« PreviousContinue »
Fells. I could fix a buoy over the very spot. Some one here told me the bearings, I'd take my oath, where the body was seen; and yet no boat could ever come up with it; and that was queer, you know, so I clapt it down in my log.'
Ay, sir, there was some flummery like that, Captain,' said Turnbull; ‘for folk will be gabbin'. But 'twas his grandsire was talked o’, not him ; and 'twould play the hangment wi' me doun here, if 'twas thought there was stories like that passin' in the George and Dragon.'
Well, his grandfather ; 'twas all one to the woman, I take it.'
* There never was no proof, Captain, no more than smoke; and the family up at Mardykes wouldn't allow the king to talk o' them like that, sir ; for though they be lang deod that had most right to be angered in the matter, there's none o' the name but would be half daft to think 'twas still believed, and he full out as mich as any. Not that I need care more than another, though they do say he's a bit frowsy and short-waisted; for he can't shouther me out o' the George while I pay my rent, till nine hundred and ninety-nine year be rin oot; and a man, be he ne'er sa het, has time to cool before then. But there's no good quarrellin' wi' teathy folk; and it may lie in his way to do the George mony an ill turn, and mony a gude one; an' it's only fair to say it happened a long way before he was born, and there's no good in vexin' him; and I lay ye a pound, Captain, the Doctor hods wi' me.'
The Doctor, whose business was also sensitive, nodded; and then he said, “But for all that, the story's old, Dick Turnbullolder than you or I, my jolly good friend.'
* And best forgotten,' interposed the host of the George.
* Ay, best forgotten; but that it's not like to be,' said the Doctor, plucking up courage. “Here's our friend the Captain has heard it; and the mistake he has made shows there's one thing worse than its being quite remembered, and that is, its being half remembered. We can't stop people talking; and a story like that will see us all off the hooks, and be in folks' mouths as strong as ever.'
• Ay; and now I think on it, 'twas Dick Harman that has the boat down there an old tar like myself—that told me that yarn. I was trying for pike, and he pulled me over the place, and that's how I came to hear it.--I say, Tom, my hearty, serve us out another glass of brandy, will you ? shouted the Captain's voice as the waiter crossed the room ; and that florid and grizzled naval hero clapped his leg again on the chair by its wooden companion, which he was wont to call his jury-mast.
• Well, I do believe it will be spoke of longer than we are like to hear; and I don't much matter the story, if it baint told o' the wrong man.' Here he touched his tumbler with the spoon, indicating by that little ring that Tom, who had returned with the Captain's grog, was to replenish it with punch. · And Sir Bale is like to be a friend to this house. I don't see no reason why he shouldn't. The George and Dragon has bin in our family ever since the reign of King Charles the Second. It was William Turnbull in that time, which they called it the Restoration, he taking the lease from Sir Tony Mardykes that was then. They was but knights then. They was made baronets first in the reign of King George the Second; you may see it in the list of the baronets and the nobility. The lease was made to William Turnbull, which came from London; and he built the stables, which they was out o' repair, as you may read to this day in the lease ; and the house has never had but one sign since—the George and Dragon, it is pretty well known in England—and one name to its master. It has been owned by a Turnbull from that day to this, and they have not been counted bad men.' A murmur of applause testified the assent of his guests. 'TI has been steady church-goin' folk, and brewed good drink, and maintained the best o'characters, hereaways and farther off too, though 'tis I, Richard Turnbull, that says it; and while they pay their rent, no man has power to put them out; for their title's as good to the George and Dragon, and the two fields, and the croft, and the grazing o' their kye on the green, as Sir Bale Mardykes to the Hall up there and estate. So 'tis nout to me, except in the way o'friendliness, what the family may think o'me; only the George and they has always been kind and friendly, and I don't want to break the old custom.'
· Well said, Dick !' exclaimed Doctor Torvey; 'I hold to your conclusion; but there ain't a soul here but ourselves—and we're all friends, and you are your own master-and, hang it, you'll tell us that story about the drowned woman, as you heard it from your father long ago.'
