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simple, but the tone of utter abandonment in which they were uttered, was heart-rending.
'Tell the porters not to admit that gentleman again, till further orders,' said the person he had solicited, to the waiter, adding, in a sneering whisper, 'which will be given when his next quarter's salary is due.'
'Let us take our seats at the table,' said my Fides Achates, 'and while they are sorting the cards for a new deal, I will sketch you the characters of some of the players.' We seated ourselves accordingly.
'That tall, cadaverous, middle-aged man opposite,' he continued, indicating, by his glance, a person with a parchment complexion, and fixed, filmy eyes, whose convulsive movements gave him the appearance of a galvanized corpse, 'is a Scotchman, who lately sold his commission — a captaincy— in the army, under the impression that he had discovered a system which would insure him victory at all games of chance. He has already lost two thirds of his money, yet still, with trembling hand and palsied frame, he continues to practice his infallible plan, as if mathematical calculations could defeat the legerdemain of those trained plunderers. That fine looking young fellow next him, is a young Irishman, who has but just made his debut in the sporting world, yet has even now spent all his ready cash, and mortgaged for half their value the rich acres of his paternal heritage.'
'Who is that remarkably tall man, with the hook-nose, and flowing hair?' inquired I, interrupting my informant: 'I think I have seen him before, and that in the pulpit.'
'Ha! ha! — you mistake him for I g. They strongly resemble each other in person, nor is there so much difference in their callings as might appear at first sight. One performs on a stage, in Drury Lane, the other in Newman-street, — and one exhibition is about as theatrical as the other. The former opens all hearts, and purses, by means of strains which Orpheus would have envied; the latter arrives at the same end, through the agency of a stern brow, an impressive voice, and something, compounded of impudence and enthusiasm, which fools mistake for inspiration.'
'This, then, is P ni,' said I.
'Yes,' returned my guide: 'you see the celebrated juggler, who, — having discovered that peculiar action of horse-hair upon catgut, which is necessary to gull John Bull out of his guineas —treats him to a few scrapes and grimaces, receives his thousands from the dramatic treasury, speeds to the gaming table, and, damning any starving beggar who may supplicate him for a penny on the road, loses the whole amount, returns to his professional duties, fiddles, receives, and is again plundered. The rest of these worthies around us, with the exception of a German baron, a Spanish count, and a French valet, are hangerson of the ' establishment,' — human jackals, who cater for the principals, and are allowed a certain per centage on the 'game' they bring in. Now look behind you,' continued my companion, 'and you will see a little more private peculation.'
Turning my head in the indicated direction, I saw two men seated within a sort of alcove, at one end of the apartment, playing—as I gathered from catching some of the technicalities of the game — piquet. The face of one of them was much flushed, and he seemed under the control of strong nervous excitement. The countenance of his antagonist wore the calm and confident sneer of contemptuous superiority.
'Go,' said my prompter, pointing to the latter,' touch that man on the elbow, tell him (in a whisper) that the person he is fleecing is a friend of yours, and that you have observed his tricks, and will expose him. You will see the result.'
Partly urged by curiosity, and partly by a mysterious and increasing influence exercised over my volition by my companion, I rose and did as he desired. The fellow instantly nodded, gave me a knowing leer, and covertly insinuating about a dozen sovereigns into my hand, smiled benevolently, as if he had done some very meritorious action, and coolly pursued his game.
'I cannot keep this plunder,' said I, resuming my seat.
'Why not V reasoned my Mentor: 'you have as much right to it as the man who lost it: he pilfered it from his employer.'
'Then to him it ought, in justice, to be restored.'
'Not at all: he holds an office under government, and of course filched it from the treasury.'
'Then it belongs to the administration.'
'No, they unjustly taxed the people to obtain it.'
'It is the property of the nation, then.'
'Why, yes,' sophisticated this member of the lower house, —' but as I don't see how you could beneficially divide such a sum amongst a population of twenty millions, I think you may as well act as their representative, and keep it yourself
'Make your game, gent'men, — last deal to-night, — only cards for three coups more,' vociferated the groom-porter.
Two highly successful ones for the bank followed.
'Last coup, gent'men,' said the official.
Hoping to recover, or at least mitigate, their losses, many of the players staked their remaining funds on the coming event, and every eye was bent with deep anxiety on the dealer.
'Thirty-one,' said he, — ' thirty-one — apres,' — and the stakes were raked into a marked space, where they were to remain for the decision of another coup ; all ' t rente un apres,' being, as my companion informed me, a clear profit to the proprietors of the Hell, since, in such cases, the winnings were paid, but not the losings. Cards for a second coup were now taken promiscuously from those already dealt, and the dealer once more commenced his operations.
'Thirty-two black — thirty-three — red loses,' said that functionary; and anon the long hoe of the croupier was at work dragging in the heaps of money from rouge, and returning the trifling stakes of the betters on noir.
'I'm just clean done!' said the Scotchman.
'Be gar, I am de smash up !' cried the Frenchman.
'Och! thunder! — what sort of a coup d'ye call that V — shouted the son of St. Patrick.
'That, Sir,' said the cashier, with a bow, as he carelessly tossed the money into an open cash-box before him — ' that, Sir, is what we call a coup de grab f
As play had been announced to have concluded for the night, or rather morning, the room was soon nearly emptied of its occupants — my cicerone and I being the last lingerers, save the two proprietors, who remained to divide the spoils. At this period, and just as we were about leaving the hall, there was a sound of voices, in loud and peremptory altercation, from the adjoining saloon. In an instant after, the door which communicated from it was thrown open, and two athletic young men, apparently intoxicated, rushed into the play room.
'Hillo! old boy,' exclaimed one of them, addressing the eldest of the two Hellites: 'Hillo ! — not going to shut up store yet?'
