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

Part 7 out of 17

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Huckaback, a wealthy man, and a careful one, known
moreover to the Lord Chief Justice, would have anything
to do with it? To this I could make no answer; Uncle
Ben was so close a man, so avaricious, and so
revengeful, that it was quite impossible to say what
course he might pursue, without knowing all the chances
of gain, or rise, or satisfaction to him. That he
hated the Papists I knew full well, though he never
spoke much about them; also that he had followed the
march of Oliver Cromwell's army, but more as a suttler
(people said) than as a real soldier; and that he would
go a long way, and risk a great deal of money, to have
his revenge on the Doones; although their name never
passed his lips during the present visit.

But how was it likely to be as to the Doones
themselves? Which side would they probably take in the
coming movement, if movement indeed it would be? So
far as they had any religion at all, by birth they were
Roman Catholics--so much I knew from Lorna; and indeed
it was well known all around, that a priest had been
fetched more than once to the valley, to soothe some
poor outlaw's departure. On the other hand, they were
not likely to entertain much affection for the son of
the man who had banished them and confiscated their
property. And it was not at all impossible that desperate
men, such as they were, having nothing to lose, but estates
to recover, and not being held by religion much, should
cast away all regard for the birth from which they had
been cast out, and make common cause with a Protestant
rising, for the chance of revenge and replacement.

However I do not mean to say that all these things
occurred to me as clearly as I have set them down; only
that I was in general doubt, and very sad perplexity.
For mother was so warm, and innocent, and kind so to
every one, that knowing some little by this time of the
English constitution, I feared very greatly lest she
should be punished for harbouring malcontents. As well
as possible I knew, that if any poor man came to our
door, and cried, 'Officers are after me; for God's sake
take and hide me,' mother would take him in at once,
and conceal, and feed him, even though he had been very
violent; and, to tell the truth, so would both my
sisters, and so indeed would I do. Whence it will be
clear that we were not the sort of people to be safe
among disturbances.

Before I could quite make up my mind how to act in this
difficulty, and how to get at the rights of it (for I
would not spy after Uncle Reuben, though I felt no
great fear of the Wizard's Slough, and none of the man
with the white night-cap), a difference came again upon
it, and a change of chances. For Uncle Ben went away
as suddenly as he first had come to us, giving no
reason for his departure, neither claiming the pony,
and indeed leaving something behind him of great value
to my mother. For he begged her to see to his young
grand-daughter, until he could find opportunity of
fetching her safely to Dulverton. Mother was overjoyed
at this, as she could not help displaying; and Ruth was
quite as much delighted, although she durst not show
it. For at Dulverton she had to watch and keep such
ward on the victuals, and the in and out of the
shopmen, that it went entirely against her heart, and
she never could enjoy herself. Truly she was an
altered girl from the day she came to us; catching our
unsuspicious manners, and our free goodwill, and hearty
noise of laughing.

By this time, the harvest being done, and the thatching
of the ricks made sure against south-western tempests,
and all the reapers being gone, with good money and
thankfulness, I began to burn in spirit for the sight
of Lorna. I had begged my sister Annie to let Sally
Snowe know, once for all, that it was not in my power
to have any thing more to do with her. Of course our
Annie was not to grieve Sally, neither to let it appear
for a moment that I suspected her kind views upon me,
and her strong regard for our dairy: only I thought it
right upon our part not to waste Sally's time any
longer, being a handsome wench as she was, and many
young fellows glad to marry her.

And Annie did this uncommonly well, as she herself told
me afterwards, having taken Sally in the sweetest
manner into her pure confidence, and opened half her
bosom to her, about my very sad love affair. Not that
she let Sally know, of course, who it was, or what it
was; only that she made her understand, without hinting
at any desire of it, that there was no chance now of
having me. Sally changed colour a little at this, and
then went on about a red cow which had passed seven
needles at milking time.

Inasmuch as there are two sorts of month well
recognised by the calendar, to wit the lunar and the
solar, I made bold to regard both my months, in the
absence of any provision, as intended to be strictly
lunar. Therefore upon the very day when the eight
weeks were expiring forth I went in search of Lorna,
taking the pearl ring hopefully, and all the new-laid
eggs I could find, and a dozen and a half of small
trout from our brook. And the pleasure it gave me to
catch those trout, thinking as every one came forth and
danced upon the grass, how much she would enjoy him, is
more than I can now describe, although I well remember
it. And it struck me that after accepting my ring, and
saying how much she loved me, it was possible that my
Queen might invite me even to stay and sup with her:
and so I arranged with dear Annie beforehand, who was
now the greatest comfort to me, to account for my
absence if I should be late.

But alas, I was utterly disappointed; for although I
waited and waited for hours, with an equal amount both
of patience and peril, no Lorna ever appeared at all,
nor even the faintest sign of her. And another thing
occurred as well, which vexed me more than it need have
done, for so small a matter. And this was that my little
offering of the trout and the new-laid eggs was carried
off in the coolest manner by that vile Carver Doone. For
thinking to keep them the fresher and nicer, away from so
much handling, I laid them in a little bed of reeds by the
side of the water, and placed some dog-leaves over them.
And when I had quite forgotten about them, and was watching
from my hiding-place beneath the willow-tree (for I liked
not to enter Lorna's bower, without her permission; except
just to peep that she was not there), and while I was turning
the ring in my pocket, having just seen the new moon, I
became aware of a great man coming eisurely down the valley.
He had a broad-brimmed hat, and a leather jerkin, and heavy
jack-boots to his middle thigh, and what was worst of all
for me, on his shoulder he bore a long carbine. Having
nothing to meet him withal but my staff, and desiring to
avoid disturbance, I retired promptly into the chasm,
keeping the tree betwixt us that he might not descry me,
and watching from behind the jut of a rock, where now I
had scraped myself a neat little hole for the purpose.

Presently the great man reappeared, being now within
fifty yards of me, and the light still good enough, as
he drew nearer for me to descry his features: and
though I am not a judge of men's faces, there was
something in his which turned me cold, as though with a
kind of horror. Not that it was an ugly face; nay,
rather it seemed a handsome one, so far as mere form
and line might go, full of strength, and vigour, and
will, and steadfast resolution. From the short black
hair above the broad forehead, to the long black beard
descending below the curt, bold chin, there was not any
curve or glimpse of weakness or of afterthought.
Nothing playful, nothing pleasant, nothing with a track
of smiles; nothing which a friend could like, and laugh
at him for having. And yet he might have been a good
man (for I have known very good men so fortified by
their own strange ideas of God): I say that he might
have seemed a good man, but for the cold and cruel
hankering of his steel-blue eyes.

Now let no one suppose for a minute that I saw all this
in a moment; for I am very slow, and take a long time
to digest things; only I like to set down, and have
done with it, all the results of my knowledge, though
they be not manifold. But what I said to myself, just
then, was no more than this: 'What a fellow to have
Lorna!' Having my sense of right so outraged (although,
of course, I would never allow her to go so far as
that), I almost longed that he might thrust his head in
to look after me. For there I was, with my ash staff
clubbed, ready to have at him, and not ill inclined to
do so; if only he would come where strength, not
firearms, must decide it. However, he suspected
nothing of my dangerous neighbourhood, but walked his
round like a sentinel, and turned at the brink of the

Then as he marched back again, along the margin of the
stream, he espied my little hoard, covered up with
dog-leaves. He saw that the leaves were upside down,
and this of course drew his attention. I saw him
stoop, and lay bare the fish, and the eggs set a little
way from them and in my simple heart, I thought that
now he knew all about me. But to my surprise, he
seemed well-pleased; and his harsh short laughter came
to me without echo,--

'Ha, ha! Charlie boy! Fisherman Charlie, have I caught
thee setting bait for Lorna? Now, I understand thy
fishings, and the robbing of Counsellor's hen roost.
May I never have good roasting, if I have it not
to-night and roast thee, Charlie, afterwards!'

With this he calmly packed up my fish, and all the best
of dear Annie's eggs; and went away chuckling
steadfastly, to his home, if one may call it so. But I
was so thoroughly grieved and mortified by this most
impudent robbery, that I started forth from my rocky
screen with the intention of pursuing him, until my better sense
arrested me, barely in time to escape his eyes. For I
said to myself, that even supposing I could contend
unarmed with him, it would be the greatest folly in the
world to have my secret access known, and perhaps a
fatal barrier placed between Lorna and myself, and I
knew not what trouble brought upon her, all for the
sake of a few eggs and fishes. It was better to bear
this trifling loss, however ignominious and goading to
the spirit, than to risk my love and Lorna's welfare, and
perhaps be shot into the bargain. And I think that all
will agree with me, that I acted for the wisest, in
withdrawing to my shelter, though deprived of eggs and

Having waited (as I said) until there was no chance
whatever of my love appearing, I hastened homeward very
sadly; and the wind of early autumn moaned across the
moorland. All the beauty of the harvest, all the
gaiety was gone, and the early fall of dusk was like a
weight upon me. Nevertheless, I went every evening
thenceforward for a fortnight; hoping, every time in
vain to find my hope and comfort. And meanwhile, what
perplexed me most was that the signals were replaced,
in order as agreed upon, so that Lorna could scarcely
be restrained by any rigour.

