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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Henry Guy Carleton (1856–1910)

The Thompson Street Poker Club

Some Curious Points in the Noble Game Unfolded

WHEN Mr. Tooter Williams entered the gilded halls of the Thompson Street Poker Club, Saturday evening, it was evident that fortune had smeared him with prosperity. He wore a straw hat with a blue ribbon, an expression of serene content, and a glass amethyst on his third finger whose effulgence irradiated the whole room and made the envious eyes of Mr. Cyanide Whiffles stand out like a crab’s. Besides these extraordinary furbishments, Mr. Williams had his mustache waxed to fine points, and his back hair was precious with the luster and richness which accompany the use of the attar of Third Avenue roses combined with the bear’s grease dispensed by basement barbers on that fashionable thoroughfare.

In sharp contrast to this scintillating entrance was the coming of the Reverend Mr. Thankful Smith, who had been disheveled by the heat, discolored by a dusty evangelical trip to Coney Island, and oppressed by an attack of malaria which made his eyes bloodshot and enriched his respiration with occasional hiccoughs and that steady aroma which is said to dwell in Weehawken breweries.

The game began at eight o’clock, and by nine and a series of two pair hands and bull luck Mr. Gus Johnson was seven dollars and a nickel ahead of the game, and the Reverend Mr. Thankful Smith, who was banking, was nine stacks of chips and a dollar on the wrong side of the ledger. Mr. Cyanide Whiffles was cheerful as a cricket over four winnings amounting to sixty-nine cents; Professor Brick was calm, and Mr. Tooter Williams was gorgeous and hopeful, and laying low for the first jack-pot, which now came. It was Mr. Whiffles’s deal, and feeling that the eyes of the world were upon him, he passed around the cards with a precision and rapidity which were more to his credit than the I. O. U. from Mr. Williams which was left over from the previous meeting.

Professor Brick had nine high and declared his inability to make an opening.

Mr. Williams noticed a dangerous light come into the Reverend Mr. Smith’s eye and hesitated a moment, but having two black-jacks and a pair of trays, opened with the limit.

“I liffs yo’ jess tree dollahs, Toot,” said the Reverend Mr. Smith, getting out the wallet and shaking out a wad.

Mr. Gus Johnson, who had a four flush and very little prudence, came in. Mr. Whiffles sighed and fled.

Mr. Williams polished the amethyst, thoroughly examining a scratch on one of its facets, adjusted his collar, skinned his cards, stealthily glanced again at the expression of the Reverend Mr. Smith’s eye, and said he would “Jess—jess call.”

Mr. Whiffles supplied the wants of the gentleman from the pack with the mechanical air of a man who had lost all hope in a hereafter. Mr. Williams wanted one card, the Reverend Mr. Smith said he’d take about three, and Mr. Gus Johnson expressed a desire for a club, if it was not too much trouble.

Mr. Williams caught another tray, and, being secretly pleased, led out by betting a chip. The Reverend Mr. Smith uproariously slammed down a stack of blue chips and raised him seven dollars.

Mr. Gus Johnson had captured the nine of hearts and so retired.

Mr. Williams had four chips and a dollar left.

“I sees dat seven,” he said impressively, “an’ I humps it ten mo’.”

“Whar’s de c’lateral?” queried the Reverend Mr. Smith calmly, but with aggressiveness in his eye.

Mr. Williams sniffed contemptuously, drew off the ring, and deposited it in the pot with such an air as to impress Mr. Whiffles with the idea that the jewel must have been worth at least four million dollars. Then Mr. Williams leaned back in his chair and smiled.

“Whad yo’ goin’ ter do?” asked the Reverend Mr. Smith, deliberately ignoring Mr. Williams’s action.

Mr. Williams pointed to the ring and smiled.

“Liff yo’ ten dollahs.”

“On whad?”

“Dat ring.”

“Dat ring?”

“Yezzah.” Mr. Williams was still cool.

“Huh!” The Reverend Mr. Smith picked up the ring, examined it scientifically with one eye closed, dropped it several times as if to test its soundness, and then walked across and rasped it several times heavily on the window-pane.

“Whad yo’ doin’ dat fo’?” excitedly asked Mr. Williams.

A double rasp with the ring was the Reverend Mr. Smith’s only reply.

“Gimme dat jule back!” demanded Mr. Williams.

The Reverend Mr. Smith was now vigorously rubbing the setting of the stone on the floor.

“Leggo dat sparkler,” said Mr. Williams again.

The Reverend Mr. Smith carefully polished off the scratches by rubbing the ring awhile on the sole of his foot. Then he resumed his seat and put the precious thing back into the pot. Then he looked calmly at Mr. Williams, and leaned back in his chair as if waiting for something.

“Is yo’ satisfied?” said Mr. Williams, in the tone used by men who have sustained a deep injury.

“Dis is pokah,” said the Reverend Mr. Thankful Smith.

“I rised yo’ ten dollahs,” said Mr. Williams, pointing to the ring.

“Did yo’ evah saw t’ree balls hangin’ over my do’?” asked the Reverend Mr. Smith. “Doesn’t yo’ know my name hain’t Oppenheimer?”

“Whad yo’ mean?” asked Mr. Williams excitedly.

“Pokah am pokah, ’n’ dar’s no ’casion fer triflin’ wif blue glass ’n’ junk in dis yar club,” said the Reverend Mr. Smith.

“I liffs yo’ ten dollahs,” said Mr. Williams, ignoring the insult.

“Put up de c’lateral,” said the Reverend Mr. Smith. “Fo’ chips is fohty, ’n’ a dollah’s a dollah fohty, ’n’ dat’s a dollah fohty-fo’ cents.”

“Whar’s de fo’ cents?” smiled Mr. Williams desperately.

The Reverend Mr. Smith pointed to the ring. Mr. Williams rose indignantly, shucked off his coat, hat, vest, suspenders, and scarfpin, heaped them on the table, and then sat down and glared at the Reverend Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith rolled up the coat, put on the hat, threw his own out of the window, gave the ring to Mr. Whiffles, jammed the suspenders into his pocket, and took in the vest, chips, and money.

“Dis yar’s bugl’ry!” yelled Mr. Williams.

The Reverend Mr. Smith spread out four eights and rose impressively.

“Toot,” he said, “doan’ trifle wif Prov’dence. Because a man w’ars ten-cent grease ’n’ gits his July on de Bowery, hit’s no sign dat he kin buck ag’in’ cash in a jacker ’n’ git a boodle from fo’ eights. Yo’ ’s now in yo’ shirt-sleeves ’n’ low sperrets, but de speeyunce am wallyble. I’s willin’ ter stan’ a beer ’n’ sassenger, ’n’ shake ’n’ call it squar’. De club ’ll now ’journ.”