When I returned, he and Alan had laid the cards aside, and were questioning a gillie; and the chief turned about and spoke to me in the Gaelic.
“I have no Gaelic, sir,” said I.
Now since the card question, everything I said or did had the power of annoying Cluny. “Your name has more sense than yourself, then,” said he angrily, “for it’s good Gaelic. But the point is this. My scout reports all clear in the south, and the question is, have ye the strength to go?”
I saw cards on the table, but no gold; only a heap of little written papers, and these all on Cluny’s side. Alan, besides, had an odd look, like a man not very well content; and I began to have a strong misgiving.
“I do not know if I am as well as I should be,” said I, looking at Alan; “but the little money we have has a long way to carry us.”
Alan took his under-lip into his mouth, and looked upon the ground.
“David,” says he at last, “I’ve lost it; there’s the naked truth.”
“My money too?” said I.
“Your money too,” says Alan, with a groan. “Ye shouldnae have given it me. I’m daft when I get to the cartes.”
“Hoot-toot! hoot-toot!” said Cluny. “It was all daffing; it’s all nonsense. Of course you’ll have your money back again, and the double of it, if ye’ll make so free with me. It would be a singular thing for me to keep it. It’s not to be supposed that I would be any hindrance to gentlemen in your situation; that would be a singular thing!” cries he, and began to pull gold out of his pocket with a mighty red face.
Alan said nothing, only looked on the ground.
“Will you step to the door with me, sir?” said I.
Cluny said he would be very glad, and followed me readily enough, but he looked flustered and put out.
“And now, sir,” says I, “I must first acknowledge your generosity.”
“Nonsensical nonsense!” cries Cluny. “Where’s the generosity? This is just a most unfortunate affair; but what would ye have me do—boxed up in this bee-skep of a cage of mine—but just set my friends to the cartes, when I can get them? And if they lose, of course, it’s not to be supposed——” And here he came to a pause.
“Yes,” said I, “if they lose, you give them back their money; and if they win, they carry away yours in their pouches! I have said before that I grant your generosity; but to me, sir, it’s a very painful thing to be placed in this position.”
There was a little silence, in which Cluny seemed always as if he was about to speak, but said nothing. All the time he grew redder and redder in the face.
“I am a young man,” said I, “and I ask your advice. Advise me as you would your son. My friend fairly lost his money, after having fairly gained a far greater sum of yours; can I accept it back again? Would that be the right part for me to play? Whatever I do, you can see for yourself it must be hard upon a man of any pride.”