Part 11 out of 17
Possibly I may have mentioned that little Ruth
Huckaback had been asked, and had even promised to
spend her Christmas with us; and this was the more
desirable, because she had left us through some
offence, or sorrow, about things said of her. Now my
dear mother, being the kindest and best-hearted of all
women, could not bear that poor dear Ruth (who would
some day have such a fortune), should be entirely lost
to us. 'It is our duty, my dear children,' she said
more than once about it, 'to forgive and forget, as
freely as we hope to have it done to us. If dear
little Ruth has not behaved quite as we might have
expected, great allowance should be made for a girl
with so much money. Designing people get hold of her,
and flatter her, and coax her, to obtain a base
influence over her; so that when she falls among simple
folk, who speak the honest truth of her, no wonder the
poor child is vexed, and gives herself airs, and so on.
Ruth can be very useful to us in a number of little
ways; and I consider it quite a duty to pardon her
freak of petulance.'
Now one of the little ways in which Ruth had been very
useful, was the purchase of the scarlet feathers of the
flaming bird; and now that the house was quite safe
from attack, and the mark on my forehead was healing, I
was begged, over and over again, to go and see Ruth,
and make all things straight, and pay for the gorgeous
plumage. This last I was very desirous to do, that I
might know the price of it, having made a small bet on
the subject with Annie; and having held counsel with
myself, whether or not it were possible to get
something of the kind for Lorna, of still more
distinguished appearance. Of course she could not wear
scarlet as yet, even if I had wished it; but I believed
that people of fashion often wore purple for mourning;
purple too was the royal colour, and Lorna was by right
a queen; therefore I was quite resolved to ransack
Uncle Reuben's stores, in search of some bright purple
bird, if nature had kindly provided one.
All this, however, I kept to myself, intending to trust
Ruth Huckaback, and no one else in the matter. And so,
one beautiful spring morning, when all the earth was
kissed with scent, and all the air caressed with song,
up the lane I stoutly rode, well armed, and well
Now though it is part of my life to heed, it is no part
of my tale to tell, how the wheat was coming on. I
reckon that you, who read this story, after I am dead
and gone (and before that none shall read it), will
say, 'Tush! What is his wheat to us? We are not wheat:
we are human beings: and all we care for is human
doings.' This may be very good argument, and in the
main, I believe that it is so. Nevertheless, if a man
is to tell only what he thought and did, and not what
came around him, he must not mention his own clothes,
which his father and mother bought for him. And more
than my own clothes to me, ay, and as much as my own
skin, are the works of nature round about, whereof a
man is the smallest.
And now I will tell you, although most likely only to
be laughed at, because I cannot put it in the style of
Mr. Dryden--whom to compare to Shakespeare! but if once
I begin upon that, you will never hear the last of
me--nevertheless, I will tell you this; not wishing to
be rude, but only just because I know it; the more a
man can fling his arms (so to say) round Nature's neck,
the more he can upon her bosom, like an infant, lie and
suck,--the more that man shall earn the trust and love
of all his fellow men.
In this matter is no jealousy (when the man is dead);
because thereafter all others know how much of the milk
be had; and he can suck no longer; and they value him
accordingly, for the nourishment he is to them. Even
as when we keep a roaster of the sucking-pigs, we
choose, and praise at table most, the favourite of its
mother. Fifty times have I seen this, and smiled, and
praised our people's taste, and offered them more of
Now here am I upon Shakespeare (who died, of his own
fruition, at the age of fifty-two, yet lived more than
fifty thousand men, within his little span of life),
when all the while I ought to be riding as hard as I
can to Dulverton. But, to tell the truth, I could not
ride hard, being held at every turn, and often without
any turn at all, by the beauty of things around me.
These things grow upon a man if once he stops to notice
It wanted yet two hours to noon, when I came to Master
Huckaback's door, and struck the panels smartly.
Knowing nothing of their manners, only that people in a
town could not be expected to entertain (as we do in
farm-houses), having, moreover, keen expectation of
Master Huckaback's avarice, I had brought some stuff to
eat, made by Annie, and packed by Lorna, and requiring
no thinking about it.
Ruth herself came and let me in, blushing very
heartily; for which colour I praised her health, and my
praises heightened it. That little thing had lovely
eyes, and could be trusted thoroughly. I do like an
obstinate little woman, when she is sure that she is
right. And indeed if love had never sped me straight
to the heart of Lorna (compared to whom, Ruth was no
more than the thief is to the candle), who knows but
what I might have yielded to the law of nature, that
thorough trimmer of balances, and verified the proverb
that the giant loves the dwarf?
'I take the privilege, Mistress Ruth, of saluting you
according to kinship, and the ordering of the Canons.'
And therewith I bussed her well, and put my arm around
her waist, being so terribly restricted in the matter
of Lorna, and knowing the use of practice. Not that I
had any warmth--all that was darling Lorna's--only out
of pure gallantry, and my knowledge of London fashions.
Ruth blushed to such a pitch at this, and looked up at
me with such a gleam; as if I must have my own way;
that all my love of kissing sunk, and I felt that I was
wronging her. Only my mother had told me, when the
girls were out of the way, to do all I could to please
darling Ruth, and I had gone about it accordingly.
Now Ruth as yet had never heard a word about dear
Lorna; and when she led me into the kitchen (where
everything looked beautiful), and told me not to mind,
for a moment, about the scrubbing of my boots, because
she would only be too glad to clean it all up after me,
and told me how glad she was to see me, blushing more
at every word, and recalling some of them, and stooping
down for pots and pans, when I looked at her too
ruddily--all these things came upon me so, without any
legal notice, that I could only look at Ruth, and think
how very good she was, and how bright her handles were;
and wonder if I had wronged her. Once or twice, I
began--this I say upon my honour--to endeavour to
explain exactly, how we were at Plover's Barrows; how
we all had been bound to fight, and had defeated the
enemy, keeping their queen amongst us. But Ruth would
make some great mistake between Lorna and Gwenny
Carfax, and gave me no chance to set her aright, and
cared about nothing much, except some news of Sally
What could I do with this little thing? All my sense
of modesty, and value for my dinner, were against my
over-pressing all the graceful hints I had given about
Lorna. Ruth was just a girl of that sort, who will not
believe one word, except from her own seeing; not so
much from any doubt, as from the practice of using eyes
which have been in business.
I asked Cousin Ruth (as we used to call her, though the
cousinship was distant) what was become of Uncle Ben,
and how it was that we never heard anything of or from
him now. She replied that she hardly knew what to make
of her grandfather's manner of carrying on, for the
last half-year or more. He was apt to leave his home,
she said, at any hour of the day or night; going none
knew whither, and returning no one might say when. And
his dress, in her opinion, was enough to frighten a
hodman, of a scavenger of the roads, instead of the
decent suit of kersey, or of Sabbath doeskins, such as
had won the respect and reverence of his fellow-
townsmen. But the worst of all things was, as she
confessed with tears in her eyes, that the poor old
gentleman had something weighing heavily on his mind.
'It will shorten his days, Cousin Ridd,' she said, for
she never would call me Cousin John; 'he has no
enjoyment of anything that he eats or drinks, nor even
in counting his money, as he used to do all Sunday;
indeed no pleasure in anything, unless it be smoking
his pipe, and thinking and staring at bits of brown
stone, which he pulls, every now and then, out of his
pockets. And the business he used to take such pride
in is now left almost entirely to the foreman, and to
'And what will become of you, dear Ruth, if anything
happens to the old man?'
'I am sure I know not,' she answered simply; 'and I
cannot bear to think of it. It must depend, I suppose,
upon dear grandfather's pleasure about me.'
'It must rather depend,' said I, though having no
business to say it, 'upon your own good pleasure, Ruth;
for all the world will pay court to you.'
'That is the very thing which I never could endure. I
have begged dear grandfather to leave no chance of
that. When he has threatened me with poverty, as he
does sometimes, I have always met him truly, with the
answer that I feared one thing a great deal worse than
poverty; namely, to be an heiress. But I cannot make
him believe it. Only think how strange, Cousin Ridd, I
cannot make him believe it.'
'It is not strange at all,' I answered; 'considering
how he values money. Neither would any one else
believe you, except by looking into your true, and very
pretty eyes, dear.'
Now I beg that no one will suspect for a single moment,
either that I did not mean exactly what I said, or
meant a single atom more, or would not have said the
same, if Lorna had been standing by. What I had always
liked in Ruth, was the calm, straightforward gaze, and
beauty of her large brown eyes. Indeed I had spoken of
them to Lorna, as the only ones to be compared (though
not for more than a moment) to her own, for truth and
light, but never for depth and softness. But now the
little maiden dropped them, and turned away, without
'I will go and see to my horse,' I said; 'the boy that
has taken him seemed surprised at his having no horns
on his forehead. Perhaps he will lead him into the
shop, and feed him upon broadcloth.'
'Oh, he is such a stupid boy,' Ruth answered with great
sympathy: 'how quick of you to observe that now: and
you call yourself "Slow John Ridd!" I never did see
such a stupid boy: sometimes he spoils my temper. But
you must be back in half an hour, at the latest, Cousin
Ridd. You see I remember what you are; when once you
get among horses, or cows, or things of that sort.'
