HAVING re-lit his well-seasoned briar root, Jimmie Thrums threw his long legs across the library table, and with a sigh of content let his gaze stray down the long, closely written manuscript on his knees.
Having finished the reading, he stroked his thin cheek thoughtfully, and let his mild blue eyes wander to the window and out across the snow-cloaked lawn. Mechanically, he fished in his vest pocket for a match. His pipe had gone out again.
Jimmie at last awoke to the realization that he had not another match on his person. There were some just beyond his reach, on the mantel, but— well, it certainly is a bore, sometimes, to have things just beyond one’s reach, especially, when one has just settled down to enjoy a quiet, restful think, as Jimmie had.
So, beyond casting a longing glance toward the mantel, and packing the cut-plug home with a long, inky finger, he resigned himself to his fate.
Well, he had finished writing “The Romance of Miss Wayburn,” that was some consolation in his extremity, at least; still, he wished very much for just one match.
He looked across to the window again, and saw a little bow-legged man coming up the path with a shovel on his shoulder.
“Must be the new groom,” thought Jimmie. “Wonder if he will pass this way. He’s coming! He’s coming! If you’re waking, call me early, call me early, mother dear. He’s coming! He’s coming! If you’re waking call me early, call me early, mother dear; For to-morrow—Hello-”
For a narrow-chested man, Jimmie had a pretty strong voice, and having sent the hail through the window, the man approaching had no difficulty in hearing it.
He came to the window which Jimmie had opened with much difficulty, and, looking in on him, grinned and nodded in a friendly way.
“Come in!” said Jimmie cheerfully.
The man looked down at his snowy boots, and up at the window, and grinned again.
“Can’t you make it? Climb up the porch pole, hurry up, its cold.”
“I ain’t much of a climber,” said the man. “Besides, my boots be not any too clean.”
“Ah!” said Jimmie. “Is that so? Can’t climb, eh? Too bad! Everybody should learn climbing and swimming, and all that sort of thing you know. Try it, anyway. Never mind about your boots. Just get hold of that post, and think there’s a mad dog or something after you. You’ll make it, all right.”
The man gave a quick glance over his shoulder.
“I’m not doubtin’ I could make it all right if I had to,” he said, “but seein’ I don’t have to, what’s the use?”
Jimmie picked up his pipe and sucked away at it thoughtfully.
“Well, you have to in this case, you know,” he said at length.
A look of wonderment crossed the man’s face.
“Did I hear you say as I had to climb in, sir?” he asked respectfully.
“Yes, I said it. You see, it is quite necessary, compulsory, in fact, that you climb up the porch pole there and come into this room through the open window. It would be better for you to come quietly; for any resistance on your part would but tell against you," Jimmie added, by way of afterthought.
The man put down his shovel and proceeded to seek a toe hold in the brick wall.
“You see you don't know what you can do until you try,” said Jimmie, as the groom’s head and shoulders were thrust laboriously through the window. ‘If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.’ That’s from the old copy-book. Ever read the copy-book? Sit down.”
“No, sir, I never read nuthin’, sir, seein’ I can’t read nuthin’.”
“Would you mind—or, no, I think I understand you. You can’t read. That’s it, eh?”
The caller nodded.
“Might you be the son of my new master, sir?” he asked respectfully.
“No, I’m not,” answered Jimmie, pleasantly. “I’m only the son’s friend. See?”
“Relation sir, no doubt sir?”
“No. Hope to be though,” said Jimmie, closing his eyes resignedly.
“Well, sir, can’t stay long, seein’ as I have been here some time now, and there bein’ so much to be done, sir.”
“Oh! Just sit still and rest. It’s all right you know. By the way, will you kindly hand me that box of matches on the mantel? Thanks. Now light a cigar. You’ll find a box of ’em in that drawer on the right. Fill your pockets. Take the whole box with you. I see you enjoy good cigars.”
