I. “The Case of Lady Kingslade"
HORACE ANNESLEY VACHELL
The First of a Series of Five Stories
COMPLETE IN THIS ISSUE
BABBINGTON-RAIKES glanced at the card which a discreet servant had just handed to him. It belonged apparently to a gentleman who styled himself “Mr. Wendover,” a member of a well-known club. No Christian name was attached to the patronymic. It might be inferred, therefore, that Mr .Wendover was—or regarded himself to be—the head of his family. The name was known to the famous neurologist, but his brains were slightly jaded after an unusually busy afternoon.
“I made no appointment with him.” “So the gentleman said, Sir Arthur.” “He is the last?”
“He has waited for an hour, sir.” Babbington-Raikes frowned slightly; the importunity of new patients was beginning to exasperate him. As his servant left the consulting room he thought: “I must make some of my fees prohibitive. Damn it! How confoundedly tired I am!”
Nevertheless a frown vanished as Mr. Wendover entered the room. He carried himself well; his skin was clear; his eyes sparkled with intelligence. And his features generally were familiar, although oddly enough, Babbington-Raikes felt quite sure that he had never met the man. After a formal greeting, he said pleasantly:
“What can I do for you, Mr. Wendover?”
The young man—he might be about thirty—laughed derisively. N
“I am wondering whether you will do for me.”
“We make mistakes sometimes,” admitted the great man.
“Oh, I wasn’t thinking of that, Sir Arthur. You may refuse to treat me.” Babbington-Raikes hesitated.
“I seem to recall your name—and your face?” he said interrogatively.
“I daresay. I’m the Wendover.” “Frankly, I remain in the dark.”
“I’ll light a match. I’m ‘lucky’ Wendover.”
“Of course. Pray accept my apologies.” He remembered that he had seen portraits of “lucky” Wendover in the illustrated papers. The young man had inherited unexpectedly an immense fortune left to him by a cotton-spinning cousin. And within the past few months the fortunate legatee had sold his Lancashire cotton mills at an enormous profit.
VI 7-ENDOVER sat down in an arm’ * chair. Babbington-Raikes remained standing as he put the first important question.
"Did your doctor send you to me, Mr.
“I am sorry to say I have no doctor,” sa:d Wendcver. “Really! You don’t look as if you needed one.”
“But I do.” His voice deepened in tone; anxiety informed it. “I am a very sick man.”
“You astonish me, and I am not easily astonished.” Wendover continued in the same harassed tones:
“I have no regular medical attendant, Sir Arthur, but yesterday I was vetted by a pal of mine, an Army doctor, who laughed at me. He said that I was as sound as a bell,
physically, and I am. My trouble is mental. That’s why I’ve come to you. Lady Di Travers, whom I took in to dinner last night, tells me you’re a miracle-worker.” “Have a cigarette, Mr. Wendover?”
“Here? In the holy of holies, where I smell scent!” Babbington-Raikes laughed.
“Perhaps I want to get rid of that smell of scent. Perhaps I want to smoke myself. Y'ou are my last patient to-day, thank the Lord!”
He held out his case. They lighted cigarettes.
“Now—go ahead! I promise you that I shall not laugh at you. Speak with entire frankness.”
“I’m fed up. That’s my case in tabloid form.”
“Fed up with—with everything and everybody. Bored to tears with myself, so bored, so mentally weary, that I swear to you by all that I hold sacred if you could prescribe for me some tincture of poppy and mandragora which would send me to sleep for ever I w'ould take it here and now.” “I am sure you mean it.”
He stared keenly at the young, troubled face, now twitching with excitement. Then he said tentatively:
“Is there a woman in this case?”
“W'hen did this trouble begin?”
“Do you know why I am called Lucky Wendover?”
“I remember something about an unexpected inheritance.”
“Exactly. I hardly knew my cousin. He had nephews and nieces, and I supposed that his pile would be divided amongst ’em. They—well, they paid much court to the old man. I kept away from him. But I weighed in for his funeral, and at the funeral some chap asked me what I’d take spot cash for my chance. I said for a joke, not expecting a bob, five thousand pounds. He laughed at me. Before the day was out I heard the will that left me—everything.” “Y'es, I remember. The papers were full of it just before the war.”