'Things of that sort! Well done, Ruth! One would think
you were quite a Cockney.'
Uncle Reuben did not come home to his dinner; and his
granddaughter said she had strictest orders never to
expect him. Therefore we had none to dine with us,
except the foreman of the shop, a worthy man, named
Thomas Cockram, fifty years of age or so. He seemed to
me to have strong intentions of his own about little
Ruth, and on that account to regard me with a wholly
undue malevolence. And perhaps, in order to justify
him, I may have been more attentive to her than
otherwise need have been; at any rate, Ruth and I were
pleasant; and he the very opposite.
'My dear Cousin Ruth,' I said, on purpose to vex Master
Cockram, because he eyed us so heavily, and squinted to
unluckily, 'we have long been looking for you at our
Plover's Barrows farm. You remember how you used to
love hunting for eggs in the morning, and hiding up in
the tallat with Lizzie, for me to seek you among the
hay, when the sun was down. Ah, Master Cockram, those
are the things young people find their pleasure in, not
in selling a yard of serge, and giving
twopence-halfpenny change, and writing "settled" at the
bottom, with a pencil that has blacked their teeth.
Now, Master Cockram, you ought to come as far as our
good farm, at once, and eat two new-laid eggs for
breakfast, and be made to look quite young again. Our
good Annie would cook for you; and you should have the
hot new milk and the pope's eye from the mutton; and
every foot of you would become a yard in about a
fortnight.' And hereupon, I spread my chest, to show
him an example. Ruth could not keep her countenance:
but I saw that she thought it wrong of me; and would
scold me, if ever I gave her the chance of taking those
little liberties. However, he deserved it all,
according to my young ideas, for his great impertinence
in aiming at my cousin.
But what I said was far less grievous to a man of
honest mind than little Ruth's own behaviour. I could
hardly have believed that so thoroughly true a girl,
and one so proud and upright, could have got rid of any
man so cleverly as she got rid of Master Thomas
Cockram. She gave him not even a glass of wine, but
commended to his notice, with a sweet and thoughtful
gravity, some invoice which must be corrected, before
her dear grandfather should return; and to amend which
three great ledgers must be searched from first to
last. Thomas Cockram winked at me, with the worst of
his two wrong eyes; as much as to say, 'I understand
it; but I cannot help myself. Only you look out, if
ever'--and before he had finished winking, the door was
shut behind him. Then Ruth said to me in the simplest
manner, 'You have ridden far today, Cousin Ridd; and
have far to ride to get home again. What will dear
Aunt Ridd say, if we send you away without nourishment?
All the keys are in my keeping, and dear grandfather
has the finest wine, not to be matched in the west of
England, as I have heard good judges say; though I know
not wine from cider. Do you like the wine of Oporto,
or the wine of Xeres?'
'I know not one from the other, fair cousin, except by
the colour,' I answered: 'but the sound of Oporto is
nobler, and richer. Suppose we try wine of Oporto.'
The good little creature went and fetched a black
bottle of an ancient cast, covered with dust and
cobwebs. These I was anxious to shake aside; and
indeed I thought that the wine would be better for
being roused up a little. Ruth, however, would not
hear a single word to that purport; and seeing that she
knew more about it, I left her to manage it. And the
result was very fine indeed, to wit, a sparkling rosy
liquor, dancing with little flakes of light, and
scented like new violets. With this I was so pleased
and gay, and Ruth so glad to see me gay, that we quite
forgot how the time went on; and though my fair cousin
would not be persuaded to take a second glass herself,
she kept on filling mine so fast that it was never
empty, though I did my best to keep it so.
'What is a little drop like this to a man of your size
and strength, Cousin Ridd?' she said, with her cheeks
just brushed with rose, which made her look very
beautiful; 'I have heard you say that your head is so
thick--or rather so clear, you ought to say--that no
liquor ever moves it.'
'That is right enough,' I answered; 'what a witch you
must be, dear Ruth, to have remembered that now!'
'Oh, I remember every word I have ever heard you say,
Cousin Ridd; because your voice is so deep, you know,
and you talk so little. Now it is useless to say
"no". These bottles hold almost nothing. Dear
grandfather will not come home, I fear, until long
after you are gone. What will Aunt Ridd think of me, I
am sure? You are all so dreadfully hospitable. Now
not another "no," Cousin Ridd. We must have another
'Well, must is must,' I answered, with a certain
resignation. 'I cannot bear bad manners, dear; and how
old are you next birthday?'
'Eighteen, dear John;' said Ruth, coming over with the
empty bottle; and I was pleased at her calling me
'John,' and had a great mind to kiss her. However, I
thought of my Lorna suddenly, and of the anger I should
feel if a man went on with her so; therefore I lay back
in my chair, to wait for the other bottle.
'Do you remember how we danced that night?' I asked,
while she was opening it; 'and how you were afraid of
me first, because I looked so tall, dear?'
'Yes, and so very broad, Cousin Ridd. I thought that
you would eat me. But I have come to know, since then,
how very kind and good you are.'
'And will you come and dance again, at my wedding,
She nearly let the bottle fall, the last of which she
was sloping carefully into a vessel of bright glass;
and then she raised her hand again, and finished it
judiciously. And after that, she took the window, to
see that all her work was clear; and then she poured me
out a glass and said, with very pale cheeks, but else
no sign of meaning about her, 'What did you ask me,
'Nothing of any importance, Ruth; only we are so fond
of you. I mean to be married as soon as I can. Will
you come and help us?'
'To be sure I will, Cousin Ridd--unless, unless, dear
grandfather cannot spare me from the business.' She
went away; and her breast was heaving, like a rick of
under-carried hay. And she stood at the window long,
trying to make yawns of sighs.
For my part, I knew not what to do. And yet I could
think about it, as I never could with Lorna; with whom
I was always in a whirl, from the power of my love. So
I thought some time about it; and perceived that it was
the manliest way, just to tell her everything; except
that I feared she liked me. But it seemed to me
unaccountable that she did not even ask the name of my
intended wife. Perhaps she thought that it must be
Sally; or perhaps she feared to trust her voice.
'Come and sit by me, dear Ruth; and listen to a long,
long story, how things have come about with me.'
'No, thank you, Cousin Ridd,' she answered; 'at least I
mean that I shall be happy--that I shall be ready to
hear you--to listen to you, I mean of course. But I
would rather stay where I am, and have the air--or
rather be able to watch for dear grandfather coming
home. He is so kind and good to me. What should I do
Then I told her how, for years and years, I had been
attached to Lorna, and all the dangers and difficulties
which had so long beset us, and how I hoped that these
were passing, and no other might come between us,
except on the score of religion; upon which point I
trusted soon to overcome my mother's objections. And
then I told her how poor, and helpless, and alone in
the world, my Lorna was; and how sad all her youth had
been, until I brought her away at last. And many other
little things I mentioned, which there is no need for
me again to dwell upon. Ruth heard it all without a
word, and without once looking at me; and only by her
attitude could I guess that she was weeping. Then when
all my tale was told, she asked in a low and gentle
voice, but still without showing her face to me,--
'And does she love you, Cousin Ridd? Does she say that
she loves you with--with all her heart?'
'Certainly, she does,' I answered. 'Do you think it
impossible for one like her to do so?'
She said no more; but crossed the room before I had
time to look at her, and came behind my chair, and
kissed me gently on the forehead.
'I hope you may be very happy, with--I mean in your new
life,' she whispered very softly; 'as happy as you
deserve to be, and as happy as you can make others be.
Now how I have been neglecting you! I am quite ashamed
of myself for thinking only of grandfather: and it
makes me so low-spirited. You have told me a very nice
romance, and I have never even helped you to a glass of
wine. Here, pour it for yourself, dear cousin; I shall
be back again directly.'
With that she was out of the door in a moment; and when
she came back, you would not have thought that a tear
had dimmed those large bright eyes, or wandered down
those pale clear cheeks. Only her hands were cold and
trembling: and she made me help myself.
Uncle Reuben did not appear at all; and Ruth, who had
promised to come and see us, and stay for a fortnight
at our house (if her grandfather could spare her), now
discovered, before I left, that she must not think of
doing so. Perhaps she was right in deciding thus; at
any rate it had now become improper for me to press
her. And yet I now desired tenfold that she should
consent to come, thinking that Lorna herself would work
the speediest cure of her passing whim.
For such, I tried to persuade myself, was the nature of
Ruth's regard for me: and upon looking back I could not
charge myself with any misconduct towards the little
maiden. I had never sought her company, I had never
trifled with her (at least until that very day), and
being so engrossed with my own love, I had scarcely
ever thought of her. And the maiden would never have
thought of me, except as a clumsy yokel, but for my
mother's and sister's meddling, and their wily
suggestions. I believe they had told the little soul
that I was deeply in love with her; although they both
stoutly denied it. But who can place trust in a
woman's word, when it comes to a question of
A VISIT FROM THE COUNSELLOR
Now while I was riding home that evening, with a
tender conscience about Ruth, although not a wounded
one, I guessed but little that all my thoughts were
needed much for my own affairs. So however it proved
to be; for as I came in, soon after dark, my sister
Eliza met me at the corner of the cheese-room, and she
said, 'Don't go in there, John,' pointing to mother's
room; 'until I have had a talk with you.'