John Forbes, coming into the library, found his friend sleeping peacefully in his chair. Between his heels, on the table reposed the pipe, where Jimmie had tossed it. On the floor were scattered sundry pages of “The Romance of Miss Wayburn.”
He went to the door and whistled softly. A tall, dark-haired girl came forward gleefully and looked in the library.
“Well,” she said, and looked in the sleeper's face. As she did so a tender light crept into her eyes, which her brother, standing a little apart, did not see, and she herself was unaware of.
“John,” said the girl softly, “he’s tired out.”
John gave a little chuckle.
“Tired out! Him? Why, Chick, what does he ever do to tire himself out?”
“Writes, then. He writes and thinks and thinks and writes until his poor head must be nearly bursting.” “Yes, he writes, all right,” said John. “I'll admit he is—Lord’s sake, where did all the mud and snow come from, do you suppose?”
“And there is a broken flower-pot over by the window, and there’s mud on the window sill, too. Wake him, John. Someone has been in the room and maybe drugged him!”
“Why, Chick, I’m inclined to think you’re right, see, they’ve swiped all my imported cigars but one. I say, Jimmie! Wake up?”
He grabbed the sleeper by the shoulder, and shook him vigorously. “What’s the matter?”
Jimmie opened his eyes and glanced about the room.
“Why,” he said wonderingly, “he’s got away.”
“Why, him, of course. Say, folks, you should have seen him scaling the porch pole.”
“Jimmie,” said Miss Forbes, sternly, “you are just too awful for anything!”
“That’s where the snow came from,” said her brother laughing.
“Say, he just ate those cigars.” “Eh?” said John. “Ate my cigars, did he? Hang me, if I don’t have a mind to eat you for letting him at ’em.”
Jimmie looked at his friend reproachfully.
“He did me a favor, John,” he said gently.
“Oh, did he, now ? In what way did he favor you, pray?”
“Matches,” said Jimmie, reaching for his pipe.
The girl leaned across the table and laughed happily.
“Poor old lazy-bones,” she said.
“You mean that you called him in so that he might hand you down the matches?” asked Forbes, who had been examining his bookshelves, to see if any of his pets were missing.
“Well, you see, John, I couldn't reach ’em from-ah-this position; so it was either he had to come in, or I had to get up.”
“Who was he?” asked the girl.
“Well, that reminds me that I neglected to ask him his name. Very careless of me. He didn’t leave a card on the table there, I suppose, eh?”
“Oh, he might have been a thief or a murderer, or-" Miss Forbes fixed her big brown eyes on the author’s face in horror.
“I don't know,” said Jimmie, returning the gaze innocently. “He might have been all of these things and a lot more. One thing I am certain of he was not very polite.”
“Why didn’t you throw him out?” said Forbes warmly.
“I couldn’t very well, having invited him in, you know. Besides I would have had to get up, you see, John.”
“Oh, lordy, but you’re the limit,” sighed John.
“So I put up with him,” explained Jimmie.
“In what way was he impolite?” asked Miss Forbes.
“Well, I’ll tell you. After he had smoked a few cigars, and told me all about his family—seems there's some trouble in his family—and found out how much I was and wasn’t worth—if I was a Torontonian, and a few other unimportant things, it occurred to me that he would make a good subject for my specialty.”
“Your specialty?” asked his hearers together.
“Yes, my specialty is inflicting my stories on unsuspecting individuals.”
"Well, go on.”
"So I proceeded to read him ‘The Romance of Miss Wayburn.’ ”
“And he wasn’t a good subject after all?” laughed Forbes.
“I don’t know. I really can't say. Fact is, I went to sleep shortly after Miss Wayburn lost her heart to the school teacher.”
“Well, everything considered, I can’t say that I think him very much in, even if he did steal my cigars, Jimmie. I recognize the man, though. It was Wemp, the new groom.”
“Ah, is that so? But say, he didn’t steal the cigars, you know. I gave him the cigars, John. I’m sure he is welcome to the cigars, but it wasn’t just the most polite thing in the world, his taking advantage of me in that way while I was asleep, was it now?”
