The Nest of the Sparrowhawk HTML version

He heartily pitied the young man before him, and was forming vague projects of
how best to make him understand in private and without humiliation that the
money which he had lost would be returned to him in full. Strangely enough he
was still holding in his hand that king of diamonds which Endicott had dealt to
XIX. Disgrace
Segrave, too, had been silent, of course. In his mind there was neither suspense
nor calm. It was utter, dull and blank despair which assailed him, the ruin of his
fondest hopes, an awful abyss of disgrace, of punishment, of death at best,
which seemed to yawn before him from the other side of the baize-covered table.
Instinct--that ever-present instinct of self-control peculiar to the gently-bred race
of mankind--caused him to make frantic efforts to keep himself and his nerves in
check. He would--even at this moment of complete ruin--have given the last
shreds of his worldly possessions to be able to steady the febrile movements of
his hand.
The pack of cards was on the table, just as Endicott had put it down, after
dealing, with the exception of the queen of hearts in front of Segrave and the
lucky king of diamonds on which Lambert was still mechanically gazing.
He was undoubtedly moved by the desire to hide the trembling of his hands and
the gathering tears in his eyes when he began idly to scatter the pack upon the
table, spreading out the cards, fingering them one by one, setting his teeth the
while lest that latent cry of misery should force its way across his lips.
Suddenly he paused in this idle fingering of the cards. His eyes which already
were burning with hot tears, seemed to take on an almost savage glitter. A
hoarse cry escaped his parched lips.
"In the name of Heaven, Master Segrave, what ails you?" cried Endicott with
well-feigned concern.
Segrave's hand wandered mechanically to his own neck; he tugged at the
fastening of his lace collar, as if, in truth, he were choking.
"The king.... The king of diamonds," he murmured in a hollow voice. "Two ... two
kings of diamonds...."
He laughed, a long, harsh laugh, the laugh of a maniac, or of a man possessed,
whilst one long thin finger pointed tremblingly to the card still held by Richard
Lambert, and then to its counterpart in the midst of the scattered pack.