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A Strange Bride


of them have fled, and they will not, I expect, return in a hurry.’

‘The Marquis should avoid such conduct,’ said another. ‘These gamesters are revengeful, and it is whispered that the Marquis is involved in dangerous political schemes.’

‘After all,’ interposed the Countess, ‘what injury did he do the bankers?’

‘Nothing but always staking on cards that never fail to win. It is strange he never seems to take advantage to benefit his own fortune, for he always confines himself to the lowest possible stake. Other players, however, follow his lead, stake high, win invariably, and the bank is ruined even at a single game.’

The Countess was about to answer when the Marquis entered the room.

‘So you are come at last!’ said one.

‘We have longed exceedingly for you,’ said the Countess, ‘and this evening, more than ever, you have chosen to absent yourself. It really seemed as if you had forgotten us entirely.’

‘I had, indeed, some particular business to transact, and I have been most successful,’ replied the Marquis. ‘To-morrow, probably, not a single faro bank will exist in W——. I have gone from house to house, and the result is that we have not post-horses enough to carry away the enraged bankers.’

‘Can you not teach us this wonderful art of yours?’ asked the Countess.

‘Not easily, madam,’ replied he. ‘A lucky hand. I can give no other explanation.’

‘In truth,’ said the gentleman who had spoken before, ‘your hand is so lucky that in all my life I never knew anything like it.’

‘At your time of life,’ said the Marquis, ‘that is