“Nor was it very polite in you to go to sleep when you had company,” said Miss Forbes.
“He didn’t happen to forget his snow shovel, did he? Neither of you discern a shovel anywhere in the room, I suppose?”
“A shovel! Good gracious alive, what are you talking about?” cried the girl. “John, dear, ring for ice. I believe the poor fellow is suffering from brain-storm.”
“I guess, maybe, he left it outside,” said Jimmie reflectively.
Forbes came over and stood beside his friend.
“Say, you’re the thinnest, homeliest, laxiest beggar I know, Jimmie,” he said.
He ran his fingers through Jimmie’s light, thin hair until it stood in little bunches.
“I couldn’t coax, hire or threaten you to go to the bowling alley this afternoon, I suppose?”
“Too cold,” said Jimmie, feeling in his vest pocket.
“All right,” laughed John. “So long, old sleepy-head.”
“Has he gone,” asked Jimmie after a time.
“Yes, he has gone,” replied Miss Forbes.
“Would you mind calling him back just for a minute? I won’t detain him.”
“John! Oh, John. Jimmie wants to see you a moment before you go,” cried the girl, running to the hall.
“Well, old bean-pod, hurry up! What is it? I’m late,” cried John, striding in.
“I wanted to ask you, John—by the way, would you mind handing me my tobacco pouch off the window, over there? Thanks awfully. That’s all this time, only be a good boy, John, and don’t stay out too late and-”
But John, with a muttered something, and another jab in his friend's hair, was already away.
“I’m concerned about John,” said Jimmie, withdrawing his feet carefully from the table, and looking gravely at Miss Forbes. “The fact is, I am beginning to worry about John.”
“Let me fix your hair,” said the girl.
She came over, and smoothed it down with her little fingers. It took quite a time, as John had mussed it unmercifully, she said.
Even after she had put it in much better order than it had known for some time, Jimmie protested that he knew it wasn’t any more than halfsmoothed yet, and wanted to know if, as John’s sister, she didn’t feel in duty bound to make as good a job of it as she possibly could.
“You’ve got lovely hair,” said the girl, mischeviously.
“Too thick and curly almost,” sighed Jimmie.
“And so black and glossy!”
“Yes, I know, but I’m not the least bit proud of it. I could not be less proud if I had no hair at all.”
They both laughed.
“You’ll be in a position to understand what it means to have no hair at all one of these days, if you persist in writing all night, the way you have been doing. See if you don’t,” said the girl.
“Then I’ll get married, and give my wife something to regret.”
“Oh, a woman doesn’t care what kind of hair the man she marries has, so long as she loves him, you know,” laughed the girl.
“But when it comes to a hair-pulling match how will she stand the handicap, Chick?”
“What are you worring about John for?” asked the girl, ignoring the question with feminine tactfulness.
“I’m afraid he’s lost it,” answered Jimmie promptly.
“Lost what, pray?”
Jimmie turned his mild blue eyes upon the girl’s face.
“What does a fellow usually lose when he plays a game of chance with a—say, Chick, you know Jack’s girl don't you?”
“If you mean Flo, why, of course, I know her.”
“Well, you see, I think she has captured so much of your big brother that if she were to keep what she has of John, and John has to retain what he has left of himself, there wouldn’t be much left for us. See?”
“Why can’t you be sensible?”
“All right, I’ll try to be. The fact is, we’re going to lose John, you and I. That seems to me an assurance. What we have to do now is to harden our hearts to the inevitable. Flo Graylow is a sweet and beautiful girl. She has won our John. Lots of girls do win Johns by the way. It’s the way of the world that Johns should and must be won by some beautiful girl or other. Do you follow me?”
“As nearly as is possible for anybody to follow you, I do.”
“Good. Then what I was going to propose-”
“But I don’t want you to propose.”
