There were Ninety and Nine
by Richard Harding Davis
Young Harringford, or the "Goodwood Plunger," as he was perhaps better
known at that time, had come to Monte Carlo in a very different spirit and
in a very different state of mind from any in which he had ever visited
the place before. He had come there for the same reason that a wounded
lion, or a poisoned rat, for that matter, crawls away into a corner, that
it may be alone when it dies. He stood leaning against one of the pillars
of the Casino with his back to the moonlight, and with his eyes blinking
painfully at the flaming lamps above the green tables inside. He knew they
would be put out very soon; and as he had something to do then, he
regarded them fixedly with painful earnestness, as a man who is condemned
to die at sunrise watches through his barred windows for the first gray
light of the morning.
That queer, numb feeling in his head and the sharp line of pain between
his eyebrows which had been growing worse for the last three weeks, was
troubling him more terribly than ever before, and his nerves had thrown
off all control and rioted at the base of his head and at his wrists, and
jerked and twitched as though, so it seemed to him, they were striving to
pull the tired body into pieces and to set themselves free. He was
wondering whether if he should take his hand from his pocket and touch his
head he would find that it had grown longer, and had turned into a soft,
spongy mass which would give beneath his fingers. He considered this for
some time, and even went so far as to half withdraw one hand, but thought
better of it and shoved it back again as he considered how much less
terrible it was to remain in doubt than to find that this phenomenon had
actually taken place.
The pity of the whole situation was, that the boy was only a boy with all
his man's miserable knowledge of the world, and the reason of it all was,
that he had entirely too much heart and not enough money to make an
unsuccessful gambler. If he had only been able to lose his conscience
instead of his money, or even if he had kept his conscience and won, it is
not likely that he would have been waiting for the lights to go out at
Monte Carlo. But he had not only lost all of his money and more besides,
which he could never make up, but he had lost other things which meant
much more to him now than money, and which could not be made up or paid
back at even usurious interest. He had not only lost the right to sit at
his father's table, but the right to think of the girl whose place in
Surrey ran next to that of his own people, and whose lighted window in the
north wing he had watched on those many dreary nights when she had been
ill, from his own terrace across the trees in the park. And all he had
gained was the notoriety that made him a by-word with decent people, and
the hero of the race-tracks and the music-halls. He was no longer "Young
Harringford, the eldest son of the Harringfords of Surrey," but the
"Goodwood Plunger," to whom Fortune had made desperate love and had then
jilted, and mocked, and overthrown.
As he looked back at it now and remembered himself as he was then, it
seemed as though he was considering an entirely distinct and separate
personage—a boy of whom he liked to think, who had had strong,
healthy ambitions and gentle tastes. He reviewed it passionlessly as he
stood staring at the lights inside the Casino, as clearly as he was
capable of doing in his present state and with miserable interest. How he
had laughed when young Norton told him in boyish confidence that there was
a horse named Siren in his father's stables which would win the Goodwood
Cup; how, having gone down to see Norton's people when the long vacation
began, he had seen Siren daily, and had talked of her until two every
morning in the smoking-room, and had then staid up two hours later to
watch her take her trial spin over the downs. He remembered how they used
to stamp back over the long grass wet with dew, comparing watches and
talking of the time in whispers, and said good night as the sun broke over
the trees in the park. And then just at this time of all others, when the
horse was the only interest of those around him, from Lord Norton and his
whole household down to the youngest stable-boy and oldest gaffer in the
village, he had come into his money.
And then began the then and still inexplicable plunge into gambling, and
the wagering of greater sums than the owner of Siren dared to risk
himself, the secret backing of the horse through commissioners all over
England, until the boy by his single fortune had brought the odds against
her from 60 to 0 down to 6 to 0. He recalled, with a thrill that seemed to
settle his nerves for the moment, the little black specks at the
starting-post and the larger specks as the horses turned the first corner.
