The young Frenchman did very well what he had planned to do. His guess that the Duke would cheat proved good. As the unshod half-dozen figures that had been standing noiselessly in the entryway stole softly into the shadows of the chamber, he leaned across the table and smilingly plucked a card out of the big Englishman’s sleeve.
“Merci, M. le Duc!” he laughed, rising and stepping back from the table.
The Englishman cried out, “It means the dirty work of silencing you with my bare hands!” and came at him.
“Do not move,” said M. Beaucaire, so sharply that the other paused. “Observe behind you.”
The Englishman turned, and saw what trap he had blundered into; then stood transfixed, impotent, alternately scarlet with rage and white with the vital shame of discovery. M. Beaucaire remarked, indicating the silent figures by a polite wave of the hand, “Is it not a compliment to monsieur that I procure six large men to subdue him? They are quite devote’ to me, and monsieur is alone. Could it be that he did not wish even his lackeys to know he play with the yo’ng Frenchman who Meestaire Nash does not like in the pomp-room? Monsieur is unfortunate to have come on foot and alone to my apartment.”
The Duke’s mouth foamed over with chaotic revilement. His captor smiled brightly, and made a slight gesture, as one who brushes aside a boisterous insect. With the same motion he quelled to stony quiet a resentful impetus of his servants toward the Englishman.
“It’s murder, is it, you carrion!” finished the Duke.
M. Beaucaire lifted his shoulders in a mock shiver. “What words! No, no, no! No killing! A such word to a such host! No, no, not mur-r-der; only disgrace!” He laughed a clear, light laugh with a rising inflection, seeming to launch himself upon an adventurous quest for sympathy.
“You little devilish scullion!” spat out the Duke.
“Tut, tut! But I forget. Monsieur has pursue’ his studies of deportment amongs’ his fellow-countrymen.
“Do you dream a soul in Bath will take your word that I–that I–”
“That M. le Duc de Winterset had a card up his sleeve?”
“You pitiful stroller, you stableboy, born in a stable–”
“Is it not an honor to be born where monsieur must have been bred?”
“You scurvy foot-boy, you greasy barber, you cutthroat groom–”
“Overwhelm’!” The young man bowed with imperturbable elation. “M. le Duc appoint’ me to all the office’ of his househol’.”
“You mustachioed fool, there are not five people of quality in Bath will speak to you–”
“No, monsieur, not on the parade; but how many come to play with me here? Because I will play always, night or day, for what one will, for any long, and always fair, monsieur.”
“You outrageous varlet! Every one knows you came to England as the French Ambassador’s barber. What man of fashion will listen to you? Who will believe you?”
“All people, monsieur. Do you think I have not calculate’, that I shall make a failure of my little enterprise?”
“Will monsieur not reseat himself?” M. Beaucaire made a low bow. “So. We must not be too tire’ for Lady Malbourne’s rout. Ha, ha! And you, Jean, Victor, and you others, retire; go in the hallway. Attend at the entrance, Francois. So; now we shall talk. Monsieur, I wish you to think very cool. Then listen; I will be briefly. It is that I am well known to be all, entire’ hones’. Gamblist? Ah, yes; true and mos profitable; but fair, always fair; every one say that. Is it not so? Think of it. And–is there never a w’isper come to M. le Duc that not all people belief him to play always hones’? Ha, ha! Did it almos’ be said to him las’ year, after when he play’ with Milor’ Tappin’ford at the chocolate-house–”
“You dirty scandal-monger!” the Duke burst out. “I’ll–”
“Monsieur, monsieur!” said the Frenchman. “It is a poor valor to insult a helpless captor. Can he retort upon his own victim? But it is for you to think of what I say. True, I am not reco’nize on the parade; that my frien’s who come here do not present me to their ladies; that Meestaire Nash has reboff’ me in the pomp-room; still, am I not known for being hones’ and fair in my play, and will I not be belief, even I, when I lif’ my voice and charge you aloud with what is already w’isper’? Think of it! You are a noble, and there will be some hang-dogs who might not fall away from you. Only such would be lef’ to you. Do you want it tol’? And you can keep out of France, monsieur? I have lef’ his service, but I have still the ear of M. de Mirepoix, and he know’ I never lie. Not a gentleman will play you when you come to Paris.”