Part 2 out of 3
So in due time the Doctor drove back to Golden Friars, with a high
opinion of Sir Bale, and higher still of his port, and highest of all of
himself: in the best possible humour with the world, not minding the
storm that blew in his face, and which he defied in good-humoured
mock-heroics spoken in somewhat thick accents, and regarding the thunder
and lightning as a lively gala of fireworks; and if there had been a
chance of finding his cronies still in the George and Dragon, he would
have been among them forthwith, to relate the tragedy of the night, and
tell what a good fellow, after all, Sir Bale was; and what a fool, at
best, poor Philip Feltram.
But the George was quiet for that night. The thunder rolled over
voiceless chambers; and the lights had been put out within the windows,
on whose multitudinous small panes the lightning glared. So the Doctor
went home to Mrs. Torvey, whom he charmed into good-humoured curiosity
by the tale of wonder he had to relate.
Sir Bale's qualms were symptomatic of something a little less sublime
and more selfish than conscience. He was not sorry that Philip Feltram
was out of the way. His lips might begin to babble inconveniently at any
time, and why should not his mouth be stopped? and what stopper so
effectual as that plug of clay which fate had introduced? But he did not
want to be charged with the odium of the catastrophe. Every man cares
something for the opinion of his fellows. And seeing that Feltram had
been well liked, and that his death had excited a vehement
commiseration, Sir Bale did not wish it to be said that he had made the
house too hot to hold him, and had so driven him to extremity.
Sir Bale's first agitation had subsided. It was now late, he had written
many letters, and he was tired. It was not wonderful, then, that having
turned his lounging-chair to the fire, he should have fallen asleep in
it, as at last he did.
The storm was passing gradually away by this time. The thunder was now
echoing among the distant glens and gorges of Daulness Fells, and the
angry roar and gusts of the tempest were subsiding into the melancholy
soughing and piping that soothe like a lullaby.
Sir Bale therefore had his unpremeditated sleep very comfortably, except
that his head was hanging a little uneasily; which, perhaps, helped him
to this dream.
It was one of those dreams in which the continuity of the waking state
that immediately preceded it seems unbroken; for he thought that he was
sitting in the chair which he occupied, and in the room where he
actually was. It seemed to him that he got up, took a candle in his
hand, and went through the passages to the old still-room where Philip
Feltram lay. The house seemed perfectly still. He could hear the chirp
of the crickets faintly from the distant kitchen, and the tick of the
clock sounded loud and hollow along the passage. In the old still-room,
as he opened the door, was no light, except what was admitted from the
candle he carried. He found the body of poor Philip Feltram just as he
had left it--his gentle face, saddened by the touch of death, was turned
upwards, with white lips: with traces of suffering fixed in its
outlines, such as caused Sir Bale, standing by the bed, to draw the
coverlet over the dead man's features, which seemed silently to upbraid
him. "Gone in weakness!" said Sir Bale, repeating the words of the "daft
sir," Hugh Creswell; as he did so, a voice whispered near him, with a
great sigh, "Come in power!" He looked round, in his dream, but there
was no one; the light seemed to fail, and a horror slowly overcame him,
especially as he thought he saw the figure under the coverlet stealthily
beginning to move. Backing towards the door, for he could not take his
eyes off it, he saw something like a huge black ape creep out at the
foot of the bed; and springing at him, it griped him by the throat, so
that he could not breathe; and a thousand voices were instantly round
him, holloaing, cursing, laughing in his ears; and in this direful
plight he waked.
Was it the ring of those voices still in his ears, or a real shriek, and
another, and a long peal, shriek after shriek, swelling madly through
the distant passages, that held him still, freezing in the horror of his
I will tell you what this noise was.
Marcella Bligh and Judith Wale Keep Watch
After his bottle of port with Sir Bale, the Doctor had gone down again
to the room where poor Philip Feltram lay.
Mrs. Julaper had dried her eyes, and was busy by this time; and two old
women were making all their arrangements for a night-watch by the body,
which they had washed, and, as their phrase goes, 'laid out' in the
humble bed where it had lain while there was still a hope that a spark
sufficient to rekindle the fire of life might remain. These old women
had points of resemblance: they were lean, sallow, and wonderfully
wrinkled, and looked each malign and ugly enough for a witch.
Marcella Bligh's thin hooked nose was now like the beak of a bird of
prey over the face of the drowned man, upon whose eyelids she was
placing penny-pieces, to keep them from opening; and her one eye was
fixed on her work, its sightless companion showing white in its socket,
with an ugly leer.
Judith Wale was lifting the pail of hot water with which they had just
washed the body. She had long lean arms, a hunched back, a great sharp
chin sunk on her hollow breast, and small eyes restless as a ferret's;
and she clattered about in great bowls of shoes, old and clouted, that
were made for a foot as big as two of hers.
The Doctor knew these two old women, who were often employed in such
"How does Mrs. Bligh? See me with half an eye? Hey--that's rhyme, isn't
it?--And, Judy lass--why, I thought you lived nearer the town--here
making poor Mr. Feltram's last toilet. You have helped to dress many a
poor fellow for his last journey. Not a bad notion of drill either--they
stand at attention stiff and straight enough in the sentry-box. Your
recruits do you credit, Mrs. Wale."
The Doctor stood at the foot of the bed to inspect, breathing forth a
vapour of very fine old port, his hands in his pockets, speaking with a
lazy thickness, and looking so comfortable and facetious, that Mrs.
Julaper would have liked to turn him out of the room.
But the Doctor was not unkind, only extremely comfortable. He was a
good-natured fellow, and had thought and care for the living, but not a
great deal of sentiment for the dead, whom he had looked in the face too
often to be much disturbed by the spectacle.
"You'll have to keep that bandage on. You should be sharp; you should
know all about it, girl, by this time, and not let those muscles
stiffen. I need not tell you the mouth shuts as easily as this
snuff-box, if you only take it in time.--I suppose, Mrs. Julaper, you'll
send to Jos Fringer for the poor fellow's outfit. Fringer is a very
proper man--there ain't a properer und-aker in England. I always
re-mmend Fringer--in Church-street in Golden Friars. You know Fringer, I
"I can't say, sir, I'm sure. That will be as Sir Bale may please to
direct," answered Mrs. Julaper.
"You've got him very straight--straighter than I thought you could; but
the large joints were not so stiff. A very little longer wait, and you'd
hardly have got him into his coffin. He'll want a vr-r-ry long one, poor
lad. Short cake is life, ma'am. Sad thing this. They'll open their eyes,
I promise you, down in the town. 'Twill be cool enough, I'd shay, affre
all th-thunr-thunnle, you know. I think I'll take a nip, Mrs. Jool-fr,
if you wouldn't mine makin' me out a thimmle-ful bran-band-bran-rand-andy,
eh, Mishs Joolfr?"
And the Doctor took a chair by the fire; and Mrs. Julaper, with a
dubious conscience and dry hospitality, procured the brandy-flask and
wine-glass, and helped the physician in a thin hesitating stream, which
left him ample opportunity to cry "Hold--enough!" had he been so minded.
But that able physician had no confidence, it would seem, in any dose
under a bumper, which he sipped with commendation, and then fell asleep
with the firelight on his face--to tender-hearted Mrs. Julaper's
disgust--and snored with a sensual disregard of the solemnity of his
situation; until with a profound nod, or rather dive, toward the fire,
he awoke, got up and shook his ears with a kind of start, and standing
with his back to the fire, asked for his muffler and horse; and so took
his leave also of the weird sisters, who were still pottering about the
body, with croak and whisper, and nod and ogle. He took his leave also
of good Mrs. Julaper, who was completing arrangements with teapot and
kettle, spiced elderberry wine, and other comforts, to support them
through their proposed vigil. And finally, in a sort of way, he took his
leave of the body, with a long business-like stare, from the foot of the
bed, with his short hands stuffed into his pockets. And so, to Mrs.
Julaper's relief, this unseemly doctor, speaking thickly, departed.
And now, the Doctor being gone, and all things prepared for the 'wake'
to be observed by withered Mrs. Bligh of the one eye, and yellow Mrs.
Wale of the crooked back, the house grew gradually still. The thunder
had by this time died into the solid boom of distant battle, and the
fury of the gale had subsided to the long sobbing wail that is charged
with so eerie a melancholy. Within all was stirless, and the two old
women, each a 'Mrs.' by courtesy, who had not much to thank Nature or
the world for, sad and cynical, and in a sort outcasts told off by
fortune to these sad and grizzly services, sat themselves down by the
fire, each perhaps feeling unusually at home in the other's society; and
in this soured and forlorn comfort, trimming their fire, quickening the
song of the kettle to a boil, and waxing polite and chatty; each
treating the other with that deprecatory and formal courtesy which
invites a return in kind, and both growing strangely happy in this
little world of their own, in the unusual and momentary sense of an
importance and consideration which were delightful.
The old still-room of Mardykes Hall is an oblong room wainscoted. From
the door you look its full length to the wide stone-shafted Tudor window
at the other end. At your left is the ponderous mantelpiece, supported
by two spiral stone pillars; and close to the door at the right was the
bed in which the two crones had just stretched poor Philip Feltram, who
lay as still as an uncoloured wax-work, with a heavy penny-piece on each
eye, and a bandage under his jaw, making his mouth look stern. And the
two old ladies over their tea by the fire conversed agreeably, compared
their rheumatisms and other ailments wordily, and talked of old times,
and early recollections, and of sick-beds they had attended, and corpses
that "you would not know, so pined and windered" were they; and others
so fresh and canny, you'd say the dead had never looked so bonny in
Then they began to talk of people who grew tall in their coffins, of
others who had been buried alive, and of others who walked after death.
