The Nest of the Sparrowhawk HTML version

XIV. A Game Of Primero
At a table in the immediate center of the room a rotund gentleman in doublet and
breeches of cinnamon brown taffeta and voluminous lace cuffs at the wrists was
presiding over a game of Spanish primero.
A simple game enough, not difficult of comprehension, yet vastly exciting, if one
may form a judgment of its qualities through watching the faces of the players.
The rotund gentleman dealt a card face downwards to each of his opponents,
who then looked at their cards and staked on them, by pushing little piles of gold
or silver forward.
Then the dealer turned up his own card, and gave the amount of the respective
stakes to those players whose cards were of higher value than his own, whilst
sweeping all other moneys to swell his own pile.
A simple means, forsooth, of getting rid of any superfluity of cash.
"Art winning, Endicott?" queried Lord Walterton as, he stood over the other man,
looking down on the game.
Endicott shrugged his fat shoulders, and gave an enigmatic chuckle.
"I pay King and Ace only," he called out imperturbably, as he turned up a Queen.
Most of the stakes came to swell his own pile, but he passed a handful of gold to
a hollow-eyed youth who sat immediately opposite to him, and who clutched at
the money with an eager, trembling grasp.
"You have all the luck to-night, Segrave," he said with an oily smile directed at
the winner.
"Make your game, gentlemen," he added almost directly, as he once more began
to deal.
"I pay knave upwards!" he declared, turning up the ten of clubs.
"Mine is the ten of hearts," quoth one of the players.
"Ties pay the bank," quoth Endicott imperturbably.
"Mine is a queen," said Segrave in a hollow tone of voice.
Endicott with a comprehensive oath threw the entire pack of cards into a distant
corner of the room.
"A fresh pack, mistress!" he shouted peremptorily.
Then as an overdressed, florid woman, with high bullhead fringe and old-
fashioned Spanish farthingale, quickly obeyed his behests, he said with a coarse
"Fresh cards may break Master Segrave's luck and improve yours, Sir Michael."