Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Chapter 1; The end of school days I am John Ridd, a farmer of the village of Oare in Somerset, and I have a story to tell you. It is about some things that happened to me in my younger days. On the 29th November 1673, when I was twelve years old, John Fry, a worker from our family’s farm, came to collect me from my school at Tiverton. He rode his horse up to the gate, leading my own little horse behind him. He was two weeks early, so I knew something was wrong. ‘What are you doing here, John?’ I asked him. ‘It’s not the holidays yet.’ He would not look at me. ‘Oh, I know that, young Master Ridd. But your mother has saved the best apples, and cooked some wonderful cakes – all for you.’ ‘And Father? How is Father?’ I said. It was usually Father who came to collect me, and it was strange that John Fry hadn’t said anything about him. ‘Oh, he’s very busy on the farm just now,’ he said. But John wasn’t his usual self, and I knew this was a lie. When I had packed my bags and said goodbye to my friends, I got on my horse and we started the journey home. It was a long journey from Tiverton to Oare, and in places the road was very bad. John Fry still would not tell me why he had come to collect me, or answer my questions about Father. He looked unhappy about something, but I tried to hope for the best, as boys always do. On the hill at the end of Dulverton town, we saw a big coach with six horses. In the front seat of the coach sat a foreign-looking woman, and next to her was a little dark-haired girl. I could see from the girl’s soft skin that she was from a rich family, and I felt too shy to look at her more than once. She didn’t look at me at all. Opposite them sat a very beautiful lady, in fashionable clothes, and next to her was a little boy, who was about two or three years old. The woman in the front, I thought, must be the servant of the family. I always remembered the family afterwards, because I had never seen people who were so grand, and so rich. After Dulverton, the road got worse and worse, and soon we came into a very dangerous part of the country. This was Exmoor, a place of high, wild hills and deep valleys, and on Exmoor lived a family of robbers called the Doones. Everyone was afraid of them. They had robbed and murdered on Exmoor for many years, and had grown very strong. Now it was getting dark, and a fog was coming down. It was just the kind of night when the Doones would be out – and we were coming near to the path that they always used. I wanted to ride fast, and cross the Doone path as quickly as possible, but John Fry knew better. ‘Go slowly and quietly,’ he said, ‘if you want to see your home again.’ But when we came to the valley where the Doone path was, we heard the sound of horses. ‘Hide!’ said John, and we rode our horses off the path, and hid. But I wanted to look at the Doones, and went up onto a hill above the path. From there I saw a frightening sight. Below me, moving quietly, were thirty horsemen. They were heavy, strong men, like all the Doones, and they were dressed for battle, carrying guns. Tied to their horses were all the things they had stolen. Some had sheep or other animals. But one man had a child across his horse – a little girl. She had on a very expensive dress, and I thought it was probably for this that the Doones had stolen her. I could not see whether she was alive or dead, but the sight of that child made me sad, and angry. When we got home to the farm, my father did not come out to meet us, not even when the dogs ran up and made a lot of noise. ‘Perhaps he has visitors,’ I thought, ‘and is too busy to come out.’ But really I knew this was not true. I went away and hid. I didn’t want anyone to tell me anything. I heard my mother and sister crying when they came out to find me, but I could not look at them. Later they told me everything; my father had been killed. He had been murdered by the Doones. It happened on his way back from the market at Porlock, on a Saturday evening. He was riding with six other farmers, and the Doones stopped them and asked them for their money. The other farmers passed their money over at once, but my father was brave. He rode at them, waving his long stick above his head. He managed to hit quite a few heads, but one Doone was waiting at the side of the road with a gun, and shot him. Although we knew it was the Doones who had killed my father, it was useless even to ask the local judges or law officers to do anything about it. They were afraid of the robbers, too – or were even helping them. The Doones did almost anything they wanted on Exmoor. They were not local people. They came from the north of England, where their leader, Sir Ensor Doone, had been a rich man, with a lot of land. But he argued with his cousin, the Earl of Lorne, who had even more land, and because of the trouble he caused, the King took away nearly everything that Sir Ensor owned. A proud, angry man, Sir Ensor refused to make peace with his cousin, and without his land and farms he became very poor. Then he found that people who had once been happy to know him now turned away from him. After this, Sir Ensor lived his life outside the law. With his wife and family and a few servants, he looked all over the country for a place to