Chapter XIX. One Game at a Time
 

The Glengarry men were on the Montreal boat leaving for home. Macdonald Bhain's farewell to his nephew was full of sadness, for he knew that henceforth their ways would lie apart, and full of solemn warnings against the dangers of the city where Ranald was now to be.

"It is a wicked place, and the pitfalls are many, and they are not in the places where the eyes will be looking for them. Ye are taking the way that will be leading you from us all, and I will not be keeping you back, nor will I be laying any vows upon you. You will be a true man, and you will keep the fear of God before your eyes, and you will remember that a Macdonald never fails the man that trusts him." And long after the great man was gone his last words kept tugging at Ranald's heart: "Ranald, lad, remember us up yonder in the Indian Lands," he said, holding his hand with a grip that squeezed the bones together; "we will be always thinking of you, and more than all, at the Bible class and the meetings she will be asking for you and wondering how you are doing, and by night and by day the door will be on the latch for your coming; for, laddie, laddie, you are a son to me and more!" The break in the big Macdonald's voice took away from Ranald all power of speech, and without a word of reply, he had to let his uncle go.

Yankee's good by was characteristic. "Well, guess I'll git along. Wish you were comin' back with us, but you've struck your gait, I guess, and you're goin' to make quite a dust. Keep your wind till the last quarter; that's where the money's lost. I ain't 'fraid of you; you're green, but they can't break you. Keep your left eye on the suckers. There ain't no danger from the feller that rips and rares and gits up on his hind legs, but the feller that sidles raound and sorter chums it up to you and wants to pay fer your drinks, by Jings, kick him. And say," Yankee's voice here grew low and impressive, "git some close. These here are all right for the woods, but with them people close counts an awful lot. It's the man inside that wins, but the close is outside. Git 'em and git 'em good; none of your second-hand Jew outfits. It'll cost, of course, but--(here Yankee closed up to Ranald) but here's a wad; ain't no pertickaler use to me."

Then Ranald smote him in the chest and knocked him back against a lumber pile.

"I know you," he cried; "you would be giving me the coat off your back. If I would be taking money from any man I'd take it from you, but let me tell you I will have no money that I do not earn;" then, seeing Yankee's disappointed face, he added, "but indeed, I owe you for your help to me--and--mi--mine, when help was needed sore, more than I can ever pay back." Then, as they shook hands, Ranald spoke again, and his voice was none too steady. "And I have been thinking that I would like you to have Lisette, for it may be a long time before I will be back again, and I know you will be good to her; and if ever I need your help in this way, I promise I will come to you."

Yankee chewed his quid of tobacco hard and spat twice before he could reply. Then he answered slowly: "Now look-ye-here, I'll take that little mare and look after her, but the mare's yours and if--and if--which I don't think will happen--if you don't come back soon, why--I will send you her equivalent in cash; but I'd ruther see--I'd ruther see you come back for it!"

It was with a very lonely heart that Ranald watched out of sight the steamboat that carried to their homes in the Indian Lands the company of men who had been his comrades for the long months in the woods and on the river, and all the more that he was dimly realizing that this widening blue strip of flowing river was separating him forever from the life he so passionately loved. As his eyes followed them he thought of the home-coming that he would have shared; their meetings at the church door, the grave handshakings from the older folk, the saucy "horos" from the half-grown boys, the shy blushing glances from the maidens, and last and dearest of all, the glad, proud welcome in the sweet, serious face with the gray-brown eyes. It was with the memory of that face in his heart that he turned to meet what might be coming to him, with the resolve that he would play the man.

"Hello, old chap, who's dead?" It was Harry's gay voice. "You look like a tomb." He put his arm through Ranald's and walked with him up the street.

"Where are you going now?" he asked, as Ranald walked along in silence.

"To get some clothes."

"Thank the great powers!" ejaculated Harry to himself.

"What?"

"And where are you going to get them?"

"I do not know--some store, I suppose." Ranald had the vaguest notions not only of where he should go, but of the clothes in which he ought to array himself, but he was not going to acknowledge this to his friend.

"You can't get any clothes fit to wear in this town," said Harry, in high contempt. Ranald's heart sank. "But come along, we will find something."

As they passed in front of the little French shops, with windows filled inside and out with ready-made garments, Ranald paused to investigate.

"Oh! pshaw," cried Harry, "don't know what you'll get here. We'll find something better than this cheap stuff," and Ranald, glad enough of guidance, though uncertain as to where it might lead him, followed meekly.

"What sort of a suit do you want?" said Harry.

"I don't know," said Ranald, doubtfully. It had never occurred to him that there could be any great difference in suits. There had never been any choosing of suits with him.

