Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor
R. D. Blackmore
Part 8 out of 17
need not eat my hand. Do you see they have put iron
'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
'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
'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
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
'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
'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
'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
'Good God!' said I, at the mere idea; in a tone which
'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
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
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
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
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
'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
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
'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
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
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
'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
'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
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
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
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,
'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
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
'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
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
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
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
'"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
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
'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
'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
'"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
* 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:--
'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,
'"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
'"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 he 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
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
'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
'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
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
'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 me!' I cried; 'what can Sir Ensor Doone
want with considering me? Has Mistress Lorna told
'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 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
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
'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
'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
'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
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
'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
'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
'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.
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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