One time I had a narrow chance of being shot and
settled with; and it befell me thus. I was waiting
very carelessly, being now a little desperate, at the
entrance to the glen, instead of watching through my
sight-hole, as the proper practice was. Suddenly a
ball went by me, with a whizz and whistle, passing
through my hat and sweeping it away all folded up. My
soft hat fluttered far down the stream, before I had
time to go after it, and with the help of both wind and
water, was fifty yards gone in a moment. At this I had
just enough mind left to shrink back very suddenly, and
lurk very still and closely; for I knew what a narrow
escape it had been, as I heard the bullet, hard set by
the powder, sing mournfully down the chasm, like a
drone banished out of the hive. And as I peered
through my little cranny, I saw a wreath of smoke still
floating where the thickness was of the withy-bed; and
presently Carver Doone came forth, having stopped to
reload his piece perhaps, and ran very swiftly to the
entrance to see what he had shot.

Sore trouble had I to keep close quarters, from the
slipperiness of the stone beneath me with the water
sliding over it. My foe came quite to the verge of the
fall, where the river began to comb over; and there he
stopped for a minute or two, on the utmost edge of dry
land, upon the very spot indeed where I had fallen
senseless when I clomb it in my boyhood. I could hear
him breathing hard and grunting, as in doubt and
discontent, for he stood within a yard of me, and I
kept my right fist ready for him, if he should discover
me. Then at the foot of the waterslide, my black hat
suddenly appeared, tossing in white foam, and
fluttering like a raven wounded. Now I had doubted
which hat to take, when I left home that day; till I
thought that the black became me best, and might seem
kinder to Lorna.

'Have I killed thee, old bird, at last?' my enemy cried
in triumph; ''tis the third time I have shot at thee,
and thou wast beginning to mock me. No more of thy
cursed croaking now, to wake me in the morning. Ha,
ha! there are not many who get three chances from
Carver Doone; and none ever go beyond it.'

I laughed within myself at this, as he strode away in
his triumph; for was not this his third chance of me,
and he no whit the wiser? And then I thought that
perhaps the chance might some day be on the other side.

For to tell the truth, I was heartily tired of lurking
and playing bo-peep so long; to which nothing could
have reconciled me, except my fear for Lorna. And here
I saw was a man of strength fit for me to encounter,
such as I had never met, but would be glad to meet
with; having found no man of late who needed not my
mercy at wrestling, or at single-stick. And growing
more and more uneasy, as I found no Lorna, I would have
tried to force the Doone Glen from the upper end, and
take my chance of getting back, but for Annie and her

Now that same night I think it was, or at any rate the
next one, that I noticed Betty Muxworthy going on most
strangely. She made the queerest signs to me, when
nobody was looking, and laid her fingers on her lips,
and pointed over her shoulder. But I took little heed
of her, being in a kind of dudgeon, and oppressed with
evil luck; believing too that all she wanted was to
have some little grumble about some petty grievance.

But presently she poked me with the heel of a
fire-bundle, and passing close to my ear whispered, so
that none else could hear her, 'Larna Doo-un.'

By these words I was so startled, that I turned round
and stared at her; but she pretended not to know it,
and began with all her might to scour an empty crock
with a besom.

'Oh, Betty, let me help you! That work is much too hard
for you,' I cried with a sudden chivalry, which only
won rude answer.

'Zeed me adooing of thic, every naight last ten year,
Jan, wiout vindin' out how hard it wor. But if zo bee
thee wants to help, carr peg's bucket for me. Massy,
if I ain't forgotten to fade the pegs till now.'

Favouring me with another wink, to which I now paid the
keenest heed, Betty went and fetched the lanthorn from
the hook inside the door. Then when she had kindled
it, not allowing me any time to ask what she was after,
she went outside, and pointed to the great bock of
wash, and riddlings, and brown hulkage (for we ground
our own corn always), and though she knew that Bill
Dadds and Jem Slocombe had full work to carry it on a
pole (with another to help to sling it), she said to me
as quietly as a maiden might ask one to carry a glove,
'Jan Ridd, carr thic thing for me.'

So I carried it for her, without any words; wondering
what she was up to next, and whether she had ever heard
of being too hard on the willing horse. And when we
came to hog-pound, she turned upon me suddenly, with
the lanthorn she was bearing, and saw that I had the
bock by one hand very easily.

'Jan Ridd,' she said, 'there be no other man in England
cud a' dood it. Now thee shalt have Larna.'

While I was wondering how my chance of having Lorna
could depend upon my power to carry pig's wash, and how
Betty could have any voice in the matter (which seemed
to depend upon her decision), and in short, while I was
all abroad as to her knowledge and everything, the
pigs, who had been fast asleep and dreaming in their
emptiness, awoke with one accord at the goodness of the
smell around them. They had resigned themselves, as
even pigs do, to a kind of fast, hoping to break their
fast more sweetly on the morrow morning. But now they
tumbled out all headlong, pigs below and pigs above,
pigs point-blank and pigs across, pigs courant and pigs
rampant, but all alike prepared to eat, and all in good
cadence squeaking.

'Tak smarl boocket, and bale un out; wad 'e waste sich
stoof as thic here be?' So Betty set me to feed the
pigs, while she held the lanthorn; and knowing what she
was, I saw that she would not tell me another word
until all the pigs were served. And in truth no man
could well look at them, and delay to serve them, they
were all expressing appetite in so forcible a manner;
some running to and fro, and rubbing, and squealing as
if from starvation, some rushing down to the oaken
troughs, and poking each other away from them; and the
kindest of all putting up their fore-feet on the
top-rail on the hog-pound, and blinking their little
eyes, and grunting prettily to coax us; as who would
say, 'I trust you now; you will be kind, I know, and
give me the first and the very best of it.'

'Oppen ge-at now, wull 'e, Jan? Maind, young sow wi'
the baible back arlway hath first toorn of it, 'cos I
brought her up on my lap, I did. Zuck, zuck, zuck! How
her stickth her tail up; do me good to zee un! Now
thiccy trough, thee zany, and tak thee girt legs out o'
the wai. Wish they wud gie thee a good baite, mak thee
hop a bit vaster, I reckon. Hit that there girt
ozebird over's back wi' the broomstick, he be robbing
of my young zow. Choog, choog, choog! and a drap more
left in the dripping-pail.'

'Come now, Betty,' I said, when all the pigs were at it
sucking, swilling, munching, guzzling, thrusting, and
ousting, and spilling the food upon the backs of their
brethren (as great men do with their charity), 'come
now, Betty, how much longer am I to wait for your
message? Surely I am as good as a pig.'

'Dunno as thee be, Jan. No straikiness in thy bakkon.
And now I come to think of it, Jan, thee zed, a wake
agone last Vriday, as how I had got a girt be-ard.
Wull 'e stick to that now, Maister Jan?'

'No, no, Betty, certainly not; I made a mistake about
it. I should have said a becoming mustachio, such as
you may well be proud of.'

'Then thee be a laiar, Jan Ridd. Zay so, laike a man,

'Not exactly that, Betty; but I made a great mistake;
and I humbly ask your pardon; and if such a thing as a
crown-piece, Betty'--

'No fai, no fai!' said Betty, however she put it into
her pocket; 'now tak my advice, Jan; thee marry Zally

'Not with all England for her dowry. Oh, Betty, you
know better.'

'Ah's me! I know much worse, Jan. Break thy poor
mother's heart it will. And to think of arl the
danger! Dost love Larna now so much?'

'With all the strength of my heart and soul. I will
have her, or I will die, Betty.'

'Wull. Thee will die in either case. But it baint for
me to argify. And do her love thee too, Jan?'

'I hope she does, Betty I hope she does. What do you
think about it?'

'Ah, then I may hold my tongue to it. Knaw what boys
and maidens be, as well as I knew young pegs. I myzell
been o' that zort one taime every bit so well as you
be.' And Betty held the lanthorn up, and defied me to
deny it; and the light through the horn showed a gleam
in her eyes, such as I had never seer there before.
'No odds, no odds about that,' she continued; 'mak a
fool of myzell to spake of it. Arl gone into
churchyard. But it be a lucky foolery for thee, my
boy, I can tull 'ee. For I love to see the love in
thee. Coom'th over me as the spring do, though I be
naigh three score. Now, Jan, I will tell thee one
thing, can't abear to zee thee vretting so. Hould thee
head down, same as they pegs do.'

So I bent my head quite close to her; and she whispered
in my ear, 'Goo of a marning, thee girt soft. Her
can't get out of an avening now, her hath zent word to
me, to tull 'ee.'

In the glory of my delight at this, I bestowed upon
Betty a chaste salute, with all the pigs for witnesses;
and she took it not amiss, considering how long she had
been out of practice. But then she fell back, like a
broom on its handle, and stared at me, feigning anger.

'Oh fai, oh fai! Lunnon impudence, I doubt. I vear
thee hast gone on zadly, Jan.'



Of course I was up the very next morning before the
October sunrise, and away through the wild and the
woodland towards the Bagworthy water, at the foot of
the long cascade. The rising of the sun was noble in
the cold and warmth of it; peeping down the spread of
light, he raised his shoulder heavily over the edge of
grey mountain, and wavering length of upland. Beneath
his gaze the dew-fogs dipped, and crept to the hollow
places; then stole away in line and column, holding
skirts, and clinging subtly at the sheltering corners,
where rock hung over grass-land; while the brave lines
of the hills came forth, one beyond other gliding.

Then the woods arose in folds, like drapery of awakened
mountains, stately with a depth of awe, and memory of
the tempests. Autumn's mellow hand was on them, as
they owned already, touched with gold, and red, and
olive; and their joy towards the sun was less to a
bridegroom than a father.

