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dressing Bagly who lingered on the door steps, 66 I must have an explanation of this affair. I greatly fear Miss Stuzer has met with some accident that she will not tell me of." "No, ma'am, she hasn't; she's only just a little frightened, and put out at something; she's young, Mrs. Meiklam, and she's a sweet young lady, God bless her, and I'm as sure
as that I stand here, she has no more harm in her than the baby that's born yesterday!"
"Explain yourself," said Mrs. Meiklam, with dignity, as she motioned the man to enter the hall, and preceded him to the study, where she generally received the steward's communications.
THE BELL THAT LUKE BAGLY HEARS.
"You know, Mrs. Meiklam," said the wily man, standing humbly before her, that I'm only a servant, and I trust I never will conduct myself in a manner to give offence to my superiors. If I have ever forgotten my station, or spoke too freely to anyone above me, I may have done it in haste, or thinking to advise them; but, thank God, I know my place, and what I ought to say, and what I oughtn't."
That is all very proper, of course," said the lady, lighting a taper, that only threw a faint light on the oldfashioned desk, and the numerous papers strewed on the tables, "but I do not know what you mean exactly. I merely wish to understand if anything unpleasant has occurred to Miss Stutzer; I know there are some fierce dogs about that I must get rid of, and perhaps one of them has attacked her. She has a great terror of dogs.'
'No, ma'am ; thank God it isn't a dog; no, you may rely on it, she's safe, and be sure it won't happen any more. She's a sweet young wom-lady, and I have every faith in her.'
Mrs. Meiklam stared at Bagly, and a faint colour stole over her face as she said,
"I wish you to speak clearly. Tell me in plain words, why Miss Stutzer has returned without visiting Mary Browne's cottage. Has anything occurred of an unpleasant nature at Mary's house ?"
"No, ma'am ; nothing at all at Mary Browne's house; there's nothing in the world to be uneasy about. I'm a father, Mrs. Meiklam, and I have a feeling for young people, and I wouldn't wish to be making mis
chief, only I'd try to have things going right wherever I was. I can't, of course, control what's going on in other places, but what's under my own eye, I'll be mindful of. The poor dear Colonel, my late honoured master, used to say: Luke, it's your especial charge to watch over every interest of your employers; nothing that happens under their roof is without importance to you, though it mayn't just be within your own calling; that's what constitutes a good servant. If the coachman's ill, act for him; and if the butler's away, don't be above doing his work.' Ah! the Colonel was a fine spoken gentleman!"
Whenever Luke wished to win over his mistress particularly, he generally brought in the name of her husband; sometimes making imaginary speeches for the defunct Colonel, which was intended to elevate himself in her opinion. Certainly, if Colonel Meiklam had ever given any such piece of advice touching the points that constitute a good servant, Bagly had not profited by it. No servant at Meiklam's Rest ever remembered him to offer his assistance to them in the smallest matter, beyond his own particular station; and even in the busiest haymaking time he never was known to lend a helping hand in the fields. Mrs. Meiklam listened patiently to his long-winded speech, and then demanded, once more, an explanation of his hints. Bagly drew his handkerchief over his forehead, slowly and thoughtfully, as if striving to delay what he had to communicate, and then, supporting himself by laying one hand on the back of a chair, he commenced:
"You know, Mrs. Meiklam, that
I wouldn't presume to speak of this matter, only you have so much wished to hear it; and then, as I said before, being a father of grown-up daughters, I feel that the well-being of every young woman, in whatever rank she may be, is of concern to me. Then, you know, if I am aware that a young lady, innocent and gentle as an angel, is likely to be deceived by any unpromising young man in the neighbourhood, I'd blame myself for allowing her to fall into the snare— that's all."
"All? I do not understand to whom you allude."
"I wish you never might know it, ma'am ; I allude, however, to Miss Stutzer and Mr. Tom Ryder; they're a-courting, ma'am, and a-meeting more times than anybody knows, in evenings, through the grounds; and I have every reason to know Mr. Tom's a wild young man, not to be trusted; he's full of his scampish tricks."
through her natural modesty; but I am fully aware that Mr. Ryder admires hier, at the same time that I see equally clearly that she does not like him."
