“He put that in my hand with a message,” said Feltram.
“He? O, then it was a male fortune-teller!”
“Gipsies go in gangs, men and women. He might lend, though she told fortunes,” said Feltram.
“It’s the first time I ever heard of gipsies lending money;” and he eyed the purse with a whimsical smile.
With his lean fingers still holding it, Feltram sat down at the table. His face contracted as if in cunning thought, and his chin sank upon his breast as he leaned back.
“I think,” continued Sir Bale, “ever since they were spoiled, the Egyptians have been a little shy of lending, and leave that branch of business to the Hebrews.”
“What would you give to know, now, the winner at Heckleston races?” said Feltram suddenly, raising his eyes.
“Yes; that would be worth something,” answered Sir Bale, looking at him with more interest than the incredulity he affected would quite warrant.
“And this money I have power to lend you, to make your game.”
“Do you mean that really?” said Sir Bale, with a new energy in tone, manner, and features.
“That’s heavy; there are some guineas there,” said Feltram with a dark smile, raising the purse in his hand a little, and letting it drop upon the table with a clang.
“There is something there, at all events,” said Sir Bale.
Feltram took the purse by the bottom, and poured out on the table a handsome pile of guineas.
“And do you mean to say you got all that from a gipsy in Cloostedd Wood?”
“A friend, who is—myself,” answered Philip Feltram.
“Yourself! Then it is yours—you lend it?” said the Baronet, amazed; for there was no getting over the heap of guineas, and the wonder was pretty equal whence they had come.
“Myself, and not myself,” said Feltram oracularly; “as like as voice and echo, man and shadow.”
Had Feltram in some of his solitary wanderings and potterings lighted upon hidden treasure? There was a story of two Feltrams of Cloostedd, brothers, who had joined the king’s army and fought at Marston Moor, having buried in Cloostedd Wood a great deal of gold and plate and jewels. They had, it was said, intrusted one tried servant with the secret; and that servant remained at home. But by a perverse fatality the three witnesses had perished within a month: the two brothers at Marston Moor; and the confidant, of fever, at Cloostedd. From that day forth treasure-seekers had from time to time explored the woods of Cloostedd; and many a tree of mark was dug beside, and the earth beneath many a stone and scar and other landmark in that solitary forest was opened by night, until hope gradually died out, and the tradition had long ceased to prompt to action, and had become a story and nothing more.
The image of the nursery-tale had now recurred to Sir Bale after so long a reach of years; and the only imaginable way, in his mind, of accounting for penniless Philip Feltram having all that gold in his possession was that, in some of his lonely wanderings, chance had led him to the undiscovered hoard of the two Feltrams who had died in the great civil wars.