“Perhaps those gipsies you speak of found the money where you found them; and in that case, as Cloostedd Forest, and all that is in it is my property, their sending it to me is more like my servant’s handing me my hat and stick when I’m going out, than making me a present.”
“You will not be wise to rely upon the law, Sir Bale, and to refuse the help that comes unasked. But if you like your mortgages as they are, keep them; and if you like my terms as they are, take them; and when you have made up your mind, let me know.”
Philip Feltram dropped the heavy purse into his capacious coat-pocket, and walked, muttering, out of the room.
The Message from Cloostedd
“Come back, Feltram; come back, Philip!” cried Sir Bale hastily. “Let us talk, can’t we? Come and talk this odd business over a little; you must have mistaken what I meant; I should like to hear all about it.”
“All is not much, sir,” said Philip Feltram, entering the room again, the door of which he had half closed after him. “In the forest of Cloostedd I met to-day some people, one of whom can foretell events, and told me the names of the winners of the first three races at Heckleston, and gave me this purse, with leave to lend you so much money as you care to stake upon the races. I take no security; you shan’t be troubled; and you’ll never see the lender, unless you seek him out.”
“Well, those are not bad terms,” said Sir Bale, smiling wistfully at the purse, which Feltram had again placed upon the table.
“No, not bad,” repeated Feltram, in the harsh low tone in which he now habitually spoke.
“You’ll tell me what the prophet said about the winners; I should like to hear their names.”
“The names I shall tell you if you walk out with me,” said Feltram.
“Why not here?” asked Sir Bale.
“My memory does not serve me here so well. Some people, in some places, though they be silent, obstruct thought. Come, let us speak,” said Philip Feltram, leading the way.
Sir Bale, with a shrug, followed him.
By this time it was dark. Feltram was walking slowly towards the margin of the lake; and Sir Bale, more curious as the delay increased, followed him, and smiled faintly as he looked after his tall, gaunt figure, as if, even in the dark, expressing a ridicule which he did not honestly feel, and the expression of which, even if there had been light, there was no one near enough to see.
When he reached the edge of the lake, Feltram stooped, and Sir Bale thought that his attitude was that of one who whispers to and caresses a reclining person. What he fancied was a dark figure lying horizontally in the shallow water, near the edge, turned out to be, as he drew near, no more than a shadow on the elsewhere lighter water; and with his change of position it had shifted and was gone, and Philip Feltram was but dabbling his hand this way and that in the water, and muttering faintly to himself. He rose as the Baronet drew near, and standing upright, said,