"You may be mistaken, ma'am," said the disconcerted steward, a gleam of malice and anger darting into his eye, not unseen by the lady watching him so narrowly.
"Do not dare to insinuate another sentence against Miss Stutzer," said Mrs. Meiklam, calmly but firmly; "if ever any servant of mine again takes such a liberty, he or she leaves my house and my service for ever!" I humbly beg your pardon, ma'am," said Luke, lowering his head and his voice. "I only spoke for the best, and most glad I am you take the matter easy."
"Silence," said the lady, quietly. "You may now leave the room."
Never before had Mrs. Meiklam so addressed her long-favoured steward -never spoken such degrading words to him. Bitterly he resented them; bitterly he hated Miss Stutzer. He would have revenge most certainly. Mrs. Meiklam, herself, felt very much perturbed that evening. She remained long in the study, meditating. Dear to her as a child of her own, she felt most keenly the audacity of Bagly in speaking of Lizette as he had spoken. Had he entertained the respect for the young lady that she wished all her servants to feel, he never would have dared to breathe such words in her hearing. In fact, the good mistress of the Rest grew quite excited, contemplating the insult directed to her protegée, by a person of Bagly's position in life. She went to find Lizette, but the young girl had lain down on her bed, where, after a long fit of violent weeping, she was fast asleep. "I will not disturb her, poor child," said the lady, softly leaving the chamber.
They met no more that night-nor nevermore as they had met of oldoh, nevermore!
Bagly always sat up very late in his room now-long after the rest of the inmates of the house had gone to bed. His accounts seemed very intricate at present. Softly he sometimes went through the lobbies and corridors, far past the midnight hour, stealing to the study, and rummaging through various docu
ments, and reading things that did not concern the farm in the least: and then he would take out the unsealed will so lately made, and lying in the little inner drawer of the desk, and peruse it, and bring it away to his own room, where, with door locked, and shaded light, he would write, and write, and copy sentences, and feel all the time that he could make nothing of it; he never could succeed in a skilful forgery, though he had tried his hand at forging since he was in the lawyer's office, years upon years ago. Well, upon this particular and memorable night, when the house was quiet, he determined he would, at every hazard, endeavour to accomplish his longedfor task-a codicil, at least, might be completed. So he went to the study, and secured the will, and was carrying it away in his pocket, when it struck him that he would first go out and see about poachers, &c., before he sat down to write. He left the house accordingly, and sallied forth. The night was still and lovely -so lovely, that no one would have dreamed that the presence of death was approaching where he was not expected, that the grim king was careering upon the wings of the soft summer wind. Somehow, Bagly missed his footing and fell among sharp, brambly underwood, which tore his coat, and scratched his face and hands, and he had some difficulty scrambling out of it. length, however, he was free, and he drew out his handkerchief and wiped his visage carefully, returning to the house at once. On reaching the study he sat down to write, and put his hand in his pocket for the will, when, lo! it was not to be found. He searched, he turned the pockets
inside out, but in vain. The will was gone-pulled out of its resting place, probably, in the fall among the strong underwood, or when drawing out his handkerchief. Again out in the moonlight, searching vainly looking all over the paths he had lately trodden; hunting among the fern and brushwood-all in vain. Great Heaven! what would become of him in the morning, when perhaps Mrs. Meiklam might rise to look at her will? Would she suspect him of having meddled with it? Would she make another and leave his name out of it-his name, which had been noted down for a legacy of one hundred pounds! In agony, the guilty man sat in his room thinking many awful things-more awful than we would dare to write; and while he sat, he cursed Lizette Stutzer, vehemently. Poor little Lizette, who was sleeping still, lying outside her bed, moaning occasionally in her slumbers, fancying Tom Ryder was going to shoot both her and himself, and that Mrs. Meiklam was looking on indifferently with a cold, stony eye, and a bleached face. You may moan and sigh, indeed, poor child! For a mighty change is coming to you. Little barque, anchored for so many years in a quiet haven, shut in from the storms of the wild ocean, prepare to sally forth o'er tempestuous seasloose thy moorings and drift out towards the unknown.