Yet before the floating impress of the woods could
clear itself, suddenly the gladsome light leaped over
hill and valley, casting amber, blue, and purple, and a
tint of rich red rose; according to the scene they lit
on, and the curtain flung around; yet all alike
dispelling fear and the cloven hoof of darkness, all on
the wings of hope advancing, and proclaiming, 'God is
here.' Then life and joy sprang reassured from every
crouching hollow; every flower, and bud, and bird, had
a fluttering sense of them; and all the flashing of
God's gaze merged into soft beneficence.

So perhaps shall break upon us that eternal morning,
when crag and chasm shall be no more, neither hill and
valley, nor great unvintaged ocean; when glory shall
not scare happiness, neither happiness envy glory; but
all things shall arise and shine in the light of the
Father's countenance, because itself is risen.

Who maketh His sun to rise upon both the just and the
unjust. And surely but for the saving clause, Doone
Glen had been in darkness. Now, as I stood with
scanty breath--for few men could have won that
climb--at the top of the long defile, and the bottom of
the mountain gorge all of myself, and the pain of it,
and the cark of my discontent fell away into wonder and
rapture. For I cannot help seeing things now and then,
slow-witted as I have a right to be; and perhaps
because it comes so rarely, the sight dwells with me
like a picture.

The bar of rock, with the water-cleft breaking steeply
through it, stood bold and bare, and dark in shadow,
grey with red gullies down it. But the sun was
beginning to glisten over the comb of the eastern
highland, and through an archway of the wood hung with
old nests and ivy. The lines of many a leaning tree
were thrown, from the cliffs of the foreland, down upon
the sparkling grass at the foot of the western crags.
And through the dewy meadow's breast, fringed with
shade, but touched on one side with the sun-smile, ran
the crystal water, curving in its brightness like
diverted hope.

On either bank, the blades of grass, making their last
autumn growth, pricked their spears and crisped their
tuftings with the pearly purity. The tenderness of
their green appeared under the glaucous mantle; while
that grey suffusion, which is the blush of green life,
spread its damask chastity. Even then my soul was
lifted, worried though my mind was: who can see such
large kind doings, and not be ashamed of human grief?

Not only unashamed of grief, but much abashed with joy,
was I, when I saw my Lorna coming, purer than the
morning dew, than the sun more bright and clear. That
which made me love her so, that which lifted my heart
to her, as the Spring wind lifts the clouds, was the
gayness of her nature, and its inborn playfulness. And
yet all this with maiden shame, a conscious dream of
things unknown, and a sense of fate about them.

Down the valley still she came, not witting that I
looked at her, having ceased (through my own misprison)
to expect me yet awhile; or at least she told herself
so. In the joy of awakened life and brightness of the
morning, she had cast all care away, and seemed to
float upon the sunrise, like a buoyant silver wave.
Suddenly at sight of me, for I leaped forth at once, in
fear of seeming to watch her unawares, the bloom upon
her cheeks was deepened, and the radiance of her eyes;
and she came to meet me gladly.

'At last then, you are come, John. I thought you had
forgotten me. I could not make you understand--they
have kept me prisoner every evening: but come into my
house; you are in danger here.'

Meanwhile I could not answer, being overcome with joy,
but followed to her little grotto, where I had been
twice before. I knew that the crowning moment of my
life was coming--that Lorna would own her love for me.

She made for awhile as if she dreamed not of the
meaning of my gaze, but tried to speak of other things,
faltering now and then, and mantling with a richer
damask below her long eyelashes.

'This is not what I came to know,' I whispered very
softly, 'you know what I am come to ask.'

'If you are come on purpose to ask anything, why do you
delay so?' She turned away very bravely, but I saw
that her lips were trembling.

'I delay so long, because I fear; because my whole life
hangs in balance on a single word; because what I have
near me now may never more be near me after, though
more than all the world, or than a thousand worlds, to
me.' As I spoke these words of passion in a low soft
voice, Lorna trembled more and more; but she made no
answer, neither yet looked up at me.

'I have loved you long and long,' I pursued, being
reckless now, 'when you were a little child, as a boy I
worshipped you: then when I saw you a comely girl, as a
stripling I adored you: now that you are a full-grown
maiden all the rest I do, and more--I love you more
than tongue can tell, or heart can hold in silence. I
have waited long and long; and though I am so far below
you I can wait no longer; but must have my answer.'

'You have been very faithful, John,' she murmured to
the fern and moss; 'I suppose I must reward you.'

'That will not do for me,' I said; 'I will not have
reluctant liking, nor assent for pity's sake; which
only means endurance. I must have all love, or none, I
must have your heart of hearts; even as you have mine,

While I spoke, she glanced up shyly through her
fluttering lashes, to prolong my doubt one moment, for
her own delicious pride. Then she opened wide upon me
all the glorious depth and softness of her loving eyes,
and flung both arms around my neck, and answered with
her heart on mine,--

'Darling, you have won it all. I shall never be my own
again. I am yours, my own one, for ever and for ever.'

I am sure I know not what I did, or what I said
thereafter, being overcome with transport by her words
and at her gaze. Only one thing I remember, when she
raised her bright lips to me, like a child, for me to
kiss, such a smile of sweet temptation met me through
her flowing hair, that I almost forgot my manners,
giving her no time to breathe.

'That will do,' said Lorna gently, but violently
blushing; 'for the present that will do, John. And now
remember one thing, dear. All the kindness is to be
on my side; and you are to be very distant, as behoves
to a young maiden; except when I invite you. But you
may kiss my hand, John; oh, yes, you may kiss my hand,
you know. Ah to be sure! I had forgotten; how very
stupid of me!'

For by this time I had taken one sweet hand and gazed
on it, with the pride of all the world to think that
such a lovely thing was mine; and then I slipped my
little ring upon the wedding finger; and this time
Lorna kept it, and looked with fondness on its beauty,
and clung to me with a flood of tears.

'Every time you cry,' said I, drawing her closer to me
'I shall consider it an invitation not to be too
distant. There now, none shall make you weep. Darling,
you shall sigh no more, but live in peace and
happiness, with me to guard and cherish you: and who
shall dare to vex you?' But she drew a long sad sigh,
and looked at the ground with the great tears rolling,
and pressed one hand upon the trouble of her pure young

'It can never, never be,' she murmured to herself
alone: 'Who am I, to dream of it? Something in my
heart tells me it can be so never, never.'



There was, however, no possibility of depressing me at
such a time. To be loved by Lorna, the sweet, the
pure, the playful one, the fairest creature on God's
earth and the most enchanting, the lady of high birth
and mind; that I, a mere clumsy, blundering yeoman,
without wit, or wealth, or lineage, should have won
that loving heart to be my own for ever, was a thought
no fears could lessen, and no chance could steal from

Therefore at her own entreaty taking a very quick
adieu, and by her own invitation an exceeding kind one,
I hurried home with deep exulting, yet some sad
misgivings, for Lorna had made me promise now to tell
my mother everything; as indeed I always meant to do,
when my suit should be gone too far to stop. I knew,
of course, that my dear mother would be greatly moved
and vexed, the heirship of Glen Doone not being a very
desirable dower, but in spite of that, and all
disappointment as to little Ruth Huckaback, feeling my
mother's tenderness and deep affection to me, and
forgiving nature, I doubted not that before very long
she would view the matter as I did. Moreover, I felt
that if once I could get her only to look at Lorna, she
would so love and glory in her, that I should obtain
all praise and thanks, perchance without deserving

Unluckily for my designs, who should be sitting down at
breakfast with my mother and the rest but Squire
Faggus, as everybody now began to entitle him. I
noticed something odd about him, something
uncomfortable in his manner, and a lack of that ease
and humour which had been wont to distinguish him. He
took his breakfast as it came, without a single joke
about it, or preference of this to that; but with sly
soft looks at Annie, who seemed unable to sit quiet, or
to look at any one steadfastly. I feared in my heart
what was coming on, and felt truly sorry for poor
mother. After breakfast it became my duty to see to
the ploughing of a barley-stubble ready for the sowing
of a French grass, and I asked Tom Faggus to come with
me, but he refused, and I knew the reason. Being
resolved to allow him fair field to himself, though
with great displeasure that a man of such illegal
repute should marry into our family, which had always
been counted so honest, I carried my dinner upon my
back, and spent the whole day with the furrows.

When I returned, Squire Faggus was gone; which appeared
to me but a sorry sign, inasmuch as if mother had taken
kindly to him and his intentions, she would surely have
made him remain awhile to celebrate the occasion. And
presently no doubt was left: for Lizzie came running to
meet me, at the bottom of the woodrick, and cried,--

'Oh, John, there is such a business. Mother is in such
a state of mind, and Annie crying her eyes out. What
do you think? You would never guess, though I have
suspected it, ever so long.'

'No need for me to guess,' I replied, as though with
some indifference, because of her self-important air;
'I knew all about it long ago. You have not been
crying much, I see. I should like you better if you

'Why should I cry? I like Tom Faggus. He is the only
one I ever see with the spirit of a man.'

This was a cut, of course, at me. Mr. Faggus had won
the goodwill of Lizzie by his hatred of the Doones, and
vows that if he could get a dozen men of any courage to
join him, he would pull their stronghold about their
ears without any more ado. This malice of his seemed
strange to me, as he had never suffered at their hands,
so far at least as I knew; was it to be attributed to
his jealousy of outlaws who excelled him in his
business? Not being good at repartee, I made no answer
to Lizzie, having found this course more irksome to her
than the very best invective: and so we entered the
house together; and mother sent at once for me, while I
was trying to console my darling sister Annie.

