“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 t’was 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 is the last of that stock.”
“Well, no one could tell where she had 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 navy in his day; and early of a morning down he comes to the town for a boat, sayin’ he was looking towards 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 upwards 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 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, 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