The rest of the people on the coach were making a great deal of noise, he
remembered, but he, who had more to lose than any one or all of them
together, had stood quite still with his feet on the wheel and his back
against the box-seat, and with his hands sunk into his pockets and the
nails cutting through his gloves. The specks grew into horses with bits of
color on them, and then the deep muttering roar of the crowd merged into
one great shout, and swelled and grew into sharper, quicker, impatient
cries, as the horses turned into the stretch with only their heads showing
toward the goal. Some of the people were shouting "Firefly!" and others
were calling on "Vixen!" and others, who had their glasses up, cried
"Trouble leads!" but he only waited until he could distinguish the Norton
colors, with his lips pressed tightly together. Then they came so close
that their hoofs echoed as loudly as when horses gallop over a bridge, and
from among the leaders Siren's beautiful head and shoulders showed like
sealskin in the sun, and the boy on her back leaned forward and touched
her gently with his hand, as they had so often seen him do on the downs,
and Siren, as though he had touched a spring, leaped forward with her head
shooting back and out, like a piston-rod that has broken loose from its
fastening and beats the air, while the jockey sat motionless, with his
right arm hanging at his side as limply as though it were broken, and with
his left moving forward and back in time with the desperate strokes of the
"Siren wins!" cried Lord Norton, with a grim smile, and "Siren!" the mob
shouted back with wonder and angry disappointment, and "Siren!" the hills
echoed from far across the course. Young Harringford felt as if he had
suddenly been lifted into heaven after three months of purgatory, and
smiled uncertainly at the excited people on the coach about him. It made
him smile even now when he recalled young Norton's flushed face and the
awe and reproach in his voice when he climbed up and whispered, "Why,
Cecil, they say in the ring you've won a fortune, and you never told us."
And how Griffith, the biggest of the book-makers, with the rest of them at
his back, came up to him and touched his hat resentfully, and said,
"You'll have to give us time, sir; I'm very hard hit"; and how the crowd
stood about him and looked at him curiously, and the Certain Royal
Personage turned and said, "Who—not that boy, surely?" Then how, on
the day following, the papers told of the young gentleman who of all
others had won a fortune, thousands and thousands of pounds they said,
getting back sixty for every one he had ventured; and pictured him in baby
clothes with the cup in his arms, or in an Eton jacket; and how all of
them spoke of him slightingly, or admiringly, as the "Goodwood Plunger."
He did not care to go on after that; to recall the mortification of his
father, whose pride was hurt and whose hopes were dashed by this sudden,
mad freak of fortune, nor how he railed at it and provoked him until the
boy rebelled and went back to the courses, where he was a celebrity and a
The rest is a very common story. Fortune and greater fortune at first;
days in which he could not lose, days in which he drove back to the
crowded inns choked with dust, sunburnt and fagged with excitement, to a
riotous supper and baccarat, and afterward went to sleep only to see cards
and horses and moving crowds and clouds of dust; days spent in a short
covert coat, with a field-glass over his shoulder and with a pasteboard
ticket dangling from his buttonhole; and then came the change that brought
conscience up again, and the visits to the Jews, and the slights of the
men who had never been his friends, but whom he had thought had at least
liked him for himself, even if he did not like them; and then debts, and
more debts, and the borrowing of money to pay here and there, and threats
of executions; and, with it all, the longing for the fields and trout
springs of Surrey and the walk across the park to where she lived.
This grew so strong that he wrote to his father, and was told briefly that
he who was to have kept up the family name had dragged it into the dust of
the race-courses, and had changed it at his own wish to that of the Boy
Plunger—and that the breach was irreconcilable.
Then this queer feeling came on, and he wondered why he could not eat, and
why he shivered even when the room was warm or the sun shining, and the
fear came upon him that with all this trouble and disgrace his head might
give way, and then that it had given way. This came to him at all times,
and lately more frequently and with a fresher, more cruel thrill of
terror, and he began to watch himself and note how he spoke, and to repeat
over what he had said to see if it were sensible, and to question himself
as to why he laughed, and at what. It was not a question of whether it
would or would not be cowardly; It was simply a necessity. The thing had
to be stopped. He had to have rest and sleep and peace again. He had
boasted in those reckless, prosperous days that if by any possible chance
he should lose his money he would drive a hansom, or emigrate to the
colonies, or take the shilling. He had no patience in those days with men
who could not live on in adversity, and who were found in the gun-room
with a hole in their heads, and whose family asked their polite friends to
believe that a man used to firearms from his school-days had tried to load
a hair-trigger revolver with the muzzle pointed at his forehead. He had
expressed a fine contempt for those men then, but now he had forgotten all
that, and thought only of the relief it would bring, and not how others
might suffer by it. If he did consider this, it was only to conclude that
they would quite understand, and be glad that his pain and fear were over.
