“A guinea that’s not your own,” said Venn sarcastically.
“It is my own,” answered Wildeve haughtily. “It is my wife’s, and what is hers is mine.”
“Very well; let’s make a beginning.” He shook the box, and threw eight, ten, and nine; the three casts amounted to twenty-seven.
This encouraged Wildeve. He took the box; and his three casts amounted to forty-five.
Down went another of the reddleman’s sovereigns against his first one which Wildeve laid. This time Wildeve threw fifty-one points, but no pair. The reddleman looked grim, threw a raffle of aces, and pocketed the stakes.
“Here you are again,” said Wildeve contemptuously. “Double the stakes.” He laid two of Thomasin’s guineas, and the reddleman his two pounds. Venn won again. New stakes were laid on the stone, and the gamblers proceeded as before.
Wildeve was a nervous and excitable man, and the game was beginning to tell upon his temper. He writhed, fumed, shifted his seat; and the beating of his heart was almost audible. Venn sat with lips impassively closed and eyes reduced to a pair of unimportant twinkles; he scarcely appeared to breathe. He might have been an Arab, or an automaton; he would have been like a red sandstone statue but for the motion of his arm with the dice-box.
The game fluctuated, now in favour of one, now in favour of the other, without any great advantage on the side of either. Nearly twenty minutes were passed thus. The light of the candle had by this time attracted heathflies, moths, and other winged creatures of night, which floated round the lantern, flew into the flame, or beat about the faces of the two players.
But neither of the men paid much attention to these things, their eyes being concentrated upon the little flat stone, which to them was an arena vast and important as a battlefield. By this time a change had come over the game; the reddleman won continually. At length sixty guineas—Thomasin’s fifty, and ten of Clym’s—had passed into his hands. Wildeve was reckless, frantic, exasperated.
“‘Won back his coat,’” said Venn slily.
Another throw, and the money went the same way.
“‘Won back his hat,’” continued Venn.
“Oh, oh!” said Wildeve.
“’Won back his watch, won back his money, and went out of the door a rich man,’” added Venn sentence by sentence, as stake after stake passed over to him.
“Five more!” shouted Wildeve, dashing down the money. “And three casts be hanged—one shall decide.”
The red automaton opposite lapsed into silence, nodded, and followed his example. Wildeve rattled the box, and threw a pair of sixes and five points. He clapped his hands; “I have done it this time—hurrah!”
“There are two playing, and only one has thrown,” said the reddleman, quietly bringing down the box. The eyes of each were then so intently converged upon the stone that one could fancy their beams were visible, like rays in a fog.