J. S. Le Fanu's Ghostly Tales, Volume 3
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Part 1 out of 3
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J. S. LE FANU'S GHOSTLY TALES, VOLUME 3
The Haunted Baronet (1871)
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
The Haunted Baronet
The George and Dragon
The pretty little town of Golden Friars--standing by the margin of the
lake, hemmed round by an amphitheatre of purple mountain, rich in tint
and furrowed by ravines, high in air, when the tall gables and narrow
windows of its ancient graystone houses, and the tower of the old
church, from which every evening the curfew still rings, show like
silver in the moonbeams, and the black elms that stand round throw
moveless shadows upon the short level grass--is one of the most singular
and beautiful sights I have ever seen.
There it rises, 'as from the stroke of the enchanter's wand,' looking so
light and filmy, that you could scarcely believe it more than a picture
reflected on the thin mist of night.
On such a still summer night the moon shone splendidly upon the front of
the George and Dragon, the comfortable graystone inn of Golden Friars,
with the grandest specimen of the old inn-sign, perhaps, left in
England. It looks right across the lake; the road that skirts its margin
running by the steps of the hall-door, opposite to which, at the other
side of the road, between two great posts, and framed in a fanciful
wrought-iron border splendid with gilding, swings the famous sign of St.
George and the Dragon, gorgeous with colour and gold.
In the great room of the George and Dragon, three or four of the old
_habitues_ of that cozy lounge were refreshing a little after the
fatigues of the day.
This is a comfortable chamber, with an oak wainscot; and whenever in
summer months the air is sharp enough, as on the present occasion, a
fire helped to light it up; which fire, being chiefly wood, made a
pleasant broad flicker on panel and ceiling, and yet did not make the
room too hot.
On one side sat Doctor Torvey, the doctor of Golden Friars, who knew the
weak point of every man in the town, and what medicine agreed with each
inhabitant--a fat gentleman, with a jolly laugh and an appetite for all
sorts of news, big and little, and who liked a pipe, and made a tumbler
of punch at about this hour, with a bit of lemon-peel in it. Beside him
sat William Peers, a thin old gentleman, who had lived for more than
thirty years in India, and was quiet and benevolent, and the last man in
Golden Friars who wore a pigtail. Old Jack Amerald, an ex-captain of the
navy, with his short stout leg on a chair, and its wooden companion
beside it, sipped his grog, and bawled in the old-fashioned navy way,
and called his friends his 'hearties.' In the middle, opposite the
hearth, sat deaf Tom Hollar, always placid, and smoked his pipe, looking
serenely at the fire. And the landlord of the George and Dragon every
now and then strutted in, and sat down in the high-backed wooden
arm-chair, according to the old-fashioned republican ways of the place,
and took his share in the talk gravely, and was heartily welcome.
"And so Sir Bale is coming home at last," said the Doctor. "Tell us any
more you heard since."
"Nothing," answered Richard Turnbull, the host of the George. "Nothing
to speak of; only 'tis certain sure, and so best; the old house won't
look so dowly now."
"Twyne says the estate owes a good capful o' money by this time, hey?"
said the Doctor, lowering his voice and winking.
"Weel, they do say he's been nout at dow. I don't mind saying so to
_you_, mind, sir, where all's friends together; but he'll get that right
"More like to save here than where he is," said the Doctor with another
"He does very wisely," said Mr. Peers, having blown out a thin stream of
smoke, "and creditably, to pull-up in time. He's coming here to save a
little, and perhaps he'll marry; and it is the more creditable, if, as
they say, he dislikes the place, and would prefer staying where he is."
And having spoken thus gently, Mr. Peers resumed his pipe cheerfully.
"No, he don't like the place; that is, I'm told he _didn't_," said the
"He _hates_ it," said the Doctor with another dark nod.
"And no wonder, if all's true I've heard," cried old Jack Amerald.
"Didn't he drown a woman and her child in the lake?"
"Hollo! my dear boy, don't let them hear you say that; you're all in the
"By Jen!" exclaimed the landlord after an alarmed silence, with his
mouth and eyes open, and his pipe in his hand, "why, sir, I pay rent for
the house up there. I'm thankful--dear knows, I _am_ thankful--we're all
Jack Amerald put his foot on the floor, leaving his wooden leg in its
horizontal position, and looked round a little curiously.
"Well, if it wasn't him, it was some one else. I'm sure it happened up
at Mardykes. I took the bearings on the water myself from Glads Scaur to
Mardykes Jetty, and from the George and Dragon sign down here--down to
the white house under Forrick Fells. I could fix a buoy over the very
spot. Some one here told me the bearings, I'd take my oath, where the
body was seen; and yet no boat could ever come up with it; and that was
queer, you know, so I clapt it down in my log."
"Ay, sir, there _was_ some flummery like that, Captain," said Turnbull;
"for folk will be gabbin'. But 'twas his grandsire was talked o', not
him; and 'twould play the hangment wi' me doun here, if 'twas thought
there was stories like that passin' in the George and Dragon.'
"Well, his grandfather; 'twas all one to him, I take it."
"There never was no proof, Captain, no more than smoke; and the family
up at Mardykes wouldn't allow the king to talk o' them like that, sir;
for though they be lang deod that had most right to be angered in the
matter, there's none o' the name but would be half daft to think 'twas
still believed, and he full out as mich as any. Not that I need care
more than another, though they do say he's a bit frowsy and
short-waisted; for he can't shouther me out o' the George while I pay my
rent, till nine hundred and ninety-nine year be rin oot; and a man, be
he ne'er sa het, has time to cool before then. But there's no good
quarrellin' wi' teathy folk; and it may lie in his way to do the George
mony an ill turn, and mony a gude one; an' it's only fair to say it
happened a long way before he was born, and there's no good in vexin'
him; and I lay ye a pound, Captain, the Doctor hods wi' me."
The Doctor, whose business was also sensitive, nodded; and then he said,
"But for all that, the story's old, Dick Turnbull--older than you or I,
my jolly good friend."
"And best forgotten," interposed the host of the George.
"Ay, best forgotten; but that it's not like to be," said the Doctor,
plucking up courage. "Here's our friend the Captain has heard it; and
the mistake he has made shows there's one thing worse than its being
quite remembered, and that is, its being _half_ remembered. We can't
stop people talking; and a story like that will see us all off the
hooks, and be in folks' mouths, still, as strong as ever."
"Ay; and now I think on it, 'twas Dick Harman that has the boat down
there--an old tar like myself--that told me that yarn. I was trying for
pike, and he pulled me over the place, and that's how I came to hear it.
I say, Tom, my hearty, serve us out another glass of brandy, will you?"
shouted the Captain's voice as the waiter crossed the room; and that
florid and grizzled naval hero clapped his leg again on the chair by its
wooden companion, which he was wont to call his jury-mast.
"Well, I do believe it will be spoke of longer than we are like to
hear," said the host, "and I don't much matter the story, if it baint
told o' the wrong man." Here he touched his tumbler with the spoon,
indicating by that little ring that Tom, who had returned with the
Captain's grog, was to replenish it with punch. "And Sir Bale is like to
be a friend to this house. I don't see no reason why he shouldn't. The
George and Dragon has bin in our family ever since the reign of King
Charles the Second. It was William Turnbull in that time, which they
called it the Restoration, he taking the lease from Sir Tony Mardykes
that was then. They was but knights then. They was made baronets first
in the reign of King George the Second; you may see it in the list of
baronets and the nobility. The lease was made to William Turnbull, which
came from London; and he built the stables, which they was out o'
repair, as you may read to this day in the lease; and the house has
never had but one sign since--the George and Dragon, it is pretty well
known in England--and one name to its master. It has been owned by a
Turnbull from that day to this, and they have not been counted bad men."
A murmur of applause testified the assent of his guests. "They has been
steady churchgoin' folk, and brewed good drink, and maintained the best
o' characters, hereaways and farther off too, though 'tis I, Richard
Turnbull, that says it; and while they pay their rent, no man has power
to put them out; for their title's as good to the George and Dragon, and
the two fields, and the croft, and the grazing o' their kye on the
green, as Sir Bale Mardykes to the Hall up there and estate. So 'tis
nout to me, except in the way o' friendliness, what the family may think
o' me; only the George and they has always been kind and friendly, and I
don't want to break the old custom."
