“Ho! and you reckon it no harm that thy father and mother were left to a set of feckless, brainless, idle serving-men and maids in their trouble? Why, none would so much as have seen to thy brother’s poor body being laid in a decent grave had not I been at hand to take order for it as became a distant kinsman of my lord. I tell thee, Richard, there must be no more of these vagabond seafaring ways. Thou must serve my lord, as a true retainer and kinsman is bound— Nay,” in reply to a gesture, “I will not come in, I know too well in what ill order the house is like to be. I did but take my ride this way to ask how it fared with the mistress, and try if I could shake the squire from his lethargy, if Mrs. Susan had not had the grace yet to be here. How do they?” Then in answer, “Thou must waken him, Diccon—rouse him, and tell him that I and my lord expect it of him that he should bear his loss as a true and honest Christian man, and not pule and moan, since he has a son left—ay, and a grandson. You should breed your boy up to know his manners, Susan Talbot,” as Humfrey resisted an attempt to make him do his reverence to my lady; “that stout knave of yours wants the rod. Methought I heard you’d borne another, Susan! Ay! as I said it would be,” as her eye fell on the swaddled babe in a maid’s arms. “No lack of fools to eat up the poor old squire’s substance. A maid, is it? Beshrew me, if your voyages will find portions for all your wenches! Has the leech let blood to thy good-mother, Susan? There! not one amongst you all bears any brains. Knew you not how to send up to the castle for Master Drewitt? Farewell! Thou wilt be at the lodge to-morrow to let me know how it fares with thy mother, when her brain is cleared by further blood-letting. And for the squire, let him know that I expect it of him that he shall eat, and show himself a man!”
So saying, the great lady departed, escorted as far as the avenue gate by Richard Talbot, and leaving the family gratified by her condescension, and not allowing to themselves how much their feelings were chafed.
Death and sorrow seemed to have marked the house of Bridgefield, for the old lady never rallied after the blood-letting enjoined by the Countess’s medical science, and her husband, though for some months able to creep about the house, and even sometimes to visit the fields, had lost his memory, and became more childish week by week.
Richard Talbot was obliged to return to his ship at the end of the month, but as soon as she was laid up for the winter he resigned his command, and returned home, where he was needed to assume the part of master. In truth he became actually master before the next spring, for his father took to his bed with the first winter frosts, and in spite of the duteous cares lavished upon him by his son and daughter-in-law, passed from his bed to his grave at the Christmas feast. Richard Talbot inherited house and lands, with the undefined sense of feudal obligation to the head of his name, and ere long he was called upon to fulfil those obligations by service to his lord.