Then he planned a grand coup which was to pay off all his debts and
give him a second chance to present himself a supplicant at his father's
house. If it failed, he would have to stop this queer feeling in his head
at once. The Grand Prix and the English horse was the final coup.
On this depended everything—the return of his fortunes, the
reconciliation with his father, and the possibility of meeting her again.
It was a very hot day he remembered, and very bright; but the tall poplars
on the road to the races seemed to stop growing just at a level with his
eyes. Below that it was clear enough, but all above seemed black—as
though a cloud had fallen and was hanging just over the people's heads. He
thought of speaking of this to his man Walters, who had followed his
fortunes from the first, but decided not to do so, for, as it was, he had
noticed that Walters had observed him closely of late, and had seemed to
spy upon him. The race began, and he looked through his glass for the
English horse in the front and could not find her, and the Frenchman
beside him cried, "Frou Frou!" as Frou Frou passed the goal. He lowered
his glasses slowly and unscrewed them very carefully before dropping them
back into the case; then he buckled the strap, and turned and looked about
him. Two Frenchmen who had won a hundred francs between them were jumping
and dancing at his side. He remembered wondering why they did not speak in
English. Then the sunlight changed to a yellow, nasty glare, as though a
calcium light had been turned on the glass and colors, and he pushed his
way back to his carriage, leaning heavily on the servant's arm, and drove
slowly back to Paris, with the driver flecking his horses fretfully with
his whip, for he had wished to wait and see the end of the races.
He had selected Monte Carlo as the place for it, because it was more
unlike his home than any other spot, and because one summer night, when he
had crossed the lawn from the Casino to the hotel with a gay party of
young men and women, they had come across something under a bush which
they took to be a dog or a man asleep, and one of the men had stepped
forward and touched it with his foot, and had then turned sharply and
said, "Take those girls away"; and while some hurried the women back,
frightened and curious, he and the others had picked up the body and found
it to be that of a young Russian whom they had just seen losing, with a
very bad grace, at the tables. There was no passion in his face now, and
his evening dress was quite unruffled, and only a black spot on the shirt
front showed where the powder had burnt the linen. It had made a great
impression on him then, for he was at the height of his fortunes, with
crowds of sycophantic friends and a retinue of dependents at his heels.
And now that he was quite alone and disinherited by even these sorry
companions there seemed no other escape from the pain in his brain but to
end it, and he sought this place of all others as the most fitting place
in which to die.
So, after Walters had given the proper papers and checks to the
commissioner who handled his debts for him, he left Paris and took the
first train for Monte Carlo, sitting at the window of the carriage, and
beating a nervous tattoo on the pane with his ring until the old gentleman
at the other end of the compartment scowled at him. But Harringford did
not see him, nor the trees and fields as they swept by, and it was not
until Walters came and said, "You get out here, sir," that he recognized
the yellow station and the great hotels on the hill above. It was
half-past eleven, and the lights in the Casino were still burning
brightly. He wondered whether he would have time to go over to the hotel
and write a letter to his father and to her. He decided, after some
difficult consideration, that he would not. There was nothing to say that
they did not know already, or that they would fail to understand. But this
suggested to him that what they had written to him must be destroyed at
once, before any stranger could claim the right to read it. He took his
letters from his pocket and looked them over carefully. They were most
unpleasant reading. They all seemed to be about money; some begged to
remind him of this or that debt, of which he had thought continuously for
the last month, while others were abusive and insolent. Each of them gave
him actual pain. One was the last letter he had received from his father
just before leaving Paris, and though he knew it by heart, he read it over
again for the last time. That it came too late, that it asked what he knew
now to be impossible, made it none the less grateful to him, but that it
offered peace and a welcome home made it all the more terrible.
"I came to take this step through young Hargraves, the new curate," his
father wrote, "though he was but the instrument in the hands of
Providence. He showed me the error of my conduct toward you, and proved to
me that my duty and the inclination of my heart were toward the same end.
