THE BLIND MADONNA

It had rained all day, a miserable drizzling rain, cold and foggy.

The horses had remained in the stables, the dogs in the kennels, and the
fox in the chicken-coop. I stole out during luncheon to take a look at
Master Reynard. He looked shamefaced and bedraggled enough, shut up in
that coop. I felt sorry for him, and told Mrs. Chadwick so.

“At least you might have given him a chicken for company,” I said. “He
looked disgusted with life.”

Mrs. Chadwick smiled and remarked that she would see that Master Reynard
had his chicken.

“Do you think he would prefer it broiled or baked?”

From then on I had played ping-pong, bridge and billiards, and made
violent love to three or four married women because it was safe, and
easy, and politic–and exciting. I had an idea for a story, but needed a
married woman’s opinion as to how it should properly end.

The end was still hidden in a nebulous uncertainty as the colonel (our
host) led us men into the armory, with its huge fireplace, its long
basswood table upon which we had at various times carved our initials,
its gunracks and trophies of the chase. A servant passed around fine
Scotch and brandy and soda, with which we proceeded to tonic our
appetites; for dinner was to be announced within an hour. I took out my
penknife and went on with my uncompleted carving.

Renwood, who owned a fine racing-stable, brought up the subject which
had interested us during the mail hour that morning: the losses which
Cranford had suffered in an exclusive gambling house in New York City.

“Thirty thousand is a fat lump to lose this side of the Atlantic,”
Renwood observed.

“Not beyond the Rockies,” added Collingwood, who had done some fancy
mining in Nevada. “I saw Judge Blank lose seventy-five thousand at faro
one night in Carson City.”

“What did Cranford play,–roulette or faro?” I asked.

“The papers say roulette,” replied Renwood. “It’s a bad game. There is
some chance at faro, if the game is square. But roulette; bah! It is
plain robbery.”

“The blind Madonna of the Pagan, as Stevenson called chance,” mused the
colonel, lighting a cigar. “I often wonder if gambling is not as much a
particle of our blood as salt. Perhaps you have all wondered why I never
have kept a racing-stable, why I play bridge and poker for fun. I
remember–”

Chairs moving noisily in the colonel’s direction interrupted him. I
doubled up my knife and carried my Scotch to his end of the table.

“If it’s a story, Colonel,” said Old Fletcher, navy, retired, “let’s
have it.”

The colonel took out his watch and eyed it critically.

“We have just three-quarters of an hour. Did you ever hear of how I
broke one of the roulette banks at Monte Carlo?”

“Why, you old reprobate!” exclaimed Fletcher; “you’ve just told us that
you never gambled.”

“I merely said that I do not,” replied the colonel.

“Broke the bank?” cried Renwood. “You never told me about that.”

“I have never told any one. I ought not to tell you–”

“You can’t back out of it now,” said I.

“Not in a thousand years,” echoed Fletcher. “If you took any gold away
from Monte Carlo, I want to hear all about it.”

“Very well,” acquiesced the colonel; “but the tale must not go beyond
this armory;” and he looked at me as he said it.

“Oh, I shouldn’t mention any names,” I declared; “and I should twist it
around some.”

There was an interval of silence, broken only by the rattling of the
ice in Collingwood’s glass.

Our host was a man of about forty-eight. His hair was white, but his
face was youthful and amazingly handsome; and I knew many a woman who
envied Mrs. Chadwick, even as many a man envied the colonel. I never saw
a handsomer pair, or a pair so wrapt up in each other. I shall let the
colonel tell his own story, which needs no embellishments from me.

In the spring of 1887 I packed up and took passage for England. The
slump in Wall Street the preceding winter had left me with only seven
thousand in cash, and this estate heavily mortgaged. The only way I
could save the seven thousand and what remained of the property was to
get away from the Street.

I made my sister a short visit. I had been one of the ushers at her
wedding, and her husband, Lord Rexford, thought I was a jolly good lad
because I was the only sober man at the bachelor dinner at the
Richmond. This was due to a little invention of my own which I acquired
at Harvard in my college days: putting plenty of olive oil on my salad.
I played golf over his lordship’s course, fished and hunted over his
really fine preserves; and in return told him not to invest in Southern
Pacific till the following year.

