‘Mrs. Thomasson!’ cried the tutor, ‘I drink to you. But—’
‘But what shall it be, you mean?’ Pomeroy cried briskly. ’Loo, Quinze, Faro, Lansquenet? Or cribbage, all-fours, put, Mr. Parson, if you like! It’s all one to me. Name your game and I am your man!’
‘Then let us shuffle and cut, and the highest takes,’ said the tutor.
‘Sho! man, where is the sport in that?’ Pomeroy cried, receiving the suggestion with disgust.
‘It is what Lord Almeric proposed,’ Mr. Thomasson answered. The two glasses of wine he had taken had given him courage. ’I am no player, and at games of skill I am no match for you.’
A shadow crossed Mr. Pomeroy’s face; but he recovered himself immediately. ‘As you please,’ he said, shrugging his shoulders with a show of carelessness. ‘I’ll match any man at anything. Let’s to it!’
But the tutor kept his hands on the cards, which lay in a heap face downwards on the table. ‘There is a thing to be settled,’ he said, hesitating somewhat, ’before we draw. If she will not take the winner—what then?’
‘Yes, what then?’
Mr. Pomeroy grinned. ’Why, then number two will try his luck with her, and if he fail, number three! There, my bully boy, that is settled. It seems simple enough, don’t it?’
‘But how long is each to have?’ the tutor asked in a low voice. The three were bending over the cards, their faces near one another. Lord Almeric’s eyes turned from one to the other of the speakers.
‘How long?’ Mr. Pomeroy answered, raising his eyebrows. ’Ah. Well, let’s say—what do you think? Two days?’
‘And if the first fail, two days for the second?’
‘There will be no second if I am first,’ Pomeroy answered grimly.
‘But otherwise,’ the tutor persisted; ‘two days for the second?’
Bully Pomeroy nodded.
‘But then, the question is, can we keep her here?’
Mr. Pomeroy laughed harshly. ‘Ay,’ he said, ’or six if needs be and I lose. You may leave that to me. We’ll shift her to the nursery to-morrow.’
‘The nursery?’ my lord said, and stared.
‘The windows are barred. Now do you understand?’
The tutor turned a shade paler, and his eyes sank slyly to the table. ‘There’ll—there’ll be no violence, of course,’ he said, his voice a trifle unsteady.
‘Violence? Oh, no, there will be no violence,’ Mr. Pomeroy answered with an unpleasant sneer. And they all laughed; Mr. Thomasson tremulously, Lord Almeric as if he scarcely entered into the other’s meaning and laughed that he might not seem outside it. Then, ’There is another thing that must not be,’ Pomeroy continued, tapping softly on the table with his forefinger, as much to command attention as to emphasise his words, ’and that is peaching! Peaching! We’ll have no Jeremy Twitcher here, if you please.’