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Email or Customer ID. Forgot password? And then Lord Pauncefort turned from the window and the sight of his lordship's livid, distorted countenance drove all other considerations from his guest's mind, brought a sudden cry of concern from his lips. His lordship made a gesture of denial. He was a man of some thirty years of age, of a swarthy male beauty that was almost arresting.
His large eyes were dark and liquid, his mouth delicately limned, his nose intrepidly arched, with fine sensitive nostrils. But the brow was alarmingly shallow and there was a cleft in the square—the too square—chin. He stood now, dabbing his moist brow with a flimsy kerchief that was not whiter than the hand that held it. I have ruined myself this night.
There was scarce one of the departed guests, Captain Gaynor bethought him, who had not left that house a winner, and in all his lordship's losses must amount to almost twice the sum of the Captain's winnings. None the less, his lordship's outcry jarred upon the Captain's nice sensibilities. Such an admission made to one who was a heavy winner—and that one none so intimately admitted to his lordship's private confidences, when all was said—seemed to Captain Gaynor an outrage on decorum. He held that the man who cannot lose with calm and grace, no matter what the game or what the stakes—even though it should be life itself—has not the right to enter into play.
And this was no abstract creed. It was the one by which the Captain lived. Rather it inspired in him a contempt that amounted almost to physical ill being, to disgust.
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His immediate impulse was to take his leave. If, indeed, he had lingered at all after the departure of his fellow-guests, it had been in the hope that my Lord Pauncefort might yet have something for his private ear concerning the real business that had brought him to England and to that house. And perceiving now how idle had been this hope, observing his host's suddenly altered condition, Captain Gaynor's inclination was to depart. But he reflected that to depart abruptly after that confession might be to offend.
On his own account this would have troubled the Captain not at all. But for the Cause's sake, and for the sake of the service it might be Pauncefort's to render to that Cause, he did not wish to give offence to his host if it might be avoided. He was in a quandary, and vexed thereby; for quandaries were not usual in the life of this man who lived by swift decisions and swift action. He shifted uneasily where he stood, and his face assumed a mask of polite concern. His lordship had sunk into the nearest chair, like a man wearied to exhaustion. There was a wildness in his eyes, and he continued nervously to dab his brow—that brow whose shallowness belied the general nobility of his countenance.
I have lost four thousand guineas to Martindale, another two to Bagshot, and I have lost my honour too, for I have forfeited all chance of ever being able to pay those losses. You are a gamester, Captain Gaynor? Has your lordship ever played as deep as that? Do I not tell you, man, that I have staked my honour; and honour, surely, is more than life.
He had little comfort for his host, little encouragement for the confidences that Pauncefort insisted upon thrusting on him. Indeed, it was his deliberate aim to stifle them. He desired them not. Although his acquaintance with Lord Pauncefort was considerable, it was not an acquaintance that had ever ripened, or promised to ripen, into friendship.
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The link that bound them was their common devotion to the Stuart Cause, whose agent Captain Gaynor was. Beyond that they had no common interest, although, when all is said, that might be accounted interest enough to bind two men at such a time. But, despite the Captain's chill aloofness, his lordship was not to be repressed.
In the nature of this man of so strong and noble-seeming a countenance there was a strain of weakness almost feminine. He was of those who must forever be proclaiming griefs and grievances, finding it impossible to bear in silence and in dignity the burden of their woes.
True History Decrypted
He was of those who in their trouble must forever be confiding in the hope of lessening their oppression. Moreover he had at present another motive for his confidence: a faint hope that it might bear him fruit, as you shall see. I gambled heavily in the stock and, like many another, woke one morning to find that a fortune had melted in my hands. This rascally Whig Government—" He was beginning upon a side issue, when he broke off abruptly to return to his main theme. I raised still more to clear myself after that cataclysm, and I mortgaged what was left to recoup my losses.
Instead—But there! Tonight I played for my immediate needs. I played to twice the extent of the losses I could meet, and in that I played the knave. But my need was very urgent, Captain. Now—it is over. His voice grew calmer with the dead calm of despair. Captain Gaynor stood considering a moment, the expression—the mask—of studied concern upon his face, increasing contempt and disgust in his heart. Was it upon such men as this that his master counted?
And he recalled the eulogistic words in which his prince had spoken of this adherent. That was the dream of that august man of dreams. Here, confronting Captain Gaynor, was the reality—a broken gamester who whimpered over his losses. Pauncefort looked up quickly, his black brows contracting. The contraction of his lordship's brows grew heavier still, and the fine countenance assumed a something of haughtiness and of challenge. Undeterred Captain Gaynor proceeded to make plain his meaning.