Jimmie crammed his hands into his pockets, and took a turn around the room.
“Gad, Chick. I don’t know but what I shall propose, then, seeing you don’t want me to,” he said at length.
“If you won’t be sensible I’ll leave you.”
There was a beautiful rose color on Miss Forbes’ cheeks as she spoke.
Jimmie seated himself on the corner of the table.
“Chicken,” he said softly. “Come here, Chicken.”
“I won’t, so there!
“Of course you know that I was only fooling. I really don’t want you to come.”
“I know you didn’t,” and the dark head went down until the face he watched was hidden.
“Then, knowing I didn’t mean it, be true to your sex and come, anyway.”
“I’m going to leave you. I just hate you, Jimmie, I just h-hate you, so there!”
There was a simultaneous rush for the door, and Jimmie's long legs won him the day. He got there first.
“You see, Chick,” he said, as he held her close to him, “it’s no use. You’ve got to have me. That’s all there is to it.”
“There’s nothing about you worth having, so now!” came in a muffled voice from the region of Jimmie’s coat lapel.
“Gad, but there is, you know !” cried Jimmie, straightening up.
“I really think that I might marry you—if you would show me,” she whispered, her face still bent.
“Done! Here’s where the other self of Jimmie Thrums comes in. Good-bye. I’m going out to do something startling.”
Jimmie picked up his hat.
“And worthy, Jimmie.”
“Yes, Chick, and worthy. Goodbye.”
“I tell you, the referee did not give a fair decision.”
“And I tell you that I don’t consider that you know a fair decision from any other decision. What do you know about the game, anyway?”
John Forbes wheeled upon the speaker, his mouth drawn down to a thin line and his eyes gleaming dangerously. A companion laid a hand on his arm and whispered in his ear.
John looked irresolute for a moment; then he smiled. When he spoke again all trace of anger was gone from his voice.
“I learned and played the game in England,” he said.
“Well, you're not in England now, you know, this is Toronto, and we don’t want outsiders putting in their oar here, you understand?”
“Any man has a right to demand fair play I believe.”
“A man wants to know what he is about though, before he exercises the privilege.”
John bit his lip. The insult sank in. “Perhaps I know the game better than you think I do,” he said. “Besides, I am not exactly an outsider. I am a member of this club.”
“Well, who cares if you are?” said the other with a sneer, as he reached for his coat. “Your being a member gives you a right to the tables, but hardly that of interfering between gentlemen when playing. If you know how to play billiards, show somebody; don’t make the referee out a liar, as you are trying to do.”
“I maintain that the referee did not give a fair decision,” said John firmly.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” remonstrated the manager of the club, coming up. “We can’t have this discussion prolonged here, you know.”
Jimmie Thrums got up from his seat and strolled over to where the men stood.
“Might I beg a match of you?” he asked of the man who was putting on his coat.
“The porter will no doubt accommodate you,” said the man, shortly.
“Well,” said Jimmie, “that’s funny. Do you know, I took you for the porter. You look like one.”
He turned his blue eyes on the one addressed and smiled innocently..
The laugh that met his remark was instantly suppressed as the man wheeled quickly and struck at Jimmie. It was a straight arm punch, and one under which it looked as if Jimmie must go down.
But Thrums was calmly helping himself to some matches from the box above the fireplace when his would-be assaulter recovered his equilibrium.
“Say,” he said cheerfully, “you shouldn’t lunge that way, you know. Those punches are all right, if you know how to give them, but I see that you don’t.”
He had lit his pipe, and now puffed away contentedly.
Before Jimmie knew it, John Forbes had linked arms with him and had pulled him into the lobby.
“In Heaven’s name, are you crazy?” he asked, as he bundled Jimmie into his overcoat. “Now the best thing you can do is to clear out.”
“Clear out?” asked Jimmie blankly. “What for?”
“Because this man Stark will break your long person into small pieces if you don’t. You’ve insulted him.”
“Did you say his name was Stark?” asked the other.
