“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 whispered.
“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. Away!”
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 the boat.
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.