held his tongue,
when near the ears of women. But this was beyond his
sense as it seems, although so good a writer. For
having heard that our Lizzie was a famous judge of
literature (as indeed she told almost every one), he
could not contain himself, but must have her opinion
upon his work.
Lizzie sat on a log of wood, and listened with all her
ears up, having made proviso that no one else should be
there to interrupt her. And she put in a syllable here
and there, and many a time she took out one (for the
Sergeant overloaded his gun, more often than
undercharged it; like a liberal man of letters), and
then she declared the result so good, so chaste, and
the style to be so elegant, and yet so fervent, that
the Sergeant broke his pipe in three, and fell in love
with her on the spot. Now this has led me out of my
way; as things are always doing, partly through their
own perverseness, partly through my kind desire to give
fair turn to all of them, and to all the people who do
them. If any one expects of me a strict and
well-drilled story, standing 'at attention' all the
time, with hands at the side like two wens on my trunk,
and eyes going neither right nor left; I trow that man
has been disappointed many a page ago, and has left me
to my evil ways; and if not, I love his charity.
Therefore let me seek his grace, and get back, and just
That great despatch was sent to London by the Chancery
officers, whom we fitted up with clothes, and for three
days fattened them; which in strict justice they needed
much, as well as in point of equity. They were kind
enough to be pleased with us, and accepted my new
shirts generously; and urgent as their business was,
another week (as they both declared) could do no harm
to nobody, and might set them upon their legs again.
And knowing, although they were London men, that fish
do live in water, these two fellows went fishing all
day, but never landed anything. However, their holiday
was cut short; for the Sergeant, having finished now
his narrative of proceedings, was not the man to let it
hang fire, and be quenched perhaps by Stickles.
Therefore, having done their business, and served both
citations, these two good men had a pannier of victuals
put up by dear Annie, and borrowing two of our horses,
rode to Dunster, where they left them, and hired on
towards London. We had not time to like them much, and
so we did not miss them, especially in our great
anxiety about poor Master Stickles.
Jeremy lay between life and death, for at least a
fortnight. If the link of chain had flown upwards (for
half a link of chain it was which took him in the mouth
so), even one inch upwards, the poor man could have
needed no one except Parson Bowden; for the bottom of
his skull, which holds the brain as in the egg-cup,
must have clean gone from him. But striking him
horizontally, and a little upon the skew, the metal
came out at the back of his neck, and (the powder not
being strong, I suppose) it lodged in his leather
Now the rust of this iron hung in the wound, or at
least we thought so; though since I have talked with a
man of medicine, I am not so sure of it. And our chief
aim was to purge this rust; when rather we should have
stopped the hole, and let the oxide do its worst, with
a plug of new flesh on both sides of it.
At last I prevailed upon him by argument, that he must
get better, to save himself from being ignobly and
unjustly superseded; and hereupon I reviled Sergeant
Bloxham more fiercely than Jeremy's self could have
done, and indeed to such a pitch that Jeremy almost
forgave him, and became much milder. And after that
his fever and the inflammation of his wound, diminished
However, not knowing what might happen, or even how
soon poor Lorna might be taken from our power, and,
falling into lawyers' hands, have cause to wish herself
most heartily back among the robbers, I set forth one
day for Watchett, taking advantage of the visit of some
troopers from an outpost, who would make our house
quite safe. I rode alone, being fully primed, and
having no misgivings. For it was said that even the
Doones had begun to fear me, since I cast their
culverin through the door, as above related; and they
could not but believe, from my being still untouched
(although so large an object) in the thickest of their
fire, both of gun and cannon, that I must bear a
charmed life, proof against ball and bullet. However,
I knew that Carver Doone was not a likely man to hold
any superstitious opinions; and of him I had an
instinctive dread, although quite ready to face him.
Riding along, I meditated upon Lorna's history; how
many things were now beginning to unfold themselves,
which had been obscure and dark! For instance, Sir
Ensor Doone's consent, or to say the least his
indifference, to her marriage with a yeoman; which in a
man so proud (though dying) had greatly puzzled both of
us. But now, if she not only proved to be no
grandchild of the Doone, but even descended from his
enemy, it was natural enough that he should feel no
great repugnance to her humiliation. And that Lorna's
father had been a foe to the house of Doone I gathered
from her mother's cry when she beheld their leader.
