Suddenly I heard old Charles Duchaine bring down his fist with a vigorous thud upon the end of the table.
“I’ll see you in —— first, Simon!” was his unexpected remark.
“What?” cried Simon, taken completely aback.
“No, Simon,” continued the old man in his mild voice once more. “You are not a gentleman you know, and you are not fit to marry Jacqueline.”
Leroux thrust his hard face into the old man’s.
“Duchaine, your wits are wandering,” he answered. “Listen now! Have you forgotten that the government is searching for you night and day? It was a long time ago that you killed a soldier of the Canadian forces, but not too long ago for the government to remember. It has a long memory and a long arm, too, and at a word from me——”
It was pitiful to see the change that came over Duchaine’s face. He shook with fear and stretched out his withered hands appealingly.
“Simon, you wouldn’t betray me after all these years of friendship?” he cried. “Mon Dieu, I do not wish to hang!”
“Keep calm, Charles, my friend,” responded Simon glibly. “I am ready to return friendship for friendship. Will you acknowledge me as your son-in-law and heir?”
“Yes,” stammered the old man. “Take everything, Simon; only leave me free.”
“Well, that is more reasonable,” said Leroux, evidently mollified. “I am not the man to go back on my friends. I shall give you a cash return of ten thousand dollars. You have not forgotten the old times in Quebec?”
“No, Simon,” muttered Duchaine, looking up hopefully at him.
“If you had ten thousand dollars, Charles, you could make your fortune in a week. They play high nowadays, and your system would sweep all before it.”
“Yes, yes!” cried the dotard eagerly. “If only I had ten thousand dollars I could make my fortune. But I am old now. My little daughter has gone to New York to play for me. You did not know that, Simon, did you?” he added, looking at him with a cunning leer.
“She cannot play as well as you, Charles,” said Leroux. “You have played so long, you know; you have the system at your fingers’ ends. There is nobody who could stand up against you. Do you remember Louis Street and the fine people who were your friends? How they will welcome you! You could become a man of fashion again, in spite of your long exile in these solitudes. Do you recollect the races, where thousands can be won in a few minutes, when your horse romps home by a neck? And the gaming-tables, where a thousand dollars is but a pinch of dust, and the bright lights and the chink of money—and you winning it all away? You can have horses and carriages again, and all houses will be open to you, for your little error has long ago been forgotten. And you are not an old man, Charles.”
“Yes, yes, Simon!” cried the old man, fascinated by the picture. “It is worth it—by gracious, it is!”