He read this morning for the second lesson the story of the Prodigal Son,
and I heard it without recognition and with no present application until
he came to the verse which tells how the father came to his son 'when he
was yet a great way off.' He saw him, it says, 'when he was yet a great
way off,' and ran to meet him. He did not wait for the boy to knock at his
gate and beg to be let in, but went out to meet him, and took him in his
arms and led him back to his home. Now, my boy, my son, it seems to me as
if you had never been so far off from me as you are at this present time,
as if you had never been so greatly separated from me in every thought and
interest; we are even worse than strangers, for you think that my hand is
against you, that I have closed the door of your home to you and driven
you away. But what I have done I beg of you to forgive: to forget what I
may have said in the past, and only to think of what I say now. Your
brothers are good boys and have been good sons to me, and God knows I am
thankful for such sons, and thankful to them for bearing themselves as
they have done.
"But, my boy, my first-born, my little Cecil, they can never be to me what
you have been. I can never feel for them as I feel for you; they are the
ninety and nine who have never wandered away upon the mountains, and who
have never been tempted, and have never left their home for either good or
evil. But you, Cecil, though you have made my heart ache until I thought
and even hoped it would stop beating, and though you have given me many,
many nights that I could not sleep, are still dearer to me than anything
else in the world. You are the flesh of my flesh and the bone of my bone,
and I cannot bear living on without you. I cannot be at rest here, or look
forward contentedly to a rest hereafter, unless you are by me and hear me,
unless I can see your face and touch you and hear your laugh in the halls.
Come back to me, Cecil; to Harringford and the people that know you best,
and know what is best in you and love you for it. I can have only a few
more years here now when you will take my place and keep up my name. I
will not be here to trouble you much longer; but, my boy, while I am here,
come to me and make me happy for the rest of my life. There are others who
need you, Cecil. You know whom I mean. I saw her only yesterday, and she
asked me of you with such splendid disregard for what the others standing
by might think, and as though she dared me or them to say or even imagine
anything against you. You cannot keep away from us both much longer.
Surely not; you will come back and make us happy for the rest of our
The Goodwood Plunger turned his back to the lights so that the people
passing could not see his face, and tore the letter up slowly and dropped
it piece by piece over the balcony. "If I could," he whispered; "if I
could." The pain was a little worse than usual just then, but it was no
longer a question of inclination. He felt only this desire to stop these
thoughts and doubts and the physical tremor that shook him. To rest and
sleep, that was what he must have, and peace. There was no peace at home
or anywhere else while this thing lasted. He could not see why they
worried him in this way. It was quite impossible. He felt much more sorry
for them than for himself, but only because they could not understand. He
was quite sure that if they could feel what he suffered they would help
him, even to end it.
He had been standing for some time with his back to the light, but now he
turned to face it and to take up his watch again. He felt quite sure the
lights would not burn much longer. As he turned, a woman came forward from
out the lighted hall, hovered uncertainly before him, and then made a
silent salutation, which was something between a courtesy and a bow. That
she was a woman and rather short and plainly dressed, and that her bobbing
up and down annoyed him, was all that he realized of her presence, and he
quite failed to connect her movements with himself in any way. "Sir," she
said in French, "I beg your pardon, but might I speak with you?" The
Goodwood Plunger possessed a somewhat various knowledge of Monte Carlo and
its habitues. It was not the first time that women who had lost at
the tables had begged a napoleon from him, or asked the distinguished
child of fortune what color or combination she should play. That, in his
luckier days, had happened often and had amused him, but now he moved back
irritably and wished that the figure in front of him would disappear as it
"I am in great trouble, sir," the woman said. "I have no friends here,
sir, to whom I may apply. I am very bold, but my anxiety is very great."
The Goodwood Plunger raised his hat slightly and bowed. Then he
concentrated his eyes with what was a distinct effort on the queer little
figure hovering in front of him, and stared very hard. She wore an odd
piece of red coral for a brooch, and by looking steadily at this he
brought the rest of the figure into focus and saw, without surprise,—for
every commonplace seemed strange to him now, and everything peculiar quite
a matter of course,—that she was distinctly not an habituee
of the place, and looked more like a lady's maid than an adventuress. She
was French and pretty,—such a girl as might wait in a Duval
restaurant or sit as a cashier behind a little counter near the door.