'Oh, John! speak one good word for me,' she cried with
both hands laid in mine, and her tearful eyes looking
up at me.

'Not one, my pet, but a hundred,' I answered, kindly
embracing her: 'have no fear, little sister: I am going
to make your case so bright, by comparison, I mean,
that mother will send for you in five minutes, and call
you her best, her most dutiful child, and praise Cousin
Tom to the skies, and send a man on horseback after
him; and then you will have a harder task to intercede
for me, my dear.'

'Oh, John, dear John, you won't tell her about
Lorna--oh, not to-day, dear.'

'Yes, to-day, and at once, Annie. I want to have it
over, and be done with it.'

'Oh, but think of her, dear. I am sure she could not
bear it, after this great shock already.'

'She will bear it all the better,' said I; 'the one
will drive the other out. I know exactly what mother
is. She will be desperately savage first with you, and
then with me, and then for a very little while with
both of us together; and then she will put one against
the other (in her mind I mean) and consider which was
most to blame; and in doing that she will be compelled
to find the best in either's case, that it may beat the
other; and so as the pleas come before her mind, they
will gain upon the charges, both of us being her
children, you know: and before very long (particularly
if we both keep out of the way) she will begin to think
that after all she has been a little too hasty, and
then she will remember how good we have always been to
her; and how like our father. Upon that, she will
think of her own love-time, and sigh a good bit, and
cry a little, and then smile, and send for both of us,
and beg our pardon, and call us her two darlings.'

'Now, John, how on earth can you know all that?'
exclaimed my sister, wiping her eyes, and gazing at me
with a soft bright smile. 'Who on earth can have told
you, John? People to call you stupid indeed! Why, I
feel that all you say is quite true, because you
describe so exactly what I should do myself; I mean--I
mean if I had two children, who had behaved as we have
done. But tell me, darling John, how you learned all

'Never you mind,' I replied, with a nod of some
conceit, I fear: 'I must be a fool if I did not know
what mother is by this time.'

Now inasmuch as the thing befell according to my
prediction, what need for me to dwell upon it, after
saying how it would be? Moreover, I would regret to
write down what mother said about Lorna, in her first
surprise and tribulation; not only because I was
grieved by the gross injustice of it, and frightened
mother with her own words (repeated deeply after her);
but rather because it is not well, when people repent
of hasty speech, to enter it against them.

That is said to be the angels' business; and I doubt if
they can attend to it much, without doing injury to

However, by the afternoon, when the sun began to go
down upon us, our mother sat on the garden bench, with
her head on my great otter-skin waistcoat (which was
waterproof), and her right arm round our Annie's waist,
and scarcely knowing which of us she ought to make the
most of, or which deserved most pity. Not that she had
forgiven yet the rivals to her love--Tom Faggus, I
mean, and Lorna--but that she was beginning to think a
tattle better of them now, and a vast deal better of
her own children.

And it helped her much in this regard, that she was not
thinking half so well as usual of herself, or rather of
her own judgment; for in good truth she had no self,
only as it came home to her, by no very distant road,
but by way of her children. A better mother never
lived; and can I, after searching all things, add
another word to that?

And indeed poor Lizzie was not so very bad; but behaved
(on the whole) very well for her. She was much to be
pitied, poor thing, and great allowances made for her,
as belonging to a well-grown family, and a very comely
one; and feeling her own shortcomings. This made her
leap to the other extreme, and reassert herself too
much, endeavouring to exalt the mind at the expense of
the body; because she had the invisible one (so far as
can be decided) in better share than the visible. Not
but what she had her points, and very comely points of
body; lovely eyes to wit, and very beautiful hands and
feet (almost as good as Lorna's), and a neck as white
as snow; but Lizzie was not gifted with our gait and
port, and bounding health.

Now, while we sat on the garden bench, under the great
ash-tree, we left dear mother to take her own way, and
talk at her own pleasure. Children almost always are
more wide-awake than their parents. The fathers and
the mothers laugh; but the young ones have the best of
them. And now both Annie knew, and I, that we had
gotten the best of mother; and therefore we let her lay
down the law, as if we had been two dollies.

'Darling John,' my mother said, 'your case is a very
hard one. A young and very romantic girl--God send
that I be right in my charitable view of her--has met
an equally simple boy, among great dangers and
difficulties, from which my son has saved her, at the
risk of his life at every step. Of course, she became
attached to him, and looked up to him in every way, as
a superior being'--

'Come now, mother,' I said; 'if you only saw Lorna, you
would look upon me as the lowest dirt'--

'No doubt I should,' my mother answered; 'and the king
and queen, and all the royal family. Well, this poor
angel, having made up her mind to take compassion upon
my son, when he had saved her life so many times,
persuades him to marry her out of pure pity, and throw
his poor mother overboard. And the saddest part of it
all is this--'

'That my mother will never, never, never understand the
truth,' said I.

'That is all I wish,' she answered; 'just to get at the
simple truth from my own perception of it. John, you
are very wise in kissing me; but perhaps you would not
be so wise in bringing Lorna for an afternoon, just to
see what she thinks of me. There is a good saddle of
mutton now; and there are some very good sausages left,
on the blue dish with the anchor, Annie, from the last
little sow we killed.'

'As if Lorna would eat sausages!' said I, with
appearance of high contempt, though rejoicing all the
while that mother seemed to have her name so pat; and
she pronounced it in a manner which made my heart leap
to my ears: 'Lorna to eat sausages!'

'I don't see why she shouldn't,' my mother answered
smiling, 'if she means to be a farmer's wife, she must
take to farmer's ways, I think. What do you say,

'She will eat whatever John desires, I should hope,'
said Annie gravely; 'particularly as I made them.'

'Oh that I could only get the chance of trying her!' I
answered, 'if you could once behold her, mother, you
would never let her go again. And she would love you
with all her heart, she is so good and gentle.'

'That is a lucky thing for me'; saying this my mother
wept, as she had been doing off and on, when no one
seemed to look at her; 'otherwise I suppose, John, she
would very soon turn me out of the farm, having you so
completely under her thumb, as she seems to have. I
see now that my time is over. Lizzie and I will seek
our fortunes. It is wiser so.'

'Now, mother,' I cried; 'will you have the kindness not
to talk any nonsense? Everything belongs to you; and
so, I hope, your children do. And you, in turn, belong
to us; as you have proved ever since--oh, ever since we
can remember. Why do you make Annie cry so? You ought
to know better than that.'

Mother upon this went over all the things she had done
before; how many times I know not; neither does it
matter. Only she seemed to enjoy it more, every time
of doing it. And then she said she was an old fool;
and Annie (like a thorough girl) pulled her one grey
hair out.



Although by our mother's reluctant consent a large
part of the obstacles between Annie and her lover
appeared to be removed, on the other hand Lorna and
myself gained little, except as regarded comfort of
mind, and some ease to the conscience. Moreover, our
chance of frequent meetings and delightful converse was
much impaired, at least for the present; because though
mother was not aware of my narrow escape from Carver
Doone, she made me promise never to risk my life by
needless visits. And upon this point, that is to say,
the necessity of the visit, she was well content, as
she said, to leave me to my own good sense and honour;
only begging me always to tell her of my intention
beforehand. This pledge, however, for her own sake, I
declined to give; knowing how wretched she would be
during all the time of my absence; and, on that
account, I promised instead, that I would always give
her a full account of my adventure upon returning.

Now my mother, as might be expected, began at once to
cast about for some means of relieving me from all
further peril, and herself from great anxiety. She was
full of plans for fetching Lorna, in some wonderful
manner, out of the power of the Doones entirely, and
into her own hands, where she was to remain for at
least a twelve-month, learning all mother and Annie
could teach her of dairy business, and farm-house life,
and the best mode of packing butter. And all this
arose from my happening to say, without meaning
anything, how the poor dear had longed for quiet, and a
life of simplicity, and a rest away from violence!
Bless thee, mother--now long in heaven, there is no
need to bless thee; but it often makes a dimness now in
my well-worn eyes, when I think of thy loving-kindness,
warmth, and romantic innocence.

As to stealing my beloved from that vile Glen Doone,
the deed itself was not impossible, nor beyond my
daring; but in the first place would she come, leaving
her old grandfather to die without her tendence? And
even if, through fear of Carver and that wicked
Counsellor, she should consent to fly, would it be
possible to keep her without a regiment of soldiers?
Would not the Doones at once ride forth to scour the
country for their queen, and finding her (as they must
do), burn our house, and murder us, and carry her back

All this I laid before my mother, and to such effect
that she acknowledged, with a sigh that nothing else
remained for me (in the present state of matters)
except to keep a careful watch upon Lorna from safe
distance, observe the policy of the Doones, and wait
for a tide in their affairs. Meanwhile I might even
fall in love (as mother unwisely hinted) with a certain
more peaceful heiress, although of inferior blood, who
would be daily at my elbow. I am not sure but what
dear mother herself would have been disappointed, had I
proved myself so fickle; and my disdain and indignation
at the mere suggestion did not so much displease her;
for she only smiled and answered,--

'Well, it is not for me to say; God knows what is good
for us. Likings will not come to order; otherwise I
should not be where I am this day. And of one thing I
am rather glad; Uncle Reuben well deserves that his pet
scheme should miscarry. He who called my boy a coward,
an ignoble coward, because he would not join some
crack-brained plan against the valley which sheltered
his beloved one! And all the time this dreadful
"coward" risking his life daily there, without a word
to any one! How glad I am that you will not have, for
all her miserable money, that little dwarfish
granddaughter of the insolent old miser!'