“I did my bit in the war, and the men in charge of my mills just about doubled my pile. When I was demobbed I thought I would try to run the business.
I soon discovered that it ran me. To cut the cackle, I sold out, and found myself richer than ever, and at a loose end.”
“As a comparatively poor man, I was as jolly as a sandboy, whatever that is; as a millionaire I am abjectly miserable.” “But why?”
“The taste for life has gone out of my mouth. I’ve tried a lot of things—hunting, shooting, the regular merry-goround, but I’m not a horseman, began a bit too late, and shooting things doesn’t amuse me. Y'ou asked if there is a woman in the case; there isn’t, but there was. A girl let me down pretty hard w'hen I was poor. I’m not going to be married for my money. I tried speculation, but my brokers are honest and clever. I have made more money. If you have a pile like mine, adding to it isn’t much fun.”
“I loathe politicians. No House of Aw'fully Commons for me.”
“My pals tell me I’m unreasonably so.”
“I notice that you are not inhaling that cigarette.”
As he spoke there was a scratching at the door and a low . whine. Babbington-Raikes explained:
‘‘My terrier. He knows that I’m working after hours.
May I let him in?”
The terrier rushed in, fawned upon his master, smelt Wendover’s trousers, and wagged his tail. Wendover patted his head; the dog leapt into his lap.
“You have a dog of your own, Mr. Wendover?”
"No, it died. Now—can you help me? There’s some kink in my brain. Can you straighten it out?”
"Are you disengaged this evening?”
“I can disengage myself easily. Why?”
“I want you to dine with me here. After dinner I may have something to say. My own brain is none too clear.” Wendover accepted the invitation, and promised to return at eight. As soon as his patient had 'eft the room Babbington-Raikes sat down and stared into his fire. He admitted to himself that he was interested in this new case. But how to treat it perplexed him.
Dl'RING the admirably served little dinner that followed, Babbington-Raikes was astonished at the alert intelligence of his guest. They talked of many things, although pathology was not mentioned, and the host noticed that his guest was indeed—as he had affirmed —“unreasonably” temperate. Before coffee came in he had decided that his new patient was suffering from an excess of cerebral activity. Obviously he possessed abnormal imagination. As obviously, projecting himself into the idealities of life, he had grown disgusted with the realities. Because he anticipated joy, joy eluded him. It became evident, moreover, that great wealth had imposed intolerable burdens.
“They all get at me.” said Wendover. "My letters would make you sick.”
“Doesn’t that stimulate your sense of humour?”
“Humbug and hypocrisy do not amuse me much.”
Two big cigars were drawing well before the great man spoke professionally. At once his tone became incisive:
“I am prepared to prescribe for you. Mr. Wendover. Let me ask a question or two first. Have you tampered with drugs?”
“Good. Do you sleep well!"’
“Not too well.”
“Just so. Do you play games—golf, for instance?”
“My appetite for game’ has failed. Perhaps the excitements in France—
I was in the Flying Corps —account for that. Anyway, I seem to have acquired a devilish critical sense. I weigh life and find it wanting in interest. The test ‘Is it good enough0’ was never applied when I had five hundred a year.”
“Ah! Have you thought of going back to five hundred a year?”
"Scores of times. But isn't that moral coxvardice? Ought I to chuck my responsibilities? I want to win through with them, not without them. But energy is oozing out of me.
I positively dread getting up in the morning. Wherever I am I wish that I were somewhere else ; whatever I do, I wish that I was doing something else. It’s a maddening state of mind, isn’t it?”
“I have come across it before.”
“Have you treated it successfully?”
“Then for God’s sake treat me. I put myself unreservedly in your hands.”
"Thanks. I asked you to dine with me to-night because I wanted, like everybody else, to get at you. You are full of energy, although some of it may be oozing from you. But your energy has been misdirected. Result—failure. We all hanker after success.”
“How do you define success, Sir Arthur?”
“Ah! Well, I define it as a sense of having done something. no matter what, to my own satisfaction, regardless of outside comment and criticism. A boot-black experiences that happy feeling when he puts a first-class shine on to a pair of recalcitrant boots. I feel the same when I restore tone to nerves that are also recalcitrant. As a mining engineer, I dare say you did your job well.”
