to him by will, at the end of a long entail, when the last of the Fitz-Pains died out; and though he liked the idea of it, he had gone abroad, without taking seisin. And upon news of his death, John Jones, a rich gentleman from Llandaff, had taken possession, as next of right, and hushed up all the story. And though, even at the worst of times, a lady of high rank and wealth could not be robbed, and as bad as murdered, and then buried in a little place, without moving some excitement, yet it had been given out, on purpose and with diligence, that this was only a foreign lady travelling for her health and pleasure, along the seacoast of England. And as the poor thing never spoke, and several of her servants and her baggage looked so foreign, and she herself died in a collar of lace unlike any made in England, all Watchett, without hesitation, pronounced her to be a foreigner. And the English serving man and maid, who might have cleared up everything, either were bribed by Master Jones, or else decamped of their own accord with the relics of the baggage. So the poor Countess of Dugal, almost in sight of her own grand house, was buried in an unknown grave, with her pair of infants, without a plate, without a tombstone (worse than all) without a tear, except from the hired Italian woman. Surely my poor Lorna came of an ill-starred family.

Now in spite of all this, if I had only taken Benita with me, or even told her what I wished, and craved her directions, there could have been no trouble. But I do assure you that among the stupid people at Watchett (compared with whom our folk of Oare, exceeding dense though being, are as Hamlet against Dogberry) what with one of them and another, and the firm conviction of all the town that I could be come only to wrestle, I do assure you (as I said before) that my wits almost went out of me. And what vexed me yet more about it was, that I saw my own mistake, in coming myself to seek out the matter, instead of sending some unknown person. For my face and form were known at that time (and still are so) to nine people out of every ten living in forty miles of me. Not through any excellence, or anything of good desert, in either the one or the other, but simply because folks will be fools on the rivalry of wrestling. The art is a fine one in itself, and demands a little wit of brain, as well as strength of body; it binds the man who studies it to temperance, and chastity, to self-respect, and most of all to an even and sweet temper; for I have thrown stronger men than myself (when I was a mere sapling, and before my strength grew hard on me) through their loss of temper. But though the art is an honest one, surely they who excel therein have a right (like all the rest of man-kind) to their own private life.

Be that either way—and I will not speak too strongly, for fear of indulging my own annoyance—anyhow, all Watchett town cared ten times as much to see John Ridd, as to show him what he wanted. I was led to every public-house, instead of to the churchyard; and twenty tables were ready for me, in lieu of a single gravestone. ‘Zummerzett thou bee’st, Jan Ridd, and Zummerzett thou shalt be. Thee carl theezell a Davonsheer man! Whoy, thee lives in Zummerzett; and in Zummerzett thee wast barn, lad.’ And so it went on, till I was weary; though very much obliged to them.

Dull and solid as I am, and with a wild duck waiting for me at good Mistress Odam’s, I saw that there was nothing for it but to yield to these good people, and prove me a man of Somerset, by eating a dinner at their expense. As for the churchyard, none would hear of it; and I grieved for broaching the matter.

But how was I to meet Lorna again, without having done the thing of all things which I had promised to see to? It would never do to tell her that so great was my popularity, and so strong the desire to feed me, that I could not attend to her mother. Least of all could I say that every one in Watchett knew John Ridd; while none had heard of the Countess of Dugal. And yet that was about the truth, as I hinted very delicately to Mistress Odam that evening. But she (being vexed about her wild duck, and not having English ideas on the matter of sport, and so on) made a poor unwitting face at me. Nevertheless Master Odam restored me to my self-respect; for he stared at me till I went to bed; and he broke his hose with excitement. For being in the leg-line myself, I wanted to know what the muscles were of a man who turned a wheel all day. I had never seen a treadmill (though they have one now at Exeter), and it touched me much to learn whether it were good exercise. And herein, from what I saw of Odam, I incline to think that it does great harm; as moving the muscles too much in a line, and without variety.

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