Stories as true as holy writ.
"Were you ever down by Hawarth, Mrs. Bligh--hard by Dalworth Moss?"
asked crook-backed Mrs. Wale, holding her spoon suspended over her cup.
"Neea whaar sooa far south, Mrs. Wale, ma'am; but ma father was off
times down thar cuttin' peat."
"Ah, then ye'll not a kenned farmer Dykes that lived by the Lin-tree
Scaur. 'Tweer I that laid him out, poor aad fellow, and a dow man he was
when aught went cross wi' him; and he cursed and sweared, twad gar ye
dodder to hear him. They said he was a hard man wi' some folk; but he
kep a good house, and liked to see plenty, and many a time when I was
swaimous about my food, he'd clap t' meat on ma plate, and mak' me eat
ma fill. Na, na--there was good as well as bad in farmer Dykes. It was a
year after he deed, and Tom Ettles was walking home, down by the Birken
Stoop one night, and not a soul nigh, when he sees a big ball, as high
as his knee, whirlin' and spangin' away before him on the road. What it
wer he could not think; but he never consayted there was a freet or a bo
thereaway; so he kep near it, watching every spang and turn it took,
till it ran into the gripe by the roadside. There was a gravel pit just
there, and Tom Ettles wished to take another gliff at it before he went
on. But when he keeked into the pit, what should he see but a man
attoppa a horse that could not get up or on: and says he, 'I think ye be
at a dead-lift there, gaffer.' And wi' the word, up looks the man, and
who sud it be but farmer Dykes himsel; and Tom Ettles saw him plain
eneugh, and kenned the horse too for Black Captain, the farmer's aad
beast, that broke his leg and was shot two years and more before the
farmer died. 'Ay,' says farmer Dykes, lookin' very bad;
'forsett-and-backsett, ye'll tak me oot, Tom Ettles, and clap ye doun
behint me quick, or I'll claw ho'd o' thee.' Tom felt his hair risin'
stiff on his heed, and his tongue so fast to the roof o' his mouth he
could scarce get oot a word; but says he, 'If Black Jack can't do it o'
noo, he'll ne'er do't and carry double.' 'I ken my ain business best,'
says Dykes. 'If ye gar me gie ye a look, 'twill gie ye the creepin's
while ye live; so git ye doun, Tom;' and with that the dobby lifts its
neaf, and Tom saw there was a red light round horse and man, like the
glow of a peat fire. And says Tom, 'In the name o' God, ye'll let me
pass;' and with the word the gooast draws itsel' doun, all a-creaked,
like a man wi' a sudden pain; and Tom Ettles took to his heels more deed
They had approached their heads, and the story had sunk to that
mysterious murmur that thrills the listener, when in the brief silence
that followed they heard a low odd laugh near the door.
In that direction each lady looked aghast, and saw Feltram sitting
straight up in the bed, with the white bandage in his hand, and as it
seemed, for one foot was below the coverlet, near the floor, about to
Mrs. Bligh, uttering a hideous shriek, clutched Mrs. Wale, and Mrs.
Wale, with a scream as dreadful, gripped Mrs. Bligh; and quite
forgetting their somewhat formal politeness, they reeled and tugged,
wrestling towards the window, each struggling to place her companion
between her and the 'dobby,' and both uniting in a direful peal of
This was the uproar which had startled Sir Bale from his dream, and was
now startling the servants from theirs.
The Mist on the Mountain
Doctor Torvey was sent for early next morning, and came full of wonder,
learning and scepticism. Seeing is believing, however; and there was
Philip Feltram living, and soon to be, in all bodily functions, just as
"Upon my soul, Sir Bale, I couldn't have believed it, if I had not seen
it with my eyes," said the Doctor impressively, while sipping a glass of
sherry in the 'breakfast parlour,' as the great panelled and pictured
room next the dining-room was called. "I don't think there is any
similar case on record--no pulse, no more than the poker; no
respiration, by Jove, no more than the chimney-piece; as cold as a lead
image in the garden there. Well, you'll say all that might possibly be
fallacious; but what will you say to the cadaveric stiffness? Old Judy
Wale can tell you; and my friend Marcella--Monocula would be nearer the
mark--Mrs. Bligh, she knows all those common, and I may say up to this,
infallible, signs of death, as well as I do. There is no mystery about
them; they'll depose to the literality of the symptoms. You heard how
they gave tongue. Upon my honour, I'll send the whole case up to my old
chief, Sir Hervey Hansard, to London. You'll hear what a noise it will
make among the profession. There never was--and it ain't too much to
say there never _will_ be--another case like it."
During this lecture, and a great deal more, Sir Bale leaned back in his
chair, with his legs extended, his heels on the ground, and his arms
folded, looking sourly up in the face of a tall lady in white satin, in
a ruff, and with a bird on her hand, who smiled down superciliously from
her frame on the Baronet. Sir Bale seemed a little bit high and dry with
"You physicians are unquestionably," he said, "a very learned
The Doctor bowed.
"But there's just one thing you know nothing about----"
"Eh? What's that?" inquired Doctor Torvey.
"Medicine," answered Sir Bale. "I was aware you never knew what was the
matter with a sick man; but I didn't know, till now, that you couldn't
tell when he was dead."
"Ha, ha!--well--ha, ha!--_yes_--well, you see, you--ha, ha!--you
certainly have me there. But it's a case without a parallel--it is, upon
my honour. You'll find it will not only be talked about, but written
about; and, whatever papers appear upon it, will come to me; and I'll
take care, Sir Bale, you shall have an opportunity of reading them."
"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
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
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.
There was in the bronzed and resolute face of the Baronet, lighted now
in the parting beams of sunset, a resemblance to that of Charles the
Second--not our "merry" ideal, but the more energetic and saturnine face
which the portraits have preserved to us.
He stood with folded arms on the side of the slope, admiring, in spite
of his prejudice, the unusual effects of a view so strangely
lighted--the sunset tints on the opposite peaks, lost in the misty
twilight, now deepening lower down into a darker shade, through which
the outlines of the stone gables and tower of Golden Friars and the
light of fire or candle in their windows were dimly visible.
As he stood and looked, his more distant sunset went down, and sudden
twilight was upon him, and he began to remember the beautiful Homeric
picture of a landscape coming out, rock and headland, in the moonlight.
There had hung upon the higher summits, at his right, a heavy fold of
white cloud, which on a sudden broke, and, like the smoke of artillery,
came rolling down the slopes toward him. Its principal volume, however,
unfolded itself in a mighty flood down the side of the mountain towards
the lake; and that which spread towards and soon enveloped the ground on
which he stood was by no means so dense a fog. A thick mist enough it
was; but still, to a distance of twenty or thirty yards, he could
discern the outline of a rock or scaur, but not beyond it.
There are few sensations more intimidating than that of being thus
enveloped on a lonely mountain-side, which, like this one, here and
there breaks into precipice.
There is another sensation, too, which affects the imagination.
Overtaken thus on the solitary expanse, there comes a new chill and
tremour as this treacherous medium surrounds us, through which
unperceived those shapes which fancy conjures up might approach so near
and bar our path.
From the risk of being reduced to an actual standstill he knew he was
exempt. The point from which the wind blew, light as it was, assured him
of that. Still the mist was thick enough seriously to embarrass him. It
had overtaken him as he was looking down upon the lake; and he now
looked to his left, to try whether in that direction it was too thick to
permit a view of the nearest landmarks. Through this white film he saw a
figure standing only about five-and-twenty steps away, looking down, as
it seemed, in precisely the same direction as he, quite motionless, and
standing like a shadow projected upon the smoky vapour. It was the
figure of a slight tall man, with his arm extended, as if pointing to a
remote object, which no mortal eye certainly could discern through the
mist. Sir Bale gazed at this figure, doubtful whether he were in a
waking dream, unable to conjecture whence it had come; and as he looked,
it moved, and was almost instantly out of sight.
He descended the mountain cautiously. The mist was now thinner, and
through the haze he was beginning to see objects more distinctly, and,
without danger, to proceed at a quicker pace. He had still a long walk
by the uplands towards Mardykes Hall before he descended to the level of
The mist was still quite thick enough to circumscribe his view and to
hide the general features of the landscape; and well was it, perhaps,
for Sir Bale that his boyhood had familiarised him with the landmarks on
He had made nearly four miles on his solitary homeward way, when,
passing under a ledge of rock which bears the name of the Cat's Skaitch,
he saw the same figure in the short cloak standing within some thirty or
forty yards of him--the thin curtain of mist, through which the
moonlight touched it, giving to it an airy and unsubstantial character.
Sir Bale came to a standstill. The man in the short cloak nodded and
drew back, and was concealed by the angle of the rock.
Sir Bale was now irritated, as men are after a start, and shouting to
the stranger to halt, he 'slapped' after him, as the northern phrase
goes, at his best pace. But again he was gone, and nowhere could he see
him, the mist favouring his evasion.
Looking down the fells that overhang Mardykes Hall, the mountain-side
dips gradually into a glen, which, as it descends, becomes precipitous
and wooded. A footpath through this ravine conducts the wayfarer to the
level ground that borders the lake; and by this dark pass Sir Bale
Mardykes strode, in comparatively clear air, along the rocky path
dappled with moonlight.
As he emerged upon the lower ground he again encountered the same
figure. It approached. It was Philip Feltram.
A New Philip Feltram
The Baronet had not seen Feltram since his strange escape from death.
His last interview with him had been stern and threatening; Sir Bale
dealing with appearances in the spirit of an incensed judge, Philip
Feltram lamenting in the submission of a helpless despair.
Feltram was full in the moonlight now, standing erect, and smiling
cynically on the Baronet.
