Getting into Chancery

Two of the Devonshire officers (Captains Pyke and Dallan) now took command of the men who were left, and ordered all to go home again, commending much the bravery which had been displayed on all sides, and the loyalty to the King, and the English constitution. This last word always seems to me to settle everything when said, because nobody understands it, and yet all can puzzle their neighbours. So the Devonshire men, having beans to sow (which they ought to have done on Good Friday) went home; and our Somerset friends only stayed for two days more to backbite them.

To me the whole thing was purely grievous; not from any sense of defeat (though that was bad enough) but from the pain and anguish caused by death, and wounds, and mourning. ‘Surely we have woes enough,’ I used to think of an evening, when the poor fellows could not sleep or rest, or let others rest around them; ‘surely all this smell of wounds is not incense men should pay to the God who made them. Death, when it comes and is done with, may be a bliss to any one; but the doubt of life or death, when a man lies, as it were, like a trunk upon a sawpit and a grisly head looks up at him, and the groans of pain are cleaving him, this would be beyond all bearing—but for Nature’s sap—sweet hope.’

Jeremy Stickles lay and tossed, and thrust up his feet in agony, and bit with his lipless mouth the clothes, and was proud to see blood upon them. He looked at us ever so many times, as much as to say, ‘Fools, let me die, then I shall have some comfort’; but we nodded at him sagely, especially the women, trying to convey to him, on no account to die yet. And then we talked to one another (on purpose for him to hear us), how brave he was, and not the man to knock under in a hurry, and how he should have the victory yet; and how well he looked, considering.

These things cheered him a little now, and a little more next time; and every time we went on so, he took it with less impatience. Then once when he had been very quiet, and not even tried to frown at us, Annie leaned over, and kissed his forehead, and spread the pillows and sheet, with a curve as delicate as his own white ears; and then he feebly lifted hands, and prayed to God to bless her. And after that he came round gently; though never to the man he had been, and never to speak loud again.

For a time (as I may have implied before) Master Stickles’s authority, and manner of levying duties, had not been taken kindly by the people round our neighbourhood. The manors of East Lynn and West Lynn, and even that of Woolhanger—although just then all three were at issue about some rights of wreck, and the hanging of a sheep-stealer (a man of no great eminence, yet claimed by each for the sake of his clothes)—these three, having their rights impugned, or even superseded, as they declared by the quartering of soldiers in their neighbourhood, united very kindly to oppose the King’s Commissioner. However, Jeremy had contrived to conciliate the whole of them, not so much by anything engaging in his deportment or delicate address, as by holding out bright hopes that the plunder of the Doone Glen might become divisible among the adjoining manors. Now I have never discovered a thing which the lords of manors (at least in our part of the world) do not believe to belong to themselves, if only they could get their rights. And it did seem natural enough that if the Doones were ousted, and a nice collection of prey remained, this should be parted among the people having ancient rights of plunder. Nevertheless, Master Jeremy knew that the soldiers would have the first of it, and the King what they could not carry.

And perhaps he was punished justly for language so misleading, by the general indignation of the people all around us, not at his failure, but at himself, for that which he could in no wise prevent. And the stewards of the manors rode up to our house on purpose to reproach him, and were greatly vexed with all of us, because he was too ill to see them.

To myself (though by rights the last to be thought of, among so much pain and trouble) Jeremy’s wound was a great misfortune, in more ways than one. In the first place, it deferred my chance of imparting either to my mother or to Mistress Lorna my firm belief that the maid I loved was not sprung from the race which had slain my father; neither could he in any way have offended against her family. And this discovery I was yearning more and more to declare to them; being forced to see (even in the midst of all our warlike troubles) that a certain difference was growing betwixt them both, and betwixt them and me. For although the words of the Counsellor had seemed to fail among us, being bravely met and

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