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

Part 9 out of 17

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Annie took a many of them, all that she could find
herself, and all the boys would bring her; and she made
a great hutch near the fire, in the back-kitchen
chimney-place. Here, in spite of our old Betty (who
sadly wanted to roast them), Annie kept some fifty
birds, with bread and milk, and raw chopped meat, and
all the seed she could think of, and lumps of rotten
apples, placed to tempt them, in the corners. Some got
on, and some died off; and Annie cried for all that
died, and buried them under the woodrick; but, I do
assure you, it was a pretty thing to see, when she went
to them in the morning. There was not a bird but knew
her well, after one day of comforting; and some would
come to her hand, and sit, and shut one eye, and look
at her. Then she used to stroke their heads, and feel
their breasts, and talk to them; and not a bird of them
all was there but liked to have it done to him. And I
do believe they would eat from her hand things
unnatural to them, lest she should he grieved and hurt
by not knowing what to do for them. One of them was a
noble bird, such as I never had seen before, of very
fine bright plumage, and larger than a missel-thrush.
He was the hardest of all to please: and yet he tried
to do his best. I have heard since then, from a man
who knows all about birds, and beasts, and fishes, that
he must have been a Norwegian bird, called in this
country a Roller, who never comes to England but in the
most tremendous winters.

Another little bird there was, whom I longed to welcome
home, and protect from enemies, a little bird no native
to us, but than any native dearer. But lo, in the very
night which followed old Sir Ensor's funeral, such a
storm of snow began as never have I heard nor read of,
neither could have dreamed it. At what time of night
it first began is more than I can say, at least from my
own knowledge, for we all went to bed soon after
supper, being cold and not inclined to talk. At that
time the wind was moaning sadly, and the sky as dark as
a wood, and the straw in the yard swirling round and
round, and the cows huddling into the great cowhouse,
with their chins upon one another. But we, being
blinder than they, I suppose, and not having had a
great snow for years, made no preparation against the
storm, except that the lambing ewes were in shelter.

It struck me, as I lay in bed, that we were acting
foolishly; for an ancient shepherd had dropped in and
taken supper with us, and foretold a heavy fall and
great disaster to live stock. He said that he had
known a frost beginning, just as this had done, with a
black east wind, after days of raw cold fog, and then
on the third night of the frost, at this very time of
year (to wit on the 15th of December) such a snow set
in as killed half of the sheep and many even of the red
deer and the forest ponies. It was three-score years
agone,* he said; and cause he had to remember it,
inasmuch as two of his toes had been lost by frost-nip,
while he dug out his sheep on the other side of the
Dunkery. Hereupon mother nodded at him, having heard
from her father about it, and how three men had been
frozen to death, and how badly their stockings came off
from them.

* The frost of 1625.

Remembering how the old man looked, and his manner of
listening to the wind and shaking his head very
ominously (when Annie gave him a glass of schnapps), I
grew quite uneasy in my bed, as the room got colder and
colder; and I made up my mind, if it only pleased God
not to send the snow till the morning, that every
sheep, and horse, and cow, ay, and even the poultry,
should be brought in snug, and with plenty to eat, and
fodder enough to roast them.

Alas what use of man's resolves, when they come a day
too late; even if they may avail a little, when they
are most punctual!

In the bitter morning I arose, to follow out my
purpose, knowing the time from the force of habit,
although the room was so dark and gray. An odd white
light was on the rafters, such as I never had seen
before; while all the length of the room was grisly,
like the heart of a mouldy oat-rick. I went to the
window at once, of course; and at first I could not
understand what was doing outside of it. It faced due
east (as I may have said), with the walnut-tree partly
sheltering it; and generally I could see the yard, and
the woodrick, and even the church beyond.

But now, half the lattice was quite blocked up, as if
plastered with gray lime; and little fringes, like
ferns, came through, where the joining of the lead was;
and in the only undarkened part, countless dots came
swarming, clustering, beating with a soft, low sound,
then gliding down in a slippery manner, not as drops of
rain do, but each distinct from his neighbour. Inside
the iron frame (which fitted, not to say too
comfortably, and went along the stonework), at least a
peck of snow had entered, following its own bend and
fancy; light as any cobweb.

With some trouble, and great care, lest the ancient
frame should yield, I spread the lattice open; and saw
at once that not a moment must he lost, to save our
stock. All the earth was flat with snow, all the air
was thick with snow; more than this no man could see,
for all the world was snowing.

I shut the window and dressed in haste; and when I
entered the kitchen, not even Betty, the earliest of
all early birds, was there. I raked the ashes together
a little, just to see a spark of warmth; and then set
forth to find John Fry, Jem Slocombe, and Bill Dadds.
But this was easier thought than done; for when I
opened the courtyard door, I was taken up to my knees
at once, and the power of the drifting cloud prevented
sight of anything. However, I found my way to the
woodrick, and there got hold of a fine ash-stake, cut
by myself not long ago. With this I ploughed along
pretty well, and thundered so hard at John Fry's door,
that he thought it was the Doones at least, and cocked
his blunderbuss out of the window.

John was very loth to come down, when he saw the
meaning of it; for he valued his life more than
anything else; though he tried to make out that his
wife was to blame. But I settled his doubts by telling
him, that I would have him on my shoulder naked, unless
he came in five minutes; not that he could do much
good, but because the other men would be sure to skulk,
if he set them the example. With spades, and shovels,
and pitch-forks, and a round of roping, we four set
forth to dig out the sheep; and the poor things knew
that it was high time.



It must have snowed most wonderfully to have made that
depth of covering in about eight hours. For one of
Master Stickles' men, who had been out all the night,
said that no snow began to fall until nearly midnight.
And here it was, blocking up the doors, stopping the
ways, and the water courses, and making it very much
worse to walk than in a saw-pit newly used. However,
we trudged along in a line; I first, and the other men
after me; trying to keep my track, but finding legs and
strength not up to it. Most of all, John Fry was
groaning; certain that his time was come, and sending
messages to his wife, and blessings to his children.
For all this time it was snowing harder than it ever
had snowed before, so far as a man might guess at it;
and the leaden depth of the sky came down, like a mine
turned upside down on us. Not that the flakes were so
very large; for I have seen much larger flakes in a
shower of March, while sowing peas; but that there was
no room between them, neither any relaxing, nor any
change of direction.

Watch, like a good and faithful dog, followed us very
cheerfully, leaping out of the depth, which took him
over his back and ears already, even in the level
places; while in the drifts he might have sunk to any
distance out of sight, and never found his way up
again. However, we helped him now and then, especially
through the gaps and gateways; and so after a deal of
floundering, some laughter, and a little swearing, we
came all safe to the lower meadow, where most of our
flock was hurdled.

But behold, there was no flock at all! None, I mean, to
be seen anywhere; only at one corner of the field, by
the eastern end, where the snow drove in, a great white
billow, as high as a barn, and as broad as a house.
This great drift was rolling and curling beneath the
violent blast, tufting and combing with rustling
swirls, and carved (as in patterns of cornice) where
the grooving chisel of the wind swept round. Ever and
again the tempest snatched little whiffs from the
channelled edges, twirled them round and made them
dance over the chime of the monster pile, then let them
lie like herring-bones, or the seams of sand where the
tide has been. And all the while from the smothering
sky, more and more fiercely at every blast, came the
pelting, pitiless arrows, winged with murky white, and
pointed with the barbs of frost.

But although for people who had no sheep, the sight was
a very fine one (so far at least as the weather
permitted any sight at all); yet for us, with our flock
beneath it, this great mount had but little charm.
Watch began to scratch at once, and to howl along the
sides of it; he knew that his charge was buried there,
and his business taken from him. But we four men set
to in earnest, digging with all our might and main,
shovelling away at the great white pile, and fetching
it into the meadow. Each man made for himself a cave,
scooping at the soft, cold flux, which slid upon him at
every stroke, and throwing it out behind him, in piles
of castled fancy. At last we drove our tunnels in (for
we worked indeed for the lives of us), and all
converging towards the middle, held our tools and

The other men heard nothing at all; or declared that
they heard nothing, being anxious now to abandon the
matter, because of the chill in their feet and knees.
But I said, 'Go, if you choose all of you. I will work
it out by myself, you pie-crusts,' and upon that they
gripped their shovels, being more or less of
Englishmen; and the least drop of English blood is
worth the best of any other when it comes to lasting

But before we began again, I laid my head well into the
chamber; and there I hears a faint 'ma-a-ah,' coming
through some ells of snow, like a plaintive, buried
hope, or a last appeal. I shouted aloud to cheer him
up, for I knew what sheep it was, to wit, the most
valiant of all the wethers, who had met me when I came
home from London, and been so glad to see me. And then
we all fell to again; and very soon we hauled him out.
Watch took charge of him at once, with an air of the
noblest patronage, lying on his frozen fleece, and
licking all his face and feet, to restore his warmth to
him. Then fighting Tom jumped up at once, and made a
little butt at Watch, as if nothing had ever ailed him,
and then set off to a shallow place, and looked for
something to nibble at.

Further in, and close under the bank, where they had
huddled themselves for warmth, we found all the rest of
the poor sheep packed, as closely as if they were in a
great pie. It was strange to observe how their vapour
and breath, and the moisture exuding from their wool
had scooped, as it were, a coved room for them, lined
with a ribbing of deep yellow snow. Also the churned
snow beneath their feet was as yellow as gamboge. Two
or three of the weaklier hoggets were dead, from want
of air, and from pressure; but more than three-score
were as lively as ever; though cramped and stiff for a
little while.