There was that in the bearing and countenance of Feltram that
disconcerted him more than the surprise of the sudden meeting.
He had determined to meet Feltram in a friendly way, whenever that not
very comfortable interview became inevitable. But he was confused by the
suddenness of Feltram's appearance; and the tone, cold and stern, in
which he had last spoken to him came first, and he spoke in it after a
"I fancied, Mr. Feltram, you were in your bed; I little expected to find
you here. I think the Doctor gave very particular directions, and said
that you were to remain perfectly quiet."
"But I know more than the Doctor," replied Feltram, still smiling
"I think, sir, you would have been better in your bed," said Sir Bale
"Come, come, come, come!" exclaimed Philip Feltram contemptuously.
[Illustration: It was the figure of a slight tall man, with his arm
extended, as if pointing to a remote object.]
"It seems to me," said Sir Bale, a good deal astonished, "you rather
"Easier to forget oneself, Sir Bale, than to forgive others, at times,"
replied Philip Feltram in his unparalleled mood.
"That's the way fools knock themselves up," continued Sir Bale. "You've
been walking ever so far--away to the Fells of Golden Friars. It was you
whom I saw there. What d----d folly! What brought you there?"
"To observe you," he replied.
"And have you walked the whole way there and back again? How did you get
"Pooh! how did I come--how did you come--how did the fog come? From the
lake, I suppose. We all come up, and then down." So spoke Philip
Feltram, with serene insolence.
"You are pleased to talk nonsense," said Sir Bale.
"Because I like it--with a _meaning_."
Sir Bale looked at him, not knowing whether to believe his eyes and
ears. He did not know what to make of him.
"I had intended speaking to you in a conciliatory way; you seem to wish
to make that impossible"--Philip Feltram's face wore its repulsive
smile;--"and in fact I don't know what to make of you, unless you are
ill; and ill you well may be. You can't have walked much less than
"Wonderful effort for me!" said Feltram with the same sneer.
"Rather surprising for a man so nearly drowned," answered Sir Bale
"A dip: you don't like the lake, sir; but I do. And so it is: as Antaeus
touched the earth, so I the water, and rise refreshed."
"I think you'd better get in and refresh there. I meant to tell you that
all the unpleasantness about that bank-note is over."
"Yes. It has been recovered by Mr. Creswell, who came here last night.
I've got it, and you're not to blame," said Sir Bale.
"But some one _is_ to blame," observed Mr. Feltram, smiling still.
"Well, _you_ are not, and that ends it," said the Baronet peremptorily.
"Ends it? Really, how good! how very good!"
Sir Bale looked at him, for there was something ambiguous and even
derisive in the tone of Feltram's voice.
But before he could quite make up his mind, Feltram spoke again.
"Everything is settled about you and me?"
"There is nothing to prevent your staying at Mardykes now," said Sir
"I shall be with you for two years, and then I go on my travels,"
answered Feltram, with a saturnine and somewhat wild look around him.
"Is he going mad?" thought the Baronet.
"But before I go, I'm to put you in a way of paying off your mortgages.
That is my business here."
Sir Bale looked at him sharply. But now there was not the unpleasant
smile, but the darkened look of a man in secret pain.
"You shall know it all by and by."
And without more ceremony, and with a darkening face, Philip Feltram
made his way under the boughs of the thick oaks that grew there, leaving
on Sir Bale's mind an impression that he had been watching some one at a
distance, and had gone in consequence of a signal.
In a few seconds he followed in the same direction, halloaing after
Feltram; for he did not like the idea of his wandering about the country
by moonlight, or possibly losing his life among the precipices, and
bringing a new discredit upon his house. But no answer came; nor could
he in that thick copse gain sight of him again.
When Sir Bale reached Mardykes Hall he summoned Mrs. Julaper, and had a
long talk with her. But she could not say that there appeared anything
amiss with Philip Feltram; only he seemed more reserved, and as if he
was brooding over something he did not intend to tell.
"But, you know, Sir Bale, what happened might well make a thoughtful man
of him. If he's ever to think of Death, it should be after looking him
so hard in the face; and I'm not ashamed to say, I'm glad to see he has
grace to take the lesson, and I hope his experiences may be sanctified
to him, poor fellow! Amen."
"Very good song, and very well sung," said Sir Bale; "but it doesn't
seem to me that he has been improved, Mrs. Julaper. He seems, on the
contrary, in a queer temper and anything but a heavenly frame of mind;
and I thought I'd ask you, because if he is ill--I mean feverish--it
might account for his eccentricities, as well as make it necessary to
send after him, and bring him home, and put him to bed. But I suppose it
is as you say,--his adventure has upset him a little, and he'll sober in
a day or two, and return to his old ways."
But this did not happen. A change, more comprehensive than at first
appeared, had taken place, and a singular alteration was gradually
He grew thin, his eyes hollow, his face gradually forbidding.
His ways and temper were changed: he was a new man with Sir Bale; and
the Baronet after a time, people said, began to grow afraid of him. And
certainly Feltram had acquired an extraordinary influence over the
Baronet, who a little while ago had regarded and treated him with so
The Purse of Gold
The Baronet was very slightly known in his county. He had led a reserved
and inhospitable life. He was pressed upon by heavy debts; and being a
proud man, held aloof from society and its doings. He wished people to
understand that he was nursing his estate; but somehow the estate did
not thrive at nurse. In the country other people's business is admirably
well known; and the lord of Mardykes was conscious, perhaps, that his
neighbours knew as well he did, that the utmost he could do was to pay
the interest charged upon it, and to live in a frugal way enough.
The lake measures some four or five miles across, from the little jetty
under the walls of Mardykes Hall to Cloostedd.
Philip Feltram, changed and morose, loved a solitary row upon the lake;
and sometimes, with no one to aid him in its management, would take the
little sailboat and pass the whole day upon those lonely waters.
Frequently he crossed to Cloostedd; and mooring the boat under the
solemn trees that stand reflected in that dark mirror, he would
disembark and wander among the lonely woodlands, as people thought,
cherishing in those ancestral scenes the memory of ineffaceable
injuries, and the wrath and revenge that seemed of late to darken his
countenance, and to hold him always in a moody silence.
One autumnal evening Sir Bale Mardykes was sourly ruminating after his
solitary meal. A very red sun was pouring its last low beams through the
valley at the western extremity of the lake, across its elsewhere sombre
waters, and touching with a sudden and blood-red tint the sail of the
skiff in which Feltram was returning from his lonely cruise.
"Here comes my domestic water-fiend," sneered Sir Bale, as he lay back
in his cumbrous arm-chair. "Cheerful place, pleasant people, delicious
fate! The place alone has been enough to set that fool out of his little
senses, d--n him!"
Sir Bale averted his eyes, and another subject not pleasanter entered
his mind. He was thinking of the races that were coming off next week at
Heckleston Downs, and what sums of money might be made there, and how
hard it was that he should be excluded by fortune from that brilliant
"Ah, Mrs. Julaper, is that you?"
Mrs. Julaper, who was still at the door, curtsied, and said, "I came,
Sir Bale, to see whether you'd please to like a jug of mulled claret,
"Not I, my dear. I'll take a mug of beer and my pipe; that homely solace
better befits a ruined gentleman."
"H'm, sir; you're not that, Sir Bale; you're no worse than half the
lords and great men that are going. I would not hear another say that of
"That's very kind of you, Mrs. Julaper; but you won't call _me_ out for
backbiting myself, especially as it is true, d----d true, Mrs. Julaper!
Look ye; there never was a Mardykes here before but he could lay his
hundred or his thousand pounds on the winner of the Heckleston Cup; and
what could I bet? Little more than that mug of beer I spoke of. It was
my great-grandfather who opened the course on the Downs of Heckleston,
and now _I_ can't show there! Well, what must I do? Grin and bear it,
that's all. If you please, Mrs. Julaper, I will have that jug of claret
you offered. I want spice and hot wine to keep me alive; but I'll smoke
my pipe first, and in an hour's time it will do."
When Mrs. Julaper was gone, he lighted his pipe, and drew near the
window, through which he looked upon the now fading sky and the twilight
He smoked his pipe out, and by that time it had grown nearly dark. He
was still looking out upon the faint outlines of the view, and thinking
angrily what a little bit of luck at the races would do for many a man
who probably did not want it half so much as he. Vague and sombre as his
thoughts were, they had, like the darkening landscape outside, shape
enough to define their general character. Bitter and impious they
were--as those of egotistic men naturally are in suffering. And after
brooding, and muttering by fits and starts, he said:
"How many tens and hundreds of thousands of pounds will change hands at
Heckleston next week; and not a shilling in all the change and shuffle
will stick to me! How many a fellow would sell himself, like Dr.
Faustus, just for the knowledge of the name of the winner! But he's no
fool, and does not buy his own."
Something caught his eye; something moving on the wall. The fire was
lighted, and cast a flickering and gigantic shadow upward; the figure of
a man standing behind Sir Bale Mardykes, on whose shoulder he placed a
lean hand. Sir Bale turned suddenly about, and saw Philip Feltram. He
was looking dark and stern, and did not remove his hand from his
shoulder as he peered into the Baronet's face with his deep-set mad
"Ha, Philip, upon my soul!" exclaimed Sir Bale, surprised. "How time
flies! It seems only this minute since I saw the boat a mile and a half
away from the shore. Well--yes; there has been time; it is dark now. Ha,
ha! I assure you, you startled me. Won't you take something? Do. Shall I
touch the bell?"
"You have been troubled about those mortgages. I told you I should pay
them off, I thought."
