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surprise is perhaps one way—there is certainly no other—of accounting for the marvellous flow of favours that Fortune persistently showered upon him. It kept him cool, even when Fortune, out of coyness, or else out of a wish to see of what sort of stuff his trust in her was made, pretended that she was going to desert him. She had every reason to be satisfied. Never for one moment did he lose the instinctive assurance that he should continue to win. He played the boldest and seemingly the most reckless strokes without doubting for one instant whether they would succeed. And they did succeed.
His varying opponents looked upon this Napoleon of the tables with admiration or envy ; Prince Arsenieff with enthusiasm and awe. How the beautiful Ilona regarded him she did not show. But she could hardly be indifferent to a man who, with hands wearing such an Opal, was making such a harvest with such astounding ease.
“And I thought you were my Fortune !” said Sir George Lennox, reproachfully, to the lady whose influence he had invoked in vain. “What a strong hand I had—and see! Who,” he whispered, “is this man? Where does he come from? How is it we have never met him before ?"
“Come, Mr. Fanshaw," said Arsenieff, "you must drink something after such a coup as that has been. . . . It is grand !” he said, when he had taken him aside. “ You must have learned of the devil till you could play your master out of his horns! But prudence; it does not answer always to win. That makes people fancy. Just once or twice I think you had better lose, just for the look of the thing."
“Oh, no,” said Roland, stretching himself. “To tell you the truth, I don't think I could lose, if I tried. How much more do you think those fellows have got to lose ?”
“Not much more, I fancy, any one of them. But I think you should leave them a little ; not that I presume to dictate, nor to advise. Only it is not wise to send away a man quite clean. If you leave him a little, he will come again, and bring others. are too quick, we spoil the game."
“All right ; then sufficient unto the night shall be what I've already won. You are a good jackal, Prince. You have earned your commission well.
Have you any more game in view ?" “ A little. But Ilona has, you may be sure.”
By ones and twos the Prince's guests were departing. While Arsenieff and Roland were speaking apart, Ilona was giving Sir George all the consolation that a beaten but brave knight has a right to look
for at the hands of beauty. More than half ruined though he was, she let him hold her hand, and find trebly distilled sweetness in her smile.
But “ How much ?" were the first words she asked, so soon as he also had gone and the three robbers were left alone. There was none of the weariness of the actress relieved from duty about her, though the night had been long, and her own part of the work, in keeping everybody fairly good-humoured and in a mood to come back again, had been hard.
Roland poured into her lap a mixed heap of notes, gold, and promises to pay. "Count them for me," said he, pouring himself out some wine. He could let himself feel luxuriously triumphant
“And divide them, Ilona," said Arsenieff. "I think the agreement was equal shares-one for us, one for Mr. Fanshaw. After all, if somebody does not lose, he cannot win ; and we find them who are to lose."
Ilona looked doubtful. It was certainly not that she had any objection to keeping all she could get; but it might be well not to spoil her prospects by appearing grasping in the eyes of this potential, if not actual, master of millions; and, besides, everything that went straight into her brother's pockets would be indirectly diverted from her own. “I don't quite know about that,” said she. “I'm not quite sure that would quite satisfy Mr. Fanshaw."
“ It certainly would not satisfy Mr. Fanshaw," said Roland. “Divide it into three--one for Arsenieff, one for me, and the third to buy yourself a pair of gloves, or anything you please. We'll keep to the same terms hereafter ; it'll save trouble. Well, what's my share ?"
“ Three thousand two hundred and seventeen pounds, six shillings, and eightpence," said Ilona.
“Ah, Mr. Fanshaw," said the Prince, "you are a true gentleman -you are a great man! What is your address, where I may write or call ?"
“Let me see. You had better communicate with me at my hotel-if I haven't forgotten the name! You know—the Devon. I'm putting up there. I'll say good night—or good morning now. But where's Countess Lenska? I must say good night-or good morning-to her.”
She had left the room-perhaps to put her winnings away safely —but was back again in a moment or two. She looked so royally lovely that, if Arsenieff had not been present, the passion that had
I did play
been growing in him all the evening would have broken out-at any rate, into words—then and there. As it was, he had to content him. self before parting with pressing his burning lips upon her soft, cool hand.
“Yes, Nicholas," said the lady, with the slightest of frowns; "it is the very stone."
“ You are sure ?”
“ Joseph Hagopian would never have parted with that Opal, Ilona. He would have died sooner."
“Yes ; he would have died sooner. Only, I should argue from that, not that he had parted with the Opal alive, but that he had died. Your Mr. Fanshaw does not look likely to be hindered by small things. . . . That is the Opal : so perhaps Joseph Hagopian is not alive."
