The Unknown Ajax
nothing but casino, and that he would be damned if he played with Claud, who had no head for cards, or, indeed, anything else. So Hugo had been obliged to take his seat at the card-table, with his grandfather for partner. They played only for chicken-stakes, and it was not long before Hugo found that his apprehension had been well-grounded. He was forced to endure many sharp scolds for stupidity; and later, when the billiard-players came into the drawing-room, the severe imposition of having his hand overlooked by Vincent. He seized the earliest opportunity of relinquishing his seat to Vincent. No opposition had been raised, my lord merely saying “Well, you’re no card-player!” and recommending him to watch his cousin’s play. He had preferred, however, to slip away when my lord’s attention was devoted to the play of a difficult hand, and to enjoy the solace of one of his cigars on the terrace. Here he had presently been joined by Richmond. “I thought you had come out to blow a cloud!” Richmond had said. “Now, if you’re framing to squeak beef on me—!” he had responded.
    Richmond had chuckled. “You’d be in the suds, cousin! So would I be, if you were to squeak beef on me! Grandpapa thinks I’ve gone to bed. He wouldn’t like it above half if he knew—That is, he don’t want me to ask you about the war in the Peninsula, or—But never mind that! I wanted to tell you—you might not know—he—he doesn’t understand!” He had raised his handsome young face, pallid in the moonlight, and had blurted out: “About the Light Division, I mean! He—he only thinks of the Guards, and the Cavalry! He may say—oh, I don’t know, but pray don’t take it amiss!”
    “Nay,” Hugo had said reassuringly. “I won’t take it amiss! Why should I? I’ve nothing to say against the Gentlemen’s Sons, or the Cavalry either—some of ’em!” “No. Well, I wanted just to warn you!” Richmond had confided. “He’s quite antiquated, you know, and, of course, he does ride devilish rusty—though not with me, so perhaps I ought not to say it, only—”
    “There’s no need for you to be fatched, lad: my Grandfather Bray was just such a cobby old fellow!”
    “Oh!” Richmond had sounded rather taken aback. “Was he? I mean—Yes, I see! But there’s Vincent, too, and—” He paused, knitting his brows. “I don’t know why he was in such a bad skin tonight, but in general he—he is a bang-up fellow, you know! What they call Top-of-the-Trees! A regular out-and-outer! You should see him with a four-in-hand!” “Happen I will.”
    “Yes, of course. Do you drive yourself, cousin?” “Nay, I’m no Nonesuch!”
    Richmond had been disappointed, but he had said quickly: “No, you haven’t had the opportunity—” He had broken off short, and although no colour could live in the moonlight, Hugo had known that a vivid flush had flooded his cheeks. He had stammered: “I don’t mean—I meant only that you have been doing other things! Things m-more worth the doing! I wish you will tell me, if it isn’t a dead bore, about your campaigns!”
    Yes, Hugo thought, reviewing that interlude, a nice lad, young Richmond; but what such an ardent colt was doing hobbled at Darracott Place was a puzzle. If ever a lad was mad after a pair of colours! He had said that his grandfather had set his face against the granting of this desire, but he didn’t look to be the sort of lad to submit docilely to the decree of even so absolute an autocrat as old Darracott. If my lord didn’t take care, thought Hugo, casting off the bedclothes, and swinging his feet to the ground, he would have the lad chin-deep in mischief.
    Dismissing Richmond from his mind, he strode to the window, and pulled back the curtains, and stood for a minute or two, leaning his hands on the sill, and looking out. The sprawling house was built on a slight elevation, in parkland which stretched for a considerable distance to the south and east, but

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