“Aren’t you excited?” whispered Myra to me.
“Frightfully,” I said, and left my mouth well open. I don’t quite know what picture of the event Myra and I had conjured up in our minds, but I fancy it was one something like this. At the entrance into the rooms of such a large and obviously distinguished party there would be a slight sensation among the crowd, and way would be made for us at the most important table. It would then leak out that Chevalier Simpson—the tall poetical-looking gentleman in the middle, my dear—had brought with him no less a sum than thirty francs with which to break the bank, and that he proposed to do this in one daring coup. At this news the players at the other tables would hastily leave their winnings (or losings) and crowd round us. Chevalier Simpson, pale but controlled, would then place his money on seventeen—“dix-sept,” he would say to the croupier to make it quite clear—and the ball would be spun. As it slowed down, the tension in the crowd would increase. “Mon Dieu!” a woman would cry in a shrill voice; there would be guttural exclamations from Germans; at the edge of the crowd strong men would swoon. At last a sudden shriek ... and the croupier’s voice, trembling for the first time for thirty years, “Dix-sept!” Then gold and notes would be pushed at the Chevalier. He would stuff his pockets with them; he would fill his hat with them; we others, we would stuff our pockets too. The bank would send out for more money. There would be loud cheers from all the company (with the exception of one man, who had put five francs on sixteen and had shot himself) and we should be carried—that is to say, we four men—shoulder high to the door, while by the deserted table Myra and Dahlia clung to each other, weeping tears of happiness....
Something like that.
What happened was different. As far as I could follow, it was this. Over the heads of an enormous, badly-dressed and utterly indifferent crowd Simpson handed his thirty francs to the croupier.
“Dix-sept,” he said.
The croupier with his rake pushed the money on to seventeen.
Another croupier with his rake pulled it off again ... and stuck to it.
The day’s fun was over.
* * * * *
“What did win?” asked Myra some minutes later, when the fact that we should never see our money again had been brought home to her.
“Zero,” said Archie.
I sighed heavily.
“My usual score,” I said, “not my highest.”
THE RECORD OF IT
“I shall be glad to see Peter again,” said Dahlia, as she folded up her letter from home.
Peter’s previous letter, dictated to his nurse-secretary, had, according to Archie, been full of good things. Cross-examination of the proud father, however, had failed to reveal anything more stirring than “I love mummy,” and—er—so on.