“It seems to me,” said Sir Bale, a good deal astonished, “you rather forget yourself.”
“Easier to forget oneself, Sir Bale, than to forgive others, at times,” replied Philip Feltram in his unparalleled mood.
“That’s the way fools knock themselves up,” continued Sir Bale. “You’ve been walking ever so far—away to the Fells of Golden Friars. It was you whom I saw there. What d——d folly! What brought you there?”
“To observe you,” he replied.
“And have you walked the whole way there and back again? How did you get there?”
“Pooh! how did I come—how did you come—how did the fog come? From the lake, I suppose. We all come up, and then down.” So spoke Philip Feltram, with serene insolence.
“You are pleased to talk nonsense,” said Sir Bale.
“Because I like it—with a meaning.”
Sir Bale looked at him, not knowing whether to believe his eyes and ears. He did not know what to make of him.
“I had intended speaking to you in a conciliatory way; you seem to wish to make that impossible”—Philip Feltram’s face wore its repulsive smile;—“and in fact I don’t know what to make of you, unless you are ill; and ill you well may be. You can’t have walked much less than twelve miles.”
“Wonderful effort for me!” said Feltram with the same sneer.
“Rather surprising for a man so nearly drowned,” answered Sir Bale Mardykes.
“A dip: you don’t like the lake, sir; but I do. And so it is: as Antaeus touched the earth, so I the water, and rise refreshed.”
“I think you’d better get in and refresh there. I meant to tell you that all the unpleasantness about that bank-note is over.”
“Yes. It has been recovered by Mr. Creswell, who came here last night. I’ve got it, and you’re not to blame,” said Sir Bale.
“But some one is to blame,” observed Mr. Feltram, smiling still.
“Well, you are not, and that ends it,” said the Baronet peremptorily.
“Ends it? Really, how good! how very good!”
Sir Bale looked at him, for there was something ambiguous and even derisive in the tone of Feltram’s voice.
But before he could quite make up his mind, Feltram spoke again.
“Everything is settled about you and me?”
“There is nothing to prevent your staying at Mardykes now,” said Sir Bale graciously.
“I shall be with you for two years, and then I go on my travels,” answered Feltram, with a saturnine and somewhat wild look around him.
“Is he going mad?” thought the Baronet.
“But before I go, I’m to put you in a way of paying off your mortgages. That is my business here.”
Sir Bale looked at him sharply. But now there was not the unpleasant smile, but the darkened look of a man in secret pain.
“You shall know it all by and by.”