"Like yours, I suppose," he continued, glancing at Harry's attire, but adding, cautiously, "if they do not cost too much."

"About forty dollars," said Harry, lightly; then, noticing the dismayed look on Ranald's face, he added quickly, "but you don't need to spend that much, you know. I say, you let me manage this thing." And fortunate it was for Ranald that he had his friend's assistance in this all-important business, but it took all Harry's judgment, skill, and delicacy of handling to pilot his friend through the devious ways of outfitters, for Ranald's ignorance of all that pertained to a gentleman's wardrobe was equaled only by the sensitive pride on the one hand that made him shrink from appearing poor and mean, and by his Scotch caution on the other that forbade undue extravagance. It was a hard hour and a half for them both, but when all was over, Ranald's gratitude more than repaid Harry for his pains.

"Come up to-night," said Harry, as they stood at the door of the Hotel du Nord, where Ranald had taken up his quarters.

"No," said Ranald, abruptly, unconsciously glancing down at his rough dress.

"Then I'll come down here," said Harry, noting the glance.

"I will be very glad," replied Ranald, his face lighting up, for he was more afraid than he cared to show of the lonely hours of that night. It would be the first night in his life away from his own kin and friends. But he was not so glad when, after tea, as he stood at the door of the hotel, he saw sauntering toward him not only Harry, but also Lieutenant De Lacy and his friend Mr. Sims.

"These fellows would come along," explained Harry; "I told them you didn't want them."

"Showed how little he knew," said the lieutenant. "I told him you would be delighted."

"Will you come in?" said Ranald, rather grudgingly, "though there is nothing much inside."

"What a bear," said Mr. Sims to Harry, disgustedly, in a low voice.

"Nothing much!" said the lieutenant, "a good deal I should say from what one can hear."

"Oh, that is nothing," replied Ranald; "the boys are having some games."

The bar-room was filled with men in shanty dress, some sitting with chairs tipped back against the wall, smoking the black French "twist" tobacco; others drinking at the bar; and others still at the tables that stood in one corner of the room playing cards with loud exclamations and oaths of delight or disgust, according to their fortune. The lieutenant pushed his way through the crowd, followed by the others.

"A jolly lot, by Jove!" he exclaimed, looking with mild interest on the scene, "and with the offer of some sport, too," he added, glancing at the card-players in the corner, where men were losing their winter's wages.

"What will you take?" said Ranald, prompted by his Highland sense of courtesy, "and would you have it in the next room?"

"Anywhere," said the lieutenant, with alacrity; "a little brandy and soda for me; nothing else in these places is worth drinking."

Ranald gave the order, and with some degree of pride, noticed the obsequious manner of the bar-tender toward him and his distinguished guests. They passed into an inner and smaller room, lit by two or three smoky lamps in brackets on the walls. In this room, sitting at one of the tables, were two Frenchmen playing ecarte. As the lieutenant entered, one of them glanced up and uttered an exclamation of recognition.

"Ah, it is our warlike friend," cried De Lacy, recognizing him in return; "you play this game also," he continued in French.

"Not moche," said LeNoir, for it was he, with a grand salute. "Will the capitaine join, and his friends?"

Ranald shook his head and refused.

"Come along," said the lieutenant, eagerly, to Ranald. The game was his passion. "Mr. Sims, you will; Harry, what do you say?"

"I will look on with Ranald."

"Oh, come in Macdonald," said the lieutenant, "the more the better, and we'll make it poker. You know the game?" he said, turning to LeNoir; "and your friend--I have not the pleasure--"

"Mr. Rouleau," said Ranald and LeNoir together, presenting the young Frenchman who spoke and looked like a gentleman.

"Do you play the game?" said the lieutenant.

"A verie leetle, but I can learn him."

"That's right," cried the lieutenant, approvingly.

"What do you say, Ranald," said Harry, who also loved the game.

"No," said Ranald, shortly, "I never play for money."

"Make it pennies," said Mr. Sims, with a slight laugh.

"Go on, De Lacy," said Harry, angry at Mr. Sims's tone. "You've got four--that'll do!"

"Oh, very well," said De Lacy, his easy, languid air returning to him. "What shall it be--quarter chips with a dollar limit? Brandy and soda, Mr. LeNoir? And you, Mr. Rouleau? Two more glasses, garcon," and the game began.

From the outset Rouleau steadily won till his chips were piled high in front of him.

"You play the game well," said the lieutenant. "Shall we raise the limit?"

"As you lak," said Rouleau, with a polite bow.

"Let's make it five dollars," suggested Mr. Sims, to which all agreed.

