The entrance to the courtyard of the old mansion lay through an archway, surmounted by the foresaid tower; but the drawbridge was down, and one leaf of the iron-studded folding-doors stood carelessly open. Tressilian hastily rode over the drawbridge, entered the court, and began to call loudly on the domestics by their names. For some time he was only answered by the echoes and the howling of the hounds, whose kennel lay at no great distance from the mansion, and was surrounded by the same moat. At length Will Badger, the old and favourite attendant of the knight, who acted alike as squire of his body and superintendent of his sports, made his appearance. The stout, weather-beaten forester showed great signs of joy when he recognized Tressilian.
“Lord love you,” he said, “Master Edmund, be it thou in flesh and fell? Then thou mayest do some good on Sir Hugh, for it passes the wit of man—that is, of mine own, and the curate’s, and Master Mumblazen’s—to do aught wi’un.”
“Is Sir Hugh then worse since I went away, Will?” demanded Tressilian.
“For worse in body—no; he is much better,” replied the domestic; “but he is clean mazed as it were—eats and drinks as he was wont—but sleeps not, or rather wakes not, for he is ever in a sort of twilight, that is neither sleeping nor waking. Dame Swineford thought it was like the dead palsy. But no, no, dame, said I, it is the heart, it is the heart.”
“Can ye not stir his mind to any pastimes?” said Tressilian.
“He is clean and quite off his sports,” said Will Badger; “hath neither touched backgammon or shovel-board, nor looked on the big book of harrowtry wi’ Master Mumblazen. I let the clock run down, thinking the missing the bell might somewhat move him—for you know, Master Edmund, he was particular in counting time—but he never said a word on’t, so I may e’en set the old chime a-towling again. I made bold to tread on Bungay’s tail too, and you know what a round rating that would ha’ cost me once a-day; but he minded the poor tyke’s whine no more than a madge howlet whooping down the chimney—so the case is beyond me.”
“Thou shalt tell me the rest within doors, Will. Meanwhile, let this person be ta’en to the buttery, and used with respect. He is a man of art.”
“White art or black art, I would,” said Will Badger, “that he had any art which could help us.—Here, Tom Butler, look to the man of art;—and see that he steals none of thy spoons, lad,” he added in a whisper to the butler, who showed himself at a low window, “I have known as honest a faced fellow have art enough to do that.”
He then ushered Tressilian into a low parlour, and went, at his desire, to see in what state his master was, lest the sudden return of his darling pupil and proposed son-in-law should affect him too strongly. He returned immediately, and said that Sir Hugh was dozing in his elbow-chair, but that Master Mumblazen would acquaint Master Tressilian the instant he awaked.