'In the name of Moses,' I inquired, having picked up
that phrase at Dulverton; 'what are you at about me
now? There is no peace for a quiet fellow.'
'It is nothing we are at,' she answered; 'neither may
you make light of it. It is something very important
about Mistress Lorna Doone.'
'Let us have it at once,' I cried; 'I can bear anything
about Lorna, except that she does not care for me.'
'It has nothing to do with that, John. And I am quite
sure that you never need fear anything of that sort.
She perfectly wearies me sometimes, although her voice
is so soft and sweet, about your endless perfections.'
'Bless her little heart!' I said; 'the subject is
'No doubt ' replied Lizzie, in the driest manner;
'especially to your sisters. However this is no time to
joke. I fear you will get the worst of it, John. Do
you know a man of about Gwenny's shape, nearly as broad
as he is long, but about six times the size of Gwenny,
and with a length of snow-white hair, and a thickness
also; as the copses were last winter. He never can
comb it, that is quite certain, with any comb yet
'Then you go and offer your services. There are few
things you cannot scarify. I know the man from your
description, although I have never seen him. Now where
is my Lorna? '
'Your Lorna is with Annie, having a good cry, I
believe; and Annie too glad to second her. She knows
that this great man is here, and knows that he wants to
see her. But she begged to defer the interview, until
dear John's return.'
'What a nasty way you have of telling the very
commonest piece of news!' I said, on purpose to pay her
out. 'What man will ever fancy you, you unlucky little
snapper? Now, no more nursery talk for me. I will go
and settle this business. You had better go and dress
your dolls; if you can give them clothes unpoisoned.'
Hereupon Lizzie burst into a perfect roar of tears;
feeling that she had the worst of it. And I took her
up, and begged her pardon; although she scarcely
deserved it; for she knew that I was out of luck, and
she might have spared her satire.
I was almost sure that the man who was come must be the
Counsellor himself; of whom I felt much keener fear
than of his son Carver. And knowing that his visit
boded ill to me and Lorna, I went and sought my dear;
and led her with a heavy heart, from the maiden's room
to mother's, to meet our dreadful visitor.
Mother was standing by the door, making curtseys now
and then, and listening to a long harangue upon the
rights of state and land, which the Counsellor (having
found that she was the owner of her property, and knew
nothing of her title to it) was encouraged to deliver
it. My dear mother stood gazing at him, spell-bound by
his eloquence, and only hoping that he would stop. He
was shaking his hair upon his shoulders, in the power
of his words, and his wrath at some little thing, which
he declared to be quite illegal.
Then I ventured to show myself, in the flesh, before
him; although he feigned not to see me; but he advanced
with zeal to Lorna; holding out both hands at once.
'My darling child, my dearest niece; how wonderfully
well you look! Mistress Ridd, I give you credit. This
is the country of good things. I never would have
believed our Queen could have looked so royal. Surely
of all virtues, hospitality is the finest, and the most
romantic. Dearest Lorna, kiss your uncle; it is quite
'Perhaps it is to you, sir,' said Lorna, who could
never quite check her sense of oddity; 'but I fear that
you have smoked tobacco, which spoils reciprocity.'
'You are right, my child. How keen your scent is! It
is always so with us. Your grandfather was noted for
his olfactory powers. Ah, a great loss, dear Mrs.
Ridd, a terrible loss to this neighbourhood! As one of
our great writers says--I think it must be Milton--"We
ne'er shall look upon his like again." '
'With your good leave sir,' I broke in, 'Master Milton
could never have written so sweet and simple a line as
that. It is one of the great Shakespeare.'
'Woe is me for my neglect!' said the Counsellor, bowing
airily; 'this must be your son, Mistress Ridd, the
great John, the wrestler. And one who meddles with the
Muses! Ah, since I was young, how everything is
changed, madam! Except indeed the beauty of women,
which seems to me to increase every year.' Here the old
villain bowed to my mother; and she blushed, and made
another curtsey, and really did look very nice.
'Now though I have quoted the poets amiss, as your son
informs me (for which I tender my best thanks, and must
amend my reading), I can hardly be wrong in assuming
that this young armiger must be the too attractive
cynosure to our poor little maiden. And for my part,
she is welcome to him. I have never been one of those
who dwell upon distinctions of rank, and birth, and
such like; as if they were in the heart of nature, and
must be eternal. In early youth, I may have thought
so, and been full of that little pride. But now I
have long accounted it one of the first axioms of
political economy--you are following me, Mistress
'Well, sir, I am doing my best; but I cannot quite keep
up with you.'
'Never mind, madam; I will be slower. But your son's
intelligence is so quick--'
'I see, sir; you thought that mine must be. But no; it
all comes from his father, sir. His father was that
quick and clever--'
'Ah, I can well suppose it, madam. And a credit he is
to both of you. Now, to return to our muttons--a
figure which you will appreciate--I may now be
regarded, I think, as this young lady's legal guardian;
although I have not had the honour of being formally
appointed such. Her father was the eldest son of Sir
Ensor Doone; and I happened to be the second son; and
as young maidens cannot be baronets, I suppose I am
"Sir Counsellor." Is it so, Mistress Ridd, according to
your theory of genealogy?'
'I am sure I don't know, sir,' my mother answered
carefully; 'I know not anything of that name, sir,
except in the Gospel of Matthew: but I see not why it
should be otherwise.'
'Good, madam! I may look upon that as your sanction and
approval: and the College of Heralds shall hear of it.
And in return, as Lorna's guardian, I give my full and
ready consent to her marriage with your son, madam.'
'Oh, how good of you, sir, how kind! Well, I always did
say, that the learnedest people were, almost always,
the best and kindest, and the most simple-hearted.'
'Madam, that is a great sentiment. What a goodly
couple they will be! and if we can add him to our
'Oh no, sir, oh no!' cried mother: 'you really must not
think of it. He has always been brought up so
'Hem! that makes a difference. A decided
disqualification for domestic life among the Doones.
But, surely, he might get over those prejudices,
'Oh no, sir! he never can: he never can indeed. When
he was only that high, sir, he could not steal even an
apple, when some wicked boys tried to mislead him.'
'Ah,' replied the Counsellor, shaking his white head
gravely; 'then I greatly fear that his case is quite
incurable. I have known such cases; violent prejudice,
bred entirely of education, and anti-economical to the
last degree. And when it is so, it is desperate: no
man, after imbibing ideas of that sort, can in any way
'Oh yes, sir, John is very useful. He can do as much
work as three other men; and you should see him load a
'I was speaking, madam, of higher usefulness,--power of
the brain and heart. The main thing for us upon earth
is to take a large view of things. But while we talk
of the heart, what is my niece Lorna doing, that she
does not come and thank me, for my perhaps too prompt
concession to her youthful fancies? Ah, if I had
wanted thanks, I should have been more stubborn.'
Lorna, being challenged thus, came up and looked at her
uncle, with her noble eyes fixed full upon his, which
beneath his white eyebrows glistened, like dormer
windows piled with snow.
'For what am I to thank you, uncle?'
'My dear niece, I have told you. For removing the
heaviest obstacle, which to a mind so well regulated
could possibly have existed, between your dutiful self
and the object of your affections.'
'Well, uncle, I should be very grateful, if I thought
that you did so from love of me; or if I did not know
that you have something yet concealed from me.'
'And my consent,' said the Counsellor, 'is the more
meritorious, the more liberal, frank, and candid, in
the face of an existing fact, and a very clearly
established one; which might have appeared to weaker
minds in the light of an impediment; but to my loftier
view of matrimony seems quite a recommendation.'
'What fact do you mean, sir? Is it one that I ought to
'In my opinion it is, good niece. It forms, to my
mind, so fine a basis for the invariable harmony of the
matrimonial state. To be brief--as I always endeavour
to be, without becoming obscure--you two young people
(ah, what a gift is youth! one can never be too
thankful for it) you will have the rare advantage of
commencing married life, with a subject of common
interest to discuss, whenever you weary of--well, say
of one another; if you can now, by any means, conceive
such a possibility. And perfect justice meted out:
mutual goodwill resulting, from the sense of
'I do not understand you, sir. Why can you not say
what you mean, at once?'
'My dear child, I prolong your suspense. Curiosity is
the most powerful of all feminine instincts; and
therefore the most delightful, when not prematurely
satisfied. However, if you must have my strong
realities, here they are. Your father slew dear John's
father, and dear John's father slew yours.'
Having said thus much, the Counsellor leaned back upon
his chair, and shaded his calm white-bearded eyes from
the rays of our tallow candles. He was a man who liked
to look, rather than to be looked at. But Lorna came
to me for aid; and I went up to Lorna and mother looked
at both of us.
Then feeling that I must speak first (as no one would
begin it), I took my darling round the waist, and led
her up to the Counsellor; while she tried to bear it
bravely; yet must lean on me, or did.
'Now, Sir Counsellor Doone,' I said, with Lorna
squeezing both my hands, I never yet knew how
(considering that she was walking all the time, or
something like it); 'you know right well, Sir
Counsellor, that Sir Ensor Doone gave approval.' I
cannot tell what made me think of this: but so it came
'Approval to what, good rustic John? To the slaughter
'No, sir, not to that; even if it ever happened; which
I do not believe. But to the love betwixt me and
Lorna; which your story shall not break, without more
evidence than your word. And even so, shall never
break; if Lorna thinks as I do.'
