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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPelham - Volume 2 - Chapter 19
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Pelham - Volume 2 - Chapter 19 Post by :donben2002 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :1531

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Pelham - Volume 2 - Chapter 19


Alea sequa vorax species certissima furti Non contenta bonis, animum quoque perfida mergit;--Furca, furax--infamis, iners, furiosa, ruina. Petrarch: Dial.

I dined the next day at the Freres Provencaux; an excellent restaurateur's, by-the-by, where one gets irreproachable gibier, and meets no English. After dinner, I strolled into the various gambling houses, with which the Palais Royal abounds.

In one of these, the crowd and heat were so great, that I should immediately have retired if I had not been struck with the extreme and intense expression of interest in the countenance of one of the spectators at the rouge et noir table. He was a man about forty years of age; his complexion was dark and sallow; the features prominent, and what are generally called handsome; but there was a certain sinister expression in his eyes and mouth, which rendered the effect of his physiognomy rather disagreeable than prepossessing. At a small distance from him, and playing, with an air which, in its carelessness and nonchalance, formed a remarkable contrast to the painful anxiety of the man I have just described, sate Mr. Thornton.

At first sight, these two appeared to be the only Englishmen present besides myself; I was more struck by seeing the former in that scene, than I was at meeting Thornton there; for there was something distingue in the mien of the stranger, which suited far worse with the appearance of the place, than the bourgeois air and dress of my ci-devant second.

"What! another Englishman?" thought I, as I turned round and perceived a thick, rough great coat, which could possibly belong to no continental shoulders. The wearer was standing directly opposite the seat of the swarthy stranger; his hat was slouched over his face; I moved in order to get a clearer view of his countenance. It was the same person I had seen with Thornton that morning. Never to this moment have I forgotten the stern and ferocious expression with which he was gazing upon the keen and agitated features of the gambler opposite. In the eye and lip there was neither pleasure, hatred, nor scorn, in their simple and unalloyed elements; but each seemed blent and mingled into one deadly concentration of evil passions.

This man neither played, nor spoke, nor moved. He appeared utterly insensible of every feeling in common with those around. There he stood, wrapt in his own dark and inscrutable thoughts, never, for one instant, taking his looks from the varying countenance which did not observe their gaze, nor altering the withering character of their almost demoniacal expression. I could not tear myself from the spot. I felt chained by some mysterious and undefinable interest; my attention was first diverted into a new channel, by a loud exclamation from the dark visaged gambler at the table; it was the first he had uttered, notwithstanding his anxiety; and, from the deep, thrilling tone in which it was expressed, it conveyed a keen sympathy with the overcharged feelings which it burst from.

With a trembling hand, he took from an old purse the few Napoleons that were still left there. He set them all at one hazard, on the rouge. He hung over the table with a dropping lip; his hands were tightly clasped in each other; his nerves seemed strained into the last agony of excitation. I ventured to raise my eyes upon the gaze, which I felt must still be upon the gambler--there it was fixed, and stern as before; but it now conveyed a deeper expression of joy than of the other passions which were there met. Yet a joy so malignant and fiendish, that no look of mere anger or hatred could have so chilled my heart. I dropped my eyes. I redoubled my attention to the cards--the last two were to be turned up. A moment more!--the fortune was to the noir. The stranger had lost! He did not utter a single word. He looked with a vacant eye on the long mace, with which the marker had swept away his last hopes, with his last coin, and then, rising, left the room, and disappeared.

The other Englishman was not long in following him. He uttered a short, low, laugh, unobserved, perhaps, by any one but myself; and, pushing through the atmosphere of sacres and mille tonnerres, which filled that pandaemonium, strode quickly to the door. I felt as if a load had been taken from my bosom, when he was gone.

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