It was my misfortune to run into Jack Smeed in London. He was a
classmate of mine, and one of the best fellows that ever lived. But he
was the most splendid spendthrift I ever came across. He showed me Paris
as few foreigners have seen it.

At that time he was a famous war correspondent, art critic and poet. He
inveigled me and my seven thousand to Dieppe. It was still summer. One
night we visited a gambling casino. I had gambled in stocks, but had
never played straight gambling, thinking it too tame a sport for a
speculator. Tame! I smile these days when I think of my adventure; but
heaven knows I did not smile then.

Very well. Smeed aroused the latent gambler’s blood in my veins, and I
began to play.

“Never play a system,” said Smeed one night, after having won something
like ten thousand francs. “Systems make gambling a vice. Take your
chance on any old number, if it’s roulette. If you are lucky you will
win, no matter where you play. Systems and suicides were born of the
same mother.”

A week later he received one of those historic telegrams, calling him to
some African outbreak, or Indian, I can’t recall which. At any rate, it
left me alone in Dieppe. I had been passably fortunate at roulette; that
is to say, I invariably won back what I lost. I believe I had about five
thousand of the original seven. Dieppe is very enticing in the summer:
the bands, the hotels, the handsome women, the military and the sea.

The night after Smeed had gone I sauntered over to the tables and played
a modest stake, won and lost, won and lost again. The blind Madonna was
merely flirting with me, luring me on.

I suddenly threw restraint to the winds, and plunged. I won heavily,
and then began to lose. Unconsciously I had discovered a system, and
like a stubborn fool I stuck to it–29 and 26. Neither of these numbers
came up till more than four thousand of my capital had taken its place
at the croupier’s elbow. I had been sensible enough to leave some of my
money at the hotel.

I went away from the tables, perspiring and burning with fever. I cursed
the blind Madonna, and counted over the money I had remaining. It was
exactly seven hundred. This would pay my passage home.

But the spirit of gambling ran riot in my veins. Besides, I thirsted for
revenge. What! give up? Bah! all or nothing!

I returned, and placed the seven hundred on black. I won. I stuffed the
original stake in my pocket and put the winnings on the odd. I won
again. I had twenty-one hundred; so I stopped and watched the game. I
observed a handsome young boy plunging madly; he was losing, but in a
lordly fashion.

When I got back to my room I flipped up a coin to see whether I should
stay in Dieppe or leave in the morning for Paris, where my sister was a
guest of the wife of one of the British _attachés_.

When a man gambles he wants to do it thoroughly. Heads, I was to go;
tails, I was to remain and buck the tiger. Heads it fell; and I packed
my trunk. No more of the blind Madonna for me, I vowed. I had had
enough, perhaps more than enough. But one does not lose the habit
overnight.

On the way from Dieppe to Paris a veiled woman entered my carriage,
which was third, nothing else being obtainable. Rather, she entered
immediately after I did. She was accompanied by a young man of
twenty-one or two. His face was good to look at, but at present it was
marred by sullen chagrin and despair. Occasionally I saw the girl’s
hands close convulsively. These hands were so beautifully small and
white that I was anxious to see their owner’s face; but this pleasure
was denied me.

Presently she addressed me in German, inquiring the time we should
reach Paris.

I don’t know what possessed me, but I replied in French that I did not
understand German. She repeated the question in French, and I answered.
The young man took out his fob, and I could see that his watch was gone.

Half an hour passed. I tried to read the magazines, but invariably found
myself gazing in the direction of the girl. After a space I heard her
address the young man in German.

“What have you done? What have you done?” It was a very pathetic voice,
verging on tears.

“Curse it, what’s the use of taking on so? The money’s gone; sniveling
won’t bring it back.” He thrust his hands into his pockets and scowled
at his boots. Suddenly he raised his eyes and stared suspiciously at me.
Evidently an idea struck him. “Betty, perhaps this fellow opposite can
understand German.”

I never turned a hair. Somehow I was positive that he was the girl’s
brother. And just then it occurred to me that I had seen his face
before, but where, I could not tell.

“But what shall we do? You dare not write home, and I have given you all
but passage money, and I will not let you have that.”

She was not German, but she spoke that language with a sweetness and
fluency impossible to describe.

“But the pater will stand another call from you,” the youth declared.

“And immediately suspect the cause. Oh, that you should do such a thing!
And I trusted you! Something told me not to let you carry the money.”

