Fatal Zero. A Diary Kept at Homburg. by Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald
Chapter XVII

Chapter XVII.

Here are some of this fry who do not scruple to inhale the scent of the gambling flowers, to walk on the gambling walks, to sit down, as I see they do now, on the gambling seats. A benevolent father, according to the stage phrase, portly, puffed, and placid, enjoying these scandalous blessings, as he sits between his two children, he is, no doubt, quite satisfied with himself and them. "It is really very pleasant, all this sort of thing, and the people here do it very nicely, very nicely indeed—so much good seems to be done." How I remember them—those nice girls, for one of whom I put down her money. It gave me a thrill to see her, for no doubt, good as she was, she had led me into this fatal fit. I turned back to avoid them, but they rose and followed me.

"Come here, Mr. Austen, we want to speak to you," said the portly father.

The young girl, Constance, was beside me.

"O, we have been looking for you everywhere, and, indeed, we were so sorry to hear that you have been unfortunate."

This was free and easy. She would have called the mislaying of her gloves a misfortune.

"Has it been so talked about?" I answered, bitterly; "I thought that losing was the ordinary condition of things here. It is no nine days' wonder, I presume?"

"No, indeed," she said gently; "but we were looking on, and then we heard from Mr. D'Eyncourt——"

"O, he talks of me, does he? What right has he to concern himself with my affairs? He is not my friend—as it is, he has meddled too much already, and I am not going to put up with it, even in this place, where so much can be put up with."

"Then it is true?" she said, looking at me with alarm; "and I reproach myself bitterly, as it was my foolish eagerness that led you on to it."

I did not know what answer to make to her. But her father came up and said,

"Come, Mr. Austen, we are English in a foreign land, and that should draw us together and make us excuse each other. I may be as free surely to you as I would wish you to be to me. Go, dear, and walk a little, I want to ask our friend something."

"I have no secrets. I should not care if the whole collection in this——" I was beginning excitedly when he stopped me.

"Now, let us talk sensibly; first of all, don't imagine any offence is meant to you; and, secondly, don't fancy that I am to be offended. I am a plain, straightforward, English gentleman, and like my own way when I have anything in my head. We have a lord whom all our country bench is in terror of, but I don't care a button on that frock coat for him."

"And how do these private matters of yours concern me?" I asked.

"Just listen; I don't know what you may have lost, whether little or much, that is no affair of ours, nor of the mob gathered here; but really there is something so strange in your appearance, something so full of despair, that every good person must be distressed by it."

"They have surely no business with me, or with my looks——"

"I am really afraid, even as a mere stranger, lest your health, or worse, your mind, be affected; such wildness in your eyes, I would caution you to take care. Now, do listen to me," he added earnestly; "the truth is, we all noticed and watched you from the beginning, that is my girls and I; they thought you were something like a poor brother of theirs, though I don't see it. Then that dean told us something about you and that pretty creature you have at home, and the sickness and the going away, and all that. So you see we read it like a story book."

I was getting tired of all this, and answered, I confess, rather rudely. "Every one thinks themselves entitled to meddle with my affairs."

"Now," he went on, "let us look at this like two Englishmen. I tell you this will be a bad business. My girls and I, we know this place by heart, and the people, and the diseases, for we have been coming here many years. I tell you that the only course for you is to leave, and leave with us, this very day, by the four o'clock train. We shall take care of you; the girls will talk to you, will keep your mind from thinking. We shall rob you from your own home for three or four days at the least, and send you back to that dear girl of yours a different being from what you are now."

"And then," I said, "do you know what is to follow—can you guess what that home will become when its master returns?"

"Well, as to that, also, I wish to speak to you. If your money loss has not been very considerable, I should be glad to help you to replace it."

I was touched with his generosity—these were no mean platitudes; but all this only added to my degradation. A mere stranger, like one who has seen some squalid beggar in the street, and is, of course, privileged to ask the story, the minute details, and then in return, offers his coppers. Thank God, I have not fallen quite so low as that!

I declined civilly and coldly. I was in no such violent hurry to go, neither was I quite so weak as he imagined. I could fortunately control myself, I said, in presence of the danger, and more fortunate still, had no money to throw away. I made him a bow, and went away. He had not found me so easy to settle, as he had once done the county lord on the magistrates' bench.