Here there was a pause, and Sir Bale looked hard in Feltram's face. If
he had been in his ordinary spirits, or perhaps in some of his haunts
less solitary than Mardykes, he would have laughed; but here he had
grown unlike himself, gloomy and credulous, and was, in fact, a nervous
Sir Bale smiled, and shook his head dismally.
"It is very kind of you, Feltram; the idea shows a kindly disposition. I
know you would do me a kindness if you could."
As Sir Bale, each looking in the other's eyes, repeated in this sentence
the words "kind," "kindly," "kindness," a smile lighted Feltram's face
with at each word an intenser light; and Sir Bale grew sombre in its
glare; and when he had done speaking, Feltram's face also on a sudden
"I have found a fortune-teller in Cloostedd Wood. Look here."
And he drew from his pocket a leathern purse, which he placed on the
table in his hand; and Sir Bale heard the pleasant clink of coin in it.
"A fortune-teller! You don't mean to say she gave you that?" said Sir
Feltram smiled again, and nodded.
"It _was_ the custom to give the fortuneteller a trifle. It is a great
improvement making _her_ fee you," observed Sir Bale, with an approach
to his old manner.
"He put that in my hand with a message," said Feltram.
"He? O, then it was a male fortune-teller!"
"Gipsies go in gangs, men and women. _He_ might lend, though _she_ told
fortunes," said Feltram.
"It's the first time I ever heard of gipsies lending money;" and he eyed
the purse with a whimsical smile.
With his lean fingers still holding it, Feltram sat down at the table.
His face contracted as if in cunning thought, and his chin sank upon his
breast as he leaned back.
"I think," continued Sir Bale, "ever since they were spoiled, the
Egyptians have been a little shy of lending, and leave that branch of
business to the Hebrews."
"What would you give to know, now, the winner at Heckleston races?" said
Feltram suddenly, raising his eyes.
"Yes; that would be worth something," answered Sir Bale, looking at him
with more interest than the incredulity he affected would quite warrant.
"And this money I have power to lend you, to make your game."
"Do you mean that really?" said Sir Bale, with a new energy in tone,
manner, and features.
"That's heavy; there are some guineas there," said Feltram with a dark
smile, raising the purse in his hand a little, and letting it drop upon
the table with a clang.
"There is _something_ there, at all events," said Sir Bale.
Feltram took the purse by the bottom, and poured out on the table a
handsome pile of guineas.
"And do you mean to say you got all that from a gipsy in Cloostedd
"A friend, who is--_myself_," answered Philip Feltram.
"Yourself! Then it is yours--_you_ lend it?" said the Baronet, amazed;
for there was no getting over the heap of guineas, and the wonder was
pretty equal whence they had come.
"Myself, and not myself," said Feltram oracularly; "as like as voice and
echo, man and shadow."
Had Feltram in some of his solitary wanderings and potterings lighted
upon hidden treasure? There was a story of two Feltrams of Cloostedd,
brothers, who had joined the king's army and fought at Marston Moor,
having buried in Cloostedd Wood a great deal of gold and plate and
jewels. They had, it was said, intrusted one tried servant with the
secret; and that servant remained at home. But by a perverse fatality
the three witnesses had perished within a month: the two brothers at
Marston Moor; and the confidant, of fever, at Cloostedd. From that day
forth treasure-seekers had from time to time explored the woods of
Cloostedd; and many a tree of mark was dug beside, and the earth beneath
many a stone and scar and other landmark in that solitary forest was
opened by night, until hope gradually died out, and the tradition had
long ceased to prompt to action, and had become a story and nothing
The image of the nursery-tale had now recurred to Sir Bale after so long
a reach of years; and the only imaginable way, in his mind, of
accounting for penniless Philip Feltram having all that gold in his
possession was that, in some of his lonely wanderings, chance had led
him to the undiscovered hoard of the two Feltrams who had died in the
great civil wars.
"Perhaps those gipsies you speak of found the money where you found
them; and in that case, as Cloostedd Forest, and all that is in it is my
property, their sending it to me is more like my servant's handing me my
hat and stick when I'm going out, than making me a present."
"You will not be wise to rely upon the law, Sir Bale, and to refuse the
help that comes unasked. But if you like your mortgages as they are,
keep them; and if you like my terms as they are, take them; and when you
have made up your mind, let me know."
Philip Feltram dropped the heavy purse into his capacious coat-pocket,
and walked, muttering, out of the room.
The Message from Cloostedd
"Come back, Feltram; come back, Philip!" cried Sir Bale hastily. "Let us
talk, can't we? Come and talk this odd business over a little; you must
have mistaken what I meant; I should like to hear all about it."
"All is not much, sir," said Philip Feltram, entering the room again,
the door of which he had half closed after him. "In the forest of
Cloostedd I met to-day some people, one of whom can foretell events, and
told me the names of the winners of the first three races at Heckleston,
and gave me this purse, with leave to lend you so much money as you care
to stake upon the races. I take no security; you shan't be troubled; and
you'll never see the lender, unless you seek him out."
"Well, those are not bad terms," said Sir Bale, smiling wistfully at the
purse, which Feltram had again placed upon the table.
"No, not bad," repeated Feltram, in the harsh low tone in which he now
"You'll tell me what the prophet said about the winners; I should like
to hear their names."
"The names I shall tell you if you walk out with me," said Feltram.
"Why not here?" asked Sir Bale.
"My memory does not serve me here so well. Some people, in some places,
though they be silent, obstruct thought. Come, let us speak," said
Philip Feltram, leading the way.
Sir Bale, with a shrug, followed him.
By this time it was dark. Feltram was walking slowly towards the margin
of the lake; and Sir Bale, more curious as the delay increased, followed
him, and smiled faintly as he looked after his tall, gaunt figure, as
if, even in the dark, expressing a ridicule which he did not honestly
feel, and the expression of which, even if there had been light, there
was no one near enough to see.
When he reached the edge of the lake, Feltram stooped, and Sir Bale
thought that his attitude was that of one who whispers to and caresses a
reclining person. What he fancied was a dark figure lying horizontally
in the shallow water, near the edge, turned out to be, as he drew near,
no more than a shadow on the elsewhere lighter water; and with his
change of position it had shifted and was gone, and Philip Feltram was
but dabbling his hand this way and that in the water, and muttering
faintly to himself. He rose as the Baronet drew near, and standing
"I like to listen to the ripple of the water among the grass and
pebbles; the tongue and lips of the lake are lapping and whispering all
along. It is the merest poetry; but you are so romantic, you excuse me."
There was an angry curve in Feltram's eyebrows, and a cynical smile, and
something in the tone which to the satirical Baronet was almost
insulting. But even had he been less curious, I don't think he would
have betrayed his mortification; for an odd and unavowed influence which
he hated was gradually establishing in Feltram an ascendency which
sometimes vexed and sometimes cowed him.
"You are not to tell," said Feltram, drawing near him in the dusk. "The
secret is yours when you promise."
"Of course I promise," said Sir Bale. "If I believed it, you don't think
I could be such an ass as to tell it; and if I didn't believe it, I'd
hardly take the trouble."
Feltram stooped, and dipping the hollow of his hand in the water, he
raised it full, and said he, "Hold out your hand--the hollow of your
hand--like this. I divide the water for a sign--share to me and share to
you." And he turned his hand, so as to pour half the water into the
hollow palm of Sir Bale, who was smiling, with some uneasiness mixed in
"Now, you promise to keep all secrets respecting the teller and the
finder, be that who it may?"
"Yes, I promise," said Sir Bale.
"Now do as I do," said Feltram. And he shed the water on the ground, and
with his wet fingers touched his forehead and his breast; and then he
joined his hand with Sir Bale's, and said, "Now you are my safe man."
Sir Bale laughed. "That's the game they call 'grand mufti,'" said he.
"Exactly; and means nothing," said Feltram, "except that some day it
will serve you to remember by. And now the names. Don't speak;
listen--you may break the thought else. The winner of the first is
_Beeswing_; of the second, _Falcon_; and of the third, _Lightning_."
He had stood for some seconds in silence before he spoke; his eyes were
closed; he seemed to bring up thought and speech with difficulty, and
spoke faintly and drowsily, both his hands a little raised, and the
fingers extended, with the groping air of a man who moves in the dark.
In this odd way, slowly, faintly, with many a sigh and scarcely audible
groan, he gradually delivered his message and was silent. He stood, it
seemed, scarcely half awake, muttering indistinctly and sighing to
himself. You would have said that he was exhausted and suffering, like a
man at his last hour resigning himself to death.
At length he opened his eyes, looked round a little wildly and
languidly, and with another great sigh sat down on a large rock that
lies by the margin of the lake, and sighed heavily again and again. You
might have fancied that he was a second time recovering from drowning.
Then he got up, and looked drowsily round again, and sighed like a man
worn out with fatigue, and was silent.
Sir Bale did not care to speak until he seemed a little more likely to
obtain an answer. When that time came, he said, "I wish, for the sake of
my believing, that your list was a little less incredible. Not one of
the horses you name is the least likely; not one of them has a chance."
"So much the better for you; you'll get what odds you please. You had
better seize your luck; on Tuesday Beeswing runs," said Feltram. "When
you want money for the purpose, I'm your banker--here is your bank."
He touched his breast, where he had placed the purse, and then he turned
and walked swiftly away.
Sir Bale looked after him till he disappeared in the dark. He fluctuated
among many surmises about Feltram. Was he insane, or was he practising
an imposture? or was he fool enough to believe the predictions of some
real gipsies? and had he borrowed this money, which in Sir Bale's eyes
seemed the greatest miracle in the matter, from those thriving shepherd
mountaineers, the old Trebecks, who, he believed, were attached to him?
