The Counterpart Cousins by Anonymous
Almost every house, in a little village situate in the lower part of
Somersetshire, near the borders of Devon, was tenanted, two or three
generations back, either by a Blake or a Hickory. Individuals, of one or
the other of these names, occupied all the best farms, and all the minor
lucrative posts, in the parish. The shoemaker, the carpenter, the
thatcher, and the landlord of the public house, were Blakes; and the
parish clerk, the glazier, the tailor, and the keeper of "the shop,"
where almost every thing was sold, Hickories. Numerous matrimonial
alliances were formed among the young people of the two families. As the
Blakes were manly, and the Hickories handsome, it happened, rather
luckily, that the children of the former were, for the most part, boys,
and those of the latter, girls. If a male child were bom among the
Hickories, he grew up puny in frame and womanly in features; and there
was not an individual, among the few females of the Blake family, who
did not bear the strongly marked features and robust frame,
characteristic of the race from which she sprang. The young men of the
house of Hickory were too much like their sisters, to be good-looking
fellows; and the damsels of the other name resembled their brothers too
closely, to be beautiful women; they were, apparently, stout enough in
form, and sufficiently bold in heart, had not the days of chivalry been
past, to have been esquires to "mettlesome knights of hie renown;" while
the striplings of the other family were more adapted, from their
lady-like limbs and gentle looks, to be bower-pages to those high-born
dames, for whose honour and amusement, their chivalric lords
occasionally broke each other's pates in the tourney.
Notwithstanding these disparities, some strong attraction seemed to exist
between the blood of the two families; not only did the "manly Blakes"
take unto themselves wives from among the "handsome Hickories,"—-this
was natural enough,—but the young yeomen of the tribe of Hickory,
intermarried with the spinsterhood of the Blakes. Perhaps it was
Hobson's choice with the youths,—these or none;—there being scarcely
another name in the village except those of the "two great
houses"—Hickory and Blake; and in those days, but few of its young folks
travelled far beyond the landmarks of their native place.
The Blakes and Hickories, at length, grew so numerous, that the village
did not offer sufficient resources for their support, and several of
them emigrated;—some to the neighbouring towns, but the greater part to
the metropolis, where they were soon lost in its mighty tide of
population, which is constantly recruited by "supplies from the
country," as the river, whose banks it ennobles, is supported by the
tributary streams which eternally flow into its huge bed. A great number
of the descendants of those females of the Blake family, who had
intermarried with Hickories, still remained; but it was in vain to seek
for the fine Herculean forms, which tradition had assigned to the Blakes,
or the surpassing beauty, which, according to old tales, was once
possessed by the female Hickories. It is true, that the features of each
family were to be seen, scattered among various individuals; but no
perfect specimen, in the prime of life, of either race, could be found.
Two or three gaunt fellows, the oldest men in the parish, who were issue
of the first unions between the two houses, still stalked about, with
melancholy countenances, thinking but little of the present, and more
often of the past than the future; but as their fathers had been
Hickories, and their mothers Blakes, it was said that they did not
possess those excellencies of form or feature, which their cousins, who
were Blakes by the father's side, and Hickories by the mother's, were
reported to have been endowed.
A single individual of the Blake family, in whose veins none of the
Hickory blood flowed, remained alive; that individual was a woman,
fettered by age and infirmities, to a chair on the kitchen hearth of one
of her descendants. Dame Deborah was venerated as a relic of old times,
rather than beloved. The beings about her had come into the world when
she was aged; and those, to whom she had given life, had passed away
before her; leaving their mother to the care of a third generation. To
her, those little acts of kindness, which are so endearing in the first
stage of human decay through "length of days," were rarely performed,
because she was too withered in mind and feeling to appreciate them. She
lived among relations, but had no friends. All her wants were
scrupulously provided for; but the attentions, which her grand-children
and great-grand-children paid her, were acts of duty rather than
affection. The days of her glory, even as an old woman were over: she
had ceased to become a domestic adviser; the last child she had nursed,
for one of her daughters, was now "a stout and stalwart" young fellow,
nearly six feet high; and those, to whom she had told tales of other
times, when her memory and breath were both equal to the task, were
getting old themselves, and beginning to relate the same chronicles,
round the kitchen fire, on winter nights; generally without
acknowledging, and often forgetting, to whom they were indebted for that
legendary lore, the possession of which so exalted them in the opinions
of the young.
From the dark cloud, which usually obscured Dame Deborah's mental
faculties, a gleam of youthful memory occasionally shot up, which much
amazed many of her descendants. One evening, a warm discussion took
place in the kitchen where she sat, as to the precise ages of Ralph
Hickory and his cousin Harry. After a world of talk, without an atom of
conclusion, Dame Deborah placed her hand upon the arm of one of the
disputants, and said, in a tremulous but distinct tone: "Susanna
Hickory, who was big Anthony Blake's seventh child, and only daughter,
and married one of the young Hickories of Hickory Hatch, was brought to
bed of a boy on the second day of our Whitsun revel, the same hour that
her cousin Polly had twins,—both boys,—but only one of them lived to be
christened. I stood godmother to the two babes. Susey's boy was called
Ralph, after my first husband, and Polly's after my second goodman,
Harry. That was the year when lightning struck the steeple, and Matty
Drew, the witch, was drowned. She told the children's fortunes, and said
'Merry meeting—sorry parting;
Second greeting—bitter smarting;
Dame Deborah could not finish Matty Drew's prediction; and this was the
seventh time, within as many years, that she had attempted to do so, but
in vain; a fit of coughing or abstraction invariably seizing her on
these occasions, before she could articulate the remainder of the line.
