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"He may not now," answered Hurstwood, doggedly, well
understanding the inference; "but his life isnít done yet. You canít
tell whatíll happen. He may get down like anybody else."
There was something quite knavish in the manís attitude. His eye
seemed to be cocked with a twinkle upon the fortunate, expecting
their defeat. His own state seemed a thing apart-not considered.
This thing was the remains of his old-time cocksureness and
independence. Sitting in his flat, and reading of the doings of
other people, sometimes this independent, undefeated mood came
upon him. Forgetting the weariness of the streets and the
degradation of search, he would sometimes prick up his ears. It
was as if he said:
"I can do something. Iím not down yet. Thereís a lot of things
coming to me if I want to go after them."
It was in this mood that he would occasionally dress up, go for a
shave, and, putting on his gloves, sally forth quite actively. Not
with any definite aim. It was more a barometric condition. He felt
just right for being outside and doing something.
On such occasions, his money went also. He knew of several
poker rooms down town. A few acquaintances he had in
downtown resorts and about the City Hall. It was a change to see
them and exchange a few friendly commonplaces.
He had once been accustomed to hold a pretty fair hand at poker.
Many a friendly game had netted him a hundred dollars or more at
the time when that sum was merely sauce to the dish of the game-
not the all in all. Now, he thought of playing.
"I might win a couple of hundred. Iím not out of practice."
It is but fair to say that this thought had occurred to him several
times before he acted upon it.
The poker room which he first invaded was over a saloon in West
Street, near one of the ferries. He had been there before. Several
games were going. These he watched for a time and noticed that
the pots were quite large for the ante involved.
"Deal me a hand," he said at the beginning of a new shuffle. He
pulled up a chair and studied his cards. Those playing made that
quiet study of him which is so unapparent, and yet invariably so
Poor fortune was with him at first. He received a mixed collection
without progression or pairs. The pot was opened.
"I pass," he said.
On the strength of this, he was content to lose his ante. The deals
did fairly by him in the long run, causing him to come away with
a few dollars to the good.
The next afternoon he was back again, seeking amusement and
profit. This time he followed up three of a kind to his doom. There
was a better hand across the table, held by a pugnacious Irish
youth, who was a political hanger-on of the Tammany district in
which they were located. Hurstwood was surprised at the
persistence of this individual, whose bets came with a sang-froid
which, if a bluff, was excellent art. Hurstwood began to doubt, but
kept, or thought to keep, at least, the cool demeanour with which,
in olden times, he deceived those psychic students of the gaming
table, who seem to read thoughts and moods, rather than exterior
evidences, however subtle. He could not down the cowardly
thought that this man had something better and would stay to the
end, drawing his last dollar into the pot, should he choose to go so
far. Still, he hoped to win much-his hand was excellent. Why not
raise it five more?
"I raise you three," said the youth.
"Make it five," said Hurstwood, pushing out his chips.
"Come again," said the youth, pushing out a small pile of reds.
"Let me have some more chips," said Hurstwood to the keeper in
charge, taking out a bill.
A cynical grin lit up the face of his youthful opponent. When the
chips were laid out, Hurstwood met the raise.
"Five again," said the youth.
Hurstwoodís brow was wet. He was deep in now-very deep for
him. Sixty dollars of his good money was up. He was ordinarily
no coward, but the thought of losing so much weakened him.
Finally he gave way. He would not trust to this fine hand any
"I call," he said.