"Well said, Dick!" exclaimed Doctor Torvey; "I own to your conclusion;
but there ain't a soul here but ourselves--and we're all friends, and
you are your own master--and, hang it, you'll tell us that story about
the drowned woman, as you heard it from your father long ago."
"Ay, do, and keep us to our liquor, my hearty!" cried the Captain.
Mr. Peers looked his entreaty; and deaf Mr. Hollar, having no interest
in the petition, was at least a safe witness, and, with his pipe in his
lips, a cozy piece of furniture.
Richard Turnbull had his punch beside him; he looked over his shoulder.
The door was closed, the fire was cheery, and the punch was fragrant,
and all friendly faces about him. So said he:
"Gentlemen, as you're pleased to wish it, I don't see no great harm in
it; and at any rate, 'twill prevent mistakes. It is more than ninety
years since. My father was but a boy then; and many a time I have heard
him tell it in this very room."
And looking into his glass he mused, and stirred his punch slowly.
The Drowned Woman
"It ain't much of a homminy," said the host of the George. "I'll not
keep you long over it, gentlemen. There was a handsome young lady, Miss
Mary Feltram o' Cloostedd by name. She was the last o' that family; and
had gone very poor. There's but the walls o' the house left now; grass
growing in the hall, and ivy over the gables; there's no one livin' has
ever hard tell o' smoke out o' they chimblies. It stands on t'other side
o' the lake, on the level wi' a deal o' a'ad trees behint and aside it
at the gap o' the clough, under the pike o' Maiden Fells. Ye may see it
wi' a spyin'-glass from the boatbield at Mardykes Hall."
"I've been there fifty times," said the Doctor.
"Well there was dealin's betwixt the two families; and there's good and
bad in every family; but the Mardykes, in them days, was a wild lot. And
when old Feltram o' Cloostedd died, and the young lady his daughter was
left a ward o' Sir Jasper Mardykes--an ill day for her, poor
lass!--twenty year older than her he was, an' more; and nothin' about
him, they say, to make anyone like or love him, ill-faur'd and little
"Dow--that's gloomy," Doctor Torvey instructed the Captain aside.
"But they do say, they has an old blud-stean ring in the family that
has a charm in't; and happen how it might, the poor lass fell in love
wi' him. Some said they was married. Some said it hang'd i' the
bell-ropes, and never had the priest's blessing; but anyhow, married or
no, there was talk enough amang the folk, and out o' doors she would na
budge. And there was two wee barns; and she prayed him hard to confess
the marriage, poor thing! But t'was a bootlese bene, and he would not
allow they should bear his name, but their mother's; he was a hard man,
and hed the bit in his teeth, and went his ain gait. And having tired of
her, he took in his head to marry a lady of the Barnets, and it behoved
him to be shut o' her and her children; and so she nor them was seen no
more at Mardykes Hall. And the eldest, a boy, was left in care of my
grandfather's father here in the George."
"That queer Philip Feltram that's travelling with Sir Bale so long is a
descendant of his?" said the Doctor.
"Grandson," observed Mr. Peers, removing his pipe for a moment; "and is
the last of that stock."
"Well, no one could tell where she had gone to. Some said to distant
parts, some said to the madhouse, some one thing, some another; but
neither she nor the barn was ever seen or spoke to by the folk at
Mardykes in life again. There was one Mr. Wigram that lived in them
times down at Moultry, and had sarved, like the Captain here, in the
king's navy in his day; and early of a morning down he comes to the town
for a boat, sayin' he was looking towards Snakes Island through his
spyin'-glass, and he seen a woman about a hundred and fifty yards
outside of it; the Captain here has heard the bearings right enough.
From her hips upwards she was stark and straight out o' the water, and a
baby in her arms. Well, no one else could see it, nor he neither, when
they went down to the boat. But next morning he saw the same thing, and
the boatman saw it too; and they rowed for it, both pulling might and
main; but after a mile or so they could see it no more, and gave over.
The next that saw it was the vicar, I forget his name now--but he was up
the lake to a funeral at Mortlock Church; and coming back with a bit of
a sail up, just passin' Snakes Island, what should they hear on a sudden
but a wowl like a death-cry, shrill and bleak, as made the very blood
hoot in their veins; and looking along the water not a hundred yards
away, saw the same grizzled sight in the moonlight; so they turned the
tiller, and came near enough to see her face--blea it was, and drenched
wi' water--and she was above the lake to her middle, stiff as a post,
holdin' the weeny barn out to them, and flyrin' [smiling scornfully] on
them as they drew nigh her. They were half-frighted, not knowing what to
make of it; but passing as close as the boatman could bring her side,
the vicar stretched over the gunwale to catch her, and she bent forward,
pushing the dead bab forward; and as she did, on a sudden she gave a
yelloch that scared them, and they saw her no more. 'Twas no livin'
woman, for she couldn't rise that height above the water, as they well
knew when they came to think; and knew it was a dobby they saw; and ye
may be sure they didn't spare prayer and blessin', and went on their
course straight before the wind; for neither would a-took the worth o'
all the Mardykes to look sich a freetin' i' the face again. 'Twas seen
another time by market-folk crossin' fra Gyllenstan in the self-same
place; and Snakes Island got a bad neam, and none cared to go nar it
"Do you know anything of that Feltram that has been with him abroad?"
asked the Doctor.
"They say he's no good at anything--a harmless mafflin; he was a long
gaumless gawky when he went awa," said Richard Turnbull. "The Feltrams
and the Mardykes was sib, ye know; and that made what passed in the
misfortune o' that young lady spoken of all the harder; and this young
man ye speak of is a grandson o' the lad that was put here in care o' my
"_Great_-grandson. His father was grandson," said Mr. Peers; "he held a
commission in the army and died in the West Indies. This Philip Feltram
is the last o' that line--illegitimate, you know, it is held--and the
little that remained of the Feltram property went nearly fourscore years
ago to the Mardykes, and this Philip is maintained by Sir Bale; it is
pleasant, notwithstanding all the stories one hears, gentlemen, that the
only thing we know of him for certain should be so creditable to his
"To be sure," acquiesced Mr. Turnbull.
While they talked the horn sounded, and the mail-coach drew up at the
door of the George and Dragon to set down a passenger and his luggage.
Dick Turnbull rose and went out to the hall with careful bustle, and
Doctor Torvey followed as far as the door, which commanded a view of it,
and saw several trunks cased in canvas pitched into the hall, and by
careful Tom and a boy lifted one on top of the other, behind the corner
of the banister. It would have been below the dignity of his cloth to go
out and read the labels on these, or the Doctor would have done
otherwise, so great was his curiosity.
The new guest was now in the hall of the George, and Doctor Torvey could
hear him talking with Mr. Turnbull. Being himself one of the dignitaries
of Golden Friars, the Doctor, having regard to first impressions, did
not care to be seen in his post of observation; and closing the door
gently, returned to his chair by the fire, and in an under-tone informed
his cronies that there was a new arrival in the George, and he could not
hear, but would not wonder if he were taking a private room; and he
seemed to have trunks enough to build a church with.
"Don't be too sure we haven't Sir Bale on board," said Amerald, who
would have followed his crony the Doctor to the door--for never was
retired naval hero of a village more curious than he--were it not that
his wooden leg made a distinct pounding on the floor that was inimical,
as experience had taught him, to mystery.
"That can't be," answered the Doctor; "Charley Twyne knows everything
about it, and has a letter every second day; and there's no chance of
Sir Bale before the tenth; this is a tourist, you'll find. I don't know
what the d---l keeps Turnbull; he knows well enough we are all naturally
willing to hear who it is."
"Well, he won't trouble us here, I bet ye;" and catching deaf Mr.
Hollar's eye, the Captain nodded, and pointed to the little table beside
him, and made a gesture imitative of the rattling of a dice-box; at
which that quiet old gentleman also nodded sunnily; and up got the
Captain and conveyed the backgammon-box to the table, near Hollar's
elbow, and the two worthies were soon sinc-ducing and catre-acing, with
the pleasant clatter that accompanies that ancient game. Hollar had
thrown sizes 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 heartbroken look in his pale long 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 grey 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
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 knew the appearance of the Baronet. The
Doctor and old Mr. Peers remembered something 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
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."