Yet my heart turned towards his daughters and their gentle invitation, and I thought again and again wistfully of the tempting programme he had laid out. The horrid monotony of the day, dragging on, and dragging me with it, was something terrible to return to. It seemed endless; and the wearing equilibrium and suspense of another day was something to shrink from. I wanted to rush away into the world—anywhere; but my gold, my gold, kept crying to me from its prison. I might as well have just dropped a hundred gold pieces in the street, and have tried to pass on without picking them up.

And yet I felt it was the only thing, the only salvation. The wild, horrid dream or nightmare in which I was writhing and groaning must be broken through, if I could but awaken in the pure, innocent air.

There was their gambling music coming dulled through the trees; it made me shiver again. I could see the colours glittering among the leaves in the old sickening promenade; there is a devil in every one of these objects—band, fiddlers, players, all combined to drive me frantic.

I heard a gentle voice beside me. "Why will you not do," said she—it was Constance alone—"why will you not do as papa says? Indeed you look ill, and so feverish and excited. Do be advised by me. I have had my little losses recollect, and under your guidance; so I have a claim on you, and—you will come with us I know?"

"And leave my money to these swindling scoundrels—make them a present of it? I can't, I won't; you don't know, or can't know. I can't go—I dare not stay. O was there ever such a pitiable condition?"

"Yes," she said, softly, "many thousand times worse—you might be a thousand times worse. You should do as papa says. Once out of these dense clouds everything will seem bright, and natural, and rational. Do come, we will be so pleasant."

Again the satanic music came muffled through the trees, and made every fibre in my frame jar—sent a panic into my very brain, called up the whole hateful scene again. I saw the conspirators stripping victims, with the dull wearing monotony going on like eternal punishment. I could not stand more of that.

"Oh, let me go!" I said, I fear very wildly. "Oh, let me go with you—do, I conjure you!—anywhere! Let me go away out of this; if I stay it will kill me!"

She said they would call for me at half-past three. I walked home rapidly. Yes, it was assuredly all for the best. The moment that firm resolution was taken, it was amazing how the clouds began to break. Yes, I would do as she said. The end was certain. But there was a reprieve of a week, at the least. Heaven might then send grace, or a remedy. Can those wise men, who are always preaching, or canting, in books, about waiting and putting your trust in something beyond this world, or who tell us that the darkest hour is the one before day—can they be inventing? Surely not. They must have known some instances. Who can tell or guess at the depths of arrogance and self-sufficiency? and the taste for instructing your inferiors may have blinded them to truth itself. However, it is a reprieve. The mere perverse eccentricity of human events may work out a remedy, just as it so often works out a disease. We hear of people struggling with adversity which is checking them at every turn. Why are there none whom prosperity treats in the same way? Simply because Satan is abroad, walking the earth, and delights in that game. . . . How strange are these theories of mine—with a certain acuteness; but all that is gone now. What a wreck and waste of abilities! I may say that now, speaking of myself as of another, and as any one turning over these pages in a century hence may remark. It will have all ended somehow long before that. . . . Those were good charming girls, but they are part of the luxuries of life. I suppose that one—Constance—has gone home to say she persuaded me—a pardonable and girlish vanity for which I do not blame her. It was I who, in reality, suggested the train of thought. She did not know what I was thinking of and dreading—that lonely journey home, the deadly imprisonment in the railway carriage. It was a welcome deliverance, that resource. . . .

Two o'clock.—I feel so much more tranquil now. So much rest—a sort of unnatural calmness, and the waves seem to have gone down about me. A little exertion and force of will has done this. It is surprising how much that is under control, even under the most desperate circumstances. I could tell some of these despairing gamesters, who think they are utterly wretched—that nothing is left for them—that Fate is capricious; that, when they have left fifty miles of country between them and this place, the thing will assume quite another aspect, the loss will dwindle down into a misfortune that may, by some agency, unknown but still possible, be repaired. If people could only be brought to look at things rationally, calmly, as I do now, how the flame colour would fade out, how the angles and rough edges would be smoothed away! Yes, I feel quite tranquil now, prepared for the worst; but still, not without hope. Here do I now repeat Dora's little prayer, which comes appropriately for one starting on a journey like me:

"Lord! Thou who dost guide the ship over the waters, and dost bring safe to its journey's end the fiery train, look down on me in this distant land. Save me from harm of soul or body; give me back health and strength, that I may serve Thee more faithfully, and be able to bring others dependent on me to serve Thee also, and add to Thy glories! Amen."

