Part 6 out of 17
life, and the air of country winds, that never more
could I grow weary of those soft enjoyments; or at
least I thought so then.
To awake as the summer sun came slanting over the
hill-tops, with hope on every beam adance to the
laughter of the morning; to see the leaves across the
window ruffling on the fresh new air, and the tendrils
of the powdery vine turning from their beaded sleep.
Then the lustrous meadows far beyond the thatch of the
garden-wall, yet seen beneath the hanging scollops of
the walnut-tree, all awaking, dressed in pearl, all
amazed at their own glistening, like a maid at her own
ideas. Down them troop the lowing kine, walking each
with a step of character (even as men and women do),
yet all alike with toss of horns, and spread of udders
ready. From them without a word, we turn to the
farm-yard proper, seen on the right, and dryly strawed
from the petty rush of the pitch-paved runnel. Round
it stand the snug out-buildings, barn, corn-chamber,
cider-press, stables, with a blinker'd horse in every
doorway munching, while his driver tightens buckles,
whistles and looks down the lane, dallying to begin his
labour till the milkmaids be gone by. Here the cock
comes forth at last;--where has he been
lingering?--eggs may tell to-morrow--he claps his wings
and shouts 'cock-a-doodle'; and no other cock dare look
at him. Two or three go sidling off, waiting till
their spurs be grown; and then the crowd of partlets
comes, chattering how their lord has dreamed, and
crowed at two in the morning, and praying that the old
brown rat would only dare to face him. But while the
cock is crowing still, and the pullet world admiring
him, who comes up but the old turkey-cock, with all his
family round him. Then the geese at the lower end
begin to thrust their breasts out, and mum their
down-bits, and look at the gander and scream shrill joy
for the conflict; while the ducks in pond show nothing
but tail, in proof of their strict neutrality.
While yet we dread for the coming event, and the fight
which would jar on the morning, behold the grandmother
of sows, gruffly grunting right and left with muzzle
which no ring may tame (not being matrimonial), hulks
across between the two, moving all each side at once,
and then all of the other side as if she were chined
down the middle, and afraid of spilling the salt from
her. As this mighty view of lard hides each combatant
from the other, gladly each retires and boasts how he
would have slain his neighbour, but that old sow drove
the other away, and no wonder he was afraid of her,
after all the chicks she had eaten.
And so it goes on; and so the sun comes, stronger from
his drink of dew; and the cattle in the byres, and the
horses from the stable, and the men from cottage-door,
each has had his rest and food, all smell alike of hay
and straw, and every one must hie to work, be it drag,
or draw, or delve.
So thought I on the Monday morning; while my own work
lay before me, and I was plotting how to quit it, void
of harm to every one, and let my love have work a
little--hardest perhaps of all work, and yet as sure as
sunrise. I knew that my first day's task on the farm
would be strictly watched by every one, even by my
gentle mother, to see what I had learned in London.
But could I let still another day pass, for Lorna to
think me faithless?
I felt much inclined to tell dear mother all about
Lorna, and how I loved her, yet had no hope of winning
her. Often and often, I had longed to do this, and
have done with it. But the thought of my father's
terrible death, at the hands of the Doones, prevented
me. And it seemed to me foolish and mean to grieve
mother, without any chance of my suit ever speeding.
If once Lorna loved me, my mother should know it; and
it would be the greatest happiness to me to have no
concealment from her, though at first she was sure to
grieve terribly. But I saw no more chance of Lorna
loving me, than of the man in the moon coming down; or
rather of the moon coming down to the man, as related
in old mythology.
Now the merriment of the small birds, and the clear
voice of the waters, and the lowing of cattle in
meadows, and the view of no houses (except just our own
and a neighbour's), and the knowledge of everybody
around, their kindness of heart and simplicity, and
love of their neighbour's doings,--all these could not
help or please me at all, and many of them were much
against me, in my secret depth of longing and dark
tumult of the mind. Many people may think me foolish,
especially after coming from London, where many nice
maids looked at me (on account of my bulk and stature),
and I might have been fitted up with a sweetheart, in
spite of my west-country twang, and the smallness of my
purse; if only I had said the word. But nay; I have
contempt for a man whose heart is like a shirt-stud
(such as I saw in London cards), fitted into one
to-day, sitting bravely on the breast; plucked out on
the morrow morn, and the place that knew it, gone.
Now, what did I do but take my chance; reckless whether
any one heeded me or not, only craving Lorna's heed,
and time for ten words to her. Therefore I left the
men of the farm as far away as might be, after making
them work with me (which no man round our parts could
do, to his own satisfaction), and then knowing them to
be well weary, very unlike to follow me--and still more
unlike to tell of me, for each had his London
present--I strode right away, in good trust of my
speed, without any more misgivings; but resolved to
face the worst of it, and to try to be home for supper.
And first I went, I know not why, to the crest of the
broken highland, whence I had agreed to watch for any
mark or signal. And sure enough at last I saw (when
it was too late to see) that the white stone had been
covered over with a cloth or mantle,--the sign that
something had arisen to make Lorna want me. For a
moment I stood amazed at my evil fortune; that I should
be too late, in the very thing of all things on which
my heart was set! Then after eyeing sorrowfully every
crick and cranny to be sure that not a single flutter
of my love was visible, off I set, with small respect
either for my knees or neck, to make the round of the
outer cliffs, and come up my old access.
Nothing could stop me; it was not long, although to me
it seemed an age, before I stood in the niche of rock
at the head of the slippery watercourse, and gazed into
the quiet glen, where my foolish heart was dwelling.
Notwithstanding doubts of right, notwithstanding sense
of duty, and despite all manly striving, and the great
love of my home, there my heart was ever dwelling,
knowing what a fool it was, and content to know it.
Many birds came twittering round me in the gold of
August; many trees showed twinkling beauty, as the sun
went lower; and the lines of water fell, from wrinkles
into dimples. Little heeding, there I crouched; though
with sense of everything that afterwards should move
me, like a picture or a dream; and everything went by
me softly, while my heart was gazing.
At last, a little figure came, not insignificant (I
mean), but looking very light and slender in the moving
shadows, gently here and softly there, as if vague of
purpose, with a gloss of tender movement, in and out
the wealth of trees, and liberty of the meadow. Who
was I to crouch, or doubt, or look at her from a
distance; what matter if they killed me now, and one
tear came to bury me? Therefore I rushed out at once,
as if shot-guns were unknown yet; not from any real
courage, but from prisoned love burst forth.
I know not whether my own Lorna was afraid of what I
looked, or what I might say to her, or of her own
thoughts of me; all I know is that she looked
frightened, when I hoped for gladness. Perhaps the
power of my joy was more than maiden liked to own, or
in any way to answer to; and to tell the truth, it
seemed as if I might now forget myself; while she would
take good care of it. This makes a man grow
thoughtful; unless, as some low fellows do, he believe
all women hypocrites.
Therefore I went slowly towards her, taken back in my
impulse; and said all I could come to say, with some
distress in doing it.
'Mistress Lorna, I had hope that you were in need of
'Oh, yes; but that was long ago; two months ago, or
more, sir.' And saying this she looked away, as if it
all were over. But I was now so dazed and frightened,
that it took my breath away, and I could not answer,
feeling sure that I was robbed and some one else had
won her. And I tried to turn away, without another
word, and go.
But I could not help one stupid sob, though mad with
myself for allowing it, but it came too sharp for pride
to stay it, and it told a world of things. Lorna heard
it, and ran to me, with her bright eyes full of wonder,
pity, and great kindness, as if amazed that I had more
than a simple liking for her. Then she held out both
hands to me; and I took and looked at them.
'Master Ridd, I did not mean,' she whispered, very
softly, 'I did not mean to vex you.'
'If you would be loath to vex me, none else in this
world can do it,' I answered out of my great love, but
fearing yet to look at her, mine eyes not being strong
'Come away from this bright place,' she answered,
trembling in her turn; 'I am watched and spied of late.
Come beneath the shadows, John.'
I would have leaped into the valley of the shadow of
death (as described by the late John Bunyan), only to
hear her call me 'John'; though Apollyon were lurking
there, and Despair should lock me in.
She stole across the silent grass; but I strode hotly
after her; fear was all beyond me now, except the fear
of losing her. I could not but behold her manner, as
she went before me, all her grace, and lovely
sweetness, and her sense of what she was.
She led me to her own rich bower, which I told of once
before; and if in spring it were a sight, what was it
in summer glory? But although my mind had notice of
its fairness and its wonder, not a heed my heart took
of it, neither dwelt it in my presence more than
flowing water. All that in my presence dwelt, all that
in my heart was felt, was the maiden moving gently, and
afraid to look at me.
For now the power of my love was abiding on her, new to
her, unknown to her; not a thing to speak about, nor
even to think clearly; only just to feel and wonder,
with a pain of sweetness. She could look at me no
more, neither could she look away, with a studied
manner--only to let fall her eyes, and blush, and be
put out with me, and still more with herself.
I left her quite alone; though close, though tingling
to have hold of her. Even her right hand was dropped
and lay among the mosses. Neither did I try to steal
one glimpse below her eyelids. Life and death to me
were hanging on the first glance I should win; yet I
let it be so.
