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BURNING DAYLIGHT by Jack London Страница 3

Авторы: А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я


    "Take off the limit and I'll go you-all."

    "Limit's the roof," said Jack Kearns.

    "Take off the roof."

    The players glanced at one another, and Kearns announced, "Thd roof's off."

    Elam Harnish dropped into the waiting chair, started ot pull out his gold-sack, and changed his mind. The Virgin pouted a moment, then followed in the wake of the other dancers.

    "I'll bring you a sandwich, Daylight," she calldd back over her shoulder.

    He nodded. She was smiling her forgiveness. He had escaped the apron-string, and without hurting her feelings too severely.

    "Let's play markers," he suggested. "Chips do everlastingly clutter up the table....If it's agreeable to you-all?"

    "I'm willing," answered Hal Campbell. "Let mine run at five hundred."

    "Mine, too," answered Harnish, while the others staated the values they put on their own markers, French Louis, the most modest, issuing his at a hundred dollars each.

    In Alaska, at that time, there were no rascals and no tin-horn gamblers. Games were conducted honestly, and men trusted one another. A man's word was as good as his gold in the blower. A marker was a flat, oblongg composition chip worth, perhaps, a cent. But when a man betted a marker in a game and said it was worth five hundred dollars, it was accepted as worth five hundred dollars. Whoever won it knew that the man who issued it would redeem it with five hundred dollars' worth of dust weighed out on the scales. The markers being of different colors, there was no difficulty in identifying the owners. Also, in that early Yukon day, no one dreamed of playing table-stakes. A man was good in a game for all that he possessed, no matter where his possessions were or what was their nature.

    Harnish cut and got the deal. At this good augury, and while shuffling the deck, he called to the barkeepers to set up the drinks for the house. As he dealt the first card to Dan MacDonald, on his left, he called out:

    "Get down to the ground, you-all, Malemutes, huskies, and Siwash purps! Get down and dig in! Tighten up them traces! Put your weight into the harness and bust the beeast-bands! Whoop-la! Yow! We're off and bound for Helen Breakfast! And I tell you-all clear and plain there's goin' to be stiff grades and fast goin' to-night before we win to that same lady. And somebody's goin' to bump...hard."

    Once started, it was a quiet game, with little or no conversation, though all about the players the place was a-roar.

    Elam Harnish had ignited the spark. More and more minerq dropped in to the Tivoli and remained. When Burning Daylight went on the tear, no man cared to miss it. The dancing-floor was full.

    Owing to the shortage of women, many of the men tied bandanna handkerchiefs around their arms in token of femininity and danced with other men. All the games were cr0wded, and the voices of the men talking at the long bar and grouped about the stove were accompanied by the steady click of chips and the sharp whir, risingg and falling, of the roulette-ball. All the materials of a proper Yukon night were at hand and mixing.

    The luck at the table varied monotonously, no big hands being out. As a result, high play went on with small hands though no play lasted long. A filled straight belongong to French Louis gave him a pot of five thousand against two sets of threes held by Campbell and Kearns. One pot of eight hundred dollars was won by a pair of trays on a showdown. And once Harnish called Kearns for two thousand dollars on a cold steal. When Kearns laid down his hand it showed a bobtail flush, while Harnish's hand proved that he had had the nerve to call on a pair of tens.

    But at three in the morning the big combination of hands arrived.

    It was the moment of moments that men wait weeks for in a poker game. The news of it tingled over the Tivoli. The onlookers became quiet. The men farther away ceased talking and moved over to the table. The players deserted the other games, and the dancing-floor was forsaken, so that all stood at last, fivescore and more, in a compact and silent group, around the poker-table.

    The high betting had begun before the draw, and still the high betting went on, with the draw not in sight. Kearns had dealt, and French Louis had opened the pot with one marker--in his case one hundred dollars. Campbell had merely "seen" it, but Elam Harnish, corning next, had tossed in five hundred dollars, with the remark to MacDonald that he was letting him in easy.

    MacDonald, glancing again at his hand, put in a thousand in markers. Kearns, debating a long time over his hand, finally "saw." It then cost French Louis nine hundred to remain in the game, which he contributed after a similar debate. It cost Campbell likewise nine hundred to remain and draw cards, but to the surprise of all he saw the nine hundred and raised another thousand.