She turned, and by her side was standing poor Ruth
Huckaback herself, white, and sad, and looking steadily
at my mother's face, which became as red as a plum
while her breath deserted her.

'If you please, madam,' said the little maiden, with
her large calm eyes unwavering, 'it is not my fault,
but God Almighty's, that I am a little dwarfish
creature. I knew not that you regarded me with so much
contempt on that account; neither have you told my
grandfather, at least within my hearing, that he was an
insolent old miser. When I return to Dulverton, which
I trust to do to-morrow (for it is too late to-day), I
shall be careful not to tell him your opinion of him,
lest I should thwart any schemes you may have upon his
property. I thank you all for your kindness to me,
which has been very great, far more than a little
dwarfish creature could, for her own sake, expect. I
will only add for your further guidance one more little
truth. It is by no means certain that my grandfather
will settle any of his miserable money upon me. If I
offend him, as I would in a moment, for the sake of a
brave and straightforward man'--here she gave me a
glance which I scarcely knew what to do with--'my
grandfather, upright as he is, would leave me without a
shilling. And I often wish it were so. So many
miseries come upon me from the miserable money--' Here
she broke down, and burst out crying, and ran away with
a faint good-bye; while we three looked at one another,
and felt that we had the worst of it.

'Impudent little dwarf!' said my mother, recovering her
breath after ever so long. 'Oh, John, how thankful you
ought to be! What a life she would have led you!'

'Well, I am sure!' said Annie, throwing her arms around
poor mother: 'who could have thought that little atomy
had such an outrageous spirit! For my part I cannot
think how she can have been sly enough to hide it in
that crafty manner, that John might think her an

'Well, for my part,' I answered, laughing, 'I never
admired Ruth Huckaback half, or a quarter so much
before. She is rare stuff. I would have been glad to
have married her to-morrow, if I had never seen my

'And a nice nobody I should have been, in my own
house!' cried mother: 'I never can be thankful enough
to darling Lorna for saving me. Did you see how her
eyes flashed?'

'That I did; and very fine they were. Now nine maidens
out of ten would have feigned not to have heard one
word that was said, and have borne black malice in
their hearts. Come, Annie, now, would not you have
done so?'

'I think,' said Annie, 'although of course I cannot
tell, you know, John, that I should have been ashamed
at hearing what was never meant for me, and should have
been almost as angry with myself as anybody.'

'So you would,' replied my mother; 'so any daughter of
mine would have done, instead of railing and reviling.
However, I am very sorry that any words of mine which
the poor little thing chose to overhear should have
made her so forget herself. I shall beg her pardon
before she goes, and I shall expect her to beg mine.'

'That she will never do,' said I; 'a more resolute
little maiden never yet had right upon her side;
although it was a mere accident. I might have said the
same thing myself, and she was hard upon you, mother

After this, we said no more, at least about that
matter; and little Ruth, the next morning, left us, in
spite of all that we could do. She vowed an
everlasting friendship to my younger sister Eliza; but
she looked at Annie with some resentment, when they
said good-bye, for being so much taller. At any rate
so Annie fancied, but she may have been quite wrong. I
rode beside the little maid till far beyond Exeford,
when all danger of the moor was past, and then I left
her with John Fry, not wishing to be too particular,
after all the talk about her money. She had tears in
her eyes when she bade me farewell, and she sent a kind
message home to mother, and promised to come again at
Christmas, if she could win permission.

Upon the whole, my opinion was that she had behaved
uncommonly well for a maid whose self-love was
outraged, with spirit, I mean, and proper pride; and
yet with a great endeavour to forgive, which is,
meseems, the hardest of all things to a woman, outside
of her own family.

After this, for another month, nothing worthy of notice
happened, except of course that I found it needful,
according to the strictest good sense and honour, to
visit Lorna immediately after my discourse with mother,
and to tell her all about it. My beauty gave me one
sweet kiss with all her heart (as she always did, when
she kissed at all), and I begged for one more to take
to our mother, and before leaving, I obtained it. It
is not for me to tell all she said, even supposing
(what is not likely) that any one cared to know it,
being more and more peculiar to ourselves and no one
else. But one thing that she said was this, and I took
good care to carry it, word for word, to my mother and

'I never can believe, dear John, that after all the
crime and outrage wrought by my reckless family, it
ever can be meant for me to settle down to peace and
comfort in a simple household. With all my heart I
long for home; any home, however dull and wearisome to
those used to it, would seem a paradise to me, if only
free from brawl and tumult, and such as I could call my
own. But even if God would allow me this, in lieu of
my wild inheritance, it is quite certain that the
Doones never can and never will.'

Again, when I told her how my mother and Annie, as well
as myself, longed to have her at Plover's Barrows, and
teach her all the quiet duties in which she was sure to
take such delight, she only answered with a bright
blush, that while her grandfather was living she would
never leave him; and that even if she were free,
certain ruin was all she should bring to any house that
received her, at least within the utmost reach of her
amiable family. This was too plain to be denied, and
seeing my dejection at it, she told me bravely that we
must hope for better times, if possible, and asked how
long I would wait for her.

'Not a day if I had my will,' I answered very warmly;
at which she turned away confused, and would not look
at me for awhile; 'but all my life,' I went on to say,
'if my fortune is so ill. And how long would you wait
for me, Lorna?'

'Till I could get you,' she answered slyly, with a
smile which was brighter to me than the brightest wit
could be. 'And now,' she continued, 'you bound me,
John, with a very beautiful ring to you, and when I
dare not wear it, I carry it always on my heart. But I
will bind you to me, you dearest, with the very poorest
and plainest thing that ever you set eyes on. I could
give you fifty fairer ones, but they would not be
honest; and I love you for your honesty, and nothing
else of course, John; so don't you be conceited. Look
at it, what a queer old thing! There are some ancient
marks upon it, very grotesque and wonderful; it looks
like a cat in a tree almost, but never mind what it
looks like. This old ring must have been a giant's;
therefore it will fit you perhaps, you enormous John.
It has been on the front of my old glass necklace
(which my grandfather found them taking away, and very
soon made them give back again) ever since I can
remember; and long before that, as some woman told me.
Now you seem very greatly amazed; pray what thinks my
lord of it?'

'That is worth fifty of the pearl thing which I gave
you, you darling; and that I will not take it from

'Then you will never take me, that is all. I will have
nothing to do with a gentleman'--

'No gentleman, dear--a yeoman.'

'Very well, a yeoman--nothing to do with a yeoman who
will not accept my love-gage. So, if you please, give
it back again, and take your lovely ring back.'

She looked at me in such a manner, half in earnest,
half in jest, and three times three in love, that in
spite of all good resolutions, and her own faint
protest, I was forced to abandon all firm ideas, and
kiss her till she was quite ashamed, and her head hung
on my bosom, with the night of her hair shed over me.
Then I placed the pearl ring back on the soft elastic
bend of the finger she held up to scold me; and on my
own smallest finger drew the heavy hoop she had given
me. I considered this with satisfaction, until my
darling recovered herself; and then I began very
gravely about it, to keep her (if I could) from chiding

'Mistress Lorna, this is not the ring of any giant. It
is nothing more nor less than a very ancient
thumb-ring, such as once in my father's time was
ploughed up out of the ground in our farm, and sent to
learned doctors, who told us all about it, but kept the
ring for their trouble. I will accept it, my own one
love; and it shall go to my grave with me.' And so it
shall, unless there be villains who would dare to rob
the dead.

Now I have spoken about this ring (though I scarcely
meant to do so, and would rather keep to myself things
so very holy) because it holds an important part in the
history of my Lorna. I asked her where the glass
necklace was from which the ring was fastened, and
which she had worn in her childhood, and she answered
that she hardly knew, but remembered that her
grandfather had begged her to give it up to him, when
she was ten years old or so, and had promised to keep
it for her until she could take care of it; at the same
time giving her back the ring, and fastening it from
her pretty neck, and telling her to be proud of it.
And so she always had been, and now from her sweet
breast she took it, and it became John Ridd's delight.

All this, or at least great part of it, I told my
mother truly, according to my promise; and she was
greatly pleased with Lorna for having been so good to
me, and for speaking so very sensibly; and then she
looked at the great gold ring, but could by no means
interpret it. Only she was quite certain, as indeed I
myself was, that it must have belonged to an ancient
race of great consideration, and high rank, in their
time. Upon which I was for taking it off, lest it
should be degraded by a common farmer's finger. But
mother said 'No,' with tears in her eyes; 'if the
common farmer had won the great lady of the ancient
race, what were rings and old-world trinkets, when
compared to the living jewel?' Being quite of her
opinion in this, and loving the ring (which had no gem
in it) as the token of my priceless gem, I resolved to
wear it at any cost, except when I should be ploughing,
or doing things likely to break it; although I must own
that it felt very queer (for I never had throttled a
finger before), and it looked very queer, for a length
of time, upon my great hard-working hand.

And before I got used to my ring, or people could think
that it belonged to me (plain and ungarnished though it
was), and before I went to see Lorna again, having
failed to find any necessity, and remembering my duty
to mother, we all had something else to think of, not so
pleasant, and more puzzling.



Now November was upon us, and we had kept
Allhallowmass, with roasting of skewered apples (like
so many shuttlecocks), and after that the day of
Fawkes, as became good Protestants, with merry bonfires
and burned batatas, and plenty of good feeding in
honour of our religion; and then while we were at
wheat-sowing, another visitor arrived.