Here was another pause.
"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, not 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 glen--Cloostedd House, a
very picturesque object."
"Exactly opposite," said the stranger dreamily, but whether in the tone
of acquiescence or 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
"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
"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?"
"As you like best, sir," said Richard Turnbull.
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 Friars--there 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 few minutes' 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 meantime, 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
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 the lesser about it,
and county people within the visiting radius paid their respects at the
The Reverend Martin Bedel, the then vicar of Golden Friars, a stout
short man, with a mulberry-coloured face 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 has a great projecting Tudor window looking out on the
lake, with its magnificent background 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 wicked 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
"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 nineteen--twenty, 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, or
who, when he travels, is brute enough to wish to get to his journey's
"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
"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
"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 twenty-five miles by
"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
"'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 or 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?"
"No ma'am, I don't admire the lake. I'd drain the lake if I could--I
hate the lake. There's nothing so gloomy as a lake pent up among barren
mountains. I can't conceive what possessed my people to build our house
down here, at the edge of a lake; unless it was the fish, and precious
fish it is--pike! I don't know how people digest it--_I_ can't. I'd as
soon think of eating a watchman's pike."
"I thought that having travelled so much abroad, you would have acquired
a great liking for that kind of scenery, Sir Bale; there is a great deal
of it on the Continent, ain't there?" said Mrs. Bedel. "And the
"Boating, my dear Mrs. Bedel, is the dullest of all things; don't you
think so? Because a boat looks very pretty from the shore, we fancy the
shore must look very pretty from a boat; and when we try it, we find we
have only got down into a pit and can see nothing rightly. For my part I
hate boating, and I hate the water; and I'd rather have my house, like
Haworth, at the edge of a moss, with good wholesome peat to look at, and
an open horizon--savage and stupid and bleak as all that is--than be
suffocated among impassable mountains, or upset in a black lake and
drowned like a kitten. O, there's luncheon in the next room; won't you
Mrs. Julaper's Room
Sir Bale Mardykes being now established in his ancestral house, people
had time to form conclusions respecting him. It must be allowed he was
not popular. There was, perhaps, in his conduct something of the caprice
of contempt. At all events his temper and conduct were uncertain, and
his moods sometimes violent and insulting.
With respect to but one person was his conduct uniform, and that was
Philip Feltram. He was a sort of aide-de-camp near Sir Bale's person,
and chargeable with all the commissions and offices which could not be
suitably intrusted to a mere servant. But in many respects he was
treated worse than any servant of the Baronet's. Sir Bale swore at him,
and cursed him; laid the blame of everything that went wrong in house,
stable, or field upon his shoulders; railed at him, and used him, as
people said, worse than a dog.
Why did Feltram endure this contumelious life? What could he do but
endure it? was the answer. What was the power that induced strong
soldiers to put off their jackets and shirts, and present their hands to
be tied up, and tortured for hours, it might be, under the scourge, with
an air of ready volition? The moral coercion of despair; the result of
an unconscious calculation of chances which satisfies them that it is
ultimately better to do all that, bad as it is, than try the
alternative. These unconscious calculations are going on every day with
each of us, and the results embody themselves in our lives; and no one
knows that there has been a process and a balance struck, and that what
they see, and very likely blame, is by the fiat of an invisible but
quite irresistible power.
A man of spirit would rather break stones on the highway than eat that
bitter bread, was the burden of every man's song on Feltram's bondage.
But he was not so sure that even the stone-breaker's employment was open
to him, or that he could break stones well enough to retain it on a fair
trial. And he had other ideas of providing for himself, and a different
alternative in his mind.
Good-natured Mrs. Julaper, the old housekeeper at Mardykes Hall, was
kind to Feltram, as to all others who lay in her way and were in
She was one of those good women whom Nature provides to receive the
burden of other people's secrets, as the reeds did long ago, only that
no chance wind could steal them away, and send them singing into strange
You may still see her snuggery in Mardykes Hall, though the
housekeeper's room is now in a different part of the house.
Mrs. Julaper's room was in the oldest quarter of that old house. It was
wainscoted, in black panels, up to the ceiling, which was stuccoed over
in the fanciful diagrams of James the First's time. Several dingy
portraits, banished from time to time from other statelier rooms, found
a temporary abode in this quiet spot, where they had come finally to
settle and drop out of remembrance. There is a lady in white satin and a
ruff; a gentleman whose legs have faded out of view, with a peaked
beard, and a hawk on his wrist. There is another in a black periwig lost
in the dark background, and with a steel cuirass, the gleam of which out
of the darkness strikes the eye, and a scarf is dimly discoverable
across it. This is that foolish Sir Guy Mardykes, who crossed the Border
and joined Dundee, and was shot through the temple at Killiecrankie and
whom more prudent and whiggish scions of the Mardykes family removed
forthwith from his place in the Hall, and found a retirement here, from
which he has not since emerged.
At the far end of this snug room is a second door, on opening which you
find yourself looking down upon the great kitchen, with a little balcony
before you, from which the housekeeper used to issue her commands to the
cook, and exercise a sovereign supervision.
There is a shelf on which Mrs Julaper had her Bible, her _Whole Duty of
Man_, and her _Pilgrim's Progress_; and, in a file beside them, her
books of housewifery, and among them volumes of MS. recipes,
cookery-books, and some too on surgery and medicine, as practised by the
Ladies Bountiful of the Elizabethan age, for which an antiquarian would
nowadays give an eye or a hand.
Gentle half-foolish Philip Feltram would tell the story of his wrongs,
and weep and wish he was dead; and kind Mrs. Julaper, who remembered him
a child, would comfort him with cold pie and cherry-brandy, or a cup of
coffee, or some little dainty.
"O, ma'am, I'm tired of my life. What's the good of living, if a poor
devil is never let alone, and called worse names than a dog? Would not
it be better, Mrs. Julaper, to be dead? Wouldn't it be better, ma'am? I
think so; I think it night and day. I'm always thinking the same thing.
I don't care, I'll just tell him what I think, and have it off my mind.
I'll tell him I can't live and bear it longer."
"There now, don't you be frettin'; but just sip this, and remember
you're not to judge a friend by a wry word. He does not mean it, not he.
They all had a rough side to their tongue now and again; but no one
minded that. I don't, nor you needn't, no more than other folk; for the
tongue, be it never so bitin', it can't draw blood, mind ye, and hard
words break no bones; and I'll make a cup o' tea--ye like a cup o'
tea--and we'll take a cup together, and ye'll chirp up a bit, and see
how pleasant and ruddy the sun shines on the lake this evening."
She was patting him gently on the shoulder, as she stood slim and stiff
in her dark silk by his chair, and her rosy little face smiled down on
him. She was, for an old woman, wonderfully pretty still. What a
delicate skin she must have had! The wrinkles were etched upon it with
so fine a needle, you scarcely could see them a little way off; and as
she smiled her cheeks looked fresh and smooth as two ruddy little
"Look out, I say," and she nodded towards the window, deep set in the
thick wall. "See how bright and soft everything looks in that pleasant
light; _that's_ better, child, than the finest picture man's hand ever
painted yet, and God gives it us for nothing; and how pretty Snakes
Island glows up in that light!"
The dejected man, hardly raising his head, followed with his eyes the
glance of the old woman, and looked mournfully through the window.
"That island troubles me, Mrs. Julaper."
"Everything troubles you, my poor goose-cap. I'll pull your lug for ye,
child, if ye be so dowly;" and with a mimic pluck the good-natured old
housekeeper pinched his ear and laughed.
"I'll go to the still-room now, where the water's boiling, and I'll make
a cup of tea; and if I find ye so dow when I come back, I'll throw it
all out o' the window, mind."
It was indeed a beautiful picture that Feltram saw in its deep frame of
old masonry. The near part of the lake was flushed all over with the low
western light; the more distant waters lay dark in the shadow of the
mountains; and against this shadow of purple the rocks on Snakes Island,
illuminated by the setting sun, started into sharp clear yellow.
But this beautiful view had no charm--at least, none powerful enough to
master the latent horror associated with its prettiest feature--for the
weak and dismal man who was looking at it; and being now alone, he rose
and leant on the window, and looked out, and then with a kind of shudder
clutching his hands together, and walking distractedly about the room.
