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 Northumbrian counties.
“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 about.”
“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.”