'However shall us get 'em home?' John Fry asked in
great dismay, when we had cleared about a dozen of
them; which we were forced to do very carefully, so as
not to fetch the roof down. 'No manner of maning to
draive 'un, drough all they girt driftnesses.'

'You see to this place, John,' I replied, as we leaned
on our shovels a moment, and the sheep came rubbing
round us; 'let no more of them out for the present;
they are better where they be. Watch, here boy, keep

Watch came, with his little scut of a tail cocked as
sharp as duty, and I set him at the narrow mouth of the
great snow antre. All the sheep sidled away, and got
closer, that the other sheep might be bitten first, as
the foolish things imagine; whereas no good sheep-dog
even so much as lips a sheep to turn it.

Then of the outer sheep (all now snowed and frizzled
like a lawyer's wig) I took the two finest and
heaviest, and with one beneath my right arm, and the
other beneath my left, I went straight home to the
upper sheppey, and set them inside and fastened them.
Sixty and six I took home in that way, two at a time on
each joumey; and the work grew harder and harder each
time, as the drifts of the snow were deepening. No
other man should meddle with them; I was resolved to
try my strength against the strength of the elements;
and try it I did, ay, and proved it. A certain fierce
delight burned in me, as the struggle grew harder; but
rather would I die than yield; and at last I finished
it. People talk of it to this day; but none can tell
what the labour was, who have not felt that snow and

Of the sheep upon the mountain, and the sheep upon the
western farm, and the cattle on the upper barrows,
scarcely one in ten was saved; do what we would for
them, and this was not through any neglect (now that
our wits were sharpened), but from the pure
impossibility of finding them at all. That great snow
never ceased a moment for three days and nights; and
then when all the earth was filled, and the topmost
hedges were unseen, and the trees broke down with
weight (wherever the wind had not lightened them), a
brilliant sun broke forth and showed the loss of all
our customs.

All our house was quite snowed up, except where we had
purged a way, by dint of constant shovellings. The
kitchen was as dark and darker than the cider-cellar,
and long lines of furrowed scollops ran even up to the
chimney-stacks. Several windows fell right inwards,
through the weight of the snow against them; and the
few that stood, bulged in, and bent like an old bruised
lanthorn. We were obliged to cook by candle-light; we
were forced to read by candle-light; as for baking, we
could not do it, because the oven was too chill; and a
load of faggots only brought a little wet down the
sides of it.

For when the sun burst forth at last upon that world of
white, what he brought was neither warmth, nor cheer,
nor hope of softening; only a clearer shaft of cold,
from the violet depths of sky. Long-drawn alleys of
white haze seemed to lead towards him, yet such as he
could not come down, with any warmth remaining. Broad
white curtains of the frost-fog looped around the lower
sky, on the verge of hill and valley, and above the
laden trees. Only round the sun himself, and the spot
of heaven he claimed, clustered a bright purple-blue,
clear, and calm, and deep.

That night such a frost ensued as we had never dreamed
of, neither read in ancient books, or histories of
Frobisher. The kettle by the fire froze, and the crock
upon the hearth-cheeks; many men were killed, and
cattle rigid in their head-ropes. Then I heard that
fearful sound, which never I had heard before, neither
since have heard (except during that same winter), the
sharp yet solemn sound of trees burst open by the
frost-blow. Our great walnut lost three branches, and
has been dying ever since; though growing meanwhile, as
the soul does. And the ancient oak at the cross was
rent, and many score of ash trees. But why should I
tell all this? the people who have not seen it (as I
have) will only make faces, and disbelieve; till such
another frost comes; which perhaps may never be.

This terrible weather kept Tom Faggus from coming near
our house for weeks; at which indeed I was not vexed a
quarter so much as Annie was; for I had never half
approved of him, as a husband for my sister; in spite
of his purchase from Squire Bassett, and the grant of
the Royal pardon. It may be, however, that Annie took
the same view of my love for Lorna, and could not augur
well of it; but if so, she held her peace, though I was
not so sparing. For many things contributed to make
me less good-humoured now than my real nature was; and
the very least of all these things would have been
enough to make some people cross, and rude, and
fractious. I mean the red and painful chapping of my
face and hands, from working in the snow all day, and
lying in the frost all night. For being of a fair
complexion, and a ruddy nature, and pretty plump
withal, and fed on plenty of hot victuals, and always
forced by my mother to sit nearer the fire than I
wished, it was wonderful to see how the cold ran revel
on my cheeks and knuckles. And I feared that Lorna (if
it should ever please God to stop the snowing) might
take this for a proof of low and rustic blood and

And this I say was the smallest thing; for it was far
more serious that we were losing half our stock, do all
we would to shelter them. Even the horses in the
stables (mustered all together for the sake of breath
and steaming) had long icicles from their muzzles,
almost every morning. But of all things the very
gravest, to my apprehension, was the impossibility of
hearing, or having any token of or from my loved one.
Not that those three days alone of snow (tremendous as
it was) could have blocked the country so; but that the
sky had never ceased, for more than two days at a time,
for full three weeks thereafter, to pour fresh piles of
fleecy mantle; neither had the wind relaxed a single
day from shaking them. As a rule, it snowed all day,
cleared up at night, and froze intensely, with the
stars as bright as jewels, earth spread out in lustrous
twilight, and the sounds in the air as sharp and
crackling as artillery; then in the morning, snow
again; before the sun could come to help.

It mattered not what way the wind was. Often and often
the vanes went round, and we hoped for change of
weather; the only change was that it seemed (if
possible) to grow colder. Indeed, after a week or so,
the wind would regularly box the compass (as the
sailors call it) in the course of every day, following
where the sun should be, as if to make a mock of him.
And this of course immensely added to the peril of the
drifts; because they shifted every day; and no skill or
care might learn them.

I believe it was on Epiphany morning, or somewhere
about that period, when Lizzie ran into the kitchen to
me, where I was thawing my goose-grease, with the dogs
among the ashes--the live dogs, I mean, not the iron
ones, for them we had given up long ago,--and having
caught me, by way of wonder (for generally I was out
shoveling long before my 'young lady' had her nightcap
off), she positively kissed me, for the sake of warming
her lips perhaps, or because she had something proud to

'You great fool, John,' said my lady, as Annie and I
used to call her, on account of her airs and graces;
'what a pity you never read, John!'

'Much use, I should think, in reading!' I answered,
though pleased with her condescension; 'read, I
suppose, with roof coming in, and only this chimney
left sticking out of the snow!'

'The very time to read, John,' said Lizzie, looking
grander; 'our worst troubles are the need, whence
knowledge can deliver us.'

'Amen,' I cried out; 'are you parson or clerk?
Whichever you are, good-morning.'

Thereupon I was bent on my usual round (a very small
one nowadays), but Eliza took me with both hands, and I
stopped of course; for I could not bear to shake the
child, even in play, for a moment, because her back was
tender. Then she looked up at me with her beautiful
eyes, so large, unhealthy and delicate, and strangely
shadowing outward, as if to spread their meaning; and
she said,--

'Now, John, this is no time to joke. I was almost
frozen in bed last night; and Annie like an icicle.
Feel how cold my hands are. Now, will you listen to
what I have read about climates ten times worse than
this; and where none but clever men can live?'

'Impossible for me to listen now, I have hundreds of
things to see to; but I will listen after breakfast to
your foreign climates, child. Now attend to mother's
hot coffee.'

She looked a little disappointed, but she knew what I
had to do; and after all she was not so utterly
unreasonable; although she did read books. And when I
had done my morning's work, I listened to her
patiently; and it was out of my power to think that all
she said was foolish.

For I knew common sense pretty well, by this time,
whether it happened to be my own, or any other
person's, if clearly laid before me. And Lizzie had a
particular way of setting forth very clearly whatever
she wished to express and enforce. But the queerest
part of it all was this, that if she could but have
dreamed for a moment what would be the first
application made me by of her lesson, she would rather
have bitten her tongue off than help me to my purpose.

She told me that in the Arctic Regions, as they call
some places, a long way north, where the Great Bear
lies all across the heavens, and no sun is up, for
whole months at a time, and yet where people will go
exploring, out of pure contradiction, and for the sake
of novelty, and love of being frozen--that here they
always had such winters as we were having now. It
never ceased to freeze, she said; and it never ceased
to snow; except when it was too cold; and then all the
air was choked with glittering spikes; and a man's skin
might come off of him, before he could ask the reason.
Nevertheless the people there (although the snow was
fifty feet deep, and all their breath fell behind them
frozen, like a log of wood dropped from their
shoulders), yet they managed to get along, and make the
time of the year to each other, by a little cleverness.
For seeing how the snow was spread, lightly over
everything, covering up the hills and valleys, and the
foreskin of the sea, they contrived a way to crown it,
and to glide like a flake along. Through the sparkle
of the whiteness, and the wreaths of windy tossings,
and the ups and downs of cold, any man might get along
with a boat on either foot, to prevent his sinking.

She told me how these boats were made; very strong and
very light, of ribs with skin across them; five feet
long, and one foot wide; and turned up at each end,
even as a canoe is. But she did not tell me, nor did I
give it a moment's thought myself, how hard it was to
walk upon them without early practice. Then she told
me another thing equally useful to me; although I would
not let her see how much I thought about it. And this
concerned the use of sledges, and their power of
gliding, and the lightness of their following; all of
which I could see at once, through knowledge of our own
farm-sleds; which we employ in lieu of wheels, used in
flatter districts. When I had heard all this from her,
a mere chit of a girl as she was, unfit to make a
snowball even, or to fry snow pancakes, I looked down
on her with amazement, and began to wish a little that
I had given more time to books.