Feltram had, he thought, borrowed it as if for himself; and having, as
Sir Bale in his egotism supposed, "a sneaking regard" for him, had meant
the loan for his patron, and conceived the idea of his using his
revelations for the purpose of making his fortune. So, seeing no risk,
and the temptation being strong, Sir Bale resolved to avail himself of
the purse, and use his own judgment as to what horse to back.
About eleven o'clock Feltram, unannounced, walked, with his hat still
on, into Sir Bale's library, and sat down at the opposite side of his
table, looking gloomily into the Baronet's face for a time.
"Shall you want the purse?" he asked at last.
"Certainly; I always want a purse," said Sir Bale energetically.
"The condition is, that you shall back each of the three horses I have
named. But you may back them for much or little, as you like, only the
sum must not be less than five pounds in each hundred which this purse
contains. That is the condition, and if you violate it, you will make
some powerful people very angry, and you will feel it. Do you agree?"
"Of course; five pounds in the hundred--certainly; and how many hundreds
"Well, a fellow with luck may win something with three hundred pounds,
but it ain't very much."
"Quite enough, if you use it aright."
"Three hundred pounds," repeated the Baronet, as he emptied the purse,
which Feltram had just placed in his hand, upon the table; and
contemplating them with grave interest, he began telling them off in
little heaps of five-and-twenty each. He might have thanked Feltram, but
he was thinking more of the guineas than of the grizzly donor.
"Ay," said he, after a second counting, "I think there _are_ exactly
three hundred. Well, so you say I must apply three times five--fifteen
of these. It is an awful pity backing those queer horses you have named;
but if I must make the sacrifice, I must, I suppose?" he added, with a
hesitating inquiry in the tone.
"If you don't, you'll rue it," said Feltram coldly, and walked away.
"Penny in pocket's a merry companion," says the old English proverb, and
Sir Bale felt in better spirits and temper than he had for many a day as
he replaced the guineas in the purse.
It was long since he had visited either the race-course or any other
place of amusement. Now he might face his kind without fear that his
pride should be mortified, and dabble in the fascinating agitations of
the turf once more.
"Who knows how this little venture may turn out?" he thought. "It is
time the luck should turn. My last summer in Germany, my last winter in
Paris--d--n me, I'm owed something. It's time I should win a bit."
Sir Bale had suffered the indolence of a solitary and discontented life
imperceptibly to steal upon him. It would not do to appear for the first
time on Heckleston Lea with any of those signs of negligence which, in
his case, might easily be taken for poverty. All his appointments,
therefore, were carefully looked after; and on the Monday following, he,
followed by his groom, rode away for the Saracen's Head at Heckleston,
where he was to put up, for the races that were to begin on the day
following, and presented as handsome an appearance as a peer in those
days need have cared to show.
On the Course--Beeswing, Falcon, and Lightning
As he rode towards Golden Friars, through which his route lay, in the
early morning light, in which the mists of night were clearing, he
looked back towards Mardykes with a hope of speedy deliverance from that
hated imprisonment, and of a return to the continental life in which he
took delight. He saw the summits and angles of the old building touched
with the cheerful beams, and the grand old trees, and at the opposite
side the fells dark, with their backs towards the east; and down the
side of the wooded and precipitous clough of Feltram, the light, with a
pleasant contrast against the beetling purple of the fells, was breaking
in the faint distance. On the lake he saw the white speck that indicated
the sail of Philip Feltram's boat, now midway between Mardykes and the
wooded shores of Cloostedd.
"Going on the same errand," thought Sir Bale, "I should not wonder. I
wish him the same luck. Yes, he's going to Cloostedd Forest. I hope he
may meet his gipsies there--the Trebecks, or whoever they are."
And as a momentary sense of degradation in being thus beholden to such
people smote him, "Well," thought he, "who knows? Many a fellow will
make a handsome sum of a poorer purse than this at Heckleston. It will
be a light matter paying them then."
Through Golden Friars he rode. Some of the spectators who did not like
him, wondered audibly at the gallant show, hoped it was paid for, and
conjectured that he had ridden out in search of a wife. On the whole,
however, the appearance of their Baronet in a smarter style than usual
was popular, and accepted as a change to the advantage of the town.
Next morning he was on the race-course of Heckleston, renewing old
acquaintance and making himself as agreeable as he could--an object,
among some people, of curiosity and even interest. Leaving the
carriage-sides, the hoods and bonnets, Sir Bale was soon among the
betting men, deep in more serious business.
How did he make his book? He did not break his word. He backed Beeswing,
Falcon, and Lightning. But it must be owned not for a shilling more than
the five guineas each, to which he stood pledged. The odds were
forty-five to one against Beeswing, sixty to one against Lightning, and
fifty to one against Falcon.
"A pretty lot to choose!" exclaimed Sir Bale, with vexation. "As if I
had money so often, that I should throw it away!"
The Baronet was testy thinking over all this, and looked on Feltram's
message as an impertinence and the money as his own.
Let us now see how Sir Bale Mardykes' pocket fared.
Sulkily enough at the close of the week he turned his back on Heckleston
racecourse, and took the road to Golden Friars.
He was in a rage with his luck, and by no means satisfied with himself;
and yet he had won something. The result of the racing had been curious.
In the three principal races the favourites had been beaten: one by an
accident, another on a technical point, and the third by fair running.
And what horses had won? The names were precisely those which the
"fortune-teller" had predicted.
Well, then, how was Sir Bale in pocket as he rode up to his ancestral
house of Mardykes, where a few thousand pounds would have been very
welcome? He had won exactly 775 guineas; and had he staked a hundred
instead of five on each of the names communicated by Feltram, he would
have won 15,500 guineas.
He dismounted before his hall-door, therefore, with the discontent of a
man who had lost nearly 15,000 pounds. Feltram was upon the steps, and
"What do you laugh at?" asked Sir Bale tartly.
"You've won, haven't you?"
"Yes, I've won; I've won a trifle."
"On the horses I named?"
"Well, yes; it so turned out, by the merest accident."
Feltram laughed again dryly, and turned away.
Sir Bale entered Mardykes Hall, and was surly. He was in a much worse
mood than before he had ridden to Heckleston. But after a week or so
ruminating upon the occurrence, he wondered that Feltram spoke no more
of it. It was undoubtedly wonderful. There had been no hint of repayment
yet, and he had made some hundreds by the loan; and, contrary to all
likelihood, the three horses named by the unknown soothsayer had won.
Who was this gipsy? It would be worth bringing the soothsayer to
Mardykes, and giving his people a camp on the warren, and all the
poultry they could catch, and a pig or a sheep every now and then. Why,
that seer was worth the philosopher's stone, and could make Sir Bale's
fortune in a season. Some one else would be sure to pick him up if he
So, tired of waiting for Feltram to begin, he opened the subject one day
himself. He had not seen him for two or three days; and in the wood of
Mardykes he saw his lank figure standing among the thick trees, upon a
little knoll, leaning on a staff which he sometimes carried with him in
his excursions up the mountains.
"Feltram!" shouted Sir Bale.
Feltram turned and beckoned. Sir Bale muttered, but obeyed the signal.
"I brought you here, because you can from this point with unusual
clearness today see the opening of the Clough of Feltram at the other
side, and the clump of trees, where you will find the way to reach the
person about whom you are always thinking."
"Who said I am always thinking about him?" said the Baronet angrily; for
he felt like a man detected in a weakness, and resented it.
"_I_ say it, because I _know_ it; and _you_ know it also. See that clump
of trees standing solitary in the hollow? Among them, to the left, grows
an ancient oak. Cut in its bark are two enormous letters H--F; so large
and bold, that the rugged furrows of the oak bark fail to obscure them,
although they are ancient and spread by time. Standing against the trunk
of this great tree, with your back to these letters, you are looking up
the Glen or Clough of Feltram, that opens northward, where stands
Cloostedd Forest spreading far and thick. Now, how do you find our
"That is exactly what I wish to know," answered Sir Bale; "because,
although I can't, of course, believe that he's a witch, yet he has
either made the most marvellous fluke I've heard of, or else he has got
extraordinary sources of information; or perhaps he acts partly on
chance, partly on facts. Be it which you please, I say he's a marvellous
fellow; and I should like to see him, and have a talk with him; and
perhaps he could arrange with me. I should be very glad to make an
arrangement with him to give me the benefit of his advice about any
matter of the same kind again."
"I think he's willing to see you; but he's a fellow with a queer fancy
and a pig-head. He'll not come here; you must go to him; and approach
him his own way too, or you may fail to find him. On these terms he
Sir Bale laughed.
"He knows his value, and means to make his own terms."
"Well, there's nothing unfair in that; and I don't see that I should
dispute it. How is one to find him?"
"Stand, as I told you, with your back to those letters cut in the oak.
Right before you lies an old Druidic altar-stone. Cast your eye over its
surface, and on some part of it you are sure to see a black stain about
the size of a man's head. Standing, as I suppose you, against the oak,
that stain, which changes its place from day to day, will give you the
line you must follow through the forest in order to light upon him. Take
carefully from it such trees or objects as will guide you; and when the
forest thickens, do the best you can to keep to the same line. You are
sure to find him."
"You'll come, Feltram. I should lose myself in that wilderness, and
probably fail to discover him," said Sir Bale; "and I really wish to see
"When two people wish to meet, it is hard if they don't. I can go with
you a bit of the way; I can walk a little through the forest by your
side, until I see the small flower that grows peeping here and there,
that always springs where those people walk; and when I begin to see
that sign, I must leave you. And, first, I'll take you across the lake."
"By Jove, you'll do no such thing!" said Sir Bale hastily.
"But that is the way he chooses to be approached," said Philip Feltram.