After long or short--I know not, yet ere I was weary,
ere I yet began to think or wish for any answer--Lorna
slowly raised her eyelids, with a gleam of dew below
them, and looked at me doubtfully. Any look with so
much in it never met my gaze before.
'Darling, do you love me?' was all that I could say to
'Yes, I like you very much,' she answered, with her
eyes gone from me, and her dark hair falling over, so
as not to show me things.
'But do you love me, Lorna, Lorna; do you love me more
than all the world?'
'No, to be sure not. Now why should I?'
'In truth, I know not why you should. Only I hoped
that you did, Lorna. Either love me not at all, or as
I love you for ever.'
'John I love you very much; and I would not grieve you.
You are the bravest, and the kindest, and the simplest
of all men--I mean of all people--I like you very much,
Master Ridd, and I think of you almost every day.'
'That will not do for me, Lorna. Not almost every day
I think, but every instant of my life, of you. For you
I would give up my home, my love of all the world
beside, my duty to my dearest ones, for you I would
give up my life, and hope of life beyond it. Do you
love me so?'
'Not by any means,' said Lorna; 'no, I like you very
much, when you do not talk so wildly; and I like to see
you come as if you would fill our valley up, and I like
to think that even Carver would be nothing in your
hands--but as to liking you like that, what should make
it likely? especially when I have made the signal, and
for some two months or more you have never even
answered it! If you like me so ferociously, why do you
leave me for other people to do just as they like with
'To do as they liked! Oh, Lorna, not to make you marry
'No, Master Ridd, be not frightened so; it makes me
fear to look at you.'
'But you have not married Carver yet? Say quick! Why
keep me waiting so?'
'Of course I have not, Master Ridd. Should I be here
if I had, think you, and allowing you to like me so,
and to hold my hand, and make me laugh, as I declare
you almost do sometimes? And at other times you
'Did they want you to marry Carver? Tell me all the
truth of it.'
'Not yet, not yet. They are not half so impetuous as
you are, John. I am only just seventeen, you know, and
who is to think of marrying? But they wanted me to
give my word, and be formally betrothed to him in the
presence of my grandfather. It seems that something
frightened them. There is a youth named Charleworth
Doone, every one calls him "Charlie"; a headstrong and
a gay young man, very gallant in his looks and manner;
and my uncle, the Counsellor, chose to fancy that
Charlie looked at me too much, coming by my
Here Lorna blushed so that I was frightened, and began
to hate this Charlie more, a great deal more, than even
'He had better not,' said I; 'I will fling him over it,
if he dare. He shall see thee through the roof, Lorna,
if at all he see thee.'
'Master Ridd, you are worse than Carver! I thought you
were so kind-hearted. Well, they wanted me to promise,
and even to swear a solemn oath (a thing I have never
done in my life) that I would wed my eldest cousin,
this same Carver Doone, who is twice as old as I am,
being thirty-five and upwards. That was why I gave the
token that I wished to see you, Master Ridd. They
pointed out how much it was for the peace of all the
family, and for mine own benefit; but I would not
listen for a moment, though the Counsellor was most
eloquent, and my grandfather begged me to consider, and
Carver smiled his pleasantest, which is a truly
frightful thing. Then both he and his crafty father
were for using force with me; but Sir Ensor would not
hear of it; and they have put off that extreme until he
shall be past its knowledge, or, at least, beyond
preventing it. And now I am watched, and spied, and
followed, and half my little liberty seems to be taken
from me. I could not be here speaking with you, even
in my own nook and refuge, but for the aid, and skill,
and courage of dear little Gwenny Carfax. She is now
my chief reliance, and through her alone I hope to
baffle all my enemies, since others have forsaken me.'
Tears of sorrow and reproach were lurking in her soft
dark eyes, until in fewest words I told her that my
seeming negligence was nothing but my bitter loss and
wretched absence far away; of which I had so vainly
striven to give any tidings without danger to her.
When she heard all this, and saw what I had brought
from London (which was nothing less than a ring of
pearls with a sapphire in the midst of them, as pretty
as could well be found), she let the gentle tears flow
fast, and came and sat so close beside me, that I
trembled like a folded sheep at the bleating of her
lamb. But recovering comfort quickly, without more
ado, I raised her left hand and observed it with a nice
regard, wondering at the small blue veins, and curves,
and tapering whiteness, and the points it finished
with. My wonder seemed to please her much, herself so
well accustomed to it, and not fond of watching it.
And then, before she could say a word, or guess what I
was up to, as quick as ever I turned hand in a bout of
wrestling, on her finger was my ring--sapphire for the
veins of blue, and pearls to match white fingers.
'Oh, you crafty Master Ridd!' said Lorna, looking up at
me, and blushing now a far brighter blush than when she
spoke of Charlie; 'I thought that you were much too
simple ever to do this sort of thing. No wonder you
can catch the fish, as when first I saw you.'
'Have I caught you, little fish? Or must all my life
be spent in hopeless angling for you?'
'Neither one nor the other, John! You have not caught
me yet altogether, though I like you dearly John; and
if you will only keep away, I shall like you more and
more. As for hopeless angling, John--that all others
shall have until I tell you otherwise.'
With the large tears in her eyes--tears which seemed to
me to rise partly from her want to love me with the
power of my love--she put her pure bright lips, half
smiling, half prone to reply to tears, against my
forehead lined with trouble, doubt, and eager longing.
And then she drew my ring from off that snowy twig her
finger, and held it out to me; and then, seeing how my
face was falling, thrice she touched it with her lips,
and sweetly gave it back to me. 'John, I dare not take
it now; else I should be cheating you. I will try to
love you dearly, even as you deserve and wish. Keep it
for me just till then. Something tells me I shall earn
it in a very little time. Perhaps you will be sorry
then, sorry when it is all too late, to be loved by
such as I am.'
What could I do at her mournful tone, but kiss a
thousand times the hand which she put up to warn me,
and vow that I would rather die with one assurance of
her love, than without it live for ever with all beside
that the world could give? Upon this she looked so
lovely, with her dark eyelashes trembling, and her soft
eyes full of light, and the colour of clear sunrise
mounting on her cheeks and brow, that I was forced to
turn away, being overcome with beauty.
'Dearest darling, love of my life,' I whispered through
her clouds of hair; 'how long must I wait to know, how
long must I linger doubting whether you can ever stoop
from your birth and wondrous beauty to a poor, coarse
hind like me, an ignorant unlettered yeoman--'
'I will not have you revile yourself,' said Lorna, very
tenderly--just as I had meant to make her. 'You are
not rude and unlettered, John. You know a great deal
more than I do; you have learned both Greek and Latin,
as you told me long ago, and you have been at the very
best school in the West of England. None of us but my
grandfather, and the Counsellor (who is a great
scholar), can compare with you in this. And though I
have laughed at your manner of speech, I only laughed
in fun, John; I never meant to vex you by it, nor knew
that it had done so.'
'Naught you say can vex me, dear,' I answered, as she
leaned towards me in her generous sorrow; 'unless you
say "Begone, John Ridd; I love another more than you."'
'Then I shall never vex you, John. Never, I mean, by
saying that. Now, John, if you please, be quiet--'
For I was carried away so much by hearing her calling
me 'John' so often, and the music of her voice, and the
way she bent toward me, and the shadow of soft weeping
in the sunlight of her eyes, that some of my great hand
was creeping in a manner not to be imagined, and far
less explained, toward the lithesome, wholesome curving
underneath her mantle-fold, and out of sight and harm,
as I thought; not being her front waist. However, I
was dashed with that, and pretended not to mean it;
only to pluck some lady-fern, whose elegance did me no
'Now, John,' said Lorna, being so quick that not even a
lover could cheat her, and observing my confusion more
intently than she need have done. 'Master John Ridd,
it is high time for you to go home to your mother. I
love your mother very much from what you have told me
about her, and I will not have her cheated.'
'If you truly love my mother,' said I, very craftily
'the only way to show it is by truly loving me.'
Upon that she laughed at me in the sweetest manner, and
with such provoking ways, and such come-and-go of
glances, and beginning of quick blushes, which she
tried to laugh away, that I knew, as well as if she
herself had told me, by some knowledge (void of
reasoning, and the surer for it), I knew quite well,
while all my heart was burning hot within me, and mine
eyes were shy of hers, and her eyes were shy of mine;
for certain and for ever this I knew--as in a
glory--that Lorna Doone had now begun and would go on
to love me.
REAPING LEADS TO REVELLING
Although I was under interdict for two months from my
darling--'one for your sake, one for mine,' she had
whispered, with her head withdrawn, yet not so very far
from me--lighter heart was not on Exmoor than I bore
for half the time, and even for three quarters. For
she was safe; I knew that daily by a mode of signals
well-contrived between us now, on the strength of our
experience. 'I have nothing now to fear, John,' she
had said to me, as we parted; 'it is true that I am
spied and watched, but Gwenny is too keen for them.
While I have my grandfather to prevent all violence;
and little Gwenny to keep watch on those who try to
watch me; and you, above all others, John, ready at a
moment, if the worst comes to the worst--this neglected
Lorna Doone was never in such case before. Therefore
do not squeeze my hand, John; I am safe without it, and
you do not know your strength.'