“Oh, bother!” This was said in good English; and I looked over the top
of my magazine.

“What made you do it?” wailed the girl. “Six thousand pounds, and father
gave five of it to you to buy consols with. It will break his heart, and
mother’s too. It was all the ready money he had.”

“Curse it, I’d have broke the bank in another moment. But 17, 20 and 32
never came up till all my cash was gone. Why, I had the maximum on
black, even, the second dozen, and 20, one play. If it had come up I’d
have broke the bank.”

“But it didn’t come up; it never does. What will you do? What excuse
will you have?”

“I can tell the pater that I was robbed,”–lamely.

“You wouldn’t lie, Dick!”

“Oh, of course not. I’ll get it of old Uncle Lewis. My chance at the
estate is worth twenty times six thousand. Damn the luck!” The youth
swore softly in his native tongue, and I could see the sparkle of a tear
behind the girl’s veil.

Ah! I recollected. It was the young fellow whom I had seen at the
Casino, plunging heavily. These roulette wheels were pretty gruesome
things. I congratulated myself on being out of it. But I passed the
congratulations a little too early, as will be seen. Your Uncle Lewis, I
thought, would never get his pawnbroker’s claws on any of my property.

When I arrived in Paris I never expected to see them again. But the
blind Madonna of the Pagan is not always concerning herself with
roulette banks.

I remained in Paris till February. My sister helped me out of her
private purse. Probably she would not have done so had she known how
deeply I had pledged the old homestead. I began to feel like myself
again. I cabled my brokers to buy July wheat, and mailed a thousand for
margin.

From Paris I went to Nice. I met some Americans there. The gambling
fever seemed to possess them all. I was dragged into the maelstrom. I
became mad and unreasoning.

I arrived at Monaco with exactly one hundred louis. By this time I had
mortgaged the estate to the last penny. I was nearing that precipice
over which all gamblers finally tumble: ruin. Ruin makes a man reckless,
defiant, devil-may-care. Heavens! what luck I had had! The gold had
melted away “like snow upon the desert’s dusty face.”

Right in the middle of this fever came a call from Wall Street for more
margin. I cabled back to my brokers to go, one and all, to the hottest
place they could think of. I dared not ask my sister for any assistance,
for she abhorred gambling of all kinds. Besides, I had some pride left.
You wouldn’t have believed all this of me, would you? But it is all true
enough.

I had very serious thoughts of cashing in all my checks, and making the
prince pay for my funeral. I shook my fist at his yacht which lay in the
harbor below.

I made an inventory, and found that I possessed one hundred louis, and
some twenty-odd pieces of miscellaneous coin. I wandered about till
night, when I ate a remarkably good dinner, topping it off with a pint
of chambertin and champagne mixed. This gave me a splendid courage.

At ten I took a promenade through the gardens and listened to the band,
which is one of the finest in the world. They were playing Strauss
waltzes. It was warm. To the north lay the mountain, to the south the
Mediterranean trembled in the moonlight; the lights of the many private
yachts twinkled. It was a mighty fair world–to those of cool blood and
unruffled conscience. I jingled the louis, smoked three or four cigars,
then directed my steps toward the Casino.

I immediately sought out that table which is close to the famous
painting of the girl and the horse. I forget what you call the picture.
The croupier was wizened and bald. Somehow I fancied that I saw 29 in
the construction of his eyes and nose. So I placed a louis on that
number. I won. Immediately I put fifty louis on the odd and fifty on the
black, leaving my winnings on the lucky number. The ball rolled into
zero. Very coolly I searched through my pockets. I put what silver I
found on black. The ball tumbled into number 1, which is red.

I was, in the parlance of the day, absolutely strapped. My dinner had
not been paid for, even. I lit a cigar. I even recalled seeing an actor
play this piece of bravado. I arose from my chair, and flecked the ashes
from my shirt bosom. I stared at the girl and the horse for a brief
space and felt of my watch! Hello! I still had that, and with its jewels
it was worth about four hundred dollars. I hurried back to the hotel and
saw the proprietor. After an hour’s dickering he consented to loan me
five hundred francs on it. I wisely paid my bill for three days in
advance.

I returned to the Casino.

“Monsieur,” said a handsome woman, whose eyes had proved pitfalls for
many an unwary one, “only one louis, and look! I know a way to make
Monsieur le Croupier push the rake toward me. Eh?”

