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that ancient game. Hollar had thrown sixes and made his double point, and the honest Captain, who could stand many things better than Hollar's throwing such throws so early in the evening, cursed his opponent's luck and sneered at his play, and called the company to witness, with a distinctness which a stranger to smiling Hollar's deafness would have thought hardly civil; and just at this moment the door opened, and Richard Turnbull showed his new guest into the room, and ushered him to a vacant seat near the other corner of the table before the fire.
The stranger advanced slowly and shyly, with something a little deprecatory in his air, to which a lathy figure, a slight stoop, and a very gentle and even heart-broken look in his long pale face, gave a more marked character of shrinking and timidity.
He thanked the landlord aside, as it were, and took his seat with a furtive glance round, as if he had no right to come in and intrude upon the happiness of these honest gentlemen.
He saw the Captain scanning him from under his shaggy gray eyebrows while he was pretending to look only at his game; and the Doctor was able to recount to Mrs. Torvey when he went home every article of the stranger's dress.
It was odd and melancholy as his peaked face.
He had come into the room with a short black cloak on, and a rather tall foreign felt hat, and a pair of shiny leather gaiters or leggings on his thin legs; and altogether presented a general resemblance to the conventional figure of Guy Fawkes.
Not one of the company assembled there knew the appearance of the Baronet. The Doctor and old Mr. Peers remembered some- . thing of his looks; and certainly they had no likeness, but the reverse, to those presented by the new-comer. The Baronet, as now described by people who had chanced to see him, was a dark man, not above the middle size, and with a certain decision in his air and talk; whereas this person was tall, pale, and in air and manner feeble. So this broken trader in the world's commerce, with whom all seemed to have gone wrong, could not possibly be he.
Presently, in one of his stealthy glances, the Doctor's eye encountered that of the stranger, who was by this time drinking his tea—a thin and feminine liquor little used in that room.
The stranger did not seem put out; and the Doctor, interpreting his look as a permission to converse, cleared his voice, and said urbanely,
'We have had a little frost by night down here, sir, and a little fire is no great harm—it is rather pleasant, don't you think ?'
The stranger bowed acquiescence with a transient wintry smile, and looked gratefully on the fire.
. This place is a good deal admired, sir, and people come a good way to see it ; you have been here perhaps before ?'
* Many years ago.'
* Places change imperceptibly—in detail, at least—a good deal,' said the Doctor, making an effort to keep up a conversation that plainly would not go on of itself; and people too; population shifts —there's an old fellow, sir, they call Death.'
And an old fellow they call the Doctor, that helps him,' threw in the Captain humorously, allowing his attention to get entangled in the conversation, and treating them to one of his tempestuous ha-ha-ha's.
We are expecting the return of a gentleman who would be a very leading member of our little society down here,' said the Doctor, without noticing the Captain's joke. "I mean Sir Bale Mardykes. Mardykes Hall is a pretty object from the water, sir, and a very fine old place.'
The melancholy stranger bowed slightly, but rather in courtesy to the relator, it seemed, than that the Doctor's lore interested him much.
“And on the opposite side of the lake,' continued Doctor Torvey, 'there is a building that contrasts very well with it—the old house of the Feltrams-quite a ruin now, at the mouth of the glenCloostedd House, a very picturesque object.
•Exactly opposite,' said the stranger dreamily, but whether in the tone of acquiescence or of interrogatory, the Doctor could not be quite sure.
. That was one of our great families down here that has disappeared. It has dwindled down to nothing.'
Duce ace,' remarked Mr. Hollar, who was attending to his game.
• While others have mounted more suddenly and amazingly still,' observed gentle Mr. Peers, who was great upon county genealogies.
“Sizes !' thundered the Captain, thumping the table with an oath of disgust.
“And Snakes Island is a very pretty object; they say there used to be snakes there,' said the Doctor, enlightening the visitor.
“Ah! that's a mistake,' said the dejected guest, making his first original observation. It should be spelt Snaiks. In the old papers it is called Sen-aiks Island, from the seven oaks that grew in a clump there.
Hey? that's very curious, egad! I daresay,' said the Doctor, set right thus by the stranger, and eyeing him curiously.
* Very true, sir,' observed Mr. Peers ; 'three of those oaks, though, two of them little better than stumps, are there still; and Clewson of Heckleston has an old document,
Here, unhappily, the landlord entered the room in a fuss, and
walking up to the stranger, said, “The chaise is at the door, Mr. Feltram, and the trunks up, sir.'
Mr. Feltram rose quietly and took out his purse, and said,
I suppose I had better pay at the bar ?
Mr. Feltram bowed all round to the gentlemen, who smiled, ducked, or waved their hands; and the Doctor fussily followed him to the hall-door, and welcomed him back to Golden Friarsthere was real kindness in this welcome-and proffered his broad brown hand, which Mr. Feltram took; and then he plunged into his chaise, and the door being shut, away he glided, chaise, horses, and driver, like shadows, by the margin of the moonlighted lake, towards Mardykes Hall.
And after a minute's stand upon the steps, looking along the shadowy track of the chaise, they returned to the glow of the room, in which a pleasant perfume of punch still prevailed; and beside Mr. Philip Feltram's deserted tea-things, the host of the George enlightened his guests by communicating freely the little he had picked up. The principal fact he had to tell was, that Sir Bale adhered strictly to his original plan, and was to arrive on the tenth. A few days would bring them to that, and the nine-days wonder run its course and lose its interest. But in the mean time, all Golden Friars was anxious to see what Sir Bale Mardykes was like.