live, where no one would know him, and he could start again. He chose Exmoor, where few people live, and found the perfect place to build a new home. This was the place we now call Doone valley. It is a green valley far from any town, surrounded by steep, rocky mountains. At first Sir Ensor lived peacefully, and the local people were friendly, even bringing him presents of food. But as his sons grew older, they did not want to work as farmers, and they began to take whatever they needed from the local farms and villages. They carried off farmers’ daughters to be their wives and give them sons, and so over the years the Doone family became bigger and bigger. They began as robbers, but robbery had quickly led to violence and murder. The people of Exmoor were too afraid to fight back because the Doones were big, strong men and excellent fighters, and now only soldiers could hope to break into their valley and defeat them. So there was no punishment for my father’s murderer. We buried him quietly, and my mother was left without a husband, to manage our farm and take care of her three children. We were too young to be of much help to her yet. I was the oldest, then there was Annie, two years younger than me, then little Lizzie. For a while, I wanted revenge. I was strong, and growing stronger every day. But my mother always calmed me down when I talked of revenge. She did not want to lose me too, and I used to worry about what would happen to her and my sisters if I were killed. We tried to get on with our lives, but we missed my father terribly. Sometimes my mother and Annie would remember him and cry, and sometimes John Fry saw me with tears in my eyes – which I said was because of the cold wind. Lizzie, though she was the cleverest of us all, was too young to really understand what had happened. So the months passed. I learnt how to shoot with my father’s gun, and I worked hard on the farm to help my mother. Chapter 2; A boy and a girl Saint Valentine’s Day, 1675, was the day that changed my life for ever, though I did not know it then. I was fourteen. My mother had been ill and was not eating very well, so I went out to find something that she liked – good, fresh fish, caught from clear water. I went first along the Lynn river that runs through our valley, then I turned into Bagworthy Water. Though I knew that this river led to Doone valley, I did not think about it. I went on catching fish and moving up the river, then suddenly found myself standing at the bottom of the cliffs outside Doone valley. In front of me was a waterfall, a steep hill of smooth, fast-moving water. It was a wild, lonely place, surrounded by tall trees, and it was already getting late. I knew I should turn for home – but I also wanted very much to see what was at the top of that waterfall. It looked a dangerous climb, but if I did not climb it, I would always remember that I was too frightened to do it. So I climbed. The water beat against my legs, once knocking me down so that I nearly drowned, but I pulled myself up and went on. When I reached the top at last, my arms and legs were aching and my feet were cut by the rocks. I fell in the grass, exhausted. When I opened my eyes, for a few seconds I didn’t know where I was. But, kneeling beside me, touching my face with a leaf, was a very young girl. ‘Oh, I’m so glad,’ she whispered softly, as I sat up and looked at her. ‘Now you’ll try to be better, won’t you?’ I had never heard as sweet a sound as this girl’s voice, nor seen anything as beautiful as the large dark eyes that watched me, full of care and wonder. I stared at her without speaking, noticing her long, shining black hair. ‘What is your name?’ she said, ‘and how did you get here, and what have you got in your bag?’ ‘They’re fish for my mother,’ I said. ‘Very special fish. But I’ll give you some, if you like.’ ‘Dear me – you’re so proud of them, when they’re only fish! But look at your feet – they’re bleeding. Let me tie something round them for you.’ ‘Oh, I’m not worried about them,’ I said bravely. ‘My name’s John Ridd. What’s your name?’ ‘Lorna Doone,’ she answered, in a soft voice, and looked down at the grass. She seemed afraid of her own name. ‘Lorna Doone. Didn’t you know?’ I stood up and touched her hand, and tried to make her look at me, but she turned away. I felt sorry for her – and even more sorry when she started to cry. ‘Don’t cry,’ I said. ‘I’m sure you’ve never done any harm. I’ll give you all my fish, Lorna, and catch some more for my mother.’ But she looked so sad, with the tears running down her face, that my heart ached for her and I gave her a kiss. At once my face turned red – here was I, just a simple farmer’s boy, but she, though young, was clearly a lady and far above me. She turned her head away, and I felt I should go. But I couldn’t. She turned back to look at me. ‘You must go,’ she said. ‘They will kill us if they find us together. You have found a way up into the valley, which they could never believe. You must go now, but when your feet are better, you can come and tell me how they are.’ She smiled at me, and I could see that she liked me. We talked for a while longer, but then a shout came down the valley. Lorna’s face changed from playfulness to fear. We whispered our goodbyes, then Lorna ran away from me and lay in the grass, pretending to be asleep. I hid behind some rocks, and saw twelve cruel-looking men come walking down the valley, looking for Lorna. One of them – the biggest of them all, a man with a long black beard – found her. ‘Here she is,’ he said. ‘Here’s our little Queen.’ He picked her up and kissed her so hard that I heard him. Then he put her on his shoulders, and carried her away. But as she went up the valley on the back of this frightening man, Lorna turned and secretly held up her hand to me. Now I had to find a way out of the valley and get home. I almost broke my neck several times, climbing down the mountain, and I did not get home until long after dark. My mother was angry with me, but I would not say where I had been. After my adventure, I thought a lot about the strange little girl I had met in Doone valley. But I never really imagined I would go back to the valley again. So after a while I thought less about her, and got on with my work on the farm. Chapter 3; Back to Doone valley The months and the years went by, and I grew very tall and strong, as my father had been. By the time I had finished growing, I was bigger than any man on Exmoor, and could pick up John Fry with one hand and hold him in the air – until he begged me to put him down. My sister Annie grew more and more beautiful every year, with her wide blue eyes and soft brown hair. She was so kind and so gentle that everyone loved to be with her, and it is easy to understand why my mother’s cousin, Tom Faggus, fell in love with her. Tom Faggus was someone that our family was both proud and ashamed of. For a time he was one of the most famous robbers in England, and people still tell the stories of his adventures all over the country. He had been an honest farmer once, but a rich man had used the law to steal his farm, and after that Tom took his revenge on all rich men he met on the roads. Perhaps that was why he was so popular with the people, as he stole only from the rich, gave generously to the poor and the sick, and never hurt anyone in his life. While I was still a boy, he came to our farm one day, asking my mother for food and a bed for the night. At first my mother told him to go away, fearing that we children would learn bad ways from him, but in the end she agreed. ‘You may be a bad man in some ways,’ she said to him, ‘but there are far worse than you. So come and sit by the fire, and eat whatever we can give you.’ Tom always had a smile and a good word for everybody, and was great fun to be with. All the time he was with us, I saw Annie looking at him very kindly, and over the years we had many more visits from him. As for Lizzie, I never thought anyone would fall in love with her! She was small and thin, and perhaps a little too clever – you never knew what she was going to say next. But I should not talk in this way about my own sister. My mother didn’t seem to grow any older, and was still pretty, and as good-hearted as ever. She had never forgotten my father, and as the years went by, she still sometimes cried for him. In all this time, if I thought of Lorna Doone at all, it was only as a kind of dream. And the Doone men went on robbing and killing, just as they pleased. Then one Christmas, when I was twenty-one, my Uncle Ben was robbed by the Doones on his way across Exmoor. He had been coming to visit us, and when he didn’t arrive, my mother sent me out to look for him. I found him on a high, lonely path, tied on to his horse with his nose to its tail. He was very angry, and wanted revenge on the Doones. He asked me to show him where they lived, so that he could learn the best way to attack them ‘when the time was right’. So a day or two later I took him up into the mountains that looked down on the valley. I had not been back this way since I was fourteen, and on the way, I thought of the girl I had met in this valley – of her lovely dark eyes, her sweet smile, her sadness … and her loneliness. At the top of a steep cliff, we looked down into the long, green Doone valley. At either end was a narrow gap in the mountain walls. At the further end was the waterfall which I had climbed seven years before, and at the other was what we called the Doone-gate. This was two rocky cliffs facing each other, with only a narrow path between them. It was like the gate of a castle, and it seemed impossible to break into the valley. But Uncle Ben saw a way. ‘Do you see how you could attack them?’ he said. ‘If you put big guns along the cliffs on both sides, and fired down into the valley, you could defeat the Doones in half an hour.’ But I was not listening to him. I was looking across to the waterfall end of the valley, and a little figure in white walking there, someone who walked with a very light step. My heart began to beat more quickly, and the blood came to my face. In seven years I had half-forgotten her, and she would never remember me, I thought. But at that moment, once and for all, I saw my future in front of me; Lorna Doone. On the way home I was quiet, and Uncle Ben asked me many times what was wrong with me. But I could not tell him. The truth was, I had decided to go back into Doone valley. I waited until Saint Valentine’s day – the exact day when I had first entered the valley. Again, I followed the river, and again I climbed the waterfall.