But God shapes all our fitness, and gives each man his
meaning, even as he guides the wavering lines of snow
descending. Our Eliza was meant for books; our dear
Annie for loving and cooking; I, John Ridd, for sheep,
and wrestling, and the thought of Lorna; and mother to
love all three of us, and to make the best of her
children. And now, if I must tell the truth, as at
every page I try to do (though God knows it is hard
enough), I had felt through all this weather, though my
life was Lorna's, something of a satisfaction in so
doing duty to my kindest and best of mothers, and to
none but her. For (if you come to think of it) a man's
young love is very pleasant, very sweet, and tickling;
and takes him through the core of heart; without his
knowing how or why. Then he dwells upon it sideways,
without people looking, and builds up all sorts of
fancies, growing hot with working so at his own
imaginings. So his love is a crystal Goddess, set upon
an obelisk; and whoever will not bow the knee (yet
without glancing at her), the lover makes it a sacred
rite either to kick or to stick him. I am not speaking
of me and Lorna, but of common people.

Then (if you come to think again) lo!--or I will not
say lo! for no one can behold it--only feel, or but
remember, what a real mother is. Ever loving, ever
soft, ever turning sin to goodness, vices into virtues;
blind to all nine-tenths of wrong; through a telescope
beholding (though herself so nigh to them) faintest
decimal of promise, even in her vilest child. Ready to
thank God again, as when her babe was born to her;
leaping (as at kingdom-come) at a wandering syllable
of Gospel for her lost one.

All this our mother was to us, and even more than all
of this; and hence I felt a pride and joy in doing my
sacred duty towards her, now that the weather compelled
me. And she was as grateful and delighted as if she
had no more claim upon me than a stranger's sheep might
have. Yet from time to time I groaned within myself
and by myself, at thinking of my sad debarment from the
sight of Lorna, and of all that might have happened to
her, now she had no protection.

Therefore, I fell to at once, upon that hint from
Lizzie, and being used to thatching-work, and the
making of traps, and so on, before very long I built
myself a pair of strong and light snow-shoes, framed
with ash and ribbed of withy, with half-tanned calf-
skin stretched across, and an inner sole to support my
feet. At first I could not walk at all, but floundered
about most piteously, catching one shoe in the other,
and both of them in the snow-drifts, to the great
amusement of the girls, who were come to look at me.
But after a while I grew more expert, discovering what
my errors were, and altering the inclination of the
shoes themselves, according to a print which Lizzie
found in a book of adventures. And this made such a
difference, that I crossed the farmyard and came back
again (though turning was the worst thing of all)
without so much as falling once, or getting my staff

But oh, the aching of my ankles, when I went to bed
that night; I was forced to help myself upstairs with a
couple of mopsticks! and I rubbed the joints with
neatsfoot oil, which comforted them greatly. And
likely enough I would have abandoned any further trial,
but for Lizzie's ridicule, and pretended sympathy;
asking if the strong John Ridd would have old Betty to
lean upon. Therefore I set to again, with a fixed
resolve not to notice pain or stiffness, but to warm
them out of me. And sure enough, before dark that day,
I could get along pretty freely; especially improving
every time, after leaving off and resting. The
astonishment of poor John Fry, Bill Dadds, and Jem
Slocombe, when they saw me coming down the hill upon
them, in the twilight, where they were clearing the
furze rick and trussing it for cattle, was more than I
can tell you; because they did not let me see it, but
ran away with one accord, and floundered into a
snowdrift. They believed, and so did every one else
(especially when I grew able to glide along pretty
rapidly), that I had stolen Mother Melldrum's sieves,
on which she was said to fly over the foreland at
midnight every Saturday.

Upon the following day, I held some council with my
mother; not liking to go without her permission, yet
scarcely daring to ask for it. But here she
disappointed me, on the right side of disappointment;
saying that she had seen my pining (which she never
could have done; because I had been too hard at work),
and rather than watch me grieving so, for somebody or
other, who now was all in all to me, I might go upon my
course, and God's protection go with me! At this I was
amazed, because it was not at all like mother; and
knowing how well I had behaved, ever since the time of
our snowing up, I was a little moved to tell her that
she could not understand me. However my sense of duty
kept me, and my knowledge of the catechism, from saying
such a thing as that, or even thinking twice of it.
And so I took her at her word, which she was not
prepared for; and telling her how proud I was of her
trust in Providence, and how I could run in my new
snow-shoes, I took a short pipe in my mouth, and
started forth accordingly.



When I started on my road across the hills and valleys
(which now were pretty much alike), the utmost I could
hope to do was to gain the crest of hills, and look
into the Doone Glen. Hence I might at least descry
whether Lorna still was safe, by the six nests still
remaining, and the view of the Captain's house. When I
was come to the open country, far beyond the sheltered
homestead, and in the full brunt of the wind, the keen
blast of the cold broke on me, and the mighty breadth
of snow. Moor and highland, field and common, cliff
and vale, and watercourse, over all the rolling folds
of misty white were flung. There was nothing square or
jagged left, there was nothing perpendicular; all the
rugged lines were eased, and all the breaches smoothly
filled. Curves, and mounds, and rounded heavings, took
the place of rock and stump; and all the country looked
as if a woman's hand had been on it.

Through the sparkling breadth of white, which seemed to
glance my eyes away, and outside the humps of laden
trees, bowing their backs like a woodman, I contrived
to get along, half-sliding and half-walking, in places
where a plain-shodden man must have sunk, and waited
freezing till the thaw should come to him. For
although there had been such violent frost, every
night, upon the snow, the snow itself, having never
thawed, even for an hour, had never coated over. Hence
it was as soft and light as if all had fallen
yesterday. In places where no drift had been, but
rather off than on to them, three feet was the least of
depth; but where the wind had chased it round, or any
draught led like a funnel, or anything opposed it;
there you might very safely say that it ran up to
twenty feet, or thirty, or even fifty, and I believe
some times a hundred.

At last I got to my spy-hill (as I had begun to call
it), although I never should have known it but for what
it looked on. And even to know this last again
required all the eyes of love, soever sharp and
vigilant. For all the beautiful Glen Doone (shaped
from out the mountains, as if on purpose for the
Doones, and looking in the summer-time like a sharp cut
vase of green) now was besnowed half up the sides, and
at either end so, that it was more like the white
basins wherein we boil plum-puddings. Not a patch of
grass was there, not a black branch of a tree; all was
white; and the little river flowed beneath an arch of
snow; if it managed to flow at all.

Now this was a great surprise to me; not only because I
believed Glen Doone to be a place outside all frost,
but also because I thought perhaps that it was quite
impossible to be cold near Lorna. And now it struck me
all at once that perhaps her ewer was frozen (as mine
had been for the last three weeks, requiring embers
around it), and perhaps her window would not shut, any
more than mine would; and perhaps she wanted blankets.
This idea worked me up to such a chill of sympathy,
that seeing no Doones now about, and doubting if any
guns would go off, in this state of the weather, and
knowing that no man could catch me up (except with
shoes like mine), I even resolved to slide the cliffs,
and bravely go to Lorna.

It helped me much in this resolve, that the snow came
on again, thick enough to blind a man who had not spent
his time among it, as I had done now for days and days.
Therefore I took my neatsfoot oil, which now was
clogged like honey, and rubbed it hard into my
leg-joints, so far as I could reach them. And then I
set my back and elbows well against a snowdrift,
hanging far adown the cliff, and saying some of the
Lord's Prayer, threw myself on Providence. Before
there was time to think or dream, I landed very
beautifully upon a ridge of run-up snow in a quiet
corner. My good shoes, or boots, preserved me from
going far beneath it; though one of them was sadly
strained, where a grub had gnawed the ash, in the early
summer-time. Having set myself aright, and being in
good spirits, I made boldly across the valley (where
the snow was furrowed hard), being now afraid of

If Lorna had looked out of the window she would not
have known me, with those boots upon my feet, and a
well-cleaned sheepskin over me, bearing my own (J.R.)
in red, just between my shoulders, but covered now in
snow-flakes. The house was partly drifted up, though
not so much as ours was; and I crossed the little
stream almost without knowing that it was under me. At
first, being pretty safe from interference from the
other huts, by virtue of the blinding snow and the
difficulty of walking, I examined all the windows; but
these were coated so with ice, like ferns and flowers
and dazzling stars, that no one could so much as guess
what might be inside of them. Moreover I was afraid of
prying narrowly into them, as it was not a proper thing
where a maiden might be; only I wanted to know just
this, whether she were there or not.

Taking nothing by this movement, I was forced, much
against my will, to venture to the door and knock, in a
hesitating manner, not being sure but what my answer
might be the mouth of a carbine. However it was not
so, for I heard a pattering of feet and a whispering
going on, and then a shrill voice through the keyhole,
asking, 'Who's there?'

'Only me, John Ridd,' I answered; upon which I heard a
little laughter, and a little sobbing, or something
that was like it; and then the door was opened about a
couple of inches, with a bar behind it still; and then
the little voice went on,--

'Put thy finger in, young man, with the old ring on it.
But mind thee, if it be the wrong one, thou shalt never
draw it back again.'

Laughing at Gwenny's mighty threat, I showed my finger
in the opening; upon which she let me in, and barred
the door again like lightning.

'What is the meaning of all this, Gwenny?' I asked, as
I slipped about on the floor, for I could not stand
there firmly with my great snow-shoes on.

'Maning enough, and bad maning too,' the Cornish girl
made answer. Us be shut in here, and starving, and
durstn't let anybody in upon us. I wish thou wer't
good to ate, young man: I could manage most of thee.'

