‘Master John Ridd, you shall tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I have been in Chancery, sir; and can detect a story. Now why have you never, for more than a twelvemonth, taken the smallest notice of your old friend, Mistress Lorna Doone?’ Although she spoke in this lightsome manner, as if it made no difference, I saw that her quick heart was moving, and the flash of her eyes controlled.

‘Simply for this cause, I answered, ‘that my old friend and true love, took not the smallest heed of me. Nor knew I where to find her.’

‘What!’ cried Lorna; and nothing more; being overcome with wondering; and much inclined to fall away, but for my assistance. I told her, over and over again, that not a single syllable of any message from her, or tidings of her welfare, had reached me, or any one of us, since the letter she left behind; except by soldier’s gossip.

‘Oh, you poor dear John!’ said Lorna, sighing at thought of my misery: ‘how wonderfully good of you, thinking of me as you must have done, not to marry that little plain thing (or perhaps I should say that lovely creature, for I have never seen her), Mistress Ruth—I forget her name; but something like a towel.’

‘Ruth Huckaback is a worthy maid,’ I answered with some dignity; ‘and she alone of all our world, except indeed poor Annie, has kept her confidence in you, and told me not to dread your rank, but trust your heart, Lady Lorna.’

‘Then Ruth is my best friend,’ she answered, ‘and is worthy of you, dear John. And now remember one thing, dear; if God should part us, as may be by nothing short of death, try to marry that little Ruth, when you cease to remember me. And now for the head-traitor. I have often suspected it: but she looks me in the face, and wishes—fearful things, which I cannot repeat.’

With these words, she moved an implement such as I had not seen before, and which made a ringing noise at a serious distance. And before I had ceased wondering—for if such things go on, we might ring the church bells, while sitting in our back-kitchen—little Gwenny Carfax came, with a grave and sullen face.

‘Gwenny,’ began my Lorna, in a tone of high rank and dignity, ‘go and fetch the letters which I gave you at various times for despatch to Mistress Ridd.’

‘How can I fetch them, when they are gone? It be no use for him to tell no lies—’

‘Now, Gwenny, can you look at me?’ I asked, very sternly; for the matter was no joke to me, after a year’s unhappiness.

‘I don’t want to look at ’ee. What should I look at a young man for, although he did offer to kiss me?’

I saw the spite and impudence of this last remark, and so did Lorna, although she could not quite refrain from smiling.

‘Now, Gwenny, not to speak of that,’ said Lorna, very demurely, ‘if you thought it honest to keep the letters, was it honest to keep the money?’

At this the Cornish maiden broke into a rage of honesty: ‘A putt the money by for ’ee. ’Ee shall have every farden of it.’ And so she flung out of the room.

‘And, Gwenny,’ said Lorna very softly, following under the door-hangings; ‘if it is not honest to keep the money, it is not honest to keep the letters, which would have been worth more than any gold to those who were so kind to you. Your father shall know the whole, Gwenny, unless you tell the truth.’

‘Now, a will tell all the truth,’ this strange maiden answered, talking to herself at least as much as to her mistress, while she went out of sight and hearing. And then I was so glad at having my own Lorna once

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