Forty Modern Fables, by George Ade, , at sacred-texts.com
FOUR reputable Business Men sat down at the Green Baize to flirt with the Goddess of Fortune for one Hour, no more, no less. The Married Men did not want to go Home too early for fear that it would be too much of a Shock to their Wives.
These four Good Fellows may be designated as Adams, Brown, Collins and Davis, for fear the Children get hold of the Book. They were up in Adams' Room. Some one remarked that it was the mere Shank of the Evening-just the Fringe of the Night, as it were-and it seemed a Shame to pull for Home while so many other and more attractive Resorts were still open. So Adams brought out the necessary Tools and the four Comrades squared away.
It was to be a Gentleman's Game. No one at the Table wanted to take Money out of a Friend's Pocket. They put on an easy Limit of 10 Cents, so that no one could win or lose enough to Hurt. They had to make it an Object in order to keep their Blood in Circulation, but it was agreed that one fleeting Hour of 10-Cent Limit would not make or break any one. And it was positively understood and agreed that when the Cuckoo Clock hooted for Eleven O'clock, that was to be the Signal. Adams had been out the Night before with a Bad Man from Council Bluffs, and he wanted to make up a few Hours of Slumber. Brown had to figure on a Contract next Day, and he needed Eight Hours so as to show up with a Clear Head. Collins said he had a couple of Black Marks standing against him and if he didn't get in by Midnight, he might lose his Latch-Key. Davis said he was glad they were going to make it a Brief Session as the Electric Light hurt his Eyes. It seemed that not one had more than an Hour to spare.
It was a beautiful Get-Away. All the Stacks were the same size, neatly built up into Stand-Pipes of Red, White and Blue. The Cards riffled smoothly and the Dove of Peace seemed to hover over the Round Table. Each Man lighted an eight-inch Perfecto and got it slanted up so as to keep the Smoke out of his Eyes. He was feeling Immense because he counted on pulling out about Five Bones and buying a Hat with it.
Inasmuch as they were playing in Adams' Room and he was providing all the wet and dry Provisions, they felt at liberty to jounce him. A Host is not supposed to act Peevish, no matter what they do to him. So what they did to Adams was a Plenty. It was only a measly little Child's Game with a Come In of Two call Five and a Blue Seed for the Outside Bet, but when two of them got Adams in between them and started the Whip-Saw, they left him with nothing but Whites. He died like an Outcast with three Type-Writers clutched in his Salary Hook.
He touched up the Bone Yard in a low, injured Tone of Voice and they could notice the Gloom curdling on his side of the Table. In a few Moments he tried to Get Back by making it Expensive to Draw. Davis picked up two Cards and filled a Straight and he lit on Mr. Bluffer all spraddled out. It was about this time that Adams began to get Red around the Ears. He told them to be careful where they dropped their Ashes, as the Rug they were sitting on was a genuine Bokhara and had stood him more than Two Hundred. They asked him if he was Sore, and he said he was not, but he hated to sit in with a Farmer who would hold up Three, open in the Middle, and then Fill. Any one who would do that ought to be Arrested. Davis remarked that their Host was an Imitation Sport who ought to be out playing Mumblety-Peg or Croquet. Davis had a long Breastwork of Plush in front of him and he was full of Conversation. He told Adams that if they injured the Rug he would buy another.
In the meantime the Short Hand had crept up toward XI. Davis kept calling Attention to the Fact that the Time was just about up. He wanted to get his Velvet and Dig. The Electric Light was hurting his Eyes worse than ever.
But when the Hour struck, Adams was just beginning to be keen for Trouble. He told them to forget the Clock. He threw the Jonah Deck into the Grate, broke a fresh Pack, walked around his Chair three times, took off his Coat and gave Fair Warning that all Boys and Cripples must get back of the Ropes. He rung in a new Rule that any one who bet less than 50 Cents would be considered a Gazabe. He put in a Patent Corkscrew for a Buck and said it called for a Jack Pot every time it came out with the Ante. He hoped that all of the Old Ladies and the Safe Players would dust the Cracked Ice out of their Laps and get Busy. He said if they tried hard they could get Action for their Money on something less that Threes.
