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 The next morning, before going round to Gibbons', Mark saw his chief and told him of what had taken place on the previous evening. “I certainly did not think that you would succeed so soon; you believe that you will be able fairly to expose these fellows?”
“I have no doubt whatever that I shall be able to expose one of them; and I have equally no doubt that if the others are arrested, either false cards or pockets for cards will be found upon them. What do you wish me to do, sir? I can, of course, expose any fellow I catch at it, but can do nothing about the others.”
“I must have more than one captured,” the chief said. “At even the most irreproachable club there may be one blackleg, but if it is clear that this place is the haunt of blacklegs we can break it. There are half a dozen Acts that apply; there is the 11th Act of Henry VIII, statute 33, cap. 9, which prohibits the keeping of any common house for dice, cards, or any unlawful game. That has never been repealed, except that gaming houses were licensed in 1620. What is more to the point is that five Acts of George II, the 9th, 12th, 13th, 18th, and 30th, impose penalties upon the keepers of public houses for permitting gambling, and lay heavy penalties upon hazard, roulette, and other gambling games, on the keepers of gambling houses and those who play there. Having received complaints of several young men being rooked in the place, we can, if we prove that some of its frequenters are blacklegs, shut the place up altogether. We should do it quietly, and without fuss, if possible; but if we shut it up several others of the same sort will be certain to close their doors. But mind, there will probably be a desperate row, and you had better take pistols with you. I will have four men close at hand from ten o'clock till the time the place closes, and if they hear a scrimmage, or you fire a pistol out of the window, they will rush in and seize all engaged in the row, and march them to the lock up. Of course you will have to be included.”
Mark then went to Chetwynd.
“Well, what did you think of it last night?”
“Well, I own that it went against my grain to see that young fellow being victimized by a sharper.”
“My dear Mark, you must not use such language as that. I fancy from what I have heard that the Honorable John is not altogether an estimable character, but to call him a sharper is going too far altogether.”
“I don't think that it is, for from what I saw last night I am pretty well convinced that he did not play fair. I mean to go again tonight.”
“But why on earth should you mix yourself up in such an affair, Mark? It is no business of yours; you are not an habitue of the place. Above all, it is extremely unlikely that you are right. There were some shady people there, no doubt, but there were also a good many gentlemen present, and as you know nothing of cards, as far as I know, it is the most unlikely thing in the world that you should find out that Emerson cheated when no one else noticed it.”
“It is my business; it is the duty of every honest man to see that a poor lad like that should not be eaten up by a shark like Emerson. I don't care if there is a shindy over it. I shall not interfere unless I can prove that the man is cheating, in which case no man of honor would go out with him. I shall be glad if you and Boldero would go with me again this evening. I am not known there, and you are to a good many men, and Boldero to many more. I only want that, if I get into a row, you should testify to the fact that I am a gentleman, and ordinarily sane. If there is a row you will have an opportunity of seeing how much I have benefited by my lessons.”
“Yes, I heard you were making tremendous progress. Jack Needham told me a month ago that you had knocked him out of time, and I went into Gibbons' yesterday morning with a man who wanted to buy a dog, and he told me that he considered that it was a great misfortune that you were an amateur, for that you only required another six months' practice, and he would then be ready to back you for a hundred pounds against any man in the ring. But about this affair, Mark. Are you really in earnest?”
“I am, Dick, thoroughly in earnest; so would you be if you had spoken to Cotter last night, as I did. I tell you that if I had not given him a little hope that the thing might come out right, he would have blown out his brains today.”
“Well, Mark, if you have set your mind on it, of course I will stick to you, though I have some doubts whether Cotter has any brains to speak of to blow out, else he would not be mad enough to back himself against Emerson and other men whom Boldero tells me he has been playing with.”
“He has made an ass of himself, no doubt, Dick; but I fancy a good many fellows do that at one time or other of their lives, though not, I grant, always in the same way.”
“Well, I will go, Mark. I need not ask Boldero, for he told me that he should look in again at ten o'clock this evening, for he thought that another night's play would probably bring Cotter to the end of his tether.”
Accordingly a little before ten they walked into the gambling house together.
“Now, Dick, I want you, as soon as you sit down, to take your place in the front line within a yard or two of Emerson. I don't want you to be just behind him, but a short distance away; and I want you to keep your eye upon Sir James Flash, who, if I am not mistaken, will take up the same position that he did last night, near enough to Cotter to see his hand. You will remark, I have no doubt, as I did last night, that whenever Cotter has a bad hand, Flash will either close his eyes, or put his hand up to his mouth and stroke his mustache, or make some sign of that sort. When Cotter has a good hand he will stand perfectly still or look about the room. At any rate, he will make no sign—that, of course, is a guide to Emerson whether to propose or to refuse to allow Cotter to do so. I need not point out to you what a tremendous advantage the knowledge whether an opponent's hand is good or not gives him. Of course, while watching an hour's play I can only know that Flash was making signs, and that when he did so Cotter's hand was a bad one. It is possible that the manner in which the sign was made, either by closing his eye or twisting his mustache, or so on, may have been an intimation as to the suit in which Cotter was strongest or weakest.”
