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

Part 3 out of 17

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that she cannot leap it, poor thing.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'What think you of that, boy? Have you horse or dog
that would do that for you? Ay, and more than that she
will do. If I were to whistle, by-and-by, in the tone
that tells my danger, she would break this stable-door
down, and rush into the room to me. Nothing will keep
her from me then, stone-wal1 or church-tower. Ah,
Winnie, Winnie, you little witch, we shall die

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Fog!' cried Colonel Harding sharply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'See what a pack of fools they be?'

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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