The debaters stared with wonder on each other at the old dame's unusual
fluency; for she had not spoken, except in monosyllables, during many
preceding months; and they looked upon it as an omen of Deborah's death,
or some great calamity to one of her living descendants. On examining
the church books, they found her account to be correct, so far as
regarded the baptism of the two boys, and the interment of one of
Polly's twins; and some of her neighbours recollected that the church
was struck, as Deborah had related, in the same year that Matty Drew was
drowned, by a farmer and his two sons, who supposed she had bewitched
them, and their cattle; and ducked her, under the idea that, if she were
a witch, she could not be drowned; little thinking of the consequences
to themselves, if she did not survive the ordeal. Two of them afterwards
fled the country; the third was taken and tried. He stated, in his
defence, that he had reason to believe Matty was a witch, for her
predictions were always verified by events; and that once, when his
mother could not succeed in her churning, he and his father twisted a
hazel switch, as tight as their strength would permit, about the chum,
and behold, at last, in came Matty, shrieking and writhing, as if in
agony, and beseeching them to unloose the gad; which, she admitted, was
sympathetically torturing her own waist. He called no witnesses to this
fact; and, notwithstanding the ingenious argument which his counsel had
written out for him, wherein it was stated that "an unlettered clown"
might well be forgiven for entertaining the same opinions as some of the
kings of England, and one of her most eminent judges, in old days, the
young man was convicted and executed, for acting under an impression
that those powers existed, for the possession of which, a century
before, helpless old women were found guilty by twelve of their fellow
countrymen, and doomed, by a strong-minded judge, to be burned;—more
than one of the old creatures having crawled, it is said, when led from
the cold dungeon, to warm their chilled limbs by the fire that was
kindling to consume them.
Ralph Hickory and Harry Hickory, the objects of Matty Drew's doggrel
prophecy, are the heroes of our tale—the Counterpart Cousins;—rather
alike in disposition, but bearing no resemblance to each other in
outward appearance. Ralph inherited all the strength and height of the
Blakes, without their fine form, or the handsome features of the
Hickories. His shoulders were broad, but round, and his neck did not
seem to rise exactly in their centre: his arms were long, muscular, and
well shaped; but his legs were crooked, and too brief in proportion to
his body. His maternal ancestor's features were rather of the Roman
order, and the wags of the village said, that Ralph had a Blake's nose
run to seed:—it was thin, sharp, and disagreeable. Every body confessed
that he had the Hickories' merry black eyes;—but his mouth gaped, and
looked like a caricature of their pouting and slightly ported lips. The
Hickories' teeth were brilliant and pearly; the Blakes' quite the
contrary:—the lips of the former delicately exhibited their dental
treasures; while those of the latter were so close and clenched, that it
was difficult to obtain a glance at the awkward squad which they
concealed. Ralph unfortunately inherited the bad teeth of the Blakes,
and the open lips of the Hickories; as well as the fair hair of the
former, and the dark eyes and long black lashes of the latter: so that
Ralph was rather a singular looking being;—but precisely, or nearly such
a person as the reader must have occasionally met with;—exhibiting an
union of some of the beauties, and many of the deformities, of two or
three of the tribes of man.
Harry was very different in person, but not a jot more beautiful than
Ralph. His body was broader and more robust than that of a Blake, when
the family was in a flourishing state; but it was remarkably short, and
shapeless as a log. His head seemed to be squeezed into his shoulders by
some giant hand, and his light but well-proportioned Hickory legs
exhibited a striking contrast to the clumsy bulk of his huge trunk. The
butcher said, that Harry would resemble his big block, with a calf's
head on its surface, only that it stood on three legs, and Harry
possessed but two. His arms were thick, bony and stunted; and his hands
of such an immense size, that he was often called "Molepaw" by his
competitors in the wrestling ring. Harry had the large blue eyes of the
Blake family, and a thick, short, snub nose; which, the good gossips
said, could be traced to nobody. There was a striking resemblance in his
other features to the by-gone Hickories: his mouth and chin were really
handsome; but an unmeaning smile usually played about his lips; and he
had a vacant sort of look, that betokened good humour allied to
silliness. But when Harry's blood was warmed by an angry word or two and
an extra cup of drink, though he did not "look daggers," he frowned
furiously, and looked, as well as talked, broomsticks, cudgels, kicks on
the shin-bone, and various other "chimeras dire." In such a mood, Harry
was dangerous to deal with, and avoided by all those who were peaceably
In this particular, Ralph was his counterpart There was not a more kind or
sociable being in three counties than Ralph Hickory, when he was sober;
but liquor made him quarrelsome and rash; it whetted his appetite to
give and receive kicks and bruises; and if he could not rouse any one,
by insults and taunting, to wrestle, fight, or play a bout at
back-sword, or cudgels with him,—he lashed himself up into a fury,
attacked, and either scattered those who were about him like chaff, or
got felled by a sturdy thwack of fist or cudgel, and fastened down until
reason returned hand-in-hand with shame and remorse. To both of the
cousins liquor was pure Lethe; they never remembered any thing that
occurred, from the time of their passing the rubicon of intoxication,
until the moment of their waking the next day.