"We should not be here," she said, as if in answer to his look and in
apology for her presence. "But Louis, my husband, he would come. I told
him that this was not for such as we are, but Louis is so bold. He said
that upon his marriage tour he would live with the best, and so here he
must come to play as the others do. We have been married, sir, only since
Tuesday, and we must go back to Paris to-morrow; they would give him only
the three days. He is not a gambler; he plays dominos at the cafes, it is
true. But what will you? He is young and with so much spirit, and I know
that you, sir, who are so fortunate and who understand so well how to
control these tables, I know that you will persuade him. He will not
listen to me; he is so greatly excited and so little like himself. You
will help me, sir, will you not? You will speak to him?"
The Goodwood Plunger knit his eyebrows and closed the lids once or twice,
and forced the mistiness and pain out of his eyes. It was most annoying.
The woman seemed to be talking a great deal and to say very much, but he
could not make sense of it. He moved his shoulders slightly. "I can't
understand," he said wearily, turning away.
"It is my husband," the woman said anxiously: "Louis, he is playing at the
table inside, and he is only an apprentice to old Carbut the baker, but he
owns a third of the store. It was my dot that paid for it," she
added proudly. "Old Carbut says he may have it all for 20,000 francs, and
then old Carbut will retire, and we will be proprietors. We have saved a
little, and we had counted to buy the rest in five or six years if we were
"I see, I see," said the Plunger, with a little short laugh of relief; "I
understand." He was greatly comforted to think that it was not so bad as
it had threatened. He saw her distinctly now and followed what she said
quite easily, and even such a small matter as talking with this woman
seemed to help him.
"He is gambling," he said, "and losing the money, and you come to me to
advise him what to play. I understand. Well, tell him he will lose what
little he has left; tell him I advise him to go home; tell him—"
"No, no!" the girl said excitedly; "you do not understand; he has not
lost, he has won. He has won, oh, so many rolls of money, but he will not
stop. Do you not see? He has won as much as we could earn in many months—in
many years, sir, by saving and working, oh, so very hard! And now he risks
it again, and I cannot force him away. But if you, sir, if you would tell
him how great the chances are against him, if you who know would tell him
how foolish he is not to be content with what he has, he would listen. He
says to me, 'Bah! you are a woman'; and he is so red and fierce; he is
imbecile with the sight of the money, but he will listen to a grand
gentleman like you. He thinks to win more and more, and he thinks to buy
another third from old Carbut. Is it not foolish? It is so wicked of him."
"Oh, yes," said the Goodwood Plunger, nodding, "I see now. You want me to
take him away so that he can keep what he has. I see; but I don't know
him. He will not listen to me, you know; I have no right to interfere."
He turned away, rubbing his hand across his forehead. He wished so much
that this woman would leave him by himself.
"Ah, but, sir," cried the girl, desperately, and touching his coat, "you
who are so fortunate, and so rich, and of the great world, you cannot feel
what this is to me. To have my own little shop and to be free, and not to
slave, and sew, and sew until my back and fingers burn with the pain.
Speak to him, sir; ah, speak to him! It is so easy a thing to do, and he
will listen to you."
The Goodwood Plunger turned again abruptly. "Where is he?" he said. "Point
him out to me."
The woman ran ahead, with a murmur of gratitude, to the open door and
pointed to where her husband was standing leaning over and placing some
money on one of the tables. He was a handsome young Frenchman, as bourgeois
as his wife, and now terribly alive and excited. In the self-contained air
of the place and in contrast with the silence of the great hall he seemed
even more conspicuously out of place. The Plunger touched him on the arm,
and the Frenchman shoved the hand off impatiently and without looking
around. The Plunger touched him again and forced him to turn toward him.
"Well!" said the Frenchman, quickly. "Well?"
"Madame, your wife," said Cecil, with the grave politeness of an old man,
"has done me the honor to take me into her confidence. She tells me that
you have won a great deal of money; that you could put it to good use at
home, and so save yourselves much drudgery and debt, and all that sort of
trouble. You are quite right if you say it is no concern of mine. It is
not. But really, you know there is a great deal of sense in what she
wants, and you have apparently already won a large sum."
