“Of which I shan’t avail myself,” answered Sir Bale. “Take another glass of sherry, Doctor.”
The Doctor made his acknowledgments and filled his glass, and looked through the wine between him and the window.
“Ha, ha!—see there, your port, Sir Bale, gives a fellow such habits—looking for the beeswing, by Jove. It isn’t easy, in one sense at least, to get your port out of a fellow’s head when once he has tasted it.”
But if the honest Doctor meant a hint for a glass of that admirable bin, it fell pointless; and Sir Bale had no notion of making another libation of that precious fluid in honour of Doctor Torvey.
“And I take it for granted,” said Sir Bale, “that Feltram will do very well; and, should anything go wrong, I can send for you—unless he should die again; and in that case I think I shall take my own opinion.”
So he and the Doctor parted.
Sir Bale, although he did not consult the Doctor on his own case, was not particularly well. “That lonely place, those frightful mountains, and that damp black lake”—which features in the landscape he cursed all round—“are enough to give any man blue devils; and when a fellow’s spirits go, he’s all gone. That’s why I’m dyspeptic—that and those d——d debts—and the post, with its flight of croaking and screeching letters from London. I wish there was no post here. I wish it was like Sir Amyrald’s time, when they shot the York mercer that came to dun him, and no one ever took anyone to task about it; and now they can pelt you at any distance they please through the post; and fellows lose their spirits and their appetite and any sort of miserable comfort that is possible in this odious abyss.”
Was there gout in Sir Bale’s case, or ‘vapours’? I know not what the faculty would have called it; but Sir Bale’s mode of treatment was simply to work off the attack by long and laborious walking.
This evening his walk was upon the Fells of Golden Friars—long after the landscape below was in the eclipse of twilight, the broad bare sides and angles of these gigantic uplands were still lighted by the misty western sun.
There is no such sense of solitude as that which we experience upon the silent and vast elevations of great mountains. Lifted high above the level of human sounds and habitations, among the wild expanses and colossal features of Nature, we are thrilled in our loneliness with a strange fear and elation—an ascent above the reach of life’s vexations or companionship, and the tremblings of a wild and undefined misgiving. The filmy disc of the moon had risen in the east, and was already faintly silvering the shadowy scenery below, while yet Sir Bale stood in the mellow light of the western sun, which still touched also the summits of the opposite peaks of Morvyn Fells.
Sir Bale Mardykes did not, as a stranger might, in prudence, hasten his descent from the heights at which he stood while yet a gleam of daylight remained to him. For he was, from his boyhood, familiar with those solitary regions; and, beside this, the thin circle of the moon, hung in the eastern sky, would brighten as the sunlight sank, and hang like a lamp above his steps.