Ralph and Harry considered themselves as relations to each other, on the
credit of certain of the gossiping oral genealogists of the village, who
proved, in a very roundabout way, to their auditors, but entirely to
their own conviction, that Ralph and Harry were, what are called, in the
West Country,—second and third cousins. Each of them was the offspring
of a match between a male Hickory and a female Blake; and both were bad
specimens of the two fine families, whose more gifted descendants, in
regard to personal appearance, the issue of those unions which had been
formed between "the manly Blakes" and "the handsome Hickories," were the
individuals who had quitted the village, impelled by a spirit of
adventure, when they felt themselves too crowded in their native place,
on account of the increase of its population.
Hickory was now the paramount name in the parish; there was not a single
Blake in its little community, except old Dame Deborah, whose boast it
had been, when she could babble apace, that she was the last of either
of the pure stocks left. She had often stated, in the autumn of her
life,—that season when the mind yields its richest fruits of
memory,—that the good old Blakes began to lose the ascendant, from the
time of the battle of Culloden. It will appear strange, that the
downfall of the Pretender's forces in the north, should be associated,
in Deborah's mind, with that of her family, whose abiding place was in
the west. We will explain this nearly in the old dame's own words: "On
the 16th of April, in the forty-six, my brother Gilbert,"—thus her story
ran,—"who was then an officer in the Duke of Cumberland's dragoons,
which rank he had attained, partly by money, partly by merit, did such
service under the great Hawley, against the lads in tartans, that he was
promised promotion by the famous Duke, who gave him his pistols, in the
field, as an earnest of more favours to come. A few days after, while
the dragoons were scouring the country, in quest of prisoners of
consequence, it was whispered, by some who envied him, that Gilbert had
been won by the honeyed words and rich jewels of a noble northern lady,
to let her husband, whom he had taken, escape. This report reached
Gilbert's ears; and the next day, while he was mounting his horse, an
orderly came with commands for him to attend the Duke with all speed.
Gilbert directly drew out his men; gave some orders of importance, which
were afterwards executed, and proved very beneficial to the service, and
directed his junior officer to lead the soldiers off to perform it: he
then stepped aside, and, with one of the pistols the Duke had given him
on the sixteenth, blew out his brains! On the very evening the news
arrived of my brother's death by his own hands, a sad disaster happened
to the Blakes:—my father was, that afternoon, beating an apprentice,
rather too severely, perhaps, in a field where some of his labourers
were hacking-in wheat; when one who was among them,—a little fellow who
was not much more than five feet high, but remarkable for his good
features and fine form,—left his work, and advancing to my tall and
powerful father, reproached him, in so insolent a manner, for beating
the boy, who was a favourite with the labourer, that the bad blood of
the Blakes became immediately roused, and he inflicted a blow or two on
the man's shoulders with his stick: the fellow stepped back a few paces,
and then running against my father at full speed, drove his head into
the pit of the old man's stomach with such violence, that it laid him
dead upon the spot I don't know why, or wherefore, but true it is, that
the labourer was acquitted of blame on his trial; and he was the first
of the Hickories known in these parts. The same evening, my aunt Elinor,
the widow of Frank Cooper, who had sailed round the world with Anson,
died away in her chair, without any previous illness. Had my father been
killed an hour later, he would have heard of the suicide of his son; and
had not my aunt Elinor died before sunset, she would have known, that
both her brother and her nephew had gone before her to the grave: but
both of them were saved from the bitterness of such news on their dying
day. From that time, the Blakes dwindled, and the Hickories rose. They
have matched and mated much since; but it is said, perhaps truly, that
the Hickories are doomed to root out the Blakes, and then destroy
themselves;—they met in the valley of death, and blood will be mixed in
their stirrup-cup. My grandson Ralph has now more of the Blakes in him
than any other man; and thick Harry, although he has a double dash of us
in his veins, is more of a Hickory than any other I know. They are both
Hickories in name, but not truly so in nature. Ralph looks upon himself,
and is looked up to, as the head of the poor remnant of my father's
race; and Harry is in the same situation, as a descendant of the
labourer, who took his master's life, on that master's own land. They
have both a great many of the bad qualities, and but few of the virtues,
of the two families;—and I, for one, say—God keep them from drinking
deep out of the same cup!—for liquor is likely to be their bane."