This was Master Jeremy Stickles, who had been a good
friend to me (as described before) in London, and had
earned my mother's gratitude, so far as ever he chose
to have it. And he seemed inclined to have it all; for
he made our farm-house his headquarters, and kept us
quite at his beck and call, going out at any time of
the evening, and coming back at any time of the
morning, and always expecting us to be ready, whether
with horse, or man, or maiden, or fire, or provisions.
We knew that he was employed somehow upon the service
of the King, and had at different stations certain
troopers and orderlies quite at his disposal; also we
knew that he never went out, nor even slept in his
bedroom, without heavy firearms well loaded, and a
sharp sword nigh his hand; and that he held a great
commission, under royal signet, requiring all good
subjects, all officers of whatever degree, and
especially justices of the peace, to aid him to the
utmost, with person, beast, and chattel, or to
answer it at their peril.

Now Master Jeremy Stickles, of course, knowing well
what women are, durst not open to any of them the
nature of his instructions. But, after awhile,
perceiving that I could be relied upon, and that it was
a great discomfort not to have me with him, he took me
aside in a lonely place, and told me nearly everything;
having bound me first by oath, not to impart to any
one, without his own permission, until all was over.

But at this present time of writing, all is over long
ago; ay and forgotten too, I ween, except by those who
suffered. Therefore may I tell the whole without any
breach of confidence. Master Stickles was going forth
upon his usual night journey, when he met me coming
home, and I said something half in jest, about his zeal
and secrecy; upon which he looked all round the yard,
and led me to an open space in the clover field

'John,' he said, 'you have some right to know the
meaning of all this, being trusted as you were by the
Lord Chief Justice. But he found you scarcely supple
enough, neither gifted with due brains.'

'Thank God for that same,' I answered, while he tapped
his head, to signify his own much larger allowance.
Then he made me bind myself, which in an evil hour I
did, to retain his secret; and after that he went on
solemnly, and with much importance,--

'There be some people fit to plot, and others to be
plotted against, and others to unravel plots, which
is the highest gift of all. This last hath fallen
to my share, and a very thankless gift it is,
although a rare and choice one. Much of peril too
attends it; daring courage and great coolness are as
needful for the work as ready wit and spotless honour.
Therefore His Majesty's advisers have chosen me for
this high task, and they could not have chosen a better
man. Although you have been in London, Jack, much
longer than you wished it, you are wholly ignorant, of
course, in matters of state, and the public weal.'

'Well,' said I, 'no doubt but I am, and all the better
for me. Although I heard a deal of them; for
everybody was talking, and ready to come to blows; if
only it could be done without danger. But one said
this, and one said that; and they talked so much about
Birminghams, and Tantivies, and Whigs and Tories, and
Protestant flails and such like, that I was only too
glad to have my glass and clink my spoon for answer.'

'Right, John, thou art right as usual. Let the King go
his own gait. He hath too many mistresses to be ever
England's master. Nobody need fear him, for he is not
like his father: he will have his own way, 'tis true,
but without stopping other folk of theirs: and well he
knows what women are, for he never asks them questions.
Now heard you much in London town about the Duke of

'Not so very much,' I answered; 'not half so much as in
Devonshire: only that he was a hearty man, and a very
handsome one, and now was banished by the Tories; and
most people wished he was coming back, instead of the
Duke of York, who was trying boots in Scotland.'

'Things are changed since you were in town. The Whigs
are getting up again, through the folly of the Tories
killing poor Lord Russell; and now this Master Sidney
(if my Lord condemns him) will make it worse again.
There is much disaffection everywhere, and it must grow
to an outbreak. The King hath many troops in London,
and meaneth to bring more from Tangier; but he cannot
command these country places; and the trained bands
cannot help him much, even if they would. Now, do you
understand me, John?'

'In truth, not I. I see not what Tangier hath to do
with Exmoor; nor the Duke of Monmouth with Jeremy

'Thou great clod, put it the other way. Jeremy
Stickles may have much to do about the Duke of
Monmouth. The Whigs having failed of Exclusion, and
having been punished bitterly for the blood they shed,
are ripe for any violence. And the turn of the balance
is now to them. See-saw is the fashion of England
always; and the Whigs will soon be the top-sawyers.'

'But,' said I, still more confused, '"The King is the
top-sawyer," according to our proverb. How then can
the Whigs be?'

'Thou art a hopeless ass, John. Better to sew with a
chestnut than to teach thee the constitution. Let it
be so, let it be. I have seen a boy of five years old
more apt at politics than thou. Nay, look not
offended, lad. It is my fault for being over-deep to
thee. I should have considered thy intellect.'

'Nay, Master Jeremy, make no apologies. It is I that
should excuse myself; but, God knows, I have no

'Stick to that, my lad,' he answered; 'so shalt thou
die easier. Now, in ten words (without parties, or
trying thy poor brain too much), I am here to watch the
gathering of a secret plot, not so much against the
King as against the due succession.'

'Now I understand at last. But, Master Stickles, you
might have said all that an hour ago almost.'

'It would have been better, if I had, to thee,' he
replied with much compassion; 'thy hat is nearly off
thy head with the swelling of brain I have given thee.
Blows, blows, are thy business, Jack. There thou art
in thine element. And, haply, this business will bring
thee plenty even for thy great head to take. Now
hearken to one who wishes thee well, and plainly sees
the end of it--stick thou to the winning side, and have
naught to do with the other one.'

'That,' said I, in great haste and hurry, 'is the very
thing I want to do, if I only knew which was the
winning side, for the sake of Lorna--that is to say,
for the sake of my dear mother and sisters, and the

'Ha!' cried Jeremy Stickles, laughing at the redness of
my face--'Lorna, saidst thou; now what Lorna? Is it
the name of a maiden, or a light-o'-love?'

'Keep to your own business,' I answered, very proudly;
'spy as much as e'er thou wilt, and use our house for
doing it, without asking leave or telling; but if I
ever find thee spying into my affairs, all the King's
lifeguards in London, and the dragoons thou bringest
hither, shall not save thee from my hand--or one finger
is enough for thee.'

Being carried beyond myself by his insolence about
Lorna, I looked at Master Stickles so, and spake in
such a voice, that all his daring courage and his
spotless honour quailed within him, and he shrank--as
if I would strike so small a man.

Then I left him, and went to work at the sacks upon the
corn-floor, to take my evil spirit from me before I
should see mother. For (to tell the truth) now my
strength was full, and troubles were gathering round
me, and people took advantage so much of my easy
temper, sometimes when I was over-tried, a sudden heat
ran over me, and a glowing of all my muscles, and a
tingling for a mighty throw, such as my utmost
self-command, and fear of hurting any one, could but
ill refrain. Afterwards, I was always very sadly
ashamed of myself, knowing how poor a thing bodily
strength is, as compared with power of mind, and that
it is a coward's part to misuse it upon weaker folk.
For the present there was a little breach between
Master Stickles and me, for which I blamed myself very
sorely. But though, in full memory of his kindness and
faithfulness in London, I asked his pardon many times
for my foolish anger with him, and offered to undergo
any penalty he would lay upon me, he only said it was
no matter, there was nothing to forgive. When people
say that, the truth often is that they can forgive

So for the present a breach was made between Master
Jeremy and myself, which to me seemed no great loss,
inasmuch as it relieved me from any privity to his
dealings, for which I had small liking. All I feared
was lest I might, in any way, be ungrateful to him; but
when he would have no more of me, what could I do to
help it? However, in a few days' time I was of good
service to him, as you shall see in its proper place.

But now my own affairs were thrown into such disorder
that I could think of nothing else, and had the
greatest difficulty in hiding my uneasiness. For
suddenly, without any warning, or a word of message,
all my Lorna's signals ceased, which I had been
accustomed to watch for daily, and as it were to feed
upon them, with a glowing heart. The first time I
stood on the wooded crest, and found no change from
yesterday, I could hardly believe my eyes, or thought
at least that it must be some great mistake on the
part of my love. However, even that oppressed me with
a heavy heart, which grew heavier, as I found from day
to day no token.

Three times I went and waited long at the bottom of the
valley, where now the stream was brown and angry with
the rains of autumn, and the weeping trees hung
leafless. But though I waited at every hour of day,
and far into the night, no light footstep came to meet
me, no sweet voice was in the air; all was lonely,
drear, and drenched with sodden desolation. It seemed
as if my love was dead, and the winds were at her

Once I sought far up the valley, where I had never been
before, even beyond the copse where Lorna had found and
lost her brave young cousin. Following up the river
channel, in shelter of the evening fog, I gained a
corner within stone's throw of the last outlying cot.
This was a gloomy, low, square house, without any light
in the windows, roughly built of wood and stone, as I
saw when I drew nearer. For knowing it to be Carver's
dwelling (or at least suspecting so, from some words of
Lorna's), I was led by curiosity, and perhaps by jealousy,
to have a closer look at it. Therefore, I crept up the
stream, losing half my sense of fear, by reason of anxiety.
And in truth there was not much to fear, the sky being now
too dark for even a shooter of wild fowl to make good aim.
And nothing else but guns could hurt me, as in the pride of
my strength I thought, and in my skill of single-stick.

