On reentering this apartment, Henri de Prerolles approached a sort of counter, and, drawing from his pocket thirty thousand francs in bank-notes, he exchanged them for their value in mother-of-pearl “chips” of different sizes, representing sums from one to five, ten, twenty-five, or a hundred louis. Paul Landry took twenty-five thousand francs’ worth; Constantin Unaieff, fifteen thousand; the others, less fortunate or more prudent, took smaller sums; and about midnight the game began.
It began quietly enough, the two principal players waiting, before making any bold strokes, to see how the luck should run. The first victory was in favor of Henri, who, at the end of a hand dealt by Constantin Lenaieff, had won about three hundred Louis. Just at this moment the two women returned, accompanied by Desvanneaux.
“I had some difficulty in persuading our charming friends to return,” said he; “Mademoiselle Dorville was determined that some one should escort her to her own house.”
“You, perhaps, Desvanneaux,” said Henri, twisting up the ends of his moustache.
“Not at all,” said Fanny; “I wished Heloise to go with me. I have noticed that when I am here you always lose. I fear I have the evil eye.”
“Say, rather, that you have no stomach,” said Heloise. “Had you made your debut, as I made mine, with Frederic Lemaitre in ’Thirty Years in the Life of an Actor’”
“It certainly would not rejuvenate her,” said Henri, finishing the sentence.
“Marquis, you are very impertinent,” said the duenna, laughing. “As a penalty, you must lend me five louis.”
“With the greatest pleasure.”
And, as a new hand was about to be dealt, Heloise seated herself at one of the tables. This time Paul Landry put fifteen thousand francs in the bank.
“Will you do me the favor to cut the cards?” he asked of Fanny, who stood behind Henri’s chair.
“What! in spite of my evil eye, Monsieur?”
“I do not fear that, Mademoiselle. Your eyes have always been too beautiful for one of them to change now.”
Stale as was this compliment, it had the desired effect, and the young woman thrust vertically into the midst of the pack the cards he held out to her.
“Play, messieurs,” said the banker.
“Messieurs and Madame,” corrected Heloise, placing her five chips before her, while Henri, at the other table, staked the six thousand francs which he had just won.
“Don’t put up more than there is in the bank,” objected Paul Landry, throwing a keen glance at the stakes. Having assured himself that on the opposing side to this large sum there were hardly thirty louis, he dealt the cards.
“Eight!” said he, laying down his card.
“Nine!” said Heloise.
“Baccarat!” said Henri, throwing two court-cards into the basket.