How to get out of Chancery

Things at this time so befell me, that I cannot tell one half; but am like a boy who has left his lesson (to the master’s very footfall) unready, except with false excuses. And as this makes no good work, so I lament upon my lingering, in the times when I might have got through a good page, but went astray after trifles. However, every man must do according to his intellect; and looking at the easy manner of my constitution, I think that most men will regard me with pity and goodwill for trying, more than with contempt and wrath for having tried unworthily. Even as in the wrestling ring, whatever man did his best, and made an honest conflict, I always laid him down with softness, easing off his dusty fall.

But the thing which next betided me was not a fall of any sort; but rather a most glorious rise to the summit of all fortune. For in good truth it was no less than the return of Lorna—my Lorna, my own darling; in wonderful health and spirits, and as glad as a bird to get back again. It would have done any one good for a twelve-month to behold her face and doings, and her beaming eyes and smile (not to mention blushes also at my salutation), when this Queen of every heart ran about our rooms again. She did love this, and she must see that, and where was our old friend the cat? All the house was full of brightness, as if the sun had come over the hill, and Lorna were his mirror.

My mother sat in an ancient chair, and wiped her cheeks, and looked at her; and even Lizzie’s eyes must dance to the freshness and joy of her beauty. As for me, you might call me mad; for I ran out and flung my best hat on the barn, and kissed mother Fry, till she made at me with the sugar-nippers.

What a quantity of things Lorna had to tell us! And yet how often we stopped her mouth—at least mother, I mean, and Lizzie—and she quite as often would stop her own, running up in her joy to some one of us! And then there arose the eating business—which people now call ‘refreshment,’ in these dandyfied days of our language—for how was it possible that our Lorna could have come all that way, and to her own Exmoor, without being terribly hungry?

‘Oh, I do love it all so much,’ said Lorna, now for the fiftieth time, and not meaning only the victuals: ‘the scent of the gorse on the moors drove me wild, and the primroses under the hedges. I am sure I was meant for a farmer’s—I mean for a farm-house life, dear Lizzie’—for Lizzie was looking saucily—’just as you were meant for a soldier’s bride, and for writing despatches of victory. And now, since you will not ask me, dear mother, in the excellence of your manners, and even John has not the impudence, in spite of all his coat of arms—I must tell you a thing, which I vowed to keep until tomorrow morning; but my resolution fails me. I am my own mistress—what think you of that, mother? I am my own mistress!’

‘Then you shall not be so long,’ cried I; for mother seemed not to understand her, and sought about for her glasses: ‘darling, you shall be mistress of me; and I will be your master.’

‘A frank announcement of your intent, and beyond doubt a true one; but surely unusual at this stage, and a little premature, John. However, what must be, must be.’ And with tears springing out of smiles, she fell on my breast, and cried a bit.

When I came to smoke a pipe over it (after the rest were gone to bed), I could hardly believe in my good luck. For here was I, without any merit, except of bodily power, and the absence of any falsehood (which surely is no commendation), so placed that the noblest man in England might envy me, and be vexed with me. For the noblest lady in all the land, and the purest, and the sweetest—hung upon my heart, as if there was none to equal it.

I dwelled upon this matter, long and very severely, while I smoked a new tobacco, brought by my own Lorna for me, and next to herself most delicious; and as the smoke curled away, I thought, ‘Surely this is too fine to last, for a man who never deserved it.’

Seeing no way out of this, I resolved to place my faith in God; and so went to bed and dreamed of it. And having no presence of mind to pray for anything, under the circumstances, I thought it best to fall asleep, and trust myself to the future. Yet ere I fell asleep the roof above me swarmed with angels, having Lorna under it.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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