I was so frightened by her eyes, full of wolfish
hunger, that I could only say 'Good God!' having never
seen the like before. Then drew I forth a large piece
of bread, which I had brought in case of accidents, and
placed it in her hands. She leaped at it, as a
starving dog leaps at sight of his supper, and she set
her teeth in it, and then withheld it from her lips,
with something very like an oath at her own vile
greediness; and then away round the corner with it, no
doubt for her young mistress. I meanwhile was
occupied, to the best of my ability, in taking my
snow-shoes off, yet wondering much within myself why
Lorna did not come to me.

But presently I knew the cause, for Gwenny called me,
and I ran, and found my darling quite unable to say so
much as, 'John, how are you?' Between the hunger and
the cold, and the excitement of my coming, she had
fainted away, and lay back on a chair, as white as the
snow around us. In betwixt her delicate lips, Gwenny
was thrusting with all her strength the hard brown
crust of the rye-bread, which she had snatched from me

'Get water, or get snow,' I said; 'don't you know what
fainting is, you very stupid child?'

'Never heerd on it, in Cornwall,' she answered,
trusting still to the bread; 'be un the same as

'It will be directly, if you go on squeezing away with
that crust so. Eat a piece: I have got some more.
Leave my darling now to me.'

Hearing that I had some more, the starving girl could
resist no longer, but tore it in two, and had swallowed
half before I had coaxed my Lorna back to sense, and
hope, and joy, and love.

'I never expected to see you again. I had made up my
mind to die, John; and to die without your knowing it.'

As I repelled this fearful thought in a manner highly
fortifying, the tender hue flowed back again into her
famished cheeks and lips, and a softer brilliance
glistened from the depth of her dark eyes. She gave me
one little shrunken hand, and I could not help a tear
for it.

'After all, Mistress Lorna,' I said, pretending to be
gay, for a smile might do her good; 'you do not love me
as Gwenny does; for she even wanted to eat me.'

'And shall, afore I have done, young man,' Gwenny
answered laughing; 'you come in here with they red
chakes, and make us think o' sirloin.'

'Eat up your bit of brown bread, Gwenny. It is not
good enough for your mistress. Bless her heart, I have
something here such as she never tasted the like of,
being in such appetite. Look here, Lorna; smell it
first. I have had it ever since Twelfth Day, and kept
it all the time for you. Annie made it. That is
enough to warrant it good cooking.'

And then I showed my great mince-pie in a bag of tissue
paper, and I told them how the mince-meat was made of
golden pippins finely shred, with the undercut of the
sirloin, and spice and fruit accordingly and far beyond
my knowledge. But Lorna would not touch a morsel until
she had thanked God for it, and given me the kindest
kiss, and put a piece in Gwenny's mouth.

I have eaten many things myself, with very great
enjoyment, and keen perception of their merits, and
some thanks to God for them. But I never did enjoy a
thing, that had found its way between my own lips,
half, or even a quarter as much as I now enjoyed
beholding Lorna, sitting proudly upwards (to show that
she was faint no more) entering into that mince-pie,
and moving all her pearls of teeth (inside her little
mouth-place) exactly as I told her. For I was afraid
lest she should be too fast in going through it, and
cause herself more damage so, than she got of
nourishment. But I had no need to fear at all, and
Lorna could not help laughing at me for thinking that
she had no self-control.

Some creatures require a deal of food (I myself among
the number), and some can do with a very little;
making, no doubt, the best of it. And I have often
noticed that the plumpest and most perfect women never
eat so hard and fast as the skinny and three-cornered
ones. These last be often ashamed of it, and eat most
when the men be absent. Hence it came to pass that
Lorna, being the loveliest of all maidens, had as much
as she could do to finish her own half of pie; whereas
Gwenny Carfax (though generous more than greedy), ate
up hers without winking, after finishing the brown
loaf; and then I begged to know the meaning of this
state of things.

'The meaning is sad enough,' said Lorna; 'and I see no
way out of it. We are both to be starved until I let
them do what they like with me.

'That is to say until you choose to marry Carver Doone,
and be slowly killed by him?'

'Slowly! No, John, quickly. I hate him so intensely,
that less than a week would kill me.'

'Not a doubt of that,' said Gwenny; 'oh, she hates him
nicely then; but not half so much as I do.'

I told them that this state of things could be endured
no longer, on which point they agreed with me, but saw
no means to help it. For even if Lorna could make up
her mind to come away with me and live at Plover's
Barrows farm, under my good mother's care, as I had
urged so often, behold the snow was all around us,
heaped as high as mountains, and how could any delicate
maiden ever get across it?

Then I spoke with a strange tingle upon both sides of
my heart, knowing that this undertaking was a serious
one for all, and might burn our farm down,--

'If I warrant to take you safe, and without much fright
or hardship, Lorna, will you come with me?'

'To be sure I will, dear,' said my beauty, with a smile
and a glance to follow it; 'I have small alternative,
to starve, or go with you, John.'

'Gwenny, have you courage for it? Will you come with
your young mistress?'

'Will I stay behind?' cried Gwenny, in a voice that
settled it. And so we began to arrange about it; and
I was much excited. It was useless now to leave it
longer; if it could be done at all, it could not be too
quickly done. It was the Counsellor who had ordered,
after all other schemes had failed, that his niece
should have no food until she would obey him. He had
strictly watched the house, taking turns with Carver,
to ensure that none came nigh it bearing food or
comfort. But this evening, they had thought it
needless to remain on guard; and it would have been
impossible, because themselves were busy offering high
festival to all the valley, in right of their own
commandership. And Gwenny said that nothing made her
so nearly mad with appetite as the account she received
from a woman of all the dishes preparing. Nevertheless
she had answered bravely,--

'Go and tell the Counsellor, and go and tell the
Carver, who sent you to spy upon us, that we shall have
a finer dish than any set before them.' And so in truth
they did, although so little dreaming it; for no Doone
that was ever born, however much of a Carver, might vie
with our Annie for mince-meat.

Now while we sat reflecting much, and talking a good
deal more, in spite of all the cold--for I never was in
a hurry to go, when I had Lorna with me--she said, in
her silvery voice, which always led me so along, as if
I were a slave to a beautiful bell,--

'Now, John, we are wasting time, dear. You have
praised my hair, till it curls with pride, and my eyes
till you cannot see them, even if they are brown
diamonds which I have heard for the fiftieth time at
least; though I never saw such a jewel. Don't you
think it is high time to put on your snow-shoes, John?'

'Certainly not,' I answered, 'till we have settled
something more. I was so cold when I came in; and now
I am as warm as a cricket. And so are you, you lively
soul; though you are not upon my hearth yet.'

'Remember, John,' said Lorna, nestling for a moment to
me; 'the severity of the weather makes a great
difference between us. And you must never take

'I quite understand all that, dear. And the harder it
freezes the better, while that understanding continues.
Now do try to be serious.'

'I try to be serious! And I have been trying fifty
times, and could not bring you to it, John! Although I
am sure the situation, as the Counsellor says at the
beginning of a speech, the situation, to say the least,
is serious enough for anything. Come, Gwenny, imitate

Gwenny was famed for her imitation of the Counsellor
making a speech; and she began to shake her hair, and
mount upon a footstool; but I really could not have
this, though even Lorna ordered it. The truth was that
my darling maiden was in such wild spirits, at seeing
me so unexpected, and at the prospect of release, and
of what she had never known, quiet life and happiness,
that like all warm and loving natures, she could scarce
control herself.

'Come to this frozen window, John, and see them light
the stack-fire. They will little know who looks at
them. Now be very good, John. You stay in that
corner, dear, and I will stand on this side; and try to
breathe yourself a peep-hole through the lovely spears
and banners. Oh, you don't know how to do it. I must
do it for you. Breathe three times, like that, and
that; and then you rub it with your fingers, before it
has time to freeze again.'

All this she did so beautifully, with her lips put up
like cherries, and her fingers bent half back, as only
girls can bend them, and her little waist thrown out
against the white of the snowed-up window, that I made
her do it three times over; and I stopped her every
time and let it freeze again, that so she might be the
longer. Now I knew that all her love was mine, every
bit as much as mine was hers; yet I must have her to
show it, dwelling upon every proof, lengthening out all
certainty. Perhaps the jealous heart is loath to own a
life worth twice its own. Be that as it may, I know
that we thawed the window nicely.

And then I saw, far down the stream (or rather down the
bed of it, for there was no stream visible), a little
form of fire arising, red, and dark, and flickering.
Presently it caught on something, and went upward
boldly; and then it struck into many forks, and then it
fell, and rose again.

'Do you know what all that is, John?' asked Lorna,
smiling cleverly at the manner of my staring.

'How on earth should I know? Papists burn Protestants
in the flesh; and Protestants burn Papists in effigy,
as we mock them. Lorna, are they going to burn any
one to-night?'

'No, you dear. I must rid you of these things. I see
that you are bigoted. The Doones are firing Dunkery
beacon, to celebrate their new captain.'

'But how could they bring it here through the snow? If
they have sledges, I can do nothing.'

'They brought it before the snow began. The moment
poor grandfather was gone, even before his funeral, the
young men, having none to check them, began at once
upon it. They had always borne a grudge against it;
not that it ever did them harm; but because it seemed
so insolent. "Can't a gentleman go home, without a
smoke behind him?" I have often heard them saying. And
though they have done it no serious harm, since they
threw the firemen on the fire, many, many years ago,
they have often promised to bring it here for their
candle; and now they have done it. Ah, now look! The
tar is kindled.'

