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´╗┐Title: Slain By The Doones
Author: Blackmore, R. D. (Richard Doddridge), 1825-1900
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Slain By The Doones" ***

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SLAIN BY THE DOONES.

by R. D. Blackmore

Copyright: Dodd, Mead And Company, 1895



CHAPTER I--AFTER A STORMY LIFE.

To hear people talking about North Devon, and the savage part called
Exmoor, you might almost think that there never was any place in
the world so beautiful, or any living men so wonderful. It is not my
intention to make little of them, for they would be the last to permit
it; neither do I feel ill will against them for the pangs they allowed
me to suffer; for I dare say they could not help themselves, being so
slow-blooded, and hard to stir even by their own egrimonies. But when I
look back upon the things that happened, and were for a full generation
of mankind accepted as the will of God, I say, that the people who
endured them must have been born to be ruled by the devil. And in
thinking thus I am not alone; for the very best judges of that day
stopped short of that end of the world, because the law would not go any
further. Nevertheless, every word is true of what I am going to tell,
and the stoutest writer of history cannot make less of it by denial.

My father was Sylvester Ford of Quantock, in the county of Somerset,
a gentleman of large estate as well as ancient lineage. Also of high
courage and resolution not to be beaten, as he proved in his many rides
with Prince Rupert, and woe that I should say it! in his most sad death.
To this he was not looking forward much, though turned of threescore
years and five; and his only child and loving daughter, Sylvia, which
is myself, had never dreamed of losing him. For he was exceeding fond of
me, little as I deserved it, except by loving him with all my heart and
thinking nobody like him. And he without anything to go upon, except
that he was my father, held, as I have often heard, as good an opinion
of me.

Upon the triumph of that hard fanatic, the Brewer, who came to a timely
end by the justice of high Heaven--my father, being disgusted with
England as well as banished from her, and despoiled of all his property,
took service on the Continent, and wandered there for many years, until
the replacement of the throne. Thereupon he expected, as many others
did, to get his states restored to him, and perhaps to be held in high
esteem at court, as he had a right to be. But this did not so come
to pass. Excellent words were granted him, and promise of tenfold
restitution; on the faith of which he returned to Paris, and married a
young Italian lady of good birth and high qualities, but with nothing
more to come to her. Then, to his great disappointment, he found
himself left to live upon air--which, however distinguished, is not
sufficient--and love, which, being fed so easily, expects all who lodge
with it to live upon itself.

My father was full of strong loyalty; and the king (in his value of that
sentiment) showed faith that it would support him. His majesty took
both my father's hands, having learned that hearty style in France, and
welcomed him with most gracious warmth, and promised him more than he
could desire. But time went on, and the bright words faded, like a rose
set bravely in a noble vase, without any nurture under it.

Another man had been long established in our hereditaments by the
Commonwealth; and he would not quit them of his own accord, having a
sense of obligation to himself. Nevertheless, he went so far as to offer
my father a share of the land, if some honest lawyers, whom he quoted,
could find proper means for arranging it. But my father said: "If I
cannot have my rights, I will have my wrongs. No mixture of the two for
me." And so, for the last few years of his life, being now very poor
and a widower, he took refuge in an outlandish place, a house and small
property in the heart of Exmoor, which had come to the Fords on
the spindle side, and had been overlooked when their patrimony was
confiscated by the Brewer. Of him I would speak with no contempt,
because he was ever as good as his word.

In the course of time, we had grown used to live according to our
fortunes. And I verily believe that we were quite content, and
repined but little at our lost importance. For my father was a very
simple-minded man, who had seen so much of uproarious life, and the
falsehood of friends, and small glitter of great folk, that he was glad
to fall back upon his own good will. Moreover he had his books, and me;
and as he always spoke out his thoughts, he seldom grudged to thank the
Lord for having left both of these to him. I felt a little jealous of
his books now and then, as a very poor scholar might be; but reason is
the proper guide for women, and we are quick enough in discerning it,
without having to borrow it from books.

At any rate now we were living in a wood, and trees were the only
creatures near us, to the best of our belief and wish. Few might say in
what part of the wood we lived, unless they saw the smoke ascending from
our single chimney; so thick were the trees, and the land they stood
on so full of sudden rise and fall. But a little river called the Lynn
makes a crooked border to it, and being for its size as noisy a water as
any in the world perhaps, can be heard all through the trees and leaves
to the very top of the Warren Wood. In the summer all this was sweet
and pleasant; but lonely and dreary and shuddersome, when the twigs bore
drops instead of leaves, and the ground would not stand to the foot, and
the play of light and shadow fell, like the lopping of a tree, into one
great lump.

Now there was a young man about this time, and not so very distant from
our place--as distances are counted there--who managed to make himself
acquainted with us, although we lived so privately. To me it was a
marvel, both why and how he did it; seeing what little we had to offer,
and how much we desired to live alone. But Mrs. Pring told me to look in
the glass, if I wanted to know the reason; and while I was blushing with
anger at that, being only just turned eighteen years, and thinking of
nobody but my father, she asked if I had never heard the famous rhymes
made by the wise woman at Tarrsteps:

          "Three fair maids live upon Exymoor,
          The rocks, and the woods, and the dairy-door.
          The son of a baron shall woo all three,
          But barren of them all shall the young man be."

Of the countless things I could never understand, one of the very
strangest was how Deborah Pring, our only domestic, living in the lonely
depths of this great wood, and seeming to see nobody but ourselves,
in spite of all that contrived to know as much of the doings of the
neighbourhood as if she went to market twice a week. But my father cared
little for any such stuff; coming from a better part of the world, and
having been mixed with mighty issues and making of great kingdoms, he
never said what he thought of these little combings of petty pie crust,
because it was not worth his while. And yet he seemed to take a kindly
liking to the young De Wichehalse; not as a youth of birth only, but
as one driven astray perhaps by harsh and austere influence. For his
father, the baron, was a godly man,--which is much to-the credit of
anyone, growing rarer and rarer, as it does,--and there should be no
rasp against such men, if they would only bear in mind that in their
time they had been young, and were not quite so perfect then. But lo!
I am writing as if I knew a great deal more than I could know until the
harrow passed over me.