Without his perceiving, while his back was turned, the housekeeper came
back; and seeing him walking in this distracted way, she thought to
herself, as he leant again upon the window:
"Well, it _is_ a burning shame to worrit any poor soul into that state.
Sir Bale was always down on someone or something, man or beast; there
always was something he hated, and could never let alone. It was not
pretty; it was his nature. Happen, poor fellow, he could not help it;
but so it was."
A maid came in and set the tea-things down; and Mrs. Julaper drew her
sad guest over by the arm, and made him sit down, and she said: "What
has a man to do, frettin' in that way? By Jen, I'm ashamed o' ye, Master
Philip! Ye like three lumps o' sugar, I think, and--look cheerful, ye
must!--a good deal o' cream?"
"You're so kind, Mrs. Julaper, you're so cheery. I feel quite
comfortable after awhile when I'm with you; I feel quite happy," and he
began to cry.
She understood him very well by this time and took no notice, but went
on chatting gaily, and made his tea as he liked it; and he dried his
tears hastily, thinking she had not observed.
So the clouds began to clear. This innocent fellow liked nothing better
than a cup of tea and a chat with gentle and cheery old Mrs. Julaper,
and a talk in which the shadowy old times which he remembered as a child
emerged into sunlight and lived again.
When he began to feel better, drawn into the kindly old times by the
tinkle of that harmless old woman's tongue, he said:
"I sometimes think I would not so much mind--I should not care so
much--if my spirits were not so depressed, and I so agitated. I suppose
I am not quite well."
"Well, tell me what's wrong, child, and it's odd but I have a recipe on
the shelf there that will do you good."
"It is not a matter of that sort I mean; though I'd rather have you than
any doctor, if I needed medicine, to prescribe for me."
Mrs. Julaper smiled in spite of herself, well pleased; for her skill in
pharmacy was a point on which the good lady prided herself, and was open
to flattery, which, without intending it, the simple fellow
"No, I'm well enough; I can't say I ever was better. It is only, ma'am,
that I have such dreams--you have no idea."
"There are dreams and dreams, my dear: there's some signifies no more
than the babble of the lake down there on the pebbles, and there's
others that has a meaning; there's dreams that is but vanity, and
there's dreams that is good, and dreams that is bad. Lady
Mardykes--heavens be her bed this day! that's his grandmother I
mean--was very sharp for reading dreams. Take another cup of tea. Dear
me! what a noise the crows keep aboon our heads, going home! and how
high they wing it!--that's a sure sign of fine weather. An' what do you
dream about? Tell me your dream, and I may show you it's a good one,
after all. For many a dream is ugly to see and ugly to tell, and a good
dream, with a happy meaning, for all that."
"Well, Mrs. Julaper, dreams I've dreamed like other people, old and
young; but this, ma'am, has taken a fast hold of me," said Mr. Feltram
dejectedly, leaning back in his chair and looking down with his hands in
his pockets. "I think, Mrs. Julaper, it is getting into me. I think it's
"Possession, child! what do you mean?"
"I think there is something trying to influence me. Perhaps it is the
way fellows go mad; but it won't let me alone. I've seen it three times,
think of that!"
"Well, dear, and what _have_ ye seen?" she asked, with an uneasy
cheerfulness, smiling, with eyes fixed steadily upon him; for the idea
of a madman--even gentle Philip in that state--was not quieting.
"Do you remember the picture, full-length, that had no frame--the lady
in the white-satin saque--she was beautiful, _funeste_," he added,
talking more to himself; and then more distinctly to Mrs. Julaper
again----"in the white-satin saque; and with the little mob cap and blue
ribbons to it, and a bouquet in her fingers; that was--that--you know
who she was?"
"That was your great-grandmother, my dear," said Mrs. Julaper, lowering
her eyes. "It was a dreadful pity it was spoiled. The boys in the pantry
had it for a year there on the table for a tray, to wash the glasses on
and the like. It was a shame; that was the prettiest picture in the
house, with the gentlest, rosiest face."
"It ain't so gentle or rosy now, I can tell you," said Philip. "As fixed
as marble; with thin lips, and a curve at the nostril. Do you remember
the woman that was found dead in the clough, when I was a boy, that the
gipsies murdered, it was thought,--a cruel-looking woman?"
"Agoy! Master Philip, dear! ye would not name that terrible-looking
creature with the pretty, fresh, kindly face!"
"Faces change, you see; no matter what she's like; it's her talk that
frightens me. She wants to make use of me; and, you see, it is like
getting a share in my mind, and a voice in my thoughts, and a command
over me gradually; and it is just one idea, as straight as a line of
light across the lake--see what she's come to. O Lord, help me!"
"Well, now, don't you be talkin' like that. It is just a little bit
dowly and troubled, because the master says a wry word now and then; and
so ye let your spirits go down, don't ye see, and all sorts o' fancies
comes into your head."
"There's no fancy in my head," he said with a quick look of suspicion;
"only you asked me what I dreamed. I don't care if all the world knew. I
dreamed I went down a flight of steps under the lake, and got a message.
There are no steps near Snakes Island, we all know that," and he laughed
chillily. "I'm out of spirits, as you say; and--and--O dear! I
wish--Mrs. Julaper--I wish I was in my coffin, and quiet."
"Now that's very wrong of you, Master Philip; you should think of all
the blessings you have, and not be makin' mountains o' molehills; and
those little bits o' temper Sir Bale shows, why, no one minds 'em--that
is, to take 'em to heart like you do, don't ye see?"
"I daresay; I suppose, Mrs. Julaper, you are right. I'm unreasonable
often, I know," said gentle Philip Feltram. "I daresay I make too much
of it; I'll try. I'm his secretary, and I know I'm not so bright as he
is, and it is natural he should sometimes be a little impatient; I ought
to be more reasonable, I'm sure. It is all that thing that has been
disturbing me--I mean fretting, and, I think, I'm not quite well;
and--and letting myself think too much of vexations. It's my own fault,
I'm sure, Mrs. Julaper; and I know I'm to blame."
"That's quite right, that's spoken like a wise lad; only I don't say
you're to blame, nor no one; for folk can't help frettin' sometimes, no
more than they can help a headache--none but a mafflin would say
that--and I'll not deny but he has dowly ways when the fit's on him, and
he frumps us all round, if such be his humour. But who is there hasn't
his faults? We must bear and forbear, and take what we get and be
cheerful. So chirp up, my lad; Philip, didn't I often ring the a'd rhyme
in your ear long ago?
"Be always as merry as ever you can,
For no one delights in a sorrowful man.
"So don't ye be gettin' up off your chair like that, and tramping about
the room wi' your hands in your pockets, looking out o' this window, and
staring out o' that, and sighing and crying, and looking so
black-ox-trodden, 'twould break a body's heart to see you. Ye must be
cheery; and happen you're hungry, and don't know it. I'll tell the cook
to grill a hot bit for ye."
"But I'm not hungry, Mrs. Julaper. How kind you are! dear me, Mrs.
Julaper, I'm not worthy of it; I don't deserve half your kindness. I'd
have been heartbroken long ago, but for you."
"And I'll make a sup of something hot for you; you'll take a
rummer-glass of punch--you must."
"But I like the tea better; I do, indeed, Mrs. Julaper."
"Tea is no drink for a man when his heart's down. It should be something
with a leg in it, lad; something hot that will warm your courage for ye,
and set your blood a-dancing, and make ye talk brave and merry; and will
you have a bit of a broil first? No? Well then, you'll have a drop o'
punch?--ye sha'n't say no."
And so, all resistance overpowered, the consolation of Philip Feltram
A gentler spirit than poor Feltram, a more good-natured soul than the
old housekeeper, were nowhere among the children of earth.
Philip Feltram, who was reserved enough elsewhere, used to come into her
room and cry, and take her by both hands piteously, standing before her
and looking down in her face, while tears ran deviously down his cheeks.
"Did you ever know such a case? was there ever a fellow like _me_? did
you ever _know_ such a thing? You know what I am, Mrs. Julaper, and who
I am. They call me Feltram; but Sir Bale knows as well as I that my true
name is not that. I'm Philip Mardykes; and another fellow would make a
row about it, and claim his name and his rights, as she is always
croaking in my ear I ought. But you know that is not reasonable. My
grandmother was married; she was the true Lady Mardykes; _think_ what it
was to see a woman like that turned out of doors, and her children
robbed of their name. O, ma'am, you _can't_ think it; unless you were
me, you couldn't--you couldn't--you couldn't!"