• Ay, do, and keep us to our liquor, my hearty !' cried the Captain.
Mr. Peers looked his entreaty; and deaf Mr. Hollar, having no interest in the petition, was at least a safe witness, and, with his pipe in his lips, a cozy piece of furniture.
Richard Turnbull had his punch beside him; he looked over his shoulder. The door was closed, the fire was cheery, and the punch was fragrant, and all friendly faces about him. So said he :
'Gentlemen, as you're pleased to wish it, I don't see no great harm in it; and at any rate, 'twill prevent mistakes. It is more than ninety years since. My father was but a boy then; and many a time I heard him tell it in this very room.'
And looking into his glass he mused, and stirred his punch slowly.
THE DROWNED WOMAX.
'It ain't much of a homminy,' said the host of the George. * I'll not keep you long over it, gentlemen. There was a handsome young lady, Miss Mary Feltram o Cloostedd by name. the last o' that family; they had gone very poor.
There's but the walls o' the house left now : grass growing in the hall, and ivy over the gables ; there's no one livin' has ever hard tell o'smoke out o' they chimblies. It stands on t'other side o' the lake, on the level, wi' a deal o' a'ad trees behint and aside it, at the gap o' the clough, under the pike o' Maiden Fells. Ye may see it wi' a spyin'-glass from the boat-bield at Mardykes Hall.'
I've been there fifty times,' said the Doctor.
· Well, there was dealin's betwixt the two families; and there's good and bad in every family ; but the Mardykes, in them days, was a wild lot. And when old Feltram o’ Cloostedd died, and the young lady his daughter was left a ward o' Sir Jasper Mardykesan ill day for her, poor lass !—twenty year older than her he was, an’ more ; and nothin' about him, they say, to make any one like or love him, ill-faur'd and little and dow.'
* Dow—that's gloomy,' Doctor Torvey instructed the Captain, aside.
* But, they do say, they has an old blud-stean ring in the family that has a charm in't; and happen how it might, the poor lass fell in love wi' him. Some said they was married. Some said it hang'd i' the bell-ropes, and never had the priest's blessing; but anyhow, married or no, there was talk enough amang the folk, and out o' doors she would na budge. And there was two wee barns ; and she prayed him hard to confess the marriage, poor thing! But 'twas a bootlese bene, and he would not allow they should bear his name, but their mother's; he was a hard man, and hed the bit in his teeth, and went his ain gait. And having tired of her, he took in his head to marry a lady of the Barnets, and it behoved him to be shut o' her and her children ; and so she nor them was seen no more at Mardykes Hall. And the eldest, a boy, was left in care of my grandfather's father here in the George.'
That queer Philip Feltram that's travelling with Sir Bale so long is a descendant of his ?' said the Doctor.
Grandson,' observed Mr. Peers, removing his pipe for a moment; and he is the last of that stock.'