No one, however, need be surprised at the favour this young man obtained
with all who came into his converse. Handsome, and beautiful as he was,
so that bold maids longed to kiss him, it was the sadness in his eyes,
and the gentle sense of doom therein, together with a laughing scorn of
it, that made him come home to our nature, in a way that it feels but
cannot talk of. And he seemed to be of the past somehow, although so
young and bright and brave; of the time when greater things were done,
and men would die for women. That he should woo three maids in vain, to
me was a stupid old woman's tale.

"Sylvia," my father said to me, when I was not even thinking of him, "no
more converse must we hold with that son of the Baron de Wichehalse. I
have ordered Pring to keep the door; and Mistress Pring, who hath the
stronger tongue, to come up if he attempted to dispute; the while I go
away to catch our supper."

He was bearing a fishing rod made by himself, and a basket strapped over
his shoulders.

"But why, father? Why should such a change be? How hath the young
gentleman displeased thee?" I put my face into his beard as I spoke,
that I might not appear too curious.

"Is it so?" he answered, "then high time is it. No more shall he enter
this "--_house_ he would have said, but being so> truthful changed it
into--"hut I was pleased with the youth. He is gentle and kind; but
weak--my dear child, remember that. Why are we in this hut, my dear? and
thou, the heiress of the best land in the world, now picking up sticks
in the wilderness? Because the man who should do us right is weak,
and wavering, and careth but for pleasure. So is this young Marwood de
Wichehalse. He rideth with the Doones. I knew it not, but now that I
know, it is enough."

My father was of tall stature and fine presence, and his beard shone
like a cascade of silver. It was not the manner of the young as yet to
argue with their elders, and though I might have been a little fluttered
by the comely gallant's lofty talk and gaze of daring melancholy, I said
good-bye to him in my heart, as I kissed my noble father. Shall I ever
cease to thank the Lord that I proved myself a good daughter then?



CHAPTER II.--BY A QUIET RIVER.

Living as we did all by ourselves, and five or six miles away from the
Robbers' Valley, we had felt little fear of the Doones hitherto, because
we had nothing for them to steal except a few books, the sight of which
would only make them swear and ride away. But now that I was full-grown,
and beginning to be accounted comely, my father was sometimes uneasy in
his mind, as he told Deborah, and she told me; for the outlaws showed
interest in such matters, even to the extent of carrying off young women
who had won reputation thus. Therefore he left Thomas Pring at home,
with the doors well-barred, and two duck guns loaded, and ordered me
not to quit the house until he should return with a creel of trout for
supper. Only our little boy Dick Hutchings was to go with him, to help
when his fly caught in the bushes.

My father set off in the highest spirits, as anglers always seem to do,
to balance the state in which they shall return; and I knew not, neither
did anyone else, what a bold stroke he was resolved upon. When it was
too late, we found out that, hearing so much of that strange race, he
desired to know more about them, scorning the idea that men of birth
could ever behave like savages, and forgetting that they had received
no chance of being tamed, as rough spirits are by the lessons of the
battlefield. No gentleman would ever dream of attacking an unarmed man,
he thought; least of all one whose hair was white. And so he resolved to
fish the brook which ran away from their stronghold, believing that he
might see some of them, and hoping for a peaceful interview.

We waited and waited for his pleasant face, and long, deliberate step
upon the steep, and cheerful shout for his Sylvia, to come and ease down
his basket, and say--"Well done, father!" But the shadows of the trees
grew darker, and the song of the gray-bird died out among them, and the
silent wings of the owl swept by, and all the mysterious sounds of night
in the depth of forest loneliness, and the glimmer of a star through
the leaves here and there, to tell us that there still was light in
heaven--but of an earthly father not a sign; only pain, and long sighs,
and deep sinking of the heart.

But why should I dwell upon this? All women, being of a gentle and
loving kind,--unless they forego their nature,--know better than I at
this first trial knew, the misery often sent to us. I could not believe
it, and went about in a dreary haze of wonder, getting into dark places,
when all was dark, and expecting to be called out again and asked what
had made such a fool of me. And so the long night went at last, and no
comfort came in the morning. But I heard a great crying, sometime the
next day, and ran back from the wood to learn what it meant, for there
I had been searching up and down, not knowing whither I went or why. And
lo, it was little Dick Hutchings at our door, and Deborah Pring held him
by the coat-flap, and was beating him with one of my father's sticks.

"I tell 'ee, they Doo-uns has done for 'un," the boy was roaring betwixt
his sobs; "dree on 'em, dree on 'em, and he've a killed one. The squire
be layin' as dead as a sto-un."

Mrs. Pring smacked him on the mouth, for she saw that I had heard it.
What followed I know not, for down I fell, and the sense of life went
from me.

There was little chance of finding Thomas Pring, or any other man to
help us, for neighbours were none, and Thomas was gone everywhere he
could think of to look for them. Was I likely to wait for night again,
and then talk for hours about it? I recovered my strength when the sun
went low; and who was Deborah Pring, to stop me? She would have come,
but I would not have it; and the strength of my grief took command of
her.

Little Dick Hutchings whistled now, I remember that he whistled, as he
went through the wood in front of me. Who had given him the breeches on
his legs and the hat upon his shallow pate? And the poor little coward
had skiddered away, and slept in a furze rick, till famine drove him
home. But now he was set up again by gorging for an hour, and chattered
as if he had done a great thing.

There must have been miles of rough walking through woods, and tangles,
and craggy and black boggy hollows, until we arrived at a wide open
space where two streams ran into one another.

"Thic be Oare watter," said the boy, "and t'other over yonner be
Badgefry. Squire be dead up there; plaise, Miss Sillie, 'ee can goo
vorrard and vaind 'un."

He would go no further; but I crossed the brook, and followed the
Badgery stream, without knowing, or caring to know, where I was. The
banks, and the bushes, and the rushing water went by me until I came
upon--but though the Lord hath made us to endure such things, he hath
not compelled us to enlarge upon them.

In the course of the night kind people came, under the guidance of
Thomas Pring, and they made a pair of wattles such as farmers use for
sheep, and carried home father and daughter, one sobbing and groaning
with a broken heart, and the other that should never so much as sigh
again. Troubles have fallen upon me since, as the will of the Lord is
always; but none that I ever felt like that, and for months everything
was the same to me.

