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has Mardykes Hall given me share of its cheer and its shelter and the warmth of its fire; and I bless the house that has been an inn to the wayfarer of the Lord. But to-night I go up the lake to Pindar's Bield, three miles on; and there I rest and refresh—not here.'
• And why not here, Mr. Creswell ? asked the Baronet; for about this crazy old man, who preached in the fields, and appeared and disappeared so suddenly in the orbit of his wide and unknown perambulations of those northern and border counties, there was that sort of superstitious feeling which attaches to the mysterious and the good—an idea that it was lucky to harbour and dangerous to offend him. No one knew whence he came or whither he went. Once in a year, perhaps, he might appear at a lonely farmstead door among the fells, salute the house, enter, and be gone in the morning. His life was austere ; his piety enthusiastic, severe, and tinged with the craze which inspired among the rustic population a sort of awe.
*I'll not sleep at Mardykes to-night ; neither will I eat, nor drink, nor sit me down—no, nor so much as stretch my hands to the fire. As the man of God came out of Judah to king Jeroboam, so come I to you, sent by a vision, to bear a warning; and as he said, “If thou wilt give me half thy house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place," so also
• Do as you please,' said Sir Bale, a little sulkily. "Say your say; and you are welcome to stay or go, if go you will on so mad a night as this.'
* Leave us,” said Creswell, beckoning the servant back with his thin hands ; 'what I have to say is to your master.'
The servant went, in obedience to a gesture from Sir Bale, and shut the door.
The old man drew nearer to the Baronet, and lowering his loud stern voice a little, and interrupting his discourse from time to time, to allow the near thunder-peals to subside, he said,
• Answer me, Sir Bale—what is this that has chanced between you and Philip Feltram ?'
The Baronet, under the influence of that blunt and peremptory demand, told him shortly and sternly enough.
*And of all these facts you are sure, else ye would not blast your early companion and kinsman with the name of thief ?'
I am sure,' said Sir Bale grimly.
• Unlock that cabinet,' said the old man with the long white locks.
* I've no objection,' said Sir Bale; and he did unlock an old oak cabinet that stood, carved in high relief with strange figures and gothic grotesques, against the wall, opposite the fireplace. On opening it there were displayed a system of little drawers and pigeonholes such as we see in more modern escritoires.
Open that drawer with the red mark of a seal upon it,' continued Hugh Creswell, pointing to it with his lank finger.
Sir Bale did so; and to his momentary amazement, and even consternation, there lay the missing note, which now, with one of those sudden caprices of memory which depend on the laws of suggestion and association, he remembered having placed there with his own hand.
• That is it,' said old Creswell with a pallid smile, and fixing his wild eyes on the Baronet. The smile subsided into a frown, and said he: ‘Last night I slept near Haworth Moss; and your father came to me in a dream, and said : “My son Bale accuses Philip of having stolen a bank-note from his desk. He forgets that he himself placed it in his cabinet. Come with me." I was, in the spirit, in this room; and he led me to this cabinet, which he opened; and in that drawer he showed me that note. Go,” said he, “and tell him to ask Philip Feltram's pardon, else he will but go in weakness to return in power ;' and he said that which it is not lawful to repeat. My message is told. Now, a word from myself,' he added sternly. The dead, through my lips, has spoken, and under God's thunder and lightning his words have found ye. Why so uppish wi' Philip Feltram ? See how ye threaped, and yet were wrong. He's no tazzle-he's no taggelt. Mind ye ask his pardon. Ye must change, or he will change. Go in weakness, come in power : mark ye the words. 'Twill make a peal that will be heard in toon and desert, in the swirls o' the mountain, through pikes and valleys, and mak' a waaly man o' thee.'
The old man with these words, uttered in the broad northern dialect of his common speech, strode from the room and shut the door. In another minute he was forth into the storm, pursuing what remained of his long march to Pindar's Bield.
Upon my soul !' said Sir Bale, recovering from the sort of stun which the sudden and strange visit had left, that's a cool old fellow! Come to rate me and teach me my own business in my own house !' and he rapped out a fierce oath. Change his mind or no, here he sha'n't stay to-night—not an hour.'
Sir Bale was in the lobby in a moment, and thundered to his servants :
'I say, put that impudent fool out of the door-put him out by the shoulder, and never let him get his foot inside it more !'
But the old man's yea was yea, and his nay nay. He had quite meant what he said ; and, as I related, was beyond the reach of the indignity of extrusion.
Sir Bale on his return shut his door as violently as if it were in the face of the old prophet.
Ask Feltram's pardon indeed! For what? Why, any jury on earth would have hanged him on half the evidence; and I, like a fool, was going to let him off with his liberty and my hundred pounds! Ask his pardon indeed!'
Still there were misgivings in his mind; a consciousness that he did owe explanation and apology to Feltram, and an insurmountable reluctance to undertake either. The old dislike—a contempt mingled with fear—not any fear of his malevolence, a fear only of his carelessness and folly; for, as I have said, Feltram knew many things, it was believed, of the Baronet's continental and Asiatic life, and had even gently remonstrated with him upon the dangers into which he was running. A simple fellow like Philip Feltram is a dangerous depositary of a secret. This Baronet was proud, too ; and the mere possession of his secrets by Feltram was voluntary insult, which Sir Bale could not forgive. He wished him far away; and except for the recovery of his bank-note, which he could ill spare, he was sorry that this suspicion was cleared up.
The thunder and storm were unabated; it seemed indeed that they were growing wilder and more awful.
He opened the window-shutter and looked out upon that sublimest of scenes ; and so intense and magnificent were its phenomena, that Sir Bale was for a while absorbed in this contemplation.