* Well, no one could tell where she was gone to. Some said to distant parts, some said to the madhouse, some one thing, some another; but neither she nor the barn was ever seen or spoke to by the folk at Mardykes in life again. There was one Mr. Wigram that lived in them times down at Moultry, and had sarved, like the Captain here, in the king's nayy in his day; and early of a morning down he comes to the town here for a boat, sayin' he was looking toward Snakes Island through his spyin'-glass, and he seen a woman about a hundred and fifty yards outside of it; the Captain here has heard the bearings right enough. From her hips upward she was stark and straight out o' the water, and a baby in her arms. Well, no one else could see it, nor he neither, when they went down to the boat. But next morning he saw the same thing, and the boatman saw it too; and they rowed for it, both pulling might and main; but after a mile or so they could see it no more, and
gave over. The next that saw it was the vicar, I forget his name now—but he was up the lake to a funeral at Mortlock Church ; and coming back by moonlight with a bit of a sail up, just passin' Snakes Island, what should they hear on a sudden but a wowl like a death-cry, shrill and bleak, as made the very blood hoot in their veins; and looking along the water not a hundred yards away, they saw the same grizzled sight in the moonlight; so they turned the tiller, and came near enough to see her face—blea it was, and drenched wi' water—and she was above the lake to her middle, stiff as a post, holdin' the weeny barn out to them, and flyrin' (smiling scornfully] on them as they drew nigh her. They were half-frighted, not knowing what to make of it; but passing as close as the boatman could bring her side, the vicar stretched over the gunwale to catch her, and she bent forward, pushing the dead bab forward ; and as she did, on a sudden she gave another yell that scared them, and they saw her no more. 'Twas no livin' woman, for she couldn't rise that height above the water, as they well knew when they came to think ; and they knew it was a dobby they saw; and ye may be sure they didn't spare prayer and blessin', and went on their course straight before the wind; for neither would a-took the worth o' all Mardykes to look sich a freetin' i' the face again. 'Twas seen another time by market-folk crossin' fra Gyllenston in the self-same place; and SI Island got a bad neam, and none cared to go nar it after nightfall.'
* Do you know anything of that Feltram that has been with him abroad ?' asked the Doctor.
• They say he's no good at anything-a harmless. mafflin ; he was a lang gaumless gawky when he went awa,' said Richard Turnbull. The Feltrams and the Mardykes was sib, ye know; and that made what passed in the misfortune o' that young lady spoken of all the harder ; and this poor young man ye speak of is grandson o' the lad that was put here in care o' my grandfather.'
• Great-grandson. His father was grandson,' said Mr. Peers; • he held a commission in the army, and died in the West Indies. This Philip Feltram is the last of that line-illegitimate, you know, it is held and the little that remained of the Feltram property went nearly fourscore years ago to the Mardykes, and this Philip is maintained by Sir Bale; it is pleasant, notwithstanding all the stories one hears, gentlemen, that the only thing we know of him for certain should be so creditable to his kindness.'
• To be sure,' acquiesced Mr. Turnbull.
While they talked, the horn sounded, and the mail-coach drew up at the door of the George and Dragon to set down a passenger and his luggage.
Dick Turnbull rose and went out to the hall with careful bustle, and Doctor Torvey followed as far as the door, which commanded a view of it, and saw several trunks cased in canvas pitched into the hall, and by careful Tom and a boy lifted one on top of the other, behind the corner of the banister. It would have been below the dignity of his cloth to go out and read the labels on these, or the Doctor would have done otherwise, so great was his curiosity.
THE new guest was now in the hall of the George, and Doctor Torvey could hear him talking with Mr. Turnbull. Being himself one of the dignitaries of Golden Friars, the Doctor, having regard to first impressions, did not care to be seen in his post of observation; and closing the door gently, returned to his chair by the fire, and in an under-tone informed his cronies that there was a new arrival in the George, and he could not hear, but would not wonder if he were taking a private room; and he seemed to have trunks enough to build a church with.
Don't be too sure we haven't Sir Bale on board,' said Amerald, who would have followed his crony the Doctor to the door-for never was retired naval hero of a village more curious than he were it not that his wooden leg made a distinct pounding on the floor that was inimical, as experience had taught him, to mystery.
• That can't be,' answered the Doctor; Charley Twyne knows everything about it, and has a letter every second day; and there's no chance of Sir Bale before the tenth; this is a tourist, you'll find. I don't know what the d-1 keeps Turnbull; he knows well enough we are all naturally anxious to hear who it is.'
Well, he won't trouble us here, I bet ye;' and catching deaf Mr. Hollar's eye, the Captain nodded, and pointed to the little table beside him, and made a gesture imitative of the rattling of a dice-box; at which that quiet old gentleman nodded also sunnily; and up got the Captain and conveyed the backgammon-box to the table, near Hollar's elbow, and the two worthies were soon sincducing and catre-acing, with the pleasant clatter that accompanies