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 lottery.
“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, sir.”
“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 you, sir.”
“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 landscape.