“Yes, his name is Stark. He’s manager of the Wilson Mills, and a rough one. He is to be expelled from the club.”
“Is he?” said Jimmie thoughtfully, pulling on his gloves. “On account of that affair with-?” Jimmie lifted his eyebrows inquiringly.
“No, not that, although he did act the part of a cad, towards his superintendent’s daughter. You see it’s because he has been proven a cheat.”
“So, that’s why, eh? I suppose that little girl was as much to her father and mother as though she had been a society belle. It would have hurt just as much, eh, John?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” answered Forbes, impatiently. “Hurry up, Jimmie, and clear out.”
“I don’t really think I want to go, old man,” said Jimmie, pulling off his gloves. “I like this place first rate.”
Just here Stark and two companions came into the lobby, their overcoats on their arms.
They were speaking in undertones, and laughed as though they were pleased at something.
"I say, Forbes,” cried Stark, catching sight of the friends, “any time you want to lose another fifty, let me know, will you?”
A deep flush overspread Forbes’ face, but before he could frame a reply to the other’s jibe, Jimmie spoke:
“If you would allow me,” he said, bowing gravely, “I would like to say that I have a new fifty-dollar note in my pocket that I would like to wager.”
“Have you really, now?” asked Stark, with a wicked sneer.
“Yes, sir,” answered Jimmie modestly. “I’d just love to bet it, no matter if I did lose.”
Stark’s companions laughed.
“He’s game, anyway,” said one.
“Innocence abroad,” answered another.
“Well, I’ll bet you I can beat you one game of English billiards, for say one hundred a side.”
“Gentlemen, I protest!” cried Forbes.
“Very well,” said Stark. “It was your verdant friend who suggested it, I am privileged to call all such bluffs, I hope.”
“Oh, I am not bluffing,” said Jimmie, removing his coat. “We used to play a little billiards in the Y.M.C.A. rooms in Montreal. I got so at last I could beat Jake Jones. Take was a street car conductor, and I’ve seen him make as high as ten billiards without a miss.”
“Really, now, that was certainly exceptional,” laughed Stark.
“Well, if you’re not bluffing, suppose we get started.”
The four men passed back into the billiard room, and it was not long before a goodly number were gathered about the table to witness Stark trim a new one.
“What in thunder has got into you?” said John, drawing Jimmie to one side. “The shark has your money already.”
Jimmie looked thoughtful.
“If I thought that, I’d withdraw,” he said hesitatingly.
“But you can’t withdraw. It would be a disgrace. It’s got to be good-bye one hundred. Oh, Lord!”
“Gad, you’re enough to make a man nervous, John. You haven’t got a match, I suppose?”
“Heavens! You're not going to smoke now, are you?” cried Forbes.
“Just a puff or two, just a puff or two. I might as well enjoy my pipe while our friend is enjoying the pulling of my leg for a clear one hundred. By the way, John, you're not betting on the game, I suppose?”
John looked at his friend blankly.
“I see you’re not,” said Jimmie, producing from an inner pocket a snug roll of bills, and pressing it into Forbes unwilling hand, “Now, John dear, noble, unselfish friend, I want you to bet every cent of this money on him.” Jimmie nodded towards Stark, who, coat and vest off, stood talking lightly to some old cronies and chalking his cue. “There’s five hundred in that bunch, old man,” he said gently.
Forbes laughed in spite of himself.
“It's no use, Jimmie. I couldn’t get a taker if I was to offer ten to one. Everybody knows Stark will win.”
“Hang it all!” Jimmie stroked his chin in vexation. “I never thought of that. I suppose they do.”
“Yes, they know he will win.”
“Well, there’s only one thing you can do, then, Johnnie. You must bet on me.”
“Oh, Lord !” said Forbes, weakly. “What a fool you are! Do you think I’d do it?”
“You’ve got to do it, it’s my money.”
“But you’ll lose it all, Jimmie, lose every cent of it.”