But inasmuch as it has been said by those who should know better,
that my father in some way provoked his merciless end by those vile
barbarians, I will put into plainest form, without any other change,
except from outlandish words, the tale received from Dick Hutchings,
the boy, who had seen and heard almost everything while crouching in the
water and huddled up inside a bush.

"Squire had catched a tidy few, and he seemed well pleased with himself,
and then we came to a sort of a hollow place where one brook floweth
into the other. Here he was a-casting of his fly, most careful, for if
there was ever a trout on the feed, it was like to be a big one, and
lucky for me I was keeping round the corner when a kingfisher bird flew
along like a string-bolt, and there were three great men coming round a
fuzz-bush, and looking at squire, and he back to them. Down goes I, you
may say sure enough, with all of me in the water but my face, and that
stuck into a wutts-clump, and my teeth making holes in my naked knees,
because of the way they were shaking.

"'Ho, fellow!' one of them called out to squire, as if he was no better
than father is, 'who give thee leave to fish in our river?'

"'Open moor,' says squire, 'and belongeth to the king, if it belongeth
to anybody. Any of you gentlemen hold his majesty's warrant to forbid an
old officer of his?'

"That seemed to put them in a dreadful rage, for to talk of a warrant
was unpleasant to them.

"'Good fellow, thou mayest spin spider's webs, or jib up and down like
a gnat,' said one, 'but such tricks are not lawful upon land of ours.
Therefore render up thy spoil.'

"Squire walked up from the pebbles at that, and he stood before the
three of them, as tall as any of them. And he said, 'You be young men,
but I am old. Nevertheless, I will not be robbed by three, or by thirty
of you. If you be cowards enough, come on.'

"Two of them held off, and I heard them say, 'Let him alone, he is a
brave old cock.' For you never seed anyone look more braver, and his
heart was up with righteousness. But the other, who seemed to be the
oldest of the three, shouted out something, and put his leg across, and
made at the squire with a long blue thing that shone in the sun, like a
looking-glass. And the squire, instead of turning round to run away as
he should have, led at him with the thick end of the fishing rod, to
which he had bound an old knife of Mother Pring's for to stick it in the
grass, while he put his flies on. And I heard the old knife strike the
man in his breast, and down he goes dead as a door-nail. And before I
could look again almost, another man ran a long blade into squire, and
there he was lying as straight as a lath, with the end of his white
beard as red as a rose. At that I was so scared that I couldn't look no
more, and the water came bubbling into my mouth, and I thought I was at
home along of mother.

"By and by, I came back to myself with my face full of scratches in a
bush, and the sun was going low, and the place all as quiet as Cheriton
church. But the noise of the water told me where I was; and I got up,
and ran for the life of me, till I came to the goyal. And then I got
into a fuzz-rick, and slept all night, for I durstn't go home to tell
Mother Pring. But I just took a look before I began to run, and the
Doone that was killed was gone away, but the squire lay along with
his arms stretched out, as quiet as a sheep before they hang him up to
drain."



CHAPTER III.--WISE COUNSEL.

Some pious people seem not to care how many of their dearest hearts the
Lord in heaven takes from them. How well I remember that in later life,
I met a beautiful young widow, who had loved her husband with her one
love, and was left with twin babies by him. I feared to speak, for I had
known him well, and thought her the tenderest of the tender, and my eyes
were full of tears for her. But she looked at me with some surprise, and
said: "You loved my Bob, I know," for he was a cousin of my own, and as
good a man as ever lived, "but, Sylvia, you must not commit the sin of
grieving for him."

It may be so, in a better world, if people are allowed to die there; but
as long as we are here, how can we help being as the Lord has made
us? The sin, as it seems to me, would be to feel or fancy ourselves
case-hardened against the will of our Maker, which so often is--that we
should grieve. Without a thought how that might be, I did the natural
thing, and cried about the death of my dear father until I was like to
follow him. But a strange thing happened in a month or so of time, which
according to Deborah saved my life, by compelling other thoughts to
come. My father had been buried in a small churchyard, with nobody
living near it, and the church itself was falling down, through scarcity
of money on the moor. The Warren, as our wood was called, lay somewhere
in the parish of Brendon, a straggling country, with a little village
somewhere, and a blacksmith's shop and an ale house, but no church that
anyone knew of, till you came to a place called Cheriton. And there
was a little church all by itself, not easy to find, though it had four
bells, which nobody dared to ring, for fear of his head and the burden
above it. But a boy would go up the first Sunday of each month, and
strike the liveliest of them with a poker from the smithy. And then a
brave parson, who feared nothing but his duty, would make his way in,
with a small flock at his heels, and read the Psalms of the day, and
preach concerning the difficulty of doing better. And it was accounted
to the credit of the Doones that they never came near him, for he had no
money.

The Fords had been excellent Catholics always; but Thomas and Deborah
Pring, who managed everything while I was overcome, said that the
church, being now so old, must have belonged to us, and therefor might
be considered holy. The parson also said that it would do, for he was
not a man of hot persuasions. And so my dear father lay there, without a
stone, or a word to tell who he was, and the grass began to grow.

Here I was sitting one afternoon in May, and the earth was beginning
to look lively; when a shadow from the west fell over me, and a large,
broad man stood behind it. If I had been at all like myself, a thing
of that kind would have frightened me; but now the strings of my system
seemed to have nothing like a jerk in them, for I cared not whither I
went, nor how I looked, nor whether I went anywhere.

"Child! poor child!" It was a deep, soft voice of distant yet large
benevolence. "Almost a woman, and a comely one, for those who think of
such matters. Such a child I might have owned, if Heaven had been kind
to me."

Low as I was of heart and spirit, I could not help looking up at him;
for Mother Pring's voice, though her meaning was so good, sounded like
a cackle in comparison to this. But when I looked up, such encouragement
came from a great benign and steadfast gaze that I turned away my eyes,
as I felt them overflow. But he said not a word, for his pity was too
deep, and I thanked him in my heart for that.

"Pardon me if I am wrong," I said, with my eyes on the white flowers
I had brought and arranged as my father would have liked them; "but
perhaps you are the clergyman of this old church." For I had lain
senseless and moaning on the ground when my father was carried away to
be buried.