When he turned about, the sight of his 1001. note, still between his finger and thumb, made him smile grimly.
The more he thought of it, the clearer it was that he could not leave matters as they were. Well, what should he do? He would send for Mrs. Julaper, and tell her vaguely that he had changed his mind about Feltram, and that he might continue to stay at Mardykes Hall as usual. That would suffice. She could speak to Feltram.
He sent for her; and soon, in the lulls of the great uproar without, he could hear the jingle of Mrs. Julaper's keys and her light tread upon the lobby.
• Mrs. Julaper,' said the Baronet in his dry careless way, 'Feltram may remain ; your eloquence has prevailed. What have you been crying about ?' he asked, observing that his housekeeper's usually cheerful face was, in her own phrase, 'all cried.'
• It is too late, sir; he's gone.'
. And when did he go ?' asked Sir Bale, a little put out. “Не chose an odd evening, didn't he ? So like him !'
• He went about half an hour ago ; and I'm very sorry, sir ; it's a sore sight to see the poor lad going from the place he was reared in, and a hard thing, sir; and on such a night, above all.'
No one asked him to go to-night. Where is he gone to ?'
• I don't know, I'm sure ; he left my room, sir, when I was upstairs; and Janet saw him pass the window not ten minutes after Mr. Creswell left the house.'
Well, then, there's no good, Mrs. Julaper, in thinking more about it; he has settled the matter his own way; and as he so ordains it-amen, say I.
ADVENTURE IN TOM MARLIN'S BOAT. PHILIP FELTRAM was liked very well—a gentle, kindly, and very timid creature, and, before he became so heart-broken, a fellow who liked a joke or a pleasant story, and could laugh heartily. Where will Sir Bale find so unresisting and respectful a butt and retainer ? and whom will he bully now?
Something like remorse was troubling Sir Bale's heart a little ; and the more he thought on the strange visit of Hugh Creswell that night, with its unexplained menace, the more uneasy he became.
The storm continued ; and even to him there seemed something exaggerated and inhuman in the severity of his expulsion on such a night. It was his own doing, it was true ; but would people believe that ? and would he have thought of leaving Mardykes at all if it had not been for his kinsman's cruelty ? Nay, was it not certain that if Sir Bale had done as Hugh Creswell had urged him, and sent for Feltram forthwith, and told him how all had been cleared up, and been a little friendly with him, he would have found him still in the house ?—for he had not yet gone for ten minutes after Creswell's departure, and thus all that was to follow might have been averted. But it was now too late, and Sir Bale would let the affair take its own course.
Below him, outside the window at which he stood ruminating, he heard voices mingling with the storm. He could with tolerable certainty perceive, looking into the obscurity, that there were three men passing close under it, carrying some very heavy burden among them.
He did not know what these three black figures in the obscurity were about. He saw them pass round the corner of the building toward the front, and in the lulls of the storm could hear their gruff voices talking.
We have all experienced what a presentiment is, and we all know with what an intuition the faculty of observation is sometimes heightened. It was such an apprehension as sometimes gives its peculiar horror to a dream—a sort of knowledge that what those people were about was in a dreadful way connected with his own fate.
He watched for a time, thinking that they might return; but they did not. He was very uncomfortable, and in a state of suspense.
* If they want me, they won't have much trouble in finding me, nor any scruple in plaguing me; they never have.'
Sir Bale returned to his letters, a score of which he was that
night getting off his conscience—an arrear which would not have troubled him had he not ceased, for two or three days, altogether to employ Philip Feltram, who had been accustomed to take all that sort of drudgery off his hands.
All the time he was writing now he had a feeling that the shadows he had seen pass under his window were machinating some trouble for him, and an uncomfortable suspense made him lift his eyes now and then to the door, fancying sounds and footsteps ; and after a resultless wait he would say to himself, If any one is coming, why the devil don't they come ?' and apply himself again to his letters.
But on a sudden he heard good Mrs. Julaper's step trotting along the lobby, and the tiny ringing of her keys.
Here was news coming; and the Baronet stood up looking at the door, on which presently came a hurried rapping ; and before he had answered, in the midst of an awful thunder-clap that suddenly broke, rattling over the house, the good woman opened the door in great agitation, and cried with a tremulous uplifting of her hands,
0, Sir Bale ! 0, la, sir ! here's poor dear Philip Feltram come home drowned !'
Sir Bale stared at her sternly for some seconds.
Come, now, do be distinct,' said Sir Bale; what has happened ?
'He's lying on the sofer in the old still-room. You never saw -my God !-0, sir—what is life ?'
*D-n it, can't you cry by and by, and tell me what's the matter now?'
"A bit o' fire there, as luck would have it ; but what is hot or cold now ? La, sir, they're all doin' what they can, and Tom Warren is on the gallop down to Golden Friars for Doctor Torvey.'
• Is he drowned, or is it only a ducking ? Come, bring me to the place. Dead men don't usually want a fire, or consult doctors. I'll see for myself.'
So Sir Bale Mardykes, pale and grim, accompanied by the lightfooted Mrs. Julaper, strode along the passages, and was led by her into the old still-room, which had ceased to be used for its original purpose. All the servants in the house were now collected there, and three men also who lived by the margin of the lake ; one of them thoroughly drenched, with rivulets of water still trickling from his sleeves, water down the wrinkles and pockets of his waistcoat and from the feet of his trousers, and pumping and oozing from his shoes, and streaming from his hair down the channels of his cheeks like a continuous rain of tears.
The people drew back a little as Sir Bale entered with a quick step and a sharp pallid frown on his face. There was a silence as he stooped over Philip Feltram, who lay on a low bed next the wall, dimly lighted by two or three candles here and there about the room.