The Frenchman was visibly surprised at this approach. He paused for a
second or two in some doubt, and even awe, for the disinherited one
carried the mark of a personage of consideration and of one whose position
is secure. Then he gave a short, unmirthful laugh.
"You are most kind, sir," he said with mock politeness and with an
impatient shrug. "But madame, my wife, has not done well to interest a
stranger in this affair, which, as you say, concerns you not."
He turned to the table again with a defiant swagger of independence and
placed two rolls of money upon the cloth, casting at the same moment a
childish look of displeasure at his wife. "You see," said the Plunger,
with a deprecatory turning out of his hands. But there was so much grief
on the girl's face that he turned again to the gambler and touched his
arm. He could not tell why he was so interested in these two. He had
witnessed many such scenes before, and they had not affected him in any
way except to make him move out of hearing. But the same dumb numbness in
his head, which made so many things seem possible that should have been
terrible even to think upon, made him stubborn and unreasonable over this.
He felt intuitively—it could not be said that he thought—that
the woman was right and the man wrong, and so he grasped him again by the
arm, and said sharply this time:
"Come away! Do you hear? You are acting foolishly."
But even as he spoke the red won, and the Frenchman with a boyish gurgle
of pleasure raked in his winnings with his two hands, and then turned with
a happy, triumphant laugh to his wife. It is not easy to convince a man
that he is making a fool of himself when he is winning some hundred francs
every two minutes. His silent arguments to the contrary are difficult to
answer. But the Plunger did not regard this in the least.
"Do you hear me?" he said in the same stubborn tone and with much the same
manner with which he would have spoken to a groom. "Come away."
Again the Frenchman tossed off his hand, this time with an execration, and
again he placed the rolls of gold coin on the red; and again the red won.
"My God!" cried the girl, running her fingers over the rolls on the table,
"he has won half of the 20,000 francs. Oh, sir, stop him, stop him!" she
cried. "Take him away."
"Do you hear me!" cried the Plunger, excited to a degree of utter
self-forgetfulness, and carried beyond himself; "you've got to come with
"Take away your hand," whispered the young Frenchman, fiercely. "See, I
shall win it all; in one grand coup I shall win it all. I shall win
five years' pay in one moment."
He swept all of the money forward on the red and threw himself over the
table to see the wheel.
"Wait, confound you!" whispered the Plunger, excitedly. "If you will risk
it, risk it with some reason. You can't play all that money; they won't
take it. Six thousand francs is the limit, unless," he ran on quickly,
"you divide the 12,000 francs among the three of us. You understand, 6,000
francs is all that any one person can play; but if you give 4,000 to me,
and 4,000 to your wife, and keep 4,000 yourself, we can each chance it.
You can back the red if you like, your wife shall put her money on the
numbers coming up below eighteen, and I will back the odd. In that way you
stand to win 24,000 francs if our combination wins, and you lose less than
if you simply back the color. Do you understand?"
"No!" cried the Frenchman, reaching for the piles of money which the
Plunger had divided rapidly into three parts, "on the red; all on the
"Good heavens, man!" cried the Plunger, bitterly. "I may not know much,
but you should allow me to understand this dirty business." He caught the
Frenchman by the wrists, and the young man, more impressed with the
strange look in the boy's face than by his physical force, stood still,
while the ball rolled and rolled, and clicked merrily, and stopped, and
balanced, and then settled into the "seven."
"Red, odd, and below," the croupier droned mechanically.
"Ah! you see; what did I tell you?" said the Plunger, with sudden
calmness. "You have won more than your 20,000 francs; you are proprietors—I
"Ah, my God!" cried the Frenchman, in a frenzy of delight, "I will double
He reached toward the fresh piles of coin as if he meant to sweep them
back again, but the Plunger put himself in his way and with a quick
movement caught up the rolls of money and dropped them into the skirt of
the woman, which she raised like an apron to receive her treasure.
"Now," said young Harringford, determinedly, "you come with me." The
Frenchman tried to argue and resist, but the Plunger pushed him on with
the silent stubbornness of a drunken man. He handed the woman into a
carriage at the door, shoved her husband in beside her, and while the man
drove to the address she gave him, he told the Frenchman, with an air of a
chief of police, that he must leave Monte Carlo at once, that very night.