Ah, I knew my strength right well. Hill and valley
scarcely seemed to be step and landing for me; fiercest
cattle I would play with, making them go backward, and
afraid of hurting them, like John Fry with his terrier;
even rooted trees seemed to me but as sticks I could
smite down, except for my love of everything. The love
of all things was upon me, and a softness to them all,
and a sense of having something even such as they had.
Then the golden harvest came, waving on the broad
hill-side, and nestling in the quiet nooks scooped from
out the fringe of wood. A wealth of harvest such as
never gladdened all our country-side since my father
ceased to reap, and his sickle hung to rust. There
had not been a man on Exmoor fit to work that
reaping-hook since the time its owner fell, in the
prime of life and strength, before a sterner reaper.
But now I took it from the wall, where mother proudly
stored it, while she watched me, hardly knowing whether
she should smile or cry.
All the parish was assembled in our upper courtyard;
for we were to open the harvest that year, as had been
settled with Farmer Nicholas, and with Jasper Kebby,
who held the third or little farm. We started in
proper order, therefore, as our practice is: first, the
parson Josiah Bowden, wearing his gown and cassock,
with the parish Bible in his hand, and a sickle
strapped behind him. As he strode along well and
stoutly, being a man of substance, all our family came
next, I leading mother with one hand, in the other
bearing my father's hook, and with a loaf of our own
bread and a keg of cider upon my back. Behind us Annie
and Lizzie walked, wearing wreaths of corn-flowers, set
out very prettily, such as mother would have worn if
she had been a farmer's wife, instead of a farmer's
widow. Being as she was, she had no adornment, except
that her widow's hood was off, and her hair allowed to
flow, as if she had been a maiden; and very rich bright
hair it was, in spite of all her troubles.
After us, the maidens came, milkmaids and the rest of
them, with Betty Muxworthy at their head, scolding even
now, because they would not walk fitly. But they only
laughed at her; and she knew it was no good to scold,
with all the men behind them.
Then the Snowes came trooping forward; Farmer Nicholas
in the middle, walking as if he would rather walk to a
wheatfield of his own, yet content to follow lead,
because he knew himself the leader; and signing every
now and then to the people here and there, as if I were
nobody. But to see his three great daughters, strong
and handsome wenches, making upon either side, as if
somebody would run off with them--this was the very
thing that taught me how to value Lorna, and her pure
After the Snowes came Jasper Kebby, with his wife,
new-married; and a very honest pair they were, upon
only a hundred acres, and a right of common. After
these the men came hotly, without decent order, trying
to spy the girls in front, and make good jokes about
them, at which their wives laughed heartily, being
jealous when alone perhaps. And after these men and
their wives came all the children toddling, picking
flowers by the way, and chattering and asking
questions, as the children will. There must have been
threescore of us, take one with another, and the lane
was full of people. When we were come to the big
field-gate, where the first sickle was to be, Parson
Bowden heaved up the rail with the sleeves of his gown
done green with it; and he said that everybody might
hear him, though his breath was short, 'In the name of
the Lord, Amen!'
'Amen! So be it!' cried the clerk, who was far behind,
being only a shoemaker.
Then Parson Bowden read some verses from the parish
Bible, telling us to lift up our eyes, and look upon
the fields already white to harvest; and then he laid
the Bible down on the square head of the gate-post, and
despite his gown and cassock, three good swipes he cut
off corn, and laid them right end onwards. All this
time the rest were huddling outside the gate, and along
the lane, not daring to interfere with parson, but
whispering how well he did it.
When he had stowed the corn like that, mother entered,
leaning on me, and we both said, 'Thank the Lord for
all His mercies, and these the first-fruits of His
hand!' And then the clerk gave out a psalm verse by
verse, done very well; although he sneezed in the midst
of it, from a beard of wheat thrust up his nose by the
rival cobbler at Brendon. And when the psalm was sung,
so strongly that the foxgloves on the bank were
shaking, like a chime of bells, at it, Parson took a
stoop of cider, and we all fell to at reaping.
Of course I mean the men, not women; although I know
that up the country, women are allowed to reap; and
right well they reap it, keeping row for row with men,
comely, and in due order, yet, meseems, the men must
ill attend to their own reaping-hooks, in fear lest the
other cut themselves, being the weaker vessel. But in
our part, women do what seems their proper business,
following well behind the men, out of harm of the
swinging hook, and stooping with their breasts and arms
up they catch the swathes of corn, where the reapers
cast them, and tucking them together tightly with a
wisp laid under them, this they fetch around and twist,
with a knee to keep it close; and lo, there is a goodly
sheaf, ready to set up in stooks! After these the
children come, gathering each for his little self, if
the farmer be right-minded; until each hath a bundle
made as big as himself and longer, and tumbles now and
again with it, in the deeper part of the stubble.
We, the men, kept marching onwards down the flank of
the yellow wall, with knees bent wide, and left arm
bowed and right arm flashing steel. Each man in his
several place, keeping down the rig or chine, on the
right side of the reaper in front, and the left of the
man that followed him, each making farther sweep and
inroad into the golden breadth and depth, each casting
leftwards his rich clearance on his foregoer's double
So like half a wedge of wildfowl, to and fro we swept
the field; and when to either hedge we came, sickles
wanted whetting, and throats required moistening, and
backs were in need of easing, and every man had much to
say, and women wanted praising. Then all returned to
the other end, with reaping-hooks beneath our arms, and
dogs left to mind jackets.
But now, will you believe me well, or will you only
laugh at me? For even in the world of wheat, when deep
among the varnished crispness of the jointed stalks,
and below the feathered yielding of the graceful heads,
even as I gripped the swathes and swept the sickle
round them, even as I flung them by to rest on brother
stubble, through the whirling yellow world, and
eagerness of reaping, came the vision of my love, as
with downcast eyes she wondered at my power of passion.
And then the sweet remembrance glowed brighter than the
sun through wheat, through my very depth of heart, of
how she raised those beaming eyes, and ripened in my
breast rich hope. Even now I could descry, like high
waves in the distance, the rounded heads and folded
shadows of the wood of Bagworthy. Perhaps she was
walking in the valley, and softly gazing up at them.
Oh, to be a bird just there! I could see a bright mist
hanging just above the Doone Glen. Perhaps it was
shedding its drizzle upon her. Oh, to be a drop of
rain! The very breeze which bowed the harvest to my
bosom gently, might have come direct from Lorna, with
her sweet voice laden. Ah, the flaws of air that
wander where they will around her, fan her bright
cheek, play with lashes, even revel in her hair and
reveal her beauties--man is but a breath, we know,
would I were such breath as that!
But confound it, while I ponder, with delicious dreams
suspended, with my right arm hanging frustrate and the
giant sickle drooped, with my left arm bowed for
clasping something more germane than wheat, and my eyes
not minding business, but intent on distant
woods--confound it, what are the men about, and why am
I left vapouring? They have taken advantage of me, the
rogues! They are gone to the hedge for the cider-jars;
they have had up the sledd of bread and meat, quite
softly over the stubble, and if I can believe my eyes
(so dazed with Lorna's image), they are sitting down to
an excellent dinner, before the church clock has gone
'John Fry, you big villain!' I cried, with John hanging
up in the air by the scruff of his neck-cloth, but
holding still by his knife and fork, and a goose-leg in
between his lips, 'John Fry, what mean you by this,
'Latt me dowun, or I can't tell 'e,' John answered with
some difficulty. So I let him come down, and I must
confess that he had reason on his side. 'Plaise your
worship'--John called me so, ever since I returned from
London, firmly believing that the King had made me a
magistrate at least; though I was to keep it secret--
'us zeed as how your worship were took with thinkin' of
King's business, in the middle of the whate-rigg: and
so uz zed, "Latt un coom to his zell, us had better
zave taime, by takking our dinner"; and here us be,
praise your worship, and hopps no offence with thick
iron spoon full of vried taties.'
I was glad enough to accept the ladle full of fried
batatas, and to make the best of things, which is
generally done by letting men have their own way.
Therefore I managed to dine with them, although it was
For according to all that I can find, in a long life
and a varied one, twelve o'clock is the real time for a
man to have his dinner. Then the sun is at his noon,
calling halt to look around, and then the plants and
leaves are turning, each with a little leisure time,
before the work of the afternoon. Then is the balance
of east and west, and then the right and left side of a
man are in due proportion, and contribute fairly with
harmonious fluids. And the health of this mode of
life, and its reclaiming virtue are well set forth in
our ancient rhyme,--
Sunrise, breakfast; sun high, dinner;
Sundown, sup; makes a saint of a sinner.
Whish, the wheat falls! Whirl again; ye have had good
dinners; give your master and mistress plenty to supply
another year. And in truth we did reap well and
fairly, through the whole of that afternoon, I not only
keeping lead, but keeping the men up to it. We got
through a matter of ten acres, ere the sun between the
shocks broke his light on wheaten plumes, then hung his
red cloak on the clouds, and fell into grey slumber.
Seeing this we wiped our sickles, and our breasts and
foreheads, and soon were on the homeward road, looking
forward to good supper.
Of course all the reapers came at night to the
harvest-supper, and Parson Bowden to say the grace as
well as to help to carve for us. And some help was
needed there, I can well assure you; for the reapers
had brave appetites, and most of their wives having
babies were forced to eat as a duty. Neither failed
they of this duty; cut and come again was the order of
the evening, as it had been of the day; and I had no
time to ask questions, but help meat and ladle gravy.