“I hope so.”
“But as a multi-millionaire you feel that others are doing your job for you. Your success,' as the world regards it, comes from and through others.”
“In fine, your energy has been expended to no practical purpose. An inevitable reaction has taken place, because your intelligence has defeated its own ends. Seeking merely to please yourselî with quite remarkable intensity of purpose, you have failed disastrously.”
WENDOVER considered this, too honest to deny the indictment. His laugh held no derision as he replied after a pause:
“I see and feel your point. You suggest that I should try to please others?”
“I suggest, rather, that you should try to help others.” “Philanthropy?”
“Not what you mean by that word. Let me speak of myself for a moment. I subscribe to many charities. What does that mean? A scratch of the pen. If I gave away half my income I should still be comfortably off. I am not a sportsman; I’m a duffer at games; but I get joy out of life because in the practice of my profession I restore joy to some of my patients. I shall be more than happy if I restore joy to you.”
His sincerity of tone impressed Wendover, but he shrugged his shoulders, saying irritably:
“You have your profession.”
“And you have yours. If we admit design—and I do— to be the governing factor of life, you are right to shoulder your responsibilities, and to use them to further that design.
“Please go on!”
“You envy me my profession?”
“Would you like to work with me for a little while?” Wendover opened his eyes, hardly believing his ears. “Work with you!” he repeated. “You ask a man without experience to work with you. Are you joking?”
“I am serious; you can help me enormously.”
“But, man alive, how—how?”
“Wait! Have you never paused to consider how cruelly handicapped we doctors are? You haven’t. Take my case. I’m a .fashionable consultant. As a rule my patients are women. They come here, most of them, suffering from nervous disorders. Many are quite sound organically. I mean, there is no physical lesion. That often follows. But I confine myself now to cases not very dissimilar to yours. A layman might call it mental anaemia. Most of them are pleasure-seekers. The phrase perpetually on their lips is this: ‘Things have gone wrong with me.’ Naturally, they hope that I can put those things right. I do my best. I offer advice. But how do I know that they take it? If I could follow up some of my cases—if, unknown to them, unseen by them, I could watch them, pull strings, steer them away from the rocks, what triumphs would be mine!” Enthusiasm was resonant in his voice, and enthusiasm is as contagious as chicken-pox. Wendover experienced an amazing quickening of his sensibilities.
“I understand!” he exclaimed. “You are cruelly handicapped.”
“Please stand up, Mr. Wendover.”
The young man did so. Babbington-Raikes faced him, placed both his hands on Wendover’s shoulders, and gazed intently into Wendover’s eyes.
“You have good eyes and an alert brain. Now I’ll tell you how you can help me. What passes between us is confidential. I am about to break the inviolate rule of my profession. I do so because I be’ieve I can trust you and because I see my way, not too clearly, to help you and another patient of mine. I must speak of that patient. I do so provided you pledge yourself solemnly to become pro tem. my partner in my treatment of her. Take your time. I am about to ask no small thing of you. As my partner you will have to expend time, money and energy, not to mention intelligence. I can only say this: my judgment of you as a fel-
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low man is absurdly at fault if you are bored.”
“Go ahead,” said Wendover. “You bave interested me. Whatever you ask I’ll attempt to do, whether I’m bored or not.”
“Done! Sit down again.” He laughed, adding slily: “Our cigars have gone out. Throw yours away and take another.”
BY THIS time Wendover’s imagination was at work Babbington-Raikes, a good fellow, meant to set a thief to catch a thief. Two of his patients were to treat each other—under his direction. Accordingly the young man, resentful at being “got at,” said quietly:
“Your patient, of course, is a woman.” “She is. I am hoping that you know her.”
“A young woman?”
Wendover felt rather cheap. Already he had definitely decided that no doctor should pitchfork him into matrimony. Babbington-Raikes continued:
“My patient is Lady Kingslade.”
“I do know Lady Kingslade slightly— a charming woman.”
“And miserably unhappy.”
“I am astonished.”