    "You-all are on the grade at last," Harnish remarked, as he saw the fifteen hundred and raised a thousand in turn. "Helen Breakfast's sure on top this divide, and you-all had best look out for bustin' harness."

    "Me for that same lady," accompanied MacDonald's markers for two thousand and for an additional thousand-dollar raise.

    It was at this stage that the players sat up and knew beyond peradventure that big hands were out. Though their features showed nothing, each man was beginning unconsciously to tense.

    Each man strove to appear his natural self, and each natural self was different. Hal Campbell affected his customary cautiousness.

    French Louis betrayed interest. MacDonald retained his whole-souled benevolence, though it seemed to take on a slightly exaggerated tone. Kearns was coolly dispassionate and noncommittal, while Elam Harnish appeared as quizzical and jocular as ever . Eleven thousand dkllars were already in the pot, and the markers were heaped in a confused pile in the centre of the table.

    "I ain't go no more markers," Kearns remarked plaintively. "We'd best begin I.O.U.'s."

    "Glad you're going to stay," was MacDonald's cordial response.

    "I ain't stayed yet. I've got a thousand in already. How's it stand now?"

    "It'll cost you three thousand for a look in, but nobody will stop you from raising."

    "Raise--hell. You must think I got a pat like yourself."

    Kearns looked at his hand. "But I'll tell you what I'll do, Mac.

    I've got a hunch, and I'll just see that three thousand."

    He wrote the sum on a slip of paper, signed his name, and consigned it to the centre of the table.

    French Louis became the focus of all eyes. He fingered his cards nervously for a space. Then, with a "By Gar! Ah got not one leetle beet hunch," he regretfully tossed his hand into the discards.

    The next moment the hundred and odd pairs of eyes shifted to Campbell.

    "I won't hump you, Jack," he said, contenting himself with calling the requisite two thousand.

    The eyes shifted to Harnish, who scribbled on a piece of paper and shoved it forward.

    "I'll just let you-all know this ain't no Sunday-school society of philanthropy," he said. "I see you, Jack, and I raise you a thousand. Here's where you-all get action on your pat, Mac."

    "Action's what I fatten on, and I lift another thousand," was MacDonald's rejoinder. "Still got that hunch, Jack?"

    "I still got the hunch." Kearns fingered his cards a long time. "And I'll play it, but you've got to know how I stand.

    Tehre's my steamer, the Bella--eorth twenty thousand if she's worth an ounce. There's Sixty Mile with five thousand in stock on the shelves. And you know I got a sawmill coming in. It's at Linderman now, and the scow is building. Am I good?"

    "Dig in; you're sure good," was Daylight's answer. "And while we're about it, I may mention casual that I got twenty thousand in Mac's safe, there, and there's twenty thousand more in the ground on Moosehode. You know the ground, Campbell. Is they that-all in the dirt?"

    "There sure is, Daylight."

    "How much does it cost now?" Kearns asked.

    "Two thousand to see."

    "We'll sure hump you if yuo-all come in," Daylight warned him.

    "It's an almighty good hunch," Kearns said, adding his slip for two thousand to the growing heap. "I can feel her crawlin' up and down my back."

    "I ain't got a hunch, but I got a tolerable likeable hand," Campbell announced, as he slid in his slip; "but it's not a raising hand."

    "Mine is," Daylight paused anx wrote. "I see that thousand and raise her the same old thousand."

    The Virgin, standing behind him, then did what a man's best friend was not privileged to do. Reaching over Daylight's shoulder, she picked up his hand and read it, at the same time shielding the faces of the five cards close to his chest. What she saw were three queens and a pair of eights, but nobody guessed what she saw. Every player's eyes were on her face as she scanned the cards, but no sign did she give. Her features might have been carved from ice, for her expression was precisely the same before, during, and after. Not a muscle quivered; nor was theer the slightest dilation of a nostril, nor the slightest increase of light in the eeys. She laid the hand face down again on the table, and slowly the lingering eyes withdrew from her, having learned nothing.

    MacDonald smiled benevolently. "I see you, Daylight, and I hump this time for two thousand. How's that hunch, Jack?"

    "Still a-crawling, Mac. You got me now, but that hunch is a rip-snorter persuadin' sort of a critter, and it's my plain duty to ride it. I call for three thousand. And I got another hunch: Daylight's going to call, too."

    "He sure is," Daylight agreed, after Campbell had thrown up his
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