"How often am I taken for a clerk in holy orders! And in better times I
might have been of that sacred vocation, though so unworthy. But I am a
member of the older church, and to me all this is heresy."

There was nothing of bigotry in our race, and we knew that we must put
up with all changes for the worst; yet it pleased me not a little that
so good a man should be also a sound Catholic.

"There are few of us left, and we are persecuted. Sad calumnies are
spread about us," this venerable man proceeded, while I gazed on the
silver locks that fell upon his well-worn velvet coat. "But of such
things we take small heed, while we know that the Lord is with us. Haply
even you, young maiden, have listened to slander about us."

I told him with some concern, although not caring much for such things
now, that I never had any chance of listening to tales-about anybody,
and was yet without the honour of even knowing who he was.

"Few indeed care for that point now," he answered, with a toss of his
glistening curls, and a lift of his broad white eyebrows. "Though there
has been a time when the noblest of this earth--but vanity, vanity, the
wise man saith. Yet some good I do in my quiet little way. There is a
peaceful company among these hills, respected by all who conceive them
aright. My child, perhaps you have heard of them?"

I replied sadly that I had not done so, but hoped that he would forgive
me as one unacquainted with that neighbourhood. But I knew that there
might be godly monks still in hiding, for the service of God in the
wilderness.

"So far as the name goes, we are not monastics," he said, with a sparkle
in his deep-set eyes; "we are but a family of ancient lineage, expelled
from our home in these irreligious times. It is no longer in our power
to do all the good we would, and therefore we are much undervalued.
Perhaps you have heard of the Doones, my child?"

To me it was a wonder that he spoke of them thus, for his look was of
beautiful mildness, instead of any just condemnation. But his aspect was
as if he came from heaven; and I thought that he had a hard job before
him, if he were sent to conduct the Doones thither.

"I am not severe; I think well of mankind," he went on, as I looked at
him meekly; "perhaps because I am one of them. You are very young, my
dear, and unable to form much opinion as yet. But let it be your rule of
life ever to keep an open mind."

This advice impressed me much, though I could not see clearly what it
meant. But the sun was going beyond Exmoor now, and safe as I felt with
so good an old man, a long, lonely walk was before me. So I took up
my basket and rose to depart, saying, "Good-bye, sir; I am much in your
debt for your excellent advice and kindness."

He looked at me most benevolently, and whatever may be said of him
hereafter, I shall always believe that he was a good man, overcome
perhaps by circumstances, yet trying to make the best of them. He has
now become a by-word as a hypocrite and a merciless self-seeker.
But many young people, who met him as I did, without possibility of
prejudice, hold a larger opinion of him. And surely young eyes are the
brightest.

"I will protect thee, my dear," he said, looking capable in his great
width and wisdom of protecting all the host of heaven. "I have protected
a maiden even more beautiful than thou art. But now she hath unwisely
fled from us. Our young men are thoughtless, but they are not violent,
at least until they are sadly provoked. Your father was a brave man, and
much to be esteemed. My brother, the mildest man that ever lived, hath
ridden down hundreds of Roundheads with him. Therefore thou shalt come
to no harm. But he should not have fallen upon our young men as if they
were rabble of the Commonwealth."

Upon these words I looked at him I know not how, so great was the
variance betwixt my ears and eyes. Then I tried to say something, but
nothing would come, so entire was my amazement.

"Such are the things we have ever to contend with," he continued, as if
to himself, with a smile of compassion at my prejudice. "Nay, I am not
angry; I have seen so much of this. Right and wrong stand fast, and
cannot be changed by any facundity. But time is short, and will soon be
stirring. Have a backway from thy bedroom, child. I am Councillor Doone;
by birthright and in right of understanding, the captain of that pious
family, since the return of the good Sir Ensor to the land where there
are no lies. So long as we are not molested in our peaceful valley, my
will is law; and I have ordered that none shall go near thee. But a mob
of country louts are drilling in a farmyard up the moorlands, to plunder
and destroy us, if they can. We shall make short work of them. But after
that, our youths may be provoked beyond control, and sally forth to
make reprisal. They have their eyes on thee, I know, and thy father hath
assaulted us. An ornament to our valley thou wouldst be; but I would
reproach myself if the daughter of my brother's friend were discontented
with our life. Therefore have I come to warn thee, for there are
troublous times in front. Have a back-way from thy bedroom, child, and
slip out into the wood if a noise comes in the night."

Before I could thank him, he strode away, with a step of no small
dignity, and as he raised his pointed hat, the western light showed
nothing fairer or more venerable than the long wave of his silver locks.



CHAPTER IV.--A COTTAGE HOSPITAL.

Master Pring was not much of a man to talk. But for power of thought he
was considered equal to any pair of other men, and superior of course to
all womankind. Moreover, he had seen a good deal of fighting, not among
outlaws, but fine soldiers well skilled in the proper style of it.
So that it was impossible for him to think very highly of the Doones.
Gentlemen they might be, he said, and therefore by nature well qualified
to fight. But where could they have learned any discipline, any
tactics, any knowledge of formation, or even any skill of sword or
firearms? "Tush, there was his own son, Bob, now serving under Captain
Purvis, as fine a young trooper as ever drew sword, and perhaps on his
way at this very moment, under orders from the Lord Lieutenant, to rid
the country of that pestilent race. Ah, ha! We soon shall see!"

And in truth we did see him, even sooner than his own dear mother had
expected, and long before his father wanted him, though he loved him so
much in his absence. For I heard a deep voice in the kitchen one night
(before I was prepared for such things, by making a backway out of my
bedroom), and thinking it best to know the worst, went out to ask what
was doing there.

A young man was sitting upon the table, accounting too little of our
house, yet showing no great readiness to boast, only to let us know
who he was. He had a fine head of curly hair, and spoke with a firm
conviction that there was much inside it. "Father, you have possessed
small opportunity of seeing how we do things now. Mother is not to be
blamed for thinking that we are in front of what used to be. What do we
care how the country lies? We have heared all this stuff up at Oare. If
there are bogs, we shall timber them. If there are rocks, we shall blow
them up. If there are caves, we shall fire down them. The moment we get
our guns into position----"

"Hush, Bob, hush! Here is your master's daughter. Not the interlopers
you put up with; but your real master, on whose property you were born.
Is that the position for your guns?"