This sort of language was too frequently repeated, and the witch Matty
Drew's prophecy too often alluded to, by old Deborah, in those days when
her tongue still talked triumphantly, although her limbs were incapable
of motion, not to produce a deep and lasting impression upon her
hearers. One half of the village was in a constant state of alarm, after
Ralph had returned, a man, from the "up-along" counties, to which he had
departed, a boy, in order to learn some improved mode of cultivating
land, lest the two cousins should meet and quarrel in their cups. If
they were seen in the village, passing a few moments in friendly chat, a
scout immediately acquainted the parties most interested with the
circumstance; and, in a short time, one of them was drawn off, by a
fictitious story, of lambs tumbling into ditches, cows getting their
legs entangled in hurdles, or children fallen into fits.
Ralph and Harry both loved the pastimes of their native place; they could
wrestle, and play at back-sword, in very laudable style; but Ralph was
the better wrestler, and Harry surpassed in the use of the single-stick.
Devon being noted for its wrestlers, and Somerset for its single-stick
players, the cousins were attracted in different directions, to enjoy
that pastime in which each excelled; so that, up to the fortieth year of
their lives,—and they were, as it will be remembered, precisely of the
same age,—they had never, much to the satisfaction of their friends, met
in the ring as rivals. Especial care had always been taken that they did
not join the same convivial parties; they often attempted to make merry
together, for Ralph and Harry really felt an affection for each other's
society, but the women invariably out-manoeuvred them, and the two
cousins were greater strangers to each other, than either of them was to
any man else in the village, of his own age and station.
Their forty-first birth-day arrived: Ralph attended a review of the
yeomanry-cavalry, in which he was a corporal, and Harry went to market
for the purpose of selling some steers. On returning home, they were
obliged to cross each other's track. They dwelt at opposite ends of the
long, straggling village; which were approached by two different lanes:
of these, the letter X will serve as a tolerably good substitute for a
ground plan;—the market town being situate at the top of the left, and
the common, on which the review was held, on that of the right, limb of
the letter; at the lower end of which the village meandered along
through meadows and corn-fields; Harry's abode being at the right, and
Ralph's at the left end of it. The two lanes were crossed, at the point
of intersection, by a third, which, on account of its being two or three
yards wider, and a little more frequented than either of them, was
dignified with the title of "the high road;" and in this "undeniable
situation," as George Robins would say, stood a snug public house,
called Sawney's Cross; the front of which commanded a view, across the
high road, for some distance up the lanes which led to the market town
Harry was proceeding down one lane, at a speedy, shuffling pace, betwixt a
gallop and trot, on a powerful blind galloway; while Ralph approached
the line of intersection, from the common, by the other, on a gaunt,
half-bred horse, nearly sixteen hands high, a strong galloper, and quite
ungovernable when put upon his mettle. The galloway and the tall horse
were both "homeward bound;" and "sniffing the manger from afar," each of
them was going along, impatient of check, and at, what jockies would
call, "a tip-top pace."
Ned Creese, the landlord of Sawney's Cross, stood at his door, and beheld
the ominous approach of the two travellers: he was mathematician enough
to discover, that equi-distant as they were, from the point where their
lines of direction intersected each other in the middle of the main
road, and approaching toward such point with equal speed, something
unpleasant must needs occur to one of the parties, at the transit. He
beckoned, and called out to each of them as loudly as he could: but
Harry was short sighted, and could not see his motions; and Ralph was
rather hard of hearing, and could not make out what he meant; so that
neither of them pulled up; and, as they were concealed from each other
by the high hedges of the lanes, neither Harry nor Ralph was aware of
the danger that menaced them, until they emerged from the bottom of the
lanes. Ralph foresaw the event first, and, with might and main,
attempted to pull his horse out of the way: he partly succeeded, but by
checking his steed, and making him swerve from the direct line in which
he was going, he gave Harry a decided advantage in the ensuing shock.
The cousins had just time to ejaculate "Hoy, Ralph!" and "Hilloa,
Harry!" when the blind galloway bore his off-shoulder against the tall
troop-horse's hind quarters, and just such a catastrophe took place as
Creese had anticipated:—Harry was thrown over his galloway's head; and
Ralph, with his horse, and the galloway at his heels, were carried to
the brink of a horse-pond by the road side. Ralph fell in the mud, and
the horses went over him into the water; where they lay struggling
together for a few moments; they then got up without assistance, and
each limped homeward, leaving their owners to come after them as well as
"Hoy, Ralph!" and "Hilloa, Harry!" were the first words the cousins
"Art hurt, lad?" asked Ralph.—"No," was the reply;—"Art thee?"
"Sound as oak; only a bloody nose, and a bump on the forehead."
"That's right, then; I don't feel much the matter myself; but dowl take
thy blind galloway, for all that!"
"He's worth his weight in gold;—didn't'ee see how he capsized you and your
"You charged me in flank when I was filing off;—if I had met'ee full butt,
Harry, I should ha' sent thee and thy galloway clean into the muck, and
gone on without abating pace, or feeling a jerk in my balance."
"What, and not ha' turned round to say 'Hilloa, Harry?'"