Moreover that fact would supply their motive in
carrying off the unfortunate little creature, and
rearing her among them, and as one of their own family;
yet hiding her true birth from her. She was a 'great
card,' as we say, when playing All-fours at
Christmas-time; and if one of them could marry her,
before she learned of right and wrong, vast property,
enough to buy pardons for a thousand Doones, would be
at their mercy. And since I was come to know Lorna
better, and she to know me thoroughly--many things had
been outspoken, which her early bashfulness had kept
covered from me. Attempts I mean to pledge her love
to this one, or that other; some of which perhaps might
have been successful, if there had not been too many.
And then, as her beauty grew richer and brighter,
Carver Doone was smitten strongly, and would hear of no
one else as a suitor for her; and by the terror of his
claim drove off all the others. Here too may the
explanation of a thing which seemed to be against the
laws of human nature, and upon which I longed, but
dared not to cross-question Lorna. How could such a
lovely girl, although so young, and brave, and distant,
have escaped the vile affections of a lawless company?
But now it was as clear as need be. For any proven
violence would have utterly vitiated all claim upon her
grand estate; at least as those claims must be urged
before a court of equity. And therefore all the elders
(with views upon her real estate) kept strict watch on
the youngers, who confined their views to her
Now I do not mean to say that all this, or the hundred
other things which came, crowding consideration, were
half as plain to me at the time, as I have set them
down above. Far be it from me to deceive you so. No
doubt my thoughts were then dark and hazy, like an
oil-lamp full of fungus; and I have trimmed them, as
when they burned, with scissors sharpened long
afterwards. All I mean to say is this, that jogging
along to a certain tune of the horse's feet, which we
call 'three-halfpence and twopence,' I saw my way a
little into some things which had puzzled me.
When I knocked at the little door, whose sill was
gritty and grimed with sand, no one came for a very
long time to answer me, or to let me in. Not wishing
to be unmannerly, I waited a long time, and watched the
sea, from which the wind was blowing; and whose many
lips of waves--though the tide was half-way out--spoke
to and refreshed me. After a while I knocked again,
for my horse was becoming hungry; and a good while
after that again, a voice came through the key-hole,--
'Who is that wishes to enter?'
'The boy who was at the pump,' said I, 'when the
carriage broke down at Dulverton. The boy that lives
at oh--ah; and some day you would come seek for him.'
'Oh, yes, I remember certainly. My leetle boy, with
the fair white skin. I have desired to see him, oh
many, yes, many times.'
She was opening the door, while saying this, and then
she started back in affright that the little boy should
have grown so.
'You cannot be that leetle boy. It is quite
impossible. Why do you impose on me?'
'Not only am I that little boy, who made the water to
flow for you, till the nebule came upon the glass; but
also I am come to tell you all about your little girl.'
'Come in, you very great leetle boy,' she answered,
with her dark eyes brightened. And I went in, and
looked at her. She was altered by time, as much as I
was. The slight and graceful shape was gone; not that
I remembered anything of her figure, if you please; for
boys of twelve are not yet prone to note the shapes of
women; but that her lithe straight gait had struck me
as being so unlike our people. Now her time for
walking so was past, and transmitted to her children.
Yet her face was comely still, and full of strong
intelligence. I gazed at her, and she at me; and we
were sure of one another.
'Now what will ye please to eat?' she asked, with a
lively glance at the size of my mouth: 'that is always
the first thing you people ask, in these barbarous
'I will tell you by-and-by,' I answered, misliking this
satire upon us; 'but I might begin with a quart of ale,
to enable me to speak, madam.'
'Very well. One quevart of be-or;' she called out to a
little maid, who was her eldest child, no doubt. 'It
is to be expected, sir. Be-or, be-or, be-or, all day
long, with you Englishmen!'
'Nay,' I replied, 'not all day long, if madam will
excuse me. Only a pint at breakfast-time, and a pint
and a half at eleven o'clock, and a quart or so at
dinner. And then no more till the afternoon; and half
a gallon at supper-time. No one can object to that.'
'Well, I suppose it is right,' she said, with an air
of resignation; 'God knows. But I do not understand
it. It is "good for business," as you say, to preclude
'And it is good for us, madam,' I answered with
indignation, for beer is my favourite beverage; 'and I
am a credit to beer, madam; and so are all who trust to
'At any rate, you are, young man. If beer has made you
grow so large, I will put my children upon it; it is
too late for me to begin. The smell to me is hateful.'