"I have a sort of feeling about that lake; it's the one childish spot
that is left in my imagination. The nursery is to blame for it--old
stories and warnings; and I can't think of that. I should feel I had
invoked an evil omen if I did. I know it is all nonsense; but we are
queer creatures, Feltram. I must only ride there."
"Why, it is five-and-twenty miles round the lake to that; and after all
were done, he would not see you. He knows what he's worth, and he'll
have his own way," answered Feltram. "The sun will soon set. See that
withered branch, near Snakes Island, that looks like fingers rising from
the water? When its points grow tipped with red, the sun has but three
minutes to live."
"That is a wonder which I can't see; it is too far away."
"Yes, the lake has many signs; but it needs sight to see them," said
"So it does," said the Baronet; "more than most men have got. I'll ride
round, I say; and I make my visit, for this time, my own way."
"You'll not find him, then; and he wants his money. It would be a pity
to vex him."
"It was to you he lent the money," said Sir Bale.
"Well, you are the proper person to find him out and pay him," urged Sir
"Perhaps so; but he invites you; and if you don't go, he may be
offended, and you may hear no more from him."
"We'll try. When can you go? There are races to come off next week, for
once and away, at Langton. I should not mind trying my luck there. What
do you say?
"You can go there and pay him, and ask the same question--what horses, I
mean, are to win. All the county are to be there; and plenty of money
will change hands."
"I'll try," said Feltram.
"When will you go?"
"To-morrow," he answered.
"I have an odd idea, Feltram, that you are really going to pay off those
He laid his hand with at least a gesture of kindness on the thin arm of
Feltram, who coldly answered,
"So have I;" and walked down the side of the little knoll and away,
without another word or look.
On the Lake, at Last
Next day Philip Feltram crossed the lake; and Sir Bale, seeing the boat
on the water, guessed its destination, and watched its progress with no
little interest, until he saw it moored and its sail drop at the rude
pier that affords a landing at the Clough of Feltram. He was now
satisfied that Philip had actually gone to seek out the 'cunning man,'
and gather hints for the next race.
When that evening Feltram returned, and, later still, entered Sir Bale's
library, the master of Mardykes was gladder to see his face and more
interested about his news than he would have cared to confess.
Philip Feltram did not affect unconsciousness of that anxiety, but, with
great directness, proceeded to satisfy it.
"I was in Cloostedd Forest to-day, nearly all day--and found the old
gentleman in a wax. He did not ask me to drink, nor show me any
kindness. He was huffed because you would not take the trouble to cross
the lake to speak to him yourself. He took the money you sent him and
counted it over, and dropped it into his pocket; and he called you hard
names enough and to spare; but I brought him round, and at last he did
"And what did he say?"
"He said that the estate of Mardykes would belong to a Feltram."
"He might have said something more likely," said Sir Bale sourly. "Did
he say anything more?"
"Yes. He said the winner at Langton Lea would be Silver Bell."
"Any other name?"
"Silver Bell? Well, that's not so odd as the last. Silver Bell stands
high in the list. He has a good many backers--long odds in his favour
against most of the field. I should not mind backing Silver Bell."
The fact is, that he had no idea of backing any other horse from the
moment he heard the soothsayer's prediction. He made up his mind to no
half measures this time. He would go in to win something handsome.
He was in great force and full of confidence on the race-course. He had
no fears for the result. He bet heavily. There was a good margin still
untouched of the Mardykes estate; and Sir Bale was a good old name in
the county. He found a ready market for his offers, and had soon
staked--such is the growing frenzy of that excitement--about twenty
thousand pounds on his favourite, and stood to win seven.
He did not win, however. He lost his twenty thousand pounds.
And now the Mardykes estate was in imminent danger. Sir Bale returned,
having distributed I O Us and promissory notes in all directions about
him--quite at his wit's end.
Feltram was standing--as on the occasion of his former happier
return--on the steps of Mardykes Hall, in the evening sun, throwing
eastward a long shadow that was lost in the lake. He received him, as
before, with a laugh.
Sir Bale was too much broken to resent this laugh as furiously as he
might, had he been a degree less desperate.
He looked at Feltram savagely, and dismounted.
"Last time you would not trust him, and this time he would not trust
you. He's huffed, and played you false."
"It was not he. I should have backed that d----d horse in any case,"
said Sir Bale, grinding his teeth. "What a witch you have discovered!
One thing is true, perhaps. If there was a Feltram rich enough, he might
have the estate now; but there ain't. They are all beggars. So much for
"He may make amends to you, if you make amends to him."
"He! Why, what can that wretched impostor do? D--n me, I'm past helping
"Don't you talk so," said Feltram. "Be civil. You must please the old
gentleman. He'll make it up. He's placable when it suits him. Why not go
to him his own way? I hear you are nearly ruined. You must go and make
"Make it up! With whom? With a fellow who can't make even a guess at
what's coming? Why should I trouble my head about him more?"
"No man, young or old, likes to be frumped. Why did you cross his fancy?
He won't see you unless you go to him as he chooses."
"If he waits for that, he may wait till doomsday. I don't choose to go
on that water--and cross it I won't," said Sir Bale.
But when his distracting reminders began to pour in upon him, and the
idea of dismembering what remained of his property came home to him, his
"I say, Feltram, what difference can it possibly make to him if I choose
to ride round to Cloostedd Forest instead of crossing the lake in a
Feltram smiled darkly, and answered.
"I can't tell. Can you?"
"Of course I can't--I say I can't; besides, what audacity of a fellow
like that presuming to prescribe to me! Utterly ludicrous! And he can't
predict--do you really think or believe, Feltram, that he can?"
"I know he can. I know he misled you on purpose. He likes to punish
those who don't respect his will; and there is a reason in it, often
quite clear--not ill-natured. Now you see he compels you to seek him
out, and when you do, I think he'll help you through your trouble. He
said he would."
"Then you have seen him since?"
"Yesterday. He has put a pressure on you; but he means to help you."
"If he means to help me, let him remember I want a banker more than a
seer. Let him give me a lift, as he did before. He must lend me money."
"He'll not stick at that. When he takes up a man, he carries him
"The races of Byermere--I might retrieve at them. But they don't come
off for a month nearly; and what is a man like me to do in the
"Every man should know his own business best. I'm not like you," said
Now Sir Bale's trouble increased, for some people were pressing.
Something like panic supervened; for it happened that land was bringing
just then a bad price, and more must be sold in consequence.
"All I can tell them is, I am selling land. It can't be done in an hour.
I'm selling enough to pay them all twice over. Gentlemen used to be able
to wait till a man sold his acres for payment. D--n them! do they want
my body, that they can't let me alone for five minutes?"
The end of it was, that before a week Sir Bale told Feltram that he
would go by boat, since that fellow insisted on it; and he did not very
much care if he were drowned.
It was a beautiful autumnal day. Everything was bright in that mellowed
sun, and the deep blue of the lake was tremulous with golden ripples;
and crag and peak and scattered wood, faint in the distance, came out
with a filmy distinctness on the fells in that pleasant light.
Sir Bale had been ill, and sent down the night before for Doctor Torvey.
He was away with a patient. Now, in the morning, he had arrived
inopportunely. He met Sir Bale as he issued from the house, and had a
word with him in the court, for he would not turn back.
"Well," said the Doctor, after his brief inspection, "you ought to be in
your bed; that's all I can say. You are perfectly mad to think of
knocking about like this. Your pulse is at a hundred and ten; and, if
you go across the lake and walk about Cloostedd, you'll be raving before
you come back."
Sir Bale told him, apologetically, as if his life were more to his
doctor than to himself, that he would take care not to fatigue himself,
and that the air would do him good, and that in any case he could not
avoid going; and so they parted.
Sir Bale took his seat beside Feltram in the boat, the sail was spread,
and, bending to the light breeze that blew from Golden Friars, she
glided from the jetty under Mardykes Hall, and the eventful voyage had
The sail was loosed, the boat touched the stone step, and Feltram sprang
out and made her fast to the old iron ring. The Baronet followed. So! he
had ventured upon that water without being drowned. He looked round him
as if in a dream. He had not been there since his childhood. There were
no regrets, no sentiment, no remorse; only an odd return of the
associations and fresh feelings of boyhood, and a long reach of time
The little hollow in which he stood; the three hawthorn trees at his
right; every crease and undulation of the sward, every angle and crack
in the lichen-covered rock at his feet, recurred with a sharp and
instantaneous recognition to his memory.
"Many a time your brother and I fished for hours together from that bank
there, just where the bramble grows. That bramble has not grown an inch
ever since, not a leaf altered; we used to pick blackberries off it,
with our rods stuck in the bank--it was later in the year than now--till
we stript it quite bare after a day or two. The steward used to come
over--they were marking timber for cutting and we used to stay here
while they rambled through the wood, with an axe marking the trees that
were to come down. I wonder whether the big old boat is still anywhere.
I suppose she was broken up, or left to rot; I have not seen her since
we came home. It was in the wood that lies at the right--the other wood
is called the forest; they say in old times it was eight miles long,
northward up the shore of the lake, and full of deer; with a forester,
and a reeve, and a verderer, and all that. Your brother was older than
you; he went to India, or the Colonies; is he living still?"
"I care not."
"That's good-natured, at all events; but do you know?"
"Not I; and what matter? If he's living, I warrant he has his share of
the curse, the sweat of his brow and his bitter crust; and if he is
dead, he's dust or worse, he's rotten, and smells accordingly."
Sir Bale looked at him; for this was the brother over whom, only a year
or two ago, Philip used to cry tears of pathetic longing. Feltram looked
darkly in his face, and sneered with a cold laugh.
"I suppose you mean to jest?" said Sir Bale.