“Here,” said I, giving her the louis. She flew away, and I laughed.
Gambling never had any dignity or disinterestedness.

Of all those I had left at the table only three remained. The other
faces were new. And how that pile of gold and bank-notes at the side of
the croupier had grown!

A crabbed old lady arose, crumpling her system card in her hand, and I
popped into her vacant chair. I cast about a casual glance. Seated next
to me was a very beautiful young girl. She was alone, and appeared most
emphatically out of place in this gilded Hades. Her eyes were blue and
moist and starlike, but there was fever in her cheeks and lips. There
was very little gold before her, and this dwindled as I watched. She was
playing 17, 20 and 32, persistently and doggedly; and each time the rake
drew in her money I could see her delicate nostrils quiver and her lips
draw to a thin line. From time to time she cast a hasty glance over her
shoulder, a shamed and hunted look. In watching her I came very near
forgetting why I was seated at the table.

“Make your game, gentlemen; make your game,–the game is made.”

Whirr-rr-rr! went the evil sphere. It dropped into 20. The girl at my
side gasped, but too soon. The ball bounded out, and zig-zagged till it
rolled complacently into the zero. The young girl had played her last
louis and lost. A chivalric impulse came to me to thrust half of my
money toward her. I had done as much for a woman of the half-world. But
the gambler’s selfishness checked the generous deed. The blind Madonna
was biding her time, as you shall presently see.

The girl arose, brushing her eyes. She turned, and in a moment had
disappeared in the moving throng of sightseers.

“Make your game, gentlemen!”

I came back to the sordidness of things. 17, 20, 32; where had I seen
this combination before?–Good heavens, that was not possible!

Where was her brother? If this should be the girl of the railway coach!
I half arose, as if to follow. Chance whispered in my ear: “Of what
use?” I laid a stake on 29. In less than forty minutes I had nothing
left but three days’ board at the hotel. I fingered my gold
cuff-buttons. The rubies were at least worth two hundred francs–No; I
would not part with them. They were heirlooms. They should be buried
with me.

I forgot all about the beautiful girl and her despair. I, Robert
Chadwick, of an old and respected family, once wealthy, had reached the
end of my rope. It would make interesting reading in the papers. Not a
penny to my name, not a roof over my head, unless I swallowed my pride
and begged of my sister. I could send home for nothing, because I had
nothing.

“Make your game, gentlemen,” said the bald-headed croupier.

I sat there, stupidly watching the ball. It rolled into zero, and the
fat English brewer added three hundred and fifty louis to his ill-gotten
gains. I experienced the wild desire to spring upon him and cram his
wealth down his fat throat. What right had he to win when he had
millions backing him? I felt through my clothes again, and the croupier
eyed me coldly.

“Never mind, monsieur,” I said to him, with a snarling laugh; “I have
paid for my chair to-night.”

“Twenty-nine wins, black and odd!”

My number! It repeated. The brewer laughed as he heard my oath.

“Here is your louis, monsieur,” cried a voice over my shoulder. A louis
dropped in front of me. I looked up. It was the irregular lady to whom I
had given the gold upon entering.

I threw a kiss at her as she danced away. She had won three thousand
francs at red-and-black. I spun the coin in the air and let it rest
where it fell. From where I sat it looked as if it had split upon 17 and
20. Twenty came up, and I expected to receive at least half the stake.
But the croupier warned me back with the rake. He and an attendant
peered searchingly at the coin, then beckoned to me to observe. The
breadth of a hair separated the rim of the coin from the line. I had
lost.

“Damnation!” I arose and made my way through the crowd. I gained the
outer air, biting my mustache. Till that moment I had never measured the
extent of my vituperative vocabulary. I swore till I was out of breath.
I cursed Smeed for having aroused the gambling devil in my veins; I
cursed my lack of will power; I cursed the luck which had followed me
these ten months; I cursed Wall Street, which had been the primal means
of bringing me to this destitution. Oh, I tell you, gentlemen, that fury
burned up at least five years of my life. I must have gesticulated
extravagantly, for a guardian of the peace approached me.

“Monsieur has lost?” he inquired mildly.

“What the devil is that to you?”

“Oh, I could find monsieur a ticket back to Paris, if he so desires.”