Now I only set down that to show how perverse those
foreign people are. They will drink their wretched
heartless stuff, such as they call claret, or wine of
Medoc, or Bordeaux, or what not, with no more meaning
than sour rennet, stirred with the pulp from the cider
press, and strained through the cap of our Betty. This
is very well for them; and as good as they deserve, no
doubt, and meant perhaps by the will of God, for those
unhappy natives. But to bring it over to England and
set it against our home-brewed ale (not to speak of
wines from Portugal) and sell it at ten times the
price, as a cure for British bile, and a great
enlightenment; this I say is the vilest feature of the
age we live in.
Madam Benita Odam--for the name of the man who turned
the wheel proved to be John Odam--showed me into a
little room containing two chairs and a fir-wood table,
and sat down on a three-legged seat and studied me very
steadfastly. This she had a right to do; and I, having
all my clothes on now, was not disconcerted. It would
not become me to repeat her judgment upon my
appearance, which she delivered as calmly as if I were
a pig at market, and as proudly as if her own pig. And
she asked me whether I had ever got rid of the black
marks on my breast.
Not wanting to talk about myself (though very fond of
doing so, when time and season favour) I led her back
to that fearful night of the day when first I had seen
her. She was not desirous to speak of it, because of
her own little children; however, I drew her gradually
to recollection of Lorna, and then of the little boy
who died, and the poor mother buried with him. And her
strong hot nature kindled, as she dwelled upon these
things; and my wrath waxed within me; and we forgot
reserve and prudence under the sense of so vile a
wrong. She told me (as nearly as might be) the very
same story which she had told to Master Jeremy
Stickles; only she dwelled upon it more, because of my
knowing the outset. And being a woman, with an inkling
of my situation, she enlarged upon the little maid,
more than to dry Jeremy.
'Would you know her again?' I asked, being stirred by
these accounts of Lorna, when she was five years old:
'would you know her as a full-grown maiden?'
'I think I should,' she answered; 'it is not possible
to say until one sees the person; but from the eyes of
the little girl, I think that I must know her. Oh, the
poor young creature! Is it to be believed that the
cannibals devoured her! What a people you are in this
country! Meat, meat, meat!'
As she raised her hands and eyes in horror at our
carnivorous propensities, to which she clearly
attributed the disappearance of Lorna, I could scarce
help laughing, even after that sad story. For though
it is said at the present day, and will doubtless be
said hereafter, that the Doones had devoured a baby
once, as they came up Porlock hill, after fighting hard
in the market-place, I knew that the tale was utterly
false; for cruel and brutal as they were, their taste
was very correct and choice, and indeed one might say
fastidious. Nevertheless I could not stop to argue
that matter with her.
'The little maid has not been devoured,' I said to
Mistress Odam: 'and now she is a tall young lady, and
as beautiful as can be. If I sleep in your good hostel
to-night after going to Watchett town, will you come
with me to Oare to-morrow, and see your little maiden?'
'I would like--and yet I fear. This country is so
barbarous. And I am good to eat--my God, there is much
picking on my bones!'
She surveyed herself with a glance so mingled of pity
and admiration, and the truth of her words was so
apparent (only that it would have taken a week to get
at the bones, before picking) that I nearly lost good
manners; for she really seemed to suspect even me of
cannibal inclinations. However, at last I made her
promise to come with me on the morrow, presuming that
Master Odam could by any means be persuaded to keep her
company in the cart, as propriety demanded. Having
little doubt that Master Odam was entirely at his
wife's command, I looked upon that matter as settled,
and set off for Watchett, to see the grave of Lorna's
poor mother, and to hire a cart for the morrow.
And here (as so often happens with men) I succeeded
without any trouble or hindrance, where I had looked
for both of them, namely, in finding a suitable cart;
whereas the other matter, in which I could have
expected no difficulty, came very near to defeat me.
For when I heard that Lorna's father was the Earl of
Dugal--as Benita impressed upon me with a strong
enforcement, as much as to say, 'Who are you, young
man, to come even asking about her?'--then I never
thought but that everybody in Watchett town must know
all about the tombstone of the Countess of Dugal.