Six o'clock.—When I said that prayer first, I little thought—no matter now. Everything is packed. Let me go! Heaven forgive those who sent me here to reap this crop of wretchedness! What have I done to deserve this? . . . . There is the cab. . . . I met them at the station, and fortunately escaped falling in with Grainger; of course it will be said that I feared him. That would be a falsehood that I would cram down the throat of any man who said it. The false world has but one way of reading everything. If you are delicate and considerate, you are afraid. I wished to have peace, to get away in quiet, I did on my soul, even though there might be demons dressed up in the livery of guards and porters. The two girls and their father were there. He had his hand out, as it were patronising a school boy who had behaved well.

"Well done," he said, "I admire you for this. My Constance is never to be resisted when she has set her mind on a thing."

The world again—it assumes everything to be its work. Something happens after something that it did. Ergo, it was the cause.

"We have a nice carriage," he went on, "and we shall so enjoy ourselves. I declare I am quite in spirits again. Even now I am sure you think it a trifle—what's a hundred or two to happiness—to English home and beauty—you'll work it off in a few months. Strong hands, sir, and strong hearts do everything."

Work it off in a few months! That was his friendly scheme. Had all his generosity melted away into that—not that I cared—or that I would not have taken up his money, had he laid it down on the seat, and flung it back to him. It is easy to preach, and tell the galled jade not to wince. I made no such reply as that to him—for in truth I had some sense as of being released. Indeed, I thanked him for his kindness. It is only now that I see what he was at. Then he said, wringing my hand, "I think so much of you for this. You are a fine character, Mr. Austen!" There was a letter of hers—Dora's, which I had not yet read, nor had I time to read. A harassed, persecuted man has enough to occupy his baited soul, without being brought to an account for having lost a second—a breach of affectionate duty, and all that. I suppose the characters are not written in invisible ink and will not fly away. If I loved a friend to distraction I would say to them all the same, "For God's sake, don't whine!"

"I had such a dream about you last night, darling—such a frightful real dream! With all that money in your keeping, and belonging to another, and with the temptations of that frightful place! Oh, come back—come back to us at once! And, oh! if you feel the least temptation—and, dearest, it is no harm if you do—at that moment fly—leave everything behind rather than incur the danger. Then, too, you may be thinking of us, and of what is to meet you at home. That is dismal enough, I feel; but an honest stainless heart will bear us through all. Mr. Bernard, besides, has the same idea; and he really frightened me yesterday, for you know what an inflexible man he is, and he prides himself on it. Here were his words, which I thought I ought to repeat for you: 'I am sorry I put such a temptation in his way now. Had I thought he would have taken to lecturing, he should never have had it. But I warn you, Mrs. Austen, if there is anything wrong, I shan't spare him. I shall make no distinction between him and a poor man; and he would be ten times as guilty.' I told him, with scorn, that he did not know you, nor know me, and that his suspicion dishonoured us both. He said that any tampering with money would be a greater dishonour, and went away a little displeased."

Anything wrong! A fine way of pleasing the man—instead of soothing him, when, God knows, I want all indulgence and mercy, to go inflaming him against me with defiant speeches. Always the way—no help even at home; enemies there! And such folly! Suppose I did want the money?

"I thought I would even rush to the telegraph office, and let you know at once. The whole so frightened me, and seemed—forgive me, dearest—so natural and probable. No crime indeed for you—what so many good people have done and repented of."

Run to the telegraph office! They seem to have money enough to think of such freaks and extravagances, while I am hunted and harried down to the very wall here, and the only relief I get is to be lectured; lectured by every fool that walks the right way.

O why did I not go with them? Who is now the greatest fool that walks the highway—the greatest malefactor in this den of malefactors? No; but these girls would go on with their foolish chatting and curiosity on the platform, instead of taking their seats. Or did they do it on purpose? All had been well! But the demons must pursue me here: or were they his agents? That father, with his platitudes, must go walking up and down, until that captain comes up eagerly.

"All but late," he cried out joyfully; "but it had been no harm if I was."

"Well, I warned you, my dear boy."

"So you did, but luckily I did not mind. Feel that coat-pocket, and that—literally bursting. I crammed them all in, notes, silver, gold, everything, anyhow."

My heart began to beat. The old infernal music was striking up, the black imps clanging their cymbals. The girls came to him. I saw the light in their eyes.

"Why you had lost everything, Captain Conway?"

"Five hundred pounds, as I have a commission, which should have been sold next month to meet expenses. In fact, the letter has gone to the agents. But I'll stop 'em by telegraph at Frankfort. Just passing that infernal Cure house—or, I beg its pardon, what was that infernal place?—in my cab. Portmanteau on the seat opposite. Something—I don't know what it was—prompted me to stop. I rushed in. Something—I don't know what, but I never did it before—made me ask the croupier, 'Zero been up lately?' 'Not for a half-hour,' he said. Something else—God knows what—made me give him a couple of double fredericks. 'Put that on,' I said. 'Look sharp, too.' On it went. Click, flop; and, by Jove, you should have seen the bundle of gold and notes that came to me!"

My chest was heaving, my eyes, I suppose, growing wild. There was the persecuting perverseness! Why should I have to listen to all this? Just to torture me. Could they not let me leave in peace?

"Come," said one of the girls, "and look at this great engine, the one that is to take us. Do explain it to me."

Here was folly at full growth. I could not be left in peace to listen to a dramatic story like this—was it not what I always proclaimed! Let any one look back on these pages and find the proof there. But I was argued out of it, hectored, lectured by complacently pious people.

I heard him going on.

"I took out twenty napoleons and piled them thickly about the lucky Zero, on the square, on the corners, faith, in any way that they would fit at all. Plastered all well down. Round it went again—click, I declare if it wasn't Zero again!"

My foot went down on the asphalte with a stamp of agony. "I knew it;" I cried! "there are instincts in these things, and they are the fools who shut their eyes and ears."

"I don't know about that," he said; "but Zero is the boy, and I have always said it. He sticks to you if you stick to him."

"It is notorious," I said; "but it is cruel, scandalous. No one here can be let alone—persecuted worried. It is others who cause all the ruin, not you."

"Not me," he repeated, looking at me with surprise, "of course not. I declare they took a couple of minutes counting and paying me. I suppose I have all my own back, and about two hundred and fifty profit. Then I thought I would try again, but time was up, so I came off."

The father smiled. The good are always indulgent to success. He didn't smile at me when I was miserable.

"Well, all's well that ends well. I am glad you saved yourself."

"I wish I had stayed now," said the captain. "I could have come on by a late train. They said it was all going on the low numbers."

"There now," I said, hurriedly. "Yes there would be a run of high ones, with a tendency to get back to the low ones, which would bring up Zero again. It is certain—morally certain. I have seen it happen over and over again."

"Too often, my dear friend, I am afraid," said the smooth father, taking my arm. "There's the bell, and I am not sorry."

I shook myself free. "My luck, my old luck—the demoniac trap, just to get me away at the very moment I might be successful. Am I to be the only one robbed—every one to go off laughing and smiling, but me? It is the righteous dispensation the parsons preach."

"Oh, what folly, my friend, this is! I am ashamed of you."

"Then let there be one rule—let there be fairness, even in this villany. I won't be singled out for ruin, and despair, and death, and let every one else escape. I am not to be the only one robbed, while every one else gets their money——"

"Take your seats, gentlemen! Mount!"

"My dear Austen, you promised me," said he, "you know you did."

I remembered my politeness. Thank Heaven, it cannot be said I was so much the slave of my persecutions as to forget my self-control.

"I shall be very glad to join you at Frankfort by the next train. I have indeed been so hurried, I have forgotten a dozen things."

"A wretched excuse," he said—"quite transparent—that can impose on no one."

The guard was at the next carriage, "banging" his way down.

"Mount, gentlemen—mount!"

Was it some providence was calling to me? "Mount—mount, for your life!" But I answered, fiercely, "Do you wish to insult me? You think you can speak any way to one in my case. I would not travel with you now if I was insured to win a thousand pounds in gold. No; go your way, and let me go mine."

He did not answer, but, turning away, entered the carriage. They gave me a soft imploring look. Then the door was shut upon them.

"Mount, sir! You are going?"

"I am not going," I said, coldly. Then the whistle shrieked. I thought it was the shriek of the despairing demon, baulked of his prey. O fool!