"Odd! yes, to be sure,—I'd say 'Hilloa, Harry!'—and what will'ee drink,
"Well,—and what shall we?"
"I don't mind;—but let's ha' something, and make merry together for once."
"Wi' all my heart!—Here we be, safe from busy meddlers; and dash me if I
don't feel inclined to make a day of it."
"Give me your hand;—this capsize was a bit of luck, weren't it?"
"Aye, to be sure,—brought two good fellows together. What shall we
have?—It's cold.—What d'ye say to Hopping John, made Tom Nottle's
fashion?—Landlord, mix pint of brandy wi' half a gallon of your best
cider, sugared to your own taste; and,—d'ye mind?—pop in about a dozen
good roasted apples, hissing hot, to take the chill off."
In a short time, the two cousins were seated by the fire, in a little room
behind the bar of the Sawney's Cross, with a smoking bowl of liquor on
the table before them, and Ned Creese assisting them to empty it. By
degrees, the cousins became elevated, and their chat was enlivened by
budding jokes and choice flowers of rustic song. Harry's forehead
frequently reminded him, in the midst of his glee, of the adventure in
the road; and he recurred to it, for the fifth time, since the sitting,
as Ned brought in a second brewage of hot Hopping John:—"I'd lay a wager
I know where my blind galloway is, just about now," quoth he; "it's odd
to me if he isn't stopping at the Dragon's Head, where he always pulls
up, and tempts me to call for a cup of cider and a mouthful of hay."
"Gentlemen," said Creese, "I'll give you a toast—a Devonshire one—and it's
this:—A back fall, or a side fall, or any fall but a fall out."
"For my part," continued Ned, after his toast was duly honoured,—"I
expected no less than a fight, if you were able to stand, after what I
saw would happen;—but I hardly hoped to see both get on your legs, with
nothing but one bloody nose between the pair of you."
"I must say, landlord, I fell very comfortably, indeed, considering," said
"And I came down very much to my own satisfaction," quoth Ralph, "only
that I soiled my uniform."
"It struck me," observed Ned Creese, "that you must have gone over head
and ears into the pond, which is deeper than it should be in the middle;
but I consoled myself;—for, thinks I,—if so be that he should, the
frogs on his dragoon jacket will save him, if swimming can do it If
you'd both broke your necks I couldn't but giggle to see you. It's my
belief 'twould have made a horse laugh; as my sign says, it was truly
'good entertainment for man and beast.'—Don't be hipped because I'm
jocular: joking's a malady with many a man, and here stands one of'em;
we can no more help it than an ague fit. But come, folks; here's 'The
West Country Orchards!'—and then let's rouse the crickets with the old
apple-tree hymn.—I'll begin." So saying, Creese commenced, and, assisted
by Ralph and Harry, chaunted forth the following rhymes, in a manner
that would have amazed Mozart, although it gladdened the hearts of the
rustic guests in the Sawney's Cross kitchen.
The white rose was, aye, a dainty flower,
And the hawthorn a bonny tree;
A grove of oaks is a rich dame's dower;
But the barley-straw for me!
From his acorn-cup let the Elfin sip,
And the oak-fruit be munched by swine;
The thrush may have both the haw and hip;
Give me but the jolly vine!
Ale you may brew, from the barley-straw;
Neither ale, nor grape-juice for me;
I care not for acorn, hip, nor haw;—
Give me but the apple-tree!
After they had all three repeated the last verse together, and applauded
their performance by sundry exclamations of approval, and thwacks on the
table, Ralph observed, "Oddsheart! cousin, we're getting as we should
be; a fig for a fell after this."
"Da capo, say I to it," exclaimed Creese; "da capo, I say to it, heartily:
da capo, as it is written in the score-book we sing the psalms by, in
the gallery, at church."
"Wasn't frightened a trifle, landlord, when thee saw'st us coming?"
"Is the approach of a good bone likely to alarm a hungry dog?—I knew well
enough you'd fall; and if you fell, the fall must bring me grist, in
meal or malt:—a 'quest jury, if death had been done; board and lodging,
in case of broken limbs; and a brace of guests for an hour, if you were
only bruised. I shall be much obliged, when you knock one another down
again, if you'll do it before my door. Success to cross-roads, blind
galloways, helter-skelter dragooning, and blink-eyed farmers!—Ha!
ha!—You'll excuse me gentlemen; we're all friends; I hope no
offence.—What are your commands?"
"There's one thing I'd wish thee to do, landlord," said Ralph; "if any
body should enquire for us,—don't say we be here."
"No, truly," added Harry; "an' thou dost, thou'lt lose a couple of good
customers, and get thy head broke to boot, perhaps."
"Never fear—never fear!" replied Ned; "a secret's safe with me, as though
'twaa whispered in the ear of an ass. Thank heaven, I haven't had a
woman in the house these seven yean; so all's snug.—
"A forester slept beneath the beech.
Heigh! norum snorum!
His full flask lay within his arm's reach;
Heigh! horum jorum!
A maiden came by with a blooming face,
Heigh! rosy posey!