Though Lorna took it so in joke, I looked upon it very
gravely, knowing that this heavy outrage to the
feelings of the neighbourhood would cause more stir
than a hundred sheep stolen, or a score of houses
sacked. Not of course that the beacon was of the
smallest use to any one, neither stopped anybody from
stealing, nay, rather it was like the parish knell,
which begins when all is over, and depresses all the
survivors; yet I knew that we valued it, and were
proud, and spoke of it as a mighty institution; and
even more than that, our vestry had voted, within the
last two years, seven shillings and six-pence to pay
for it, in proportion with other parishes. And one of
the men who attended to it, or at least who was paid
for doing so, was our Jem Slocombe's grandfather.

However, in spite of all my regrets, the fire went up
very merrily, blazing red and white and yellow, as it
leaped on different things. And the light danced on
the snow-drifts with a misty lilac hue. I was
astonished at its burning in such mighty depths of
snow; but Gwenny said that the wicked men had been
three days hard at work, clearing, as it were, a
cock-pit, for their fire to have its way. And now they
had a mighty pile, which must have covered five
land-yards square, heaped up to a goodly height, and
eager to take fire.

In this I saw great obstacle to what I wished to
manage. For when this pyramid should be kindled
thoroughly, and pouring light and blazes round, would
not all the valley be like a white room full of
candles? Thinking thus, I was half inclined to abide
my time for another night: and then my second thoughts
convinced me that I would be a fool in this. For lo,
what an opportunity! All the Doones would be drunk, of
course, in about three hours' time, and getting more
and more in drink as the night went on. As for the
fire, it must sink in about three hours or more, and
only cast uncertain shadows friendly to my purpose.
And then the outlaws must cower round it, as the cold
increased on them, helping the weight of the liquor;
and in their jollity any noise would be cheered as a
false alarm. Most of all, and which decided once for
all my action,--when these wild and reckless villains
should be hot with ardent spirits, what was door, or
wall, to stand betwixt them and my Lorna?

This thought quickened me so much that I touched my
darling reverently, and told her in a few short words
how I hoped to manage it.

'Sweetest, in two hours' time, I shall be again with
you. Keep the bar up, and have Gwenny ready to answer
any one. You are safe while they are dining, dear, and
drinking healths, and all that stuff; and before they
have done with that, I shall be again with you. Have
everything you care to take in a very little compass,
and Gwenny must have no baggage. I shall knock loud,
and then wait a little; and then knock twice, very

With this I folded her in my arms; and she looked
frightened at me; not having perceived her danger; and
then I told Gwenny over again what I had told her
mistress: but she only nodded her head and said, 'Young
man, go and teach thy grandmother.'



To my great delight I found that the weather, not
often friendly to lovers, and lately seeming so
hostile, had in the most important matter done me a
signal service. For when I had promised to take my
love from the power of those wretches, the only way of
escape apparent lay through the main Doone-gate. For
though I might climb the cliffs myself, especially with
the snow to aid me, I durst not try to fetch Lorna up
them, even if she were not half-starved, as well as
partly frozen; and as for Gwenny's door, as we called
it (that is to say, the little entrance from the wooded
hollow), it was snowed up long ago to the level of the
hills around. Therefore I was at my wit's end how to
get them out; the passage by the Doone-gate being long,
and dark, and difficult, and leading to such a weary
circuit among the snowy moors and hills.

But now, being homeward-bound by the shortest possible
track, I slipped along between the bonfire and the
boundary cliffs, where I found a caved way of snow
behind a sort of avalanche: so that if the Doones had
been keeping watch (which they were not doing, but
revelling), they could scarcely have discovered me.
And when I came to my old ascent, where I had often
scaled the cliff and made across the mountains, it
struck me that I would just have a look at my first and
painful entrance, to wit, the water-slide. I never for
a moment imagined that this could help me now; for I
never had dared to descend it, even in the finest
weather; still I had a curiosity to know what my old
friend was like, with so much snow upon him. But, to
my very great surprise, there was scarcely any snow
there at all, though plenty curling high overhead from
the cliff, like bolsters over it. Probably the
sweeping of the north-east wind up the narrow chasm had
kept the showers from blocking it, although the water
had no power under the bitter grip of frost. All my
water-slide was now less a slide than path of ice;
furrowed where the waters ran over fluted ridges;
seamed where wind had tossed and combed them, even
while congealing; and crossed with little steps
wherever the freezing torrent lingered. And here and
there the ice was fibred with the trail of sludge-
weed, slanting from the side, and matted, so as to make

Lo it was easy track and channel, as if for the very
purpose made, down which I could guide my sledge with
Lorna sitting in it. There were only two things to be
feared; one lest the rolls of snow above should fall in
and bury us; the other lest we should rush too fast,
and so be carried headlong into the black whirlpool at
the bottom, the middle of which was still unfrozen, and
looking more horrible by the contrast. Against this
danger I made provision, by fixing a stout bar across;
but of the other we must take our chance, and trust
ourselves to Providence.

I hastened home at my utmost speed, and told my mother
for God's sake to keep the house up till my return, and
to have plenty of fire blazing, and plenty of water
boiling, and food enough hot for a dozen people, and
the best bed aired with the warming-pan. Dear mother
smiled softly at my excitement, though her own was not
much less, I am sure, and enhanced by sore anxiety.
Then I gave very strict directions to Annie, and
praised her a little, and kissed her; and I even
endeavoured to flatter Eliza, lest she should be

After this I took some brandy, both within and about
me; the former, because I had sharp work to do; and the
latter in fear of whatever might happen, in such great
cold, to my comrades. Also I carried some other
provisions, grieving much at their coldness: and then I
went to the upper linhay, and took our new light pony-
sledd, which had been made almost as much for pleasure
as for business; though God only knows how our girls
could have found any pleasure in bumping along so. On
the snow, however, it ran as sweetly as if it had been
made for it; yet I durst not take the pony with it; in
the first place, because his hoofs would break through
the ever-shifting surface of the light and piling snow;
and secondly, because these ponies, coming from the
forest, have a dreadful trick of neighing, and most of
all in frosty weather.

Therefore I girded my own body with a dozen turns of
hay-rope, twisting both the ends in under at the bottom
of my breast, and winding the hay on the skew a little,
that the hempen thong might not slip between, and so
cut me in the drawing. I put a good piece of spare
rope in the sledd, and the cross-seat with the back to
it, which was stuffed with our own wool, as well as two
or three fur coats; and then, just as I was starting,
out came Annie, in spite of the cold, panting for fear
of missing me, and with nothing on her head, but a
lanthorn in one hand.

'Oh, John, here is the most wonderful thing! Mother has
never shown it before; and I can't think how she could
make up her mind. She had gotten it in a great well
of a cupboard, with camphor, and spirits, and lavender.
Lizzie says it is a most magnificent sealskin cloak,
worth fifty pounds, or a farthing.'

'At any rate it is soft and warm,' said I, very calmly
flinging it into the bottom of the sledd. 'Tell mother
I will put it over Lorna's feet.'

'Lorna's feet! Oh, you great fool,' cried Annie, for
the first time reviling me; 'over her shoulders; and be
proud, you very stupid John.'

'It is not good enough for her feet,' I answered, with
strong emphasis; 'but don't tell mother I said so,
Annie. Only thank her very kindly.'

With that I drew my traces hard, and set my ashen staff
into the snow, and struck out with my best foot
foremost (the best one at snow-shoes, I mean), and the
sledd came after me as lightly as a dog might follow;
and Annie, with the lanthorn, seemed to be left behind
and waiting like a pretty lamp-post.

The full moon rose as bright behind me as a paten of
pure silver, casting on the snow long shadows of the
few things left above, burdened rock, and shaggy
foreland, and the labouring trees. In the great white
desolation, distance was a mocking vision; hills looked
nigh, and valleys far; when hills were far and valleys
nigh. And the misty breath of frost, piercing through
the ribs of rock, striking to the pith of trees,
creeping to the heart of man, lay along the hollow
places, like a serpent sloughing. Even as my own gaunt
shadow (travestied as if I were the moonlight's daddy-
longlegs), went before me down the slope; even I, the
shadow's master, who had tried in vain to cough, when
coughing brought good liquorice, felt a pressure on my
bosom, and a husking in my throat.

However, I went on quietly, and at a very tidy speed;
being only too thankful that the snow had ceased, and
no wind as yet arisen. And from the ring of low white
vapour girding all the verge of sky, and from the rosy
blue above, and the shafts of starlight set upon a
quivering bow, as well as from the moon itself and the
light behind it, having learned the signs of frost from
its bitter twinges, I knew that we should have a night
as keen as ever England felt. Nevertheless, I had work
enough to keep me warm if I managed it. The question
was, could I contrive to save my darling from it?

Daring not to risk my sledd by any fall from the
valley-cliffs, I dragged it very carefully up the steep
incline of ice, through the narrow chasm, and so to the
very brink and verge where first I had seen my Lorna,
in the fishing days of boyhood. As I then had a
trident fork, for sticking of the loaches, so I now had
a strong ash stake, to lay across from rock to rock,
and break the speed of descending. With this I moored
the sledd quite safe, at the very lip of the chasm,
where all was now substantial ice, green and black in
the moonlight; and then I set off up the valley,
skirting along one side of it.

The stack-fire still was burning strongly, but with
more of heat than blaze; and many of the younger Doones
were playing on the verge of it, the children making
rings of fire, and their mothers watching them. All
the grave and reverend warriors having heard of
rheumatism, were inside of log and stone, in the two
lowest houses, with enough of candles burning to make
our list of sheep come short.