But still the game was Rouleau's, who grew more and more excited with every win. The lieutenant played coolly, and with seeming indifference, in which he was imitated by Mr. Sims, the loss of a few dollars being a matter of small moment to either.

"It would make it more interesting if we made it a dollar to play," at length said Mr. Sims. The suggestion was accepted, and the game went on. At once the luck began to turn, and in a half hour's play Rouleau's winnings disappeared and passed over to the lieutenant's hand. In spite of his bad luck, however, Rouleau continued to bet eagerly and recklessly, until Ranald, who hated to see the young lumberman losing his season's wages, suggested that the game come to an end.

"The night is early," said the lieutenant, "but if you have had enough," he said, bowing to LeNoir and Rouleau.

"Non!" exclaimed Rouleau, "the fortune will to me encore. We mak it de two-dollar to play. Dat will brak de luck."

"I think you ought to stop it," said Harry.

But the demon of play had taken full possession of both Rouleau and the lieutenant and they were not to be denied. Rouleau took from his pocket a roll of bills and counted them.

"Fifty dollars," he cried. "Bon! I play him, me!"

The others deposited a like sum before them, and the game proceeded. The deal was De Lacy's. After a few moment's consideration, Mr. Sims and LeNoir each drew three cards. In a tone of triumph which he could not altogether suppress, Rouleau exclaimed "Dees are good enough for me." The lieutenant drew one card, and the betting began.

Twice Rouleau, when it came to his turn, bet the limit, the others contenting themselves by "raising" one dollar. On the third round LeNoir, remarking, "Das leetle too queek for me," dropped out.

Once more Rouleau raised the bet to the limit, when Mr. Sims refused, and left the game to him and the lieutenant. There was no mistaking the eager triumph in the Frenchman's pale face. He began to bet more cautiously, his only fear being that his opponent would "call" too soon. Dollar by dollar the bet was raised till at last Rouleau joyously gathered his last chips, raised the bet once more by the limit, exclaiming, as he did so, "Alas! dere ees no more!"

He had played his season's wages that night, but now he would recover all.

De Lacy, whose coolness was undisturbed, though his face showed signs of his many brandy-and-sodas, covered the bet.

"Hola!" exclaimed Rouleau in triumph. "Eet ees to me!" He threw down his cards and reached for the pile.

"Excuse me," said the lieutenant, quietly looking at Rouleau's cards. "Ah, a straight flush, queen high." Coolly he laid his cards on the table. "Thought you might have had the ace," he said, languidly, leaning back in his chair. He, too, held a straight flush, but with the king.

Rouleau gazed thunderstruck.

"Mort Dieu!" he exclaimed, excitedly. "The deal was from you."

"Mine," said De Lacy, quietly, looking up at the excited Frenchman.

"Ah," cried Rouleau, beside himself. "It is--what you call? One cheat! cheat!"

The lieutenant sat up straight in his chair.

"Do you mean that I cheated you?" he said, with slow emphasis. "Beware what you say."

"Oui!" cried the Frenchman; "sacr-r-re--so I mean!"

Before the words had well left his lips, and before any one could interfere De Lacy shot out his arm, lifted the Frenchman clear off his feet, and hurled him to the floor.

"Stop! you coward!" Ranald stood before the lieutenant with eyes blazing and breath coming quick.

"Coward?" said De Lacy, slowly.

"You hit a man unprepared."

"You are prepared, I suppose," replied De Lacy, deliberately.

"Yes! Yes!" cried Ranald, eagerly, the glad light of battle coming into his eyes.

"Good," said De Lacy, slowly putting back his chair, and proceeding to remove his coat.

"Glengarry!" cried LeNoir, raising the battle cry he had cause to remember so well; and flinging off his coat upon the floor, he patted Ranald on the back, yelling, "Go in, bully boy!"

"Shut the door, LeNoir," said Ranald, quickly, "and keep it shut."

"De Lacy," cried Harry, "this must not go on! Ranald, think what you are doing!"

"You didn't notice his remark, apparently, St. Clair," said the lieutenant, calmly.

"Never mind," cried Harry, "he was excited, and anyway the thing must end here."

"There is only one way. Does he retract?" said De Lacy, quietly.

"Ranald," Harry cried, beseechingly, "you know he is no coward; you did not mean that."

By this time Ranald had himself in hand.

"No," he said, regretfully, forcing himself to speak the truth. "I know he is no coward; I have seen him where no coward would be, but," he added, "he struck a man unguarded, and that was a coward's blow."