“Possibly she would be just as astonished if I told her that you hankered after perpetual sleep. Lady Kingslade came to me first some weeks ago, complaining of insomnia and general malaise. It took me a fortnight to worm out of her the cause. Her son is making her wretched.”
Babbington-Raikes took from his waistcoat pocket Wendover’s card and looked at it pensively.
“This,” he said, “illuminates the situation.”
“A visiting card?”
“Yes, yours. You don’t put your private address on it I see.”
“Not much. The hall porter at my club sees to it that I am not pestered by outsiders.”
“Just so. I remembered that Lord Kingslade belongs to your club. Do you know him?”
“A nodding acquaintance.”
“Are you pestered by any of the members inside your club?”
“There are a few wrong ’uns, and, by Jove, they are young Kingslade’s particular pals.”
“Who are systematically rooking him. In time, no doubt, they will bleed him white. Play is high at your club, Mr. Wendover.”
“Is it? Gambling doesn’t allure me.” “Young Kingslade is a nice boy, but lamentably weak. The wrong ’uns, as you put it, have got hold of him. Now—I call upon you to rescue him. It will be worth while, I promise you.”
“Ah! You back out?”
The challenge was unmistakable. Wendover winced under an ironical smile, under eyes suddenly grown cynical.
“No,” he exploded. “I’m damned if I will. This is a job that will bore me stiff, but I’ll tackle it. I, of all people, am selected by you to rescue a silly youth. Right! But how the devil am I to set about it?”
“I leave that, Mr. Wendover, to your imagination, which is brighter than you think. You will find a way. Let us talk of something else. Are you interested in the non-ferrous stars?”
“Not at all, Sir Arthur.”
“What a pity! Do you bet?” “Occasionally.”
' I’ll bet you an even hundred pounds that you do rescue Kingslade within a month.”
“I’ll take the bet,” said Wendover.
An hour later he was in his flat.
NEXT morning he awoke to full realization of his post-prandial pledge. Derisively he assigned the blame to Babbington-Raikes’s burgundy. Pessimistically he said to himself: “The old chap will lose two patients and a hundred pounds.”
Nevertheless he lunched at his club, where play ran high, and in the card-room he found young Kingslade and the rooks, who eyed the millionaire alertly as he casually sat down beside them. He greeted
them pleasantly, but his eyes lingered upon the pigeon. The boy had much of his mother’s charm, and the good manners ■now so rare in the younger generation. Wendover soon discovered that the stakes were fairly low. Presently he said so in a careless drawl. The rooks glanced at him with interest.
“Didn’t you know that the committee here has interfered?”
Wendover knew nothing and said so. He went on watching the play, perceiving that the boy was outclassed. By the mere luck of things Kingslade happened to be winning, and complained, not unpleasantly of the negligible stakes.
“I’ve something to get back,” he observed with a laugh to Wendover. As he spoke, Wendover had a vision of the mother in Babbington-Raikes’s consulting-room. He saw her clearly with the society mask off. Slowly, and quite apart from his wish to “make good,” he felt within him the ministrating instinct, feeble at first, but gathering strength as imagination played about it. His own mother had died before he came into his vast inheritance. Often, during the war, remembering her devotion, he had been glad that she was spared the torments of suspense and anxiety that afflicted all mothers. Young Kingslade, who served in the Foot Guards, had survived for—this. Did his mother, during sleepless nights, wonder why he had been spared? What design lay behind that? He made sure that Lady Kingslade was “nice” to her boy. As an accomplished woman of the world, she must have exercised all her wits, all her charm, to win back her son. Could any outsider succeed where a mother had failed?
Such thoughts almost drove him from the card-room. Yet he stayed on watching the game and the players with a derisive sense of his own impotence to avert disaster. With an effort he talked agreeably to the rooks, who glanced at him with increasing interest.
“Are you lucky at cards, Wendover?” one of them asked.
“I have been lucky at roulette,” answered Wendover.
“That’s the game for me,” said Kingslade. “Good old Monte! I shall be there next winter and get my own back.”
“Do you play roulette in London?” asked Colonel Foréster, Kingslade’s partner.
“Now and again.”
“Where, may I ask?”