All these I passed, without the smallest risk or
difficulty, walking up the channel of drift which I
spoke of once before. And then I crossed, with more of
care, and to the door of Lorna's house, and made the
sign, and listened, after taking my snow-shoes off.

But no one came, as I expected, neither could I espy a
light. And I seemed to hear a faint low sound, like
the moaning of the snow-wind. Then I knocked again
more loudly, with a knocking at my heart: and receiving
no answer, set all my power at once against the door.
In a moment it flew inwards, and I glided along the
passage with my feet still slippery. There in Lorna's
room I saw, by the moonlight flowing in, a sight which
drove me beyond sense.

Lorna was behind a chair, crouching in the corner, with
her hands up, and a crucifix, or something that looked
like it. In the middle of the room lay Gwenny Carfax,
stupid, yet with one hand clutching the ankle of a
struggling man. Another man stood above my Lorna,
trying to draw the chair away. In a moment I had him
round the waist, and he went out of the window with a
mighty crash of glass; luckily for him that window had
no bars like some of them. Then I took the other man
by the neck; and he could not plead for mercy. I bore
him out of the house as lightly as I would bear a baby,
yet squeezing his throat a little more than I fain
would do to an infant. By the bright moonlight I saw
that I carried Marwood de Whichehalse. For his
father's sake I spared him, and because he had been my
schoolfellow; but with every muscle of my body strung
with indignation, I cast him, like a skittle, from me
into a snowdrift, which closed over him. Then I looked
for the other fellow, tossed through Lorna's window,
and found him lying stunned and bleeding, neither able
to groan yet. Charleworth Doone, if his gushing blood
did not much mislead me.

It was no time to linger now; I fastened my shoes in a
moment, and caught up my own darling with her head upon
my shoulder, where she whispered faintly; and telling
Gwenny to follow me, or else I would come back for her,
if she could not walk the snow, I ran the whole
distance to my sledd, caring not who might follow me.
Then by the time I had set up Lorna, beautiful and
smiling, with the seal-skin cloak all over her, sturdy
Gwenny came along, having trudged in the track of my
snow-shoes, although with two bags on her back. I set
her in beside her mistress, to support her, and keep
warm; and then with one look back at the glen, which
had been so long my home of heart, I hung behind the
sledd, and launched it down the steep and dangerous

Though the cliffs were black above us, and the road
unseen in front, and a great white grave of snow might
at a single word come down, Lorna was as calm and happy
as an infant in its bed. She knew that I was with her;
and when I told her not to speak, she touched my hand
in silence. Gwenny was in a much greater fright,
having never seen such a thing before, neither knowing
what it is to yield to pure love's confidence. I could
hardly keep her quiet, without making a noise myself.
With my staff from rock to rock, and my weight thrown
backward, I broke the sledd's too rapid way, and
brought my grown love safely out, by the selfsame road
which first had led me to her girlish fancy, and my
boyish slavery.

Unpursued, yet looking back as if some one must be
after us, we skirted round the black whirling pool, and
gained the meadows beyond it. Here there was hard
collar work, the track being all uphill and rough; and
Gwenny wanted to jump out, to lighten the sledd and to
push behind. But I would not hear of it; because it
was now so deadly cold, and I feared that Lorna might
get frozen, without having Gwenny to keep her warm.
And after all, it was the sweetest labour I had ever
known in all my life, to be sure that I was pulling
Lorna, and pulling her to our own farmhouse.

Gwenny's nose was touched with frost, before we had
gone much farther, because she would not keep it quiet
and snug beneath the sealskin. And here I had to stop
in the moonlight (which was very dangerous) and rub it
with a clove of snow, as Eliza had taught me; and
Gwenny scolding all the time, as if myself had frozen
it. Lorna was now so far oppressed with all the
troubles of the evening, and the joy that followed
them, as well as by the piercing cold and difficulty of
breathing, that she lay quite motionless, like fairest
wax in the moonlight--when we stole a glance at her,
beneath the dark folds of the cloak; and I thought that
she was falling into the heavy snow-sleep, whence there
is no awaking.

Therefore, I drew my traces tight, and set my whole
strength to the business; and we slipped along at a
merry pace, although with many joltings, which must
have sent my darling out into the cold snowdrifts but
for the short strong arm of Gwenny. And so in about an
hour's time, in spite of many hindrances, we came home
to the old courtyard, and all the dogs saluted us. My
heart was quivering, and my cheeks as hot as the
Doones' bonfire, with wondering both what Lorna would
think of our farm-yard, and what my mother would think
of her. Upon the former subject my anxiety was wasted,
for Lorna neither saw a thing, nor even opened her
heavy eyes. And as to what mother would think of her,
she was certain not to think at all, until she had
cried over her.

And so indeed it came to pass. Even at this length of
time, I can hardly tell it, although so bright before
my mind, because it moves my heart so. The sledd was
at the open door, with only Lorna in it; for Gwenny
Carfax had jumped out, and hung back in the clearing,
giving any reason rather than the only true one--that
she would not be intruding. At the door were all our
people; first, of course, Betty Muxworthy, teaching me
how to draw the sledd, as if she had been born in it,
and flourishing with a great broom, wherever a speck of
snow lay. Then dear Annie, and old Molly (who was very
quiet, and counted almost for nobody), and behind them,
mother, looking as if she wanted to come first, but
doubted how the manners lay. In the distance Lizzie
stood, fearful of encouraging, but unable to keep out
of it.

Betty was going to poke her broom right in under the
sealskin cloak, where Lorna lay unconscious, and where
her precious breath hung frozen, like a silver cobweb;
but I caught up Betty's broom, and flung it clean away
over the corn chamber; and then I put the others by,
and fetched my mother forward.

'You shall see her first,' I said: 'is she not your
daughter? Hold the light there, Annie.'

Dear mother's hands were quick and trembling, as she
opened the shining folds; and there she saw my Lorna
sleeping, with her black hair all dishevelled, and she
bent and kissed her forehead, and only said, 'God bless
her, John!' And then she was taken with violent
weeping, and I was forced to hold her.

'Us may tich of her now, I rackon,' said Betty in her
most jealous way; 'Annie, tak her by the head, and I'll
tak her by the toesen. No taime to stand here like
girt gawks. Don'ee tak on zo, missus. Ther be vainer
vish in the zea--Lor, but, her be a booty!'

With this, they carried her into the house, Betty
chattering all the while, and going on now about
Lorna's hands, and the others crowding round her, so
that I thought I was not wanted among so many women,
and should only get the worst of it, and perhaps do
harm to my darling. Therefore I went and brought
Gwenny in, and gave her a potful of bacon and peas, and
an iron spoon to eat it with, which she did right

Then I asked her how she could have been such a fool as
to let those two vile fellows enter the house where
Lorna was; and she accounted for it so naturally, that
I could only blame myself. For my agreement had been
to give one loud knock (if you happen to remember) and
after that two little knocks. Well these two drunken
rogues had come; and one, being very drunk indeed, had
given a great thump; and then nothing more to do with
it; and the other, being three-quarters drunk, had
followed his leader (as one might say) but feebly, and
making two of it. Whereupon up jumped Lorna, and
declared that her John was there.

All this Gwenny told me shortly, between the whiles of
eating, and even while she licked the spoon; and then
there came a message for me that my love was sensible,
and was seeking all around for me. Then I told Gwenny
to hold her tongue (whatever she did among us), and not
to trust to women's words; and she told me they all
were liars, as she had found out long ago; and the only
thing to believe in was an honest man, when found.
Thereupon I could have kissed her as a sort of tribute,
liking to be appreciated; yet the peas upon her lips
made me think about it; and thought is fatal to action.
So I went to see my dear.

That sight I shall not forget; till my dying head falls
back, and my breast can lift no more. I know not
whether I were then more blessed, or harrowed by it.
For in the settle was my Lorna, propped with pillows
round her, and her clear hands spread sometimes to the
blazing fireplace. In her eyes no knowledge was of
anything around her, neither in her neck the sense of
leaning towards anything. Only both her lovely hands
were entreating something, to spare her, or to love
her; and the lines of supplication quivered in her sad
white face.

'All go away, except my mother,' I said very quietly,
but so that I would be obeyed; and everybody knew it.
Then mother came to me alone; and she said, 'The frost
is in her brain; I have heard of this before, John.'
'Mother, I will have it out,' was all that I could
answer her; 'leave her to me altogether; only you sit
there and watch.' For I felt that Lorna knew me, and no
other soul but me; and that if not interfered with, she
would soon come home to me. Therefore I sat gently by
her, leaving nature, as it were, to her own good time
and will. And presently the glance that watched me, as
at distance and in doubt, began to flutter and to
brighten, and to deepen into kindness, then to beam
with trust and love, and then with gathering tears to
falter, and in shame to turn away. But the small
entreating hands found their way, as if by instinct, to
my great projecting palms; and trembled there, and
rested there.

For a little while we lingered thus, neither wishing to
move away, neither caring to look beyond the presence
of the other; both alike so full of hope, and comfort,
and true happiness; if only the world would let us be.
And then a little sob disturbed us, and mother tried to
make believe that she was only coughing. But Lorna,
guessing who she was, jumped up so very rashly that she
almost set her frock on fire from the great ash log;
and away she ran to the old oak chair, where mother was
by the clock-case pretending to be knitting, and she
took the work from mother's hands, and laid them both
upon her head, kneeling humbly, and looking up.

'God bless you, my fair mistress!' said mother, bending
nearer, and then as Lorna's gaze prevailed, 'God bless
you, my sweet child!'