The maiden gave me a little touch, as much as to say,
'You are right, darling: give it to him, again, like
that.' However, I held my peace, well knowing that too
many words do mischief.
Then mother looked at me with wonder, being herself too
amazed to speak; and the Counsellor looked, with great
wrath in his eyes, which he tried to keep from burning.
'How say you then, John Ridd, ' he cried, stretching
out one hand, like Elijah; 'is this a thing of the sort
you love? Is this what you are used to?'
'So please your worship, ' I answered; 'no kind of
violence can surprise us, since first came Doones upon
Exmoor. Up to that time none heard of harm; except of
taking a purse, maybe, or cutting a strange sheep's
throat. And the poor folk who did this were hanged,
with some benefit of clergy. But ever since the Doones
came first, we are used to anything.'
'Thou varlet,' cried the Counsellor, with the colour of
his eyes quite changed with the sparkles of his fury;
'is this the way we are to deal with such a low-bred
clod as thou? To question the doings of our people,
and to talk of clergy! What, dream you not that we
could have clergy, and of the right sort, too, if only
we cared to have them? Tush! Am I to spend my time
arguing with a plough-tail Bob?'
'If your worship will hearken to me,' I answered very
modestly, not wishing to speak harshly, with Lorna
looking up at me; 'there are many things that might be
said without any kind of argument, which I would never
wish to try with one of your worship's learning. And
in the first place it seems to me that if our fathers
hated one another bitterly, yet neither won the
victory, only mutual discomfiture; surely that is but a
reason why we should be wiser than they, and make it up
in this generation by goodwill and loving'--
'Oh, John, you wiser than your father!' mother broke
upon me here; 'not but what you might be as wise, when
you come to be old enough.'
'Young people of the present age,' said the Counsellor
severely, 'have no right feeling of any sort, upon the
simplest matter. Lorna Doone, stand forth from
contact with that heir of parricide; and state in your
own mellifluous voice, whether you regard this
slaughter as a pleasant trifle.'
'You know, without any words of mine,' she answered
very softly, yet not withdrawing from my hand, 'that
although I have been seasoned well to every kind of
outrage, among my gentle relatives, I have not yet so
purely lost all sense of right and wrong as to receive
what you have said, as lightly as you declared it. You
think it a happy basis for our future concord. I do
not quite think that, my uncle; neither do I quite
believe that a word of it is true. In our happy
valley, nine-tenths of what is said is false; and you
were always wont to argue that true and false are but a
blind turned upon a pivot. Without any failure of
respect for your character, good uncle, I decline
politely to believe a word of what you have told me.
And even if it were proved to me, all I can say is
this, if my John will have me, I am his for ever.'
This long speech was too much for her; she had
overrated her strength about it, and the sustenance of
irony. So at last she fell into my arms, which had
long been waiting for her; and there she lay with no
other sound, except a gurgling in her throat.
'You old villain,' cried my mother, shaking her fist at
the Counsellor, while I could do nothing else but hold,
and bend across, my darling, and whisper to deaf ears;
'What is the good of the quality; if this is all that
comes of it? Out of the way! You know the words that
make the deadly mischief; but not the ways that heal
them. Give me that bottle, if hands you have; what is
the use of Counsellors?'
I saw that dear mother was carried away; and indeed I
myself was something like it; with the pale face upon
my bosom, and the heaving of the heart, and the heat
and cold all through me, as my darling breathed or lay.
Meanwhile the Counsellor stood back, and seemed a
little sorry; although of course it was not in his
power to be at all ashamed of himself.
'My sweet love, my darling child,' our mother went on
to Lorna, in a way that I shall never forget, though I
live to be a hundred; 'pretty pet, not a word of it is
true, upon that old liar's oath; and if every word were
true, poor chick, you should have our John all the more
for it. You and John were made by God and meant for
one another, whatever falls between you. Little lamb,
look up and speak: here is your own John and I; and the
devil take the Counsellor.'
I was amazed at mother's words, being so unlike her;
while I loved her all the more because she forgot
herself so. In another moment in ran Annie, ay and
Lizzie also, knowing by some mystic sense (which I have
often noticed, but never could explain) that something
was astir, belonging to the world of women, yet foreign
to the eyes of men. And now the Counsellor, being
well-born, although such a heartless miscreant,
beckoned to me to come away; which I, being smothered
with women, was only too glad to do, as soon as my own
love would let go of me.
'That is the worst of them,' said the old man; when I
had led him into our kitchen, with an apology at every
step, and given him hot schnapps and water, and a
cigarro of brave Tom Faggus: 'you never can say much,
sir, in the way of reasoning (however gently meant and
put) but what these women will fly out. It is wiser to
put a wild bird in a cage, and expect him to sit and
look at you, and chirp without a feather rumpled, than
it is to expect a woman to answer reason reasonably.'
Saying this, he looked at his puff of smoke as if it
contained more reason.
'I am sure I do not know, sir,' I answered according to
a phrase which has always been my favourite, on account
of its general truth: moreover, he was now our guest,
and had right to be treated accordingly: 'I am, as you
see, not acquainted with the ways of women, except my
mother and sisters.'
'Except not even them, my son, said the Counsellor, now
having finished his glass, without much consultation
about it; 'if you once understand your mother and
sisters--why you understand the lot of them.'
He made a twist in his cloud of smoke, and dashed his
finger through it, so that I could not follow his
meaning, and in manners liked not to press him.
'Now of this business, John,' he said, after getting to
the bottom of the second glass, and having a trifle or
so to eat, and praising our chimney-corner; 'taking you
on the whole, you know, you are wonderfully good
people; and instead of giving me up to the soldiers, as
you might have done, you are doing your best to make me
'Not at all, sir,' I answered; 'not at all, your
worship. Let me mix you another glass. We rarely have
a great gentleman by the side of our embers and oven.
I only beg your pardon, sir, that my sister Annie (who
knows where to find all the good pans and the lard)
could not wait upon you this evening; and I fear they
have done it with dripping instead, and in a pan with
the bottom burned. But old Betty quite loses her head
sometimes, by dint of over-scolding.'
'My son,' replied the Counsellor, standing across the
front of the fire, to prove his strict sobriety: 'I
meant to come down upon you to-night; but you have
turned the tables upon me. Not through any skill on
your part, nor through any paltry weakness as to love
(and all that stuff, which boys and girls spin tops at,
or knock dolls' noses together), but through your
simple way of taking me, as a man to be believed;
combined with the comfort of this place, and the choice
tobacco and cordials. I have not enjoyed an evening so
much, God bless me if I know when!'
'Your worship,' said I, 'makes me more proud than I
well know what to do with. Of all the things that
please and lead us into happy sleep at night, the first
and chiefest is to think that we have pleased a
'Then, John, thou hast deserved good sleep; for I am
not pleased easily. But although our family is not so
high now as it hath been, I have enough of the
gentleman left to be pleased when good people try me.
My father, Sir Ensor, was better than I in this great
element of birth, and my son Carver is far worse.
Aetas parentum, what is it, my boy? I hear that you
have been at a grammar-school.'
'So I have, your worship, and at a very good one; but I
only got far enough to make more tail than head of
'Let that pass,' said the Counsellor; 'John, thou art
all the wiser.' And the old man shook his hoary locks,
as if Latin had been his ruin. I looked at him sadly,
and wondered whether it might have so ruined me, but
for God's mercy in stopping it.
THE WAY TO MAKE THE CREAM RISE
That night the reverend Counsellor, not being in such
state of mind as ought to go alone, kindly took our
best old bedstead, carved in panels, well enough, with
the woman of Samaria. I set him up, both straight and
heavy, so that he need but close both eyes, and keep
his mouth just open; and in the morning he was thankful
for all that he could remember.
I, for my part, scarcely knew whether he really had
begun to feel goodwill towards us, and to see that
nothing else could be of any use to him; or whether he
was merely acting, so as to deceive us. And it had
struck me, several times, that he had made a great deal
more of the spirit he had taken than the quantity would
warrant, with a man so wise and solid. Neither did I
quite understand a little story which Lorna told me,
how that in the night awaking, she had heard, or seemed
to hear, a sound of feeling in her room; as if there
had been some one groping carefully among the things
within her drawers or wardrobe-closet. But the noise
had ceased at once, she said, when she sat up in bed
and listened; and knowing how many mice we had, she
took courage and fell asleep again.
After breakfast, the Counsellor (who looked no whit the
worse for schnapps, but even more grave and venerable)
followed our Annie into the dairy, to see how we
managed the clotted cream, of which he had eaten a
basinful. And thereupon they talked a little; and
Annie thought him a fine old gentleman, and a very just
one; for he had nobly condemned the people who spoke
against Tom Faggus.
'Your honour must plainly understand,' said Annie,
being now alone with him, and spreading out her light
quick hands over the pans, like butterflies, 'that they
are brought in here to cool, after being set in the
basin-holes, with the wood-ash under them, which I
showed you in the back-kitchen. And they must have
very little heat, not enough to simmer even; only just
to make the bubbles rise, and the scum upon the top set
thick; and after that, it clots as firm--oh, as firm as
my two hands be.'