This, however, proved otherwise. For Lord Dugal had
never lived at Watchett Grange, as their place was
called; neither had his name become familiar as its
owner. Because the Grange had only devolved to him by
will, at the end of a long entail, when the last of the
Fitz-Pains died out; and though he liked the idea of
it, he had gone abroad, without taking seisin. And
upon news of his death, John Jones, a rich gentleman
from Llandaff, had taken possession, as next of right,
and hushed up all the story. And though, even at the
worst of times, a lady of high rank and wealth could
not be robbed, and as bad as murdered, and then buried
in a little place, without moving some excitement, yet
it had been given out, on purpose and with diligence,
that this was only a foreign lady travelling for her
health and pleasure, along the seacoast of England.
And as the poor thing never spoke, and several of her
servants and her baggage looked so foreign, and she
herself died in a collar of lace unlike any made in
England, all Watchett, without hesitation, pronounced
her to be a foreigner. And the English serving man
and maid, who might have cleared up everything, either
were bribed by Master Jones, or else decamped of their
own accord with the relics of the baggage. So the poor
Countess of Dugal, almost in sight of her own grand
house, was buried in an unknown grave, with her pair of
infants, without a plate, without a tombstone (worse
than all) without a tear, except from the hired Italian
Surely my poor Lorna came of an ill-starred family.
Now in spite of all this, if I had only taken Benita
with me, or even told her what I wished, and craved her
directions, there could have been no trouble. But I do
assure you that among the stupid people at Watchett
(compared with whom our folk of Oare, exceeding dense
though being, are as Hamlet against Dogberry) what with
one of them and another, and the firm conviction of all
the town that I could be come only to wrestle, I do
assure you (as I said before) that my wits almost went
out of me. And what vexed me yet more about it was,
that I saw my own mistake, in coming myself to seek out
the matter, instead of sending some unknown person.
For my face and form were known at that time (and still
are so) to nine people out of every ten living in forty
miles of me. Not through any excellence, or anything
of good desert, in either the one or the other, but
simply because folks will be fools on the rivalry of
wrestling. The art is a fine one in itself, and
demands a little wit of brain, as well as strength of
body; it binds the man who studies it to temperance,
and chastity, to self-respect, and most of all to an
even and sweet temper; for I have thrown stronger men
than myself (when I was a mere sapling, and before my
strength grew hard on me) through their loss of temper.
But though the art is an honest one, surely they who
excel therein have a right (like all the rest of
man-kind) to their own private life.
Be that either way--and I will not speak too strongly,
for fear of indulging my own annoyance--anyhow, all
Watchett town cared ten times as much to see John Ridd,
as to show him what he wanted. I was led to every
public-house, instead of to the churchyard; and twenty
tables were ready for me, in lieu of a single
gravestone. 'Zummerzett thou bee'st, Jan Ridd, and
Zummerzett thou shalt be. Thee carl theezell a
Davonsheer man! Whoy, thee lives in Zummerzett; and in
Zummerzett thee wast barn, lad.' And so it went on,
till I was weary; though very much obliged to them.
Dull and solid as I am, and with a wild duck waiting
for me at good Mistress Odam's, I saw that there was
nothing for it but to yield to these good people, and
prove me a man of Somerset, by eating a dinner at their
expense. As for the churchyard, none would hear of it;
and I grieved for broaching the matter.
But how was I to meet Lorna again, without having done
the thing of all things which I had promised to see to?
It would never do to tell her that so great was my
popularity, and so strong the desire to feed me, that I
could not attend to her mother. Least of all could I
say that every one in Watchett knew John Ridd; while
none had heard of the Countess of Dugal. And yet that
was about the truth, as I hinted very delicately to
Mistress Odam that evening. But she (being vexed about
her wild duck, and not having English ideas on the
matter of sport, and so on) made a poor unwitting face
at me. Nevertheless Master Odam restored me to my
self-respect; for he stared at me till I went to bed;
and he broke his hose with excitement. For being in
the leg-line myself, I wanted to know what the muscles
were of a man who turned a wheel all day. I had never
seen a treadmill (though they have one now at Exeter),
and it touched me much to learn whether it were good
exercise. And herein, from what I saw of Odam, I
incline to think that it does great harm; as moving the
muscles too much in a line, and without variety.
LORNA KNOWS HER NURSE
Having obtained from Benita Odam a very close and full
description of the place where her poor mistress lay,
and the marks whereby to know it, I hastened to
Watchett the following morning, before the sun was up,
or any people were about. And so, without
interruption, I was in the churchyard at sunrise.
