But the finest sight of all was to see those haughty men striding down the causeway darkly, reckless of their end, but resolute to have two lives for every one. A finer dozen of young men could not have been found in the world perhaps, nor a braver, nor a viler one.

Seeing how few there were of them, I was very loath to fire, although I covered the leader, who appeared to be dashing Charley; for they were at easy distance now, brightly shone by the fire-light, yet ignorant where to look for us. I thought that we might take them prisoners—though what good that could be God knows, as they must have been hanged thereafter—anyhow I was loath to shoot, or to give the word to my followers.

But my followers waited for no word; they saw a fair shot at the men they abhorred, the men who had robbed them of home or of love, and the chance was too much for their charity. At a signal from old Ikey, who levelled his own gun first, a dozen muskets were discharged, and half of the Doones dropped lifeless, like so many logs of firewood, or chopping-blocks rolled over.

Although I had seen a great battle before, and a hundred times the carnage, this appeared to me to be horrible; and I was at first inclined to fall upon our men for behaving so. But one instant showed me that they were right; for while the valley was filled with howling, and with shrieks of women, and the beams of the blazing houses fell, and hissed in the bubbling river; all the rest of the Doones leaped at us, like so many demons. They fired wildly, not seeing us well among the hazel bushes; and then they clubbed their muskets, or drew their swords, as might be; and furiously drove at us.

For a moment, although we were twice their number, we fell back before their valorous fame, and the power of their onset. For my part, admiring their courage greatly, and counting it slur upon manliness that two should be down upon one so, I withheld my hand awhile; for I cared to meet none but Carver; and he was not among them. The whirl and hurry of this fight, and the hard blows raining down—for now all guns were empty—took away my power of seeing, or reasoning upon anything. Yet one thing I saw, which dwelled long with me; and that was Christopher Badcock spending his life to get Charley’s.

How he had found out, none may tell; both being dead so long ago; but, at any rate, he had found out that Charley was the man who had robbed him of his wife and honour. It was Carver Doone who took her away, but Charleworth Doone was beside him; and, according to cast of dice, she fell to Charley’s share. All this Kit Badcock (who was mad, according to our measures) had discovered, and treasured up; and now was his revenge-time.

He had come into the conflict without a weapon of any kind; only begging me to let him be in the very thick of it. For him, he said, life was no matter, after the loss of his wife and child; but death was matter to him, and he meant to make the most of it. Such a face I never saw, and never hope to see again, as when poor Kit Badcock spied Charley coming towards us.

We had thought this man a patient fool, a philosopher of a little sort, or one who could feel nothing. And his quiet manner of going about, and the gentleness of his answers (when some brutes asked him where his wife was, and whether his baby had been well-trussed), these had misled us to think that the man would turn the mild cheek to everything. But I, in the loneliness of our barn, had listened, and had wept with him.

Therefore was I not surprised, so much as all the rest of us, when, in the foremost of red light, Kit went up to Charleworth Doone, as if to some inheritance; and took his seisin of right upon him, being himself a powerful man; and begged a word aside with him. What they said aside, I know not; all I know is that without weapon, each man killed the other. And Margery Badcock came, and wept, and hung upon her poor husband; and died, that summer, of heart-disease.

Now for these and other things (whereof I could tell a thousand) was the reckoning come that night; and not a line we missed of it; soon as our bad blood was up. I like not to tell of slaughter, though it might be of wolves and tigers; and that was a night of fire and slaughter, and of very long-harboured revenge.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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