'Finished for this evening, Sir,' said the man to whom he had spoken, with a bow.
'Oh!' replied the former speaker, 'as you 've already turned three hours of morning into evening, I guess it won't make much odds adding an extra one to the account. Just wake up, commodore, and look here,' he continued, taking from his pocket and shaking a purse, well filled with gold and notes, before the dazzled optics of the black-leg: 'I mean to lose this, or break your bank, before I clear out.'
The sight of the money, and the apparent inebriation of its owner, were too much for the cupidity of the principal villain. He glanced inquiringly at his colleague, and was answered by an assenting nod.
'Well, gentlemen,' said the former, ' we '11 accomodate you with one deal, —though I assure you we are breaking the rules of the Club in obliging you.'
Cards were shuffled and cut, and the brothers, for such, from their strong resemblance, I took them to be, seated themselves on opposite sides of the table, one near the groom-porter, the other at the side of the croupier.
'These young men,' said my guide, are from your side of the Atlantic, — Kentuckians, I believe: they have lost large sums of money here, and suspecting foul play, are feigning drunkenness, in order to throw these fellows off their guard, and with full determination, should their suspicions be verified, to have either restitution or revenge. Keep your eye upon the dealer: you will see sport anon.'
Resolved to assist my countrymen, should their temerity expose them to danger, I awaited the denouement of the affair in silence. For some time, all went on smoothly and quietly, neither party winning more than a mere trifle, and the proceedings of the proprietors appearing to be fair and honorable.
At length, a very heavy stake was thrown down by each of the brothers at the same time, and on the same color — namely, black.
'Watch!' said my companion, — and I distinctly saw the dealer place part of the cards he had dealt, on the undealt pack in his hand, as he pretended to throw the former into the basket, in the centre of the table. The coup proceeded, and black lost. In an instant, a grasp like that of a blacksmith's vice was on the throat of the dealer. 'Villain!' shouted the excited Kentuckian, shaking him as a terrier would a weasel, 'I've caught you at last f
The croupier, who was vis-d-vis with his colleague, was immediately seized by the brother of the assailant, in a similar delicate manner, and thus resistance, or cry for succor, was rendered impossible. But they did not attempt either, and seemed as much paralyzed by fear, mentally, as they were bodily, by the unrelaxing clinch of their opponents.
'Scoundrel !' resumed the former speaker, — refund to us the money you have robbed us of, or it will go ill with you. You will find the amount there,' he added, handing him a small piece of paper, with his left hand, — still keeping his dexter digits firmly twisted in the cravat of his trembling captive.
'My — dear — Sir!' gasped the wretch, deprecatingly, unwilling to part with his spoils, though shaking like an aspen from terror, and the choking, — ' my good — Sir, — we have — lost so — immensely — lately,'
'Pay it f said his antagonist, sternly.
'Pay it! I say, or'
And the click produced by cocking a pistol filled up the pause more eloquently than words.
'Allow me to go — and fetch it—from — my — my — bureau, below, — then,' stammered the rascal, not forgetting his cunning, even in his abject fear.
'What! and alarm all your coadjutors! No, no, my friend, — it won't suit,' replied the young man: 'Fork up, and that instantly, or take the contents of this,' he added fiercely, as he thrust the cold barrel of a pistol against the supplicant's cheek.
The argument was too cogent to be trifled with. Notes to the required amount were counted out, with trembling hands, by the baffled swindler, and quietly transferred to the pocket-books of the brothers, who, after giving the two partners in iniquity a brace of hearty shakes, by way of receipts, wished them a ' very good morning,' walked off, and left them to their unsatisfactory meditations. * * *
'I will now bid you good bye!' said I to my companion, as we again stood in the open air.
'Ha! ha! ha!' roared he, in a tone that petrified me with horror: 'do you think I part with my acquaintances so easily?'
'But you promised,' said I, with a quivering lip, for I did not at all join in his mirth.
'Promised! Ho! ho! ho!' and seizing me by the arms, he dragged me forward with such rapidity that I could not even tell the direction we were taking. Suddenly he stopped. I turned to remonstrate with him on his unamiable conduct. As I looked at him, his countenance changed, — it broadened — reddened — smiled!
'Eh! ah! — what the dev —! I mean Mrs. Thoroughgood, is that
you? Why where's Oh! I see,' continued I, expanding my optics
to their full width: I've been dreaming!
This fact was now self-evident, for there stood my venerable landlady, in her white cap, and apron, with my breakfast in her hand ; and the bright light of an unfoggy morning was staring me full in the face.
'Sorry to disturb you, Sir,' said the kind-hearted soul, — 'but I was obliged to draw back your chair to set the table, and you made such funny faces, I couldn't hold from laughing.'
Years have elapsed since the dream I have related occurred,— yet so vividly are its incongruous circumstances impressed upon my memory, that I had no difficulty in transcribing them from its records.
VOL. VII. 21
That my imagination should thus have run riot through scenes in which I had never mingled, may seem extraordinary; but it is easily accounted for. The graphic descriptions contained in the magazine article I had been reading, in conjunction with the operatic diablerie I had witnessed, were the elements of my fantastic vision. Should any reader complain of its dulness or inconsistency, I can only say he has it just as / had it, and must refer him, for farther satisfaction, to Messrs. Morpheus and Somnus, the real authors, who are alone amenable to criticism for its defects. O. P. tt.
A BATTLE-FIELD BY MOONLIGHT.
The mortal strife was o'er, and dimly shone
Bright, here and there, among the trampled wreck
It was the wail of a lorn brute that crouched,
With tireless feet, hard on the soldiers track.
Where, with a sudden bend, a river swept