She ask'd him the way to Berrywell Chase,—
With its wine so old,
And its pasties cold;—
Forester, what has froze ye?
"A long song is out of place over good liquor; so I'll not sing the other
eighteen verses of that one; its moral is, that a woman can't keep a
secret, even when the possession of what she desires depends on it; but
that her babbling often proves her salvation. A friar comes in sight,
while the forester is wooing, and he packs the maid off, for appearance'
sake;—telling her, if she'll meet him there the next day, provided she
don't reveal his promise to mortal, that he'll give her 'a gown of the
richest green,' besprinkled with dewy pearls, or pearly dew, I forget
which: but the maiden was so delighted, that when she got to the Chase,
she told the warden's niece, and the warden's niece told the maiden's
aunt, and the maiden's aunt locked her up for a week: so she saved her
reputation, but lost her present, by babbling.—Gentlemen, you don't
We must here leave the cousins to the care of Creese—they could not have
fallen into better hands for the mood in which they met—and remind our
readers, that the horses, after extricating themselves from the pond,
proceeded homeward as well as the injuries they had received would
permit. Their arrival at the village, spread consternation among its
inhabitants: parties went forth, in different directions, to seek Ralph
and Harry;—the women predicting that they had met and killed each other,
and the men endeavouring to stifle their own apprehensions on the
subject. Creese, on being asked if he knew any thing of the matter,
replied, that "he had seen the horses, without riders, gallop by his
door, down the lanes;" and as no one had witnessed the meeting of the
cousins but himself and they were kept close in the back parlour, no
information could be obtained from any one else. Lights were burnt, in
almost every house in the village, nearly all night; and toward
day-break the last party returned without any tidings of the lost sheep.
Old Dame Deborah, confiding in the predictions of Matty Drew, said, as
well as she could, "Bad is this—there's worse to come;—it will prove to
be but a
"Merry meeting—sorry parting."
We must now return to the cousins. On the morning after their concussion
in front of Sawney's Cross, Ralph, with whom we shall begin, awoke at
day break, and on taking a hasty survey of his apartment, found, to his
surprise, that he was not at home. He recollected very well that he had
usually worn, for many years past, corduroy small-clothes; and, when he
joined the volunteer yeomanry, white doe-skin pantaloons. "Whose black
nether garments can those be, then," thought he, "which I see dangling
from yonder peg?"—He leaped out of bed, threw open the lattice, and the
first object that attracted his notice was the horse-pond; on the miry
edge of which, he remembered having been thrown the day before. This
accounted for the colour of his doe-skins. "But, how the dickens,"
thought he, "got I this tremendous black eye? Where's my front tooth?
And who the deuce has been bruising my ear?—I recollect, well enough,
seeing Creese, the landlord, bring in a third brewing of Hopping John,
and my singing, 'Creeping Jenny,' or part of it, afterwards but what's
come of Harry?"
While these and similar reflections were passing in Ralph's mind, he
proceeded to dress himself, which he found a task of considerable
difficulty, for he was stiff and sore in every limb. Impatient to
resolve the mystery in which he found himself involved, Ralph, before he
was completely attired in his soiled uniform, hobbled down stairs, and
found Harry, staring at the landlord, as though Creese had just been
telling him some very marvellous story.
"Why, Ralph,—cousin Ralph," said Harry, as Ralph entered the kitchen,
"what be this the landlord says?—He vows and protests 'twere you that
ha' been tearing my clothes to tatters and rags, and beating my face to
a jelly!—I han't a sound inch in my skin!"
"Before I do answer any questions, it be my wish to know of you,
landlord," said Ralph, in an angry tone, and taking Creese by the
collar; "and what's more, I insist you do tell me, who took the
advantage of me last night—who it were that knocked my tooth out, when I
"I've lost a tooth myself,—be dashed if I han't!" exclaimed Harry, whose
attention was so distracted by his other injuries, that he had not
discovered the important fact before this moment; "I'll swear I had it
in my mouth last night," pursued he, grasping Creese, with his huge paw,
by the collar; "and I'll be told, why and wherefore you've let me be
used like a dog, when I were drunk:—answer!"
"Ay, answer, or I'll shake thy life out!" cried Ralph, looking as if he
really meant to "suit the action to the word."
"Gentlemen,—guests," said Creese, apparently not in the least alarmed, but
putting himself in a strong attitude, and calmly collaring the cousins;
"be mild, and you shall hear all; or one at a time, and I'm for the
first fair fall, who shall pay last night's smart, with the best, or
both of you,—one down t'other come on: but if you'll put your hands in
your pockets and be peaceable, I'll employ mine to produce your
teeth;—that is, if I can."
The cousins now relinquished their holds, and Ned drew out a drawer of the
dresser, and requested they would look into it. "Here," said he, "you
will find the fragments of your feast of fisty-cuffs; perhaps, among the
bits of lace, linen, broad-cloth, frogs and buttons, which I carefully
swept up last night, after I had put you both to bed, you may find your
teeth; if not, I know nothing about them:—send for a constable, and
search me, if you like."
