Richard Lambert fortunately for his own peace of mind and the retention of his dignity, was able to wave aside the hand full of gold and silver coins which Sir Marmaduke extended towards him.
“I thank you, sir,” he said calmly; “I am able to bear the cost of mine own unavoidable weakness. I have money of mine own.”
From out his doublet he took a tiny leather wallet containing a few gold coins, his worldly all bequeathed to him the same as to his brother—so the old friend who had brought the lads up had oft explained—by his grandmother. The little satchel never left his person from the moment that the old Quakeress had placed it in his hands. There were but five guineas in all, to which he had added from time to time the few shillings which Sir Marmaduke paid him as salary.
He chided his own weakness inwardly, when he felt the hot tears surging to his eyes at thought of the unworthy use to which his little hoard was about to be put.
But he walked to the table with a bold step; there was nothing now of the country lout about him; on the contrary, he moved with remarkable dignity, and bore himself so well that many a pair of feminine eyes watched him kindly, as he took his seat at the baize-covered table.
“Will one of you gentlemen teach me the game?” he asked simply.
It was remarkable that no one sneered at him again, and in these days of arrogance peculiar to the upper classes this was all the more noticeable, as these secret clubs were thought to be very exclusive, the resort pre-eminently of gentlemen and noblemen who were anti-Puritan, anti-Republican, and very jealous of their ranks and privileges.
Yet when after those few unpleasant moments of hesitation Lambert boldly accepted the situation and with much simple dignity took his seat at the table, everyone immediately accepted him as an equal, nor did anyone question his right to sit there on terms of equality with Lord Walterton or Sir Michael Isherwood.
His own state of mind was very remarkable at the moment.
Of course he disapproved of what he did: he would not have been the Puritanically trained, country-bred lad that he was, if he had accepted with an easy conscience the idea of tossing about money from hand to hand, money that he could in no sense afford to lose, or money that no one was making any honest effort to win.
He knew—somewhat vaguely perhaps, yet with some degree of certainty—that gambling was an illicit pastime, and that therefore he—by sitting at this table with these gentlemen, was deliberately contravening the laws of his country.
Against all that, it is necessary to note that Richard Lambert took two matters very much in earnest: first, his position as a paid dependent; second, his gratitude to Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse.