couldn't keep away from it. Washed it all down, sir, by Jingo. And it's my belief I had some more, too, afterwards at that infernal little thieves' den."
"What, were you there too?" Strong asked, "and before you came to Grosvenor Place? That was beginning betimes."
"Early hours to be drunk and cleared out before nine o'clock, eh? But so it was. Yes, like a great big fool, I must go there; and found the fellows dining, Blackland and young Moss, and two or three more of the thieves. If we'd gone to Rouge et Noir, I must have won. But we didn't try the black and red. No, hang 'em, they know'd I'd have beat 'em at that -- I must have beat 'em -- I can't help beating 'em, I tell you. But they was too cunning for me. That rascal Blackland got the bones out, and we played hazard on the dining-table. And I dropped all the money I had from you in the morning, be hanged to my luck. It was that that set me wild, and I suppose I must have been very hot about the head, for I went off thinking to get some more money from Clavering, I recollect; and then -- and then I don't much remember what happened till I woke this morning, and heard old Bows at No. 4 playing on his planner."
Strong mused for a while as he lighted his cigar with a coal.
"I should like to know how you always draw money from Clavering, Colonel," he said.
The Colonel burst out with a laugh -- "Ha, ha! he owes it me," he said.
"I don't know that that's a reason with Frank for paying," Strong answered. "He owes plenty besides you."
"Well, he gives it me because he is so fond of me," the other said, with the same grinning sneer. "He loves me like a brother; you know he does, Captain. -- No? -- He don't? -- Well, perhaps he don't; and if you ask me no questions, perhaps I'll tell you no lies, Captain Strong -- put that in your pipe and smoke it, my boy."
"But I'll give up that confounded brandy-bottle," the Colonel continued, after a pause. "I must give it up, or it'll be the ruin of me."
"It makes you say queer things," said the Captain, looking Altamont hard in the face. "Remember what you said last night, at Clavering's table."
"Say? What did I say?" asked the other hastily. "Did I split anything? Dammy, Strong, did I split anything?"
"Ask me no questions, and I will tell you no lies," the Chevalier replied on his part. Strong thought of the words Mr. Altamont had used, and his abrupt departure from the Baronet's dining-table and house as soon as he recognised Major Pendennis, or Captain Beak, as he called the Major. But Strong resolved to seek an explanation of these words otherwise than from Colonel Altamont, and did not choose to recall them to the others memory. "No," he said then, "you didn't split, as you call it, Colonel! it was only a trap of mine to see if I could make you speak; but you didn't say a word that anybody could comprehend -- you were too far gone for that."
So much the better, Altamont thought; and heaved a great sight as if relieved, Strong remarked the emotion, but took no notice, and the other, being in a communicative mood, went on speaking.
"Yes, I own to my faults," continued the Colonel. "There is some things I can't, do what I will, resist: a bottle of brandy, a box of dice, and a beautiful woman. No man of pluck and spirit, no man as was worth his salt ever could, as I know of. There's hardly p'raps a country in the world in which them three ain't got me into trouble."
"Indeed!" said Strong.
"Yes, from the age of fifteen, when I ran away from home, and went cabin- boy on board an Indiaman, till now, when I'm fifty year old, pretty nigh, them women have always been my ruin. Why, it was one of 'em, and with such black eyes and jewels on her neck, sattens and ermine like a duchess, I tell you -- it was