“Cheaper than burying me here, eh? Well, you go along with you; I am not
going to cut my throat this evening; nor to-morrow evening.” And I made
off toward the terrace.

I sat down on one of the seats, lit my last cigar, and tried to
contemplate the mysterious beauty of a Mediterranean night. At this
moment Monte Carlo seemed to me both a heaven and a hell. Unluckily, as
I turned my head, I saw the glittering Temple of Fortune. I spat,
cursing with renewed vigor. It was surprising how well I kept up this
particular kind of monologue.

Where should I begin life anew? In the wheat country, in the cattle
country, or in the mines? I had a good knowledge of minerals and the
commercial value of each. It wasn’t as if I had been brought up with a
golden spoon. I knew how to work, though I had never done a stroke
outside of Wall Street. If only I had not mortgaged the estate! Useless
recrimination! Bah! I had three days at the hotel. I could eat, and
sleep, and bathe.

The band stopped; and it was then that I became conscious of a sound
like that of sobbing. Across the path I discovered the figure of a
woman. She was weeping on her arms which were thrown over the back of
the seat. The spot was secluded. Just then some yacht below sent up a
rocket which burst above us in a warm glow–It was the young woman I had
seen at the table. I arose to approach her, when I saw something
glittering at her feet. It proved to be a solitary louis. I stooped and
picked it up, joyful at the chance of having an excuse to speak to the
girl.

“Mademoiselle, you have dropped a louis.”

“I, monsieur? Oh!” Evidently she had recognized me. “I have dropped no
gold here,”–striving to check the hiccoughs into which her sobs had
turned.

“But I found it close to your feet,” I explained.

“It is not mine, monsieur; it is not mine! Leave me.”

“You are in trouble?” I addressed this question in English.

“You are English?”–as one who grasps at a straw.

“Almost; I am an American. I observed you at the Casino to-night. You
have suffered some losses,” I suggested gently.

“That is my affair, sir!”–with sudden dignity.

“May I not offer you some aid?” I asked, forgetting that, if anything, I
was worse off than she could possibly be. I turned the louis over and
over. What a terrible thing gambling was! “My proposal is perfectly
honorable. I am a gentleman. You have committed a folly to-night, a
folly which you have never before committed and which doubtless you
will never commit again. Where is your brother? Are you here alone,
without masculine protection?”

“My brother?”

The rockets soared again; and the agony written on the girl’s face
excited something stronger than pity. I fumbled in a pocket and drew
forth a card.

“My name is Chadwick; permit me–” Then I laughed insanely, even
hysterically. “I beg your pardon! I was about to offer you material
assistance. I haven’t a penny in the world, and nothing of value save a
pair of cuff-buttons. In fact, I don’t see how I am to leave this
wretched place.”

This odd confession aroused her interest.

“You have lost all your money, too?”

Too! So I had read shrewdly. She was in the same predicament as myself.

“Yes. Won’t you accept this louis?”

“A single louis?” She laughed wildly. “A single louis? What good would
that do me?”

“But where is your brother?”

“He is ill at the hotel. Oh, I am the most unhappy woman in the world!”
And her sobbing broke forth afresh.

“Pardon my former deception, but I understand German perfectly well.”

“You?”

“Yes. I was a passenger in the same coach which brought you from Dieppe
to Paris last fall. Perhaps you do not remember me; but I recollect the
conversation between you and your brother. He has gambled away money
which did not belong to him–even as I have gambled away my patrimony
and the family roof.”

“And I–and I have done the same thing! Thinking that perhaps I, having
never gambled, might be lucky enough to win back what my brother lost, I
have risked and lost the money realized on my jewels for passage home!”

“Use this louis to send home for money,” I urged.

“I dare not, I dare not! My father would disown my brother; and I love
my brother!”

Sisters, sometimes, are very fond beings.

Suddenly she raised her despairing face to mine.

“You,–you take the louis and play it; you!”

“I?”

“Yes, yes! Certainly it must be lucky. Play it, sir; play it!”

I caught her enthusiasm and excitement.

“I will play it only on one condition.”

“What is that?” she asked, rising. There was a bit of distrust in her
tones.

“That you shall–”

“Sir, you said you were honorable!”

“Let me complete the sentence,” said I. “The condition is that you shall
stand beside me and tell me what to play.”

She was silent.