"Not I; it is the truth. It is what you'd say, if you were honest. If
he's alive, let him keep where he is; and if he's dead, I'll have none
of him, body or soul. Do you hear that sound?"
"Like the wind moaning in the forest?"
"But I feel no wind. There's hardly a leaf stirring."
"I think so," said Feltram. "Come along."
And he began striding up the gentle slope of the glen, with many a rock
peeping through its sward, and tufted ferns and furze, giving a wild and
neglected character to the scene; the background of which, where the
glen loses itself in a distant turn, is formed by its craggy and wooded
Up they marched, side by side, in silence, towards that irregular clump
of trees, to which Feltram had pointed from the Mardykes side.
As they approached, it showed more scattered, and two or three of the
trees were of grander dimensions than in the distance they had appeared;
and as they walked, the broad valley of Cloostedd Forest opened grandly
on their left, studding the sides of the valley with solitary trees or
groups, which thickened as it descended to the broad level, in parts
nearly three miles wide, on which stands the noble forest of Cloostedd,
now majestically reposing in the stirless air, gilded and flushed with
the melancholy tints of autumn.
I am now going to relate wonderful things; but they rest on the report,
strangely consistent, it is true, of Sir Bale Mardykes. That all his
senses, however, were sick and feverish, and his brain not quite to be
relied on at that moment, is a fact of which sceptics have a right to
make all they please and can.
Startled at their approach, a bird like a huge mackaw bounced from the
boughs of the trees, and sped away, every now and then upon the ground,
toward the shelter of the forest, fluttering and hopping close by the
side of the little brook which, emerging from the forest, winds into the
glen, and beside the course of which Sir Bale and Philip Feltram had
ascended from the margin of the lake.
It fluttered on, as if one of its wings were hurt, and kept hopping and
bobbing and flying along the grass at its swiftest, screaming all the
"That must be old Mrs. Amerald's bird, that got away a week ago," said
Sir Bale, stopping and looking after it. "Was not it a mackaw?"
"No," said Feltram; "that was a gray parrot; but there are stranger
birds in Cloostedd Forest, for my ancestors collected all that would
live in our climate, and were at pains to find them the food and shelter
they were accustomed to until they grew hardy--that is how it happens."
"By Jove, that's a secret worth knowing," said Sir Bale. "That would
make quite a feature. What a fat brute that bird was! and green and
dusky-crimson and yellow; but its head is white--age, I suspect; and
what a broken beak--hideous bird! splendid plumage; something between a
mackaw and a vulture."
Sir Bale spoke jocularly, but with the interest of a bird-fancier; a
taste which, when young, he had indulged; and for the moment forgot his
cares and the object of his unwonted excursion.
A moment after, a lank slim bird, perfectly white, started from the same
boughs, and winged its way to the forest.
"A kite, I think; but its body is a little too long, isn't it?" said Sir
Bale again, stopping and looking after its flight also.
"A foreign kite, I daresay?" said Feltram.
All this time there was hopping near them a jay, with the tameness of a
bird accustomed to these solitudes. It peered over its slender wing
curiously at the visitors; pecking here and nodding there; and thus
hopping, it made a circle round them more than once. Then it fluttered
up, and perched on a bough of the old oak, from the deep labyrinth of
whose branches the other birds had emerged; and from thence it flew down
and lighted on the broad druidic stone, that stood like a cyclopean
table on its sunken stone props, before the snakelike roots of the oak.
Across this it hopped conceitedly, as over a stage on which it figured
becomingly; and after a momentary hesitation, with a little spring, it
rose and winged its way in the same direction which the other birds had
taken, and was quickly lost in thick forest to the left.
"Here," said Feltram, "this is the tree."
"I remember it well! A gigantic trunk; and, yes, those marks; but I
never before read them as letters. Yes, H.F., so they are--very odd I
should not have remarked them. They are so large, and so strangely
drawn-out in some places, and filled-in in others, and distorted, and
the moss has grown about them; I don't wonder I took them for natural
cracks and chasms in the bark," said Sir Bale.
"Very like," said Feltram.
Sir Bale had remarked, ever since they had begun their walk from the
shore, that Feltram seemed to undergo a gloomy change. Sharper, grimmer,
wilder grew his features, and shadow after shadow darkened his face
The solitude and grandeur of the forest, and the repulsive gloom of his
companion's countenance and demeanour, communicated a tone of anxiety to
Sir Bale; and they stood still, side by side, in total silence for a
time, looking toward the forest glades; between themselves and which, on
the level sward of the valley, stood many a noble tree and fantastic
group of forked birch and thorn, in the irregular formations into which
Nature had thrown them.
"Now you stand between the letters. Cast your eyes on the stone," said
Feltram suddenly, and his low stern tones almost startled the Baronet.
Looking round, he perceived that he had so placed himself that his point
of vision was exactly from between the two great letters, now
half-obliterated, which he had been scrutinizing just as he turned about
to look toward the forest of Cloostedd.
"Yes, so I am," said Sir Bale.
There was within him an excitement and misgiving, akin to the sensation
of a man going into battle, and which corresponded with the pale and
sombre frown which Feltram wore, and the manifest change which had come
"Look on the stone steadily for a time, and tell me if you see a black
mark, about the size of your hand, anywhere upon its surface," said
Sir Bale affected no airs of scepticism now; his imagination was
stirred, and a sense of some unknown reality at the bottom of that which
he had affected to treat before as illusion, inspired a strange interest
in the experiment.
"Do you see it?" asked Feltram.
Sir Bale was watching patiently, but he had observed nothing of the
Sharper, darker, more eager grew the face of Philip Feltram, as his eyes
traversed the surface of that huge horizontal block.
"Now?" asked Feltram again.
No, he had seen nothing.
Feltram was growing manifestly uneasy, angry almost; he walked away a
little, and back again, and then two or three times round the tree, with
his hands shut, and treading the ground like a man trying to warm his
feet, and so impatiently he returned, and looked again on the stone.
Sir Bale was still looking, and very soon said, drawing his brows
together and looking hard,
"Ha!--yes--hush. There it is, by Jove!--wait--yes--there; it is growing
It seemed not as if a shadow fell upon the stone, but rather as if the
stone became semi-transparent, and just under its surface was something
dark--a hand, he thought it--and darker and darker it grew, as if coming
up toward the surface, and after some little wavering, it fixed itself
movelessly, pointing, as he thought, toward the forest.
"It looks like a hand," said he. "By Jove, it is a hand--pointing
towards the forest with a finger."
"Don't mind the finger; look only on that black blurred mark, and from
the point where you stand, taking that point for your direction, look to
the forest. Take some tree or other landmark for an object, enter the
forest there, and pursue the same line, as well as you can, until you
find little flowers with leaves like wood-sorrel, and with tall stems
and a red blossom, not larger than a drop, such as you have not seen
before, growing among the trees, and follow wherever they seem to grow
thickest, and there you will find him."
All the time that Feltram was making this little address, Sir Bale was
endeavouring to fix his route by such indications as Feltram described;
and when he had succeeded in quite establishing the form of a peculiar
tree--a melancholy ash, one huge limb of which had been blasted by
lightning, and its partly stricken arm stood high and barkless,
stretching its white fingers, as it were, in invitation into the forest,
and signing the way for him----
"I have it now," said he. "Come Feltram, you'll come a bit of the way
Feltram made no answer, but slowly shook his head, and turned and walked
away, leaving Sir Bale to undertake his adventure alone.
The strange sound they had heard from the midst of the forest, like the
rumble of a storm or the far-off trembling of a furnace, had quite
ceased. Not a bird was hopping on the grass, or visible on bough or in
the sky. Not a living creature was in sight--never was stillness more
complete, or silence more oppressive.
It would have been ridiculous to give way to the old reluctance which
struggled within him. Feltram had strode down the slope, and was
concealed by a screen of bushes from his view. So alone, and full of an
interest quite new to him, he set out in quest of his adventures.
The Haunted Forest
Sir Bale Mardykes walked in a straight line, by bush and scaur, over the
undulating ground, to the blighted ash-tree; and as he approached it,
its withered bough stretched more gigantically into the air, and the
forest seemed to open where it pointed.
He passed it by, and in a few minutes had lost sight of it again, and
was striding onward under the shadow of the forest, which already
enclosed him. He was directing his march with all the care he could, in
exactly that line which, according to Feltram's rule, had been laid down
for him. Now and then, having, as soldiers say, taken an object, and
fixed it well in his memory, he would pause and look about him.
As a boy he had never entered the wood so far; for he was under a
prohibition, lest he should lose himself in its intricacies, and be
benighted there. He had often heard that it was haunted ground, and that
too would, when a boy, have deterred him. It was on this account that
the scene was so new to him, and that he cared so often to stop and look
about him. Here and there a vista opened, exhibiting the same utter
desertion, and opening farther perspectives through the tall stems of
the trees faintly visible in the solemn shadow. No flowers could he see,
but once or twice a wood anemone, and now and then a tiny grove of
Huge oak-trees now began to mingle and show themselves more and more
frequently among the other timber; and gradually the forest became a
great oak wood unintruded upon by any less noble tree. Vast trunks
curving outwards to the roots, and expanding again at the branches,
stood like enormous columns, striking out their groining boughs, with
the dark vaulting of a crypt.
As he walked under the shadow of these noble trees, suddenly his eye was
struck by a strange little flower, nodding quite alone by the knotted
root of one of those huge oaks.
He stooped and picked it up, and as he plucked it, with a harsh scream
just over his head, a large bird with heavy beating wings broke away
from the midst of the branches. He could not see it, but he fancied the
scream was like that of the huge mackaw whose ill-poised flight he had
watched. This conjecture was but founded on the odd cry he had heard.
