“I hope you’ve been enjoying yourself in this Eden of yours,” he said, sourly.
Conniston sent his hat spinning across the room, to lodge behind the bed, and laughed.
“You’ve called the turn, Sobersides! I’ve been having the time of my young life. And now all I have to do is sit tight to see—”
“See—what?” drawled Roger.
“I’ve laid a bet, and it’s wedged so and hedged so that I win both ways!” Greek chuckled gleefully at the memory of it.
“What sort of a bet?”
“Two hundred dollars!”
Hapgood put down his magazine and got to his feet, plainly concerned. “You don’t mean that, Greek?”
“I mean exactly that.” Conniston tossed to the bed a small handful of greenbacks and silver. “This is all that’s left to the firm of Conniston and Hapgood.”
With quick, nervous fingers Hapgood swept up the money and counted it. His eyes showing the uneasiness within him, he turned to the jubilant Conniston.
“There are just twenty-seven dollars and sixty cents. Are you drunk?”
Conniston giggled, his amusement swelling in pace with Hapgood’s dawning discomfiture.
“I told you I had made a bet. I have laid a wager with the Fates. And right now, my dear Roger, while we sit comfortably and smoke and wait, the Fates are deciding things for us!”
Roger paused, regarding him. “Yes, you’re drunk. If you are not, is it asking too much to suggest that you explain?”
“No. I’ll explain. At the sign of the local Whisky Barrel there is a game of faro now in progress. Two very charming young gentlemen, named Jimmie and Bart, punchers of cattle, whatever that may be, are deciding things for Roger Hapgood and William Conniston, Junior, of New York. Each of the amateur gamblers—and they actually do play very badly, Roger!—has before him a hundred dollars of my money. If they win to-night I get back two hundred dollars plus half their winnings, and you and I take the train for San Francisco!”
“If they win. And if they lose?”
“We’ll take it as a sign that the Fates have decreed that we’re not to go on to the city by the Golden Gate, but tarry here! Both Jimmie and Bart are provided with saddle-horses, with chaps—chaps, my dear Roger, are wide, baggy, shaggy, ill-fitting riding-breeches, made, I believe, out of goat’s hide with the hairy side out!—spurs and quirts—in short, all the necessary paraphernalia and accoutrements of a couple of knights of the cattle country. If they lose the two hundred dollars we win the two outfits! And to-morrow, instead of riding in a Pullman toward San Francisco, we straddle what they call a hay-burner for the blue rim of mountains in the south!”
Hapgood stared incredulously, a sort of horror dawning in his pale little eyes.
“I suppose this is another of your purposeless jokes,” he said, stiffly, after a moment.
“Nothing of the kind! Don’t you see we win either way? Frankly, I am persuaded that the two hundred dollars are now winging their way into the pockets of an apparently awkward dealer with slow fingers, and into the pockets of our friend the hotel man. But we will get the horses, and think of the lark—”