Being thus rebuked by his father, who was a very faithful-minded man,
Robert Pring shuffled his long boots down, and made me a low salutation.
But, having paid little attention to the things other people were
full of, I left the young man to convince his parents, and he soon was
successful with his mother.

Two, or it may have been three days after this, a great noise arose in
the morning. I was dusting my father's books, which lay open just as he
had left them. There was "Barker's Delight" and "Isaac Walton," and the
"Secrets of Angling by J. D." and some notes of his own about making of
flies; also fish hooks made of Spanish steel, and long hairs pulled from
the tail of a gray horse, with spindles and bits of quill for plaiting
them. So proud and so pleased had he been with these trifles, after the
clamour and clash of life, that tears came into my eyes once more, as I
thought of his tranquil and amiable ways.

"'Tis a wrong thing altogether to my mind," cried Deborah Pring, running
in to me. "They Doones was established afore we come, and why not let
them bide upon their own land? They treated poor master amiss, beyond
denial; and never will I forgive them for it. All the same, he was
catching what belonged to them; meaning for the best no doubt, because
he was so righteous. And having such courage he killed one, or perhaps
two; though I never could have thought so much of that old knife. But
ever since that, they have been good, Miss Sillie, never even coming
anigh us; and I don't believe half of the tales about them."

All this was new to me; for if anybody-had cried shame and death upon
that wicked horde, it was Deborah Pring, who was talking to me thus! I
looked at her with wonder, suspecting for the moment that the venerable
Councillor--who was clever enough to make a cow forget her calf--might
have paid her a visit while I was away. But very soon the reason of the
change appeared.

"Who hath taken command of the attack?" she asked, as if no one would
believe the answer; "not Captain Purvis, as ought to have been, nor even
Captain Dallas of Devon, but Spy Stickles by royal warrant, the man that
hath been up to Oare so long! And my son Robert, who hath come down to
help to train them, and understandeth cannon guns----"

"Captain Purvis? I seem to know that name very well. I have often heard
it from my father. And your son under him! Why, Deborah, what are you
hiding from me?"

Now good Mrs. Pring was beginning to forget, or rather had never borne
properly in mind, that I was the head of the household now, and entitled
to know everything, and to be asked about it. But people who desire to
have this done should insist upon it at the outset, which I had not been
in proper state to do. So that she made quite a grievance of it, when I
would not be treated as a helpless child. However, I soon put a stop to
that, and discovered to my surprise much more than could be imagined.

And before I could say even half of what I thought, a great noise arose
in the hollow of the hills, and came along the valleys, like the blowing
of a wind that had picked up the roaring of mankind upon its way.
Perhaps greater noise had never arisen upon the moor; and the cattle,
and the quiet sheep, and even the wild deer came bounding from
unsheltered places into any offering of branches, or of other heling
from the turbulence of men. And then a gray fog rolled down the valley,
and Deborah said it was cannon-smoke, following the river course; but to
me it seemed only the usual thickness of the air, when the clouds hang
low. Thomas Pring was gone, as behooved an ancient warrior, to see how
his successors did things, and the boy Dick Hutchings had begged leave
to sit in a tree and watch the smoke. Deborah and I were left alone, and
a long and anxious day we had.

At last the wood-pigeons had stopped their cooing,--which they kept up
for hours, when the weather matched the light,--and there was not a tree
that could tell its own shadow, and we were contented with the gentle
sounds that come through a forest when it falls asleep, and Deborah
Pring, who had taken a motherly tendency toward me now, as if to make
up for my father, was sitting in the porch with my hands in her lap, and
telling me how to behave henceforth, as if the whole world depended upon
that, when we heard a swishing sound, as of branches thrust aside,
and then a low moan that went straight to my heart, as I thought of my
father when he took the blow of death.

"My son, my Bob, my eldest boy!" cried Mistress Pring, jumping up and
falling into my arms, like a pillow full of wire, for she insisted upon
her figure still. But before I could do anything to help her----

"Hit her on the back, ma'am; hit her hard upon the back. That is what
always brings mother round," was shouted, as I might say, into my ear by
the young man whom she was lamenting.

"Shut thy trap, Braggadose. To whom art thou speaking? Pretty much thou
hast learned of war to come and give lessons to thy father! Mistress
Sylvia, it is for thee to speak. Nothing would satisfy this young
springal but to bring his beaten captain here, for the sake of mother's
management. I told un that you would never take him in, for his father
have taken in you pretty well! Captain Purvis of the Somerset I know not
what--for the regiments now be all upside down. _Raggiments_ is the
proper name for them. Very like he be dead by this time, and better die
out of doors than in. Take un away, Bob. No hospital here!"

"Thomas Pring, who are you," I said, for the sound of another low groan
came through me, "to give orders to your master's daughter? If you bring
not the poor wounded gentleman in, you shall never come through this
door yourself."

"Ha, old hunks, I told thee so!" The young man who spoke raised his
hat to me, and I saw that it had a scarlet plume, such as Marwood de
Wichehalse gloried in. "In with thee, and stretch him that he may die
straight. I am off to Southmolton for Cutcliffe Lane, who can make a
furze-fagot bloom again. My filly can give a land-yard in a mile to Tom
Faggus and his Winnie. But mind one thing, all of you; it was none of us
that shot the captain, but his own good men. Farewell, Mistress Sylvia!"
With these words he made me a very low bow, and set off for his horse at
the corner of the wood--as reckless a gallant as ever broke hearts, and
those of his own kin foremost; yet himself so kind and loving.



CHAPTER V.--MISTAKEN AIMS.

