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Chapter 12
Ah me! the flower and blossom of your house,
The wind hath blown away to other towers.
The ancient seat of Lidcote Hall was situated near the village of the same name, and
adjoined the wild and extensive forest of Exmoor, plentifully stocked with game, in which
some ancient rights belonging to the Robsart family entitled Sir Hugh to pursue his
favourite amusement of the chase. The old mansion was a low, venerable building,
occupying a considerable space of ground, which was surrounded by a deep moat. The
approach and drawbridge were defended by an octagonal tower, of ancient brickwork,
but so clothed with ivy and other creepers that it was difficult to discover of what
materials it was constructed. The angles of this tower were each decorated with a turret,
whimsically various in form and in size, and, therefore, very unlike the monotonous
stone pepperboxes which, in modern Gothic architecture, are employed for the same
purpose. One of these turrets was square, and occupied as a clock-house. But the clock
was now standing still; a circumstance peculiarly striking to Tressilian, because the
good old knight, among other harmless peculiarities, had a fidgety anxiety about the
exact measurement of time, very common to those who have a great deal of that
commodity to dispose of, and find it lie heavy upon their hands-- just as we see
shopkeepers amuse themselves with taking an exact account of their stock at the time
there is least demand for it.
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."