The flower was a curious one--a stem fine as a hair supported a little
bell, that looked like a drop of blood, and never ceased trembling. He
walked on, holding this in his fingers; and soon he saw another of the
same odd type, then another at a shorter distance, then one a little to
the right and another to the left, and farther on a little group, and at
last the dark slope was all over trembling with these little bells,
thicker and thicker as he descended a gentle declivity to the bank of
the little brook, which flowing through the forest loses itself in the
lake. The low murmur of this forest stream was almost the first sound,
except the shriek of the bird that startled him a little time ago, which
had disturbed the profound silence of the wood since he entered it.
Mingling with the faint sound of the brook, he now heard a harsh human
voice calling words at intervals, the purport of which he could not yet
catch; and walking on, he saw seated upon the grass, a strange figure,
corpulent, with a great hanging nose, the whole face glowing like
copper. He was dressed in a bottle-green cut-velvet coat, of the style
of Queen Anne's reign, with a dusky crimson waistcoat, both overlaid
with broad and tarnished gold lace, and his silk stockings on thick
swollen legs, with great buckled shoes, straddling on the grass, were
rolled up over his knees to his short breeches. This ill-favoured old
fellow, with a powdered wig that came down to his shoulders, had a
dice-box in each hand, and was apparently playing his left against his
right, and calling the throws with a hoarse cawing voice.
Raising his black piggish eyes, he roared to Sir Bale, by name, to come
and sit down, raising one of his dice-boxes, and then indicating a place
on the grass opposite to him.
Now Sir Bale instantly guessed that this was the man, gipsy, warlock,
call him what he might, of whom he had come in search. With a strange
feeling of curiosity, disgust, and awe, he drew near. He was resolved to
do whatever this old man required of him, and to keep him, this time, in
Sir Bale did as he bid him, and sat down; and taking the box he
presented, they began throwing turn about, with three dice, the
copper-faced old man teaching him the value of the throws, as he
proceeded, with many a curse and oath; and when he did not like a throw,
grinning with a look of such real fury, that the master of Mardykes
almost expected him to whip out his sword and prick him through as he
sat before him.
After some time spent at this play, in which guineas passed now this
way, now that, chucked across the intervening patch of grass, or rather
moss, that served them for a green cloth, the old man roared over his
"Drink;" and picking up a longstemmed conical glass which Sir Bale had
not observed before, he handed it over to the Baronet; and taking
another in his fingers, he held it up, while a very tall slim old man,
dressed in a white livery, with powdered hair and cadaverous face, which
seemed to run out nearly all into a long thin hooked nose, advanced with
a flask in each hand. Looking at the unwieldly old man, with his heavy
nose, powdered head, and all the bottle-green, crimson, and gold about
him, and the long slim serving man, with sharp beak, and white from head
to heel, standing by him, Sir Bale was forcibly reminded of the great
old macaw and the long and slender kite, whose colours they, after their
fashion, reproduced, with something, also indescribable, of the air and
character of the birds. Not standing on ceremony, the old fellow held up
his own glass first, which the white lackey filled from the flask, and
then he filled Sir Bale's glass.
It was a large glass, and might have held about half a pint; and the
liquor with which the servant filled it was something of the colour of
an opal, and circles of purple and gold seemed to be spreading
continually outward from the centre, and running inward from the rim,
and crossing one another, so as to form a beautiful rippling net-work.
"I drink to your better luck next time," said the old man, lifting his
glass high, and winking with one eye, and leering knowingly with the
other; "and you know what I mean."
Sir Bale put the liquor to his lips. Wine? Whatever it was, never had he
tasted so delicious a flavour. He drained it to the bottom, and placing
it on the grass beside him, and looking again at the old dicer, who was
also setting down his glass, he saw, for the first time, the graceful
figure of a young woman seated on the grass. She was dressed in deep
mourning, had a black hood carelessly over her head, and, strangely,
wore a black mask, such as are used at masquerades. So much of her
throat and chin as he could see were beautifully white; and there was a
prettiness in her air and figure which made him think what a beautiful
creature she in all likelihood was. She was reclining slightly against
the burly man in bottle-green and gold, and her arm was round his neck,
and her slender white hand showed itself over his shoulder.
"Ho! my little Geaiette," cried the old fellow hoarsely; "it will be
time that you and I should get home.--So, Bale Mardykes, I have nothing
to object to you this time; you've crossed the lake, and you've played
with me and won and lost, and drank your glass like a jolly companion,
and now we know one another; and an acquaintance is made that will last.
I'll let you go, and you'll come when I call for you. And now you'll
want to know what horse will win next month at Rindermere
races.--Whisper me, lass, and I'll tell him."
So her lips, under the black curtain, crept close to his ear, and she
"Ay, so it will;" roared the old man, gnashing his teeth; "it will be
Rainbow, and now make your best speed out of the forest, or I'll set my
black dogs after you, ho, ho, ho! and they may chance to pull you down.
He cried this last order with a glare so black, and so savage a shake of
his huge fist, that Sir Bale, merely making his general bow to the
group, clapped his hat on his head, and hastily began his retreat; but
the same discordant voice yelled after him:
"You'll want that, you fool; pick it up." And there came hurtling after
and beside him a great leather bag, stained, and stuffed with a heavy
burden, and bounding by him it stopped with a little wheel that brought
it exactly before his feet.
He picked it up, and found it heavy.
Turning about to make his acknowledgments, he saw the two persons in
full retreat; the profane old scoundrel in the bottle-green limping and
stumbling, yet bowling along at a wonderful rate, with many a jerk and
reel, and the slender lady in black gliding away by his side into the
inner depths of the forest.
So Sir Bale, with a strange chill, and again in utter solitude, pursued
his retreat, with his burden, at a swifter pace, and after an hour or
so, had recovered the point where he had entered the forest, and passing
by the druidic stone and the mighty oak, saw down the glen at his right,
standing by the edge of the lake, Philip Feltram, close to the bow of
Feltram looked grim and agitated when Sir Bale came up to him, as he
stood on the flat-stone by which the boat was moored.
"You found him?" said he.
"The lady in black was there?"
"And you played with him?"
"And what is that in your hand?"
"A bag of something, I fancy money; it is heavy; he threw it after me.
We shall see just now; let us get away."
"He gave you some of his wine to drink?" said Feltram, looking darkly in
his face; but there was a laugh in his eyes.
"Yes; of course I drank it; my object was to please him."
"To be sure."
The faint wind that carried them across the lake had quite subsided by
the time they had reached the side where they now were.
There was now not wind enough to fill the sail, and it was already
"Give me an oar; we can pull her over in little more than an hour," said
Sir Bale; "only let us get away."
He got into the boat, sat down, and placed the leather bag with its
heavy freightage at his feet, and took an oar. Feltram loosed the rope
and shoved the boat off; and taking his seat also, they began to pull
together, without another word, until, in about ten minutes, they had
got a considerable way off the Cloostedd shore.
The leather bag was too clumsy a burden to conceal; besides, Feltram
knew all about the transaction, and Sir Bale had no need to make a
secret. The bag was old and soiled, and tied about the "neck" with a
long leather thong, and it seemed to have been sealed with red wax,
fragments of which were still sticking to it.
He got it open, and found it full of guineas.
"Halt!" cried Sir Bale, delighted, for he had half apprehended a trick
upon his hopes; "gold it is, and a lot of it, by Jove!"
Feltram did not seem to take the slightest interest in the matter.
Sulkily and drowsily he was leaning with his elbow on his knee, and it
seemed thinking of something far away. Sir Bale could not wait to count
them any longer. He reckoned them on the bench, and found two thousand.
It took some time; and when he had got them back into the leather bag,
and tied them up again, Feltram, with a sudden start, said sharply,
"Come, take your oar--unless you like the lake by night; and see, a wind
will soon be up from Golden Friars!"
He cast a wild look towards Mardykes Hall and Snakes Island, and
applying himself to his oar, told Sir Bale to take his also; and nothing
loath, the Baronet did so.
It was slow work, for the boat was not built for speed; and by the time
they had got about midway, the sun went down, and twilight and the
melancholy flush of the sunset tints were upon the lake and fells.
"Ho! here comes the breeze--up from Golden Friars," said Feltram; "we
shall have enough to fill the sails now. If you don't fear spirits and
Snakes Island, it is all the better for us it should blow from that
point. If it blew from Mardykes now, it would be a stiff pull for you
and me to get this tub home."
Talking as if to himself, and laughing low, he adjusted the sail and
took the tiller, and so, yielding to the rising breeze, the boat glided
slowly toward still distant Mardykes Hall.
The moon came out, and the shore grew misty, and the towering fells rose
like sheeted giants; and leaning on the gunwale of the boat, Sir Bale,
with the rush and gurgle of the water on the boat's side sounding
faintly in his ear, thought of his day's adventure, which seemed to him
like a dream--incredible but for the heavy bag that lay between his
As they passed Snakes Island, a little mist, like a fragment of a fog,
seemed to drift with them, and Sir Bale fancied that whenever it came
near the boat's side she made a dip, as if strained toward the water;
and Feltram always put out his hand, as if waving it from him, and the
mist seemed to obey the gesture; but returned again and again, and the
same thing always happened.
It was three weeks after, that Sir Bale, sitting up in his bed, very
pale and wan, with his silk night-cap nodding on one side, and his thin
hand extended on the coverlet, where the doctor had been feeling his
pulse, in his darkened room, related all the wonders of this day to
Doctor Torvey. The doctor had attended him through a fever which
followed immediately upon his visit to Cloostedd.
"And, my dear sir, by Jupiter, can you really believe all that delirium