The Monks at the Ferry
"Ah!" said the ferryman, "if they call that doing good, or acting honestly, to cheat a hard-working poor fellow out of the reward of his labour, I do not know what bad means, or what it is to act knavishly."
He waited a little while to see if they would return to pay him, but finding that they failed to do so, he put across once more to his home at Andernach.
"Hilloa! ferry," again hailed a voice from the shore to which he was making, "hilloa!"
The ferryman made no reply to this suspicious hail, but pushed off his boat from the landing-place, fully resolved in his own mind to have nothing to do with any more such black cattle that night.
"Hilloa! ferry," was again repeated in a sterner voice. "Art dead or asleep?"
"Here, ahoy!" cried the ferryman. "What would ye?"
He had thought of passing downwards to the other extremity of the town, and there mooring his barque below the place she usually lay in, lest any other monks might feel disposed to make him their slave without offering any recompense. He had, however, scarcely entertained the idea, when three black-robed men, clothed as the former, in long, flowing garments, but more closely cowled, if possible, than they, stood on the very edge of the stream, and beckoned him to them. It was in vain for him to try to evade them, and as if to render any effort to that effect more nugatory, the moon broke forth from the thick clouds, and lit up the scene all around with a radiance like day.
"Step in, holy fathers! step in! quick!" said he, in a gruff voice, after they had told him the same tale in the very same words as the three others had used who had passed previously.
They entered the boat, and again the ferryman pushed off. They had reached the centre of the stream, when he bethought him that it was then a good time to talk of his fee, and he resolved to have it, if possible, ere they could escape him.
"But what do you mean to give me for my trouble, holy fathers?" he inquired. "Nothing for nothing, ye know.