“And share good fortune or bad.”

“Good fortune or bad,” she repeated. She hesitated for a moment; then
made a gesture. “What matters it now? I will go with you, and do as you
desire. I shall trust you. I believe you to be a gentleman. Come.”

So together we returned to that fatal room and sought out the very
table where we had suffered our losses.

“How old are you?” she asked quietly.

“Twenty-nine.”

“Play it, play it!” She flushed, and then grew as pale as the ivory ball
itself.

“Make your game, gentlemen!” cried the croupier. A phantom grin spread
over his face as he saw me. I laid the louis on 29. “The game is made!”
The ball whirred toward fortune or ruin.

I shut my eyes, and became conscious of a grip like iron on my arm. It
was the girl. Her lips were parted. You could see the whole iris, so
widely were her eyes opened. So I stared down at her, at the ringless
hand clinging to my arm. I simply would not look at the ball.

“Twenty-nine wins, black and odd!” sang out the croupier. He nodded at
me, smiling. The croupier is always gracious to those who win, strange
as this may seem.

I made as though to sweep in the winnings, but the pressure on my arm
stayed the movement.

“Leave it there, Mr. Chadwick; do not touch it!”

Ah, that blind Madonna! The number repeated, and the gold and bank notes
which were pushed in my direction seemed like a fortune to me. I turned
to her, expecting her to faint at the sight of this unprecedented luck.
No! her face was as calm as that of one of the marble Venuses. But her
hand was still tense upon my arm. As a matter of fact, my arm began to
ache, but I dared not call her attention to it.

“Wait!” she said. “Skip one.”

I did so.

“I am twenty-three; play a hundred louis on that number.”

I placed the stake. My hands trembled so violently that the gold tumbled
and rolled about the table. I gathered it quickly, and replaced it as
the croupier bawled out that the game was made.

What a terrible moment that was! I have seen action on the
battle-field, I have been in runaways, fires, railroad accidents, but I
shall never again know the terror of that moment. How she ever stood it
I don’t know.

If you have played roulette you will have observed that sometimes the
ball will sink to the lower rim, but will not drop into the little
compartments intended for it; that is to say, it will hang as if in mid
air, all the while making the circle. Well, the ball began to play us
the agonizing trick. Twice it hung above 23; twice it threatened zero.
Heavens! how I watched the ball, how the girl watched it, how all save
the croupier watched it! Then it fell–23!

“Put it all on black,” she whispered. It was all like clairvoyance.

Black won; again, and again!

“Gentlemen, the bank is closed,” said the croupier, smiling. He put the
ball in the silver socket.

I had actually and incontestably (even inconceivably!) broken the bank!
I was, for the moment, dumfounded. How they crowded around us, the
aristocrats, the half-world, the confirmed gamblers, the sightseers and
the hangers-on! From afar I could hear the music of the band. They were
playing a _polonaise_ of Chopin’s. I was like one in a dream.

“They are asking you where to send the gold,” she said.

“The gold? Oh, yes! to the hotel, to the hotel!”–finding my senses.

An attendant put our winnings into a basket, and, in company with two
guardians of the peace, or gendarmes, if you will call them so, preceded
us to the hotel.

“To your brother’s room?” I asked.

“At once! I feel as if I were about to faint. Mr. Chadwick, my name is
Carruthers. Will you go to my brother’s room with me and explain all
this to him?”

I nodded, and was about to follow her with the attendant who still
carried our gold, when a voice struck my ear,–a voice which filled me
with surprise, chagrin and terror.

“So, I have found you!”

A handsome woman of thirty-five stood at my side. Anger and wrath lay
visibly written on her face and in her eyes. My sister! She did not
appear to notice the young girl beside me, who instinctively shrank from
me at the sound of my sister’s voice.

“So, I have found you! I had a good mind to leave you here, you wretched
boy! You have wasted your patrimony, you have lost over these abominable
gaming-tables the house in which we both were born. I have heard all;
not a word of excuse! And yet I am here to give you money enough to
reach home with. I heard all about you at Nice.”

In spite of my keen chagrin, I found my voice.

“My dear sister, I thank you for your assistance, but I do not need it.
I have just this moment broken one of the banks at the Casino.” I
beckoned the attendant to approach. I lifted back the cover. My sister
gasped.

