There was now not wind enough to fill the sail, and it was already evening.
“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 feet.
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.