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- You Never Know Your Luck, Volume 2. - 2/11 -
old monarchy of ours. Look, here it is, my first bet with your grandfather--and I'm only sixty now!' He smoothed the page with his hand in a manner such as I have seen a dean do with his sermon-paper in a cathedral puplit. 'Here it is, thirty-six years ago.' He read the bet aloud. It was on the Derby, he himself having bet that the Prince of Wale's horse would win. 'Your grandfather, dear lad,' he repeated, 'but you'll find no bets of mine with your father. He didn't inherit that strain, but your grandfather and your great-grandfather had it--sportsmen both, afraid of nothing, with big minds, great eyes for seeing, and a sense for a winner almost uncanny. Have you got it by any chance? Yes, yes, by George and by John, I see you have; you are your grandfather to a hair! His portrait is here in the club--in the next room. Have a look at it. He was only forty when it was done, and you're very like him; the cut of the jib is there.' He took my hand. 'Good-bye, dear lad,' he said; 'we'll meet-yes, we'll meet often enough if you are like your grandfather. And I'll always like to see you,' he added generously.
"'I always wanted to meet you,' I answered. 'I've cut your pictures out of the papers to keep them--at Eton and Oxford.' He laughed in great good-humour and pride. 'So so, so so, and I am a hero then, with one follower! Well, well, dear lad, I don't often go wrong, or anyhow I'm oftener right than wrong, and you might do worse than follow me--but no, I don't want that responsibility. Go on your own--go on your own.'
"A minute more and he was gone with a wave of the hand, and in excitement I picked up the betting-book. It almost took my breath away. He had staked a thousand pounds that the favourite of the Derby would not win the race, and that one of three outsiders would. As I sat overpowered by the magnitude of the bet the door opened, and he appeared with another man, not one with whose face I was then familiar, though as a duke and owner of great possessions, he was familiar to society. 'I've put it down,' he said. 'Sign it, if it's all in order.' This the duke did, after apologizing for disturbing me. He looked at me keenly as he turned away. 'Not the most elevating literature in the library,' he said, smiling ironically. 'If you haven't got a taste for it beyond control, don't cultivate it.' He nodded kindly, and left; and again, till my father came and found me, I buried myself in that book of fate--to me. I found many entries in my grandfather's name, but not one in my father's name. I have an idea that when a vice or virtue skips one generation, it appears with increased violence or persistence in the next, for, passing over my father into my defenceless breast, the spirit of sport went mad in me--or almost so. No miser ever had a more cheerful and happy hour than I had as I read the betting-book at Thwaites'.
"I became a member of Thwaite's soon after I left Oxford. As some men go to the Temple, some to the Stock Exchange, some to Parliament, I went to Thwaite's. It was the centre of my interest, and I took chambers in Park Place, St. James's Street, a few steps away. Here I met again constantly the great sportsman who had noticed me so kindly, and I became his follower, his disciple. I had started with him on a wave of prejudice in his favour; because that day when I read in the betting-book what he had staked against the favourite, I laid all the cash and credit I could get with his outsiders and against the favourite, and I won five hundred pounds. What he won--to my youthful eyes-was fabulous. There's no use saying what you think--you kind friends, who've always done something in life--that I was a good-for-nothing creature to give myself up to the turf, to horses and jockeys, and the janissaries of sport. You must remember that for generations my family had run on a very narrow margin of succession, there seldom, if ever, being more than two born in any generation of the family, so that there was always enough for the younger son or daughter; and to take up a profession was not necessary for livelihood. If my mother, who was an intellectual and able woman, had lived, it's hard to tell what I should have become; for steered aright, given true ideas of what life should mean to a man, I might have become ambitious and forged ahead in one direction or another. But there it was, she died when I was ten, and there was no one to mould me. At Eton, at Oxford-well, they are not preparatory schools to the business of life. And when at twenty-four I inherited the fortune my mother left me, I had only one idea: to live the life of a sporting gentleman. I had a name as a cricketer--"
"Ah--I remember, Crozier of Lammis !" interjected the Young Doctor involuntarily. "I'm a north of Ireland man, but I remember--"
"Yes, Lammis," the sick man went on. "Castlegarry was my father's place, but my mother left me Lammis. When I got control of it, and of the securities she left, I felt my oats, as they say; and I wasn't long in making a show of courage, not to say rashness, in following my leader. He gave me luck for a time, indeed so great that I could even breed horses of my own. But the luck went against him at last, and then, of course, against me; and I began to feel that suction which, as it draws the cash out of your pocket, the credit out of your bank, seems to draw also the whole internal economy out of your body--a ghastly, empty, collapsing thing."
Mrs. Tynan gave a great sigh. She had once put two hundred dollars in a mine--on paper--and it ended in a lawsuit; and on the verdict in the lawsuit depended the two hundred dollars and more. When she read a fatal telegram to her saying that all was lost, she had had that empty, collapsing feeling.