'Have you ever heard,' asked the Counsellor, who
enjoyed this talk with Annie, 'that if you pass across
the top, without breaking the surface, a string of
beads, or polished glass, or anything of that kind, the
cream will set three times as solid, and in thrice the
'No, sir; I have never heard that,' said Annie, staring
with all her simple eyes; 'what a thing it is to read
books, and grow learned! But it is very easy to try it:
I will get my coral necklace; it will not be
witchcraft, will it, sir?'
'Certainly not,' the old man replied; 'I will make the
experiment myself; and you may trust me not to be hurt,
my dear. But coral will not do, my child, neither will
anything coloured. The beads must be of plain common
glass; but the brighter they are the better.'
'Then I know the very thing,' cried Annie; 'as bright
as bright can be, and without any colour in it, except
in the sun or candle light. Dearest Lorna has the very
thing, a necklace of some old glass-beads, or I think
they called them jewels: she will be too glad to lend
it to us. I will go for it, in a moment.'
'My dear, it cannot be half so bright as your own
pretty eyes. But remember one thing, Annie, you must
not say what it is for; or even that I am going to use
it, or anything at all about it; else the charm will be
broken. Bring it here, without a word; if you know
where she keeps it.'
'To be sure I do,' she answered; 'John used to keep it
for her. But she took it away from him last week, and
she wore it when--I mean when somebody was here; and he
said it was very valuable, and spoke with great
learning about it, and called it by some particular
name, which I forget at this moment. But valuable or
not, we cannot hurt it, can we, sir, by passing it over
'Hurt it!' cried the Counsellor: 'nay, we shall do it
good, my dear. It will help to raise the cream: and
you may take my word for it, young maiden, none can do
good in this world, without in turn receiving it.'
Pronouncing this great sentiment, he looked so grand
and benevolent, that Annie (as she said afterwards)
could scarce forbear from kissing him, yet feared to
take the liberty. Therefore, she only ran away to
fetch my Lorna's necklace.
Now as luck would have it--whether good luck or
otherwise, you must not judge too hastily,--my darling
had taken it into her head, only a day or two before,
that I was far too valuable to be trusted with her
necklace. Now that she had some idea of its price and
quality, she had begun to fear that some one, perhaps
even Squire Faggus (in whom her faith was illiberal),
might form designs against my health, to win the bauble
from me. So, with many pretty coaxings, she had led me
to give it up; which, except for her own sake, I was
glad enough to do, misliking a charge of such
Therefore Annie found it sparkling in the little secret
hole, near the head of Lorna's bed, which she herself
had recommended for its safer custody; and without a
word to any one she brought it down, and danced it in
the air before the Counsellor, for him to admire its
'Oh, that old thing!' said the gentleman, in a tone of
some contempt; 'I remember that old thing well enough.
However, for want of a better, no doubt it will answer
our purpose. Three times three, I pass it over.
Crinkleum, crankum, grass and clover! What are you
feared of, you silly child?'
'Good sir, it is perfect witchcraft! I am sure of that,
because it rhymes. Oh, what would mother say to me?
Shall I ever go to heaven again? Oh, I see the cream
'To be sure you do; but you must not look, or the whole
charm will be broken, and the devil will fly away with
the pan, and drown every cow you have got in it.'
'Oh, sir, it is too horrible. How could you lead me to
such a sin? Away with thee, witch of Endor!'
For the door began to creak, and a broom appeared
suddenly in the opening, with our Betty, no doubt,
behind it. But Annie, in the greatest terror, slammed
the door, and bolted it, and then turned again to the
Counsellor; yet looking at his face, had not the
courage to reproach him. For his eyes rolled like two
blazing barrels, and his white shagged brows were knit
across them, and his forehead scowled in black furrows,
so that Annie said that if she ever saw the devil, she
saw him then, and no mistake. Whether the old man
wished to scare her, or whether he was trying not to
laugh, is more than I can tell you.
'Now,' he said, in a deep stern whisper; 'not a word of
this to a living soul; neither must you, nor any other
enter this place for three hours at least. By that
time the charm will have done its work: the pan will be
cream to the bottom; and you will bless me for a secret
which will make your fortune. Put the bauble under
this pannikin; which none must lift for a day and a
night. Have no fear, my simple wench; not a breath of
harm shall come to you, if you obey my orders'
'Oh, that I will, sir, that I will: if you will only
tell me what to do.'
'Go to your room, without so much as a single word to
any one. Bolt yourself in, and for three hours now,
read the Lord's Prayer backwards.'
Poor Annie was only too glad to escape, upon these
conditions; and the Counsellor kissed her upon the
forehead and told her not to make her eyes red, because
they were much too sweet and pretty. She dropped them
at this, with a sob and a curtsey, and ran away to her
bedroom; but as for reading the Lord's Prayer
backwards, that was much beyond her; and she had not
done three words quite right, before the three hours
Meanwhile the Counsellor was gone. He bade our mother
adieu, with so much dignity of bearing, and such warmth
of gratitude, and the high-bred courtesy of the old
school (now fast disappearing), that when he was gone,
dear mother fell back on the chair which he had used
last night, as if it would teach her the graces. And
for more than an hour she made believe not to know what
there was for dinner.
'Oh, the wickedness of the world! Oh, the lies that are
told of people--or rather I mean the
falsehoods--because a man is better born, and has
better manners! Why, Lorna, how is it that you never
speak about your charming uncle? Did you notice,
Lizzie, how his silver hair was waving upon his velvet
collar, and how white his hands were, and every nail
like an acorn; only pink like shell-fish, or at least
like shells? And the way he bowed, and dropped his
eyes, from his pure respect for me! And then, that he
would not even speak, on account of his emotion; but
pressed my hand in silence! Oh, Lizzie, you have read
me beautiful things about Sir Gallyhead, and the rest;
but nothing to equal Sir Counsellor.'
'You had better marry him, madam,' said I, coming in
very sternly; though I knew I ought not to say it: 'he
can repay your adoration. He has stolen a hundred
'John,' cried my mother, 'you are mad!' And yet she
turned as pale as death; for women are so quick at
turning; and she inkled what it was.
'Of course I am, mother; mad about the marvels of Sir
Galahad. He has gone off with my Lorna's necklace.
Fifty farms like ours can never make it good to Lorna.'
Hereupon ensued grim silence. Mother looked at
Lizzie's face, for she could not look at me; and Lizzie
looked at me, to know: and as for me, I could have
stamped almost on the heart of any one. It was not the
value of the necklace--I am not so low a hound as
that--nor was it even the damned folly shown by every
one of us--it was the thought of Lorna's sorrow for
her ancient plaything; and even more, my fury at the
breach of hospitality.
But Lorna came up to me softly, as a woman should
always come; and she laid one hand upon my shoulder;
and she only looked at me. She even seemed to fear to
look, and dropped her eyes, and sighed at me. Without
a word, I knew by that, how I must have looked like
Satan; and the evil spirit left my heart; when she had
made me think of it.
'Darling John, did you want me to think that you cared
for my money, more than for me?'
I led her away from the rest of them, being desirous of
explaining things, when I saw the depth of her nature
opened, like an everlasting well, to me. But she would
not let me say a word, or do anything by ourselves, as
it were: she said, 'Your duty is to your mother: this
blow is on her, and not on me.'
I saw that she was right; though how she knew it is
beyond me; and I asked her just to go in front, and
bring my mother round a little. For I must let my
passion pass: it may drop its weapons quickly; but it
cannot come and go, before a man has time to think.
Then Lorna went up to my mother, who was still in the
chair of elegance; and she took her by both hands, and
'Dearest mother, I shall fret so, if I see you
fretting. And to fret will kill me, mother. They have
always told me so.'
Poor mother bent on Lorna's shoulder, without thought
of attitude, and laid her cheek on Lorna's breast, and
sobbed till Lizzie was jealous, and came with two
pocket-handkerchiefs. As for me, my heart was lighter
(if they would only dry their eyes, and come round by
dinnertime) than it had been since the day on which Tom
Faggus discovered the value of that blessed and cursed
necklace. None could say that I wanted Lorna for her
money now. And perhaps the Doones would let me have
her; now that her property was gone.
But who shall tell of Annie's grief? The poor little
thing would have staked her life upon finding the
trinket, in all its beauty, lying under the pannikin.
She proudly challenged me to lift it--which I had
done, long ere that, of course--if only I would take
the risk of the spell for my incredulity. I told her
not to talk of spells, until she could spell a word
backwards; and then to look into the pan where the
charmed cream should be. She would not acknowledge
that the cream was the same as all the rest was: and
indeed it was not quite the same, for the points of
poor Lorna's diamonds had made a few star-rays across
the rich firm crust of yellow.
But when we raised the pannikin, and there was nothing
under it, poor Annie fell against the wall, which had
been whitened lately; and her face put all the white to
scorn. My love, who was as fond of her, as if she had
known her for fifty years, hereupon ran up and caught
her, and abused all diamonds. I will dwell no more
upon Annie's grief, because we felt it all so much.
