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Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor by R. D. Blackmore

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This etext was prepared by Donald Lainson, charlie@idirect.com.

Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor
by R. D. Blackmore


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

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

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

March, 1869.















































































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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Put the case,' said the Counsellor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*This vile deed was done, beyond all doubt.

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

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

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

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