Pausing for a moment, in which he sipped some milk, Crozier then continued: "At last my leader died, and the see-saw of fortune began for me; and a good deal of my sound timber was sawed into logs and made into lumber to build some one else's fortune. When things were balancing pretty easily, I married. It wasn't a sordid business to restore my fortunes--I'll say that for myself; but it wasn't the thing to do, for I wasn't secure in my position. I might go on the rocks; but was there ever a gambler who didn't believe that he'd pull it off in a big way next time, and that the turn of the wheel against him was only to tame his spirit? Was there ever a gambler or sportsman of my class who didn't talk about the 'law of chances,' on the basis that if red, as it were, came up three times, black stood a fair chance of coming up the fourth time? A silly enough conclusion; for on the law of chances there's no reason why red shouldn't come up three hundred times; and so I found that your run of bad luck may be so long that you cannot have a chance to recover, and are out of it before the wheel turns in your favour. I oughn't to have married."
His voice had changed in tone, his look become most grave, there was something very like reverence in his face, and deprecating submission in his eyes. His fingers fussed with the rug that covered his knees.
"God help the man that's afraid of his own wife!" remarked the Young Doctor to himself, not erroneously reading the expression of Crozier's face and the tone of his voice. "There's nothing so unnerving."
"No, I oughtn't to have done it," Crozier went on. "But I will say again it wasn't a sordid marriage, though she had great expectations, but not immediate; and she was a girl of great character. She was able and brilliant and splendid and far-seeing, and she knew her own mind, and was radiantly handsome."
Kitty Tynan almost sniffed. Through a whole fortnight she had, with a courage and a right-mindedness quite remarkable, fought her infatuation for this man, and as she fought she had imagined a hundred times what his wife was like. She had pictured to herself a gossamer kind of woman, delicate, and in contour like one of the fashion-plate figures she saw in the picture-papers. She had imagined her with a wide, drooping hat, with a soft, clinging gown, and a bodice like a great white handkerchief crossed on her breast, holding a basket of flowers, while a King Charles spaniel gambolled at her feet.
This was what she had imagined with a kind of awe; but the few words Crozier had said of her gave the impression of a Juno, commanding, exacting, bullying, sailing on with this man of men in her wake, who was afraid of stepping on her train. Was it strange she should think that? She was only a simple prairie girl who drew her own comparisons according to her kind and from what she knew of life. So she imagined Crozier's wife to have been a sort of Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, who swept up the dust of the universe with her skirts, and gave no chance at all to the children of nature like Kitty, who wore skirts scarcely lower than their ankles. She almost sniffed, and she became angry, too, that a man like Crozier, who had faced the offensive Augustus Burlingame in the witness- box as he did; who took the bullet of the assassin with such courage; who broke a horse like a Mexican; who could ride like a leech on a filly's flank, should crumple up at the thought of a woman who, anyhow, couldn't be taller than Crozier himself was, and hadn't a hand like a piece of steel and the skin of an antelope. It was enough to make a cat laugh, or a woman cry with rage.
"Able and brilliant and splendid and far-seeing, and radiantly handsome!" There the picture was of a high, haughty, and overbearing woman, in velvet, or brocade, or poplin-yes, something stiff and overbearing, like grey poplin. Kitty looked at herself suddenly in the mirror-the half- length mirror on the opposite wall--and she felt her hands clench and her bosom beat hard under her pretty and inexpensive calico frock, a thing for Chloe, not for Juno.
She was very angry with Crozier, for it was absurd, that look of deprecating homage, that "Hush-she-is-coming" in his eyes. What a fool a man was where a woman was concerned! Here she had been fighting herself for a fortnight to conquer a useless passion for her man of all the world, fit to command an array of giants; and she saw him now almost breathless as he spoke of a great wild-cat of a woman who ought to be by his side now. What sort of a woman was she anyhow, who could let him go into exile as he had done and live apart from her all these years, while he "slogged away"--that was the Western phrase which came to her mind--to pull himself level with things again? Her feet shuffled unevenly on the floor, and it would have been a joy to shake the in valid there with the rapt look in his face. Unable to bear the situation without some demonstration, she got to her feet and caught up the glass of brandy and milk with a little exclamation.
"Here," she said, holding the glass to his lips, "here, courage, soldier. You don't need to be afraid at a six-thousand-mile range."
The Young Doctor started, for she had said what was in his own mind, but what he would not have said for a thousand dollars. It was fortunate that Crozier was scarcely conscious of what she was saying. His mind was far away. Yet, when she took the glass from him again, he touched her arm.
"Nothing is good enough for your friends, is it?" he said gratefully.
"That wouldn't be an excuse for not getting them the best there was at hand," she answered with a little laugh, and at least the Young Doctor read the meaning of her words.
Presently Crozier, with a sigh, continued: "If I had done what my wife wanted from the start, I shouldn't have been here. I'd have saved what was left of a fortune, and I'd have had a home of my own."
"Is she earning her living too?" asked Kitty softly, and Crozier did not notice the irony under the question.
"She has a home of her own," answered Crozier almost sharply. "Just before the worst came to the worst she inherited her fortune--plenty of it, as I got near the end of mine. One thing after another had gone. I was mortgaged up to the eyes. I knew the money-lenders from Newry to
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