Chapter 57 - Adventures in the Far West by Mayne Reid

The Watch and Ring.

I rose from my seat, and turned towards D’Hauteville with a glance of despair. I needed not to tell him the result. My look would have announced it, but he had been gazing over my shoulder and knew all.

“Shall we go, Monsieur?” I asked.

“Not yet—stay a moment,” replied he, placing his hand upon my arm.

“And why?” I asked; “I have not a dollar. I have lost all. I might have known it would be so. Why stay here, sir?”

I spoke somewhat brusquely. I confess I was at the moment in anything but an amiable mood. In addition to my prospects for the morrow, a suspicion had flashed across my mind that my new friend was not loyal. His knowledge of these men—his having counselled me to play there—the accident, to say the least, a strange one, of our again meeting with the “sportsmen” of the boat, and under such a new phase—the great celerity with which my purse had been “cleared out”—all these circumstances passing rapidly through my mind, led me naturally enough to suspect D’Hauteville of treason. I ran rapidly over our late conversation. I tried to remember whether he had said or done anything to guide me into this particular hell. Certainly he had not proposed my playing, but rather opposed it; and I could not remember that by word or act he had endeavoured to introduce me to the game. Moreover, he seemed as much astonished as myself at seeing these gentlemen behind the table.

What of all that? The surprise might have been well feigned. Possibly enough; and after my late experience of the pork-merchant, probably enough, Monsieur D’Hauteville was also a partner in the firm of Chorley, Hatcher, and Co. I wheeled round with an angry expression on my lips, when the current of my thoughts was suddenly checked, and turned into a new channel. The young Creole stood looking up in my face—he was not so tall as I—gazing upon me out of his beautiful eyes, and waiting until my moment of abstraction should pass. Something glittered in his outstretched hand. It was a purse. I could see the yellow coins shining through the silken network. It was a purse of gold!

“Take it!” he said, in his soft silvery voice.

My heart fell abashed within me. I could scarce stammer forth a reply. Had he but known my latest thoughts, he might have been able to read the flush of shame that so suddenly mantled my cheeks.

“No, Monsieur,” I replied; “this is too generous of you. I cannot accept it.”

“Come—come! Why not? Take it, I pray—try Fortune again. She has frowned on you of late, but remember she is a fickle goddess, and may yet smile on you. Take the purse, man!”

“Indeed, Monsieur, I cannot after what I—pardon me—if you knew—”

“Then must I play for you—remember the purpose that brought us here! Remember Aurore!”


This ejaculation, wrung from my heart, was the only answer I could make, before the young Creole had turned to the faro-table, and was placing his gold upon the cards.

I stood watching him with feelings of astonishment and admiration, mingled with anxiety for the result.

What small white hands! What a brilliant jewel, sparkling on his finger—a diamond! It has caught the eyes of the players, who gloat upon it as it passes back and forward to the cards. Chorley and Hatcher have both noticed it. I saw them exchange their peculiar glance as they did so. Both are polite to him. By the large bets he is laying he has won their esteem. Their attention in calling out the card when he wins, and in handing him his cheques, is marked and assiduous. He is the favoured better of the ring; and oh! how the eyes of those fair lemans gleam upon him with their wild and wicked meaning! Not one of them that would not love him for that sparkling gem!

I stood on one side watching with great anxiety—greater than if the stake had been my own. But it was my own. It was for me. The generous youth was playing away his gold for me.

My suspense was not likely to be of long duration. He was losing rapidly—recklessly losing. He had taken my place at the table, and along with it my ill-luck. Almost every bet he made was “raked” into the bank, until his last coin lay upon the cards. Another turn, and that, too, chinked as it fell into the cash-box of the croupier!

“Come now, D’Hauteville! Come away!” I whispered, leaning over, and laying hold of his arm.

“How much against this?” he asked the banker, without heeding me—“how much, sir?”

As he put the question, he raised the gold guard over his head, at the same time drawing forth his watch.

I suspected this was his intention when I first spoke. I repeated my request in a tone of entreaty—all in vain. He pressed Chorley for a reply.

The latter was not the man to waste words at such a crisis.

“A hundred dollars,” said he, “for the watch—fifty more upon the chain.”

“Beautiful!” exclaimed one of the players.

“They’re worth more,” muttered another.

Even in the blazé hearts around that table there were human feelings. There is always a touch of sympathy for him who loses boldly; and an expression of this in favour of the Creole youth could be heard, from time to time, as his money parted from him.

“Yes, that watch and chain are worth more,” said a tall dark-whiskered man, who sat near the end of the table. This remark was made in a firm confident tone of voice, that seemed to command Chorley’s attention.

“I’ll look at it again, if you please?” said he, stretching across the table to D’Hauteville, who still held the watch in his hand.

The latter surrendered it once more to the gambler, who opened the case, and commenced inspecting the interior. It was an elegant watch, and chain also—of the fashion usually worn by ladies. They were worth more than Chorley had offered, though that did not appear to be the opinion of the pork-merchant.

“It’s a good pile o’ money, is a hundred an’ fifty dollars,” drawled he; “a good biggish pile, I reckon. I don’t know much about such fixins meself, but it’s full valley for that ar watch an’ chain, I shed say.”

“Nonsense!” cried several: “two hundred dollars—it’s worth it all. See the jewels!”

Chorley cut short the discussion.

“Well,” said he, “I don’t think it worth more than what I’ve bid, sir. But since you wish to get back what you’ve already lost, I don’t mind staking two hundred against watch and chain together. Does that satisfy you?”

“Play on!” was the only answer made by the impatient Creole, as he took back his watch, and laid it down upon one of the cards.

It was a cheap watch to Chorley. It cost him but the drawing out of half-a-dozen cards, and it became his!

“How much against this?”

D’Hauteville drew off his ring, and held it before the dazzled eyes of the dealer.

At this crisis I once more interfered, but my remonstrance was unheeded. It was of no use trying to stay the fiery spirit of the Creole.

The ring was a diamond, or rather a collection of diamonds in a gold setting. It, like the watch, was also of the fashion worn by ladies; and I could hear some characteristic remarks muttered around the table, such as, “That young blood’s got a rich girl somewhere,” “There’s more where they come from,” and the like!

The ring was evidently one of much value, as Chorley, after an examination of it, proposed to stake four hundred dollars. The tall man in dark whiskers again interfered, and put it at five hundred. The circle backed him, and the dealer at length agreed to give that sum.

“Will you take cheques, sir?” he inquired, addressing D’Hauteville, “or do you mean to stake it at one bet?”

“At one bet,” was the answer.

“No, no!” cried several voices, inclined to favour D’Hauteville.

“At one bet,” repeated he, in a determined tone. “Place it upon the ace!”

“As you wish, sir,” responded Chorley, with perfect sang-froid, at the same time handing back the ring to its owner.

D’Hauteville took the jewel in his slender white fingers, and laid it on the centre of the card. It was the only bet made. The other players had become so interested in the result, that they withheld their stakes in order to watch it.

Chorley commenced drawing the cards. Each one as it came forth caused a momentary thrill of expectancy; and when aces, deuces, or trés with their broad white margins appeared outside the edge of that mysterious box, the excitement became intense.

It was a long time before two aces came together. It seemed as if the very importance of the stakes called for more than the usual time to decide the bet.

It was decided at length. The ring followed the watch.

I caught D’Hauteville by the arm, and drew him away from the table. This time he followed me unresistingly—as he had nothing more to lay.

“What matters it?” said he, with a gay air as we passed together out of the saloon. “Ah! yes,” he continued, changing his tone, “ah, yes, it does matter! It matters to you, and Aurore!”