When we reached the guardhouse, the officer of the patrol introduced me to his captain, a tall, fine-looking young man who received me in the most cheerful manner. I begged him to let me return to my hotel as I needed rest after my journey. He laughed and answered, "No, indeed, I want you to spend a joyous night with me, and in good company." He told the officer to give me back my sword, and, addressing me again, he said, "I only consider you, my dear sir, as my friend and guest."
I could not help being amused at such a novel mode of invitation, and I accepted it. He gave some orders to a German soldier, and soon afterwards the table was laid out for four persons. The two other officers joined us, and we had a very gay supper. When the desert had been served the company was increased by the arrival of two disgusting, dissolute females. A green cloth was spread over the table, and one of the officers began a faro bank. I punted so as not to appear unwilling to join the game, and after losing a few sequins I went out to breathe the fresh air, for we had drunk freely. One of the two females followed me, teased me, and finally contrived, in spite of myself, to make me a present which condemned me to a regimen of six weeks. After that fine exploit, I went in again.
A young and pleasant officer, who had lost some fifteen or twenty sequins, was swearing like a trooper because the banker had pocketed his money and was going. The young officer had a great deal of gold before him on the table, and he contended that the banker ought to have warned him that it would be the last game.
"Sir," I said to him, politely, "you are in the wrong, for faro is the freest of games. Why do you not take the bank yourself ?"
"It would be too much trouble, and these gentlemen do not punt high enough for me, but if that sort of thing amuses you, take the bank and I will punt."
"Captain," I said, "will you take a fourth share in my bank?"
"Gentlemen, I beg you to give notice that I will lay the cards down after six games."
I asked for new packs of cards, and put three hundred sequins on the table. The captain wrote on the back of a card, "Good for a hundred sequins, O'Neilan," and placing it with my gold I began my bank.
The young officer was delighted, and said to me,
"Your bank might be defunct before the end of the sixth game."
I did not answer, and the play went on.
At the beginning of the fifth game, my bank was in the pangs of death; the young officer was in high glee. I rather astonished him by telling him that I was glad to lose, for I thought him a much more agreeable companion when he was winning.
There are some civilities which very likely prove unlucky for those to whom they are addressed, and it turned out so in this case, for my compliment turned his brain. During the fifth game, a run of adverse cards made him lose all he had won, and as he tried to do violence to Dame Fortune in the sixth round, he lost every sequin he had.
"Sir," he said to me, "you have been very lucky, but I hope you will give me my revenge to-morrow."
"It would be with the greatest pleasure, sir, but I never play except when I am under arrest."
I counted my money, and found that I had wan two hundred and fifty sequins, besides a debt of fifty sequins due by an officer who played on trust which Captain O'Neilan took on his own account. I completed his share, and at day-break he allowed me to go away.
As soon as I got to my hotel, I went to bed, and when I awoke, I had a visit from Captain Laurent, the officer who had played on trust. Thinking that his object was to pay me what he had lost, I told him that O'Neilan had taken his debt on himself, but he answered than he had only called for the purpose of begging of me a loan of six sequins on his note of hand, by which he would pledge his honour to repay me within one week. I gave him the money, and he begged that the matter, might remain between us.
"I promise it," I said to him, "but do not break your word."
The next day I was ill, and the reader is aware of the nature of my illness. I immediately placed myself under a proper course of diet, however unpleasant it was at my age; but I kept to my system, and it cured me rapidly.
Three or four days afterwards Captain O'Neilan called on me, and when I told him the nature of my sickness he laughed, much to my surprise.
"Then you were all right before that night?" he enquired.
"Yes, my health was excellent."
"I am sorry that you should have lost your health in such an ugly place. I would have warned you if I had thought you had any intentions in that quarter."
"Did you know of the woman having...?"
"Zounds! Did I not? It is only a week since I paid a visit to the very same place myself, and I believe the creature was all right before my visit."
"Then I have to thank you for the present she has bestowed upon me."
"Most likely; but it is only a trifle, and you can easily get cured if you care to take the trouble."
"What! Do you not try to cure yourself?"
"Faith, no. It would be too much trouble to follow a regular diet, and what is the use of curing such a trifling inconvenience when I am certain of getting it again in a fortnight. Ten times in my life I have had that patience, but I got tired of it, and for the last two years I have resigned myself, and now I put up with it."