I could not repulse her without the most troublesome consequences, but I was very cold. After complaining of my conduct she said that she had only been trying me, that if I really loved her I should put off my departure, and that I should breakfast with her at eight o'clock the next day. I answered coolly that I would think it over. I was serious all dinner-time, and said once or twice that I must go at three o'clock, but as I wanted to find some pretext for staying on account of the nun, I let myself be persuaded into making a bank at faro.

I staked all the gold I had, and I saw every face light up as I put down about four hundred louis in gold, and about six hundred francs in silver. "Gentlemen," said I, "I shall rise at eight o'clock precisely." The stranger said, with a smile, that possibly the bank might not live so long, but I pretended not to understand him. It was just three o'clock. I begged Desarmoises to be my croupier, and I began to deal with due deliberation to eighteen or twenty punters, all professional gamblers. I took a new pack at every deal.

By five o'clock I had lost money. We heard carriage wheels, and they said it was three Englishmen from Geneva, who were changing horses to go on to Chamberi. A moment after they came in, and I bowed. It was Mr. Fox and his two friends, who had played quinze with me. My croupier gave them cards, which they received gladly, and went ten louis, playing on two and three cards, going paroli, seven and the 'va', as well as the 'quinze', so that my bank was in danger of breaking. However, I kept up my face, and even encouraged them to play, for, God being neutral, the chances were in my favour. So it happened, and at the third deal I had cleared the Englishmen out, and their carriage was ready.

While I was shuffling a fresh pack of cards, the youngest of them drew out of his pocket-book a paper which he spewed to his two companions. It was a bill of exchange. "Will you stake the value of this bill on a card, without knowing its value?" said he.

"Yes," I replied, "if you will tell me upon whom it is drawn, and provided that it does not exceed the value of the bank."

After a rapid glance at the pile of gold before me, he said, "The bill is not for so large a sum as your bank, and it is payable at sight by Zappata, of Turin."

I agreed, he cut, and put his money on an ace, the two friends going half shares. I drew and drew and drew, but no ace appeared. I had only a dozen cards left.

"Sir," said I, calmly to the punter, "you can draw back if you like."

"No, go on."

Four cards more, and still no ace; I had only eight cards left.

"My lord," said I, "it's two to one that I do not hold the ace, I repeat you can draw back."

"No, no, you are too generous, go on."

I continued dealing, and won; I put the bill of exchange in my pocket without looking at it. The Englishmen shook me by the hand and went off laughing. I was enjoying the effect this bold stroke had made on the company, when young Fox came in and with a roar of laughter begged me to lend him fifty Louis. I counted them out with the greatest pleasure, and he paid me them back in London three years later.

Everyone was curious to know the value of the bill of exchange, but I was not polite enough to satisfy their curiosity. It was for eight thousand Piedmontese francs, as I saw as soon as I was alone. The Englishmen had brought me good luck, for when they had gone fortune declared for the bank. I rose at eight o'clock, some ladies having won a few louis, all the others were dried up. I had won more than a thousand louis, and I gave twenty-five to Desarmoises, who jumped for joy. I locked up my money, put my pistols in my pocket, and set out towards the meeting-place.

The worthy peasant woman brought me in by the door, telling me that everybody was asleep, and that she had not found it necessary to renew the lay-sister's dose, as she was still asleep.

I was terrified. I went upstairs, and by the light of a single candle I saw the wretched, veiled figure of the nun, extended upon a sack which the peasant woman had placed along the wall instead of a sofa.

Romance Books
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book