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Chapter 69

Godfrey executes a Scheme at Bath, by which a whole Company of Sharpers is ruined.

On the evening after their arrival at Bath, Godfrey, who had kept himself up all day for that purpose, went in boots to the billiard table; and, two gentlemen being at play, began to bet with so little appearance of judgment, that one of the adventurers then present was inflamed with a desire of profiting by his inexperience; and, when the table was vacant, invited him to take a game for amusement. The soldier, assuming the air of a self-conceited dupe, answered, that he did not choose to throw away his time for nothing, but, if he pleased, would piddle for a crown a game. This declaration was very agreeable to the other, who wanted to be further confirmed in the opinion he had conceived of the stranger, before he would play for anything of consequence. The party being accepted, Gauntlet put off his coat, and, beginning with seeming eagerness, won the first game, because his antagonist kept up his play with a view of encouraging him to wager a greater sum. The soldier purposely bit at the hook, the stakes were doubled, and he was again victorious, by the permission of his competitor. He now began to yawn; and observing, that it was not worth his while to proceed in such a childish manner; the other swore, in an affected passion, that he would play him for twenty guineas. The proposal being embraced, through the connivance of Godfrey, the money was won by the sharper, who exerted his dexterity to the utmost, fearing that otherwise his adversary would decline continuing the game.

Godfrey thus conquered, pretended to lose his temper, cursed his own ill-luck, swore that the table had a cast, and that the balls did not run true, changed his mast, and with great warmth, challenged his enemy to double the sum. The gamester, who feigned reluctance, complied with his desire; and having got the two first hazards, offered to lay one hundred guineas to fifty on the game. The odds were taken; and Godfrey having allowed himself to be overcome, began to rage with great violence, broke the mast to pieces, threw the balls out of the window, and, in the fury of his indignation, defied his antagonist to meet him tomorrow, when he should be refreshed from the fatigue of travelling. This was a very welcome invitation to the gamester, who, imagining that the soldier would turn out a most beneficial prize, assured him, that he would not fail to be there next forenoon, in order to give him his revenge.

Gauntlet went home to his lodgings, fully certified of his own superiority, and took his measures with Peregrine, touching the prosecution of their scheme; while his opponent made a report of his success to the brethren of the gang, who resolved to be present at the decision of the match, with a view of taking advantage of the stranger’s passionate disposition.

Affairs being thus concerted on both sides, the players met, according to appointment, and the room was immediately filled with spectators, who either came thither by accident, curiosity, or design. The match was fixed for one hundred pounds a game, the principals chose their instruments, and laid aside their coats, and one of the knights of the order proffered to lay another hundred on the head of his associate. Godfrey took him upon the instant. A second worthy of the same class, seeing him so eager, challenged him to treble the sum; and his proposal met with the same reception, to the astonishment of the company, whose expectation was raised to a very interesting pitch. The game was begun, and the soldier having lost the first hazard, the odds were offered by the confederacy with great vociferation; but nobody would run such a risk in favour of a person who was utterly unknown. The sharper having gained the second also, the noise increased to a surprising clamour, not only of the gang, but likewise of almost all the spectators, who desired to lay two to one against the brother of Emilia.

Peregrine, who was present, perceiving the cupidity of the association sufficiently inflamed, all of a sudden opened his mouth, and answered their bets, to the amount of twelve hundred pounds; which were immediately deposited, on both sides, in money and notes; so that this was, perhaps, the most important game that ever was played at billiards. Gauntlet seeing the agreement settled, struck his antagonist’s ball into the pocket in a twinkling, though it was in one of those situations which are supposed to be against the striker. The betters were a little discomposed at this event, for which, however, they consoled themselves by imputing the success to accident; but when, at the very next stroke, he sprung it over the table, their countenances underwent an instantaneous distraction of feature, and they waited, in th............

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