"Macdonald," said De Lacy deliberately, "you are right. True, he called me a cheat, but I should have given him time. Still," he added, rolling up his sleeves, "I hope you will not deprive yourself or me of the privilege of settling this little business."

"I will be glad," said Ranald, his eyes once more lighting up. "Very glad indeed, if you wish."

"Nonsense," cried Harry, passionately, "I tell you I will not have it. He has given you ample apology, De Lacy; and you, Ranald, I thought a Macdonald never fought except for sufficient cause!" Harry remembered the fighting rule of the Macdonald gang.

"That is true," said Ranald, gravely, "but it was a cruel blow," pointing to Rouleau, who, supported by LeNoir, was sitting on a chair, his face badly cut and bleeding, "and that, too, after taking from him the wages of six months in the bush!"

"I suppose you admit the game was fair," said the lieutenant, moving nearer to Ranald, the threat in his tone evident to all.

"The game was fair," said Ranald, facing De Lacy, "but I will say the lad was no fair match for you!"

"He chose to risk his money, which you were not willing to do." De Lacy felt that he was being put in an unpleasant light and was determined to anger Ranald beyond control. Ranald caught the sneer.

"If I did not play," he cried, hotly, "it was for no fear of you or any of you. It was no man's game whatever," he continued, contemptuously.

"Now, De Lacy," cried Harry, again, "let this stop. The man who fights will first fight me!"

"Perhaps Mr. Macdonald would show us how the game should be played," said Mr. Sims, coming as near to a sneer as he dared.

"It would not be hard to show you this game," said Ranald, ignoring Mr. Sims, and looking the lieutenant in the eyes, "or perhaps the other!"

"Good!" cried Harry, gladly seizing the opportunity of averting a fight. "The game! Take your places, gentlemen!"

The lieutenant hesitated for a moment, as if uncertain what to do. Then, with a slight laugh, he said, "Very well, one thing at a time, the other can wait."

"Come on!" cried Harry, "who goes in? LeNoir, you?"

LeNoir looked at Ranald.

"What you say?"

"No," said Ranald, shortly, "this is my game!" With that he turned aside from the table and spoke a few words in a low tone to LeNoir, who assisted Rouleau from the room, and after some minutes' absence, returned with a little linen bag. Ranald took the bag and began to count out some money upon the table before him.

"I will play to one hundred dollars," he said.

The lieutenant and Mr. Sims each laid the same amount before them upon the table.

"I have not so much on me," said Harry, "but perhaps my I. O. U. will do."

"What shall we say," said Mr. Sims, "a dollar to play and five dollars limit?"

"Say five and twenty-five," said De Lacy, who was commanding himself with a great effort.

"Is that too high?" said Harry, looking toward Ranald.

"No," said Ranald, "the higher the better."

It was soon evident that Ranald knew the game. He had learned it during the long winter nights in the shanty from Yankee, who was a master at it, and he played it warily and with iron nerve. He seemed to know as by instinct when to retreat and when to pursue; and he played with the single purpose of bleeding the lieutenant dry. Often did he refuse to take toll of Harry or Mr. Sims when opportunity offered, but never once did he allow the lieutenant to escape.

"You flatter me," said the lieutenant, sarcastically, as Ranald's purpose became increasingly clear.

"I will have from you all you have won," replied Ranald, in a tone of such settled resolve that it seemed as if nothing could prevent the accomplishment of his purpose. In vain the lieutenant sought to brace his nerves with his brandy-and-sodas. He played now recklessly and again with over-caution, while Ranald, taking advantage of every slip and every sign of weakness, followed him with relentless determination.

With such stakes the game was soon over. It was not long before the lieutenant was stripped of his hundred, while Harry and Mr. Sims had each lost smaller amounts.

"You will try another hundred?" said the lieutenant, burning to get revenge.

Without a word Ranald laid down his hundred; the others did likewise, and once more the game proceeded. There was no change in Ranald's play. Thorough knowledge of the game, absolute self- command, an instinctive reading of his opponent's mind, and unswerving purpose soon brought about the only result possible. The lieutenant's second hundred with a part of Harry's and Mr. Sims's passed into Ranald's possession.

Again De Lacy challenged to play.

"No," said Ranald, "I have done." He put back into his linen bag his one hundred dollars, counted out two hundred, and gave it to LeNoir, saying: "That is Rouleau's," and threw the rest upon the table. "I want no man's money," he said, "that I do not earn."

The lieutenant sprang to his feet.

"Hold!" he cried, "you forget, there is something else!"

"No," said Ranald, as Harry and Mr. Sims put themselves in De Lacy's way, "there is nothing else to-night; another day, and any day you wish, you can have the other game," and with that he passed out of the room.