All the while our darling Annie, with her sleeves
tucked up, and her comely figure panting, was running
about with a bucket of taties mashed with lard and
cabbage. Even Lizzie had left her books, and was
serving out beer and cider; while mother helped
plum-pudding largely on pewter-plates with the mutton.
And all the time, Betty Muxworthy was grunting in and
out everywhere, not having space to scold even, but
changing the dishes, serving the meat, poking the fire,
and cooking more. But John Fry would not stir a peg,
except with his knife and fork, having all the airs of
a visitor, and his wife to keep him eating, till I
thought there would be no end of it.
Then having eaten all they could, they prepared
themselves, with one accord, for the business now of
drinking. But first they lifted the neck of corn,
dressed with ribbons gaily, and set it upon the
mantelpiece, each man with his horn a-froth; and then
they sang a song about it, every one shouting in the
chorus louder than harvest thunderstorm. Some were in
the middle of one verse, and some at the end of the
next one; yet somehow all managed to get together in
the mighty roar of the burden. And if any farmer up
the country would like to know Exmoor harvest-song as
sung in my time and will be sung long after I am
garnered home, lo, here I set it down for him, omitting
only the dialect, which perchance might puzzle him.
The corn, oh the corn, 'tis the ripening of the corn!
Go unto the door, my lad, and look beneath the moon,
Thou canst see, beyond the woodrick, how it is yelloon:
'Tis the harvesting of wheat, and the barley must be shorn.
The corn, oh the corn, and the yellow, mellow corn!
Here's to the corn, with the cups upon the board!
We've been reaping all the day, and we'll reap again the morn
And fetch it home to mow-yard, and then we'll thank the Lord.
The wheat, oh the wheat, 'tis the ripening of the wheat!
All the day it has been hanging down its heavy head,
Bowing over on our bosoms with a beard of red:
'Tis the harvest, and the value makes the labour sweet.
The wheat, oh the wheat, and the golden, golden wheat!
Here's to the wheat, with the loaves upon the board!
We've been reaping all the day, and we never will be beat,
But fetch it all to mow-yard, and then we'll thank the Lord.
The barley, oh the barley, and the barley is in prime!
All the day it has been rustling, with its bristles brown,
Waiting with its beard abowing, till it can be mown!
'Tis the harvest and the barley must abide its time.
The barley, oh the barley, and the barley ruddy brown!
Here's to the barley, with the beer upon the board!
We'll go amowing, soon as ever all the wheat is down;
When all is in the mow-yard, we'll stop, and thank the Lord.
The oats, oh the oats, 'tis the ripening of the oats!
All the day they have been dancing with their flakes of white,
Waiting for the girding-hook, to be the nags' delight:
'Tis the harvest, let them dangle in their skirted coats.
The oats, oh the oats, and the silver, silver oats!
Here's to the oats with the blackstone on the board!
We'll go among them, when the barley has been laid in rotes:
When all is home to mow-yard, we'll kneel and thank the Lord.
The corn, oh the corn, and the blessing of the corn!
Come unto the door, my lads, and look beneath the moon,
We can see, on hill and valley, how it is yelloon,
With a breadth of glory, as when our Lord was born.
The corn, oh the corn, and the yellow, mellow corn!
Thanks for the corn, with our bread upon the board!
So shall we acknowledge it, before we reap the morn,
With our hands to heaven, and our knees unto the Lord.
Now we sang this song very well the first time, having
the parish choir to lead us, and the clarionet, and the
parson to give us the time with his cup; and we sang it
again the second time, not so but what you might praise
it (if you had been with us all the evening), although
the parson was gone then, and the clerk not fit to
compare with him in the matter of keeping time. But
when that song was in its third singing, I defy any man
(however sober) to have made out one verse from the
other, or even the burden from the verses, inasmuch as
every man present, ay, and woman too, sang as became
convenient to them, in utterance both of words and
And in truth, there was much excuse for them; because
it was a noble harvest, fit to thank the Lord for,
without His thinking us hypocrites. For we had more
land in wheat, that year, than ever we had before, and
twice the crop to the acre; and I could not help now
and then remembering, in the midst of the merriment,
how my father in the churchyard yonder would have
gloried to behold it. And my mother, who had left us
now, happening to return just then, being called to
have her health drunk (for the twentieth time at
least), I knew by the sadness in her eyes that she was
thinking just as I was. Presently, therefore, I
slipped away from the noise, and mirth, and smoking
(although of that last there was not much, except from
Farmer Nicholas), and crossing the courtyard in the
moonlight, I went, just to cool myself, as far as my
ANNIE GETS THE BEST OF IT
I had long outgrown unwholesome feeling as to my
father's death, and so had Annie; though Lizzie (who
must have loved him least) still entertained some evil
will, and longing for a punishment. Therefore I was
surprised (and indeed, startled would not be too much
to say, the moon being somewhat fleecy), to see our
Annie sitting there as motionless as the tombstone, and
with all her best fallals upon her, after stowing away
My nerves, however, are good and strong, except at
least in love matters, wherein they always fail me, and
when I meet with witches; and therefore I went up to
Annie, although she looked so white and pure; for I had
seen her before with those things on, and it struck me
who she was.
"What are you doing here, Annie?" I inquired rather
sternly, being vexed with her for having gone so very
near to frighten me.
"Nothing at all," said our Annie shortly. And indeed
it was truth enough for a woman. Not that I dare to
believe that women are such liars as men say; only that
I mean they often see things round the corner, and know
not which is which of it. And indeed I never have
known a woman (though right enough in their meaning)
purely and perfectly true and transparent, except only
my Lorna; and even so, I might not have loved her, if
she had been ugly.
'Why, how so?' said I; 'Miss Annie, what business have
you here, doing nothing at this time of night? And
leaving me with all the trouble to entertain our
'You seem not to me to be doing it, John,' Annie
answered softly; 'what business have you here doing
nothing, at this time of night?'
I was taken so aback with this, and the extreme
impertinence of it, from a mere young girl like Annie,
that I turned round to march away and have nothing more
to say to her. But she jumped up, and caught me by the
hand, and threw herself upon my bosom, with her face
all wet with tears.
'Oh, John, I will tell you. I will tell you. Only
don't be angry, John.'
'Angry! no indeed,' said I; 'what right have I to be
angry with you, because you have your secrets? Every
chit of a girl thinks now that she has a right to her
'And you have none of your own, John; of course you
have none of your own? All your going out at night--'
'We will not quarrel here, poor Annie,' I answered,
with some loftiness; 'there are many things upon my
mind, which girls can have no notion of.'
'And so there are upon mine, John. Oh, John, I will
tell you everything, if you will look at me kindly, and
promise to forgive me. Oh, I am so miserable!'
Now this, though she was behaving so badly, moved me
much towards her; especially as I longed to know what
she had to tell me. Therefore I allowed her to coax
me, and to kiss me, and to lead me away a little, as
far as the old yew-tree; for she would not tell me
where she was.
But even in the shadow there, she was very long before
beginning, and seemed to have two minds about it, or
rather perhaps a dozen; and she laid her cheek against
the tree, and sobbed till it was pitiful; and I knew
what mother would say to her for spoiling her best
'Now will you stop?' I said at last, harder than I
meant it, for I knew that she would go on all night, if
any one encouraged her: and though not well acquainted
with women, I understood my sisters; or else I must be
a born fool--except, of course, that I never professed
to understand Eliza.
'Yes, I will stop,' said Annie, panting; 'you are very
hard on me, John; but I know you mean it for the best.
If somebody else--I am sure I don't know who, and have
no right to know, no doubt, but she must be a wicked
thing--if somebody else had been taken so with a pain
all round the heart, John, and no power of telling it,
perhaps you would have coaxed, and kissed her, and come
a little nearer, and made opportunity to be very
Now this was so exactly what I had tried to do to
Lorna, that my breath was almost taken away at Annie's
so describing it. For a while I could not say a word,
but wondered if she were a witch, which had never been
in our family: and then, all of a sudden, I saw the way
to beat her, with the devil at my elbow.
'From your knowledge of these things, Annie, you must
have had them done to you. I demand to know this very
moment who has taken such liberties.'
'Then, John, you shall never know, if you ask in that
manner. Besides, it was no liberty in the least at
all, Cousins have a right to do things--and when they
are one's godfather--' Here Annie stopped quite
suddenly having so betrayed herself; but met me in the
full moonlight, being resolved to face it out, with a
good face put upon it.
'Alas, I feared it would come to this,' I answered very
sadly; 'I know he has been here many a time, without
showing himself to me. There is nothing meaner than
for a man to sneak, and steal a young maid's heart,
without her people knowing it.'
'You are not doing anything of that sort yourself then,
dear John, are you?'
'Only a common highwayman!' I answered, without heeding
her; 'a man without an acre of his own, and liable to
hang upon any common, and no other right of common over
'John,' said my sister, 'are the Doones privileged not
to be hanged upon common land?'
At this I was so thunderstruck, that I leaped in the
air like a shot rabbit, and rushed as hard as I could
through the gate and across the yard, and back into the
kitchen; and there I asked Farmer Nicholas Snowe to
give me some tobacco, and to lend me a spare pipe.