“Merciful heavens! how much is in there?” she asked, overcome at the
sight of so much money. The sudden transition from wrath to amazement
made me laugh.

“Something like seventy thousand, my dear Nan.”

“Pounds?” she cried.

“Dollars!”

“And who is this young woman?”–suddenly, and with not unjust suspicion.

Miss Carruthers flushed. My sister had a way of being extraordinarily
insolent upon occasion. But evidently Miss Carruthers came of equally
distinguished blood. She lifted her head proudly, and her eyes flashed.

“As I have no desire to enter into your family affairs,” she said
haughtily to me, “I beg of you to excuse me.” She made as though to
leave.

“Wait!” I implored, striving to detain her. Somehow I felt that if she
went I should never see her again.

“Let me go, Mr. Chadwick; I have only the kindest regards for you.”

“But the money?”

“The money?” echoed my sister.

“Nan,” said I indignantly, “but for this young lady, who, I dare say,
comes of as good a family as ours– Well, if it hadn’t been for her you
might have carried me home in a pine box.”

“Robert!”–aghast.

“Miss Carruthers is a lady,” I declared vehemently.

“Carruthers? You are English?” asked my sister, her frown smoothing.
“You will certainly pardon me if I have been rude; but this brother of
mine–”

“Is a very good gentleman,” Miss Carruthers interrupted. “My name is now
known to you; yours–”

“Is Lady Rexford,”–with a tilt of the chin.

Miss Carruthers bent forward.

“Of Suffolk?”

“Yes– Merciful heavens! you are of the Carruthers who are my neighbors
when I am at home! I know the judge, your father, well.”

“My father!” The burden of her trouble came back to her, the reaction
from the intense excitement of the preceding hour. She reached out her
arms blindly, and would have fallen had not my sister caught her.

“You wretch!” she cried, “what have you been doing to this girl?”

“Don’t be a fool, Nan! I haven’t been doing anything. But don’t let’s
have a scene here. Where’s your room?”

We were still in the parlor of the hotel, and many curious glances were
directed at us. The attendant had set down his heavy and precious
burden, and was waiting patiently for further directions from me.

“Don’t scold him,” said Miss Carruthers; “for he has been very good to
me.” She stretched out a small white hand, and I clasped it. “Mr.
Chadwick, make me a solemn promise.”

“What is it?”–wondering.

“Promise me never to play games of chance again. Think of what might
have happened if God hadn’t been so good to us after our having been so
bad.”

I promised. Then we went to my sister’s room, and the whole story came
out.

The colonel abruptly concluded his narrative.

“Here, here!” we cried; “this will never do. What was the end?”

“What happened to young Carruthers?” I demanded, with the novelist’s
love for details.

“That wasn’t his name,” replied the colonel, smiling.

“And what became of the girl?” asked Fletcher. “You can’t choke us off
that way, Bob. What became of the girl?”

“Seventy thousand dollars; I believe you’re codding us a whole lot,”
said Collingwood.

“You’re a fakir if you don’t tell us what became of the girl,” Fletcher
again declared persistently.

“Very well,” laughed the colonel; “I’m a fakir.”

But the very ease with which he acknowledged this confirmed my
suspicions that he had told only the plain truth. At this moment the
butler appeared in the doorway, and we all arose.

“Madam desires me to announce that dinner is served.”

The Scotch and the brandy saved the colonel any further embarrassment;
we were all ravenously hungry. On our way to the drawing-room where we
were to join the ladies, Fletcher began hoping for a clear, cold day for
the morrow; and the colonel escaped.

It was my happiness to take in the hostess that night. She was toying
with her wine-glass, when I observed that the bracelet on her beautiful
arm had a curious bangle.

“I thought bangles passé,” I said.

“This isn’t a fad.” She extended her arm or the bracelet (I don’t know
which) for my inspection.

“Why,” I exclaimed breathlessly, “it is a miniature French louis!” A
thousand fancies flooded my brain.

“Look,” she said. She touched a spring, and the bangle opened,
discovering the colonel’s youthful face.

“How came you to select a louis for a bangle?” I asked.

“That is a secret.”

“Oh, if it’s a secret, far be it that I should strive to peer within.
The colonel is a lucky dog. If I were half as lucky, I shouldn’t be
writing novels for a living.”

“Who knows?” she murmured, a far-away light in her glorious eyes.