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ous air, “you and I have burnt our fingers too often at college, to be desirous of renewing our pranks.”
Why, good God, Sir Edward !” rejoined the proposer, “what do you mean? Are you insinuating that I am fond of deep play? -1, I that have been such a sufferer?” How was it that such shallow trickery could not be seen through by a man who knew any thing of the world? The answer is obvious—the victim's penetration had deserted him. Flattery and wine—what will they not lead a man to? In short, the farce was so well kept up, that Beauchamp, fancying he alone stood in the way of the evening's amusements, felt himself called upon to “beg they would not consult him, if they were disposed for a rubber, as he would make a hand with the greatest pleasure imaginable.” The proposer and his friend looked appealingly to Sir Edward.
6 Oh! God forbid that I should hinder you, since you're all so disposed," said the baronet, with a polite air; and, in a few minutes, the four friends were seated at the whist table. Sir Edward was obliged to send out, and buy, or borrow cards ! " He really so seldom,” &c., “ especially in his poor health,” &c. ! There was nothing whatever, in the conduct of the game, calculated to arouse a spark of suspicion. The three confederates acted their parts to admiration, and maintained throughout the matter-of-fact, listless air, of men who have sat down to cards, each out of complaisance to the others. At the end of the second rubber, which was a long one, they paused a while, rose, and betook themselves to refreshments.
By the way, Apsley,” said Sir Edward suddenly, “have you heard how that extraordinary affair of General 's terminated ?"
“Decided against him," was the reply;“ but I think wrongly. At 's," naming a celebrated coterie, “ where the affair was ultimately canvassed, they were equally divided in opinion; and, on the strength of it, the General swears he won't pay.”
“ It is certainly one of the most singular things in the world !”
“ Pray, what might the disputed point be?” enquired Beauchamp, sipping a glass of liqueur.
“ Oh, merely a bit of town tittle-tattle!” replied Sir Edward carelessly, “about a Rouge et Noir bet between Lord and
General : I dare say, you would feel no interest in it whatever.”
But Beauchamp did feel interested enough to press his host for an account of the matter; and he presently found himself listening to a story told most graphically by Sir Edward, and artfully calculated to interest and inflame the passions of his hearer. Beauchamp drank in eagerly every word. He could not help identifying himself with the parties spoken of. A Satanic smile flickered occasionally over the countenances of the conspirators, as they beheld these unequivocal indications that their prey was entering their toils. Sir Edward represented the hinge of the story to be a moot point at Rouge et Noir; and when he had concluded, an animated discussion arose. Beauchamp took an active part in the dispute, siding with Mr Apsley. Sir Edward got flustered! and began to express himself rather heatedly. Beauchamp also felt himself kindling, and involuntarily cooled his ardour with glass after glass of the wine that stood before him. At length, out leaped a bold bet from Beauchamp, that he would make the same point with General Sir Edward shrugged his shoulders, and, with a smile, “declined winning his money,” on a point clear as the noonday sun! Mr Hillier, however, who was of Sir Edward's opinion, instantly took Beauchamp; and, for the symmetry of the thing, Apsley and Sir Edward, in spite of the latter's protestation to Beauchamp, betted highly on their respective opinions. Somebody suggested an adjournment to the “establishment” at - Street, where they might decide the question; and thither, accordingly, after great show of reluctance on the part of Sir Edward, they all four repaired.
The reader need not fear that I am going to dilate upon the sickening horrors of a modern “hell !”—for into such a place did Beauchamp find himself introduced. The infernal splendour of the scene by which he was surrounded, smote his soul with a sense of guilty awe the moment he entered, flushed though he was, and unsteady with wine. A spectral recollection of his mother and Ellen, wreathed with the haloes of virtue and purity, glanced across his mind; and, for a moment, he thought himself really in hell! Sick and faint, he sat down for a few seconds at
an unoccupied table. He felt half determined to rush out from the room. His kind friends perceived his agitation. Sir Edward asked him if he were ill ? But Beauchamp, with a sickly smile, referred his sensations to a heated room, and the unusual quantity of wine he had drunk. Half ashamed of himself, and dreading their banter, he presently rose from his seat, and declared hiniself recovered. After standing some time beside the Rouge et Noir table, where tremendous stakes were playing for, amidst profound and agitating silence—where he marked the sallow features of General and Lord the parties implicated in the affair mentioned at Sir Edward's table, and who having arranged their dispute, were now over head and ears in a new transaction—the four friends withdrew to one of the private tables to talk over their bet. Alas ! half-an-hour's time beheld them all at hazard !-Beauchamp playing ! and with excitement and enthusiasm equalling any one's in the room. Sir Edward maintained the negligent and reluctant air of a man overpersuaded into acquiescence in the wishes of his companions. Every time that Beauchamp shook the fatal dice-box, the pale face of his mother looked at him; yet still he shook, and still he threw-for he won freely from Apsley and Hillier. About four o'clock, he took his departure, with bank-notes in his pocket-book to the amount of £95, as his evening's winning.