"Come, come, Master Philip, don't you be taking on so; and ye mustn't be
talking like that, d'ye mind? You know he wouldn't stand that; and it's
an old story now, and there's naught can be proved concerning it; and
what I think is this--I wouldn't wonder the poor lady was beguiled. But
anyhow she surely thought she was his lawful wife; and though the law
may hev found a flaw somewhere--and I take it 'twas so--yet sure I am
she was an honourable lady. But where's the use of stirring that old
sorrow? or how can ye prove aught? and the dead hold their peace, you
know; dead mice, they say, feels no cold; and dead folks are past
fooling. So don't you talk like that; for stone walls have ears, and ye
might say that ye couldn't _un_say; and death's day is doom's day. So
leave all in the keeping of God; and, above all, never lift hand when ye
"Lift my hand! O, Mrs. Julaper, you couldn't think that; you little know
me; I did not mean that; I never dreamed of hurting Sir Bale. Good
heavens! Mrs. Julaper, you couldn't think that! It all comes of my poor
impatient temper, and complaining as I do, and my misery; but O, Mrs.
Julaper, you could not think I ever meant to trouble him by law, or any
other annoyance! I'd like to see a stain removed from my family, and my
name restored; but to touch his property, O, no!--O, no! that never
entered my mind, by heaven! that never entered my mind, Mrs. Julaper.
I'm not cruel; I'm not rapacious; I don't care for money; don't you know
that, Mrs. Julaper? O, surely you won't think me capable of attacking
the man whose bread I have eaten so long! I never dreamed of it; I
should hate myself. Tell me you don't believe it; O, Mrs. Julaper, say
And the gentle feeble creature burst into tears and good Mrs. Julaper
comforted him with kind words; and he said,
"Thank you, ma'am; thank you. God knows I would not hurt Bale, nor give
him one uneasy hour. It is only this: that I'm--I'm so miserable; and
I'm only casting in my mind where to turn to, and what to do. So little
a thing would be enough, and then I shall leave Mardykes. I'll go; not
in any anger, Mrs. Julaper--don't think that; but I can't stay, I must
"Well, now, there's nothing yet, Master Philip, to fret you like that.
You should not be talking so wild-like. Master Bale has his sharp word
and his short temper now and again; but I'm sure he likes you. If he
didn't, he'd a-said so to me long ago. I'm sure he likes you well."
"Hollo! I say, who's there? Where the devil's Mr. Feltram?" called the
voice of the baronet, at a fierce pitch, along the passage.
"La! Mr. Feltram, it's him! Ye'd better run to him," whispered Mrs.
"D--n me! does nobody hear? Mrs. Julaper! Hollo! ho! house, there! ho!
D--n me, will nobody answer?"
And Sir Bale began to slap the wainscot fast and furiously with his
walking-cane with a clatter like a harlequin's lath in a pantomime.
Mrs. Julaper, a little paler than usual, opened her door, and stood with
the handle in her hand, making a little curtsey, enframed in the
door-case; and Sir Bale, being in a fume, when he saw her, ceased
whacking the panels of the corridor, and stamped on the floor, crying,
"Upon my soul, ma'am, I'm glad to see you! Perhaps you can tell me where
"He is in my room, Sir Bale. Shall I tell him you want him, please?"
"Never mind; thanks," said the Baronet. "I've a tongue in my head;"
marching down the passage to the housekeeper's room, with his cane
clutched hard, glaring savagely, and with his teeth fast set, like a
fellow advancing to beat a vicious horse that has chafed his temper.
The Bank Note
Sir Bale brushed by the housekeeper as he strode into her sanctuary, and
there found Philip Feltram awaiting him dejectedly, but with no signs of
If one were to judge by the appearance the master of Mardykes presented,
very grave surmises as to impending violence would have suggested
themselves; but though he clutched his cane so hard that it quivered in
his grasp, he had no notion of committing the outrage of a blow. The
Baronet was unusually angry notwithstanding, and stopping short about
three steps away, addressed Feltram with a pale face and gleaming eyes.
It was quite plain that there was something very exciting upon his mind.
"I've been looking for you, Mr. Feltram; I want a word or two, if you
have done your--your--whatever it is." He whisked the point of his stick
towards the modest tea-tray. "I should like five minutes in the
The Baronet was all this time eyeing Feltram with a hard suspicious
gaze, as if he expected to read in his face the shrinkings and
trepidations of guilt; and then turning suddenly on his heel he led the
way to his library--a good long march, with a good many turnings. He
walked very fast, and was not long in getting there. And as Sir Bale
reached the hearth, on which was smouldering a great log of wood, and
turned about suddenly, facing the door, Philip Feltram entered.
The Baronet looked oddly and stern--so oddly, it seemed to Feltram, that
he could not take his eyes off him, and returned his grim and somewhat
embarrassed gaze with a stare of alarm and speculation.
And so doing, his step was shortened, and grew slow and slower, and came
quite to a stop before he had got far from the door--a wide stretch of
that wide floor still intervening between him and Sir Bale, who stood
upon the hearthrug, with his heels together and his back to the fire,
cane in hand, like a drill-sergeant, facing him.
"Shut that door, please; that will do; come nearer now. I don't want to
bawl what I have to say. Now listen."
The Baronet cleared his voice and paused, with his eyes upon Feltram.
"It is only two or three days ago," said he, "that you said you wished
you had a hundred pounds. Am I right?"
"Yes; I think so."
"_Think_? you know it, sir, devilish well. You said that you wished to
get away. I have nothing particular to say against that, more especially
now. Do you understand what I say?"
"Understand, Sir Bale? I do, sir--quite."
"I daresay quite" he repeated with an angry sneer. "Here, sir, is an odd
coincidence: you want a hundred pounds, and you can't earn it, and you
can't borrow it--there's another way, it seems--but I have got it--a
Bank-of-England note of L100--locked up in that desk;" and he poked the
end of his cane against the brass lock of it viciously. "There it is,
and there are the papers you work at; and there are two keys--I've got
one and you have the other--and devil another key in or out of the house
has any one living. Well, do you begin to see? Don't mind. I don't want
any d----d lying about it."
Feltram was indeed beginning to see that he was suspected of something
very bad, but exactly what, he was not yet sure; and being a man of that
unhappy temperament which shrinks from suspicion, as others do from
detection, he looked very much put out indeed.
"Ha, ha! I think we do begin to see," said Sir Bale savagely. "It's a
bore, I know, troubling a fellow with a story that he knows before; but
I'll make mine short. When I take my key, intending to send the note to
pay the crown and quit-rents that you know--you--you--no matter--you
know well enough must be paid, I open it so--and so--and look _there_,
where I left it, for my note; and the note's gone--you understand, the
Here was a pause, during which, under the Baronet's hard insulting eye,
poor Feltram winced, and cleared his voice, and essayed to speak, but
"It's gone, and we know where. Now, Mr. Feltram, _I_ did not steal that
note, and no one but you and I have access to this desk. You wish to go
away, and I have no objection to that--but d--n me if you take away that
note with you; and you may as well produce it now and here, as hereafter
in a worse place."
"O, my good heaven!" exclaimed poor Feltram at last. "I'm very ill."
"So you are, of course. It takes a stiff emetic to get all that money
off a fellow's stomach; and it's like parting with a tooth to give up a
bank-note. Of course you're ill, but that's no sign of innocence, and
I'm no fool. You had better give the thing up quietly."
"May my Maker strike me----"
"So He will, you d----d rascal, if there's justice in heaven, unless you
produce the money. I don't want to hang you. I'm willing to let you off
if you'll let me, but I'm cursed if I let my note off along with you;
and unless you give it up forthwith, I'll get a warrant and have you
searched, pockets, bag, and baggage."
"Lord! am I awake?" exclaimed Philip Feltram.
"Wide awake, and so am I," replied Sir Bale. "You don't happen to have
got it about you?"