“By Jove, this is a serious thing, Mark.”
“It is a serious thing. I don't want you to get into a row with the fellow. I should like you to give me a nod when you have satisfied yourself that I was not mistaken. I will take upon myself to denounce the fellow, and to say what I noticed yesterday and you can back me up by saying that you saw the same thing. I have no doubt that I shall be able to convince every decent man there that my charge is well founded. I am going to watch Emerson. With the help he gets from Flash, he won't risk anything by cheating until it comes to a big stake like the last game yesterday, in which case, if Cotter's hand happens to be a strong one, he is likely to do so, and I fancy if he does I shall be able to catch him at it. You had better keep Boldero near you. You can whisper to him what you are watching Flash for, and get him to do so too; as, if I catch Emerson cheating, there is likely to be a row; he can lend a hand if necessary, and, at any rate, his joining in with you will suffice to show his friends that the thing is genuine.”
“All right, Mark. I am interested in the matter now, and am ready for anything.”
Soon after ten Cotter and Emerson again sat down, and, as usual, a lot of spectators gathered round the table. The game resembled the one on the previous evening. Mark placed himself' by the side of Cotter, a stranger stood immediately behind his chair, another member of the club was on the other side, and Sir James Flash stood partly behind him, so that although somewhat in the background he could obtain a view between their heads of Cotter's cards. Mark saw to his satisfaction that Dick and Boldero had secured the exact position that he wished them to take. For the first few games the play was even, and Dick began to think that Mark had been mistaken, for Flash appeared to take little interest in the game, and made no sign how Emerson should proceed.
As soon as the stake rose to a hundred again he distinctly saw Flash close his eyes and play with his mustache; he called Boldero's attention to the fact, and found the latter, who had also been watching, had noticed it. By the time a few games had been played he verified Mark's assertion that these signs were signals that Cotter's hand was a bad one, and in each case Emerson played without giving his opponent the opportunity of discarding and taking in fresh cards. He and Dick nodded quietly to Mark, who had satisfied himself that so far Emerson had not cheated in any other way. As on the previous evening, Cotter, after losing five or six hundred pounds, proposed a final game of five hundred. Mark bent down his head, so that the intentness of his gaze should not be noticed, but from under his eyebrows he watched Emerson's every movement; suddenly he placed a foot on the edge of the chair of the man sitting in front of him, and with a sudden spring leaped upon the table, seized Emerson's hand, and held it up to the full length of his arm.
“Gentlemen,” he shouted, “this fellow is cheating; there is a card in his hand which he has just brought from under the table.”
In a moment there was a dead silence of surprise; then Mark forced the hand open and took Emerson's card, which he held up.
“There, you see, gentleman; it is a king.”
Then a Babel of sounds arose, a dozen hands were laid upon Emerson, who was pulled back from his chair and thrown down on a sofa, while hands were run over his coat, waistcoat, and breeches.
“Here they are!” a man shouted, and held a dozen cards over his head.
The place of concealment had been cleverly chosen; the breeches apparently buttoned closely at the knee, but in reality they were loose enough to enable a finger and thumb to be passed between them and the stocking, and in the lining of the breeches was a pocket in which the cards had been placed, being held there by two pieces of whalebone, that closed the pocket. The searchers, among whom were Dick and Boldero, did not have it all their own way; four or five men rushed upon them, and endeavored to pull them off Emerson. The din of voices was prodigious, but Mark, still standing on the table, stilled it for a moment by shouting:
“The scoundrel has an accomplice, who this evening and yesterday has been signaling the strength of the cards in Mr. Cotter's hands.”
“Who is he?” was shouted over the room.
“It is Sir James Flash,” Mark said. “I denounce him as a cheat and a sharper.”
As pale as death, Flash rushed to the table.
“I don't know who you are, sir,” he said, in a tone of concentrated rage, “but you are a liar, and you shall answer for this in the morning.”
“I will answer to any gentleman that calls me to account,” Mark said, in a ringing voice, “but I don't meet a man who has been expelled from White's for cheating, and who I have no doubt is well stocked with cards at the present moment, in readiness for the victim that he is next going to meet after the plucking of Mr. Cotter has been done. Now, gentlemen, search him and see if I am wrong; if I am I will apologize for that part of my accusation.”
