How do they recognize a dangerous hand?"
"If it is found to be marked already, it is a proof that he has killed his man before and has been marked for it, with the warning, 'Take care not to kill anyone else, for if you do you will be hanged.'"
"But supposing such a man is attacked?"
"He ought to shew his hand, and then his adversary would let him alone."
"But if not?"
"Then he is defending himself; and if he kills his man he is acquitted, provided he can bring witnesses to swear that he was obliged to fight."
"Since fighting with the fist may cause death, I wonder it is allowed."
"It is only allowed for a wager. If the combatants do not put one or more pieces of money on the ground before the fight, and there is a death, the man is hanged."
"What laws! What manners!"
In such ways I learnt much concerning the manner and customs of this proud nation, at once so great and so little.
The noble lord came to dinner, and I treated him in a manner to make him wish to come again. Although there were only the two of us, the meal lasted a long time, as I was anxious for additional information on what I had heard in the morning, especially on the Betting Club. The worthy Pembroke advised me not to have anything to do with it, unless I made up my mind to keep perfect silence for four or five weeks.
"But supposing they ask me a question?"
"Certainly, if I am not in a position to give my opinion; but if I have an opinion, the powers of Satan could not shut my mouth."
"All the worse for you."
"Are the members knaves?"
"Certainly not. They are noblemen, philosophers, and epicures; but they are pitiless where a bet is concerned."
"Is the club treasury rich?"
"Far from it; they are all ashamed to pay a fine, and prefer to bet. Who will introduce you?"
"Quite so; through Lord Spencer, who is a member. I would not become one."
"Because I don't like argument."
"My taste runs the other way, so I shall try to get in."
"By the way, M. de Seingalt, do you know that you are a very extraordinary man?"
"For what reason, my lord?"
"You shut yourself up for a whole month with a woman who spent fourteen months in London without anybody making her acquaintance or even discovering her nationality. All the amateurs have taken a lively interest in the affair."
"How did you find out that she spent fourteen months in London?"
"Because several persons saw her in the house of a worthy widow where she spent the first month. She would never have anything to say to any advances, but the bill in your window worked wonders."
"Yes, and all the worse for me, for I feel as if I could never love another woman."
"Oh, that's childish indeed! You will love another woman in a week- nay, perhaps to-morrow, if you will come and dine with me at my country house. A perfect French beauty has asked me to dine with her. I have told some of my friends who are fond of gaming."
"Does the charming Frenchwoman like gaming?"
"No, but her husband does."
"What's his name?"
"He calls himself Count de Castelbajac."
"He is a Gascon?"
"Tall, thin, and dark, and marked with the smallpox?
"Exactly! I am delighted to find you know him. You will agree with me that his wife is very pretty?"
"I really can't say. I knew Castelbajac, as he calls himself, six years ago, and I never heard he was married. I shall be delighted to join you, however. I must warn you not to say anything if he seems not to know me; he may possibly have good reasons for acting in that manner. Before long I will tell you a story which does not represent him in a very advantageous manner. I did not know he played. I shall take care to be on my guard at the Betting Club, and I advise you, my lord, to be on your guard in the society of Castelbajac."
"I will not forget the warning."
When Pembroke had left me I went to see Madame Cornelis, who had written a week before to tell me my daughter was ill, and explained that she had been turned from my doors on two occasions though she felt certain I was in.