“Oh, ’tis too good—it takes away my breath! Mr. Wildeve, I think I will try another shilling with you, as I am one of that sort; no danger can come o’t, and you can afford to lose.”
“Very well,” said Wildeve, rising. Searching about with the lantern, he found a large flat stone, which he placed between himself and Christian, and sat down again. The lantern was opened to give more light, and it’s rays directed upon the stone. Christian put down a shilling, Wildeve another, and each threw. Christian won. They played for two, Christian won again.
“Let us try four,” said Wildeve. They played for four. This time the stakes were won by Wildeve.
“Ah, those little accidents will, of course, sometimes happen, to the luckiest man,” he observed.
“And now I have no more money!” explained Christian excitedly. “And yet, if I could go on, I should get it back again, and more. I wish this was mine.” He struck his boot upon the ground, so that the guineas chinked within.
“What! you have not put Mrs. Wildeve’s money there?”
“Yes. ’Tis for safety. Is it any harm to raffle with a married lady’s money when, if I win, I shall only keep my winnings, and give her her own all the same; and if t’other man wins, her money will go to the lawful owner?”
“None at all.”
Wildeve had been brooding ever since they started on the mean estimation in which he was held by his wife’s friends; and it cut his heart severely. As the minutes passed he had gradually drifted into a revengeful intention without knowing the precise moment of forming it. This was to teach Mrs. Yeobright a lesson, as he considered it to be; in other words, to show her if he could, that her niece’s husband was the proper guardian of her niece’s money.
“Well, here goes!” said Christian, beginning to unlace one boot. “I shall dream of it nights and nights, I suppose; but I shall always swear my flesh don’t crawl when I think o’t!”
He thrust his hand into the boot and withdrew one of poor Thomasin’s precious guineas, piping hot. Wildeve had already placed a sovereign on the stone. The game was then resumed. Wildeve won first, and Christian ventured another, winning himself this time. The game fluctuated, but the average was in Wildeve’s favour. Both men became so absorbed in the game that they took no heed of anything but the pigmy objects immediately beneath their eyes, the flat stone, the open lantern, the dice, and the few illuminated fern-leaves which lay under the light, were the whole world to them.
At length Christian lost rapidly; and presently, to his horror, the whole fifty guineas belonging to Thomasin had been handed over to his adversary.
“I don’t care—I don’t care!” he moaned, and desperately set about untying his left boot to get at the other fifty. “The devil will toss me into the flames on his three-pronged fork for this night’s work, I know! But perhaps I shall win yet, and then I’ll get a wife to sit up with me o’ nights, and I won’t be afeard, I won’t! Here’s another for’ee, my man!” He slapped another guinea down upon the stone, and the dice-box was rattled again.