In the farthest and darkest nook, overgrown with grass,
and overhung by a weeping-tree a little bank of earth
betokened the rounding off of a hapless life. There
was nothing to tell of rank, or wealth, of love, or
even pity; nameless as a peasant lay the last (as
supposed) of a mighty race. Only some unskilful hand,
probably Master Odam's under his wife's teaching, had
carved a rude L., and a ruder D., upon a large pebble
from the beach, and set it up as a headstone.
I gathered a little grass for Lorna and a sprig of the
weeping-tree, and then returned to the Forest Cat, as
Benita's lonely inn was called. For the way is long
from Watchett to Oare; and though you may ride it
rapidly, as the Doones had done on that fatal night, to
travel on wheels, with one horse only, is a matter of
time and of prudence. Therefore, we set out pretty
early, three of us and a baby, who could not well be
left behind. The wife of the man who owned the cart
had undertaken to mind the business, and the other
babies, upon condition of having the keys of all the
taps left with her.
As the manner of journeying over the moor has been
described oft enough already, I will say no more,
except that we all arrived before dusk of the summer's
day, safe at Plover's Barrows. Mistress Benita was
delighted with the change from her dull hard life; and
she made many excellent observations, such as seem
natural to a foreigner looking at our country.
As luck would have it, the first who came to meet us at
the gate was Lorna, with nothing whatever upon her head
(the weather being summerly) but her beautiful hair
shed round her; and wearing a sweet white frock tucked
in, and showing her figure perfectly. In her joy she
ran straight up to the cart; and then stopped and gazed
at Benita. At one glance her old nurse knew her: 'Oh,
the eyes, the eyes!' she cried, and was over the rail
of the cart in a moment, in spite of all her substance.
Lorna, on the other hand, looked at her with some doubt
and wonder, as though having right to know much about
her, and yet unable to do so. But when the foreign
woman said something in Roman language, and flung new
hay from the cart upon her, as if in a romp of
childhood, the young maid cried, 'Oh, Nita, Nita!' and
fell upon her breast, and wept; and after that looked
round at us.
This being so, there could be no doubt as to the power
of proving Lady Lorna's birth, and rights, both by
evidence and token. For though we had not the necklace
now--thanks to Annie's wisdom--we had the ring of heavy
gold, a very ancient relic, with which my maid (in her
simple way) had pledged herself to me. And Benita knew
this ring as well as she knew her own fingers, having
heard a long history about it; and the effigy on it of
the wild cat was the bearing of the house of Lorne.
For though Lorna's father was a nobleman of high and
goodly lineage, her mother was of yet more ancient and
renowned descent, being the last in line direct from
the great and kingly chiefs of Lorne. A wild and
headstrong race they were, and must have everything
their own way. Hot blood was ever among them, even of
one household; and their sovereignty (which more than
once had defied the King of Scotland) waned and fell
among themselves, by continual quarrelling. And it was
of a piece with this, that the Doones (who were an
offset, by the mother's side, holding in co-
partnership some large property, which had come by the
spindle, as we say) should fall out with the Earl of
Lorne, the last but one of that title.
The daughter of this nobleman had married Sir Ensor
Doone; but this, instead of healing matters, led to
fiercer conflict. I never could quite understand all
the ins and outs of it; which none but a lawyer may go
through, and keep his head at the end of it. The
motives of mankind are plainer than the motions they
produce. Especially when charity (such as found among
us) sits to judge the former, and is never weary of it;
while reason does not care to trace the latter
complications, except for fee or title.
Therefore it is enough to say, that knowing Lorna to be
direct in heirship to vast property, and bearing
especial spite against the house of which she was the
last, the Doones had brought her up with full intention
of lawful marriage; and had carefully secluded her from
the wildest of their young gallants. Of course, if
they had been next in succession, the child would have
gone down the waterfall, to save any further trouble;
but there was an intercepting branch of some honest
family; and they being outlaws, would have a poor
chance (though the law loves outlaws) against them.
Only Lorna was of the stock; and Lorna they must marry.
And what a triumph against the old earl, for a cursed
Doone to succeed him!
As for their outlawry, great robberies, and grand
murders, the veriest child, nowadays, must know that
money heals the whole of that. Even if they had
murdered people of a good position, it would only cost
about twice as much to prove their motives loyal. But
they had never slain any man above the rank of yeoman;
and folk even said that my father was the highest of
their victims; for the death of Lorna's mother and
brother was never set to their account.