At this offer, the cousins turned to each other and were going to smile;
but immediately they were face to face, they stared in so rueful a
manner, that Creese was amazingly amused. It was the first time, since
Ralph had come down stairs, that the cousins had closely inspected each
other's countenances, which might, with propriety enough, as the
landlord said, be called "maps of mischance."
"But it's all your own doings," quoth he; "the credit and honour belong to
nobody but yourselves;—I must say you're both downright dapsters at
"But how were it, d'ye say, landlord?" asked Ralph.
"Ay, truly, how happened it all, according to your story?"—said Harry.
"Why, gentlemen," replied Creese, "after I found you were going to drink
more than I could well bear,—when it was high tide almost in my head,
and my frail wits began to rock to and fro, pitching me about, when I
moved, like a barge in a hurricane,—I very wisely anchored in the bar,
and attended, as well as I could, to my business: a nap or two between
whiles, as I tended my customers, and one cool pipe, brought me round,
and it was calm sailing with me again.—All this time you were getting
louder and louder; at last, the short gentleman, my worthy friend, Mr.
Harry, persuaded you, Mr. Ralph, to try a friendly back-fall with him.
There wasn't much harm in that;—though, I promise you, I tried to
prevent it, but couldn't. So I cleared away the crockery, and stood by,
as 'twas my duty, to see fair. Harry was, clearly, in my mind, the best
wrestler; but, somehow, Ralph got the in-lock, and laid him upon the
planchin, flat as a pancake."
"Did I, by jingo?" eagerly exclaimed Ralph.
"No,—it's all his lies;—it couldn't be!" quoth Harry; looking very
incredulous and displeased.
"I have said it, and I'll stand to it;"—continued Ned; "and when you got
up, as you did, with my help, you went over to Ralph, patted him on the
back, and, said you,—'Well done, cousin,—I didn't think it was in thee!'
You added, with an oath, it was the best and fairest fall you had seen
for years past;—that it nearly drove the breath out of your body; and
then you patted him on the back again. After this, you both sat down,
talked, sung, and,—by-and-bye,—began to broach something about
"Likely enough, an't it, Harry?" said Ralph.
"I don't believe a word o' the story," replied Harry;—"but I'll hear it
"I did not ask you to believe it," said Creese; "but there's special
evidence on your head, as well as on your cousin's, that you played at
it, long and lustily."
"And which won?" enquired Ralph.
"Both of you lost blood, as well as temper, at last," replied Creese;
"but, I remember, Harry gave you the first broken head."
"Never!" replied Ralph, "it never lay in his shoes: he may be as good a
wrestler, or better; but scores of men, that my cousin Harry have often
and often given his head to, never could touch me."
"Well! be that as it may," said the landlord, "he certainly had you last
night, Ralph, or I'm out of my senses. Why, I remember it as well as if
it was but a minute ago:—you broke open the glass buffet, in which the
two sticks my uncle and father won the grand match with—Wilts against
Somerset—was stuck up, among the china, with silver mountings, and
decorated with green ribbons, cut out like laurel-leaves;—and you said
they were the best sticks you ever broke a head with: and when Harry cut
your ear, and I cried out 'A bout, a bout!' and put the poker between
you, you shook Harry's hand, and said you admired him, for he had done
what no man ever had attempted—namely—hit you under your best guard."
"Ha! ha! ha!" shouted Harry. "Odds buttons! Ralph, but there seems to be
some truth in this though, for your ear is cut up, sure enough then,
clean as a whistle; it must ha; been done as Creese says."
Ralph put his hand up to his ear, and, like Lord Burleigh, in The Critic,
shook his head and said nothing.
"All this," continued the landlord, "was friendly and civil: you then
ordered a double quantity of brandy in the brewage—if you don't believe
me, look in the bill,—and, in about half an hour, I found you fighting
in downright earnest, and in all manner of ways;—kicking, cudgelling,
wrestling, pulling, punching, tearing one another to pieces very
ungentlemanly, and so forth, and clearly bent on destruction. You had
cracked the looking-glass, broke the table, 'shod the liquor, and tore
the porringer,' as the man said; or, in other words, shed the cider and
brandy, and broke the bowl; all which you'll find I've made correct
memorandums of in the bill. Then I called in the blacksmiths, from next
door, our ostler, and three waggoners who were drinking outside;—we all
pitched into you, and, at last, got you asunder: but not before the
mischief you see and feel was done; and to shew what minds you were in,
when we pulled you, by main force, apart, each of you carried away his
hold, like a couple of bull-dogs:—Harry brought off a piece of Ralph's
sleeve and his shoulder-belt, and Ralph the forepart of Harry's coat,
full two-thirds of his waistcoat, and a pattern of his linen. We then
contrived to get you to bed—as you'll see in the bill; and—and—"
"Aye,—and here we be," added Ralph; "nice objects for a wife and family to
"Thou'rt quite a scarecrow, cousin Ralph," said Harry. "Do get him a
glass, and let him look at himself, landlord," said Ralph. "I'm sorry
for thee, Harry;—it's my belief 't'ant exactly as the landlord says; but
we can't belie the story he has told us, so where's the use of
disputing? The question is,—what shall we do?"