"Do you suppose I don't know?" he said. "Do you fancy I speak without
knowledge? I've seen them come here rich and go away paupers. But you
shall not; you shall keep what you have and spite them." He sent the woman
up to her room to pack while he expostulated with and browbeat the excited
bridegroom in the carriage. When she returned with the bag packed, and so
heavy with the gold that the servants could hardly lift it up beside the
driver, he ordered the coachman to go down the hill to the station.
"The train for Paris leaves at midnight," he said, "and you will be there
by morning. Then you must close your bargain with this old Carbut, and
never return here again."
The Frenchman had turned during the ride from an angry, indignant prisoner
to a joyful madman, and was now tearfully and effusively humble in his
petitions for pardon and in his thanks. Their benefactor, as they were
pleased to call him, hurried them into the waiting train and ran to
purchase their tickets for them.
"Now," he said, as the guard locked the door of the compartment, "you are
alone, and no one can get in, and you cannot get out. Go back to your
home, to your new home, and never come to this wretched place again.
Promise me—you understand?—never again!"
They promised with effusive reiteration. They embraced each other like
children, and the man, pulling off his hat, called upon the good Lord to
thank the gentleman.
"You will be in Paris, will you not?" said the woman, in an ecstasy of
pleasure, "and you will come to see us in our own shop, will you not? Ah!
we should be so greatly honored, sir, if you would visit us; if you would
come to the home you have given us. You have helped us so greatly, sir,"
she said; "and may Heaven bless you!"
She caught up his gloved hand as it rested on the door and kissed it until
he snatched it away in great embarrassment and flushing like a girl. Her
husband drew her toward him, and the young bride sat at his side with her
face close to his and wept tears of pleasure and of excitement.
"Ah, look, sir!" said the young man, joyfully; "look how happy you have
made us. You have made us happy for the rest of our lives."
The train moved out with a quick, heavy rush, and the car-wheels took up
the young stranger's last words and seemed to say, "You have made us happy—made
us happy for the rest of our lives."
It had all come about so rapidly that the Plunger had had no time to
consider or to weigh his motives, and all that seemed real to him now, as
he stood alone on the platform of the dark, deserted station, were the
words of the man echoing and re-echoing like the refrain of the song. And
then there came to him suddenly, and with all the force of a gambler's
superstition, the thought that the words were the same as those which his
father had used in his letter, "you can make us happy for the rest of our
"Ah," he said, with a quick gasp of doubt, "if I could! If I made those
poor fools happy, mayn't I live to be something to him, and to her? O
God!" he cried, but so gently that one at his elbow could not have heard
him, "if I could, if I could!"
He tossed up his hands, and drew them down again and clenched them in
front of him, and raised his tired, hot eyes to the calm purple sky with
its millions of moving stars. "Help me!" he whispered fiercely, "help me."
And as he lowered his head the queer numb feeling seemed to go, and a calm
came over his nerves and left him in peace. He did not know what it might
be, nor did he dare to question the change which had come to him, but
turned and slowly mounted the hill, with the awe and fear still upon him
of one who had passed beyond himself for one brief moment into another
world. When he reached his room he found his servant bending with an
anxious face over a letter which he tore up guiltily as his master
entered. "You were writing to my father," said Cecil, gently, "were you
not? Well, you need not finish your letter; we are going home.
"I am going away from this place, Walters," he said as he pulled off his
coat and threw himself heavily on the bed. "I will take the first train
that leaves here, and I will sleep a little while you put up my things.
The first train, you understand—within an hour, if it leaves that
soon." His head sank back on the pillows heavily, as though he had come in
from a long, weary walk, and his eyes closed and his arms fell easily at
his side. The servant stood frightened and yet happy, with the tears
running down his cheeks, for he loved his master dearly.
"We are going home, Walters," the Plunger whispered drowsily. "We are
going home; home to England and Harringford and the governor—and we
are going to be happy for all the rest of our lives." He paused a moment,
and Walters bent forward over the bed and held his breath to listen.
"For he came to me," murmured the boy, as though he was speaking in his
sleep, "when I was yet a great way off—while I was yet a great way
off, and ran to meet me—"
His voice sank until it died away into silence, and a few hours later,
when Walters came to wake him, he found his master sleeping like a child
and smiling in his sleep.