Pure pleasure it is to any man, to reflect upon all
these things. How truly we discern clear justice, and
how well we deal it. If any poor man steals a sheep,
having ten children starving, and regarding it as
mountain game (as a rich man does a hare), to the
gallows with him. If a man of rank beats down a door,
smites the owner upon the head, and honours the wife
with attention, it is a thing to be grateful for, and
to slouch smitten head the lower.
While we were full of all these things, and wondering
what would happen next, or what we ought ourselves to
do, another very important matter called for our
attention. This was no less than Annie's marriage to
the Squire Faggus. We had tried to put it off again;
for in spite of all advantages, neither my mother nor
myself had any real heart for it. Not that we dwelled
upon Tom's short-comings or rather perhaps his going
too far, at the time when he worked the road so. All
that was covered by the King's pardon, and universal
respect of the neighbourhood. But our scruple was
this--and the more we talked the more it grew upon us--
that we both had great misgivings as to his future
For it would be a thousand pities, we said, for a fine,
well-grown, and pretty maiden (such as our Annie was),
useful too, in so many ways, and lively, and
warm-hearted, and mistress of 500 pounds, to throw
herself away on a man with a kind of a turn for
drinking. If that last were even hinted, Annie would
be most indignant, and ask, with cheeks as red as
roses, who had ever seen Master Faggus any the worse
for liquor indeed? Her own opinion was, in truth, that
be took a great deal too little, after all his hard
work, and hard riding, and coming over the hills to be
insulted! And if ever it lay in her power, and with no
one to grudge him his trumpery glass, she would see
that poor Tom had the nourishment which his cough and
his lungs required.
His lungs being quite as sound as mine, this matter was
out of all argument; so mother and I looked at one
another, as much as to say, 'let her go upstairs, she
will cry and come down more reasonable.' And while she
was gone, we used to say the same thing over and over
again; but without perceiving a cure for it. And we
almost always finished up with the following
reflection, which sometimes came from mother's lips,
and sometimes from my own: 'Well, well, there is no
telling. None can say how a man may alter; when he
takes to matrimony. But if we could only make Annie
promise to be a little firm with him!'
I fear that all this talk on our part only hurried
matters forward, Annie being more determined every time
we pitied her. And at last Tom Faggus came, and spoke
as if he were on the King's road, with a pistol at my
head, and one at mother's. 'No more fast and loose,'
he cried. 'either one thing or the other. I love the
maid, and she loves me; and we will have one another,
either with your leave, or without it. How many more
times am I to dance over these vile hills, and leave my
business, and get nothing more than a sigh or a kiss,
and "Tom, I must wait for mother"? You are famous for
being straightforward, you Ridds. Just treat me as I
would treat you now.'
I looked at my mother; for a glance from her would have
sent Tom out of the window; but she checked me with her
hand, and said, 'You have some ground of complaint,
sir; I will not deny it. Now I will be as
straight-forward with you, as even a Ridd is supposed
to be. My son and myself have all along disliked your
marriage with Annie. Not for what you have been so
much, as for what we fear you will be. Have patience,
one moment, if you please. We do not fear your taking
to the highway life again; for that you are too clever,
no doubt, now that you have property. But we fear that
you will take to drinking, and to squandering money.
There are many examples of this around us; and we know
what the fate of the wife is. It has been hard to tell
you this, under our own roof, and with our own--' Here
'Spirits, and cider, and beer,' I broke in; 'out with
it, like a Ridd, mother; as he will have all of it.'
'Spirits, and cider, and beer,' said mother very firmly
after me; and then she gave way and said, 'You know,
Tom, you are welcome to every drop and more of it.'
Now Tom must have had a far sweeter temper than ever I
could claim; for I should have thrust my glass away,
and never have taken another drop in the house where
such a check had met me. But instead of that, Master
Faggus replied, with a pleasant smile,--
'I know that I am welcome, good mother; and to prove
it, I will have some more.'
And thereupon be mixed himself another glass of
hollands with lemon and hot water, yet pouring it very
'Oh, I have been so miserable--take a little more,
Tom,' said mother, handing the bottle.
'Yes, take a little more,' I said; 'you have mixed it
over weak, Tom.'
'If ever there was a sober man,' cried Tom, complying
with our request; 'if ever there was in Christendom a
man of perfect sobriety, that man is now before you.