And so she went to mother's heart by the very nearest
road, even as she had come to mine; I mean the road of
pity, smoothed by grace, and youth, and gentleness.



Jeremy Stickles was gone south, ere ever the frost set
in, for the purpose of mustering forces to attack the
Doone Glen. But, of course, this weather had put a
stop to every kind of movement; for even if men could
have borne the cold, they could scarcely be brought to
face the perils of the snow-drifts. And to tell the
truth I cared not how long this weather lasted, so long
as we had enough to eat, and could keep ourselves from
freezing. Not only that I did not want Master Stickles
back again, to make more disturbances; but also that
the Doones could not come prowling after Lorna while
the snow lay piled between us, with the surface soft
and dry. Of course they would very soon discover where
their lawful queen was, although the track of sledd and
snow-shoes had been quite obliterated by another
shower, before the revellers could have grown half as
drunk as they intended. But Marwood de Whichehalse,
who had been snowed up among them (as Gwenny said),
after helping to strip the beacon, that young Squire
was almost certain to have recognised me, and to have
told the vile Carver. And it gave me no little
pleasure to think how mad that Carver must be with me,
for robbing him of the lovely bride whom he was
starving into matrimony. However, I was not pleased at
all with the prospect of the consequences; but set all
hands on to thresh the corn, ere the Doones could come
and burn the ricks. For I knew that they could not
come yet, inasmuch as even a forest pony could not
traverse the country, much less the heavy horses needed
to carry such men as they were. And hundreds of the
forest ponies died in this hard weather, some being
buried in the snow, and more of them starved for want
of grass.

Going through this state of things, and laying down the
law about it (subject to correction), I very soon
persuaded Lorna that for the present she was safe, and
(which made her still more happy) that she was not only
welcome, but as gladdening to our eyes as the flowers
of May. Of course, so far as regarded myself, this was
not a hundredth part of the real truth; and even as
regarded others, I might have said it ten times over.
For Lorna had so won them all, by her kind and gentle
ways, and her mode of hearkening to everybody's
trouble, and replying without words, as well as by her
beauty, and simple grace of all things, that I could
almost wish sometimes the rest would leave her more to
me. But mother could not do enough; and Annie almost
worshipped her; and even Lizzie could not keep her
bitterness towards her; especially when she found that
Lorna knew as much of books as need be.

As for John Fry, and Betty, and Molly, they were a
perfect plague when Lorna came into the kitchen. For
betwixt their curiosity to see a live Doone in the
flesh (when certain not to eat them), and their high
respect for birth (with or without honesty), and their
intense desire to know all about Master John's
sweetheart (dropped, as they said, from the
snow-clouds), and most of all their admiration of a
beauty such as never even their angels could have
seen--betwixt and between all this, I say, there was no
getting the dinner cooked, with Lorna in the kitchen.

And the worst of it was that Lorna took the strangest
of all strange fancies for this very kitchen; and it
was hard to keep her out of it. Not that she had any
special bent for cooking, as our Annie had; rather
indeed the contrary, for she liked to have her food
ready cooked; but that she loved the look of the place,
and the cheerful fire burning, and the racks of bacon
to be seen, and the richness, and the homeliness, and
the pleasant smell of everything. And who knows but
what she may have liked (as the very best of maidens
do) to be admired, now and then, between the times of

Therefore if you wanted Lorna (as I was always sure to
do, God knows how many times a day), the very surest
place to find her was our own old kitchen. Not
gossiping, I mean, nor loitering, neither seeking into
things, but seeming to be quite at home, as if she had
known it from a child, and seeming (to my eyes at
least) to light it up, and make life and colour out of
all the dullness; as I have seen the breaking sun do
among brown shocks of wheat.

But any one who wished to learn whether girls can
change or not, as the things around them change (while
yet their hearts are steadfast, and for ever anchored),
he should just have seen my Lorna, after a fortnight of
our life, and freedom from anxiety. It is possible
that my company--although I am accounted stupid by folk
who do not know my way--may have had something to do
with it; but upon this I will not say much, lest I lose
my character. And indeed, as regards company, I had
all the threshing to see to, and more than half to do
myself (though any one would have thought that even
John Fry must work hard this weather), else I could not
hope at all to get our corn into such compass that a
good gun might protect it.

But to come back to Lorna again (which I always longed
to do, and must long for ever), all the change between
night and day, all the shifts of cloud and sun, all the
difference between black death and brightsome
liveliness, scarcely may suggest or equal Lorna's
transformation. Quick she had always been and 'peart'
(as we say on Exmoor) and gifted with a leap of thought
too swift for me to follow; and hence you may find
fault with much, when I report her sayings. But
through the whole had always run, as a black string
goes through pearls, something dark and touched with
shadow, coloured as with an early end.

But, now, behold! there was none of this! There was no
getting her, for a moment, even to be serious. All her
bright young wit was flashing, like a newly-awakened
flame, and all her high young spirits leaped, as if
dancing to its fire. And yet she never spoke a word
which gave more pain than pleasure.

And even in her outward look there was much of
difference. Whether it was our warmth, and freedom,
and our harmless love of God, and trust in one another;
or whether it were our air, and water, and the pea-fed
bacon; anyhow my Lorna grew richer and more lovely,
more perfect and more firm of figure, and more light
and buoyant, with every passing day that laid its
tribute on her cheeks and lips. I was allowed one kiss
a day; only one for manners' sake, because she was our
visitor; and I might have it before breakfast, or else
when I came to say 'good-night!' according as I
decided. And I decided every night, not to take it in
the morning, but put it off till the evening time, and
have the pleasure to think about, through all the day
of working. But when my darling came up to me in the
early daylight, fresher than the daystar, and with no
one looking; only her bright eyes smiling, and sweet
lips quite ready, was it likely I could wait, and think
all day about it? For she wore a frock of Annie's,
nicely made to fit her, taken in at the waist and
curved--I never could explain it, not being a
mantua-maker; but I know how her figure looked in it,
and how it came towards me.

But this is neither here nor there; and I must on with
my story. Those days are very sacred to me, and if I
speak lightly of them, trust me, 'tis with lip alone;
while from heart reproach peeps sadly at the flippant
tricks of mind.

Although it was the longest winter ever known in our
parts (never having ceased to freeze for a single
night, and scarcely for a single day, from the middle
of December till the second week in March), to me it
was the very shortest and the most delicious; and
verily I do believe it was the same to Lorna. But when
the Ides of March were come (of which I do remember
something dim from school, and something clear from my
favourite writer) lo, there were increasing signals of
a change of weather.

One leading feature of that long cold, and a thing
remarked by every one (however unobservant) had been
the hollow moaning sound ever present in the air,
morning, noon, and night-time, and especially at night,
whether any wind were stirring, or whether it were a
perfect calm. Our people said that it was a witch
cursing all the country from the caverns by the sea,
and that frost and snow would last until we could catch
and drown her. But the land, being thoroughly blocked
with snow, and the inshore parts of the sea with ice
(floating in great fields along), Mother Melldrum (if
she it were) had the caverns all to herself, for there
was no getting at her. And speaking of the sea reminds
me of a thing reported to us, and on good authority;
though people might be found hereafter who would not
believe it, unless I told them that from what I myself
beheld of the channel I place perfect faith in it: and
this is, that a dozen sailors at the beginning of March
crossed the ice, with the aid of poles from Clevedon to
Penarth, or where the Holm rocks barred the flotage.

But now, about the tenth of March, that miserable
moaning noise, which had both foregone and accompanied
the rigour, died away from out the air; and we, being
now so used to it, thought at first that we must be
deaf. And then the fog, which had hung about (even in
full sunshine) vanished, and the shrouded hills shone
forth with brightness manifold. And now the sky at
length began to come to its true manner, which we had
not seen for months, a mixture (if I so may speak) of
various expressions. Whereas till now from
Allhallows-tide, six weeks ere the great frost set in,
the heavens had worn one heavy mask of ashen gray when
clouded, or else one amethystine tinge with a hazy rim,
when cloudless. So it was pleasant to behold, after
that monotony, the fickle sky which suits our England,
though abused by foreign folk.

And soon the dappled softening sky gave some earnest of
its mood; for a brisk south wind arose, and the blessed
rain came driving, cold indeed, yet most refreshing to
the skin, all parched with snow, and the eyeballs so
long dazzled. Neither was the heart more sluggish in
its thankfulness to God. People had begun to think,
and somebody had prophesied, that we should have no
spring this year, no seed-time, and no harvest; for
that the Lord had sent a judgment on this country of
England, and the nation dwelling in it, because of the
wickedness of the Court, and the encouragement shown to
Papists. And this was proved, they said, by what had
happened in the town of London; where, for more than a
fortnight, such a chill of darkness lay that no man
might behold his neighbour, even across the narrowest
street; and where the ice upon the Thames was more than
four feet thick, and crushing London Bridge in twain.
Now to these prophets I paid no heed, believing not
that Providence would freeze us for other people's
sins; neither seeing how England could for many
generations have enjoyed good sunshine, if Popery meant
frost and fogs. Besides, why could not Providence
settle the business once for all by freezing the Pope
himself; even though (according to our view) he were
destined to extremes of heat, together with all who
followed him?

Not to meddle with that subject, being beyond my
judgment, let me tell the things I saw, and then you
must believe me. The wind, of course, I could not see,
not having the powers of a pig; but I could see the
laden branches of the great oaks moving, hoping to
shake off the load packed and saddled on them. And
hereby I may note a thing which some one may explain
perhaps in the after ages, when people come to look at
things. This is that in desperate cold all the trees
were pulled awry, even though the wind had scattered
the snow burden from them. Of some sorts the branches
bended downwards, like an archway; of other sorts the
boughs curved upwards, like a red deer's frontlet.
This I know no reason* for; but am ready to swear that
I saw it.