The small hours of the night strike clearly on the still wakeful ear of Luke Bagly, when another sound makes him start like one stabbed. What is that bell ringing so violently
clanging all through the wide old house, with a fearful vibration—one great peal, and then silence, when it dies out tremulously?
THE SUDDEN CALL.
Do you know what it is, reader, to hear the quick tramp of horse's feet on a lonely road at dead of night? Is there not something sinister, as one lies awake in bed, or perhaps sits up engaged with some occupation, beyond the due hour of rest, in the clatter of horse's hoofs breaking the stillness of the air, as, with lightning speed a horseman dashes by
One soft summer night, when the starlight was fading before the coming dawn, and the wind scarce rose above a breath, any one awake at Yaxley might have heard the sounds we refer to. The calmness of the night suffered them to be borne distinctly upon the light breeze. Tramp! click, clock click, clock! click, clock-on they sounded, at first far
in the distance, then coming nearer -always nearer, till horse and rider, with mad impatience dash into the principal street of the town, and stop-listeners know where they will stop at Doctor Ryder's large house; and the hall-door bell is rung. violently, almost wildly, and in a few moments the physician is out of bed, hurrying, like one frantic, to get on his clothes. Oh very few minutes elapse till the herculean doctor is dressed and down stairs, and springing upon the back of the panting steed at the door, for he has his whole heart-his whole heart, indeed-in that sick call. And now the horse is flying back to the place from whence it came- -flying, if possible, quicker than before, while the messenger who rode it first is hurrying behind on foot. What road is it flying on? a road you should know well, reader-a quiet, country road, whose green hedges are well defined by the starlight. On, on, horse and rider are flying, and they come to a wide-open, old fashioned gateway, with gray stone eagles on the pillars at either side, and many fine old trees, extending dimly beyond itnow scarcely waving their heavy, verdant branches, so faint is the wind of the summer night. Up, up the avenue faster, faster, for there is no moment to lose! The house is reached at last; the doctor dismounts -the hall door is open-he bounds up the steps; there is light in the hall-lights seem everywhere. A woman is at the door, awaiting his arrival-no speech is exchanged between them, for the doctor is a man of few words; she leads him swiftly up stairs; and there on the lobby he is met by an elderly woman, hold ing up her hands and sobbing grievously.
"Oh, doctor, doctor! I'm afraid it's no use-I'm afraid all's over! Oh, dear! oh, dear!" But Doctor Ryder hates ebullitions of feeling, especially when in a hurry, and suffering mentally himself, and he pushes on to a chamber, whose door lies open, without paying attention to anything else. Softly he enters here-treading noiselessly his lips trembling-his forehead furrowing into a frown. It is very hard for him to contain one great outburst of surprise and grief. Yet why surprise? Does not
he, above all others, know that in the midst of life we are in death? On the bed before him is lying a motionless form with closed eyes, seeming to sleep-yet sleeping no earthly sleep; the features are composed, but rigid; the hands cold, the pulse silent. The doctor looks hopelessly on, and you, reader may look on, too; for that stiff form is an old familiar one it is all that remains of the benevolent mistress of Meiklam's Rest. Ay, it is Mrs. Meiklam that lies dead there. In the silent watches of the night, the enemy entered the dwelling, with noiseless step, and his freezing fingers touched her heart. A sudden pain seized her-a pang of mortal agony--and loudly her bell rang through the house. Servants rushed to her room, and found her expiring.
"Had anything annoyed or agitated her lately?" asked Doctor Ryder of Miss Stutzer, who was sitting in the room of death, not sobbing or weeping, but that I am aware of-she pale and petrified.
seemed in her usual spirits yesterday."
'I have known for some time that her heart was diseased, but I thought she might with care have lasted for some years. I always impressed upon her the great danger of exciting herself upon any topic."