Shall we say to-morrow week, mother? It will suit your
'How very thoughtful you are, Tom! Now John would never
have thought of that, in spite of all his steadiness.'
'Certainly not,' I answered proudly; 'when my time
comes for Lorna, I shall not study Betty Muxworthy.'
In this way the Squire got over us; and Farmer Nicholas
Snowe was sent for, to counsel with mother about the
matter and to set his two daughters sewing.
When the time for the wedding came, there was such a
stir and commotion as had never been known in the
parish of Oare since my father's marriage. For Annie's
beauty and kindliness had made her the pride of the
neighbourhood; and the presents sent her, from all
around, were enough to stock a shop with. Master
Stickles, who now could walk, and who certainly owed
his recovery, with the blessing of God, to Annie,
presented her with a mighty Bible, silver-clasped, and
very handsome, beating the parson's out and out, and
for which he had sent to Taunton. Even the common
troopers, having tasted her cookery many times (to help
out their poor rations), clubbed together, and must
have given at least a week's pay apiece, to have turned
out what they did for her. This was no less than a
silver pot, well-designed, but suited surely rather to
the bridegroom's taste than bride's. In a word,
everybody gave her things.
And now my Lorna came to me, with a spring of tears in
appealing eyes--for she was still somewhat childish, or
rather, I should say, more childish now than when she
lived in misery--and she placed her little hand in
mine, and she was half afraid to speak, and dropped her
eyes for me to ask.
'What is it, little darling?' I asked, as I saw her
breath come fast; for the smallest emotion moved her
'You don't think, John, you don't think, dear, that you
could lend me any money?'
'All I have got,' I answered; 'how much do you want,
'I have been calculating; and I fear that I cannot do
any good with less than ten pounds, John.'
Here she looked up at me, with horror at the grandeur
of the sum, and not knowing what I could think of it.
But I kept my eyes from her. 'Ten pounds!' I said in
my deepest voice, on purpose to have it out in comfort,
when she should be frightened; 'what can you want with
ten pounds, child?'
'That is my concern, said Lorna, plucking up her spirit
at this: 'when a lady asks for a loan, no gentleman
pries into the cause of her asking it.'
'That may be as may be,' I answered in a judicial
manner; 'ten pounds, or twenty, you shall have. But I
must know the purport.'
'Then that you never shall know, John. I am very sorry
for asking you. It is not of the smallest consequence.
Oh, dear, no.' Herewith she was running away.
'Oh, dear, yes,' I replied; 'it is of very great
consequence; and I understand the whole of it. You
want to give that stupid Annie, who has lost you a
hundred thousand pounds, and who is going to be married
before us, dear--God only can tell why, being my
younger sister--you want to give her a wedding present.
And you shall do it, darling; because it is so good of
you. Don't you know your title, love? How humble you
are with us humble folk. You are Lady Lorna something,
so far as I can make out yet: and you ought not even to
speak to us. You will go away and disdain us.'
'If you please, talk not like that, John. I will have
nothing to do with it, if it comes between you and me,
'You cannot help yourself,' said I. And then she vowed
that she could and would. And rank and birth were
banished from between our lips in no time.
'What can I get her good enough? I am sure I do not
know,' she asked: 'she has been so kind and good to me,
and she is such a darling. How I shall miss her, to be
sure! By the bye, you seem to think, John, that I shall
be rich some day.'
'Of course you will. As rich as the French King who
keeps ours. Would the Lord Chancellor trouble himself
about you, if you were poor?'
'Then if I am rich, perhaps you would lend me twenty
pounds, dear John. Ten pounds would be very mean for a
wealthy person to give her.'
To this I agreed, upon condition that I should make the
purchase myself, whatever it might be. For nothing
could be easier than to cheat Lorna about the cost,
until time should come for her paying me. And this was
better than to cheat her for the benefit of our family.
For this end, and for many others, I set off to
Dulverton, bearing more commissions, more messages, and
more questions than a man of thrice my memory might
carry so far as the corner where the sawpit is. And to
make things worse, one girl or other would keep on
running up to me, or even after me (when started) with
something or other she had just thought of, which she
could not possibly do without, and which I must be sure
to remember, as the most important of the whole.
