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Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor by R. D. Blackmore

Part 17 out of 17

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'Have you ever known me tell a lie?' Ruth in great
indignation--more feigned, I doubt, than real--'your
mother may tell a story, now and then when she feels it
right; and so may both your sisters. But so you cannot
do, John Ridd; and no more than you can I do it.'

If ever there was virtuous truth in the eyes of any
woman, it was now in Ruth Huckaback's: and my brain
began very slowly to move, the heart being almost
torpid from perpetual loss of blood.

'I do not understand,' was all I could say for a very
long time.

'Will you understand, if I show you Lorna? I have
feared to do it, for the sake of you both. But now
Lorna is well enough, if you think that you are, Cousin
John. Surely you will understand, when you see your

Following her, to the very utmost of my mind and heart,
I felt that all she said was truth; and yet I could not
make it out. And in her last few words there was such
a power of sadness rising through the cover of gaiety,
that I said to myself, half in a dream, 'Ruth is very

Before I had time to listen much for the approach of
footsteps, Ruth came back, and behind her Lorna; coy as
if of her bridegroom; and hanging back with her beauty.
Ruth banged the door, and ran away; and Lorna stood
before me.

But she did not stand for an instant, when she saw what
I was like. At the risk of all thick bandages, and
upsetting a dozen medicine bottles, and scattering
leeches right and left, she managed to get into my
arms, although they could not hold her. She laid her
panting warm young breast on the place where they meant
to bleed me, and she set my pale face up; and she would
not look at me, having greater faith in kissing.

I felt my life come back, and warm; I felt my trust in
women flow; I felt the joys of living now, and the
power of doing it. It is not a moment to describe; who
feels can never tell of it. But the rush of Lorna's
tears, and the challenge of my bride's lips, and the
throbbing of my wife's heart (now at last at home on
mine), made me feel that the world was good, and not a
thing to be weary of.

Little more have I to tell. The doctor was turned out
at once; and slowly came back my former strength, with
a darling wife, and good victuals. As for Lorna, she
never tired of sitting and watching me eat and eat.
And such is her heart that she never tires of being
with me here and there, among the beautiful places, and
talking with her arm around me--so far at least as it
can go, though half of mine may go round her--of the
many fears and troubles, dangers and discouragements,
and worst of all the bitter partings, which we used to
have, somehow.

There is no need for my farming harder than becomes a
man of weight. Lorna has great stores of money, though
we never draw it out, except for some poor neighbor;
unless I find her a sumptuous dress, out of her own
perquisites. And this she always looks upon as a
wondrous gift from me; and kisses me much when she puts
it on, and walks like the noble woman she is. And yet
I may never behold it again; for she gets back to her
simple clothes, and I love her the better in them. I
believe that she gives half the grandeur away, and
keeps the other half for the children.

As for poor Tom Faggus, every one knows his bitter
adventures, when his pardon was recalled, because of
his journey to Sedgemoor. Not a child in the country,
I doubt, but knows far more than I do of Tom's most
desperate doings. The law had ruined him once, he
said; and then he had been too much for the law: and
now that a quiet life was his object, here the base
thing came after him. And such was his dread of this
evil spirit, that being caught upon Barnstaple Bridge,
with soldiers at either end of it (yet doubtful about
approaching him), he set his strawberry mare, sweet
Winnie, at the left-hand parapet, with a whisper into
her dove-coloured ear. Without a moment's doubt she
leaped it, into the foaming tide, and swam, and landed
according to orders. Also his flight from a
public-house (where a trap was set for him, but Winnie
came and broke down the door, and put two men under,
and trod on them,) is as well known as any ballad. It
was reported for awhile that poor Tom had been caught
at last, by means of his fondness for liquor, and was
hanged before Taunton Jail; but luckily we knew better.
With a good wife, and a wonderful horse, and all the
country attached to him, he kept the law at a wholesome
distance, until it became too much for its master; and
a new king arose. Upon this, Tom sued his pardon
afresh; and Jeremy Stickles, who suited the times, was
glad to help him in getting it, as well as a
compensation. Thereafter the good and respectable Tom
lived a godly (though not always sober) life; and
brought up his children to honesty, as the first of all

My dear mother was as happy as possibly need be with
us; having no cause for jealousy, as others arose
around her. And everybody was well pleased, when Lizzy
came in one day and tossed her bookshelf over, and
declared that she would have Captain Bloxham, and
nobody should prevent her. For that he alone, of all
the men she had ever met with, knew good writing when
he saw it, and could spell a word when told. As he had
now succeeded to Captain Stickle's position (Stickles
going up the tree), and had the power of collecting,
and of keeping, what he liked, there was nothing to be
said against it; and we hoped that he would pay her

I sent little Ensie to Blundell's school, at my own
cost and charges, having changed his name, for fear of
what anyone might do to him. I called him Ensie Jones;
and we got him a commission, and after many scrapes of
spirit, he did great things in the Low Countries. He
looks upon me as his father; and without my leave will
not lay claim to the heritage and title of the Doones,
which clearly belong to him.

Ruth Huckaback is not married yet; although upon Uncle
Reuben's death she came into all his property; except,
indeed, 2000 pounds, which Uncle Ben, in his driest
manner, bequeathed 'to Sir John Ridd, the worshipful
knight, for greasing of the testator's boots.' And he
left almost a mint of money, not from the mine, but
from the shop, and the good use of usury. For the mine
had brought in just what it cost, when the vein of gold
ended suddenly; leaving all concerned much older, and
some, I fear, much poorer; but no one utterly ruined,
as is the case with most of them. Ruth herself was his
true mine, as upon death-bed he found. I know a man
even worthy of her: and though she is not very young,
he loves her, as I love Lorna. It is my firm
conviction, that in the end he will win her; and I do
not mean to dance again, except at dear Ruth's wedding;
if the floor be strong enough.

Of Lorna, of my lifelong darling, of my more and more
loved wife, I will not talk; for it is not seemly that
a man should exalt his pride. Year by year her beauty
grows, with the growth of goodness, kindness, and true
happiness--above all with loving. For change, she
makes a joke of this, and plays with it, and laughs at
it; and then, when my slow nature marvels, back she
comes to the earnest thing. And if I wish to pay her
out for something very dreadful--as may happen once or
twice, when we become too gladsome--I bring her to
forgotten sadness, and to me for cure of it, by the two
words 'Lorna Doone.'

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