All my heart leaped up at this, to get away from London so: and yet I could hardly trust to it.

‘Is there any sound round your way of disaffection to His Majesty, His most gracious Majesty?’

‘No, my lord: no sign whatever. We pray for him in church perhaps, and we talk about him afterwards, hoping it may do him good, as it is intended. But after that we have naught to say, not knowing much about him—at least till I get home again.’

‘That is as it should be, John. And the less you say the better. But I have heard of things in Taunton, and even nearer to you in Dulverton, and even nigher still upon Exmoor; things which are of the pillory kind, and even more of the gallows. I see that you know naught of them. Nevertheless, it will not be long before all England hears of them. Now, John, I have taken a liking to thee, for never man told me the truth, without fear or favour, more thoroughly and truly than thou hast done. Keep thou clear of this, my son. It will come to nothing; yet many shall swing high for it. Even I could not save thee, John Ridd, if thou wert mixed in this affair. Keep from the Doones, keep from De Whichehalse, keep from everything which leads beyond the sight of thy knowledge. I meant to use thee as my tool; but I see thou art too honest and simple. I will send a sharper down; but never let me find thee, John, either a tool for the other side, or a tube for my words to pass through.’

Here the Lord Justice gave me such a glare that I wished myself well rid of him, though thankful for his warnings; and seeing how he had made upon me a long abiding mark of fear, he smiled again in a jocular manner, and said,—

‘Now, get thee gone, Jack. I shall remember thee; and I trow, thou wilt’st not for many a day forget me.’

‘My lord, I was never so glad to go; for the hay must be in, and the ricks unthatched, and none of them can make spars like me, and two men to twist every hay-rope, and mother thinking it all right, and listening right and left to lies, and cheated at every pig she kills, and even the skins of the sheep to go—’

‘John Ridd, I thought none could come nigh your folk in honesty, and goodness, and duty to their neighbours!’

‘Sure enough, my lord; but by our folk, I mean ourselves, not the men nor women neither—’

‘That will do, John. Go thy way. Not men, nor women neither, are better than they need be.’

I wished to set this matter right; but his worship would not hear me, and only drove me out of court, saying that men were thieves and liars, no more in one place than another, but all alike all over the world, and women not far behind them. It was not for me to dispute this point (though I was not yet persuaded of it), both because my lord was a Judge, and must know more about it, and also that being a man myself I might seem to be defending myself in an unbecoming manner. Therefore I made a low bow, and went; in doubt as to which had the right of it.

But though he had so far dismissed me, I was not yet quite free to go, inasmuch as I had not money enough to take me all the way to Oare, unless indeed I should go afoot, and beg my sustenance by the way, which seemed to be below me. Therefore I got my few clothes packed, and my few debts paid, all ready to start in half an hour, if only they would give me enough to set out upon the road with. For I doubted not, being young and strong, that I could walk from London to Oare in ten days or in twelve at most, which was not much longer than horse-work; only I had been a fool, as you will say when you hear it. For after receiving from Master Spank the amount of the bill which I had delivered—less indeed by fifty shillings than the money my mother had given me, for I had spent fifty shillings, and more, in seeing the town and treating people, which I could not charge to His Majesty—I had first paid all my debts thereout, which were not very many, and then supposing myself to be an established creditor of the Treasury for my coming needs, and already scenting the country air, and foreseeing the joy of my mother, what had I done but spent half my balance, ay and more than three-quarters of it, upon presents for mother, and Annie, and Lizzie, John Fry, and his wife, and Betty Muxworthy, Bill Dadds,

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