This he did with a grateful manner, being now some
five-fourths gone; and so I smoked the very first pipe
that ever had entered my lips till then; and beyond a
doubt it did me good, and spread my heart at leisure.
Meanwhile the reapers were mostly gone, to be up
betimes in the morning; and some were led by their
wives; and some had to lead their wives themselves,
according to the capacity of man and wife respectively.
But Betty was as lively as ever, bustling about with
every one, and looking out for the chance of groats,
which the better off might be free with. And over the
kneading-pan next day, she dropped three and sixpence
out of her pocket; and Lizzie could not tell for her
life how much more might have been in it.
Now by this time I had almost finished smoking that
pipe of tobacco, and wondering at myself for having so
despised it hitherto, and making up my mind to have
another trial to-morrow night, it began to occur to me
that although dear Annie had behaved so very badly and
rudely, and almost taken my breath away with the
suddenness of her allusion, yet it was not kind of me
to leave her out there at that time of night, all
alone, and in such distress. Any of the reapers going
home might be gotten so far beyond fear of ghosts as to
venture into the churchyard; and although they would
know a great deal better than to insult a sister of
mine when sober, there was no telling what they might
do in their present state of rejoicing. Moreover, it
was only right that I should learn, for Lorna's sake,
how far Annie, or any one else, had penetrated our
Therefore, I went forth at once, bearing my pipe in a
skilful manner, as I had seen Farmer Nicholas do; and
marking, with a new kind of pleasure, how the rings and
wreaths of smoke hovered and fluttered in the
moonlight, like a lark upon his carol. Poor Annie was
gone back again to our father's grave, and there she
sat upon the turf, sobbing very gently, and not wishing
to trouble any one. So I raised her tenderly, and made
much of her, and consoled her, for I could not scold
her there; and perhaps after all she was not to be
blamed so much as Tom Faggus himself was. Annie was
very grateful to me, and kissed me many times, and
begged my pardon ever so often for her rudeness to me.
And then having gone so far with it, and finding me so
complaisant, she must needs try to go a little further,
and to lead me away from her own affairs, and into mine
concerning Lorna. But although it was clever enough of
her she was not deep enough for me there; and I soon
discovered that she knew nothing, not even the name of
my darling; but only suspected from things she had
seen, and put together like a woman. Upon this I
brought her back again to Tom Faggus and his doings.
'My poor Annie, have you really promised him to be his
'Then after all you have no reason, John, no particular
reason, I mean, for slighting poor Sally Snowe so?'
'Without even asking mother or me! Oh, Annie, it was
wrong of you!'
'But, darling, you know that mother wishes you so much
to marry Sally; and I am sure you could have her
to-morrow. She dotes on the very ground--'
'I dare say he tells you that, Annie, that he dotes on
the ground you walk upon--but did you believe him,
'You may believe me, I assure you, John, and half the
farm to be settled upon her, after the old man's time;
and though she gives herself little airs, it is only
done to entice you; she has the very best hand in the
dairy John, and the lightest at a turn-over cake--'
'Now, Annie, don't talk nonsense so. I wish just to
know the truth about you and Tom Faggus. Do you mean
to marry him?'
'I to marry before my brother, and leave him with none
to take care of him! Who can do him a red deer collop,
except Sally herself, as I can? Come home, dear, at
once, and I will do you one; for you never ate a morsel
of supper, with all the people you had to attend upon.'
This was true enough; and seeing no chance of anything
more than cross questions and crooked purposes, at
which a girl was sure to beat me, I even allowed her to
lead me home, with the thoughts of the collop
uppermost. But I never counted upon being beaten so
thoroughly as I was; for knowing me now to be off my
guard, the young hussy stopped at the farmyard gate, as
if with a brier entangling her, and while I was
stooping to take it away, she looked me full in the
face by the moonlight, and jerked out quite suddenly,--
'Can your love do a collop, John?'
'No, I should hope not,' I answered rashly; 'she is not
a mere cook-maid I should hope.'
'She is not half so pretty as Sally Snowe; I will
answer for that,' said Annie.
'She is ten thousand times as pretty as ten thousand
Sally Snowes,' I replied with great indignation.
'Oh, but look at Sally's eyes!' cried my sister
'Look at Lorna Doone's,' said I; 'and you would never
look again at Sally's.'
'Oh Lorna Doone. Lorna Doone!' exclaimed our Annie
half-frightened, yet clapping her hands with triumph,
at having found me out so: 'Lorna Doone is the lovely
maiden, who has stolen poor somebody's heart so. Ah, I
shall remember it; because it is so queer a name. But
stop, I had better write it down. Lend me your hat,
poor boy, to write on.'
'I have a great mind to lend you a box on the ear,' I
answered her in my vexation, 'and I would, if you had
not been crying so, you sly good-for-nothing baggage.
As it is, I shall keep it for Master Faggus, and add
interest for keeping.'
'Oh no, John; oh no, John,' she begged me earnestly,
being sobered in a moment. 'Your hand is so terribly
heavy, John; and he never would forgive you; although
he is so good-hearted, he cannot put up with an insult.
Promise me, dear John, that you will not strike him;
and I will promise you faithfully to keep your secret,
even from mother, and even from Cousin Tom himself.'
'And from Lizzie; most of all, from Lizzie,' I answered
very eagerly, knowing too well which of my relations
would be hardest with me.
'Of course from little Lizzie,' said Annie, with some
contempt; 'a young thing like her cannot be kept too
long, in my opinion, from the knowledge of such
subjects. And besides, I should be very sorry if
Lizzie had the right to know your secrets, as I have,
dearest John. Not a soul shall be the wiser for your
having trusted me, John; although I shall be very
wretched when you are late away at night, among those
'Well,' I replied, 'it is no use crying over spilt milk
Annie. You have my secret, and I have yours; and I
scarcely know which of the two is likely to have the
worst time of it, when it comes to mother's ears. I
could put up with perpetual scolding but not with
mother's sad silence.'
'That is exactly how I feel, John.' and as Annie said
it she brightened up, and her soft eyes shone upon me;
'but now I shall be much happier, dear; because I shall
try to help you. No doubt the young lady deserves it,
John. She is not after the farm, I hope?'
'She!' I exclaimed; and that was enough, there was so
much scorn in my voice and face.
'Then, I am sure, I am very glad,' Annie always made
the best of things; 'for I do believe that Sally Snowe
has taken a fancy to our dairy-place, and the pattern
of our cream-pans; and she asked so much about our
meadows, and the colour of the milk--'
'Then, after all, you were right, dear Annie; it is the
ground she dotes upon.'
'And the things that walk upon it,' she answered me
with another kiss; 'Sally has taken a wonderful fancy
to our best cow, "Nipple-pins." But she never shall
have her now; what a consolation!'
We entered the house quite gently thus, and found
Farmer Nicholas Snowe asleep, little dreaming how his
plans had been overset between us. And then Annie said
to me very slyly, between a smile and a blush,--
'Don't you wish Lorna Doone was here, John, in the
parlour along with mother; instead of those two
fashionable milkmaids, as Uncle Ben will call them, and
poor stupid Mistress Kebby?'
'That indeed I do, Annie. I must kiss you for only
thinking of it. Dear me, it seems as if you had known
all about us for a twelvemonth.'
'She loves you, with all her heart, John. No doubt
about that of course.' And Annie looked up at me, as
much as to say she would like to know who could help
'That's the very thing she won't do,' said I, knowing
that Annie would love me all the more for it, 'she is
only beginning to like me, Annie; and as for loving,
she is so young that she only loves her grandfather.
But I hope she will come to it by-and-by.'
'Of course she must,' replied my sister, 'it will be
impossible for her to help it.'
'Ah well! I don't know,' for I wanted more assurance of
it. 'Maidens are such wondrous things!''
'Not a bit of it,' said Annie, casting her bright eyes
downwards: 'love is as simple as milking, when people
know how to do it. But you must not let her alone too
long; that is my advice to you. What a simpleton you
must have been not to tell me long ago. I would have
made Lorna wild about you, long before this time,
Johnny. But now you go into the parlour, dear, while I
do your collop. Faith Snowe is not come, but Polly and
Sally. Sally has made up her mind to conquer you this
very blessed evening, John. Only look what a thing of
a scarf she has on; I should be quite ashamed to wear
it. But you won't strike poor Tom, will you?'
'Not I, my darling, for your sweet sake.'
And so dear Annie, having grown quite brave, gave me a
little push into the parlour, where I was quite abashed
to enter after all I had heard about Sally. And I made
up my mind to examine her well, and try a little
courting with her, if she should lead me on, that I
might be in practice for Lorna. But when I perceived
how grandly and richly both the young damsels were
apparelled; and how, in their curtseys to me, they
retreated, as if I were making up to them, in a way
they had learned from Exeter; and how they began to
talk of the Court, as if they had been there all their
lives, and the latest mode of the Duchess of this, and
the profile of the Countess of that, and the last good
saying of my Lord something; instead of butter, and
cream, and eggs, and things which they understood; I
knew there must be somebody in the room besides Jasper
Kebby to talk at.
And so there was; for behind the curtain drawn across
the window-seat no less a man than Uncle Ben was
sitting half asleep and weary; and by his side a little
girl very quiet and very watchful. My mother led me
to Uncle Ben, and he took my hand without rising,
muttering something not over-polite, about my being
bigger than ever. I asked him heartily how he was, and
he said, 'Well enough, for that matter; but none the
better for the noise you great clods have been making.'
'I am sorry if we have disturbed you, sir,' I answered
very civilly; 'but I knew not that you were here even;
and you must allow for harvest time.'
'So it seems,' he replied; 'and allow a great deal,
including waste and drunkenness. Now (if you can see
so small a thing, after emptying flagons much larger)
this is my granddaughter, and my heiress'--here he
glanced at mother--'my heiress, little Ruth Huckaback.'
'I am very glad to see you, Ruth,' I answered, offering
her my hand, which she seemed afraid to take, 'welcome
to Plover's Barrows, my good cousin Ruth.'
However, my good cousin Ruth only arose, and made me a
curtsey, and lifted her great brown eyes at me, more in
fear, as I thought, than kinship. And if ever any one
looked unlike the heiress to great property, it was the
little girl before me.
'Come out to the kitchen, dear, and let me chuck you to
the ceiling,' I said, just to encourage her; 'I always
do it to little girls; and then they can see the hams
and bacon.' But Uncle Reuben burst out laughing; and
Ruth turned away with a deep rich colour.
'Do you know how old she is, you numskull?' said Uncle
Ben, in his dryest drawl; 'she was seventeen last July,
'On the first of July, grandfather,' Ruth whispered,
with her back still to me; 'but many people will not
Here mother came up to my rescue, as she always loved
to do; and she said, 'If my son may not dance Miss
Ruth, at any rate he may dance with her. We have only
been waiting for you, dear John, to have a little
harvest dance, with the kitchen door thrown open. You
take Ruth; Uncle Ben take Sally; Master Debby pair off
with Polly; and neighbour Nicholas will be good enough,
if I can awake him, to stand up with fair Mistress
Kebby. Lizzie will play us the virginal. Won't you,
'But who is to dance with you, madam?' Uncle Ben asked,
very politely. 'I think you must rearrange your
figure. I have not danced for a score of years; and I
will not dance now, while the mistress and the owner of
the harvest sits aside neglected.'
'Nay, Master Huckaback,' cried Sally Snowe, with a
saucy toss of her hair; 'Mistress Ridd is too kind a
great deal, in handing you over to me. You take her;
and I will fetch Annie to be my partner this evening.
I like dancing very much better with girls, for they
never squeeze and rumple one. Oh, it is so much
'Have no fear for me, my dears,' our mother answered
smiling: 'Parson Bowden promised to come back again; I
expect him every minute; and he intends to lead me off,
and to bring a partner for Annie too, a very pretty
young gentleman. Now begin; and I will join you.'
There was no disobeying her, without rudeness; and
indeed the girls' feet were already jigging; and Lizzie
giving herself wonderful airs with a roll of learned
music; and even while Annie was doing my collop, her
pretty round instep was arching itself, as I could see
from the parlour-door. So I took little Ruth, and I
spun her around, as the sound of the music came lively
and ringing; and after us came all the rest with much
laughter, begging me not to jump over her; and anon my
grave partner began to smile sweetly, and look up at me
with the brightest of eyes, and drop me the prettiest
curtseys; till I thought what a great stupe I must have
been to dream of putting her in the cheese-rack. But
one thing I could not at all understand; why mother,
who used to do all in her power to throw me across
Sally Snowe, should now do the very opposite; for she
would not allow me one moment with Sally, not even to
cross in the dance, or whisper, or go anywhere near a
corner (which as I said, I intended to do, just by way
of practice), while she kept me, all the evening, as
close as possible with Ruth Huckaback, and came up and
praised me so to Ruth, times and again, that I declare
I was quite ashamed. Although of course I knew that I
deserved it all, but I could not well say that.
Then Annie came sailing down the dance, with her
beautiful hair flowing round her; the lightest figure
in all the room, and the sweetest, and the loveliest.
She was blushing, with her fair cheeks red beneath her
dear blue eyes, as she met my glance of surprise and
grief at the partner she was leaning on. It was Squire
Marwood de Whichehalse. I would sooner have seen her
with Tom Faggus, as indeed I had expected, when I heard
of Parson Bowden. And to me it seemed that she had no
right to be dancing so with any other; and to this
effect I contrived to whisper; but she only said, 'See
to yourself, John. No, but let us both enjoy
ourselves. You are not dancing with Lorna, John. But
you seem uncommonly happy.'
'Tush,' I said; 'could I flip about so, if I had my
love with me?'
JOHN FRY'S ERRAND
We kept up the dance very late that night, mother being in such
wonderful spirits, that she would not hear of our going to bed:
while she glanced from young Squire Marwood, very deep
in his talk with our Annie, to me and Ruth Huckaback
who were beginning to be very pleasant company. Alas,
poor mother, so proud as she was, how little she
dreamed that her good schemes already were hopelessly
Being forced to be up before daylight next day, in
order to begin right early, I would not go to my
bedroom that night for fear of disturbing my mother,
but determined to sleep in the tallat awhile, that
place being cool, and airy, and refreshing with the
smell of sweet hay. Moreover, after my dwelling in
town, where I had felt like a horse on a lime-kiln, I
could not for a length of time have enough of country
life. The mooing of a calf was music, and the chuckle
of a fowl was wit, and the snore of the horses was news
'Wult have thee own wai, I reckon,' said Betty, being
cross with sleepiness, for she had washed up
everything; 'slape in hog-pound, if thee laikes, Jan.'
Letting her have the last word of it (as is the due of
women) I stood in the court, and wondered awhile at the
glory of the harvest moon, and the yellow world it
shone upon. Then I saw, as sure as ever I was standing
there in the shadow of the stable, I saw a short wide
figure glide across the foot of the courtyard, between
me and the six-barred gate. Instead of running after
it, as I should have done, I began to consider who it
could be, and what on earth was doing there, when all
our people were in bed, and the reapers gone home, or
to the linhay close against the wheatfield.
Having made up my mind at last, that it could be none
of our people--though not a dog was barking--and also
that it must have been either a girl or a woman, I ran
down with all speed to learn what might be the meaning
of it. But I came too late to learn, through my own
hesitation, for this was the lower end of the
courtyard, not the approach from the parish highway,
but the end of the sledd-way, across the fields where
the brook goes down to the Lynn stream, and where
Squire Faggus had saved the old drake. And of course
the dry channel of the brook, being scarcely any water
now, afforded plenty of place to hide, leading also to
a little coppice, beyond our cabbage-garden, and so
further on to the parish highway.
I saw at once that it was vain to make any pursuit by
moonlight; and resolving to hold my own counsel about
it (though puzzled not a little) and to keep watch
there another night, back I returned to the tallatt-ladder, and
slept without leaving off till morning.
Now many people may wish to know, as indeed I myself
did very greatly, what had brought Master Huckaback
over from Dulverton, at that time of year, when the
clothing business was most active on account of harvest
wages, and when the new wheat was beginning to sample
from the early parts up the country (for he meddled as
well in corn-dealing) and when we could not attend to
him properly by reason of our occupation. And yet more
surprising it seemed to me that he should have brought
his granddaughter also, instead of the troop of
dragoons, without which he had vowed he would never
come here again. And how he had managed to enter the
house together with his granddaughter, and be sitting
quite at home in the parlour there, without any
knowledge or even suspicion on my part. That last
question was easily solved, for mother herself had
admitted them by means of the little passage, during a
chorus of the harvest-song which might have drowned an
earthquake: but as for his meaning and motive, and
apparent neglect of his business, none but himself
could interpret them; and as he did not see fit to do
so, we could not be rude enough to inquire.
He seemed in no hurry to take his departure, though his
visit was so inconvenient to us, as himself indeed must
have noticed: and presently Lizzie, who was the
sharpest among us, said in my hearing that she believed
he had purposely timed his visit so that he might have
liberty to pursue his own object, whatsoever it were,
without interruption from us. Mother gazed hard upon
Lizzie at this, having formed a very different opinion;
but Annie and myself agreed that it was worth looking
Now how could we look into it, without watching Uncle
Reuben, whenever he went abroad, and trying to catch
him in his speech, when he was taking his ease at
night. For, in spite of all the disgust with which he
had spoken of harvest wassailing, there was not a man
coming into our kitchen who liked it better than he
did; only in a quiet way, and without too many
witnesses. Now to endeavour to get at the purpose of
any guest, even a treacherous one (which we had no
right to think Uncle Reuben) by means of observing him
in his cups, is a thing which even the lowest of people
would regard with abhorrence. And to my mind it was
not clear whether it would be fair-play at all to
follow a visitor even at a distance from home and clear
of our premises; except for the purpose of fetching him
back, and giving him more to go on with. Nevertheless
we could not but think, the times being wild and
disjointed, that Uncle Ben was not using fairly the
part of a guest in our house, to make long expeditions
we knew not whither, and involve us in trouble we knew
For his mode was directly after breakfast to pray to
the Lord a little (which used not to be his practice),
and then to go forth upon Dolly, the which was our
Annie's pony, very quiet and respectful, with a bag of
good victuals hung behind him, and two great cavalry
pistols in front. And he always wore his meanest
clothes as if expecting to be robbed, or to disarm the
temptation thereto; and he never took his golden
chronometer neither his bag of money. So much the
girls found out and told me (for I was never at home
myself by day); and they very craftily spurred me on,
having less noble ideas perhaps, to hit upon Uncle
Reuben's track, and follow, and see what became of him.