“I’ll take a chance.”
“But I tell you, I won’t be a party to this robbery.”
“Very well then, I’ll bet it myself,” said Jimmie reproachfully.
“Well of all - See here, Jimmie, if you must be a fool, I’ll be your bookie. I can get better odds than you can.”
“All right, bet it all, John. Or, no. Perhaps you’d better keep back a dollar or two. I’ve just remembered that I have some letters to post.”
“I said that I would play for ten thousand dollars,” said Stark hoarsely.
The billiard room was now packed to the doors, members of the club having been attracted to the place through having received the tip that Stark had at last met his Waterloo. About the table was a clear space of four feet. Tobacco smoke hung heavy in the room. The chandelier lights gleamed dimly through it.
Jimmie smoothed down his thin hair thoughtfully, and felt in his vest pocket.
“Will you play me one more game for ten thousand?” Stark’s face was haggard and drawn. His black hair hung across his eyes, and when he brushed it impatiently away one could note the tremor of his hand.
“Really, do you know I don’t want to win any more of your money,” answered Jimmie, as he knocked the ashes from his pipe. “You have lost heavily you see, and I will say that you have been a game loser at that. No, I don’t think that I want to play you for that amount.”
He looked Stark straight in the eyes as he spoke.
“You have won more than that amount from me,” said the other, coming close to Jimmie, so that his words might not be heard by other ears. “I have only about ten thousand left in the world. Give me the satisfaction of either retrieving or of losing.”
There was almost an appeal in his tones.
“Gad, old man, I will!” cried Jimmie, after some thought.
Everybody crowded as close to the table as they were allowed, when it became known that the final game for such glorious stakes was on.
It could be seen that Stark was playing his best. Jimmie, on the other hand, seemed to have lost interest. When half-time was called, and his marker came and whispered in his ear, Jimmie glanced at his string and smiled as he noted, seemingly for the first time, that his opponent was far in the lead.
All his old confidence and swagger had returned to Stark. He looked over at Jimmie with a sneer on his dark face.
“Your streak of good luck seems to have deserted you, my friend,” he said, with a sinister smile.
“Well, I must try to lure her back,” answered Jimmie pleasantly.
The game was now on again; the crowded room was silent, save for the sound of the balls striking together.
Jimmie was playing now, and playing his very best. Gradually he gained in points, until he was again even. Now he was ahead, and gaining steadily.
Eight points from the end, the two men looked into each other's eyes. On the one’s face was depicted baffled rage and utter hopelessness. On the other’s face was pictured a child-like pleasure, such as a boy might wear after winning a game of marbles.
Stark turned and attempted a difficult shot, only to make a fluke that told its own story to those who played and understood the game.
He was beaten.
He turned slowly and handed his cue to the referee. The referee nodded to the stakeholder.
Stark had lost all he owned to Jimmie Thrums.
Jimmie walked away from the table, good-naturedly acknowledging the congratulations of many of the by-standers. John Forbes found him standing on the sidewalk, just outside the door.
“By the powers, but you’re a wonder, Jimmie, and no mistake,” he cried, seizing his friend’s hand. “Come along, now, and we’ll get away before we get into trouble.”
“I want to see Stark for a moment,” said Jimmie. “Here he comes now.”
“I trust that you are satisfied that it was a fair game,” he said, advancing and holding out his hand.
Stark was alone. He looked dazedly at Jimmie, then, seeming to understand, he took the hand extended to him in his own. “I’m satisfied,” he said shortly, and turned away.
“Poor devil!” said Forbes, as he watched them. “He has lost everything.”
Jimmie laid his hand on Stark’s arm.
“Let me come with you,” he said gently.
“No, I don’t want anybody with me, you least of all,” replied the other, shaking off the hand.
“Well, I’ll come anyway, so lead on.”
“See here,” said Stark, as they walked slowly away side by side, “don't you think you’ve done enough? Why don’t you go away and leave me alone?”