To my dear mother, who had partly outlived the
exceeding value of trifles, the most important matter
seemed to ensure Uncle Reuben's countenance and
presence at the marriage. And if I succeeded in this,
I might well forget all the maidens' trumpery. This
she would have been wiser to tell me when they were out
of hearing; for I left her to fight her own battle with
them; and laughing at her predicament, promised to do
the best I could for all, so far as my wits would go.
Uncle Reuben was not at home, but Ruth, who received me
very kindly, although without any expressions of joy,
was sure of his return in the afternoon, and persuaded
me to wait for him. And by the time that I had
finished all I could recollect of my orders, even with
paper to help me, the old gentleman rode into the yard,
and was more surprised than pleased to see me. But if
he was surprised, I was more than that--I was utterly
astonished at the change in his appearance since the
last time I had seen him. From a hale, and rather
heavy man, gray-haired, but plump, and ruddy, he was
altered to a shrunken, wizened, trembling, and almost
decrepit figure. Instead of curly and comely locks,
grizzled indeed, but plentiful, he had only a few lank
white hairs scattered and flattened upon his forehead.
But the greatest change of all was in the expression of
his eyes, which had been so keen, and restless, and
bright, and a little sarcastic. Bright indeed they
still were, but with a slow unhealthy lustre; their
keenness was turned to perpetual outlook, their
restlessness to a haggard want. As for the humour
which once gleamed there (which people who fear it call
sarcasm) it had been succeeded by stares of terror, and
then mistrust, and shrinking. There was none of the
interest in mankind, which is needful even for satire.
'Now what can this be?' thought I to myself, 'has the
old man lost all his property, or taken too much to
'Come inside, John Ridd,' he said; 'I will have a talk
with you. It is cold out here; and it is too light.
Come inside, John Ridd, boy.'
I followed him into a little dark room, quite different
from Ruth Huckaback's. It was closed from the shop by
an old division of boarding, hung with tanned canvas;
and the smell was very close and faint. Here there was
a ledger desk, and a couple of chairs, and a
'Take the stool,' said Uncle Reuben, showing me in very
quietly, 'it is fitter for your height, John. Wait a
moment; there is no hurry.'
Then he slipped out by another door, and closing it
quickly after him, told the foreman and waiting-men
that the business of the day was done. They had better
all go home at once; and he would see to the
fastenings. Of course they were only too glad to go;
but I wondered at his sending them, with at least two
hours of daylight left.
However, that was no business of mine, and I waited,
and pondered whether fair Ruth ever came into this
dirty room, and if so, how she kept her hands from it.
For Annie would have had it upside down in about two
minutes, and scrubbed, and brushed, and dusted, until
it looked quite another place; and yet all this done
without scolding and crossness; which are the curse of
clean women, and ten times worse than the dustiest
Uncle Ben came reeling in, not from any power of
liquor, but because he was stiff from horseback, and
weak from work and worry.
'Let me be, John, let me be,' he said, as I went to
help him; 'this is an unkind dreary place; but many a
hundred of good gold Carolus has been turned in this
'Not a doubt about it, sir,' I answered in my loud and
cheerful manner; 'and many another hundred, sir; and
may you long enjoy them!'
'My boy, do you wish me to die?' he asked, coming up
close to my stool, and regarding me with a shrewd
though blear-eyed gaze; 'many do. Do you, John?'
'Come,' said I, 'don't ask such nonsense. You know
better than that, Uncle Ben. Or else, I am sorry for
you. I want you to live as long as possible, for the
sake of--' Here I stopped.
'For the sake of what, John? I knew it is not for my
own sake. For the sake of what, my boy?'
'For the sake of Ruth,' I answered; 'if you must have
all the truth. Who is to mind her when you are gone?'
'But if you knew that I had gold, or a manner of
getting gold, far more than ever the sailors got out of
the Spanish galleons, far more than ever was heard of;
and the secret was to be yours, John; yours after me
and no other soul's--then you would wish me dead,
John.' Here he eyed me as if a speck of dust in my eyes
should not escape him.
'You are wrong, Uncle Ben; altogether wrong. For all
the gold ever heard or dreamed of, not a wish would
cross my heart to rob you of one day of life.'
At last he moved his eyes from mine; but without any
word, or sign, to show whether he believed, or
disbelieved. Then he went to a chair, and sat with his
chin upon the ledger-desk; as if the effort of probing
me had been too much for his weary brain. 'Dreamed
of! All the gold ever dreamed of! As if it were but a
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