And he stood and looked upon them. What was it the Flopper had said when they had brought the Patriarch back—he did not remember. What was it that Pale Face Harry had said a little while ago—he did not remember. These were jewels here and money—wealth—and he had won the greatest game that was ever played—only he had lost her—lost Helena. And he stood and looked upon them—and slowly there crept to his face a white-lipped smile.
“I’m beat!” he whispered hoarsely. “Beat—by the game—I won.”
It was evening of the same day—and there came a knock at the outer door of the cottage porch.
The Flopper answered it, and came back to the Patriarch’s room; where the Patriarch sat in his armchair; where the lamp, turned low, throwing the little room into half shadow, burned upon the table; where Helena, far away from her immediate surroundings, quite silent and still, her own chair close beside the other’s, nestled with her head on the Patriarch’s shoulder.
Helena looked up as the Flopper returned.
Upon the Flopper’s face was a curious expression—not one that in the days gone by had been habitual—it seemed to mingle a diffidence, a kindly solicitude and a sort of anxious responsibility.
“It’s Thornton askin’ fer youse,” announced the Flopper.
Helena rose from her chair, and started for the door—but the Flopper blocked the way. Helena halted and looked at him in astonishment.
The Flopper licked his lips.
“Say, Helena,” he said earnestly, “if I was youse I wouldn’t go—say, I’ll tell him youse have got de pip an’ gone ter bed.”
“Not go?” echoed Helena. “What do you mean?”
The Flopper scratched at his chin uneasily.
“Oh, you know!” he said. “De Doc let youse down easy ter-day. Say, if youse had piped his lamps when you drives up in de buzz-wagon dis afternoon youse wouldn’t be lookin’ fer any more trouble. Say, I’m tellin’ youse straight, Helena. When I was out dere in de kitchen an’ youse was in yer room wid him me heart was in me mouth all de time. Youse can take it from me, Helena, he let youse down easy.”
Helena’s brown eyes, a little wistfully, a little softly, held upon the Flopper.
“Yes?” she said quietly.
“Youse had better cut it out ter-night, Helena,” the Flopper went on. “Y’oughter know de Doc by dis time—de guy dat starts anything wid de Doc gets his—dat’s all! Remember de night he threw Cleggy down de stairs in de Roost?—an’ he was only havin’ fun! Say, you go out wid Thornton again ter-night an’ de Doc finds it out—an’ something’ll happen. Say, Helena, fer God’s sake, don’t youse do it—de Doc was bad enough dis afternoon when he let youse down easy, but he’s worse now, an’—”
“Worse?” Helena interrupted, smiling a little apathetically. “In what way is he worse? And how do you know? You haven’t seen Doc, have you?”