* The reason is very simple, as all nature's reasons
are; though the subject has not yet been investigated
thoroughly. In some trees the vascular tissue is more
open on the upper side, in others on the under side, of
the spreading branches; according to the form of
growth, and habit of the sap. Hence in very severe
cold, when the vessels (comparatively empty) are
constricted, some have more power of contraction on the
upper side, and some upon the under.

Now when the first of the rain began, and the old
familiar softness spread upon the window glass, and ran
a little way in channels (though from the coldness of
the glass it froze before reaching the bottom), knowing
at once the difference from the short sharp thud of
snow, we all ran out, and filled our eyes and filled
our hearts with gazing. True, the snow was piled up
now all in mountains round us; true, the air was still
so cold that our breath froze on the doorway, and the
rain was turned to ice wherever it struck anything;
nevertheless that it was rain there was no denying, as
we watched it across black doorways, and could see no
sign of white. Mother, who had made up her mind that
the farm was not worth having after all those
prophesies, and that all of us must starve, and holes
be scratched in the snow for us, and no use to put up a
tombstone (for our church had been shut up long ago)
mother fell upon my breast, and sobbed that I was the
cleverest fellow ever born of woman. And this because
I had condemned the prophets for a pack of fools; not
seeing how business could go on, if people stopped to
hearken to them.

Then Lorna came and glorified me, for I had predicted a
change of weather, more to keep their spirits up, than
with real hope of it; and then came Annie blushing
shyly, as I looked at her, and said that Winnie would
soon have four legs now. This referred to some stupid
joke made by John Fry or somebody, that in this weather
a man had no legs, and a horse had only two.

But as the rain came down upon us from the southwest
wind, and we could not have enough of it, even putting
our tongues to catch it, as little children might do,
and beginning to talk of primroses; the very noblest
thing of all was to hear and see the gratitude of the
poor beasts yet remaining and the few surviving birds.
From the cowhouse lowing came, more than of fifty
milking times; moo and moo, and a turn-up noise at the
end of every bellow, as if from the very heart of kine.
Then the horses in the stables, packed as closely as
they could stick, at the risk of kicking, to keep the
warmth in one another, and their spirits up by
discoursing; these began with one accord to lift up
their voices, snorting, snaffling, whinnying, and
neighing, and trotting to the door to know when they
should have work again. To whom, as if in answer, came
the feeble bleating of the sheep, what few, by dint of
greatest care, had kept their fleeces on their backs,
and their four legs under them.

Neither was it a trifling thing, let whoso will say the
contrary, to behold the ducks and geese marching forth
in handsome order from their beds of fern and straw.
What a goodly noise they kept, what a flapping of their
wings, and a jerking of their tails, as they stood
right up and tried with a whistling in their throats to
imitate a cockscrow! And then how daintily they took
the wet upon their dusty plumes, and ducked their
shoulders to it, and began to dress themselves, and
laid their grooved bills on the snow, and dabbled for
more ooziness!

Lorna had never seen, I dare say, anything like this
before, and it was all that we could do to keep her
from rushing forth with only little lambswool shoes on,
and kissing every one of them. 'Oh, the dear things,
oh, the dear things!' she kept saying continually, 'how
wonderfully clever they are! Only look at that one with
his foot up, giving orders to the others, John!'

'And I must give orders to you, my darling,' I
answered, gazing on her face, so brilliant with
excitement; 'and that is, that you come in at once,
with that worrisome cough of yours; and sit by the
fire, and warm yourself.'

'Oh, no, John! Not for a minute, if you please, good
John. I want to see the snow go away, and the green
meadows coming forth. And here comes our favourite
robin, who has lived in the oven so long, and sang us a
song every morning. I must see what he thinks of it!'

'You will do nothing of the sort,' I answered very
shortly, being only too glad of a cause for having her
in my arms again. So I caught her up, and carried her
in; and she looked and smiled so sweetly at me instead
of pouting (as I had feared) that I found myself unable
to go very fast along the passage. And I set her there
in her favourite place, by the sweet-scented wood-fire;
and she paid me porterage without my even asking her;
and for all the beauty of the rain, I was fain to stay
with her; until our Annie came to say that my advice
was wanted.

Now my advice was never much, as everybody knew quite
well; but that was the way they always put it, when
they wanted me to work for them. And in truth it was
time for me to work; not for others, but myself, and
(as I always thought) for Lorna. For the rain was now
coming down in earnest; and the top of the snow being
frozen at last, and glazed as hard as a china cup, by
means of the sun and frost afterwards, all the rain ran
right away from the steep inclines, and all the outlets
being blocked with ice set up like tables, it
threatened to flood everything. Already it was ponding
up, like a tide advancing at the threshold of the door
from which we had watched the duck-birds; both because
great piles of snow trended in that direction, in spite
of all our scraping, and also that the gulley hole,
where the water of the shoot went out (I mean when it
was water) now was choked with lumps of ice, as big as
a man's body. For the 'shoot,' as we called our little
runnel of everlasting water, never known to freeze
before, and always ready for any man either to wash his
hands, or drink, where it spouted from a trough of
bark, set among white flint-stones; this at last had
given in, and its music ceased to lull us, as we lay in

It was not long before I managed to drain off this
threatening flood, by opening the old sluice-hole; but
I had much harder work to keep the stables, and the
cow-house, and the other sheds, from flooding. For we
have a sapient practice (and I never saw the contrary
round about our parts, I mean), of keeping all rooms
underground, so that you step down to them. We say
that thus we keep them warmer, both for cattle and for
men, in the time of winter, and cooler in the
summer-time. This I will not contradict, though having
my own opinion; but it seems to me to be a relic of the
time when people in the western countries lived in
caves beneath the ground, and blocked the mouths with

Let that question still abide, for men who study
ancient times to inform me, if they will; all I know
is, that now we had no blessings for the system. If
after all their cold and starving, our weak cattle now
should have to stand up to their knees in water, it
would be certain death to them; and we had lost enough
already to make us poor for a long time; not to speak
of our kind love for them. And I do assure you, I
loved some horses, and even some cows for that matter,
as if they had been my blood-relations; knowing as I did
their virtues. And some of these were lost to us; and
I could not bear to think of them. Therefore I worked
hard all night to try and save the rest of them.



Through that season of bitter frost the red deer of
the forest, having nothing to feed upon, and no shelter
to rest in, had grown accustomed to our ricks of corn,
and hay, and clover. There we might see a hundred of
them almost any morning, come for warmth, and food, and
comfort, and scarce willing to move away. And many of
them were so tame, that they quietly presented
themselves at our back door, and stood there with their
coats quite stiff, and their flanks drawn in and
panting, and icicles sometimes on their chins, and
their great eyes fastened wistfully upon any merciful
person; craving for a bit of food, and a drink of
water; I suppose that they had not sense enough to chew
the snow and melt it; at any rate, all the springs
being frozen, and rivers hidden out of sight, these
poor things suffered even more from thirst than they
did from hunger.

But now there was no fear of thirst, and more chance
indeed of drowning; for a heavy gale of wind arose,
with violent rain from the south-west, which lasted
almost without a pause for three nights and two days.
At first the rain made no impression on the bulk of
snow, but ran from every sloping surface and froze on
every flat one, through the coldness of the earth; and
so it became impossible for any man to keep his legs
without the help of a shodden staff. After a good
while, however, the air growing very much warmer, this
state of things began to change, and a worse one to
succeed it; for now the snow came thundering down from
roof, and rock, and ivied tree, and floods began to
roar and foam in every trough and gulley. The drifts
that had been so white and fair, looked yellow, and
smirched, and muddy, and lost their graceful curves,
and moulded lines, and airiness. But the strangest
sight of all to me was in the bed of streams, and
brooks, and especially of the Lynn river. It was worth
going miles to behold such a thing, for a man might
never have the chance again.

Vast drifts of snow had filled the valley, and piled
above the river-course, fifty feet high in many places,
and in some as much as a hundred. These had frozen
over the top, and glanced the rain away from them, and
being sustained by rock and tree, spanned the water
mightily. But meanwhile the waxing flood, swollen from
every moorland hollow and from every spouting crag, had
dashed away all icy fetters, and was rolling
gloriously. Under white fantastic arches, and long
tunnels freaked and fretted, and between pellucid
pillars jagged with nodding architraves, the red
impetuous torrent rushed, and the brown foam whirled
and flashed. I was half inclined to jump in and swim
through such glorious scenery; for nothing used to
please me more than swimming in a flooded river. But I
thought of the rocks, and I thought of the cramp, and
more than all, of Lorna; and so, between one thing and
another, I let it roll on without me.

It was now high time to work very hard; both to make up
for the farm-work lost during the months of frost and
snow, and also to be ready for a great and vicious
attack from the Doones, who would burn us in our beds
at the earliest opportunity. Of farm-work there was
little yet for even the most zealous man to begin to
lay his hand to; because when the ground appeared
through the crust of bubbled snow (as at last it did,
though not as my Lorna had expected, at the first few
drops of rain) it was all so soaked and sodden, and as
we call it, 'mucksy,' that to meddle with it in any way
was to do more harm than good. Nevertheless, there was
yard work, and house work, and tendence of stock,
enough to save any man from idleness.

As for Lorna, she would come out. There was no keeping
her in the house. She had taken up some peculiar
notion that we were doing more for her than she had any
right to, and that she must earn her living by the hard
work of her hands. It was quite in vain to tell her

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