But I could not help telling her, if she wanted a
witch, to seek good Mother Melldrum, a legitimate
That same night Master Jeremy Stickles (of whose
absence the Counsellor must have known) came back, with
all equipment ready for the grand attack. Now the
Doones knew, quite as well as we did, that this attack
was threatening; and that but for the wonderful weather
it would have been made long ago. Therefore we, or at
least our people (for I was doubtful about going), were
sure to meet with a good resistance, and due
It was very strange to hear and see, and quite
impossible to account for, that now some hundreds of
country people (who feared to whisper so much as a word
against the Doones a year ago, and would sooner have
thought of attacking a church, in service time, than
Glen Doone) now sharpened their old cutlasses, and laid
pitch-forks on the grindstone, and bragged at every
village cross, as if each would kill ten Doones
himself, neither care to wipe his hands afterwards.
And this fierce bravery, and tall contempt, had been
growing ever since the news of the attack upon our
premises had taken good people by surprise; at least as
concerned the issue.
Jeremy Stickles laughed heartily about Annie's new
manner of charming the cream; but he looked very grave
at the loss of the jewels, so soon as he knew their
'My son,' he exclaimed, 'this is very heavy. It will
go ill with all of you to make good this loss, as I
fear that you will have to do.'
'What!' cried I, with my blood running cold. 'We make
good the loss, Master Stickles! Every farthing we have
in the world, and the labour of our lives to boot, will
never make good the tenth of it.'
'It would cut me to the heart,' he answered, laying his
hand on mine, 'to hear of such a deadly blow to you and
your good mother. And this farm; how long, John, has
it been in your family?'
'For at least six hundred years,' I said, with a
foolish pride that was only too like to end in groans;
'and some people say, by a Royal grant, in the time of
the great King Alfred. At any rate, a Ridd was with
him throughout all his hiding-time. We have always
held by the King and crown: surely none will turn us
out, unless we are guilty of treason?'
'My son,' replied Jeremy very gently, so that I could
love him for it, 'not a word to your good mother of
this unlucky matter. Keep it to yourself, my boy, and
try to think but little of it. After all, I may be
wrong: at any rate, least said best mended.'
'But Jeremy, dear Jeremy, how can I bear to leave it
so? Do you suppose that I can sleep, and eat my food,
and go about, and look at other people, as if nothing
at all had happened? And all the time have it on my
mind, that not an acre of all the land, nor even our
old sheep-dog, belongs to us, of right at all! It is
more than I can do, Jeremy. Let me talk, and know the
worst of it.'
'Very well,' replied Master Stickles, seeing that both
the doors were closed; 'I thought that nothing could
move you, John; or I never would have told you. Likely
enough I am quite wrong; and God send that I be so.
But what I guessed at some time back seems more than a
guess, now that you have told me about these wondrous
jewels. Now will you keep, as close as death, every
word I tell you?'
'By the honour of a man, I will. Until you yourself
'That is quite enough, John. From you I want no oath;
which, according to my experience, tempts a man to lie
the more, by making it more important. I know you now
too well to swear you, though I have the power. Now,
my lad, what I have to say will scare your mind in one
way, and ease it in another. I think that you have
been hard pressed--I can read you like a book, John--by
something which that old villain said, before he stole
the necklace. You have tried not to dwell upon it; you
have even tried to make light of it for the sake of the
women: but on the whole it has grieved you more than
even this dastard robbery.'
'It would have done so, Jeremy Stickles, if I could
once have believed it. And even without much belief,
it is so against our manners, that it makes me
miserable. Only think of loving Lorna, only think of
kissing her; and then remembering that her father had
destroyed the life of mine!'
'Only think,' said Master Stickles, imitating my very
voice, 'of Lorna loving you, John, of Lorna kissing
you, John; and all the while saying to herself, "this
man's father murdered mine." Now look at it in Lorna's
way as well as in your own way. How one-sided all men
'I may look at it in fifty ways, and yet no good will
come of it. Jeremy, I confess to you, that I tried to
make the best of it; partly to baffle the Counsellor,
and partly because my darling needed my help, and bore
it so, and behaved to me so nobly. But to you in
secret, I am not ashamed to say that a woman may look
over this easier than a man may.'
'Because her nature is larger, my son, when she truly
loves; although her mind be smaller. Now, if I can
ease you from this secret burden, will you bear, with
strength and courage, the other which I plant on you?'
'I will do my best,' said I.
'No man can do more,' said he and so began his story.
JEREMY FINDS OUT SOMETHING
'You know, my son,' said Jeremy Stickles, with a good
pull at his pipe, because he was going to talk so much,
and putting his legs well along the settle; 'it has
been my duty, for a wearier time than I care to think
of (and which would have been unbearable, except for
your great kindness), to search this neighbourhood
narrowly, and learn everything about everybody. Now
the neighbourhood itself is queer; and people have
different ways of thinking from what we are used to in
London. For instance now, among your folk, when any
piece of news is told, or any man's conduct spoken of,
the very first question that arises in your mind is
this--"Was this action kind and good?" Long after that,
you say to yourselves, "does the law enjoin or forbid
this thing?" Now here is your fundamental error: for
among all truly civilised people the foremost of all
questions is, "how stands the law herein?" And if the
law approve, no need for any further questioning. That
this is so, you may take my word: for I know the law
'Very well; I need not say any more about that, for I
have shown that you are all quite wrong. I only speak
of this savage tendency, because it explains so many
things which have puzzled me among you, and most of all
your kindness to men whom you never saw before; which
is an utterly illegal thing. It also explains your
toleration of these outlaw Doones so long. If your
views of law had been correct, and law an element of
your lives, these robbers could never have been
indulged for so many years amongst you: but you must
have abated the nuisance.'
'Now, Stickles,' I cried, 'this is too bad!' he was
delivering himself so grandly. 'Why you yourself have
been amongst us, as the balance, and sceptre, and sword
of law, for nigh upon a twelvemonth; and have you
abated the nuisance, or even cared to do it, until they
began to shoot at you?'
'My son,' he replied, 'your argument is quite beside
the purpose, and only tends to prove more clearly that
which I have said of you. However, if you wish to hear
my story, no more interruptions. I may not have a
chance to tell you, perhaps for weeks, or I know not
when, if once those yellows and reds arrive, and be
blessed to them, the lubbers! Well, it may be six
months ago, or it may be seven, at any rate a good
while before that cursed frost began, the mere name of
which sends a shiver down every bone of my body, when I
was riding one afternoon from Dulverton to Watchett'--
'Dulverton to Watchett!' I cried. 'Now what does that
remind me of? I am sure, I remember something--'
'Remember this, John, if anything--that another word
from thee, and thou hast no more of mine. Well, I was
a little weary perhaps, having been plagued at
Dulverton with the grossness of the people. For they
would tell me nothing at all about their
fellow-townsmen, your worthy Uncle Huckaback, except
that he was a God-fearing man, and they only wished I
was like him. I blessed myself for a stupid fool, in
thinking to have pumped them; for by this time I might
have known that, through your Western homeliness, every
man in his own country is something more than a
prophet. And I felt, of course, that I had done more
harm than good by questioning; inasmuch as every soul
in the place would run straightway and inform him that
the King's man from the other side of the forest had
been sifting out his ways and works.'
'Ah,' I cried, for I could not help it; 'you begin to
understand at last, that we are not quite such a set of
oafs, as you at first believed us.'
'I was riding on from Dulverton,' he resumed, with
great severity, yet threatening me no more, which
checked me more than fifty threats: 'and it was late in
the afternoon, and I was growing weary. The road (if
road it could be called) 'turned suddenly down from the
higher land to the very brink of the sea; and rounding
a little jut of cliff, I met the roar of the breakers.
My horse was scared, and leaped aside; for a northerly
wind was piping, and driving hunks of foam across, as
children scatter snow-balls. But he only sank to his
fetlocks in the dry sand, piled with pop-weed: and I
tried to make him face the waves; and then I looked
'Watchett town was not to be seen, on account of a
little foreland, a mile or more upon my course, and
standing to the right of me. There was room enough
below the cliffs (which are nothing there to yours,
John), for horse and man to get along, although the
tide was running high with a northerly gale to back it.
But close at hand and in the corner, drawn above the
yellow sands and long eye-brows of rackweed, as snug a
little house blinked on me as ever I saw, or wished to
'You know that I am not luxurious, neither in any way
given to the common lusts of the flesh, John. My
father never allowed his hair to grow a fourth part of
an inch in length, and he was a thoroughly godly man;
and I try to follow in his footsteps, whenever I think
about it. Nevertheless, I do assure you that my view
of that little house and the way the lights were
twinkling, so different from the cold and darkness of
the rolling sea, moved the ancient Adam in me, if he
could he found to move. I love not a house with too
many windows: being out of house and doors some
three-quarters of my time, when I get inside a house I
like to feel the difference. Air and light are good
for people who have any lack of them; and if a man once
talks about them, 'tis enough to prove his need of
them. But, as you well know, John Ridd, the horse who
has been at work all day, with the sunshine in his
eyes, sleeps better in dark stables, and needs no moon
to help him.
'Seeing therefore that this same inn had four windows,
and no more, I thought to myself how snug it was, and
how beautiful I could sleep there. And so I made the
old horse draw hand, which he was only too glad to do,
and we clomb above the spring-tide mark, and over a
little piece of turf, and struck the door of the
hostelry. Some one came and peeped at me through the
lattice overhead, which was full of bulls' eyes; and
then the bolt was drawn back, and a woman met me very
courteously. A dark and foreign-looking woman, very
hot of blood, I doubt, but not altogether a bad one.
