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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
The Sweetheart Of A King
|Page 2 of 7||
In spite of myself I started. No wonder he was pale! And yet--
"That's nothing," I whispered back. "But you are making a show of yourself. Just now you were swearing like a sailor. See how your hand trembles! You were not made for this, Harry; it makes you forget that you're a gentleman. They are laughing at you. Come."
"But I say I have lost ninety thousand dollars," said the boy, and there was wildness in his eye. "Let me alone, Paul."
"I will repay you."
"No. Let me alone!"
"I say no!"
His mouth was drawn tight and his eyes glared sullenly as those of a stubborn child. Clearly it was impossible to get him away without making a scene, which was unthinkable. For a moment I was at a complete loss; then the croupier's voice sounded suddenly in my ear:
"You are interrupting us, sir."
I silenced him with a glance and turned to my brother, having decided in an instant on the only possible course.
"Here, let me have your chair. I will get it back for you. Come!"
He looked at me for a moment in hesitation, then rose without a word and I took his place.
The thing was tiresome enough, but how could I have avoided it? The blood that rushes to the head of the gambler is certainly not food for the intellect; and, besides, I was forced by circumstances into an heroic attitude--and nothing is more distasteful to a man of sense. But I had a task before me; if a man lays bricks he should lay them well; and I do not deny that there was a stirring of my pulse as I sat down.
Is it possible for a mind to directly influence the movements of a little ivory ball? I do not say yes, but will you say no? I watched the ball with the eye of an eagle, but without straining; I played with the precision of a man with an unerring system, though my selections were really made quite at random; and I handled my bets with the sureness and swift dexterity with which a chess-master places his pawn or piece in position to demoralize his opponent.
This told on the nerves of the croupier. Twice I corrected a miscalculation of his, and before I had played an hour his hand was trembling with agitation.
And I won.
The details would be tiresome, but I won; and when, after six hours of play without an instant's rest, I rose exhausted from my chair and handed my brother the amount he had lost--I pocketed a few thousands for myself in addition. There were some who tried to detain me with congratulations and expressions of admiration, but I shook them off and led Harry outside to my car.
The chauffeur, poor devil, was completely stiff from the long wait, and I ordered him into the tonneau and took the wheel myself.
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