“I’ll tell you why as soon as we get to your rooms. I think your rooms are somewhere hereabouts, eh?”
“You seem to be pretty well posted,” said the other with a hard laugh. “Yes, here they are.”
He produced a latch key and opened a door off the street as he spoke.
The lights turned on, Jimmie cast a critical eye around the room. It was beautifully and artistically furnished.
“Nice rooms, you have here, Mr. Stark,” he said. “Don’t suppose you’d mind my smoking up a bit. I see you have a cigar.”
“Smoke or do anything you please. These rooms and furniture don’t belong to me, so I don’t care.
Jimmie lifted his eyebrows. “Oh!” he said.
“They are yours now,” said Stark.
“Gad, I guess you're right,” said Jimmie with a laugh. “Funny, isn’t it, my asking if I might smoke in my own rooms? Say, have a fresh cigar?”
He handed a couple of cigars to the other man, and lit his pipe.
“What are you going to do now?” asked Jimmie, after the two men had smoked in silence for a time.
“Eh?” cried the other, rousing himself. “Do? Oh, I don’t know. That is, I don’t choose to tell.”
“No? Well, I wish you’d let me know.”
“Well, I will tell you, then. I purpose taking the quickest route I can get out of it all. Now, you’ve got it.”
“Ump!” said Jimmie slowly. “Now, you wouldn’t mind doing the little job somewhere else, I suppose, as these rooms are mine, now, I just wouldn't like the idea of occupying them after a chap committing suicide in them. See?”
“Say, you are certainly a coldblooded devil,” said Stark, almost a look of admiration in his eyes.
“No, simply practical,” said Jimmie. “But why polish yourself off in that manner? It’s very old-fashioned, you know.”
“Well, what would you suggest?” asked the other, looking away.
“Why, I should say, get married,” said Jimmie. “I see you have some sweet faces on your mantel—pardon me, on my mantel—there, and it should be easy. Just as good as suicide, anyway. Better, I would imagine—in some respects.”
“See here, say what you have to say, and don't jest with me!” cried Stark, springing up and walking up and down the room.
“Well, I will. I think you should marry, and I think you will marry. I think it's the very best thing you can do, and when you’ve taken ten minutes to reflect on it, you’ll be of my opinion. Now, I have a proposition to make to you. I want you to marry, and if you will agree to marry the girl I select, I am willing on my part to give you back the little fortune I won from you to-night. Now, keep quiet and listen, and don’t say a word until I am through. On my part, I promise to select for you only such a young lady as you have met. She won’t be old or homely, or anything of that sort. She will be something quite the reverse, and you can bet all the money you don’t happen to possess that she will be a great deal too good for you.”
Jimmie stopped to light his pipe, and waved the other a protest when he attempted to speak.
“On after thought, I will make a part of the little fortune over to your wife—or, no, I’m hanged if I do. I really think you would use the woman bearing your name square. Now, get your thinking cap on for ten minutes. I must go at the end of that time. I’ve got some things to do. Fact is, I’m going to get married myself.”
Jimmie put his long legs on the table, and smoked contentedly. At last he came to himself with a start.
“All right,” he said. “You’ve had fifteen minutes—five more than you needed.”
The other man came over slowly, and held out his hand.
“Will you take it?” he asked huskily. “Do you know, I could have killed most any other man who talked to me as you have, especially to-night. I’ll be frank with you. I had intended doing away with myself, and—well, you are right. There is a little girl whom I have treated shamefully, and her face has been before mine for the past two hours. She is, as you say, far too good for me, but, perhaps, I could learn to do better. I see you have learned who she is and I understand what your object is. Do you know, there are two of you. The one man I played with and lost. Your other self I play with again now, and win. For, as God is above me, it is a win to have my eyes opened as you have opened them.”
Jimmie took the other’s hand.
“That is all right,” he said cheerfully. “You really think, then, I have accomplished something extraordinary? Good-bye. That’s what I set out to do. It had to be done!”