And she waited for me to speak first, which an
Englishwoman would not have done.
'"Can I rest here for the night?" I asked, with a lift
of my hat to her; for she was no provincial dame, who
would stare at me for the courtesy; "my horse is weary
from the sloughs, and myself but little better: beside
that, we both are famished."
'"Yes, sir, you can rest and welcome. But of food, I
fear, there is but little, unless of the common order.
Our fishers would have drawn the nets, but the waves
were violent. However, we have--what you call it? I
never can remember, it is so hard to say--the flesh of
the hog salted."
'"Bacon!" said I; "what can be better? And half dozen
of eggs with it, and a quart of fresh-drawn ale. You
make me rage with hunger, madam. Is it cruelty, or
'"Ah, good!" she replied, with a merry smile, full of
southern sunshine: "you are not of the men round here;
you can think, and you can laugh!"
'"And most of all, I can eat, good madam. In that way
I shall astonish you; even more than by my intellect."
'She laughed aloud, and swung her shoulders, as your
natives cannot do; and then she called a little maid to
lead my horse to stable. However, I preferred to see
that matter done myself, and told her to send the
little maid for the frying-pan and the egg-box.
'Whether it were my natural wit and elegance of manner;
or whether it were my London freedom and knowledge of
the world; or (which is perhaps the most probable,
because the least pleasing supposition) my ready and
permanent appetite, and appreciation of garlic--I leave
you to decide, John: but perhaps all three combined to
recommend me to the graces of my charming hostess.
When I say "charming," I mean of course by manners and
by intelligence, and most of all by cooking; for as
regards external charms (most fleeting and fallacious)
hers had ceased to cause distress, for I cannot say how
many years. She said that it was the climate--for even
upon that subject she requested my opinion--and I
answered, "if there be a change, let madam blame the
'However, not to dwell too much upon our little
pleasantries (for I always get on with these foreign
women better than with your Molls and Pegs), I became,
not inquisitive, but reasonably desirous to know, by
what strange hap or hazard, a clever and a handsome
woman, as she must have been some day, a woman moreover
with great contempt for the rustic minds around her,
could have settled here in this lonely inn, with only
the waves for company, and a boorish husband who slaved
all day in turning a potter's wheel at Watchett. And
what was the meaning of the emblem set above her
doorway, a very unattractive cat sitting in a ruined
'However, I had not very long to strain my curiosity;
for when she found out who I was, and how I held the
King's commission, and might be called an officer, her
desire to tell me all was more than equal to mine of
hearing it. Many and many a day, she had longed for
some one both skilful and trustworthy, most of all for
some one bearing warrant from a court of justice. But
the magistrates of the neighbourhood would have nothing
to say to her, declaring that she was a crack-brained
woman, and a wicked, and even a foreign one.
'With many grimaces she assured me that never by her
own free-will would she have lived so many years in
that hateful country, where the sky for half the year
was fog, and rain for nearly the other half. It was so
the very night when first her evil fortune brought her
there; and so no doubt it would be, long after it had
killed her. But if I wished to know the reason of her
being there, she would tell me in few words, which I
will repeat as briefly.
'By birth she was an Italian, from the mountains of
Apulia, who had gone to Rome to seek her fortunes,
after being badly treated in some love-affair. Her
Christian name was Benita; as for her surname, that
could make no difference to any one. Being a quick and
active girl, and resolved to work down her troubles,
she found employment in a large hotel; and rising
gradually, began to send money to her parents. And
here she might have thriven well, and married well
under sunny skies, and been a happy woman, but that
some black day sent thither a rich and noble English
family, eager to behold the Pope. It was not, however,
their fervent longing for the Holy Father which had
brought them to St. Peter's roof; but rather their own
bad luck in making their home too hot to hold them.
For although in the main good Catholics, and pleasant
receivers of anything, one of their number had given
offence, by the folly of trying to think for himself.
Some bitter feud had been among them, Benita knew not
how it was; and the sister of the nobleman who had died
quite lately was married to the rival claimant, whom
they all detested. It was something about dividing
land; Benita knew not what it was.
'But this Benita did know, that they were all great
people, and rich, and very liberal; so that when they
offered to take her, to attend to the children, and to
speak the language for them, and to comfort the lady,
she was only too glad to go, little foreseeing the end
of it. Moreover, she loved the children so, from their
pretty ways and that, and the things they gave her, and
the style of their dresses, that it would have broken
her heart almost never to see the dears again.
'And so, in a very evil hour, she accepted the service
of the noble Englishman, and sent her father an old
shoe filled to the tongue with money, and trusted
herself to fortune. But even before she went, she knew
that it could not turn out well; for the laurel leaf
which she threw on the fire would not crackle even
once, and the horn of the goat came wrong in the twist,
and the heel of her foot was shining. This made her
sigh at the starting-time; and after that what could
you hope for?
'However, at first all things went well. My Lord was
as gay as gay could be: and never would come inside the
carriage, when a decent horse could be got to ride. He
would gallop in front, at a reckless pace, without a
weapon of any kind, delighted with the pure blue air,
and throwing his heart around him. Benita had never
seen any man so admirable, and so childish. As
innocent as an infant; and not only contented, but
noisily happy with anything. Only other people must
share his joy; and the shadow of sorrow scattered it,
though it were but the shade of poverty.
'Here Benita wept a little; and I liked her none the
less, and believed her ten times more; in virtue of a
tear or two.
'And so they travelled through Northern Italy, and
throughout the south of France, making their way
anyhow; sometimes in coaches, sometimes in carts,
sometimes upon mule-back, sometimes even a-foot and
weary; but always as happy as could be. The children
laughed, and grew, and throve (especially the young
lady, the elder of the two), and Benita began to think
that omens must not be relied upon. But suddenly her
faith in omens was confirmed for ever.
'My Lord, who was quite a young man still, and laughed
at English arrogance, rode on in front of his wife and
friends, to catch the first of a famous view, on the
French side of the Pyrenee hills. He kissed his hand
to his wife, and said that he would save her the
trouble of coming. For those two were so one in one,
that they could make each other know whatever he or she
had felt. And so my Lord went round the corner, with a
fine young horse leaping up at the steps.
'They waited for him, long and long; but he never came
again; and within a week, his mangled body lay in a
little chapel-yard; and if the priests only said a
quarter of the prayers they took the money for, God
knows they can have no throats left; only a relaxation.
'My lady dwelled for six months more--it is a
melancholy tale (what true tale is not so?)--scarcely
able to believe that all her fright was not a dream.
She would not wear a piece or shape of any
mourning-clothes; she would not have a person cry, or
any sorrow among us. She simply disbelieved the thing,
and trusted God to right it. The Protestants, who have
no faith, cannot understand this feeling. Enough that
so it was; and so my Lady went to heaven.
'For when the snow came down in autumn on the roots of
the Pyrenees, and the chapel-yard was white with it,
many people told the lady that it was time for her to
go. And the strongest plea of all was this, that now
she bore another hope of repeating her husband's
virtues. So at the end of October, when wolves came
down to the farm-lands, the little English family went
home towards their England.
'They landed somewhere on the Devonshire coast, ten or
eleven years agone, and stayed some days at Exeter; and
set out thence in a hired coach, without any proper
attendance, for Watchett, in the north of Somerset.
For the lady owned a quiet mansion in the neighbourhood
of that town, and her one desire was to find refuge
there, and to meet her lord, who was sure to come (she
said) when he heard of his new infant. Therefore with
only two serving-men and two maids (including Benita),
the party set forth from Exeter, and lay the first
night at Bampton.
'On the following morn they started bravely, with
earnest hope of arriving at their journey's end by
daylight. But the roads were soft and very deep, and
the sloughs were out in places; and the heavy coach
broke down in the axle, and needed mending at
Dulverton; and so they lost three hours or more, and
would have been wiser to sleep there. But her ladyship
would not hear of it; she must be home that night, she
said, and her husband would be waiting. How could she
keep him waiting now, after such a long, long time?
'Therefore, although it was afternoon, and the year now
come to December, the horses were put to again, and the
heavy coach went up the hill, with the lady and her two
children, and Benita, sitting inside of it; the other
maid, and two serving-men (each man with a great
blunderbuss) mounted upon the outside; and upon the
horses three Exeter postilions. Much had been said at
Dulverton, and even back at Bampton, about some great
freebooters, to whom all Exmoor owed suit and service,
and paid them very punctually. Both the serving-men
were scared, even over their ale, by this. But the
lady only said, "Drive on; I know a little of
highwaymen: they never rob a lady."
'Through the fog and through the muck the coach went
on, as best it might; sometimes foundered in a slough,
with half of the horses splashing it, and some-times
knuckled up on a bank, and straining across the middle,
while all the horses kicked at it. However, they went
on till dark as well as might be expected. But when
they came, all thanking God, to the pitch and slope of
the sea-bank, leading on towards Watchett town, and
where my horse had shied so, there the little boy
jumped up, and clapped his hands at the water; and
there (as Benita said) they met their fate, and could
not fly it.