At this moment inspiration descended upon Wendover. He had been wondering how he could get hold of Kingslade without challenging curiosity and, perhaps, distrust. It was obviously a case of “love me, love my friends.” Wendover answered lightly:
“A man can have an occasional flutter in his own rooms.”
Dropping this innocent remark, Wendover rose, nodded to the players, and left the room. He assured himself that he was not bored during the next half-hour, when he bought a roulette table and its adjuncts, articles which were to be sent to his flat. At his booksellers’ he found a small treatise that dealt faithfully with the game and its many systems. He studied this till dinner-time. Next day he sent a telegram to Babbington-Raikes:
“I am at work.”
A FORTNIGHT later Wendover entertained Kingslade and his three friends to dinner at his flat. By this time he had become intimate with all of them. Incidentally, his gjime at bridge had improved, although he was no match for the elder men. Wendover’s term “wrong ’uns” describes them adequately. Each probably would have admitted that he lived by his wits, and lived well. Not card-sharpers, but in the card-room or on the racecourse sharp enough to back skill and experience against verdant youth. Kingslade admitted to Wendover that they were “hot stuff.” When Wendover said indifferently: “Aren’t they a bit too hot for you, Harry?” the ingenuous punter replied: “I suppose, old bean, they are, but I’m warming up myself.”
Alone with Wendover, the boy became daily more confidential. He had sold most of the family acres at a handsome price, retaining the ancient house and park. He confessed that he had dipped into his capital, he was confident that he would win it back — in time. His mother—a dear and a sweet—“jawed” him, but, Lord love you, what did women know
about money? And—if the worst happened—he could marry an American millionairess, although, unluckily, he had cottoned to a darling who hadn’t a bob of her own. Wendover listened patiently to this prattle, wisely saying nothing. He divined that an inordinate appetite for excitement in any form had a stranglehold on a subaltern who had survived the war. There were thousands exactly like him in that respect. Then he met the “darling” at luncheon, and was not bored. Evidently Kingslade had no sense of comparative values. The girl was the real right thing, and the man had enough for two if he pulled up in time, or was pulled up.
“What do you think of her?” the youth asked Wendover.
“Does that matter?”
“I’m asking for the opinion of a clever chap.”
“I think, Harry, she’s much too good for you.” Then he added with a twinge of envy and irritation: “Hang it all, you cotton to her, she cottons to you. Marry and settle down.”
“You see, I must have my little fling first.”
It had become, then, an obsession, this little fling. What would exorcise the demon? Not, apparently, the love of two women. Up against so difficult a problem, realising its insistence, Wendover became more and more interested. The happiness of three .persons was at stake. Already he could influence the boy up to a point, but never beyond it. To behold daily a gallant youth prancing down the road to ruin exasperated him. When he mentioned this to BabbingtonRaikes, that sage replied curtly: “Stick to it. I’m backing you.”
“But I win, if you lose.”
“I shan’t lose.”
At this, Wendover experienced an “uplifting.” He was very nearly in love with his job, but he wouldn’t admit as much even to himself.
THE dinner at the flat was pronounced “perfect” by that connoisseur, Colonel Forester, who spoke reverentially of the port. Harry drank an extra glass or two after the champagne, which was Clicquot, 1884 and 1906 mixed. Colonel Forester acclaimed the mixture as “nectar.” In fine, all concerned were ripe for the promised flutter. They strolled into the drawing room, where a roulette table was set out.
“This is it," declared the excited Harry.
And then Wendover threw a bomb.
“I insist,” he said quietly, “on moderate stakes.”
Harry protested vehemently, but the elder men acquiesced. Roulette was not to their taste, although it served to pass an evening agreeably.
“Shall I take the bank?” asked Wendover.
“Certainly,” said Colonel Forester.
They played with varying fortune for a couple of hours. Harry won a few pounds, but his pleasant face expressed disappointment. He was “in luck” and forbidden to take advantage of it. The elder men were too polite to express boredom, but at eleven Colonel Forester pleaded an engagement. The others rose with alacrity. Harry said nothing when the other guests thanked Wendover for a delightful entertainment, but he accepted his host’s invitation to stay a little longer and smoke another cigar. As soon as the door had closed behind the veterans, Wendover said sharply:
“The entertainment was not delightful.”