"God forbid, sir! O, Sir--O, Sir Bale--why, Bale, _Bale_, it's
impossible! You _can't_ believe it. When did I ever wrong you? You know
me since I was not higher than the table, and--and----"
He burst into tears.
"Stop your snivelling, sir, and give up the note. You know devilish well
I can't spare it; and I won't spare you if you put me to it. I've said
Sir Bale signed towards the door; and like a somnambulist, with dilated
gaze and pale as death, Philip Feltram, at his wit's end, went out of
the room. It was not till he had again reached the housekeeper's door
that he recollected in what direction he was going. His shut hand was
pressed with all his force to his heart, and the first breath he was
conscious of was a deep wild sob or two that quivered from his heart as
he looked from the lobby-window upon a landscape which he did not see.
All he had ever suffered before was mild in comparison with this dire
paroxysm. Now, for the first time, was he made acquainted with his real
capacity for pain, and how near he might be to madness and yet retain
intellect enough to weigh every scruple, and calculate every chance and
consequence, in his torture.
Sir Bale, in the meantime, had walked out a little more excited than he
would have allowed. He was still convinced that Feltram had stolen the
note, but not quite so certain as he had been. There were things in his
manner that confirmed, and others that perplexed, Sir Bale.
The Baronet stood upon the margin of the lake, almost under the evening
shadow of the house, looking towards Snakes Island. There were two
things about Mardykes he specially disliked.
One was Philip Feltram, who, right or wrong, he fancied knew more than
was pleasant of his past life.
The other was the lake. It was a beautiful piece of water, his eye,
educated at least in the excellences of landscape-painting,
acknowledged. But although he could pull a good oar, and liked other
lakes, to this particular sheet of water there lurked within him an
insurmountable antipathy. It was engendered by a variety of
There is a faculty in man that will acknowledge the unseen. He may scout
and scare religion from him; but if he does, superstition perches near.
His boding was made-up of omens, dreams, and such stuff as he most
affected to despise, and there fluttered at his heart a presentiment and
His foot was on the gunwale of the boat, that was chained to its ring at
the margin; but he would not have crossed that water in it for any
reason that man could urge.
What was the mischief that sooner or later was to befall him from that
lake, he could not define; but that some fatal danger lurked there, was
the one idea concerning it that had possession of his fancy.
He was now looking along its still waters, towards the copse and rocks
of Snakes Island, thinking of Philip Feltram; and the yellow level
sunbeams touched his dark features, that bore a saturnine resemblance to
those of Charles II, and marked sharply their firm grim lines, and left
his deep-set eyes in shadow.
Who has the happy gift to seize the present, as a child does, and live
in it? Who is not often looking far off for his happiness, as Sidney
Smith says, like a man looking for his hat when it is upon his head? Sir
Bale was brooding over his double hatred, of Feltram and of the lake. It
would have been better had he struck down the raven that croaked upon
his shoulder, and listened to the harmless birds that were whistling all
round among the branches in the golden sunset.
This horror of the beautiful lake, which other people thought so lovely,
was, in that mind which affected to scoff at the unseen, a distinct
creation of downright superstition.
The nursery tales which had scared him in his childhood were founded on
the tragedy of Snakes Island, and haunted him with an unavowed
persistence still. Strange dreams untold had visited him, and a German
conjuror, who had made some strangely successful vaticinations, had told
him that his worst enemy would come up to him from a lake. He had heard
very nearly the same thing from a fortune-teller in France; and once at
Lucerne, when he was waiting alone in his room for the hour at which he
had appointed to go upon the lake, all being quiet, there came to the
window, which was open, a sunburnt, lean, wicked face. Its ragged owner
leaned his arm on the window-frame, and with his head in the room, said
in his patois, "Ho! waiting are you? You'll have enough of the lake one
day. Don't you mind watching; they'll send when you're wanted;" and
twisting his yellow face into a malicious distortion, he went on.
This thing had occurred so suddenly, and chimed-in so oddly with his
thoughts, which were at that moment at distant Mardykes and the haunted
lake, that it disconcerted him. He laughed, he looked out of the window.
He would have given that fellow money to tell him why he said that. But
there was no good in looking for the scamp; he was gone.
A memory not preoccupied with that lake and its omens, and a
presentiment about himself, would not have noted such things. But _his_
mind they touched indelibly; and he was ashamed of his childish slavery,
but could not help it.
The foundation of all this had been laid in the nursery, in the winter's
tales told by its fireside, and which seized upon his fancy and his
fears with a strange congeniality.
There is a large bedroom at Mardykes Hall, which tradition assigns to
the lady who had perished tragically in the lake. Mrs. Julaper was sure
of it; for her aunt, who died a very old woman twenty years before,
remembered the time of the lady's death, and when she grew to woman's
estate had opportunity in abundance; for the old people who surrounded
her could remember forty years farther back, and tell everything
connected with the old house in beautiful Miss Feltram's time.
This large old-fashioned room, commanding a view of Snakes Island, the
fells, and the lake--somewhat vast and gloomy, and furnished in a
stately old fashion--was said to be haunted, especially when the wind
blew from the direction of Golden Friars, the point from which it blew
on the night of her death in the lake; or when the sky was overcast, and
thunder rolled among the lofty fells, and lightning gleamed on the wide
sheet of water.
It was on a night like this that a lady visitor, who long after that
event occupied, in entire ignorance of its supernatural character, that
large room; and being herself a lady of a picturesque turn, and loving
the grander melodrama of Nature, bid her maid leave the shutters open,
and watched the splendid effects from her bed, until, the storm being
still distant, she fell asleep.
It was travelling slowly across the lake, and it was the deep-mouthed
clangour of its near approach that startled her, at dead of night, from
her slumber, to witness the same phenomena in the tremendous loudness
and brilliancy of their near approach.
At this magnificent spectacle she was looking with the awful ecstasy of
an observer in whom the sense of danger is subordinated to that of the
sublime, when she saw suddenly at the window a woman, whose long hair
and dress seemed drenched with water. She was gazing in with a look of
terror, and was shaking the sash of the window with vehemence. Having
stood there for a few seconds, and before the lady, who beheld all this
from her bed, could make up her mind what to do, the storm-beaten
figure, wringing her hands, seemed to throw herself backward, and was
Possessed with the idea that she had seen some poor woman overtaken in
the storm, who, failing to procure admission there, had gone round to
some of the many doors of the mansion, and obtained an entry there, she
again fell asleep.
It was not till the morning, when she went to her window to look out
upon the now tranquil scene, that she discovered what, being a stranger
to the house, she had quite forgotten, that this room was at a great
height--some thirty feet--from the ground.
Another story was that of good old Mr. Randal Rymer, who was often a
visitor at the house in the late Lady Mardykes' day. In his youth he had
been a campaigner; and now that he was a preacher he maintained his
hardy habits, and always slept, summer and winter, with a bit of his
window up. Being in that room in his bed, and after a short sleep lying
awake, the moon shining softly through the window, there passed by that
aperture into the room a figure dressed, it seemed to him, in gray that
was nearly white. It passed straight to the hearth, where was an
expiring wood fire; and cowering over it with outstretched hands, it
appeared to be gathering what little heat was to be had. Mr. Rymer,
amazed and awestruck, made a movement in his bed; and the figure looked
round, with large eyes that in the moonlight looked like melting snow,
and stretching its long arms up the chimney, they and the figure itself
seemed to blend with the smoke, and so pass up and away.
Sir Bale, I have said, did not like Feltram. His father, Sir William,
had left a letter creating a trust, it was said, in favour of Philip
Feltram. The document had been found with the will, addressed to Sir
Bale in the form of a letter.
"That is mine," said the Baronet, when it dropped out of the will; and
he slipped it into his pocket, and no one ever saw it after.
But Mr. Charles Twyne, the attorney of Golden Friars, whenever he got
drunk, which was pretty often, used to tell his friends with a grave
wink that he knew a thing or two about that letter. It gave Philip
Feltram two hundred a-year, charged on Harfax. It was only a direction.
It made Sir Bale a trustee, however; and having made away with the
"letter," the Baronet had been robbing Philip Feltram ever since.
Old Twyne was cautious, even in his cups, in his choice of an audience,
and was a little enigmatical in his revelations. For he was afraid of
Sir Bale, though he hated him for employing a lawyer who lived seven
miles away, and was a rival. So people were not quite sure whether Mr.
