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Lavengro by George Henry Borrow

'We do not come from Gretna Green


'There

you are mistaken,' said I; 'by my father's side I am of Cornish blood, and by my mother's of brave French Protestant extraction. Now, with respect to the blood of my father--and to be descended well on the father's side is the principal thing--it is the best blood in the world, for the Cornish blood, as the proverb says--'

'I don't care what the proverb says,' said Belle; 'I say my blood is the best--my name is Berners, Isopel Berners--it was my mother's name, and is better, I am sure, than any you bear, whatever that may be; and though you say that the descent on the father's side is the principal thing--and I know why you say so,' she added with some excitement--'I say that descent on the mother's side is of most account, because the mother--'

'Just come from Gretna Green, and already quarrelling!' said the postilion.

'We do not come from Gretna Green,' said Belle.

'Ah, I had forgot,' said the postilion; 'none but great people go to Gretna Green. Well, then, from church, and already quarrelling about family, just like two great people.'

'We have never been to church,' said Belle; 'and to prevent any more guessing on your part, it will be as well for me to tell you, friend, that I am nothing to the young man, and he, of course, nothing to me. I am a poor travelling girl, born in a workhouse: journeying

on my occasions with certain companions, I came to this hollow, where my company quarrelled with the young man, who had settled down here, as he had a right to do if he pleased; and not being able to drive him out, they went away after quarrelling with me, too, for not choosing to side with them; so I stayed here along with the young man, there being room for us both, and the place being as free to me as to him.'

'And in order that you may be no longer puzzled with respect to myself,' said I; 'I will give you a brief outline of my history. I am the son of honourable parents, who gave me a first-rate education, as far as literature and languages went, with which education I endeavoured, on the death of my father, to advance myself to wealth and reputation in the big city; but failing in the attempt, I conceived a disgust for the busy world, and determined to retire from it. After wandering about for some time, and meeting with various adventures, in one of which I contrived to obtain a pony, cart, and certain tools used by smiths and tinkers, I came to this place, where I amused myself with making horse-shoes, or rather pony-shoes, having acquired the art of wielding the hammer and tongs from a strange kind of smith--not him of Gretna Green--whom I knew in my childhood. And here I lived, doing harm to no one, quite lonely and solitary, till one fine morning the premises were visited by this young gentlewoman and her companions. She did herself anything but justice when she said that her companions quarrelled with her because she would not side with them against me; they quarrelled with her because she came most heroically to my assistance as I was on the point of being murdered; and she forgot to tell you that, after they had abandoned her, she stood by me in the dark hour, comforting and cheering me, when unspeakable dread, to which I am occasionally subject, took possession of my mind. She says she is nothing to me, even as I am nothing to her. I am of course nothing to her, but she is mistaken in thinking she is nothing to me. I entertain the highest regard and admiration for her, being convinced that I might search the whole world in vain for a nature more heroic and devoted.'


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