Segrave, too, had been silent, of course. In his mind there was neither suspense nor calm. It was utter, dull and blank despair which assailed him, the ruin of his fondest hopes, an awful abyss of disgrace, of punishment, of death at best, which seemed to yawn before him from the other side of the baize-covered table.
Instinct—that ever-present instinct of self-control peculiar to the gently-bred race of mankind—caused him to make frantic efforts to keep himself and his nerves in check. He would—even at this moment of complete ruin—have given the last shreds of his worldly possessions to be able to steady the febrile movements of his hand.
The pack of cards was on the table, just as Endicott had put it down, after dealing, with the exception of the queen of hearts in front of Segrave and the lucky king of diamonds on which Lambert was still mechanically gazing.
He was undoubtedly moved by the desire to hide the trembling of his hands and the gathering tears in his eyes when he began idly to scatter the pack upon the table, spreading out the cards, fingering them one by one, setting his teeth the while lest that latent cry of misery should force its way across his lips.
Suddenly he paused in this idle fingering of the cards. His eyes which already were burning with hot tears, seemed to take on an almost savage glitter. A hoarse cry escaped his parched lips.
“In the name of Heaven, Master Segrave, what ails you?” cried Endicott with well-feigned concern.
Segrave’s hand wandered mechanically to his own neck; he tugged at the fastening of his lace collar, as if, in truth, he were choking.
“The king.... The king of diamonds,” he murmured in a hollow voice. “Two ... two kings of diamonds....”
He laughed, a long, harsh laugh, the laugh of a maniac, or of a man possessed, whilst one long thin finger pointed tremblingly to the card still held by Richard Lambert, and then to its counterpart in the midst of the scattered pack.
That laugh seemed to echo all round the room. Dames and cavaliers, players and idlers, looked up to see whence that weird sound had come. Instinctively the crowd drew nigh, dice and cards were pushed aside. Some strange drama was being enacted between two young men, more interesting even than the caprices of Fortune.
But already Endicott and also Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had followed the beckonings of Segrave’s feverish hand.
There could be no mistake in what they saw nor yet in the ominous consequences which it foretold. There was a king of diamonds in the scattered pack of cards upon the table, and yet the card which Lambert held, in consequence of which he had just won two hundred pounds, was also the king of diamonds.
“Two kings of diamonds ... by all that’s damnable!” quoth Lord Walterton, who had been the first to draw nigh.