For he never returned until dark or more, just in time
to be in before us, who were coming home from the
harvest. And then Dolly always seemed very weary, and
stained with a muck from beyond our parish.
But I refused to follow him, not only for the loss of a
day's work to myself, and at least half a day to the
other men, but chiefly because I could not think that
it would be upright and manly. It was all very well to
creep warily into the valley of the Doones, and heed
everything around me, both because they were public
enemies, and also because I risked my life at every
step I took there. But as to tracking a feeble old man
(however subtle he might be), a guest moreover of our
own, and a relative through my mother.--'Once for all,'
I said, 'it is below me, and I won't do it.'
Thereupon, the girls, knowing my way, ceased to torment
me about it: but what was my astonishment the very next
day to perceive that instead of fourteen reapers, we
were only thirteen left, directly our breakfast was
done with--or mowers rather I should say, for we were
gone into the barley now.
'Who has been and left his scythe?' I asked; 'and here's a tin
cup never been handled!'
'Whoy, dudn't ee knaw, Maister Jan,' said Bill Dadds,
looking at me queerly, 'as Jan Vry wur gane avore
'Oh, very well,' I answered, 'John knows what he is
doing.' For John Fry was a kind of foreman now, and it
would not do to say anything that might lessen his
authority. However, I made up my mind to rope him,
when I should catch him by himself, without peril to
But when I came home in the evening, late and almost
weary, there was no Annie cooking my supper, nor Lizzie
by the fire reading, nor even little Ruth Huckaback
watching the shadows and pondering. Upon this, I went
to the girls' room, not in the very best of tempers,
and there I found all three of them in the little place
set apart for Annie, eagerly listening to John Fry, who
was telling some great adventure. John had a great jug
of ale beside him, and a horn well drained; and he
clearly looked upon himself as a hero, and the maids
seemed to be of the same opinion.
'Well done, John,' my sister was saying, 'capitally
done, John Fry. How very brave you have been, John.
Now quick, let us hear the rest of it.'
'What does all this nonsense mean?' I said, in a voice
which frightened them, as I could see by the light of
our own mutton candles: 'John Fry, you be off to your
wife at once, or you shall have what I owe you now, instead of
John made no answer, but scratched his head, and looked
at the maidens to take his part.
'It is you that must be off, I think,' said Lizzie,
looking straight at me with all the impudence in the
world; 'what right have you to come in here to the
young ladies' room, without an invitation even?'
'Very well, Miss Lizzie, I suppose mother has some
right here.' And with that, I was going away to fetch
her, knowing that she always took my side, and never
would allow the house to be turned upside down in that
manner. But Annie caught hold of me by the arm, and
little Ruth stood in the doorway; and Lizzie said,
'Don't be a fool, John. We know things of you, you
know; a great deal more than you dream of.'
Upon this I glanced at Annie, to learn whether she had
been telling, but her pure true face reassured me at
once, and then she said very gently,--
'Lizzie, you talk too fast, my child. No one knows
anything of our John which he need be ashamed of; and
working as he does from light to dusk, and earning the
living of all of us, he is entitled to choose his own
good time for going out and for coming in, without
consulting a little girl five years younger than
himself. Now, John, sit down, and you shall know all
that we have done, though I doubt whether you will
approve of it.'
Upon this I kissed Annie, and so did Ruth; and John Fry
looked a deal more comfortable, but Lizzie only made a
face at us. Then Annie began as follows:--
'You must know, dear John, that we have been extremely
curious, ever since Uncle Reuben came, to know what he
was come for, especially at this time of year, when he
is at his busiest. He never vouchsafed any
explanation, neither gave any reason, true or false,
which shows his entire ignorance of all feminine
nature. If Ruth had known, and refused to tell us, we
should have been much easier, because we must have got
it out of Ruth before two or three days were over. But
darling Ruth knew no more than we did, and indeed I
must do her the justice to say that she has been quite
as inquisitive. Well, we might have put up with it, if
it had not been for his taking Dolly, my own pet Dolly,
away every morning, quite as if she belonged to him,
and keeping her out until close upon dark, and then
bringing her home in a frightful condition. And he
even had the impudence, when I told him that Dolly was
my pony, to say that we owed him a pony, ever since you
took from him that little horse upon which you found
him strapped so snugly; and he means to take Dolly to
Dulverton with him, to run in his little cart. If
there is law in the land he shall not. Surely, John,
you will not let him?'
'That I won't,' said I, 'except upon the conditions
which I offered him once before. If we owe him the
pony, we owe him the straps.'
Sweet Annie laughed, like a bell, at this, and then she
went on with her story.
'Well, John, we were perfectly miserable. You cannot
understand it, of course; but I used to go every
evening, and hug poor Dolly, and kiss her, and beg her
to tell me where she had been, and what she had seen,
that day. But never having belonged to Balaam, darling
Dolly was quite unsuccessful, though often she strove
to tell me, with her ears down, and both eyes rolling.
Then I made John Fry tie her tail in a knot, with a
piece of white ribbon, as if for adornment, that I
might trace her among the hills, at any rate for a mile
or two. But Uncle Ben was too deep for that; he cut
off the ribbon before he started, saying he would have
no Doones after him. And then, in despair, I applied
to you, knowing how quick of foot you are, and I got
Ruth and Lizzie to help me, but you answered us very
shortly; and a very poor supper you had that night,
according to your deserts.
'But though we were dashed to the ground for a time, we
were not wholly discomfited. Our determination to know
all about it seemed to increase with the difficulty.
And Uncle Ben's manner last night was so dry, when we
tried to romp and to lead him out, that it was much
worse than Jamaica ginger grated into a poor sprayed
finger. So we sent him to bed at the earliest moment,
and held a small council upon him. If you remember
you, John, having now taken to smoke (which is a
hateful practice), had gone forth grumbling about your
bad supper and not taking it as a good lesson.'
'Why, Annie,' I cried, in amazement at this, 'I will
never trust you again for a supper. I thought you were
'And so I was, dear; very sorry. But still we must do
our duty. And when we came to consider it, Ruth was
the cleverest of us all; for she said that surely we
must have some man we could trust about the farm to go
on a little errand; and then I remembered that old John
Fry would do anything for money.'
'Not for money, plaize, miss,' said John Fry, taking a
pull at the beer; 'but for the love of your swate
'To be sure, John; with the King's behind it. And so
Lizzie ran for John Fry at once, and we gave him full
directions, how he was to slip out of the barley in the
confusion of the breakfast, so that none might miss
him; and to run back to the black combe bottom, and
there he would find the very same pony which Uncle Ben
had been tied upon, and there is no faster upon the
farm. And then, without waiting for any breakfast
unless he could eat it either running or trotting, he
was to travel all up the black combe, by the track
Uncle Reuben had taken, and up at the top to look
forward carefully, and so to trace him without being
'Ay; and raight wull a doo'd un,' John cried, with his
mouth in the bullock's horn.
'Well, and what did you see, John?' I asked, with great
anxiety; though I meant to have shown no interest.
'John was just at the very point of it,' Lizzie
answered me sharply, 'when you chose to come in and
'Then let him begin again,' said I; 'things being gone
so far, it is now my duty to know everything, for the
sake of you girls and mother.'
'Hem!' cried Lizzie, in a nasty way; but I took no
notice of her, for she was always bad to deal with.
Therefore John Fry began again, being heartily glad to
do so, that his story might get out of the tumble which
all our talk had made in it. But as he could not tell
a tale in the manner of my Lorna (although he told it
very well for those who understood him) I will take it
from his mouth altogether, and state in brief what
When John, upon his forest pony, which he had much ado
to hold (its mouth being like a bucket), was come to
the top of the long black combe, two miles or more from
Plover's Barrows, and winding to the southward, he
stopped his little nag short of the crest, and got off
and looked ahead of him, from behind a tump of
whortles. It was a long flat sweep of moorland over
which he was gazing, with a few bogs here and there,
and brushy places round them. Of course, John Fry,
from his shepherd life and reclaiming of strayed
cattle, knew as well as need be where he was, and the
spread of the hills before him, although it was beyond
our beat, or, rather, I should say, beside it. Not but
what we might have grazed there had it been our
pleasure, but that it was not worth our while, and
scarcely worth Jasper Kebby's even; all the land being
cropped (as one might say) with desolation. And nearly
all our knowledge of it sprang from the unaccountable
tricks of cows who have young calves with them; at
which time they have wild desire to get away from the
sight of man, and keep calf and milk for one another,
although it be in a barren land. At least, our cows
have gotten this trick, and I have heard other people
complain of it.
John Fry, as I said, knew the place well enough, but he
liked it none the more for that, neither did any of our
people; and, indeed, all the neighbourhood of Thomshill
and Larksborough, and most of all Black Barrow Down lay
under grave imputation of having been enchanted with a
very evil spell. Moreover, it was known, though folk
were loath to speak of it, even on a summer morning,
that Squire Thom, who had been murdered there, a
century ago or more, had been seen by several
shepherds, even in the middle day, walking with his
severed head carried in his left hand, and his right
arm lifted towards the sun.