Nevertheless, I went warily, being now almost among
this nest of cockatrices. The back of Carver's house
abutted on the waves of the rushing stream; and seeing
a loop-hole, vacant for muskets, I looked in, but all
was quiet. So far as I could judge by listening, there
was no one now inside, and my heart for a moment leaped
with joy, for I had feared to find Lorna there. Then I
took a careful survey of the dwelling, and its windows,
and its door, and aspect, as if I had been a robber
meaning to make privy entrance. It was well for me
that I did this, as you will find hereafter.

Having impressed upon my mind (a slow but, perhaps
retentive mind), all the bearings of the place, and all
its opportunities, and even the curve of the stream
along it, and the bushes near the door, I was much
inclined to go farther up, and understand all the
village. But a bar of red light across the river, some
forty yards on above me, and crossing from the opposite
side like a chain, prevented me. In that second house
there was a gathering of loud and merry outlaws, making
as much noise as if they had the law upon their side.
Some, indeed, as I approached, were laying down both
right and wrong, as purely, and with as high a sense,
as if they knew the difference. Cold and troubled as I
was, I could hardly keep from laughing.

Before I betook myself home that night, and eased dear
mother's heart so much, and made her pale face spread
with smiles, I had resolved to penetrate Glen Doone
from the upper end, and learn all about my Lorna. Not
but what I might have entered from my unsuspected
channel, as so often I had done; but that I saw fearful
need for knowing something more than that. Here was
every sort of trouble gathering upon me, here was
Jeremy Stickles stealing upon every one in the dark;
here was Uncle Reuben plotting Satan only could tell
what; here was a white night-capped man coming bodily
from the grave; here was my own sister Annie committed
to a highwayman, and mother in distraction; most of all
--here, there, and where--was my Lorna stolen,
dungeoned, perhaps outraged. It was no time for shilly
shally, for the balance of this and that, or for a man
with blood and muscle to pat his nose and ponder. If I
left my Lorna so; if I let those black-soul'd villains
work their pleasure on my love; if the heart that clave
to mine could find no vigour in it--then let maidens
cease from men, and rest their faith in tabby-cats.

Rudely rolling these ideas in my heavy head and brain I
resolved to let the morrow put them into form and
order, but not contradict them. And then, as my
constitution willed (being like that of England), I
slept, and there was no stopping me.



That the enterprise now resolved upon was far more
dangerous than any hitherto attempted by me, needs no
further proof than this:--I went and made my will at
Porlock, with a middling honest lawyer there; not that
I had much to leave, but that none could say how far
the farm, and all the farming stock, might depend on my
disposition. It makes me smile when I remember how
particular I was, and how for the life of me I was
puzzled to bequeath most part of my clothes, and hats,
and things altogether my own, to Lorna, without the
shrewd old lawyer knowing who she was and where she
lived. At last, indeed, I flattered myself that I had
baffled old Tape's curiosity; but his wrinkled smile
and his speech at parting made me again uneasy.

'A very excellent will, young sir. An admirably just
and virtuous will; all your effects to your nearest of
kin; filial and fraternal duty thoroughly exemplified;
nothing diverted to alien channels, except a small
token of esteem and reverence to an elderly lady, I
presume: and which may or may not be valid, or invalid,
on the ground of uncertainty, or the absence of any
legal status on the part of the legatee. Ha, ha! Yes,
yes! Few young men are so free from exceptionable
entanglements. Two guineas is my charge, sir: and a
rare good will for the money. Very prudent of you,
sir. Does you credit in every way. Well, well; we all
must die; and often the young before the old.'

Not only did I think two guineas a great deal too much
money for a quarter of an hour's employment, but also I
disliked particularly the words with which he
concluded; they sounded, from his grating voice, like
the evil omen of a croaking raven. Nevertheless I
still abode in my fixed resolve to go, and find out, if
I died for it, what was become of Lorna. And herein I
lay no claim to courage; the matter being simply a
choice between two evils, of which by far the greater
one was, of course, to lose my darling.

The journey was a great deal longer to fetch around the
Southern hills, and enter by the Doone-gate, than to
cross the lower land and steal in by the water-slide.
However, I durst not take a horse (for fear of the
Doones who might be abroad upon their usual business),
but started betimes in the evening, so as not to hurry,
or waste any strength upon the way. And thus I came to
the robbers' highway, walking circumspectly, scanning
the sky-line of every hill, and searching the folds of
every valley, for any moving figure.

Although it was now well on towards dark, and the sun
was down an hour or so, I could see the robbers' road
before me, in a trough of the winding hills, where the
brook ploughed down from the higher barrows, and the
coving banks were roofed with furze. At present, there
was no one passing, neither post nor sentinel, so far
as I could descry; but I thought it safer to wait a
little, as twilight melted into night; and then I crept
down a seam of the highland, and stood upon the

As the road approached the entrance, it became more
straight and strong, like a channel cut from rock, with
the water brawling darkly along the naked side of it.
Not a tree or bush was left, to shelter a man from
bullets: all was stern, and stiff, and rugged, as I
could not help perceiving, even through the darkness,
and a smell as of churchyard mould, a sense of being
boxed in and cooped, made me long to be out again.

And here I was, or seemed to be, particularly unlucky;
for as I drew near the very entrance, lightly of foot
and warily, the moon (which had often been my friend)
like an enemy broke upon me, topping the eastward ridge
of rock, and filling all the open spaces with the play
of wavering light. I shrank back into the shadowy
quarter on the right side of the road; and gloomily
employed myself to watch the triple entrance, on which
the moonlight fell askew.

All across and before the three rude and beetling
archways hung a felled oak overhead, black, and thick,
and threatening. This, as I heard before, could be let
fall in a moment, so as to crush a score of men, and
bar the approach of horses. Behind this tree, the
rocky mouth was spanned, as by a gallery with brushwood
and piled timber, all upon a ledge of stone, where
thirty men might lurk unseen, and fire at any invader.
From that rampart it would be impossible to dislodge
them, because the rock fell sheer below them twenty
feet, or it may be more; while overhead it towered
three hundred, and so jutted over that nothing could be
cast upon them; even if a man could climb the height.
And the access to this portcullis place--if I may so
call it, being no portcullis there--was through certain
rocky chambers known to the tenants only.

But the cleverest of their devices, and the most
puzzling to an enemy, was that, instead of one mouth
only, there were three to choose from, with nothing to
betoken which was the proper access; all being pretty
much alike, and all unfenced and yawning. And the
common rumour was that in times of any danger, when any
force was known to be on muster in their neighbourhood,
they changed their entrance every day, and diverted the
other two, by means of sliding doors to the chasms and
dark abysses.

Now I could see those three rough arches, jagged,
black, and terrible; and I knew that only one of them
could lead me to the valley; neither gave the river now
any further guidance; but dived underground with a
sullen roar, where it met the cross-bar of the
mountain. Having no means at all of judging which was
the right way of the three, and knowing that the other
two would lead to almost certain death, in the
ruggedness and darkness,--for how could a man, among
precipices and bottomless depths of water, without a
ray of light, have any chance to save his life?--I do
declare that I was half inclined to go away, and have
done with it.

However, I knew one thing for certain, to wit, that the
longer I stayed debating the more would the enterprise
pall upon me, and the less my relish be. And it struck
me that, in times of peace, the middle way was the
likeliest; and the others diverging right and left in
their farther parts might be made to slide into it (not
far from the entrance), at the pleasure of the warders.
Also I took it for good omen that I remembered (as
rarely happened) a very fine line in the Latin grammar,
whose emphasis and meaning is 'middle road is safest.'

Therefore, without more hesitation, I plunged into the
middle way, holding a long ash staff before me, shodden
at the end with iron. Presently I was in black
darkness groping along the wall, and feeling a deal
more fear than I wished to feel; especially when upon
looking back I could no longer see the light, which I
had forsaken. Then I stumbled over something hard, and
sharp, and very cold, moreover so grievous to my legs
that it needed my very best doctrine and humour to
forbear from swearing, in the manner they use in
London. But when I arose and felt it, and knew it to
be a culverin, I was somewhat reassured thereby,
inasmuch as it was not likely that they would plant
this engine except in the real and true entrance.

Therefore I went on again, more painfully and wearily,
and presently found it to be good that I had received
that knock, and borne it with such patience; for
otherwise I might have blundered full upon the
sentries, and been shot without more ado. As it was, I
had barely time to draw back, as I turned a corner upon
them; and if their lanthorn had been in its place, they
could scarce have failed to descry me, unless indeed I
had seen the gleam before I turned the corner.

There seemed to be only two of them, of size indeed and
stature as all the Doones must be, but I need not have
feared to encounter them both, had they been unarmed,
as I was. It was plain, however, that each had a long
and heavy carbine, not in his hands (as it should have
been), but standing close beside him. Therefore it
behoved me now to be exceedingly careful, and even that
might scarce avail, without luck in proportion. So I
kept well back at the corner, and laid one cheek to the
rock face, and kept my outer eye round the jut, in the
wariest mode I could compass, watching my opportunity:
and this is what I saw.

The two villains looked very happy--which villains have
no right to be, but often are, meseemeth--they were
sitting in a niche of rock, with the lanthorn in the
corner, quaffing something from glass measures, and
playing at push-pin, or shepherd's chess, or basset; or
some trivial game of that sort. Each was smoking a
long clay pipe, quite of new London shape, I could see,
for the shadow was thrown out clearly; and each would
laugh from time to time, as he fancied he got the
better of it. One was sitting with his knees up, and
left hand on his thigh; and this one had his back to
me, and seemed to be the stouter. The other leaned
more against the rock, half sitting and half astraddle,
and wearing leathern overalls, as if newly come from
riding. I could see his face quite clearly by the
light of the open lanthorn, and a handsomer or a bolder
face I had seldom, if ever, set eyes upon; insomuch
that it made me very unhappy to think of his being so
near my Lorna.