'Although it was past the dusk of day, the silver light
from the sea flowed in, and showed the cliffs, and the
gray sand-line, and the drifts of wreck, and
wrack-weed. It showed them also a troop of horsemen,
waiting under a rock hard by, and ready to dash upon
them. The postilions lashed towards the sea, and the
horses strove in the depth of sand, and the serving-men
cocked their blunder-busses, and cowered away behind
them; but the lady stood up in the carriage bravely,
and neither screamed nor spoke, but hid her son behind
her. Meanwhile the drivers drove into the sea, till
the leading horses were swimming.
'But before the waves came into the coach, a score of
fierce men were round it. They cursed the postilions
for mad cowards, and cut the traces, and seized the
wheel-horses, all-wild with dismay in the wet and the
dark. Then, while the carriage was heeling over, and
well-nigh upset in the water, the lady exclaimed, "I
know that man! He is our ancient enemy;" and Benita
(foreseeing that all their boxes would be turned inside
out, or carried away), snatched the most valuable of
the jewels, a magnificent necklace of diamonds, and
cast it over the little girl's head, and buried it
under her travelling-cloak, hoping to save it. Then a
great wave, crested with foam, rolled in, and the coach
was thrown on its side, and the sea rushed in at the
top and the windows, upon shrieking, and clashing, and
'What followed Benita knew not, as one might well
suppose, herself being stunned by a blow on the head,
beside being palsied with terror. "See, I have the
mark now," she said, "where the jamb of the door came
down on me!" But when she recovered her senses, she
found herself lying upon the sand, the robbers were out
of sight, and one of the serving-men was bathing her
forehead with sea water. For this she rated him well,
having taken already too much of that article; and then
she arose and ran to her mistress, who was sitting
upright on a little rock, with her dead boy's face to
her bosom, sometimes gazing upon him, and sometimes
questing round for the other one.
'Although there were torches and links around, and she
looked at her child by the light of them, no one dared
to approach the lady, or speak, or try to help her.
Each man whispered his fellow to go, but each hung back
himself, and muttered that it was too awful to meddle
with. And there she would have sat all night, with the
fine little fellow stone dead in her arms, and her
tearless eyes dwelling upon him, and her heart but not
her mind thinking, only that the Italian women stole up
softly to her side, and whispered, "It is the will of
'"So it always seems to be," were all the words the
mother' answered; and then she fell on Benita's neck;
and the men were ashamed to be near her weeping; and a
sailor lay down and bellowed. Surely these men are the
'Before the light of the morning came along the tide to
Watchett my Lady had met her husband. They took her
into the town that night, but not to her own castle;
and so the power of womanhood (which is itself
maternity) came over swiftly upon her. The lady, whom
all people loved (though at certain times particular),
lies in Watchett little churchyard, with son and heir
at her right hand, and a little babe, of sex unknown,
sleeping on her bosom.
'This is a miserable tale,' said Jeremy Stickles
brightly; 'hand me over the schnapps, my boy. What
fools we are to spoil our eyes for other people's
troubles! Enough of our own to keep them clean,
although we all were chimney-sweeps. There is nothing
like good hollands, when a man becomes too sensitive.
Restore the action of the glands; that is my rule,
after weeping. Let me make you another, John. You are
But although Master Jeremy carried on so (as became his
manhood), and laughed at the sailor's bellowing; bless
his heart, I knew as well that tears were in his brave
keen eyes, as if I had dared to look for them, or to
show mine own.
'And what was the lady's name?' I asked; 'and what
became of the little girl? And why did the woman stay
'Well!' cried Jeremy Stickles, only too glad to be
cheerful again: 'talk of a woman after that! As we used
to say at school--"Who dragged whom, how many times, in
what manner, round the wall of what?" But to begin,
last first, my John (as becomes a woman): Benita stayed
in that blessed place, because she could not get away
from it. The Doones--if Doones indeed they were, about
which you of course know best--took every stiver out of
the carriage: wet or dry they took it. And Benita
could never get her wages: for the whole affair is in
Chancery, and they have appointed a receiver.'
'Whew!' said I, knowing something of London, and sorry
for Benita's chance.
'So the poor thing was compelled to drop all thought of
Apulia, and settle down on the brink of Exmoor, where
you get all its evils, without the good to balance
them. She married a man who turned a wheel for making
the blue Watchett ware, partly because he could give
her a house, and partly because he proved himself a
good soul towards my Lady. There they are, and have
three children; and there you may go and visit them.'
'I understand all that, Jeremy, though you do tell
things too quickly, and I would rather have John Fry's
style; for he leaves one time for his words to melt.
Now for my second question. What became of the little
'You great oaf!' cried Jeremy Stickles: 'you are rather
more likely to know, I should think, than any one else
in all the kingdoms.'
'If I knew, I should not ask you. Jeremy Stickles, do
try to be neither conceited nor thick-headed.'
'I will when you are neither,' answered Master Jeremy;
'but you occupy all the room, John. No one else can
get in with you there.'
'Very well then, let me out. Take me down in both
'If ever you were taken down; you must have your double
joints ready now. And yet in other ways you will be as
proud and set up as Lucifer. As certain sure as I
stand here, that little maid is Lorna Doone.'
It must not be supposed that I was altogether so
thick-headed as Jeremy would have made me out. But it
is part of my character that I like other people to
think me slow, and to labour hard to enlighten me,
while all the time I can say to myself, 'This man is
shallower than I am; it is pleasant to see his shoals
come up while he is sounding mine so!' Not that I would
so behave, God forbid, with anybody (be it man or
woman) who in simple heart approached me, with no gauge
of intellect. But when the upper hand is taken, upon
the faith of one's patience, by a man of even smaller
wits (not that Jeremy was that, neither could he have
lived to be thought so), why, it naturally happens,
that we knuckle under, with an ounce of indignation.
Jeremy's tale would have moved me greatly both with
sorrow and anger, even without my guess at first, and
now my firm belief, that the child of those unlucky
parents was indeed my Lorna. And as I thought of the
lady's troubles, and her faith in Providence, and her
cruel, childless death, and then imagined how my
darling would be overcome to hear it, you may well
believe that my quick replies to Jeremy Stickles's
banter were but as the flourish of a drum to cover the
sounds of pain.
For when he described the heavy coach and the persons
in and upon it, and the breaking down at Dulverton, and
the place of their destination, as well as the time and
the weather, and the season of the year, my heart began
to burn within me, and my mind replaced the pictures,
first of the foreign lady's-maid by the pump caressing
me, and then of the coach struggling up the hill, and
the beautiful dame, and the fine little boy, with the
white cockade in his hat; but most of all the little
girl, dark-haired and very lovely, and having even in
those days the rich soft look of Lorna.
But when he spoke of the necklace thrown over the head
of the little maiden, and of her disappearance, before
my eyes arose at once the flashing of the beacon-fire,
the lonely moors embrowned with the light, the tramp of
the outlaw cavalcade, and the helpless child
head-downward, lying across the robber's saddle-bow.
Then I remembered my own mad shout of boyish
indignation, and marvelled at the strange long way by
which the events of life come round. And while I
thought of my own return, and childish attempt to hide
myself from sorrow in the sawpit, and the agony of my
mother's tears, it did not fail to strike me as a thing
of omen, that the selfsame day should be, both to my
darling and myself, the blackest and most miserable of
all youthful days.
The King's Commissioner thought it wise, for some good
reason of his own, to conceal from me, for the present,
the name of the poor lady supposed to be Lorna's
mother; and knowing that I could easily now discover
it, without him, I let that question abide awhile.
Indeed I was half afraid to hear it, remembering that
the nobler and the wealthier she proved to be, the
smaller was my chance of winning such a wife for plain
John Ridd. Not that she would give me up: that I never
dreamed of. But that others would interfere; or indeed
I myself might find it only honest to relinquish her.
That last thought was a dreadful blow, and took my
breath away from me.
Jeremy Stickles was quite decided--and of course the
discovery being his, he had a right to be so--that not
a word of all these things must be imparted to Lorna
herself, or even to my mother, or any one whatever.
'Keep it tight as wax, my lad,' he cried, with a wink
of great expression; 'this belongs to me, mind; and the
credit, ay, and the premium, and the right of discount,
are altogether mine. It would have taken you fifty
years to put two and two together so, as I did, like a
clap of thunder. Ah, God has given some men brains;
and others have good farms and money, and a certain
skill in the lower beasts. Each must use his special
talent. You work your farm: I work my brains. In the
end, my lad, I shall beat you.'
'Then, Jeremy, what a fool you must be, if you cudgel
your brains to make money of this, to open the
barn-door to me, and show me all your threshing.'
'Not a whit, my son. Quite the opposite. Two men
always thresh better than one. And here I have you
bound to use your flail, one two, with mine, and yet in
strictest honour bound not to bushel up, till I tell
'But,' said I, being much amused by a Londoner's brave,
yet uncertain, use of simplest rural metaphors, for he
had wholly forgotten the winnowing: 'surely if I bushel
up, even when you tell me, I must take half-measure.'
'So you shall, my boy,' he answered, 'if we can only
cheat those confounded knaves of Equity. You shall
take the beauty, my son, and the elegance, and the
love, and all that--and, my boy, I will take the
This he said in a way so dry, and yet so richly