Sir Bale did not care to speak until he seemed a little more likely to obtain an answer. When that time came, he said, “I wish, for the sake of my believing, that your list was a little less incredible. Not one of the horses you name is the least likely; not one of them has a chance.”
“So much the better for you; you’ll get what odds you please. You had better seize your luck; on Tuesday Beeswing runs,” said Feltram. “When you want money for the purpose, I’m your banker—here is your bank.”
He touched his breast, where he had placed the purse, and then he turned and walked swiftly away.
Sir Bale looked after him till he disappeared in the dark. He fluctuated among many surmises about Feltram. Was he insane, or was he practising an imposture? or was he fool enough to believe the predictions of some real gipsies? and had he borrowed this money, which in Sir Bale’s eyes seemed the greatest miracle in the matter, from those thriving shepherd mountaineers, the old Trebecks, who, he believed, were attached to him? Feltram had, he thought, borrowed it as if for himself; and having, as Sir Bale in his egotism supposed, “a sneaking regard” for him, had meant the loan for his patron, and conceived the idea of his using his revelations for the purpose of making his fortune. So, seeing no risk, and the temptation being strong, Sir Bale resolved to avail himself of the purse, and use his own judgment as to what horse to back.
About eleven o’clock Feltram, unannounced, walked, with his hat still on, into Sir Bale’s library, and sat down at the opposite side of his table, looking gloomily into the Baronet’s face for a time.
“Shall you want the purse?” he asked at last.
“Certainly; I always want a purse,” said Sir Bale energetically.
“The condition is, that you shall back each of the three horses I have named. But you may back them for much or little, as you like, only the sum must not be less than five pounds in each hundred which this purse contains. That is the condition, and if you violate it, you will make some powerful people very angry, and you will feel it. Do you agree?”
“Of course; five pounds in the hundred—certainly; and how many hundreds are there?”
“Well, a fellow with luck may win something with three hundred pounds, but it ain’t very much.”
“Quite enough, if you use it aright.”
“Three hundred pounds,” repeated the Baronet, as he emptied the purse, which Feltram had just placed in his hand, upon the table; and contemplating them with grave interest, he began telling them off in little heaps of five-and-twenty each. He might have thanked Feltram, but he was thinking more of the guineas than of the grizzly donor.
“Ay,” said he, after a second counting, “I think there are exactly three hundred. Well, so you say I must apply three times five—fifteen of these. It is an awful pity backing those queer horses you have named; but if I must make the sacrifice, I must, I suppose?” he added, with a hesitating inquiry in the tone.