"I do not think anything annoyed or excited her," repeated the young girl, confidently; and then, all at once, the thought struck her-" Suppose Luke Bagly had told her, as he said he would, about her rencontre with Tom Ryder, last evening ?" Oh, the dark horror of that thought!
"You must feel this sudden call of your friend very deeply," said the physician, looking pityingly at the orphan girl, who, all at once, seemed overpowered by a great pang of sor
she never knew before. Unwilling to leave the distressed girl, he remained at Meiklam's Rest till the sun was high in the sky, and then, in the bright summer morning, he rode home to Yaxley. Did it seem strange that the sunlight glittered upon tree, and shrub, and meadow as of yore? For a moment Lizette thought that it did -but only for a moment. Was not she who had loved every nook and corner of the Rest basking in eternal sunshine--everlasting light? Yes, the sun might shine warmly and brightly upon all outward things, for death had only been there, setting a purified spirit free.
There was great weeping among the numerous domestics for the muchesteemed mistress, so suddenly sum
moned from them. Mrs. Copley was in despair; Peggy Wolfe, Bingham, and the other lower servants almost equally distressed-while old Jenny Black ran frantically from her wretched hut, far off among the woods, in hopes of being allowed to lay her eyes on the corpse of the good lady, which Lizette good-naturedly permitted, very much against the wishes of some of the servants. Luke Bagly, in great grief and perturbation of mind, kept aloof from fellow-sufferers; and, probably, to relieve his agony, went about wandering through the grounds, with his eyes fixed upon every path, and brake, and briar as he passed along-searching wildly everywhere, but in vain. Surely he had cut a rod to beat himself as well as others,
SOME UNPLEASANT REPORTS SPREAD ABOUT YAXLEY.
As soon as Lizette could compose herself to think of present things, she began to reflect upon what should now become of herself, and where she should go to. Of her own friendless condition, and the debt she owed to Mrs. Meiklam, she had long been aware; and it did not enter her head to dream of the probability of her being provided for by the kind lady's will. A letter was immediately despatched to Mr. Pilmer, who was Mrs. Meiklam's nearest living relative, and nothing was, of course, done about the funeral till he arrived from London. Doctor Ryder shut up all rooms where there were any papers and documents of importance, and locked them, as the will was not to be looked for till Mr. Pilmer came. People at Yaxley were in a high state of expectation and surmise about affairs at Meiklam's Rest. They were dying to know what would become of Miss Stutzer, and if the nice boy, Dillon Crosbie, who used to live at the Pilmers' long ago, was coming in for the property, as was anticipated formerly. Oh, it was all most interesting. Mrs. Ryder thought of asking poor little Lizette to come and stay at her home, till she settled where she would finally go to; and she would have put the idea into execution, only for something Luke Bagly told the doctor, which the doctor told her.
"You see, sir," said Luke, wiping his eyes, which did not need the operation, that young lady wasn't as prudent as you'd suppose from her demureness in public; she gave Mrs. Meiklam great anxiety now and again. Shortly before she died, dear lady, she said to me here, in this very spot, 'Luke, I'm afraid I must still alter my will-I'm not satisfied with it—I don't want to leave to unworthy young people more than they deserve; and so if I burn this one as well as the last, don't let Mr. Hill or any one be surprised; only I'll be sure to give yourself a couple of hundred pounds for a legacy, whatever may come.' I've great reason to believe Miss Stutzer behaved ungrateful, latterly, to the mistress; in fact, sir, I know they had a quarrel the very night she died, about some imprudent behaviourwalking out too late, or so—and that's a fact; but where's the use of my telling these things now? It's all over, and my dear mistress can grieve nor fret no more."
"The devil!" exclaimed Doctor Ryder. "I would not believe any such stories, Bagly. If ever there was a pure-minded being in the world, Miss Stutzer's one of them. I'd stake my life on it!"
"So I thought, doctor, for many a long day; and I'd gladly think it still. What is it to me whether the young