Captain Purvis, now brought to the Warren in this very sad condition,
had not been shot by his own men, as the dashing Marwood de Wichehalse
said; neither was it quite true to say that he had been shot by anyone.
What happened to him was simply this: While behaving with the utmost
gallantry and encouraging the militia of Somerset, whose uniforms were
faced with yellow, he received in his chest a terrific blow from the
bottom of a bottle. This had been discharged from a culveria on the
opposite side of the valley by the brave but impetuous sons of Devon,
who-wore the red facings, and had taken umbrage at a pure mistake on
the part of their excellent friends and neighbours, the loyal band of
Somerset. Either brigade had three culverins; and never having seen such
things before, as was natural with good farmers' sons, they felt it a
compliment to themselves to be intrusted with such danger, and resolved
to make the most of it. However, when they tried to make them go, with
the help of a good many horses, upon places that had no roads for war,
and even no sort of road at all, the difficulty was beyond them. But a
very clever blacksmith near Malmesford, who had better, as it proved,
have stuck to the plough, persuaded them that he knew all about it, and
would bring their guns to bear, if they let him have his way. So they
took the long tubes from their carriages, and lashed rollers of barked
oak under them, and with very stout ropes, and great power of swearing,
dragged them into the proper place to overwhelm the Doones.

Here they mounted their guns upon cider barrels, with allowance of roll
for recoil, and charged them to the very best of their knowledge, and
pointed them as nearly as they could guess at the dwellings of the
outlaws in the glen; three cannons on the north were of Somerset and the
three on the south were of Devonshire; but these latter had no balls of
metal, only anything round they could pick up. Colonel Stickles-was in
command, by virtue of his royal warrant, and his plan was to make his
chief assault in company with some chosen men, including his host,
young farmer Ridd, at the head of the valley where the chief entrance
was, while the trainbands pounded away on either side. And perhaps this
would have succeeded well, except for a little mistake in firing, for
which the enemy alone could be blamed with justice. For while Captain
Purvis was-behind the line rallying a few men who-showed fear, and not
expecting any combat yet, because Devonshire was not ready, an elderly
gentleman of great authority-appeared among the bombardiers. On his
breast he wore a badge of office, and in his hat a noble plume of the
sea eagle, and he handed his horse to a man in red clothes.

"Just in time," he shouted; "and the Lord be thanked for that! By order
of His Majesty, I take supreme command. Ha, and high time, too, for it!
You idiots, where are you pointing your guns? What allowance have you
made for windage? Why, at that elevation, you'll shoot yourselves. Up
with your muzzles, you yellow jackanapes! Down on your bellies! Hand me
the linstock! By the Lord, you don't even know how to touch them off!"

The soldiers were abashed at his rebukes, and glad to lie down on their
breasts for fear of the powder on their yellow facings. And thus they
were shaken by three great roars, and wrapped in a cloud of streaky
smoke. When this had cleared off, and they stood up, lo! the houses
of the Doones were the same as before, but a great shriek arose on the
opposite bank, and two good horses lay on the ground; and the red men
were stamping about, and some crossing their arms, and some running for
their lives, and the bravest of them stooping over one another. Then as
Captain Purvis rushed up in great wrath, shouting: "What the devil do
you mean by this?" another great roar arose from across the valley, and
he was lying flat, and two other fine fellows were rolling in a furze
bush without knowledge of it. But of the general and his horse there was
no longer any-token.

This was the matter that lay so heavily on the breast of Captain Purvis,
sadly-crushed as it was already by the spiteful stroke bitterly intended
for him. His own men had meant no harm whatever, unless to the proper
enemy; although they appear to have been deluded by a subtle device
of the Councillor, for which on the other hand none may blame him. But
those redfaced men, without any inquiry, turned the muzz'l's of their
guns upon Somerset, and the injustice rankled for a generation between
two equally honest counties. Happily they did not fight it out through
scarcity of ammunition, as well as their mutual desire to go home and
attend to their harvest business.

But Anthony Purvis, now our guest and patient, became very difficult to
manage; not only because: of his three broken ribs, but the lowness of
the heart inside them. Dr. Cutcliffe Lane, a most cheerful man from that
cheerful town Southmolton, was able (with the help of Providence) to
make the bones grow again without much anger into their own embraces. It
is useless, however, for the body to pretend that it is doing wonders on
its own account, and rejoicing and holiday making, when the thing that
sits inside it and holds the whip, keeps down upon the slouch and is out
of sorts. And truly this was the case just now with the soul of Captain
Purvis. Deborah Pring did her very best, and was in and out of his
room every minute, and very often seemed to me to run him down when he
deserved it, not; on purpose that I might be started to run him up.
But nothing of that sort told at all according to her intention. I kept
myself very much to myself; feeling that my nature was too kind, and
asking at some little questions of behaviour, what sort of returns my
dear father had obtained for supposing other people as good as himself.

Moreover, it seemed an impossible thing that such a brave warrior, and a
rich man too--for his father, Sir Geoffrey, was in full possession now
of all the great property that belonged by right to us--that an officer
who should have been in command of this fine expedition, if he had his
dues, could be either the worse or the better of his wound, according to
his glimpses of a simple maid like me. It was useless for Deborah Pring,
or even Dr. Cutcliffe Lane himself, to go on as they did about love at
first sight, and the rising of the heart when, the ribs were broken, and
a quantity of other stuff too foolish to repeat. "I am neither a plaster
nor a poultice," I replied to myself, for I would not be too cross to
them--and beyond a little peep at him, every afternoon, I kept out of
the sight of Captain Purvis.

But these things made it very hard for me to be quite sure how to
conduct myself, without father and mother to help me, and with Mistress
Pring, who had always been such a landmark, becoming no more than a vane
for the wind to blow upon as it listed; or, perhaps, as she listed to
go with it. And remembering how she used to speak of the people who had
ousted us, I told her that I could not make it out. Things were in this
condition, and Captain Purvis, as it seemed to me, quite fit to go
and make war again upon some of His Majesty's subjects, when a thing,
altogether out of reason, or even of civilisation, happened; and people
who live in lawful parts will accuse me of caring too little for the
truth. But even before that came about, something less unreasonable--but
still unexpected--befell me. To wit, I received through Mistress Pring
an offer of marriage, immediate and pressing, from Captain Anthony
Purvis! He must have been sadly confused by that blow on his heart to
think mine so tender, or that this was the way to deal with it, though
later explanations proved that Deborah, if she had been just, would have
taken the whole reproach upon herself. The captain could scarcely
have seen me, I believe more than half a dozen times to speak of; and
generally he had shut his eyes, gentle as they were and beautiful;
not only to make me feel less afraid, but to fill me with pity for his
weakness. Having no knowledge of mankind as yet, I was touched to the
brink of tears at first; until when the tray came out of his room
soon after one of these pitiful moments, it was plain to the youngest
comprehension that the sick man had left very little upon a shoulder of
Exmoor mutton, and nothing in a bowl of thick onion sauce.

