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Slain By The Doones   By: (1825-1900)

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by R. D. Blackmore

Copyright: Dodd, Mead And Company, 1895


To hear people talking about North Devon, and the savage part called Exmoor, you might almost think that there never was any place in the world so beautiful, or any living men so wonderful. It is not my intention to make little of them, for they would be the last to permit it; neither do I feel ill will against them for the pangs they allowed me to suffer; for I dare say they could not help themselves, being so slow blooded, and hard to stir even by their own egrimonies. But when I look back upon the things that happened, and were for a full generation of mankind accepted as the will of God, I say, that the people who endured them must have been born to be ruled by the devil. And in thinking thus I am not alone; for the very best judges of that day stopped short of that end of the world, because the law would not go any further. Nevertheless, every word is true of what I am going to tell, and the stoutest writer of history cannot make less of it by denial.

My father was Sylvester Ford of Quantock, in the county of Somerset, a gentleman of large estate as well as ancient lineage. Also of high courage and resolution not to be beaten, as he proved in his many rides with Prince Rupert, and woe that I should say it! in his most sad death. To this he was not looking forward much, though turned of threescore years and five; and his only child and loving daughter, Sylvia, which is myself, had never dreamed of losing him. For he was exceeding fond of me, little as I deserved it, except by loving him with all my heart and thinking nobody like him. And he without anything to go upon, except that he was my father, held, as I have often heard, as good an opinion of me.

Upon the triumph of that hard fanatic, the Brewer, who came to a timely end by the justice of high Heaven my father, being disgusted with England as well as banished from her, and despoiled of all his property, took service on the Continent, and wandered there for many years, until the replacement of the throne. Thereupon he expected, as many others did, to get his states restored to him, and perhaps to be held in high esteem at court, as he had a right to be. But this did not so come to pass. Excellent words were granted him, and promise of tenfold restitution; on the faith of which he returned to Paris, and married a young Italian lady of good birth and high qualities, but with nothing more to come to her. Then, to his great disappointment, he found himself left to live upon air which, however distinguished, is not sufficient and love, which, being fed so easily, expects all who lodge with it to live upon itself.

My father was full of strong loyalty; and the king (in his value of that sentiment) showed faith that it would support him. His majesty took both my father's hands, having learned that hearty style in France, and welcomed him with most gracious warmth, and promised him more than he could desire. But time went on, and the bright words faded, like a rose set bravely in a noble vase, without any nurture under it.

Another man had been long established in our hereditaments by the Commonwealth; and he would not quit them of his own accord, having a sense of obligation to himself. Nevertheless, he went so far as to offer my father a share of the land, if some honest lawyers, whom he quoted, could find proper means for arranging it. But my father said: "If I cannot have my rights, I will have my wrongs. No mixture of the two for me." And so, for the last few years of his life, being now very poor and a widower, he took refuge in an outlandish place, a house and small property in the heart of Exmoor, which had come to the Fords on the spindle side, and had been overlooked when their patrimony was confiscated by the Brewer. Of him I would speak with no contempt, because he was ever as good as his word... Continue reading book >>

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