For not to mention the strength of the place, which I shall describe in its proper order when I come to visit it, there was not one among them but was a mighty man, straight and tall, and wide, and fit to lift four hundredweight. If son or grandson of old Doone, or one of the northern retainers, failed at the age of twenty, while standing on his naked feet to touch with his forehead the lintel of Sir Ensor’s door, and to fill the door frame with his shoulders from sidepost even to sidepost, he was led away to the narrow pass which made their valley so desperate, and thrust from the crown with ignominy, to get his own living honestly. Now, the measure of that doorway is, or rather was, I ought to say, six feet and one inch lengthwise, and two feet all but two inches taken crossways in the clear. Yet I not only have heard but know, being so closely mixed with them, that no descendant of old Sir Ensor, neither relative of his (except, indeed, the Counsellor, who was kept by them for his wisdom), and no more than two of their following ever failed of that test, and relapsed to the difficult ways of honesty.

Not that I think anything great of a standard the like of that: for if they had set me in that door-frame at the age of twenty, it is like enough that I should have walked away with it on my shoulders, though I was not come to my full strength then: only I am speaking now of the average size of our neighbourhood, and the Doones were far beyond that. Moreover, they were taught to shoot with a heavy carbine so delicately and wisely, that even a boy could pass a ball through a rabbit’s head at the distance of fourscore yards. Some people may think nought of this, being in practice with longer shots from the tongue than from the shoulder; nevertheless, to do as above is, to my ignorance, very good work, if you can be sure to do it. Not one word do I believe of Robin Hood splitting peeled wands at seven-score yards, and such like. Whoever wrote such stories knew not how slippery a peeled wand is, even if one could hit it, and how it gives to the onset. Now, let him stick one in the ground, and take his bow and arrow at it, ten yards away, or even five.

Now, after all this which I have written, and all the rest which a reader will see, being quicker of mind than I am (who leave more than half behind me, like a man sowing wheat, with his dinner laid in the ditch too near his dog), it is much but what you will understand the Doones far better than I did, or do even to this moment; and therefore none will doubt when I tell them that our good justiciaries feared to make an ado, or hold any public inquiry about my dear father’s death. They would all have had to ride home that night, and who could say what might betide them. Least said soonest mended, because less chance of breaking.

So we buried him quietly—all except my mother, indeed, for she could not keep silence—in the sloping little churchyard of Oare, as meek a place as need be, with the Lynn brook down below it. There is not much of company there for anybody’s tombstone, because the parish spreads so far in woods and moors without dwelling-house. If we bury one man in three years, or even a woman or child, we talk about it for three months, and say it must be our turn next, and scarcely grow accustomed to it until another goes.

Annie was not allowed to come, because she cried so terribly; but she ran to the window, and saw it all, mooing there like a little calf, so frightened and so left alone. As for Eliza, she came with me, one on each side of mother, and not a tear was in her eyes, but sudden starts of wonder, and a new thing to be looked at unwillingly, yet curiously. Poor little thing! she was very clever, the only one of our family—thank God for the same—but none the more for that guessed she what it is to lose a father.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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