For that I would be the last to blame him, and being his hostess, I
was glad to find it so. But Deborah played a most double-minded part;
leading him to believe that now she was father and mother in one to me;
while to me she went on, as if I was most headstrong, and certain to go
against anything she said, though for her part she never said anything.
Nevertheless he made a great mistake, as men always do, about our ways;
and having some sense of what is right, I said, "Let me hear no more of
Captain Purvis."

This forced him to leave us; which he might have done, for aught I could
see to the contrary, a full week before he departed. He behaved
very well when he said goodbye,--for I could not deny him that
occasion,--and, perhaps, if he had not assured me so much of his
everlasting gratitude, I should have felt surer of deserving it. Perhaps
I was a little disappointed also, that he expressed no anxiety at
leaving our cottage so much at the mercy of turbulent and triumphant
outlaws. But it was not for me to speak of that; and when I knew the
reason of his silence, it redounded tenfold to his credit. Nothing,
however, vexed me so much as what Deborah Pring said afterward: that he
could not help feeling in the sadness of his heart that I had behaved
in that manner to him just because his father was in possession of our
rightful home and property. I was not so small as that; and if he truly
did suppose it, there must have been some fault on my part, for his
nature was good to everybody, and perhaps al! the better for not
descending through too many high generations.

There is nothing more strange than the way things work in the mind of
a woman, when left alone, to doubt about her own behaviour. With men it
can scarcely be so cruel; because they can always convince themselves
that they did their best; and if it fail, they can throw the fault upon
Providence, or bad luck, or something outside their own power. But we
seem always to be denied this happy style of thinking, and cannot put
aside what comes into our heart more quickly, and has less stir of
outward things, to lead it away and to brighten it. So that I fell
into sad, low spirits; and the glory of the year began to wane, and the
forest grew more and more lonesome.



CHAPTER VI.--OVER THE BRIDGE.

The sound of the woods was with me now, both night and day, to dwell
upon. Exmoor in general is bare of trees, though it hath the name of
forest; but in the shelter, where the wind flies over, are many thick
places full of shade. For here the trees and bushes thrive, so copious
with rich moisture that, from the hills on the opposite side, no eye
may pick holes in the umbrage; neither may a foot that gets amid them
be sure of getting out again. And now was the fullest and heaviest
time, for the summer had been a wet one, after a winter that went to our
bones; and the leaves were at their darkest tone without any sense of
autumn. As one stood beneath and wondered at their countless multitude,
a quick breathing passed among them, not enough to make them move, but
seeming rather as if they wished, and yet were half ashamed to sigh. And
this was very sad for one whose spring Comes only once for all.

One night toward the end of August I was lying awake thinking of the
happier times, and wondering what the end would be--for now we had very
little money left, and I would rather starve than die in debt--when I
heard our cottage door smashed in and the sound of horrible voices. The
roar of a gun rang up the stairs, and the crash of someone falling and
the smoke came through my bedroom door, and then wailing mixed with
curses. "Out of the way, old hag!" I heard, and then another shriek;
and then I stood upon the stairs-and looked down at them. The moon was
shining through the shattered door, and the bodies and legs of men went
to and fro, like branches in a tempest. Nobody seemed to notice me,
although I had cast over my night-dress--having no more sense in the
terror--a long silver coat of some animal shot by my father in his
wanderings, and the light upon the stairs glistened round it. Having no
time to think, I was turning to flee and jump out of my bedroom window,
for which I had made some arrangements, according to the wisdom of the
Councillor, when the flash of some light or the strain of my eyes showed
me the body of Thomas Pring, our faithful old retainer, lying at the
foot of the broken door, and beside it his good wife, creeping up to
give him the last embrace of death. And lately she had been cross to
him. At the sight of this my terror fled, and I cared not what became
of me. Buckling the white skin round my waist, I went down the stairs as
steadily as if it were breakfast time, and said:

"Brutes, murderers, cowards! you have slain my father; now slay me!"

Every one of those wicked men stood up and fixed his eyes on me; and if
it had been a time to laugh, their amazement might have been laughed
at. Some of them took me for a spirit--as I was told long afterward--and
rightly enough their evil hearts were struck with dread of judgment.
But even so, to scare them long in their contemptuous, godless vein was
beyond the power of Heaven itself; and when one of my long tresses fell,
to my great vexation, down my breast, a shocking sneer arose, and words
unfit for a maiden's ear ensued.

"None of that! This is no farmhouse wench, but a lady of birth and
breeding. She shall be our queen, instead of the one that hath been
filched away. Sylvia, thou shalt come with me."

The man who spoke with this mighty voice was a terror to the others, for
they fell away before him, and he was the biggest monster there--Carver
Doone, whose name for many a generation shall be used to frighten unruly
babes to bed. And now, as he strode up to me and bowed,--to show some
breeding,--I doubt if the moon, in all her rounds of earth and sky
and the realms below, fell ever upon another face so cold, repulsive,
ruthless.

To belong to him, to feel his lips, to touch him with anything but a
dagger! Suddenly I saw my father's sword hanging under a beam in the
scabbard. With a quick spring I seized it, and, leaping up the stairs,
had the long blade gleaming in the moonlight. The staircase would not
hold two people abreast, and the stairs were as steep as narrow. I
brought the point down it, with the hilt against my breast, and there
was no room for another blade to swing and strike it up.

"Let her alone!" said Carver Doone, with a smile upon his cold and
corpselike face. "My sons, let the lady have her time. She is worthy to
be the mother of many a fine Doone."

The young men began to lounge about in a manner most provoking, as if
I had passed from their minds altogether; and some of them went to the
kitchen for victuals, and grumbled at our fare by the light of a lantern
which they had found upon a shelf. But I stood at my post, with my heart
beating, so that the long sword quivered like a candle. Of my life they
might rob me, but of my honour, never!

"Beautiful maiden! Who hath ever seen the like? Why, even Lorna hath not
such eyes."

Carver Doone came to the foot of the stairs and flashed the lantern
at me, and, thinking that he meant to make a rush for it, I thrust my
weapon forward; but at the same moment a great pair of arms was thrown
around me from behind by some villain who must have scaled my chamber
window, and backward I fell, with no sense or power left.

