The Bank Note
Sir Bale brushed by the housekeeper as he strode into her sanctuary, and there found Philip Feltram awaiting him dejectedly, but with no signs of agitation.
If one were to judge by the appearance the master of Mardykes presented, very grave surmises as to impending violence would have suggested themselves; but though he clutched his cane so hard that it quivered in his grasp, he had no notion of committing the outrage of a blow. The Baronet was unusually angry notwithstanding, and stopping short about three steps away, addressed Feltram with a pale face and gleaming eyes. It was quite plain that there was something very exciting upon his mind.
“I’ve been looking for you, Mr. Feltram; I want a word or two, if you have done your—your—whatever it is.” He whisked the point of his stick towards the modest tea-tray. “I should like five minutes in the library.”
The Baronet was all this time eyeing Feltram with a hard suspicious gaze, as if he expected to read in his face the shrinkings and trepidations of guilt; and then turning suddenly on his heel he led the way to his library—a good long march, with a good many turnings. He walked very fast, and was not long in getting there. And as Sir Bale reached the hearth, on which was smouldering a great log of wood, and turned about suddenly, facing the door, Philip Feltram entered.
The Baronet looked oddly and stern—so oddly, it seemed to Feltram, that he could not take his eyes off him, and returned his grim and somewhat embarrassed gaze with a stare of alarm and speculation.
And so doing, his step was shortened, and grew slow and slower, and came quite to a stop before he had got far from the door—a wide stretch of that wide floor still intervening between him and Sir Bale, who stood upon the hearthrug, with his heels together and his back to the fire, cane in hand, like a drill-sergeant, facing him.
“Shut that door, please; that will do; come nearer now. I don’t want to bawl what I have to say. Now listen.”
The Baronet cleared his voice and paused, with his eyes upon Feltram.
“It is only two or three days ago,” said he, “that you said you wished you had a hundred pounds. Am I right?”
“Yes; I think so.”
“Think? you know it, sir, devilish well. You said that you wished to get away. I have nothing particular to say against that, more especially now. Do you understand what I say?”
“Understand, Sir Bale? I do, sir—quite.”
“I daresay quite” he repeated with an angry sneer. “Here, sir, is an odd coincidence: you want a hundred pounds, and you can’t earn it, and you can’t borrow it—there’s another way, it seems—but I have got it—a Bank-of-England note of L100—locked up in that desk;” and he poked the end of his cane against the brass lock of it viciously. “There it is, and there are the papers you work at; and there are two keys—I’ve got one and you have the other—and devil another key in or out of the house has any one living. Well, do you begin to see? Don’t mind. I don’t want any d——d lying about it.”