Flash drew a pistol from his pocket, but in an instant his arm was seized by those standing round him, and it exploded harmlessly. Among those who seized Flash was the man who had played with him the previous evening. In spite of his struggles and curses, and the efforts of his friends to rescue him, he too was thrown down and eight court cards were found concealed in his sleeve. The uproar while this was going on had been tremendous, but it was suddenly stilled as four men in dark clothes entered the room. Each held in his hand the well known symbol of his office, the little ebony staff surmounted by a silver crown.
“I arrest all present in the name of the king,” one said, “for breaking the laws against gambling, and for brawling and the use of firearms. Now, gentlemen, resistance is useless; I must request that you each give me your card, and your word of honor that you will appear at Bow Street tomorrow morning.”
“What is all this about, sir?” he asked Mark, who was still standing on the table.
“Two fellows here have been caught cheating.”
“What is your name and address, sir?”
“My name is Mark Thorndyke, and I am a landed gentleman at Reigate; my friends Mr. Chetwynd and Mr. Boldero will bear this out.”
“Who are the two men?” the constable asked.
“The two fellows with torn clothes,” Mark said. “They are Mr. Emerson and Sir James Flash.”
“You are certain of the charge that you are making?”
“Quite certain; the cards have been found hidden upon them.”
“Yes, yes!” a score of voices shouted; “they have been caught in the act of cheating.”
“Take those two men into custody,” the constable said to two of his companions.
“Who fired that pistol?” he went on.
A number of voices shouted:
“Sir James Flash; he attempted to murder Mr. Thorndyke.”
The constable nodded to the man who had laid his hands on Sir James Flash, and in a moment a pair of handcuffs closed on his wrists.
“You shall repent this!” Flash exclaimed furiously.
“Calm yourself, Sir James,” the constable said calmly. “We know our duty, and do it whether a man is a peer or a peasant; you are accused of card sharping and an attempted murder.”
“What is your address in town, Mr. Thorndyke?” he asked.
“18 Villiers Street.”
“Is there any charge against anyone else here? A good many of you seem to have your clothes torn and disarranged.”
“Some fellows attempted to rescue Emerson and Flash while we were searching them; for what reason we can all pretty well imagine.”
“I shall require the names in the morning of your assailants,” the constable said; “it looks very much as if they were confederates of the two prisoners. Now, gentlemen, you can all leave. This house is closed, and will not be opened again until this affair is thoroughly investigated.”
In five minutes the house was deserted.
“How can I thank you, Mr. Thorndyke?” Cotter, who was one of those who had seized Flash's arm, diverted his aim and searched him, said, when they got outside the house. “You have saved my life. It did not seem possible to me that you could succeed in showing that I was being cheated, and I had firmly resolved that, instead of allowing you to suffer loss, I would tomorrow morning make a clean breast of the whole affair to my father, as I had intended to have done this morning.”
“If I might advise you, Mr. Cotter, I should say, carry out your intention as far as making a clean breast of it is concerned. Happily, you are free from debt, as those IOUs are worthless, for they were obtained from you by cheating, therefore you have no demand to make upon his purse. The police will, I have no doubt, endeavor to keep this thing quiet, but your name may come out, and it would be far better that your father should hear this story from you than elsewhere; and your assurance that you will never touch a card again, and the heavy lesson that you have had, will doubtless induce him to look at the matter leniently. It will, no doubt, be a painful story to tell, but it will be far better told by you.”
“I will do it, sir; as you say, the lesson has been a heavy one, and henceforth my father shall have no reason to complain of me. May I call and see you tomorrow evening?”
“Certainly. I shall be at home from seven to eight, after which hour I have an engagement. Good night.”
Cotter walked on, and Mark fell back, and joined Dick and Boldero, who had fallen behind when they saw him speaking to Cotter.
“Well, Mark, I congratulate you,” Dick Chetwynd said. “You did it wonderfully, though how on earth you knew that fellow had a card in his hand is more than I can guess.”
“I felt sure he was going to cheat,” Mark said quietly; “I saw that Cotter's hand was a very strong one, and knew that Emerson would be aware that it was so, because he would receive no signal from Flash, therefore this was the time, if any, that he would cheat. He had been playing with both hands upon the table. I saw him withdraw one, there was a little pause, and then it came up again, and I had not a doubt in the world that there was a card in it, and that it had been hidden somewhere in his breeches, which is one of the best places of concealment, for his hand being under the table while getting at the card, no one present who was not behind the scenes, as I was, could detect him doing it.”
“The wonder to me is,” Boldero said, “that while there were a number of men looking on closely, for Emerson has long been suspected of not playing fair, you, just fresh from the country, if I may say so, should have spotted him.”
“That is easily explained,” Mark said. “Not wishing to fall a victim, I have of late been put up to a great many of these sharpers' tricks by a man who at one time had been in the t............
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