Ten o'clock.—How cool I can take up this pen and write, forming letters and words very carefully and neatly, and yet I am numbed, dulled, almost stupefied, and can imagine a mother who has heard of all her children being swept off at one coup. Ah! that word! Not growing frantic or mad, but being quite calm, I can even take out these notes, and count them. . . . . Yes, here is the total:

Sixteen louis won back, all lost; lost, also, one hundred of Mr. Bernard's money; total loss of the night, one hundred and sixteen, besides the sixty lost before! This is the accurate sum. It does not matter what is left.

I shall put down everything, so that it shall be all read hereafter by those whom it shall most concern—if there are any such. I am very glad I kept this diary so minutely, as it will show the gradual stages of the whole fall. God—God Almighty forgive me! What a fall! And my sanctimonious jumble of prayers before each act of theft—for so it is—theft and embezzlement. O Pharisee, hypocrite! This was my piety and my prayers. O my poor, lost, loved little Dora, there is a gulf between us now, wider than the sea between Calais and Dover. A letter (I never see these letters now, except by accident, my eyes are growing so dim). I see—from the banker himself. Nothing could be better. He will be in Homburg himself to-morrow at two, and will call at my lodgings to receive his money. He hopes I will be punctual this time, as he has some very important business with me, owing to a letter he received from Mr. Bernard. He is glad to find that I had been too late to get a letter of credit, as it would not be wanted. Quite right and proper—everything is coming gradually to a head. I must sit on here calmly till morning, and look at the situation; and I am astonished how calmly I can do it. I must do something, it matters not what, and don't in the least care; but still something must be chosen as a course. The felon always decides on a course, either to fly, or give himself up, or make confession. Which of the two last would be the simplest? . . . .

Madness, crime, folly, embezzlement! O Dora, Dora! I hold my temples with my hands pressed close. I could cast myself on the ground, and roll in the dust. O Heavens fall on me and cover me! Yet it was insanity. Devilish fingers—not mine—were tearing the notes from my pocket. As they fluttered away for ever it seemed to me the only way to stop them was to clutch at them. There, I hear a step—it is Grainger.

Midnight.—I can still write it all quite calmly and leisurely, for I am determined all the stages of this business shall go down minutely. It will make such a record, and may, perhaps, be of use to others.

I am so glad to see a face that is familiar; and when he asks will I come out and sit under the colonnade, I agree mechanically.

"So you have been sent supplies of money?" he said. "That D'Eyncourt told me he saw you sowing your louis thickly, putting down like a man. Have you come in for a fortune?"

"No," I said.

"Then how did you manage it?"

"Don't worry me now with questions," I said; "don't for God's sake!"

"O I see, I understand—a delicate matter. And I don't want to pry into any man's affairs. However, as you have money, perhaps you would let me have my little loan, or rather—D'Eyncourt."

"D'Eyncourt! What do you mean?" I said.

"I say his money. Why, were you pastoral enough to suppose that a poor devil like me could lend money? No; I asked him for you, and pressed it, too. What friend, I'd like to know, goes borrowing for a friend?"

"You did this," I said, covering my face: "yet it is only one more gulf of degradation."

"Degradation! Then pay him at once. Here, put it in my hands, or pay him yourself."

"Yes, yes. He must be paid."

"Yes he must, if he hasn't gone telling it about. But my good friend," he added slowly, "if he is only to be paid in a certain way, that is by diverting other funds——"

"You are going too far, Grainger. What are you speaking to me in this way for? Do you see the state I am in? Do you want to send me out into the street raging, frantic, or to those woods yonder?—take care!"

"Oh, folly!" he said, "I want to do nothing so foolish. What object is it to me what you do? I do see the state you are in, and therefore, if I may give you a bit of advice, I would take care, I would, indeed. You are in a very ticklish way. Tell me honestly what you have lost. Two hundred, D'Eyncourt said."

"Something under that," I answered. "But it is all one."

"That is as you look at it," he answered. "The dock isn't one." I started at this ugly word. "I tell you what," he said eagerly, "this is a matter you can't get over in this way. You must do something, my friend, then, desperate or not; a man in your situation can't be nice. Halloo, Stopford—come from Zero?"

"I wish I had; I am running home for some cash. Why Zero hasn't been heard of since five o'clock. As I live, no."

"Now is the time," said Grainger, leaping up. "Come in all of us, or it will be too late."