“A top-hole dinner, my dear chap.” Wendover smiled. The boy’s honesty pleased him. That, after all, was his great asset. Lucky Wendover was sick of dissemblers. He continued quietly: “I’m afraid, Harry, the sight of my roulette table aroused an expectation in you that the small stakes failed to satisfy?”
“You bet! And I’m in luck—wound up! I hoped that old Forester would take the bank and invite me to stake what I pleased.”
“One way and another he has had a good bit out of you, eh?”
“Well—ye—es. And I might have got it back. Do you believe in premonitions?” “I had a strong premonition myself to-night.”
“You don’t say so. What was it?” “Before dinner, I felt as reasonably certain as a man can be that you would lose a pot here.”
Harry s face flushed; his eyes sparkled. But I had a premonition just as strong that I should make a pot to-night, and, b’Jove! I have it still. You’re a good chap. You rather wrecked a jolly evening on my account, hey?”
“If you must have it—yes.”
All the same I shall back my premonition.”
“I. know a bank whereon the wild time grows.”
He hummed the famous lyric, smiling genially at Wendover, who frowned in return at him, as he exclaimed testily: “You damned youngfool! You meanto have your flutter, do you?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Go—and be robbed!” roared Wendover.
The boy hesitated, staring at his host, not understanding this apparent lack of good breeding, but uneasily sensible that kindly interest might be explosive.
Robbed is a bit thick, Wendover. Why do you assume that I should be robbed?”
“Who is the cashier of this bank whereon your wild time grows?”
“I gamble with gentlemen.”
WENDOVER held his glance firmly. In that glance he detected defiance,
I determination, obstinacy. To argue with such a young fool seemed fatuous, but he attempted it. His voice became temperate:
“I beg your pardon, Harry. Remember that in experience of this world I am old enough to be your father. And you haven’t a father. But you have a mother. For ; her sake, can’t you chuck this gaming passion? And that jolly girl I met at I luncheon— She likes you more than a bit.
And you like her. Face the facts. You’re j staking substance against shadow. Gamej sters, sooner or later, end in hell. Chuck it, I say, here and now.”
The boy was tremendously impressed, i For a moment Wendover believed that he ! had lost a hundred pounds to BabbingtonRaikes. But Harry shook his handsome head, saying miserably:
“You mean you—won’t!”
“Good night, Wendover.”
The boy turned. Wendover said grimly: “You back ycmr premonition against mine, do you?”
“Right! You can have your flutter here. Sit down. I’ll take the bank. You 1 can stake the Monte Carlo maximum. As your host, I can say this: I don’t want to win your money, but I’d sooner win it than_ have you lose it to other gentlemen. Sail in, but bear one thing in mind. I am Lucky Wendover.”
“Just this. When the final accounting comes, we may learn that Fortune dispenses her favours more impartially than we suppose. I am lucky in money matters, and unlucky in everything else. I envy you more than I can express your mother, that girl, and your joy in life. You are excited; I am perfectly calm. If I win your money, I shan’t experience one thrill; if I lose I am equally indifferent. The Goddess of Chance, as a rule, smiles on those who are independent of her favours.” Harry Kingslade sat down, observing gaily:
“If I win your money, you won’t mind, then?”
“Not a bit. But I warn you that my luck is not likely to turn to-night.”
“We’ll see about that, old thing.” Wendover had provided counters of different colours. Having arranged what these were to represent in cash, Harry said, joyously: “I am going to try my
“A system. There is only one infallible system.”
“I know something about systems at roulette. Long ago, one—and only one —seriously threatened the Monte Carlo people. It can't be played there now.” “My system is my own, Wendover.” Harry staked certain counters, after studying a note-book which he took from his pocket. Wendover, when he saw this, remarked curtly:
“You came prepared.”
“You promised us a flutter. My system is ‘napoo’ with small stakes. Le jeu est fait.”
Wendover spun the wheel.
THE duel lasted for many hours.
Finally, white and trembling, Harry rose, upsetting his chair.
“Your luck,” he said quietly, “is uncanny. “I’ve had enough. Very many thanks!”