He walked home to his hotel, weary and depressed in spirits, ashamed and enraged at his own weak compliances and irresolution. The thought suddenly struck him, however, that he would make amends for his misconduct, by appropriating the whole of his unhallowed gains to the purchase of jewellery for his mother and cousin. Relieved by this consideration, he threw himself on his bed, and slept, though uneasily, till a late hour in the morning. His first thought on waking was the last that had occupied his mind overnight; but it was in a moment met by another, and more startling reflection-What would Sir Edward, Hillier, and Apsley think of him, dragging them to play, and winning their money, without giving them an opportunity of retrieving their losses! The more he thought of it, the more was he embarrassed ; and, as he tossed about on his bed, the suspicion flashed across his disturbed mind, that he was embroiled with gamblers. With what credit could he skulk from the attack he had himself provoked ? Perplexed and agitated with the dilemma he had drawn upon himself, he came to the conclusion, that, at all events, he must invite the baronet and his friends to dinner that day, and give them their revenge, when he might retreat with honour, and for ever. Every one who reads these pages will anticipate the event.
Gaming is a magical stream; if you do but wade far enough into it to wet the soles of your feet, there is an influence in the waters, which draws you irresistibly in, deeper and deeper, till you are sucked into the roaring vortex and perish. If it were not unduly paradoxical, one might say, with respect to gaming, that he has come to the end, who has made a beginning !
Mr Beauchamp postponed the business which he had himself fixed for transaction that evening, and received Sir Edward who had found out that he could now venture from home at nights—and his two friends, with all appearance of cheerfulness and cordiality. In his heart he felt ill at ease; but his uneasiness vanished with every glass of wine he drank. His guests were all men of conversation ; and they took care to select the most interesting topics. Beauchamp was delighted. Some slight laughing allusions were made by Hillier and Apsley to their overnight's adventure; but Sir Edward coldly characterised it as an “ absurd affair,” and told them they deserved to suffer as they did. This was exactly the signal for which Beauchamp had long been waiting; and he proposed, in a moment, that cards and dice should be brought in to finish the evening with. Hillier and Apsley hesitated; Sir Edward looked at his watch, and talked of the opera. Beauchamp, however, was peremptory, and down they all sat—and to Hazard! Beauchamp was fixedly determined to lose, that evening, a hundred pounds, inclusive of his overnight's winnings; and veiled his purpose so flimsily, that his opponents saw, in a moment, “what he was after.” Mr Apsley laid down the dice-box with a haughty air, and said, “ Mr Beauchamp, I do not understand you, sir. You are playing neither with boys nor swindlers; and be pleased, besides, to recollect at whose instance we sat down to this evening's Hazard."
66 not at
Mr Beauchamp laughed it off, and protested he did his best. Apsley, apparently satisfied, resumed his play, and their victim felt himself in their meshes—that the “ snare of the fowler was upon him.” They played with various success for about two hours; and Sir Edward was listlessly intimating his intention to have a throw for the first time, “ for company's sake,” when a card of a young nobleman, one of the most profligate of the profligate set whom Beauchamp had known at Oxford, was brought in.
66 Ah! Lord !” exclaimed Sir Edward, with joyful surprise“ An age since I saw him! How very strange-how fortunate that I should happen to be here!-Oh, come, Beauchamp"—seeing his host disposed to utter a frigid home come, must ask him in! The very best fellow in life!” Now Lord and Sir Edward were bosom friends, equally unprincipled, and that very morning had they arranged this most unexpected visit of his lordship! As soon as the ablysustained excitement and enthusiasm of his lordship had subsided, he, of course, assured them that he should leave immediately, unless they proceeded with their play, and he stationed himself as an onlooker beside Beauchamp.
The infernal crew now began to see they had it “all their own way." Their tactics might have been finally frustrated, had Beauchamp but possessed sufficient moral courage to yield to the loud promptings of his better judgment, and firmly determined to stop in time. Alas! however, he had taken into his bosom the torpid snake, and kept it there till it revived. In the warmth of excitement he forgot his fears, and his decaying propensities to play were rapidly resuscitated. Before the evening's close, he had entered into the spirit of the game with as keen a relish as a professed gamester! With a sort of frenzy, he proposed bets, which the cautious baronet and his coadjutors hesitated, and, at last, refused to take! About three o'clock they separated ; and, on making up accounts, they found that, so equally had profit and loss been shared, that no one had lost or gained more than £20. Beauchamp accepted a seat in Lord
-'s box at the opera for the next evening; and the one following that, he engaged to dine with Apsley. After his guests