THE BARONET APPEARS. As the candles burn blue and the air smells of brimstone at the approach of the Evil One, so, in the quiet and healthy air of Golden Friars, a depressing and agitating influence announced the coming of the long-absent Baronet.
From abroad, no good whatever had been at any time heard of him, and a great deal that was, in the ears of simple folk living in that unsophisticated part of the world, vaguely awful.
Stories that travel so far, however, lose something of their authority, as well as definiteness, on the way; there was always room for charity to suggest a mistake or exaggeration ; and if good men turned up their hands and eyes after a new story, and ladies of experience, who knew mankind, held their heads high and looked grim and mysterious at mention of his name, nevertheless an interval of silence softened matters a little, and the sulphureous perfume dissipated itself in time.
Now that Sir Bale Mardykes had arrived at the Hall, there were hurried consultations held in many households. And though he was tried and sentenced by drum-head over some austere hearths, as a rule the law of gravitation prevailed, and the greater house drew
years he expr the step
the lesser about it, and country people within the visiting radius paid their respects at the Hall.
The Reverend Martin Bedel, the then vicar of Golden Friars, a stout short man, with a mulberry-coloured nose and small gray eyes, and taciturn habits, called and entered the drawing-room at Mardykes Hall, with his fat and garrulous wife on his arm.
The drawing-room had a great projecting Tudor window looking out on the lake, with its magnificent back-ground of furrowed and purple mountains.
Sir Bale was not there, and Mrs. Bedel examined the pictures, and ornaments, and the books, making such remarks as she saw fit; and then she looked out of the window, and admired the prospect. She wished to stand well with the Baronet, and was in a mood to praise everything.
You may suppose she was curious to see him, having heard for years such strange tales of his doings.
She expected the hero of a brilliant and wieked romance; and listened for the step of the truant Lovelace who was to fulfil her idea of manly beauty and fascination.
She sustained a slight shock when he did 'appear.
Sir Bale Mardykes was, as she might easily have remembered, a middle-aged man--and he looked it. He was not even an imposing-looking man for his time of life: he was of about the middle height, slightly made, and dark featured. She had expected something of the gaiety and animation of Versailles, and an evident cultivation of the art of pleasing. What she did see was a remarkable gravity, not to say gloom, of countenance—the only feature of which that struck her being a pair of large dark-gray eyes, that were cold and earnest. His manners had the ease of perfect confidence; and his talk and air were those of a person who might have known how to please, if it were worth the trouble, but who did not care twopence whether he pleased or not.
He made them each a bow, courtly enough, but there was no smile—not even an affectation of cordiality. Sir Bale, however, was chatty, and did not seem to care much what he said, or what people thought of him; and there was a suspicion of sarcasm in what he said that the rustic literality of good Mrs. Bedel did not always detect.
I believe I have not a clergyman but you, sir, within any reasonable distance ?
Golden Friars is the nearest,' said Mrs. Bedel, answering, as was her pleasure on all practicable occasions, for her husband. “And southwards, the nearest is Wyllarden—and by a bird's flight that is thirteen miles and a half, and by the road more than nineteentwenty, I may say, by the road. Ha, ha, ha! it is a long way to look for a clergyman.'
• Twenty miles of road to carry you thirteen miles across, hey? The road-makers lead you a pretty dance here; those gentlemen know how to make money, and like to show people the scenery from a variety of points. No one likes a straight road but the man who pays for it, and who, when he travels, is brute enough to wish to get to his journey's end.'
That is so true, Sir Bale; one never cares if one is not in a hurry. That's what Martin thinks—don't we, Martin ? —And then, you know, coming home is the time you are in a hurry—when you are thinking of your cup of tea and the children; and then, you know, you have the fall of the ground all in your favour.'
It's well to have anything in your favour in this place. And so there are children ?'
*A good many,' said Mrs. Bedel, with a proud and mysterious smile, and a nod; you wouldn't guess how many.'
Not I; I only wonder you did not bring them all.'
· That's very good-natured of you, Sir Bale, but all could not come at one bout; there are—tell him, Martin—ha, ha, ha! there are eleven.'
• It must be very cheerful down at the vicarage,' said Sir Bale graciously; and turning to the vicar he added, “But how unequally blessings are divided ! you have eleven, and I not one—that I'm aware of.'
“And then, in that direction straight before you, you have the lake, and then the fells; and five miles from the foot of the mountain at the other side, before you reach Fottrell—and that is twentyfive miles by the road
Dear me ! how far apart they are set ! My gardener told me this morning that asparagus grows very thinly in this part of the world. How thinly clergymen grow also down here-in one sense,' he added politely, for the vicar was stout.
“We were looking out of the window — we amused ourselves that way before you came—and your view is certainly the very best anywhere round this side ; your view of the lake and the fells—what mountains they are, Sir Bale !
“ 'Pon my soul, they are! I wish I could blow them asunder with a charge of duck-shot, and I shouldn't be stifled by them long. But I suppose, as we can't get rid of them, the next best thing is to admire them. We are pretty well married to them, and there is no use in quarrelling.'
“I know you don't think so, Sir Bale, ha, ha, ha! You wouldn't take a good deal and spoil Mardykes Hall.'
You can't get a mouthful of air, or see the sun of a morning, for those frightful mountains,' he said with a peevish frown at them.
• Well, the lake at all events—that you must admire, Sir Bale?'