Therefore it was very bold in John (as I acknowledged)
to venture across that moor alone, even with a fast
pony under him, and some whisky by his side. And he
would never have done so (of that I am quite certain),
either for the sake of Annie's sweet face, or of the
golden guinea, which the three maidens had subscribed
to reward his skill and valour. But the truth was that
he could not resist his own great curiosity. For,
carefully spying across the moor, from behind the tuft
of whortles, at first he could discover nothing having
life and motion, except three or four wild cattle
roving in vain search for nourishment, and a diseased
sheep banished hither, and some carrion crows keeping
watch on her. But when John was taking his very last
look, being only too glad to go home again, and
acknowledge himself baffled, he thought he saw a figure
moving in the farthest distance upon Black Barrow Down,
scarcely a thing to be sure of yet, on account of the
want of colour. But as he watched, the figure passed
between him and a naked cliff, and appeared to be a man
on horseback, making his way very carefully, in fear of
bogs and serpents. For all about there it is adders'
ground, and large black serpents dwell in the marshes,
and can swim as well as crawl.
John knew that the man who was riding there could be
none but Uncle Reuben, for none of the Doones ever
passed that way, and the shepherds were afraid of it.
And now it seemed an unkind place for an unarmed man to
venture through, especially after an armed one who
might not like to be spied upon, and must have some
dark object in visiting such drear solitudes.
Nevertheless John Fry so ached with unbearable
curiosity to know what an old man, and a stranger, and
a rich man, and a peaceable could possibly be after in
that mysterious manner. Moreover, John so throbbed
with hope to find some wealthy secret, that come what
would of it he resolved to go to the end of the matter.
Therefore he only waited awhile for fear of being
discovered, till Master Huckaback turned to the left
and entered a little gully, whence he could not survey
the moor. Then John remounted and crossed the rough
land and the stony places, and picked his way among the
morasses as fast as ever he dared to go; until, in
about half an hour, he drew nigh the entrance of the
gully. And now it behoved him to be most wary; for
Uncle Ben might have stopped in there, either to rest
his horse or having reached the end of his journey.
And in either case, John had little doubt that he
himself would be pistolled, and nothing more ever heard
of him. Therefore he made his pony come to the mouth
of it sideways, and leaned over and peered in around
the rocky corner, while the little horse cropped at the
But he soon perceived that the gully was empty, so far
at least as its course was straight; and with that he
hastened into it, though his heart was not working
easily. When he had traced the winding hollow for half
a mile or more, he saw that it forked, and one part led
to the left up a steep red bank, and the other to the
right, being narrow and slightly tending downwards.
Some yellow sand lay here and there between the
starving grasses, and this he examined narrowly for a
trace of Master Huckaback.
At last he saw that, beyond all doubt, the man he was
pursuing had taken the course which led down hill; and
down the hill he must follow him. And this John did
with deep misgivings, and a hearty wish that he had
never started upon so perilous an errand. For now he
knew not where he was, and scarcely dared to ask
himself, having heard of a horrible hole, somewhere in
this neighbourhood, called the Wizard's Slough.
Therefore John rode down the slope, with sorrow, and
great caution. And these grew more as he went onward,
and his pony reared against him, being scared, although
a native of the roughest moorland. And John had just
made up his mind that God meant this for a warning, as
the passage seemed darker and deeper, when suddenly he
turned a corner, and saw a scene which stopped him.
For there was the Wizard's Slough itself, as black as
death, and bubbling, with a few scant yellow reeds in a
ring around it. Outside these, bright water-grass of
the liveliest green was creeping, tempting any unwary
foot to step, and plunge, and founder. And on the
marge were blue campanula, sundew, and forget-me-not,
such as no child could resist. On either side, the
hill fell back, and the ground was broken with tufts of
rush, and flag, and mares-tail, and a few rough
alder-trees overclogged with water. And not a bird was
seen or heard, neither rail nor water-hen, wag-tail
Of this horrible quagmire, the worst upon all Exmoor,
John had heard from his grandfather, and even from his
mother, when they wanted to keep him quiet; but his
father had feared to speak of it to him, being a man of
piety, and up to the tricks of the evil one. This made
John the more desirous to have a good look at it now,
only with his girths well up, to turn away and flee at
speed, if anything should happen. And now he proved
how well it is to be wary and wide-awake, even in
lonesome places. For at the other side of the Slough,
and a few land-yards beyond it, where the ground was
less noisome, he had observed a felled tree lying over
a great hole in the earth, with staves of wood, and
slabs of stone, and some yellow gravel around it. But
the flags of reeds around the morass partly screened it
from his eyes, and he could not make out the meaning of
it, except that it meant no good, and probably was
witchcraft. Yet Dolly seemed not to be harmed by it,
for there she was as large as life, tied to a stump not
far beyond, and flipping the flies away with her tail.
While John was trembling within himself, lest Dolly
should get scent of his pony, and neigh and reveal
their presence, although she could not see them,
suddenly to his great amazement something white arose
out of the hole, under the brown trunk of the tree.
Seeing this his blood went back within him, yet he was
not able to turn and flee, but rooted his face in among
the loose stones, and kept his quivering shoulders
back, and prayed to God to protect him. However, the
white thing itself was not so very awful, being nothing
more than a long-coned night-cap with a tassel on the
top, such as criminals wear at hanging-time. But when
John saw a man's face under it, and a man's neck and
shoulders slowly rising out of the pit, he could not
doubt that this was the place where the murderers come
to life again, according to the Exmoor story. He knew
that a man had been hanged last week, and that this was
the ninth day after it.
Therefore he could bear no more, thoroughly brave as he
had been, neither did he wait to see what became of the
gallows-man; but climbed on his horse with what speed
he might, and rode away at full gallop. Neither did he
dare go back by the way he came, fearing to face Black
Barrow Down! therefore he struck up the other track
leading away towards Cloven Rocks, and after riding
hard for an hour and drinking all his whisky, he
luckily fell in with a shepherd, who led him on to a
public-house somewhere near Exeford. And here he was
so unmanned, the excitement being over, that nothing
less than a gallon of ale and half a gammon of bacon,
brought him to his right mind again. And he took good
care to be home before dark, having followed a
well-known sheep track.
When John Fry finished his story at last, after many
exclamations from Annie, and from Lizzie, and much
praise of his gallantry, yet some little disappointment
that he had not stayed there a little longer, while he
was about it, so as to be able to tell us more, I said
to him very sternly,--
'Now, John, you have dreamed half this, my man. I
firmly believe that you fell asleep at the top of the
black combe, after drinking all your whisky, and never
went on the moor at all. You know what a liar you are,
The girls were exceedingly angry at this, and laid
their hands before my mouth; but I waited for John to
answer, with my eyes fixed upon him steadfastly.
'Bain't for me to denai,' said John, looking at me very
honestly, 'but what a maight tull a lai, now and
awhiles, zame as other men doth, and most of arl them
as spaks again it; but this here be no lai, Maister
Jan. I wush to God it wor, boy: a maight slape this
naight the better.'
'I believe you speak the truth, John; and I ask your
pardon. Now not a word to any one, about this strange
affair. There is mischief brewing, I can see; and it
is my place to attend to it. Several things come
across me now--onlyI will not tell you.'
They were not at all contented with this; but I would
give them no better; except to say, when they plagued
me greatly, and vowed to sleep at my door all night,--
'Now, my dears, this is foolish of you. Too much of
this matter is known already. It is for your own dear
sakes that I am bound to be cautious. I have an
opinion of my own; but it may be a very wrong one; I
will not ask you to share it with me; neither will I
make you inquisitive.'
Annie pouted, and Lizzie frowned, and Ruth looked at me
with her eyes wide open, but no other mark of regarding
me. And I saw that if any one of the three (for John
Fry was gone home with the trembles) could be trusted
to keep a secret, that one was Ruth Huckaback.
FEEDING OF THE PIGS
The story told by John Fry that night, and my
conviction of its truth, made me very uneasy,
especially as following upon the warning of Judge
Jeffreys, and the hints received from Jeremy Stickles,
and the outburst of the tanner at Dunster, as well as
sundry tales and rumours, and signs of secret
understanding, seen and heard on market-days, and at
places of entertainment. We knew for certain that at
Taunton, Bridgwater, and even Dulverton, there was much
disaffection towards the King, and regret for the days
of the Puritans. Albeit I had told the truth, and the
pure and simple truth, when, upon my examination, I
had assured his lordship, that to the best of my knowledge
there was nothing of the sort with us.
But now I was beginning to doubt whether I might not
have been mistaken; especially when we heard, as we
did, of arms being landed at Lynmouth, in the dead of
the night, and of the tramp of men having reached some
one's ears, from a hill where a famous echo was. For
it must be plain to any conspirator (without the
example of the Doones) that for the secret muster of
men and the stowing of unlawful arms, and communication
by beacon lights, scarcely a fitter place could be
found than the wilds of Exmoor, with deep ravines
running far inland from an unwatched and mostly a
sheltered sea. For the Channel from Countisbury
Foreland up to Minehead, or even farther, though rocky,
and gusty, and full of currents, is safe from great
rollers and the sweeping power of the south-west
storms, which prevail with us more than all the others,
and make sad work on the opposite coast.
But even supposing it probable that something against
King Charles the Second (or rather against his Roman
advisers, and especially his brother) were now in
preparation amongst us, was it likely that Master