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The Winds of Chance   By: (1877-1949)

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With an ostentatious flourish Mr. "Lucky" Broad placed a crisp ten dollar bill in an eager palm outstretched across his folding table.

"The gentleman wins and the gambler loses!" Mr. Broad proclaimed to the world. "The eye is quicker than the hand, and the dealer's moans is music to the stranger's ear." With practised touch he rearranged the three worn walnut shells which constituted his stock in trade. Beneath one of them he deftly concealed a pellet about the size of a five grain allopathic pill. It was the erratic behavior of this tiny ball, its mysterious comings and goings, that had summoned Mr. Broad's audience and now held its observant interest. This audience, composed of roughly dressed men, listened attentively to the seductive monologue which accompanied the dealer's deft manipulations, and was greatly entertained thereby. "Three tiny tepees in a row and a little black medicine man inside." The speaker's voice was high pitched and it carried like a "thirtythirty." "You see him walk in, you open the door, and you double your money. Awfully simple! Simpully awful! What? As I live! The gentleman wins ten more ten silver tongued song birds, ten messengers of mirth the price of a hard day's toil. Take it, sir, and may it make a better and a stronger man of you. Times are good and I spend my money free. I made it packin' grub to Linderman, four bits a pound, but easy come, easy go. Now then, who's next? You've seen me work. I couldn't baffle a sore eyed Siwash with snow glasses."

Lucky Broad's three legged table stood among some stumps beside the muddy roadway which did service as the main street of Dyea and along which flowed an irregular stream of pedestrians; incidental to his practised manipulation of the polished walnut shells he maintained an unceasing chatter of the sort above set down. Now his voice was loud and challenging, now it was apologetic, always it stimulated curiosity. One moment he was jubilant and gay, again he was contrite and querulous. Occasionally he burst forth into plaintive self denunciations.

Fixing a hypnotic gaze upon a bland, blue eyed bystander who had just joined the charmed circle, he murmured, invitingly: "Better try your luck, Olaf. It's Danish dice three chances to win and one to lose."

The object of his address shook his head. "Aye ant Danish, Aye ban Norvegen," said he.

"Danish dice or Norwegian poker, they're both the same. I'll deal you a free hand and it won't cost you a cent. Fix your baby blues on the little ball and watch me close. Don't let me deceive you. Now then, which hut hides the grain?"

Noting a half dozen pairs of eyes upon him, the Norseman became conscious that he was a center of interest. He grinned half heartedly and, after a brief hesitation, thrust forth a clumsy paw, lifted a shell, and exposed the object of general curiosity.

"You guessed it!" There was commendation, there was pleased surprise, in Mr. Broad's tone. "You can't fool a foreigner, can you, boys? My, my! Ain't it lucky for me that we played for fun? But you got to give me another chance, Lars; I'll fool you yet. In walks the little pill once more, I make the magic pass, and you follow me attentively, knowing in your heart of hearts that I'm a slick un. Now then, shoot, Kid; you can't miss me!"

The onlookers stirred with interest; with eager fingers the artless Norwegian fumbled in his pocket. At the last moment, however, he thought better of his impulse, grunted once, then turned his back to the table and walked away.

"Missed him!" murmured the dealer, with no display of feeling; then to the group around him he announced, shamelessly: "You got to lead those birds; they fly fast."

One of Mr... Continue reading book >>

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