Was this a call or an inspiration? I did not much care now. Yet I went in with them. There was a vast crowd stooping over; Grainger elbowed his way to the table. "Pas de Zéro encore?" he said familiarly to the croupier. The other answered gruffly, "No."

Every one was "piling on the agony," as a man called it, for it seemed certain that the overdue Zero must arrive, every moment. Here were ten, twenty, thirty louis on, and here were men increasing their stake every moment. There was the awful sense of contagion, which the mere looking on produces; it made me tremble with a sense that I was helpless and could not resist, and yet I was calm. Grainger had clutched my arm.

"Think of what I said; this is an ugly business, the rope and the dock, my friend. Here's a chance of a reprieve, and you're a fool if you don't try it. As well suffer for a sheep as for a lamb."

This coarse allusion embodied whatever was floating in my mind. He was only right to speak so, for I had, of course, forfeited all title to any but the plainest speaking. The strangest thing was the calm way in which I could look at, and measure the situation so accurately. He was right—a few louis more or less did not lessen or increase my crime. And even the man I had so basely injured would approve of my investing a trifle, as it were, to get him back what I had robbed him of. That is the correct word. In a moment I resolved to use five or seven louis for this purpose. I took out a hundred-franc note and presented it to be changed by the croupier, with the usually suspicious alacrity. He looked up at my face suspiciously, but this was only my suspicion. They look at every one's face to whom they pay their vile and deceptive courtesies. I wonder how I go through all this so calmly. But it will only be for a short time longer. And as I sit here, I vow to that Heaven I have so outraged, I meant well in this last stage of my villany. I put down my gold piece, and scarcely found room. I did not go through the hyprocrisy of a prayer. It disappeared, I put down again. "It must come this time," said Grainger. It flew away. A third, a fourth, a fifth—"D—n! d—v—sh!" I heard some such mutterings from Grainger, whose own silver had been going too. In these curses—I shall conceal nothing—I half joined. This devilish obstinacy, I would like to meet with obstinacy as fiendship. Then it for the first time struck me, even if this wonderful fortune occurred to me, what a beggarly return it would be—just thirty-five pieces, which would not near indemnify. A devilish obstinacy, I said again. I felt a sort of rage, and fury as devilish, and as I say an obstinacy, that would have made me put down everything, take a knife, gash my arm, let the blood stream out on their cursed board, if they wanted that! A soul's eternal fate—they would not care, for it is not to be made into money. They leave that to him whose business it is properly. . . . . . Every one round me is saying it must come up in three or four coups more. There are many damp brows round me, but mine is strangely cool. No sign of it; but they shall not beat me. They don't know whom they have to deal with; five this time, and five gone. The grey-headed croupier says he never recollects such a thing, but he will bet "it will arrive within ten minutes." Every one still piling. So shall I, by the Heaven above me. I am too far gone to draw back, and here are three hundred-franc notes—it is too slow changing them. Oh, vile, vile, wretches to have brought me to this, to have drawn me into these toils! The curse of the wretched and the ruined, of the widows and wives, and children that turn out wicked, follow you, and stifle you on your death-beds! May your gilded rooms and your painted roofs come tumbling on you in ruins; may your—but I must go on, and tell all calmly. It is no use counting the notes to see what is left. I think I must have out about five hundred pounds more in this frightful combat. It was no use going on from sheer stolidity, and for a fiendish wish that they should not get all. I began to stop; Grainger had long since lost all. "Give me some money," he said; "I shall go on while I have a franc left on the face of God's earth."

"There," I said calmly, "there is one last note, five hundred francs; after that the curtain may come down."

Oh, I did gasp a prayer at that awful moment. "O merciful God," I said, "have pity, have mercy, see what depends on this and spare me, save me—the most abject and guilty of your creatures, and I swear——" It came up "premier," as if to mock me, and I fell back almost from the table.

Grainger had caught me by the arm. "You are not going, after all that money thrown away? Are you mad, or half-witted, or do you want to be hung? Come back, you fool; I tell you it must come in the next two or three times."

"Not another franc shall they get," I said, looking at him desperately. "Let me go home—anything, or let me fall down here and die among these villains."

A sudden rustle and half ejaculation. The click, and the sharp voice of the croupier, "Zero!" It had come at last, like the shower of rain, long prayed for in the desert.

"You fool," whispered Grainger, "you deserve it!"