Twyne was telling lies or truth, and the principal fact that
corroborated his story was Sir Bale's manifest hatred of his secretary.
In fact, Sir Bale's retaining him in his house, detesting him as he
seemed to do, was not easily to be accounted for, except on the
principle of a tacit compromise--a miserable compensation for having
robbed him of his rights.
The battle about the bank-note proceeded. Sir Bale certainly had doubts,
and vacillated; for moral evidence made powerfully in favour of poor
Feltram, though the evidence of circumstance made as powerfully against
him. But Sir Bale admitted suspicion easily, and in weighing
probabilities would count a virtue very lightly against temptation and
opportunity; and whatever his doubts might sometimes be, he resisted and
quenched them, and never let that ungrateful scoundrel Philip Feltram so
much as suspect their existence.
For two days Sir Bale had not spoken to Feltram. He passed by on stair
and passage, carrying his head high, and with a thundrous countenance,
rolling conclusions and revenges in his soul.
Poor Feltram all this time existed in one long agony. He would have left
Mardykes, were it not that he looked vaguely to some just power--to
chance itself--against this hideous imputation. To go with this
indictment ringing in his ears, would amount to a confession and flight.
Mrs. Julaper consoled him with might and main. She was a sympathetic and
trusting spirit, and knew poor Philip Feltram, in her simplicity, better
than the shrewdest profligate on earth could have known him. She cried
with him in his misery. She was fired with indignation by these
suspicions, and still more at what followed.
Sir Bale showed no signs of relenting. It might have been that he was
rather glad of so unexceptionable an opportunity of getting rid of
Feltram, who, people thought, knew something which it galled the
Baronet's pride that he should know.
The Baronet had another shorter and sterner interview with Feltram in
his study. The result was, that unless he restored the missing note
before ten o'clock next morning, he should leave Mardykes.
To leave Mardykes was no more than Philip Feltram, feeble as he was of
will, had already resolved. But what was to become of him? He did not
very much care, if he could find any calling, however humble, that would
just give him bread.
There was an old fellow and his wife (an ancient dame,) who lived at the
other side of the lake, on the old territories of the Feltrams, and who,
from some tradition of loyalty, perhaps, were fond of poor Philip
Feltram. They lived somewhat high up on the fells--about as high as
trees would grow--and those which were clumped about their rude dwelling
were nearly the last you passed in your ascent of the mountain. These
people had a multitude of sheep and goats, and lived in their airy
solitude a pastoral and simple life, and were childless. Philip Feltram
was hardy and active, having passed his early days among that arduous
scenery. Cold and rain did not trouble him; and these people being
wealthy in their way, and loving him, would be glad to find him
employment of that desultory pastoral kind which would best suit him.
This vague idea was the only thing resembling a plan in his mind.
When Philip Feltram came to Mrs. Julaper's room, and told her that he
had made up his mind to leave the house forthwith--to cross the lake to
the Cloostedd side in Tom Marlin's boat, and then to make his way up the
hill alone to Trebeck's lonely farmstead, Mrs. Julaper was overwhelmed.
"Ye'll do no such thing to-night, anyhow. You're not to go like that.
Ye'll come into the small room here, where he can't follow; and we'll
sit down and talk it over a bit, and ye'll find 'twill all come
straight; and this will be no night, anyhow, for such a march. Why,
man,'twould take an hour and more to cross the lake, and then a long
uphill walk before ye could reach Trebeck's place; and if the night
should fall while you were still on the mountain, ye might lose your
life among the rocks. It can't be 'tis come to that yet; and the call
was in the air, I'm told, all yesterday, and distant thunder to-day,
travelling this way over Blarwyn Fells; and 'twill be a night no one
will be out, much less on the mountain side."
The Crazy Parson
Mrs. Julaper had grown weather-wise, living for so long among this noble
and solitary scenery, where people must observe Nature or else
nothing--where signs of coming storm or change are almost local, and
record themselves on particular cliffs and mountain-peaks, or in the
mists, or in mirrored tints of the familiar lake, and are easily learned
or remembered. At all events, her presage proved too true.
The sun had set an hour and more. It was dark; and an awful
thunder-storm, whose march, like the distant reverberations of an
invading army, had been faintly heard beyond the barriers of Blarwyn
Fells throughout the afternoon, was near them now, and had burst in
deep-mouthed battle among the ravines at the other side, and over the
broad lake, that glared like a sheet of burnished steel under its
flashes of dazzling blue. Wild and fitful blasts sweeping down the
hollows and cloughs of the fells of Golden Friars agitated the lake, and
bent the trees low, and whirled away their sere leaves in melancholy
drift in their tremendous gusts. And from the window, looking on a scene
enveloped in more than the darkness of the night, you saw in the
pulsations of the lightning, before "the speedy gleams the darkness
swallowed," the tossing trees and the flying foam and eddies on the
In the midst of the hurlyburly, a loud and long knocking came at the
hall-door of Mardykes. How long it had lasted before a chance lull made
it audible I do not know.
There was nothing picturesquely poor, any more than there were evidences
of wealth, anywhere in Sir Bale Mardykes' household. He had no lack of
servants, but they were of an inexpensive and homely sort; and the
hall-door being opened by the son of an old tenant on the estate--the
tempest beating on the other side of the house, and comparative shelter
under the gables at the front--he saw standing before him, in the
agitated air, a thin old man, who muttering, it might be, a benediction,
stepped into the hall, and displayed long silver tresses, just as the
storm had blown them, ascetic and eager features, and a pair of large
light eyes that wandered wildly. He was dressed in threadbare black; a
pair of long leather gaiters, buckled high above his knee, protecting
his thin shanks through moss and pool; and the singularity of his
appearance was heightened by a wide-leafed felt hat, over which he had
tied his handkerchief, so as to bring the leaf of it over his ears, and
to secure it from being whirled from his head by the storm.
This odd and storm-beaten figure--tall, and a little stooping, as well
as thin--was not unknown to the servant, who saluted him with something
of fear as well as of respect as he bid him reverently welcome, and
asked him to come in and sit by the fire.
"Get you to your master, and tell him I have a message to him from one
he has not seen for two-and-forty years."
As the old man, with his harsh old voice, thus spoke, he unknotted his
handkerchief and bet the rain-drops from his hat upon his knee.
The servant knocked at the library-door, where he found Sir Bale.
"Well, what's the matter?" cried Sir Bale sharply, from his chair before
the fire, with angry eyes looking over his shoulder.
"Here's 't sir cumman, Sir Bale," he answered.
"Sir," or "the Sir," is still used as the clergyman's title in the
"Sir Hugh Creswell, if you please, Sir Bale."
"Ho!--mad Creswell?--O, the crazy parson. Well, tell Mrs. Julaper to let
him have some supper--and--and to let him have a bed in some suitable
place. That's what he wants. These mad fellows know what they are
"No, Sir Bale Mardykes, that is not what he wants," said the loud wild
voice of the daft sir over the servant's shoulder. "Often 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 say I."
"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
"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
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
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 pigeon-holes 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.
Ask his pardon. Ye must change, or he will no taggelt. 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 his 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 fool out of the door--put him out by the shoulder, and
never let him put 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
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, by Jove! 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 pound-note! Ask his pardon
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 depository of a secret. This Baronet
was proud, too; and the mere possession of his secrets by Feltram was an
involuntary 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, for a while, was absorbed in this contemplation.
When he turned about, the sight of his L100 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 exactly 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
"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. "He 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
"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. Goodnight."
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
Something like remorse was worrying 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
severity? 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 too late now, 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
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 in a state of uncomfortable suspense.
"If they want me, they won't have much trouble in finding me, nor any
scruple, egad, 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
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
uneasy 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 he come?" and
then he would 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 a long 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.
"O, Sir Bale! O, la, sir! here's poor dear Philip Feltram come home
Sir Bale stared at her sternly for some seconds.
"Gome, 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!--O, 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; he's drowned, sir, 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
So Sir Bale Mardykes, pale and grim, accompanied by the light-footed
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 along 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.
He laid his hand, for a moment, on his cold wet breast.
