‘The signal, my lads,’ I cried, leaping up and rubbing my eyes; for even now, while condemning John unjustly, I was giving him right to be hard upon me. ‘Now hold on by the rope, and lay your quarter- staffs across, my lads; and keep your guns pointing to heaven, lest haply we shoot one another.’

‘Us shan’t never shutt one anoother, wi’ our goons at that mark, I reckon,’ said an oldish chap, but as tough as leather, and esteemed a wit for his dryness.

‘You come next to me, old Ike; you be enough to dry up the waters; now, remember, all lean well forward. If any man throws his weight back, down he goes; and perhaps he may never get up again; and most likely he will shoot himself.’

I was still more afraid of their shooting me; for my chief alarm in this steep ascent was neither of the water nor of the rocks, but of the loaded guns we bore. If any man slipped, off might go his gun, and however good his meaning, I being first was most likely to take far more than I fain would apprehend.

For this cause, I had debated with Uncle Ben and with Cousin Tom as to the expediency of our climbing with guns unloaded. But they, not being in the way themselves, assured me that there was nothing to fear, except through uncommon clumsiness; and that as for charging our guns at the top, even veteran troops could scarcely be trusted to perform it properly in the hurry, and the darkness, and the noise of fighting before them.

However, thank God, though a gun went off, no one was any the worse for it, neither did the Doones notice it, in the thick of the firing in front of them. For the orders to those of the sham attack, conducted by Tom Faggus, were to make the greatest possible noise, without exposure of themselves; until we, in the rear, had fallen to; which John Fry was again to give the signal of.

Therefore we, of the chosen band, stole up the meadow quietly, keeping in the blots of shade, and hollow of the watercourse. And the earliest notice the Counsellor had, or any one else, of our presence, was the blazing of the log-wood house, where lived that villain Carver. It was my especial privilege to set this house on fire; upon which I had insisted, exclusively and conclusively. No other hand but mine should lay a brand, or strike steel on flint for it; I had made all preparations carefully for a goodly blaze. And I must confess that I rubbed my hands, with a strong delight and comfort, when I saw the home of that man, who had fired so many houses, having its turn of smoke, and blaze, and of crackling fury.

We took good care, however, to burn no innocent women or children in that most righteous destruction. For we brought them all out beforehand; some were glad, and some were sorry; according to their dispositions. For Carver had ten or a dozen wives; and perhaps that had something to do with his taking the loss of Lorna so easily. One child I noticed, as I saved him; a fair and handsome little fellow, whom (if Carver Doone could love anything on earth beside his wretched self) he did love. The boy climbed on my back and rode; and much as I hated his father, it was not in my heart to say or do a thing to vex him.

Leaving these poor injured people to behold their burning home, we drew aside, by my directions, into the covert beneath the cliff. But not before we had laid our brands to three other houses, after calling the women forth, and bidding them go for their husbands, and to come and fight a hundred of us. In the smoke and rush, and fire, they believed that we were a hundred; and away they ran, in consternation, to the battle at the Doone-gate.

‘All Doone-town is on fire, on fire!’ we heard them shrieking as they went; ‘a hundred soldiers are burning it, with a dreadful great man at the head of them!’

Presently, just as I expected, back came the warriors of the Doones; leaving but two or three at the gate, and burning with wrath to crush under foot the presumptuous clowns in their valley. Just then the waxing fire leaped above the red crest of the cliffs, and danced on the pillars of the forest, and lapped like a tide on the stones of the slope. All the valley flowed with light, and the limpid waters reddened, and the fair young women shone, and the naked children glistened.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.