When my scattered wits came back I felt that I was being shaken
grievously, and the moon was dancing in my eyes through a mist of tears,
half blinding them. I remember how hard I tried to get my fingers up
to wipe my eyes, so as to obtain some knowledge; but jerk and bump and
helpless wonder were all that I could get or take; for my hands were
strapped, and my feet likewise, and I seemed like a wave going up and
down, without any judgment, upon the open sea.

But presently I smelled the wholesome smell which a horse of all animals
alone possesses, though sometimes a cow is almost as good, and then I
felt a mane coming into my hair, and then there was the sound of steady
feet moving just under me, with rise and fall and swing alternate, and a
sense of going forward. I was on the back of a great, strong horse,
and he was obeying the commands of man. Gradually I began to think, and
understood my awful plight. The Doones were taking me to Doone Glen to
be some cut-throat's light-of-love; perhaps to be passed from brute
to brute--me, Sylvia Ford, my father's darling, a proud and dainty and
stately maiden, of as good birth as any in this English realm. My heart
broke down as I thought of that, and all discretion vanished. Though my
hands were tied my throat was free, and I sent forth such a scream of
woe that the many-winding vale of Lynn, with all its wild waters could
not drown, nor with all its dumb foliage smother it; and the long wail
rang from crag to crag, as the wrongs of men echo unto the ears of God.

"Valiant damsel, what a voice thou hast! Again, and again let it strike
the skies. With them we are at peace, being persecuted here, according
to the doom of all good men. And yet I am loth to have that fair throat
strained."

It was Carver Doone who led my horse; and his horrible visage glared
into my eyes through the strange, wan light that flows between the
departure of the sinking moon and the flutter of the morning when it
cannot see its way. I strove to look at him; but my scared eyes fell,
and he bound his rank glove across my poor lips. "Let it be so," I
thought; "I can do no more."

Then, when my heart was quite gone in despair, and all trouble shrank
into a trifle, I heard a loud shout, and the trample of feet, and the
rattle of arms, and the clash of horses. Contriving to twist myself a
little, I saw that the band of the Doones were mounting a saddle-backed
bridge in a deep wooded glen, with a roaring water under them. On the
crown of the bridge a vast man stood, such as I had never descried
before, bearing no armour that I could see, but wearing a farmer's hat,
and raising a staff like the stem of a young oak tree. He was striking
at no one, but playing with his staff, as if it were a willow in the
morning breeze.

"Down with him! Ride him down! Send a bullet through him!" several of
the Doones called out, but no one showed any hurry to do it. It seemed
as if they knew him, and feared his mighty strength, and their guns were
now slung behind their backs on account of the roughness of the way.

"Charlie, you are not afraid of him," I heard that crafty Carver say to
the tallest of his villains, and a very handsome young man he was; "if
the girl were not on my horse, I would do it. Ride over him, and you
shall have my prize, when I am tired of her."

I felt the fire come into my eyes, to be spoken of so by a brute;
and then I saw Charlie Doone spur up the bridge, leaning forward and
swinging a long blade round his head.

"Down with thee, clod!" he shouted; and he showed such strength and fury
that I scarce could look at the farmer, dreading to see his great head
fly away. But just as the horse rushed at him, he leaped aside with most
wonderful nimbleness, and the rider's sword was dashed out of his grasp,
and down he went, over the back of the saddle, and his long legs spun up
in the air, as a juggler tosses a two-pronged fork.

"Now for another!" the farmer cried, and his deep voice rang above the
roar of Lynn; "or two at once, if it suits you better. I will teach you
to carry off women, you dogs!"

But the outlaws would not try another charge. On a word from their
leader they all dismounted, and were bringing their long guns to bear,
and I heard the clink of their flints as they fixed the trigger. Carver
Doone, grinding his enormous teeth, stood at the head of my horse, who
was lashing and plunging, so that I must have been flung if any of the
straps had given way. In terror of the gun flash I shut my eyes, for if
I had seen that brave man killed, it would have been the death of me as
well. Then I felt my horse treading on something soft. Carver Doone was
beneath his feet, and an awful curse came from the earth.

"Have no fear!" said the sweetest voice that ever came into the ears of
despair. "Sylvia, none can harm you now. Lie still, and let this protect
your face."

"How can I help lying still?" I said, as a soft cloak was thrown over
me, and in less than a moment my horse was rushing through branches and
brushwood that swept his ears. At his side was another horse, and my
bridle rein was held by a man who stooped over his neck in silence.
Though his face was out of sight, I knew that Anthony Purvis was leading
me.

There was no possibility of speaking now, but after a tumult of speed we
came to an open glade where the trees fell back, and a gentle brook was
gurgling. Then Captain Purvis cut my bonds, and lifting me down very
softly, set me upon a bank of moss, for my limbs would not support me;
and I lay there unable to do anything but weep.

When I returned to myself, the sun was just looking over a wooded cliff,
and Anthony, holding a horn of water, and with water on his cheeks, was
regarding me.

"Did you leave that brave man to be shot?" I asked, as if that were all
my gratitude.

"I am not so bad as that," he answered, without any anger, for he saw
that I was not in reason yet. "At sight of my men, although we were but
five in all, the robbers fled, thinking the regiment was there; but it
is God's truth that I thought little of anyone's peril compared with
thine. But there need be no fear for John Ridd; the Doones are mighty
afraid of him since he cast their culverin through their door."

"Was that the John Ridd I have heard so much of? Surely I might have
known it, but my wits were shaken out of me."

"Yes, that was the mighty man of Exmoor, to whom thou owest more than
life."

In horror of what I had so narrowly escaped, I fell upon my knees and
thanked the Lord, and then I went shyly to the captain's side and said:
"I am ashamed to look at thee. Without Anthony Purvis, where should I
be? Speak of no John Ridd to me."

For this man whom I had cast forth, with coldness, as he must have
thought--although I knew better, when he was gone--this man (my honoured
husband now, who hath restored me to my father's place, when kings had
no gratitude or justice), Sir Anthony Purvis, as now he is, had dwelled
in a hovel and lived on scraps, to guard the forsaken orphan, who had
won, and shall ever retain, his love.





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