“ But what, Ilona, in heaven's name can be done? You see what a man is this Fanshaw. It is no use to play with him. He could, as you have seen, cheat the very ground from under our feet, and we should be no nearer the Opal than we are now. for the Opal last night with all my wits together, and I, who thought myself master of all the coups de main that ever were known—I had to pay six thousand pounds to learn there is one I do not know. What can be done?”
Bah, Nicholas. Don't you see that he is over head and ears in love with me already? Do not be such a fool, my friend, as to think that a woman is a fool, or, at least, that the woman who is a fool is I. His trick-how long will it be before I know it too ?”
“You are a clever woman, Ilona, I know; but if you think this Fanshaw is another Sir Lennox, to twist round your finger, you are wrong."
" It is the Opal I want to twist round my finger, my friend, not the man ; and it will amuse me, too. I do not care to play with water ; I like to play with fire. With Mr. Fanshaw the game will be worth all the candle. He will try to hold his own, but he will fail. He is not the great, rich, English milord he seems. He does not live at that hotel—the Devon. Did you notice that I left the room before he went away? It was to tell Sergius to follow him and to see where he goes when he goes home. Mark me, Nicholas, that he never bought this Opal -"
"And to think we have been following Joseph Hagopian to the other side of the world and back again, even to London, and that we should find the Opal by such chance on the finger of this man !
It must be Providence, Ilona. It must be the work of St. Nicholas himself
“ Bah! Do you suppose we are the only people who have been following that old miser, Joseph, all over the world? Only this Englishman has had the start of us; that is all. Never mind. It will be easier for a woman who knows her work to deal with a young man of hot blood than with a frozen statue like Joseph Hagopian. Mon Dieu, he never looked at me more than once; I do not believe he would know me again. But Mr. Fanshaw will know me again! It is good for us that he has the Opal, by fair means or foul. He has been our jackal, my friend." “Yes, Ilona, yes ; he shall be the jackal, not I! But—what
do ?” “Never, mind what I shall do. Those are the secrets that no woman ever tells. Ah! here is Sergius. Well ? ”
Though there might be some doubt as to the nationality of his master and mistress, there could be none about that of Sergius; though dressed in the best of evening clothes, he was simply a Tartar disguised.
" Where does he live?" asked she again.
“In Courland Street, madame-a poor street-a poor house, and under the tiles."
“There, Nicholas-you see! What else did you learn ?”
I thought madame might care to know that Joseph Hagopian, whom madame met in Tiflis, lives there too-or did live there ; for he is gone away till next year.”
“There, that will do. I don't care to know about any Joseph. . . . There, Nicholas !" she exclaimed triumphantly as soon as Sergius had retired. "Joseph Hagopian in the same houseJoseph Hagopian disappeared till next year-Joseph Hagopian's treasure on this Fanshaw's hand !”
“Ilona ! anyone would think you meant to say he had murdered the man !"
“And why not?” asked Ilona. “I only hope he has ; it will make things so much the easier for us all. It is foolish to commit murder, Nicholas. It puts a man so much in a woman's power.”
ONE, OR TWO ?
AGAIN did Helen Renouf do her best to turn her poor little sitting-room into a bower with nosegays bought at the street corner. It was a new custom, born of the need of beauty and of comfort from without, and of making up to Roland, in all the tender little ways she could think of, for the great disappointment which she hoped and believed he was doing his best to bear so bravely. She could not doubt that, after reading written upon his heart, "I am all Helen's.” She was sure that, if only for rest's and help's sake, he would come every day.
But, in spite of her flower-magnet, on the day after she had read his heart he failed to come. She was sorry, but disappointed would be too strong a word. After all, she told herself, she was a goose to think that a strong young man in search of work would be able to come and see his sweetheart every day. That would mean idleness and want of energy; to workers the pleasures of courtship cannot come every day, with the advantage of being all the sweeter on the days when they can come. She was not one of those girls who think themselves ill-used if they miss an attention ; her way was to find out good reasons for seeming neglect and, if she could discover none, then to invent them. It would be very hard indeed to make her believe that Roland was less true than she : her prayer was that she might prove as true to him as he was to her.
She did not even think of complaining that he might have had time to write to her, if only a line, on the ground that certainly so much at least was due to her after an interview like that of yesterday, when, for the first time, their two hearts seemed to have been laid wholly open to one another's eyes. Probably he had not written because he had meant to come and had been prevented by what was better at present than the wish to be with her, namely, the wish of working to win her and to be with her through a future that would be ten thousand times better than the very best of nows. She could picture him with her heart as well as she could see him with her eyes. Last night he had been sitting in his attic planning for her. To-day he had been seeking work. To-morrow he would come—who knows ?—to tell her that the work was found. A man like her Roland, now that he had got his courage back, would not le doomed to seek for long in vain.