'How long am I to stand crouching here?' I asked of
myself, at last, being tired of hearing them cry,
'score one,' 'score two,' 'No, by --, Charlie,' 'By --,
I say it is, Phelps.' And yet my only chance of
slipping by them unperceived was to wait till they
quarrelled more, and came to blows about it.
Presently, as I made up my mind to steal along towards
them (for the cavern was pretty wide, just there),
Charlie, or Charleworth Doone, the younger and taller
man, reached forth his hand to seize the money, which
he swore he had won that time. Upon this, the other
jerked his arm, vowing that he had no right to it;
whereupon Charlie flung at his face the contents of the
glass he was sipping, but missed him and hit the
candle, which sputtered with a flare of blue flame
(from the strength perhaps of the spirit) and then went
out completely. At this, one swore, and the other
laughed; and before they had settled what to do, I was
past them and round the corner.

And then, like a giddy fool as I was, I needs must give
them a startler--the whoop of an owl, done so exactly,
as John Fry had taught me, and echoed by the roof so
fearfully, that one of them dropped the tinder box; and
the other caught up his gun and cocked it, at least as
I judged by the sounds they made. And then, too late,
I knew my madness, for if either of them had fired, no
doubt but what all the village would have risen and
rushed upon me. However, as the luck of the matter
went, it proved for my advantage; for I heard one say
to the other,--

'Curse it, Charlie, what was that? It scared me so, I
have dropped my box; my flint is gone, and everything.
Will the brimstone catch from your pipe, my lad?'

'My pipe is out, Phelps, ever so long. Damn it, I am
not afraid of an owl, man. Give me the lanthorn, and
stay here. I'm not half done with you yet, my friend.'

'Well said, my boy, well said! Go straight to Carver's,
mind you. The other sleepy heads be snoring, as there
is nothing up to-night. No dallying now under
Captain's window. Queen will have nought to say to
you; and Carver will punch your head into a new wick
for your lanthorn.'

'Will he though? Two can play at that.' And so after
some rude jests, and laughter, and a few more oaths, I
heard Charlie (or at any rate somebody) coming toward
me, with a loose and not too sober footfall. As he
reeled a little in his gait, and I would not move from
his way one inch, after his talk of Lorna, but only
longed to grasp him (if common sense permitted it), his
braided coat came against my thumb, and his leathern
gaiters brushed my knee. If he had turned or noticed
it, he would have been a dead man in a moment; but his
drunkenness saved him.

So I let him reel on unharmed; and thereupon it
occurred to me that I could have no better guide,
passing as he would exactly where I wished to be; that
is to say under Lorna's window. Therefore I followed
him without any especial caution; and soon I had the
pleasure of seeing his form against the moonlit sky.
Down a steep and winding path, with a handrail at the
corners (such as they have at Ilfracombe), Master
Charlie tripped along--and indeed there was much
tripping, and he must have been an active fellow to
recover as he did--and after him walked I, much hoping
(for his own poor sake) that be might not turn and espy

But Bacchus (of whom I read at school, with great
wonder about his meaning--and the same I may say of
Venus) that great deity preserved Charlie, his pious
worshipper, from regarding consequences. So he led me
very kindly to the top of the meadow land, where the
stream from underground broke forth, seething quietly
with a little hiss of bubbles. Hence I had fair view
and outline of the robbers' township, spread with
bushes here and there, but not heavily overshadowed.
The moon, approaching now the full, brought the forms
in manner forth, clothing each with character, as the
moon (more than the sun) does, to an eye accustomed.

I knew that the Captain's house was first, both from
what Lorna had said of it, and from my mother's
description, and now again from seeing Charlie halt
there for a certain time, and whistle on his fingers,
and hurry on, fearing consequence. The tune that he
whistled was strange to me, and lingered in my ears, as
having something very new and striking, and fantastic
in it. And I repeated it softly to myself, while I
marked the position of the houses and the beauty of the
village. For the stream, in lieu of any street,
passing between the houses, and affording perpetual
change, and twinkling, and reflections moreover by its
sleepy murmur soothing all the dwellers there, this and
the snugness of the position, walled with rock and
spread with herbage, made it look, in the quiet
moonlight, like a little paradise. And to think of all
the inmates there, sleeping with good consciences,
having plied their useful trade of making others work
for them, enjoying life without much labour, yet with
great renown.

Master Charlie went down the village, and I followed
him carefully, keeping as much as possible in the
shadowy places, and watching the windows of every
house, lest any light should be burning. As I passed
Sir Ensor's house, my heart leaped up, for I spied a
window, higher than the rest above the ground, and with
a faint light moving. This could hardly fail to be the
room wherein my darling lay; for here that impudent
young fellow had gazed while he was whistling. And
here my courage grew tenfold, and my spirit feared no
evil--for lo, if Lorna had been surrendered to that
scoundrel, Carver, she would not have been at her
grandfather's house, but in Carver's accursed dwelling.

Warm with this idea, I hurried after Charleworth Doone,
being resolved not to harm him now, unless my own life
required it. And while I watched from behind a tree,
the door of the farthest house was opened; and sure
enough it was Carver's self, who stood bareheaded, and
half undressed in the doorway. I could see his great
black chest, and arms, by the light of the lamp he

'Who wants me this time of night?' he grumbled, in a
deep gruff voice; 'any young scamp prowling after the
maids shall have sore bones for his trouble.'

'All the fair maids are for thee, are they, Master
Carver?' Charlie answered, laughing; 'we young scamps
must be well-content with coarser stuff than thou
wouldst have.'

'Would have? Ay, and will have,' the great beast
muttered angrily. 'I bide my time; but not very long.
Only one word for thy good, Charlie. I will fling thee
senseless into the river, if ever I catch thy girl-face
there again.'

'Mayhap, Master Carver, it is more than thou couldst
do. But I will not keep thee; thou art not pleasant
company to-night. All I want is a light for my
lanthorn, and a glass of schnapps, if thou hast it.'

'What is become of thy light, then? Good for thee I am
not on duty.'

'A great owl flew between me and Phelps, as we watched
beside the culvern, and so scared was he at our fierce
bright eyes that he fell and knocked the light out.'

'Likely tale, or likely lie, Charles! We will have the
truth to-morrow. Here take thy light, and be gone with
thee. All virtuous men are in bed now.'

'Then so will I be, and why art thou not? Ha, have I
earned my schnapps now?'

'If thou hast, thou hast paid a bad debt; there is too
much in thee already. Be off! my patience is done

Then he slammed the door in the young man's face,
having kindled his lanthorn by this time: and Charlie
went up to the watchplace again, muttering as he passed
me, 'Bad look-out for all of us, when that surly old
beast is Captain. No gentle blood in him, no
hospitality, not even pleasant language, nor a good new
oath in his frowsy pate! I've a mind to cut the whole
of it; and but for the girls I would so.'

My heart was in my mouth, as they say, when I stood in
the shade by Lorna's window, and whispered her name
gently. The house was of one story only, as the others
were, with pine-ends standing forth the stone, and only
two rough windows upon that western side of it, and
perhaps both of them were Lorna's. The Doones had been
their own builders, for no one should know their ins
and outs; and of course their work was clumsy. As for
their windows, they stole them mostly from the houses
round about. But though the window was not very close,
I might have whispered long enough, before she would
have answered me; frightened as she was, no doubt by
many a rude overture. And I durst not speak aloud
because I saw another watchman posted on the western
cliff, and commanding all the valley. And now this man
(having no companion for drinking or for gambling)
espied me against the wall of the house, and advanced
to the brink, and challenged me.

'Who are you there? Answer! One, two, three; and I
fire at thee.'

The nozzle of his gun was pointed full upon me, as I
could see, with the moonlight striking on the barrel;
he was not more than fifty yards off, and now he began
to reckon. Being almost desperate about it, I began to
whistle, wondering how far I should get before I lost
my windpipe: and as luck would have it, my lips fell
into that strange tune I had practised last; the one I
had heard from Charlie. My mouth would scarcely frame
the notes, being parched with terror; but to my
surprise, the man fell back, dropped his gun, and
saluted. Oh, sweetest of all sweet melodies!

That tune was Carver Doone's passport (as I heard long
afterwards), which Charleworth Doone had imitated, for
decoy of Lorna. The sentinel took me for that vile
Carver; who was like enough to be prowling there, for
private talk with Lorna; but not very likely to shout
forth his name, if it might be avoided. The watchman,
perceiving the danger perhaps of intruding on Carver's
privacy, not only retired along the cliff, but withdrew
himself to good distance.

Meanwhile he had done me the kindest service; for Lorna
came to the window at once, to see what the cause of
the shout was, and drew back the curtain timidly. Then
she opened the rough lattice; and then she watched the
cliff and trees; and then she sighed very sadly.

'Oh, Lorna, don't you know me?' I whispered from the
side, being afraid of startling her by appearing over

Quick though she always was of thought, she knew me not
from my whisper, and was shutting the window hastily
when I caught it back, and showed myself.

'John!' she cried, yet with sense enough not to speak
aloud: 'oh, you must be mad, John.'

'As mad as a March hare,' said I, 'without any news of
my darling. You knew I would come: of course you

'Well, I thought, perhaps--you know: now, John, you

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