Sir Bale knew what should be done in order to give a man in such a case
his last chance for life. Everybody was speedily put in motion. Philip's
drenched clothes were removed, hot blankets enveloped him, warming-pans
and hot bricks lent their aid; he was placed at the prescribed angle, so
that the water flowed freely from his mouth. The old expedient for
inducing artificial breathing was employed, and a lusty pair of bellows
did duty for his lungs.
But these helps to life, and suggestions to nature, availed not. Forlorn
and peaceful lay the features of poor Philip Feltram; cold and dull to
the touch; no breath through the blue lips; no sight in the fish-like
eyes; pulseless and cold in the midst of all the hot bricks and
warming-pans about him.
At length, everything having been tried, Sir Bale, who had been
directing, placed his hand within the clothes, and laid it silently on
Philip's shoulder and over his heart; and after a little wait, he shook
his head, and looking down on his sunken face, he said,
"I am afraid he's gone. Yes, he's gone, poor fellow! And bear you this
in mind, all of you; Mrs. Julaper there can tell you more about it. She
knows that it was certainly in no compliance with my wish that he left
the house to-night: it was his own obstinate perversity, and perhaps--I
forgive him for it--a wish in his unreasonable resentment to throw some
blame upon this house, as having refused him shelter on such a night;
than which imputation nothing can be more utterly false. Mrs. Julaper
there knows how welcome he was to stay the night; but he would not; he
had made up his mind, it seems, without telling any person. Had he told
you, Mrs. Julaper?"
"No, sir," sobbed Mrs. Julaper from the centre of a pocket-handkerchief
in which her face was buried.
"Not a human being: an angry whim of his own. Poor Feltram! and here's
the result," said the Baronet. "We have done our best--done everything.
I don't think the doctor, when he comes, will say that anything has been
omitted; but all won't do. Does any one here know how it happened?"
Two men knew very well--the man who had been ducked, and his companion,
a younger man, who was also in the still-room, and had lent a hand in
carrying Feltram up to the house.
Tom Marlin had a queer old stone tenement by the edge of the lake just
under Mardykes Hall. Some people said it was the stump of an old tower
that had once belonged to Mardykes Castle, of which in the modern
building scarcely a relic was discoverable.
This Tom Marlin had an ancient right of fishing in the lake, where he
caught pike enough for all Golden Friars; and keeping a couple of boats,
he made money beside by ferrying passengers over now and then. This
fellow, with a furrowed face and shaggy eyebrows, bald at top, but with
long grizzled locks falling upon his shoulders, said,
"He wer wi' me this mornin', sayin' he'd want t' boat to cross the lake
in, but he didn't say what hour; and when it came on to thunder and blow
like this, ye guess I did not look to see him to-night. Well, my wife
was just lightin' a pig-tail--tho' light enough and to spare there was
in the lift already--when who should come clatterin' at the latch-pin in
the blow o' thunder and wind but Philip, poor lad, himself; and an ill
hour for him it was. He's been some time in ill fettle, though he was
never frowsy, not he, but always kind and dooce, and canty once, like
anither; and he asked me to tak the boat across the lake at once to the
Clough o' Cloostedd at t'other side. The woman took the pet and wodn't
hear o't; and, 'Dall me, if I go to-night,' quoth I. But he would not be
put off so, not he; and dingdrive he went to it, cryin' and putrein'
ye'd a-said, poor fellow, he was wrang i' his garrets a'most. So at long
last I bethought me, there's nout o' a sea to the north o' Snakes
Island, so I'll pull him by that side--for the storm is blowin' right up
by Golden Friars, ye mind--and when we get near the point, thinks I,
he'll see wi' his een how the lake is, and gie it up. For I liked him,
poor lad; and seein' he'd set his heart on't, I wouldn't vex nor frump
him wi' a no. So down we three--myself, and Bill there, and Philip
Feltram--come to the boat; and we pulled out, keeping Snakes Island
atwixt us and the wind. 'Twas smooth water wi' us, for 'twas a scug
there, but white enough was all beyont the point; and passing the
finger-stone, not forty fathom from the shore o' the island, Bill and me
pullin' and he sittin' in the stern, poor lad, up he rises, a bit
rabblin' to himself, wi' his hands lifted so.
"'Look a-head!' says I, thinkin' something wos comin' atort us.
"But 'twasn't that. The boat was quiet, for while we looked, oo'er our
shouthers, oo'er her bows, we didn't pull, so she lay still; and lookin'
back again on Philip, he was rabblin' on all the same.
"'It's nobbut a prass wi' himsel", poor lad,' thinks I.
"But that wasn't it neither; for I sid something white come out o' t'
water, by the gunwale, like a hand. By Jen! and he leans oo'er and tuk
it; and he sagged like, and so it drew him in, under the mere, before I
cud du nout. There was nout to thraa tu him, and no time; down he went,
and I followed; and thrice I dived before I found him, and brought him
up by the hair at last; and there he is, poor lad! and all one if he lay
at the bottom o' t' mere."
As Tom Marlin ended his narrative--often interrupted by the noise of the
tempest without, and the peals of thunder that echoed awfully above,
like the chorus of a melancholy ballad--the sudden clang of the
hall-door bell, and a more faintly-heard knocking, announced a new
[Illustration: "I sid something white come out o' t' water, by the
gunwale, like a hand."]
Sir Bale's Dream
It was Doctor Torvey who entered the old still-room now, buttoned-up to
the chin in his greatcoat, and with a muffler of many colours wrapped
partly over that feature.
"Well!--hey? So poor Feltram's had an accident?"
The Doctor was addressing Sir Bale, and getting to the bedside as he
pulled off his gloves.
"I see you've been keeping him warm--that's right; and a considerable
flow of water from his mouth; turn him a little that way. Hey? O, ho!"
said the Doctor, as he placed his hand upon Philip, and gently stirred
his limbs. "It's more than an hour since this happened. I'm afraid
there's very little to be done now;" and in a lower tone, with his hand
on poor Philip Feltram's arm, and so down to his fingers, he said in Sir
Bale Mardykes' ear, with a shake of his head,
"Here, you see, poor fellow, here's the cadaveric stiffness; it's very
melancholy, but it's all over, he's gone; there's no good trying any
more. Come here, Mrs. Julaper. Did you ever see any one dead? Look at
his eyes, look at his mouth. You ought to have known that, with half an
eye. And you know," he added again confidentially in Sir Bale's ear,
"trying any more _now_ is all my eye."
Then after a few more words with the Baronet, and having heard his
narrative, he said from time to time, "Quite right; nothing could be
better; capital practice, sir," and so forth. And at the close of all
this, amid the sobs of kind Mrs. Julaper and the general whimpering of
the humbler handmaids, the Doctor standing by the bed, with his knuckles
on the coverlet, and a glance now and then on the dead face beside him,
said--by way of 'quieting men's minds,' as the old tract-writers used to
say--a few words to the following effect:
"Everything has been done here that the most experienced physician could
have wished. Everything has been done in the best way. I don't know
anything that has not been done, in fact. If I had been here myself, I
don't know--hot bricks--salt isn't a bad thing. I don't know, I say,
that anything of any consequence has been omitted." And looking at the
body, "You see," and he drew the fingers a little this way and that,
letting them return, as they stiffly did, to their former attitude, "you
may be sure that the poor gentleman was quite dead by the time he
arrived here. So, since he was laid there, nothing has been lost by
delay. And, Sir Bale, if you have any directions to send to Golden
Friars, sir, I shall be most happy to undertake your message."
"Nothing, thanks; it is a melancholy ending, poor fellow! You must come
to the study with me, Doctor Torvey, and talk a little bit more;
and--very sad, doctor--and you must have a glass of sherry, or some
port--the port used not to be bad here; I don't take it--but very
melancholy it is--bring some port and sherry; and, Mrs. Julaper, you'll
be good enough to see that everything that should be done here is looked
to; and let Marlin and the men have supper and something to drink. You
have been too long in your wet clothes, Marlin."
So, with gracious words all round, he led the Doctor to the library
where he had been sitting, and was affable and hospitable, and told him
his own version of all that had passed between him and Philip Feltram,
and presented himself in an amiable point of view, and pleased the
Doctor with his port and flatteries--for he could not afford to lose
anyone's good word just now; and the Doctor was a bit of a gossip, and
in most houses in that region, in one character or another, every three
months in the year.
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