Wendover admired his pluck and his manners. A boy who could lose a fortune so handsomely assuredly possessed qualities which might ensure success if rightly directed. But his face remained grimly impassive, as he offered his guest a “pickme-up.”
“I need it,” said Harry. His voice quavered slightly, as he added: “It will take time to settle up, because, of course, Kingslade must go. Would you care to buy it at a fair valuation?”
Wendover shook his head, saying incisively that he had no wish to add to his responsibilities. His manner, his general air of aloofness, provoked the young man into exclaiming:
“You don’t seem to care a damn, one way or t’other. Do you know how much you’ve won?”
“Not yet. It makes no difference to me. I warned you.”
“Yes; you did— I—I suppose I’m the biggest fool that ever lived.”
Wendover made a gesture indicating indifference. As the boy flushed and winced, he said coldly:
“I regard gaming as a form of insanity.” “Yes; I was mad, but I’m sane enough now. You have cured me.” He held out his hand. “I—I suppose I ought to apologize for keeping you out of your bed. Good morning.”
Wendover took his hand, noted that it was very cold, and gripped it firmly. As he did so his frigid indifference vanished. His eyes sparkled with excitement.
“What are you going to do, Harry?” “That doesn’t interest you, does it?” “Immensely. Are you going in search of the millionairess?”
Put bluntly, the suggestion was almost offensive. Harry attempted to withdraw his hand.
“I have won your money,” said Wendover. “Have I lost your friendship?” “Friendship? I can’t trot in your class after this, Wendover. I’m feeling a bit fagged.”
“So am I. But I can’t let you go yet. As a friend I ask you frankly—what will you say to your mother?”
The boy groaned. Then, as Wendover released him, he sat down, collapsed, hiding his haggard face in his hands.
“I can comfort you a little, Harry.”
The young man looked up, interrogatively, but he was near breaking point. Wendover continued:
“I believe, I am convinced, that your mother will rejoice if this loss of fortune means sanity for you. If you pledge yourself to her to leave high play alone, she may yet enjoy some happiness and peace of mind.”
“What can you know about that?”
“I happen to know, never mind how, that she has suffered atrociously on your account. Before you settle with me, settle in full with her, as—as a man of honour.”
The boy’s face brightened, losing its tense expression.
“I can do that, and, by God! I will.” “You swear it?”
“Here and now you scrap Stock Exchange speculation, racing, play—and so forth.”
“Good! Sit tight! You and I have been playing roulette for love.”
The boy sprang up, touched to the quick, afire with resentment.
“That’s tosh, Wendover. I am, I hope, a man of honour. I pay my debts in full. I should have made you pay. You are very kind, a thundering good chap, but I feel rather insulted.”
“Steady on! The dice, so to speak, were loaded to-night. You tried your system. I played mine.”
“What can you mean?”
“Listen. Once in the history of Monte Carlo luck went disastrously against the tables. The management were bewildered. Experts, however, discovered the truth. A very clever gang had found out that roulette wheels, after certain use, don’t spin perfectly true. There is a bias. The rest was a matter for scientific computation. Since then, the wheels are adjusted every day, and they spin absolutely true. My wheel doesn’t. I began life as a mechanical engineer. I bought that wheel and
tinkered with it. I quite enjoyed myself. When we have more time I’ll show you the simple device by which I control my toy. I can’t determine the exact number that will turn up, but I can prevent any player winning if I choose. That’s all.”
Kingslade stammered out:
“I s-s-see. You w-wanted to t-teach me a lesson?”
“I wanted to save you from yourself and from certain friends.”
There was a long pause, broken by the young man.
“I am wondering,” he said slowly, “what I can say or do. You haven’t taken my money, but you make me bankrupt in gratitude.”
Wendover clapped him cheerily on the shoulder.
“We are quits, Harry. You have done something for me, perhaps more than I can measure. By the way, one form of gambling is open to you—matrimony. Try that.”
A FEW hours later, Wendover rang up Babbington-Raikes on the telephone:
“Is that you, Sir Arthur? It is. Wendover is speaking. You win the hundred and lose Lady Kingslade as a patient.* Have you another case for me?”
To this Babbington-Raikes replied: “Yes. Come and dine to-night.”
Another “Wendover” Story Will Appear Shortly.