Of course, they had agreed to chop off at Eleven, but they could not play Quitter on their Host while he was so deep in the Hole, so they all came down to their Shirt Sleeves and got ready for Rough Work. They began to Edge with the Colored Beans and Friendship ceased. Adams had a Run of Luck and he crowded it. Every time he skun his First Set and found it promising, he raised them out of their Chairs. It was a Half Dollar per Throw and somebody was thrown every Deal. Before long he had them Buying, and Brown had opened a Tab with the Bank.
Adams begun to hum a Popular Air, just to show that he could Gamble without losing his Temper. He had All Kinds corded up in front of him and he was exceeding Blithe. He said he was going to buy some nice Etchings for his Room and put in an Ice-Box and have everything Right in case a few Friends dropped in like this. Then he glanced up at the Clock and said that probably they had better make it Midnight. At this the other three let out a Roar that would have been a Credit to Niagara. They said they were going to Hang On until they got Revenge. He explained that somebody had to quit Loser and besides, they couldn't sit up all Night. The Doctor had told him to get plenty of Sleep. They scoffed at him and told him to get a Hot Brick and put his Feet on it.
Brown arose and removed his flowered Waistcoat, rolled up his Sleeves and said they would let up on Fooling and begin in Earnest. They would play nothing but Jacks and it would cost One Dollar to Associate. With that they closed in and every Man was playing so near to his Shirt Bosom that he had to back off to read his Hand. The Light Conversation had died away. It was now a Case of getting the Heart's Blood. They talked in low, sick-room Whispers and eyed one another stealthily. Each of the four wondered if the Game was absolutely on the Square.
Along about 2 o'clock after the Luck had been see-sawing, Brown had four Trays and refused to take Cards. Two Full Hands came out against him and that was what led up to the Slaughter. When a Person stands Pat, it is the crafty Supposition that he has a Flush or a Straight. To hold the Extra Card as a Blind for Fours is justly regarded as an Act of Low Cunning. When the Smoke and Dust cleared away, Brown had everything in sight and was beginning to Yawn slightly and look at his Watch. The others were drawing on the Bank and telling what they might have done if the Cards hadn't come just as they did.
Adams had been Cleaned properly, and he was so Mad he was breathing through his Nose. He produced his Bank-Book to show that he was Good for any Amount, and then he abolished the Limit and announced that he was out for Gore and would show no Quarter.
Then the Game settled down to the Kind in which somebody lays $14 on a Pair of Sevens and gets whooped $9 by some other Desperado holding Nines, and nobody bats an Eyelash.
At 4 o'clock Brown, who was still intrenched behind his Earnings, suggested that they play one Round of Jack Pots for Five Bucks and then settle up. This was reluctantly agreed to. In this Grand Finale some tall Hands were dealt and they did n't do a Thing to Brown. So he called for just one more Round and everybody locked Horns and began all over again.
At 6 o'clock when the Hot Sunlight fell athwart the Table the Room resembled a Roustabout Bar-Room. Four Haggard Beings, scantily Clad, sat at the Table and weakly endeavored to Bump one another. Adams was out a Month's Salary and was Dead on his Feet. Brown had worked like a Dog all night and had nothing to show for it except a Head and a Debit of $3.50. Collins had most of the Chips, but he would have given a Thousand to get out of going Home and facing Pet. Davis had been running the Bank, and he never will know how he came out. He had two Envelopes covered with Marks, and after the others Cashed In, he didn't have any Money with which to redeem his own Checks. He asked what he had better do, and no one answered. They had Troubles of their own.
After they left and Adams put his Head under the Faucet, he said he was going to swear off on making his Room a Hang-Out for Sharks. And when they were safely outside, they agreed that - Men with Homes ought to keep away from the Rounder Element. And everybody said "Never Again."
MORAL: Play Muggins, and then you will be glad to Quit at any time.