“This is just to see how well we play. Afterward, if we are satisfied, we will play for real money—real gold.”
He began to divide the gold-pieces into two heaps.
“You see, monsieur, I have a system—at least, I nearly have a system,” he went on eagerly. “But it may not be so good as yours. Come. You shall be the banker, and see if you can win my money from me. But we shall return the stakes afterward.”
“M. Duchaine!” I shouted in his ear. “Where is your daughter?”
“My daughter,” he repeated in mild surprise. “Ah, yes; she has gone to New York to make our fortune with the system. You see,” he continued with senile cunning, “she has taken away the system, and so I am not sure whether I can beat you. But make your play, monsieur.” There was at least no indecision in the manner in which he set the wheel spinning.
I did not know what to do. I was fascinated and bewildered by the situation.
In desperation I thrust a gold-piece upon one of the numbers at the head of a column. The wheel stopped, and the ball rolled into one of its compartments. The old man thrust several gold-pieces toward me.
I staked again and again, and won every time. Within five minutes the whole heap of gold-pieces lay at my side.
The dotard looked at me with an expression of imbecile terror.
“You will give them back to me?” he pleaded. “Remember, monsieur, it was agreed that we should return the money.”
I thrust the heap of coins toward him. “Now, M. Duchaine,” I said; “in return for these you will conduct me to Mlle. Jacqueline.”
He shook his head as though he had not understood.
“It is very strange,” he said. “I do not understand it at all. The system cannot be at fault; and yet——”
I snatched the paper from his grasp and threw it on the floor, then pulled him to his feet.
“Enough of this nonsense, M. Duchaine,” I said. “Will you conduct me to Mlle. Jacqueline immediately, or shall I go and find her?”
“I am here, monsieur,” answered a voice at the door; and I whirled, to see Jacqueline confronting me.
SOME PLAIN SPEAKING
I took three steps toward her and stood still. For this was Jacqueline; but it was not my Jacqueline. It might have been Jacqueline’s grandmother when she was a girl—this haughty belle with her high waist and side curls, and her flounced skirt and aspect of cold recognition.
She did not stir as I approached her, but stood still, framed in the door-way, looking at me as though I were an unwelcome stranger. My outstretched arms fell to my sides. I halted three paces in front of her. There was no answering welcome on her face, only a cold little smile that showed she knew me.