“Not by any means. Indeed, I hardly know the game.”
“It is a fashionable and necessary accomplishment. I must make you master of it, and our mornings shall be dedicated to the work.”
“Agreed,” replied I; and from that day, every morning after breakfast till four o’clock, the Major and I were shut up, playing two dummies under his instruction. Adept as he was, I very soon learnt all the finesse and beauty of the game.
“You will do now, Newland,” said the Major one morning, tossing the cards away. “Recollect, if you are asked to play, and I have agreed, do not refuse; but we must always play against each other.”
“I don’t see what we shall gain by that,” replied I; “for if I win, you’ll lose.”
“Never do you mind that; only follow my injunctions, and play as high as they choose. We only stay here three weeks longer, and must make the most of our time.”
I confess I was quite puzzled at what might be the major’s intentions; but that night we sauntered into the club. Not having made our appearance before, we were considered as new hands by those who did not know the Major, and were immediately requested to make up a game. “Upon my word, gentlemen, in the first place, I play very badly,” replied the Major; “and in the next,” continued he, laughing, “if I lose, I never shall pay you, for I’m cleaned out.”
The way in which the Major said this only excited a smile; he was not believed, and I was also requested to take a hand. “I’ll not play with the Major,” observed I, “for he plays badly, and has bad luck into the bargain; I might as well lay my money down on the table.”
This was agreed to by the other parties, and we sat down. The first rubber of short whist was won by the Major and his partner; with the bets it amounted to eighteen pounds. I pulled out my purse to pay the Major; but he refused, saying, “No, Newland, pay my partner; and with you, sir,” said he, addressing my partner, “I will allow the debt to remain until we rise from the table. Newland, we are not going to let you off yet, I can tell you.”
I paid my eighteen pounds, and we recommenced. Although his partner did not perhaps observe it, for he was but an indifferent player, or if he did observe it, had the politeness not to say anything, the Major now played very badly. He lost three rubbers one after another, and, with bets and stakes, they amounted to one hundred and forty pounds. At the end of the last rubber he threw up the cards, exclaiming against his luck, and declaring that he would play no more. “How are we now, sir?” said he to my partner.
“You owed me, I think, eighteen pounds.”
“Eighteen from one hundred and forty, leaves one hundred and twenty-two pounds, which I now owe you. You must, I’m afraid, allow me to be your debtor,” continued the Major, in a most insinuating manner. “I did not come here with the intention of playing. I presume I shall find you here to-morrow night.”