"Be dashed if I bean't ashamed to go home," replied Harry; "I sha'n't be
able to look my wife in the face."
"Ah! that's touching a sore place, Harry.'Tisn't my bruises, nor thine,
that I care much about—after all; but frightening the women, poor dear
souls!—thy Jane and my Grace, Harry—by staying out all night, eh?"
"Don't talk about it,—but let's get some drink."
"Small ale, or leek broth, let it be, then, and we'll start while we be
sober and solid. We'll get a couple of carts—you shall go to my wife,
and smooth her over, and I'll go to thine; and then, at night, let'em
come and fetch each of us home."
"Well! so be it, Ralph; but sha'n't we have a stirrup-cup?"
"No, not this time.—Your hand, Harry—I like thee, cousin; but it strikes
me there's some truth in old women and witches. I wouldn't pass another
evening with thee, for half the land from here to Axminster."
A week after the rencounter at Sawney's Cross, each of the cousins was
lying at his own home,—a-bed, bandaged, and still suffering from the
bruises which they had conferred on each other. They soon, however,
recovered: the watchful care of their friends was doubled; neither of
them evinced much inclination for the other's company, and a whole year
passed away, without any thing remarkable occurring between them.
The birth-day of the cousins was, however, again unlucky.—Harry, perhaps
on account of his success in the bout he had with Ralph, at Sawney's
Cross, or, it might be, from mere whim, practised back-sword-playing,
and became a frequent attendant at the various single-stick matches in
the neighbourhood. Some capital pastime having been expected, at a
revel, about ten miles up the country, Harry and Ralph, on their
forty-second birth-day, totally unaware of each other's intentions, set
off to see and join in the sport. The malice or curiosity of some of the
parties present, or, perhaps, mere accident, brought the cousins on the
stage as opponents. Ralph was going to descend; but Harry whispered in
his ear, "If we don't have a bout or two, Ralph, they'll jeer us, and
say we be old women." Ralph still evinced an inclination to retire; when
his cousin said aloud, "Now, Ralph, here's a chance for getting the head
you lost to me at Sawney's Cross."
"Aye, true,—true," replied Ralph, taking a stick, and preparing for the
play. They shook hands; both, as usual, said,—"God save our eyes!"—they
threw themselves into attitude; and one minute had scarcely elapsed,
before Harry received a blow from Ralph's stick, which totally deprived
him of sight, in one eye, for the remainder of his existence.
An inflammation of so violent a nature ensued, that Harry's life was, for
some time, considered in danger. One day, when his wife came to Ralph's
house, weeping, and exclaiming that little hope was left of her husbands
recovery, Dame Deborah, in a low, broken tone, said to her, "The day's
not come; it is but—
"Second greeting—bitter smarting."
"Bide a while—there's no fear yet"
Deborah was right: Harry recovered his health and strength, and none ever
heard him regret the loss of his eye; about which, he said, poor Ralph
"took on" unnecessarily, for it was purely an accident The forty-third
and forty-fourth birth-days had passed; and the minds of the relations
of Ralph and Harry grew more composed; although they still continued on
the alert, to prevent them getting together over "a cup of drink." It
happened that Harry had a heavy crop of oats, in a large field, which
were dead-ripe; and bad weather being expected, it was an object of
importance with him to get the crop "cut and carried" as quickly as
possible. According to the custom of the village, every farmer, who was
not in a similar predicament, came, with such servants as he could
spare, to assist his neighbour in distress. Ralph was one of the first
in the field, and set so fine an example to his companions, that the
oats were all down, long before sun-set The work was severe, the weather
sultry, and the hospitable Harry did not grudge his cider during the
day. Deep draughts had been quaffed, and Harry could not suffer his
guests to depart, without a cup round of his best As they were about to
quit the field, a grey-headed man unfortunately remarked, that they were
standing on the spot where, on that day and hour, a great many years
before, little Dick Hickory had killed old Reuben Blake. This produced a
string of observations from various individuals of the party: the merits
and demerits of the action were freely canvassed; the debate grew hot,
and more cider was brought from the house. Ralph and Harry, naturally
enough, joined in, and, at length, led the discussion. Ralph blamed Dick
Hickory, and Harry applied several harsh epithets, in the warmth of the
moment, to Reuben Blake. The cheeks of the spectators grew pale, as the
cousins abruptly broke from the original argument, to abuse each other:
a well-meant interference increased, rather than allayed, their rage;
they cast the alarmed mediators aside, flew toward each other, and
grappled:—as Ralph was rushing in, Harry crouched, lifted his cousin off
the ground, and threw him completely over his head,—never to rise again!
When his sorrowful companions brought home the body of poor Ralph, they
found old Deborah repeating, in a low, shrill, and, as they afterwards
said, unearthly tone, the rhymes of Matty Drew: but the last words of
the third line died away on her lips; and when some of the family
ceased, for a moment, to gaze on the livid face of Ralph, and turned toward the
kitchen-hearth, they saw that Dame Deborah was dead in her chair.